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.
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!)