This project examines the lived experience of one hundred used copies of The Dispossessed, a 1974 science fiction novel by Ursula Le Guin. It takes the form of a book of readers marks, Marking the Dispossessed Passenger Books and an instrumental interpretation of the markings, composed by Jason Treuting (So Percussion) and Mobius Percussion.
The used, mass market paperback has little value. This particular volume — The Dispossessed — is available cheaply or for free as an e-book (Amazon), audio book (Audible), PDF or TeX file (Anarchist Library). Most of the books collected for The Library of the Dispossessed were purchased from online resellers. They are marked by previous owners (New Tecumseth Public Library, Kate Wilkins, Lee W. Smith); bear messages from past readers (“good move!” “I’m going to vomit,” “don’t ever let yourself be owned”); and carry miscellaneous scraps of paper (a boarding pass, a reminder to pick up Jess at 9:00).
In The Dispossessed, Le Guin imagines the everyday reality of life in a revolutionary anarchist society. Its citizens created a new language and a new society devoid of possessions — and thus no owners — where people engage voluntarily in labor (“a person likes to do what he is good at doing”), and there is gender equality (no marriage). Her novel invites re-reading forty years later against the backdrop of spontaneous uprisings occurring with increasing regularity around the world.