Friday, September 3, 2010

The Shortest Story Ever Told

This art installation piece dates back to the 1970s (pre-personal computers, pre-Twitter, and apparently pre-self-adhesive labels—you have to lick these). The idea was to write and self-publish the shortest novel in the world. I ordered 1,000 return address mail labels from an ad circular and specified the copy you see here instead of an address. Total cost was about $2. They arrived in a nifty little plastic case. I gave various world-travelling friends fifty labels each and told them to start posting them when they got where they were going—the London Tube, the Louvre, a seaside temple in Mahabalipuram, a taverna in Greece. Book group alert: the novel changes depending on context. The gutter setting depicted here is simply a sad cliche, but the story can become rife with irony and hidden meaning depending on where the label is situated. For example, placed on the door of a Rolls Royce or a mansion, the plot has an anti-capitalist twist.  I still have about fifty left and dug them out for this photographic session. The remainder will return to the archives.


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