Book of Ruth
By Robert Seydel (Illustrator)
Siglio, Paperback, 9780979956256, 152pp.
Publication Date: May 31, 2011
List Price: $35.00*
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Robert Seydel's Book of Ruth presents an assemblage of collages, letters, journal entries and other artifacts from the life of Seydel's fictional alter-ego, Ruth Greisman--spinster, Sunday painter and friend to Joseph Cornell. Drawing on the inherent seductiveness and intrigue of archives, the volume is conceived as a gathering of fragmented materials by Greisman unearthed from a storage space in the Smithsonian and a suburban family garage, which are presented as a mosaic portrait of a reclusive artist. The New Yorker described the project thus: "Burrowing into the pop-detritus archive somewhere between Ray Johnson's mail art and Tom Phillips' Humument project, Seydel's serial collage Book of Ruth describes an allusive fantasy about his aunt and alter ego Ruth Greisman, her brother Saul, and their escapades with Joseph Cornell... unfold ing] in novelistic rhythms." Over the past decade or so, working almost exclusively in notebook form, Seydel has produced hundreds of works in multiple ongoing and interrelated series that move freely between lyric and narrative modes. (Poet Peter Gizzi notes that "so many of his tools are a writer's: whiteout, pencil and pen, erasers, tape, type and newsprint.") Book of Ruth constitutes his masterpiece to date. In Seydel's hands the detritus from which Ruth makes her art and narrates her inner life shines like pages from an illuminated manuscript.