Mini Interview with Steve Tomasula

by on Nov.08, 2010

I asked Steve about my previous post about his and Blake’s books, and what had caused him to bring design into the book.


“I guess I wasn’t thinking of bringing design into the book so much as using the materials of the book as part of the story: it was real important to me that the book/story be a real object in the world, like a brick, not something that could exist on the web, or be poured into a kindle, but something with a body that lived in the world like other physical things we have to contend with—which, I think, is a backdoor way of saying, yes, from the start I thought of VAS as a visual novel, in that the visuals would help tell the story (as opposed to illustrate a story), the story being how the language associated with text (e.g. editing, body text, copyright) was becoming literal in the body (editing the genetic alphabet, patent of genes, etc.). In this sense the book is a metaphor for the body, just as the body can be thought of as a kind of book. It was important then, to make the materials of the book (language, but also ink, paper) tell this story (e.g. an original meaning of “plagiarism” was the theft of a child, and VAS is full of “appropriations”)–all of this meant that the design of the book was going to have play a lot larger role than it does for those transparent designs, as you call them in your post, where the page is the ‘crystal goblet meant to hold the wine of literature’ as someone once put it, i.e. design you can just see through or don’t notice. Along with the body=book=body aspect of the novel, the story also tries to foreground how constructed our ideas of nature or the natural are, so here again, it was important for me to have the book/body that the reader holds in his or her hands remind them that what they are reading was also a constructed object, not the “dream a reader can get lost in,” that so many conventional novels (and book designs) encourage. Does that make sense?”

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