Among Others (2017 KAISER)

Among Others is a book that interweaves the memories, observations, emotions, and reveries of more than a dozen people in an intricate counterpoint of texts. It owes something to the techniques of film montage, but equally to those of Japanese linked verse, not to mention the ubiquity of links in the digital writing of today. But Among Others is emphatically a physical book, fully exploiting the advantages that physical page-turning has over e-text linking, even while using certain digital methods for both text analysis and diagram layout.

The book interlinks the stories of about a dozen people, with their identities slightly cloaked by the use of pronouns in place of names. Since anyone in the writing may appear at different times as I or you or he or she, these selves may mingle the reader’s mind as one person’s experience cuts to another’s and then to another’s. Gradually, though, these souls emerge more distinctly as they recur. The passages are organized in groups of five, called quintets. There are fifty-five quintets in all, with the five chapters of the book comprising eleven quintets each.

Every passage in a quintet links directly (if unexpectedly) to the next; but the cuts between quintets are usually abrupt. This may jar the reader at first, but it fosters a different quality of attention from the kind devoted to novels or memoirs. The reward is the any cross-connections that emerge over the longer span of the book.

Among Others has a visual aspect as well. Thumbnail photographs are sprinkled among the pages to serve as occasional visual evidence, with larger illustrations concluding all chapters but the last. In addition, when the opportunities arise, diagrams trace thematic connections across the entire volume. At the back of the book, you’ll find a section of maps (be sure to read their explanation), a series of diagrams showing quintet linkages, and an index of names.

Credits: written and written down by Paul Kaiser, with its design by Marc Downie and Kaiser and text utility code by Downie.