In the mid-1970s, author Samuel R. Delany (b. 1942, New York City) published a monolithic novel, Dhalgren, which, after becoming his best-selling work, eventually turned into something of a cult classic. The novel was an ambitious (if not entirely successful) experiment which incorporated the natural degradation of memory into storytelling. The story itself functions as an open text and unfolds forever en abyme (a book within a book within a book, etc.). Because there’s no true past in the story, memory is effected in an interesting way. This generates an increasingly unstable and ever-corroding world of mnemonic reverberations and refractions.
Whether it’s for remembering or misremembering, Delany’s use of iteration intersects every element of the novel — the syntax, diction, characters, settings, the narrative structure at large. Design interventions are then marked by where such elements recur or echo. The visual qualities of Xeroxing and overprinting mimic memory retrieval while the book’s construction utilizes DIN standards, a spiral binding, and the removal of covers and front/back matter to further embody Delany’s idea of infinity.
In reimagining Dhalgren, Echo en Abyme carries on a tradition of experimentation in bookmaking which challenges the limits of books historically as mutable art forms. Echo, being somewhere between an artist’s book and a typographic novel, continues Delany’s systemizing of linear phenomena within cyclical structures. For Echo en abyme, this framework renders the linear nonlinear through typographic and material interventions. The result is a book that grants a truly endless reading experience.