Experiments with Form
Today, we’re bringing you a unique selection of books on our shelves—ones that play with the form of the novel itself! Like ‘In The Dream House’ by Carmen Maria Machado, these books disrupt how we usually think of the novel, and bring innovation to the page.
In ‘The Wandering’ by Intan Paramaditha, the unnamed narrator, born and raised in Indonesia, makes a deal with the Devil. She asks for adventures and a one-way ticket away from home, and the Devil gives her a pair of glittering red shoes. What follows is a story that you, the reader, can make yourself. A choose-your-own-adventure story, where you can decide where to go next. Will you wake up in New York City, will you board a plane to Amsterdam? You decide!
Paramaditha uses this unique form to ask hard-hitting questions about gender, race, and class. Who actually gets to travel without limitations? Sometimes what seems like a choice turns out to not be a choice after all. ‘The Wandering’ presents its reader with many story strands—eleven possible endings, and multiple ways to reach them, creating a maze of forking paths, blending genres like fairy-tale, magic, folklore, and myth. We are offered do-overs—the chance to return to a choice we’ve made in the past, and hopefully change our destiny. But as Paramaditha warns us, in this world of multiple borders, there’s only so far we can escape.
Mark Z Danielewski’s ‘House of Leaves’ is a story within a story within a story, at the centre of which is a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane. There, they discover that their house, impossibly, is bigger on the inside. Open any page of this book and you will be surprised—in it are screenplays with annotations, parallel stories being told in the footnotes, and even pages with upside-down text on it. ‘House of Leaves’ is an unsettling, unforgettable experience.
And finally, Calvin Kasulke’s ‘Several People Are Typing’—a book about Gerald, an employee at a public relations firm who finds his consciousness inexplicably uploaded to Slack. This book is told entirely through Slack messages, which feels like an odd peek into someone else’s workplace—as if you walked to the wrong office one day and just decided not to leave (or as if you accidentally picked up someone else’s phone). Through the firm’s internal messages, we discover the many projects they’re working on, are privy to budding office romances, are part of office inside jokes, and witness Gerald’s alarming descent further and further into the internet. What’s keeping him here, and how will he ever escape?
We hope you pick up some of these recommendations and enjoy reading them!