Composition No. 1 (1962) by Marc Saporta is an innovative novel-in-a-box first published by Éditions du Seuil. It was later translated by Richard Howard and published by Simon & Schuster in an inexpensive edition that has become a collector's item appearing in the special collections display box at Logos Books. A new edition by Visual Editions, London, with an introduction by Tom Uglow of Creative Labs Google, and drawings by Salvador Plascencia, has been available since the spring of 2011 with an elegant yellow book-in-a-box designed by Universal Everything. With Composition No. 1 by Marc Saporta the innovative novel is becoming a work of publishing mastery as it progresses in design and esthetic concept towards the book arts object. Composition No. 1 is written in loose unbound pages which can be shuffled into a chance composition, a concept developed in the 1960s when John Cage experimented with ways of freeing composition from authoritarian determination. Chance composition is a way of creating an open form where the pages of the novel can be read in a structure that is created by the reader. If the reader is to shuffle the pages like "a deck of cards," then the reading of the novel will become a game of chance. This is a theme introduced by Stéphane Mallarmé in A Toss of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance (1897), where the spatial design of the typographic poem affirms the future success of the inevitable, chance itself, which cannot be abolished.
"For the time and order of events control a man’s life more than the nature of such events. Certainly there is a framework which history imposes...
So it made sense to develop a screen version too: Composition No. 1 as an iPad app. While the printed book asks readers to shuffle pages, the screen version is an automatic screen shuffle that forces readers to get involved.
Composition No. 1 (1962) by Marc Saporta has become an electronic text like the new innovative novels written for a specific application. This will give the reader a more sophisticated esthetic appreciation for the novel if it can be adapted to a computer interface, and furthers the chance composition possibilities of interpreting the significance of events if the pages appear in an unbound book-in-a-box.
David Detrich lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he has just completed The Convergence of Two Narrative Lines Ascending, an ultramodern Surrealist novel written in minimal squares. He is working on Dream the Presence of the Circular Breast Starfish Topography, a monumental Surrealist novel written with innovative typographical design. His first novel Big Sur Marvels & Wondrous Delights (2001) is available from Amazon. He is the editor of Innovative Fiction Magazine and Surrealist Star Clustered Illuminations.