Last night I submitted my first bookwork for my Defense Against the Book Arts class. The assignment was to create a book in the “hidden room” form; this is a one-sheet folded book with a surprise in the middle. We are supposed to stay very conscious of the relationship between form and content in this class, and so properly utilizing the hidden room in our book is very important for our grade.
I decided to use my hidden room book to explore a topic I find pretty fascinating: lycanthropism. This disorder has been the focal point of more than one story I’ve worked on, and is an engaging subject for research and speculation. I’ll include the text of my book in this post, so that you can learn a little bit about it yourself. (And yes, there will be photos at the end. :))
Lycanthropism (also called lycanthropy) is an extremely rare disorder characterized by a unique combination of physical and psychological symptoms. It is estimated that fewer than 1% of Americans suffer from this disorder; statistics indicate that these numbers may be higher in other countries, especially eastern Europe, and among certain Native American populations.
This disorder is distinguished by its unique 28-day cycle, much like the human mentrual cycle. Patients are completely symptom-free for 21 days; symptoms begin to manifest on the 22nd day, reach their peak on the 24th o4 25th day, and gradually decrease until they are completely dormant by the end of the cycle. As in the menstrual cycle, each patient has his or her own schedule. Interestingly, females with lycanthropism typically suffer from amenorrhea.
Patients of both genders exhibit the first symptoms of lycanthropism in early adolescence, usually coinciding with the onset of puberty. This and other indications lead many researchers to conclude that lycanthropism is a disorder of the hormonal system; however, no known human hormone has been shown to have any similar effect in test cases.
Psychological symptoms include loss of speech, diminished inhibitions, and drastic and uncontrollable shifts in personality and mood. Behavior becomes erratic and reflexive. Patients experience claustrophobia and often become destructive in their efforts to escape closed-in areas. In some cases, patients have become violent.
The physical symptoms of this disorder are striking. Patients experience significantly escalated growth of facial and body hair; both male and female patients suffer this hirsuteness. Nail growth is likewise escalated. The heart rate and temperature of the patient increase as well. Many patients experience contractions of the back, shoulder, and leg muscles, causing them to assume an exaggerated hunched posture.
There is no proven cure for lycanthropism, although research suggests that regular doses of colloidal silver, administered directly into the bloodstream, may counter some symptoms and halt the progress of the disorder. However, this treatment can be fatal and should be carefully considered before attempting.
To create my book, I started with a 12″x12″ sheet of cardstock in a speckled blue color, vaguely medicinal in hue. Most hidden room books are created using 8.5″x11″ paper, but I liked the long vertical feel of the larger paper. To create the actual book, I first used a blade to score the paper into eight equal sections (necessary for tidy folds in cardstock). I folded the paper in half horizontally, unfolded it, and refolded it in half vertically, making hard creases each time. Keeping it folded in half, I then brought up the ends to meet in the middle and creased, creating an “M” fold. Next, I used a blade to cut along the fold in the middle of the paper, creating a six-inch-long slit and facilitating the hidden room. Finally, I refolded the paper to create the book structure itself. This created a book that was six inches tall and three inches wide, as opposed to the usual 4.25″x2.75″ structure wrought from a letter-size sheet of paper.
The front cover reads Diagnosis of Lycanthropism: A Pocket Field Guide (a publication of the American Psychological Association).
In addition to the blue cardstock, I used a sheet of plain white cardstock, some overpriced silver (“paper metal”) stickers in geometric shapes, and a sheet of plain “vellum” paper. (Trivia: real vellum is a writing surface made from the dried and scraped skin of a fetal goat. The stuff at scrapbook stores is just really cool paper, not really vellum at all.) I printed the text of the book on the white cardstock and cut it into rectangular pieces approximately two inches in width. I then placed the text blocks in a staggered pattern on each page and used silver blocks to create graphic interest.
I used small round stickers for pagination. The following picture shows all of the content pages of the book, and somewhat demonstrates the fold structure of the book.
I wrote my name and the copyright date in an obscure corner of the book, and then put my initials on the back cover just in case.
So, if you’re actually reading at this point, you’re probably wondering what the heck is up with all of the “hidden room” nonsense. (If you’re really observant, you may be wondering where that aforementioned sheet of not-really-vellum comes in.) You see, the idea is that there’s something hidden, something beneath the surface of the text — between the lines, if you will. And when you grab the ends of the book and give a gentle tug, the true meaning appears!
That’s right, ladies and germs. Lycanthropy is just a big ole fancy word for your basic werewolf-ism. (Therianthropy is the general were-ing into animals; lycanthropy is wolf-specific.) On the inside of my book are two creepy werewolves, caught mid-transformation, printed on vellum and attached in such a way that they kind of pop up when you open the hidden room. I got the werewolf art from this guy; given more time, I might have tried to come up with some of my own artwork (ie, convinced Meredith to do it for me).
I’m not 100% happy with my end result. I think that it turned out very well, and very close to what I’d envisioned. I didn’t get to incorporate the fur (which is okay), and one of my silver stickers went on a bit crooked, but that’s all okay. I’m mostly just concerned that it’s too safe, not edgy enough, not unexpected enough. After all, it doesn’t really make any sort of statement of social commentary, nor does it reveal some sordid detail of my past or a deliciously exotic secret of my present. It’s not really personal at all. It isn’t funny, it isn’t taboo, and it isn’t risky.
What will my professor think? I don’t know. He’ll be emailing us with comments and tentative grades in the next day or so, and I’m pretty much expecting a B on this one. It’s good — there’s nothing wrong with it — but it’s not great. (I sound like Randy Jackson.) The nice thing about this class is that if I get a grade lower than I’d like, I have until the end of the semester to revise and re-submit it. In fact, I can ditch this effort entirely and go back to the drawing board with a whole new concept.
Next week, we’ll go to class and see all of the hidden room books laid out in a line from least effective to most effective (in my professor’s esteem). All names will be covered up. We’ll then get to examine them, see what other people did that worked, argue for or against works’ placement on the spectrum, and perhaps even have our book’s estimation (hence grade) im
proved by the professor. I’m excited to see what other people did — there were some very interesting looking books being turned in — and I’m excited to see if anyone likes what I did.
Let me ask you this. When you were reading the text of my book, did you catch on? If so, how early on in the reading? Were you bored out of your gourd? Were you surprised by the contents of the hidden room? Did you think it was too wordy? Was it effective? Did you learn anything? What, in other words, did you think?