My latest obsession may be a book I bought roughly a quarter of a century ago, and what my memory has done to it. It’s not the book itself — The Mystery Play, a hardcover graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Jon J. Muth that has pretty much faded from institutional memory, arguably for good reason — that’s important here, I hasten to add, but specifically the actual physical copy I bought of it, all those years ago.
(I just went and looked it up; this was all closer to 30 years back. The book came out in 1994. I’m old, now.)
I was a student at the time, and one who didn’t have a lot of money. New hardcover books weren’t something I bought on a regular basis if ever, but I was a massive Morrison fan, so the prospect of an all-new Morrison book — and painted by Muth, whose work I’d loved for years! — proved irresistible. I plunked down my money on the counter and took away the shrink wrapped copy from the local comic shop excitedly.
I remember going almost immediately to a local coffee shop, where I opened the shrink wrap nervously but excitedly, and discovered that the dustcover had one small, clean cut across the front, as if someone had sliced it open with a razor blade. I knew, on some level, that it must have been a printing defect, because the book had been shrink wrapped, but still; the cut fascinated me. Even as I read through the book, I’d pause periodically and close the book, running my finger over the cut as if it had a deeper meaning.
Remembering the book for the first time in literally decades the other week, I realized that I couldn’t recall anything about the plot of The Mystery Play, or what Muth’s art for the book looked like, but I could (and did) remember everything about that cut: the size, the placement on the dustcover, my need to repeatedly look at it, study it. My relationship with that book is, somehow, actually a relationship with that cut.
What that says about me, I don’t know nor care to find out.