my all time favorite freak show story has to be the one about Charles Eisenmann and the Snakes...
With this story always wiggling around in the back of my head, during my short foray into book making, I found myself becoming attuned to the way in which printmaking and the production of the book were performances of the everyday, rife with minor perils akin to Eisenmann’s. From training the hand to hold the type stick “properly,” to the flick of the wrist to secure the lockup, to working the handpress like a slot machine to produce text, the process of printing is an embodied as much as it an intellectual one. Printing relies on routinized, if not repetitive, kinesthetic engagement. However, sometimes it’s the moments of singularity, when the snakes are on the loose, that have the longest or most potent impact. Every unnoticed upside down apostrophe or backwards “c,” for every slightly crooked or off-centered piece of prose, and for that one run of “Bearded Lady”’s with the ghostly lines traversing her because my hair got stuck to the tympan—these “freaks” of printing serve as clues to the printer’s unseen part in the freak show.
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c19 scholar interested in all things freakish