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VAS: An Opera in Flatland: A Novel. By Steve Tomasula. Art and Design by Stephen Farrell. Paperback edition Edition

4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226807409
ISBN-10: 0226807401
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

First pain, then knowledge. It’s the turn of the twenty-first century and Square, Oval, and the other inhabitants of Flatland find themselves slipping into a postbiological future where lying down with the scalpel is as common as buying and selling genes. VAS tells the story of one family at this moment in time, looking at what the body has been while imagining what it—and we—might become. Printed in the colors of flesh and blood, this stunning imagetext novel is ultimately the story of finding one’s identity within the double helix of language and lineage.
 “A beautifully vibrant collaboration, VAS balances terrifying facts and a desperate humor with ease. . . .Reading VAS, I felt pushed a bit higher above our own cultural Flatland, an experience both disturbing and enlightening, and one for which I am grateful.”—Review of Contemporary Fiction “This constitutes a leap forward for the genre we call ‘novel.’ Collapsing nonfiction into fiction, women’s reproductive concerns into men’s, history into present, work into play—this novel takes juxtaposition and digression to new heights.”—American Book Review  
“Visually brilliant…VAS: An Opera in Flatland redesigns the novel, taking it to a dimension beyond the one in which it ordinarily lives.”—Rain Taxi

About the Author

Steve Tomasula is the author of the novels The Book of Portraiture (FC2); In & Oz (Ministry of Whimsy Press); and VAS: AN OPERA IN FLATLAND, an acclaimed novel of the biotech revolution. Incorporating narrative forms of all kinds--from comic books, travelogues, journalism or code to Hong Kong action movies or science reports--Tomasula's writing has been called a "reinvention of the novel, '"combining an "attention to society in the tradition of Orwell, attention to language in the tradition of Beckett, and the humor of a Coover or Pynchon." His writing often crosses visual, as well as written genres, drawing on science and the arts to take up themes of how we represent what we think we know, and how these representations shape our lives. His short fiction has been published widely, and most recently in McSweeney's, DENVER QUARTERLY, Fiction International, and the Iowa Review, where he received the Iowa Prize for the most distinguished work published in any genre. Tomasula holds a doctorate in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago and teaches in the program for writers at the University of Notre Dame.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Paperback edition edition (December 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226807401
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226807409
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #688,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Reading "Vas: An Opera in Flatland" while I waited to have my hair cut, someone nearby asked what I was reading, and was it a good book. Answering, "yes this is an excellent book", I was not prepared for the next question. "How do you know it's an excellent book"? Being a person who would typically answer, "Because someone told me so", or trying to end the conversation I had become a part of, I answered, "because I am enjoying it, its making me think about a lot of different things, and its cool (I apologize for the `cool')".
Sinking my head down I pretend to read but was actually thinking about the question I had already answered. How do I know this is an excellent book? The question intimidated me. I wondered if I was answering this in the presence of the author that wrote it or the artist that put it together what my answer would be.
So I tried, this book (seems unfair to call it that) encompasses written and visual art, science, humor, some history, politics, ethics, and more. From the books bindings, to the artwork and the writing I find it difficult to compare to anything else I have read or seen (OK, as far as books are concerned). I looked at the drawings, layouts and fonts and typeset, I laughed, I read and I learned. I cannot think of other works that touched so many areas. If this is a new approach to literature, I feel it is `excellent'. If this is an approach to literature that I have been missing then I apologize for myself.
Please give this work a chance, while reading, looking, holding, etc you will ask `you' a lot of questions and will be looking at a lot of different images. When you are done you will struggle to put your hand on what you have put down, a piece of art, a book, or something else.
I'm not sure what I should call it, but it is an excellent book. (Buy It!)
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In some sense VAS picks up where Richard Powers's groundbreaking The Gold Bug Variations leaves off: assume that the structure of language is reflected in the double helix, and assume further that print technologies are an analog for body technologies, words and images and book materials made flesh and blood and bones. Now imagine a narrative orchestrated around characters whose symbolic proportions resonate with the latter two assumptions, and you have some idea of the staggering visual sweep and poetic beauty of VAS, perhaps the first graphic novel (term used advisedly) in which both "graphic" and "novel" are given their full due as contemporary art forms, thus reinventing the genre while re-novelizing the novel of ideas. VAS stitches personal reproductive drama to social-scientific controversy to illustrate the challenges facing our species, a species wedded to its incorporations. Author Tomasula and designer Farrell have set the bar very, very high.
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I've been a fan of Steve Tomasula's writing ever since I read his brilliant short story, "C-U See-Me" in The Iowa Review. VAS: An Opera In Flatland only confirms my best suspicions: that Tomasula is one of our most talented and innovative writers creating in this age of same-ol/same-ol. His collaboration with artist Stephen Farrell hits a high note in the field of Text + Image. This is a literal work of art, and should be approached in the same way one views a painting - by allowing the work to speak on its own terms rather than from conventional and limiting expectations. Reading VAS is like witnessing scattershot in reverse: With narrative of an impending vasectomy combined with scientific data and historical facts (to name only a few), and structure combining the media-asides that bombard us daily, the process of reading here is broadly experiential - an accumulation of often poetic, comic, and tragic information that coalesces as you reach the end. Very much like life between the covers. But a very smart, richly lived life.
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An overlooked contemporary experimental ... I call it a "near masterpiece." A marvelous, odd book. It is partly fictional--science-fictional, actually--but quite far from achieving novelhood. It is coherent in terms of content, theme, tone, and design but not in the sense of narrative. Rather it's a collection of brief fictive narrative elements (anywhere from one to five pages) alternated and intertwined with quotes, statistics, and historical anecdotes related to genetics, reproduction, population control/demography, racism, and eugenics. This unusual content is presented in a sophisticated design that I imagine is what a collage would look like if it were made by a DNA-obsessed android. To further complicate matters, the story elements are purportedly set in "Flatland," the world invented by Edwin A. Abbot in his book Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (Dover Thrift Editions), a brief but highly inventive work that I highly recommend you make a beeline* for if you get a chance. Flatland is Abbot's attempt to invent a world that lives only in two dimensions. All the beings in Flatland are literally one or two dimensional: points, line segments, triangles, circles, quadrilaterals, and so on. The creatures in Flatland find it impossible to imagine three dimensional objects, a form we, of course, take for granted. (Although we really shouldn't...I have heard tell of a holographic theory of universe that says we are all existing on an infinite flat plane (a "brane") and three dimensionality is merely an illusion. But I digress.) Flatland is a great book, but Abbot's Flatland has very little to do with Vas.Read more ›
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