A very intelligent review of Diane Schoemperlen's By The Book appeared in The Toronto Star today, courtesy of James Grainger.
Calling Diane "a relentless literary experimentalist who challenges the conventions of the short story and novel formats" Grainger goes on to show why even, in her most radically challenging work, Diane has won "a wide and devoted readership in a marketplace increasingly hostile to “difficult” or “challenging” texts."
So what sets By The Book, her most formally adventurous work since the Governor General's award-winning novel Forms of Devotion, apart from the current experimental crop?
Grainger has some ideas, and we couldn't agree more:
One of the reasons for the popularity of Schoemperlen’s inventive work, which incorporates elements of collage, fragmentation, and other postmodern tropes, is that she seems to be having so much fun creating it. Her fiction also avoids turgid academic language in favour of playful re-imaginings of such mundane sources as romance advice columns, devotional texts, catalogues, and lifestyle questionnaires....Schoemperlen wants us to consider the randomness, absurdity, and militant certainties not only of another era’s texts and images but of our own, which will one day be judged as quaint as those of the Victorians. By the Book is a challenging read, but it never talks over or under the readers’ head, which should endear it to Schoemperlen’s fans and to adventurous readers unfamiliar with her work.
We've talked before about the undeniable weirdness of this book, its beauty and distinction as a printed objet d'art, but perhaps this is the best way to view By The Book: as the work of a restlessly creative mind that above all else is reveling in having fun, and moreover a brand of fun that the reader is free to participate in. Like Douglas Glover says of By The Book, "none of the conventional words cover it for they miss the fantastic wit, the energy of humour, the divine ability to find comedic ore in the print detritus of our culture." The book is yours to discover.