It happened first when Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and it is happening again with the publication (by the same small Nova Scotia press) of Stephen Marche’s Love and the Mess We’re In: The Canadian literary avant-garde is boldly retreating to a bucolic past where paper is sacred and digital technology makes no impression whatsoever.
“This is a book you cannot read on a Kindle,” the author says proudly, brandishing the artifact in question during an interview in Toronto. “It’s not possible to do. This is a physical book, and the experience of holding it in your hands is integral to its reality.”
The thing that makes Marche’s third novel so resistant to digitization is its form. Between the covers is a poignant, fractured narrative of adultery and madness that is sometimes laid out in parallel columns like a script, sometimes in typographic patterns like concrete poetry, and sometimes like flowing waves set sideways. Designed by Andrew Steeves of Gaspereau Press, it revives the kind of black-and-white formal experimentation that flourished in the dying days of hot type 50 years ago – as does the unconventional, non-linear text, which picks up where the experimenters at Coach House Press left off in 1973.
Source: Globe and Mail