September 2014 | Rebecca Rego Barry

By the Book: Stories and Pictures

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.00.03 AM.pngFrom the Ontario-based publisher, Biblioasis, comes a charming and cool combination of words and illustrations called By the Book ($25.95) by Diane Schoemperlen. Using the idea of fragmentation as a starting point, and collage as a medium, Schoemperlen constructs entirely new texts and meanings assembled from vintage late 19th- and early 20th-century books such as Seaside and Wayside Nature Readers (1887) and The Ontario Public School Hygiene (1920). The resulting 73 full-color collages were, Schoemperlen writes in the introduction, "constructed in the old-fashioned way by the traditional cut-and-paste method with real paper, real scissors, and real glue."

Again, from the introduction: "In the tradition of objet trouvé, especially found poetry, these stories take the form of a found narrative: an imagined, expanded, and embroidered rearrangement of the original material."

The first story--more narrative in nature than the six that follow it--is an amusing chronicle of a young man's anachronistic adventure in visiting New York from Italy using a guidebook from 1900. (The original guidebook was rescued from a local recycling plant and re-purposed into experiential fiction--how's that for a happy ending?) Schoemperlen's re-mixed antique illustrations delight the eye, and yet also provoke laughter, close study, and further examination. A sequel to her 1998 book, Forms of Devotion, By the Book is unusual, witty, and whimsical.

Add to that the high production value of the volume itself--a bright, stand-out jacket that reproduces one of the author's collages, glossy paper that seems to illuminate the artwork, and a handy 8 1/2" x 6 1/4" hardcover binding--and you have a terrific gift for a book, art, or ephemera lover.