Restless Books of Brooklyn, N.Y. has created a series of books called, The Face. The inspiration for the series is a wonderful quotation from Jorge Luis Borges about what time writes on a human face.
To date there are three books published in the series. Each is a physically attractive and small format book. Two additional authors are now named on the publisher’s website, suggesting new additions sometime soon.
Each of the three published works explores the author’s own face in an essay. Each is quite different from the other two.
I have written elsewhere about my discovery of and reaction to the idea of this series and the manner in which Ruth Ozeki executed the idea in her book, The Face: A Time Code. She weaves her own reactions to and thoughts about her face during the time of her experiment with past experiences of her family, Noh studies, and Zen practice and study.
I particularly enjoyed Chris Abani’s, The Face: Cartography of the Void. because it opened a new-to-me world. He writes out of and about the half of his personal ancestry which is Nigerian. I admit that this was more the type of essay I anticipated upon reading about the series. The introduction to the language and mythology of his father’s Igbo heritage is fascinating. This is a beautifully written, far-ranging exploration of the author’s face and all that it has to tell.
Tash Aw’s, The Face: Strangers on a Pier is also an enjoyable and informative essay about his experience of constant attempts, by those he meets, at placing his face in an ethnic or cultural setting and about his Malaysian and Chinese ancestors.
I would make these books required reading for all citizens of the world. There is much each of us can learn from these essays The authors’ experiments, deeply personal, in exploring their own faces, evoke, very simply and with humility, something of what it means to live behind each of their diverse faces. Each of the authors is masterful in weaving together threads of present-time reflections and musings, with ancestral and family history. Highly recommended—all three. In fact, I think it’s important to read all three and I predict it’s equally important to read those which are promised to follow.
Eleanor Wachtel, Writers and Company, did a show on this series on CBC Radio: