My One Problem with “What It Is”

I have very much enjoyed our conversation throughout the week on What It Is. I have just personally found it difficult to connect with the book itself. With all of the other materials we have read this semester, it was rather easy for me to read it, process it, and then move forward with it. But there is something about What It Is that makes it almost impossible for me to focus on it, on a page by page basis. At first read, I could not figure out what my problem was. I spent more time than I normally spend reading trying to get through the book, and get through the pages, and I found myself falling out of focus more than usual. Eventually, I realized what the issue was, and then it hit me like a literal ton of bricks. The layout is what was killing me, in terms of reading.

I am a very linear person, and I always have been a very linear person, well, so far as I can remember. I generally do better when I read things that are in some logical format and follow a linear path. And while I think that Barry’s book has a really cool page layout and really interesting page designs; I would not say that it follows a linear pattern. So while I think that the things that Barry talks about in her book are interesting, and thought provoking, I find it very hard to follow which makes it take me longer to get through or to understand. This is something that is only circumvented in the exercises in the back of the book because they have numbered steps that are easy for me to trace and follow.

One of my classmates did mention that they wished that the book actually had some physical pop ups. ¬†That it was more “touchable” for lack of a better expression. This is something that I think would have actually helped me have a better understand of the material without me getting so lost in all of it. There is something about a touchable pop-up book that makes throwing the linearity out the window so much easier for me.

Did anyone else have the same problem in reading it?

  1 comment for “My One Problem with “What It Is”

  1. October 12, 2015 at 10:31 am

    Certainly, What it Is creates different demands for its readers — something I’ve been emphasizing in our last couple of class discussions about it. While ultimately those differences may mean that it’s more difficult for some to connect with it as fiction (if indeed that’s what you mean, and if not then I apologize for misreading), then it’s at least worth pointing out that this is much more creative non-fiction than fiction. And even more so, the workbook style it presents is more like a space she invites us to share than it is like a narrative with a zero-sum comprehension quotient like “get it” or “don’t get it”. I think with this work (and with any work, really, though that’s a broader conversation), we all line up somewhere between getting it and not getting it, and the secret or the only way out of feeling paralyzed by that could be, as Barry concludes in What it is, simply being OK with not knowing how close to one side or another we happen to be.

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