The Long Song by
by Sue Doggett
The most striking aspect of the Long
Song for me was that it reminds us of the power of words. The mutability
of the spoken word is set against the belief in the absolute nature of
the written and printed word; the importance of July’s account of
her life as a plantation slave, her son’s insistence on this being
made permanent in print with political additions, stories told for fun
and exaggerated for effect and the worthlessness of the written ‘pass’ which
fails to stop July being taken from her mother at the whim of Miss Caroline.
This idea was developed into the design of the book by collaging official
and personal documents and accounts from the period alongside
the novel itself.
The texts were applied to the boards using transfer print and metal
and wooden type. The setting of the novel is the sugar cane plantation
on which the structure of the binding is based. Each section has
a hand-painted guard which suggests the cane itself and these are sewn
on to a crossed tape arrangement suggesting cord ties. The sewing on
the boards is fragile, worn away in parts and could be seen as unfulfilled
or yet to be fulfilled lives and expectations; unending stories perhaps.
The bleeding ink marks which also double as the cane tops makes reference
to July’s writing early in the novel. The leather head caps are made
from dyed and machine-sewn goatskin and the boards are covered in goat
and reversed goatskin with painted paper inserts. The end leaves are hand
painted and the doublures have a sugar cane repeated motif running along
the tail edges of the boards.