Woody Leslie, “Parsely”

Parsely, cover and page spreads. Edition of 200 handbound books, offset printed by the artist.

Parsely, excerpted spread: pages 4 & 5.

Parsely, excerpted spread: pages 12 & 13.

Parsely, excerpted spread: pages 26 & 27.

Deluxe edition of Parsely, cover and title page. Edition of 10 case bound books, numbered and signed.

Woody Leslie
Chicago,  Illinois

Offset prints on Mohawk Superfine, laser-cut Daler-Rowney Canford cover.
200, plus a deluxe edition of 10
6.5 x 18.5
6.5 x 9.25 x .25

Artist Statement

I construct large homes for tiny ideas. Equal parts book artist and writer, I take small thoughts about language, memories, and insignificant personal ritual, and reframe them as official histories, grand theories, and significant objects. Language is at the heart of my creative exploration. The convoluted mess of the English language provides an ample playground for me to invent my own words, letters, false etymologies, and grammar, building one on top of the other until my constructed systems simultaneously support and contradict themselves. Through this (de)construction, I force the consideration of individual words.

Parsely is a thirty-second story that takes thirty minutes to read. Through words alone, the book illustrates a story, ostensibly about the neighbor’s parsley being eaten under the author’s watchful eye. The reader is pulled through the book by the story’s narrative, but simultaneously slowed down by escalating digressions of language. As the book progresses, the pages grow ever denser, filled by increasing footnotes, vocabulary definitions, exegesis by individual words, talking punctuation and page numbers, and growing chains of word associations spilling across the page.

The main text of the story runs through the book in the center of each recto page, a sentence at a time spoken by a red W (the author). Other words start talking too, adding their own commentary to the unfolding story. The parsley and caterpillars become characters, represented by the words that spell them. Eventually the punctuation and even the page numbers start talking. Every mark on the page has a voice.

Footnotes and vocabulary referenced in the main text crop up on the verso pages. The footnotes explain the text, philosophize on finer points of language, and go off on tangential memories. More often than not, they paint pictures around the main text rather than their usual role of serving it. The vocabulary lists at first clarify the meaning of certain words, but it is not long before they just add to the confusion: poetic and metaphorical definitions, invented words, false etymologies, philosophical linguistic implications, bad puns even. Earlier footnotes are referenced on later pages, and introduced vocabulary is adopted into the text going forward. The reader is compelled to flip back and forth between pages, rather than read strictly linearly.

The space between words is slowly filled in by more words—growing chains of word associations meandering across the page like multiplying caterpillars. They get denser and denser, eventually spilling across the gutter to reach the vocabulary and footnotes, and crawling off the edges of the page. Ancillary as they are, even these words are not immune to being footnoted or vocabularized.

In the end, the book is a meditation on words and language, the caterpillars and parsley simply acting as our guides.