[This is the fourth installment in a series. The whole series can be found here.]
One of the most impressive and entrancing aspects of S. (and part of its brilliance) the many layers that the overall book possesses, each to be appreciated and studied by the reader of the book. There is the actual text of Ship of Theseus, then there is the concept of the translated work, then there are the footnotes of the translator. This is the first level, if you will, of the reading containing a number of different layers to be contemplated by the reader.
Next there are the pencil notes of one of the characters reading the text at a young age, then there are the pen margin notes made by this same character later in life and the female character he is corresponding with as they discuss both the text and their own personal feelings and events in their own lives. This is the next level.
Finally there is the level of the reader, taking this all in, in its many different aspects, putting it all together and deciding from there what the story is telling them.
While it has been hinted at in the previous chapters that there is something developing between the two characters making their comments in the margins, and I’ve discussed this in previous installments in the series, it is in this chapter, the third chapter of Ship of Theseus, that this relationship is made clear as something blossoming between the characters over the reading of this text, as they become more open with each other, sharing personal details from their lives, and being outright flirty with their commentary. This is also played upon by a relationship taking place within the text of Ship of Theseus, and the characters reading it, discussing it and playing around with it, as they hint at their evolving feelings for each other.
Adding a level of realism with the notations in the margins, the characters even make simple illustrations or doodles at points, much as we all have done when our interest begins to waver and we find ourselves wanting to create something from scratch on an empty square of paper. It adds to the level of detail put into the development and making of this book, even down to occasional smudges of the ink, leading to the possibility that the character writing the particular notation might be left-handed.
At this point of reading S. I got the sense that I was reading an important scholarly text, something out of classic literature that has been around for a number of years, perhaps even centuries, and after finishing the book, it might be worth a reread or two, perhaps right away, or perhaps after the passing of some time, so that the many subtle levels of the story can be better appreciated, once all the details from start to finish are fully known.
It is also in this chapter and a sliver of fear is introduced to the characters reading the text, which is in turn passed on to the overall reader, as they discover alterations in the text that weren’t that way before, meaning since their last reading someone has come and made this alteration, such as the underlining of the word or sentence. It forces the reader to ask questions such as whether these readers of Ship of Theseus are being watched or observed in some way, and just how important this text truly is. It adds an growing element of risk to these characters which just serves to make it more thrilling for the reader of S. This is developed even further with developments happening to these readers in their lives, people they know getting hurt, others getting killed who are in some way related to this text.
And with the development of the chilling and dark in S., it seems only warranted that there a reader should have an ideal playlist to accompany the reading. So here are some suggested playlists from Songza to add to the mood of reading S.