New from the Winner of the Writers’ Trust of Canada Marian Engel Award and the Governor General’s Award for English Fiction
Once touted as compendiums of human knowledge, the encyclopedias and handbooks of bygone eras now read quaintly, if not comically—yet within their musty pages are often found phrases of uncanny evocative power. Scrupulously stitching such fragments together, in a sequel to the Governor General’s Award-winning Forms of Devotion, By The Book is a collection of verbal and visual collages whose alchemies transform long-dead texts into tales of enduring vitality. With her visually witty full-colour artwork and stories like “What Is A Hat? Where Is Constantinople? Who Was Sir Walter Raleigh? And Many Other Common Questions, Some With Answers, Some Without,” and “Consumptives Should Not Kiss Other People: A Handy Guide to the Care and Maintenance of Your Family’s Good Health,” Schoemperlen’s irreverent and ironic brand of nostalgia combines vintage kitsch with comic, creepy, unexpectedly moving yarns.
Praise for By The Book
“Diane Schoemperlen’s By The Book is a bravura performance. Fragments, collage, assemblage, found poetry – 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. She doesn’t rescue texts; with her wicked sense of irony, she actually puts thought where there was none. She infects the banal with the virus of her own brain and makes it into art. Then she makes a picture of it—oh, dwell upon the details; there are whole novels lurking in the details.”—Douglas Glover
“Schoemperlen’s inventive language and narrative structures encourage readers to be free ‘from the prison of everyday thinking.”—New York Times Book Review
“Lovely, clever [and] imaginative.”—Wall Street Journal
“Cuttingly witty … Schoemperlen could almost form a school of piquant and inventive fiction with Julie Hecht, Janet Kauffman, and Lydia Davis.”—Booklist
“There is no mistaking a Schoemperlen story—devoted to form, faithful to the mysteries of the everyday.”—The Globe & Mail
“By the Book suggest[s] ways old texts might speak to us today, chopped up, reordered, tweet-ready. Schoemperlen works in a tradition that recalls, in addition to [Jonathan] Lethem and [David] Shields, the cubist fictions of Lydia Davis, David Markson and Padgett Powell. The most effective stories here affirm the notion … that ‘the beauty of a fragment is that it still supports the hope of a brilliant completeness.’”—Mark Sarvas, The New York Times Sunday Book Review
“[Schoemperlen] breaks her readers out of the present to give them more insight into who they are and how they live.… A meditative, poetic journey …”—Stacey May Fowles, The Globe & Mail
“One of the reasons for the popularity of Schoemperlen’s inventive work … is that she seems to be having so much fun creating it. … Schoemperlen wants us to consider the randomness, absurdity, and militant certainties not only of another era’s texts and images but of our own.”—The Toronto Star
“The stories are illustrated by beautiful, hand-assembled visual collages … [which add] a levity of spirit that would be missing if the book were nothing but text … By the Book contains rewards aplenty for the reader adventurous enough to engage it on its own unique terms.”—Winnipeg Review
“By the Book is a witty, imaginative, and sometimes whimsical journey through words and pictures.”—This Magazine
“Strangely appealing … an extremely clever and often graceful collection that rewards the curious reader.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Charming and cool … Schoemperlen’s re-mixed antique illustrations delight the eye, and yet also provoke laughter, close study, and further examination … By The Book is unusual, witty, and whimsical. Add to that the high production value of the volume itself … and you have a terrific gift for a book, art, or ephemera lover.”—Fine Books & Collections Magazine
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