Twenty years ago I made Book from the Sky, a book of illegible Chinese characters that no one could read. Now I have created Book from the Ground, a book that anyone can read. -- Xu Bing
Following his classic work Book from the Sky,
the Chinese artist Xu Bing presents a new graphic novel -- one composed
entirely of symbols and icons that are universally understood. Xu Bing
spent seven years gathering materials, experimenting, revising, and
arranging thousands of pictograms to construct the narrative of Book from the Ground.
The result is a readable story without words, an account of twenty-four
hours in the life of "Mr. Black," a typical urban white-collar worker.
Our protagonist's day begins with wake-up calls from a nearby bird and
his bedside alarm clock; it continues through tooth-brushing,
coffee-making, TV-watching, and cat-feeding. He commutes to his job on
the subway, works in his office, ponders various fast-food options for
lunch, waits in line for the bathroom, daydreams, sends flowers,
socializes after work, goes home, kills a mosquito, goes to bed, sleeps,
and gets up the next morning to do it all over again. His day is
recounted with meticulous and intimate detail, and reads like a
postmodern, post-textual riff on James Joyce's account of Bloom's
peregrinations in Ulysses. But Xu Bing's narrative, using an
exclusively visual language, could be published anywhere, without
translation or explication; anyone with experience in contemporary
life--anyone who has internalized the icons and logos of modernity, from
smiley faces to transit maps to menus -- can understand it.