Although it includes a glossary of bookbinding terms and a three-page photo-essay on “How To Bind A Book,” The Book Bindery is less about book binding than the function of creativity and negativity in a work environment. Sarah Royal, who worked briefly at a bindery in Chicago right after graduating from college, writes that “even if you’re in utter bliss over your job, you still need to feed off of negativity in some form or another. Bitching about what you’re doing or joining in on bitching about someone else’s predicament is what makes everything roll by day to day.” She and her colleagues spent hours gossiping about their transvestite boss, coworkers, and the naked neighbor who lived next door to the factory. They played Bingo with the most common quips made by the bindery’s secretary over the Intercom. During coffee hour they built a shrine out of “action figures, Hot Wheels, badminton rackets….whatever interesting and weird shit we could find.”
Colleagues seemed to love Royal’s bravado and the fact that she collected stories about the place—in one anecdote she tells of a coworker who left a dirty band-aid on her desk just so that she could write about it. In spite of their admiration, Royal makes occasionally vicious fun of co-workers and friends without tempering her writing with the self-deprecation or reflection needed to make her as likeable to readers as she reportedly was to those at her workplace.
Nonetheless, The Book Bindery is well written, engaging, aesthetically pleasing, and potentially inspiring to others in non-stimulating jobs. Hopefully we will see much more from Royal in the future. Her other zines and books, such as Beer, Bikes and Bridges: Notes on Portland, Oregon and Creative Cursing: A Mix n’Match Profanity Generator (co-authored with Jillian Panarese,) have already been published by other book binderies around the country.