By A Thread

By Lynne Avadenka

This week, Jews around the world celebrate the holiday of Purim which revolves around the biblical story of Esther. Within the traditional practices of the holiday itself, there is some play involving the format of the text. In synagogues, the parchment scroll is folded to resemble an epistle to evoke the official letters sent out at the denouement of the book.

Lynne Avadenka’s By a Thread also plays with both the format of the book as well as the story of Esther itself. Avadenka draws a parallel between Esther and another famous Persian queen, Scheherazade, the protagonist and narrator from the One Thousand and One Nights. By a Thread is an accordion book, meaning it is created by taking a large sheet of paper and folding it back and forth to create the individual pages. When unfolded in one direction, we read Queen Esther’s letter to her “sister of stories” and when unfolded the other way, we read Scheherazade’s reply. The dialogue across the thousand years between them can be read in a multitude of ways given the uniqueness of how the book is put together. The parallels and sympathies between the two tales resonate stronger when presented in this fashion.

Artists' books are usually valued for their structure rather than their content, but a great story is always a bonus. Even better is when the narrative of the book and its structure inform each other or even complicate each other. Click here for slideshow.

- Daniel Scheide