Love & the Mess We’re In by Stephen Marche (Gaspereau Press) is a beautifully designed novel whose text flows in all directions, providing an unusual reading experience as typography competes with plot. The book tells the story of Clive and Viv, old friends who have an adulterous affair in Argentina. When Viv’s husband dies unexpectedly, she and Clive continue their relationship, get pregnant and move to New York to start their family.
Different fonts, type sizes, images and page layouts mimic what’s happening in the narrative, providing a delightful subtext to the words. A full-colour fold-out transit map of New York City, plotting significant events in Clive and Viv’s lives, completes the experience. However, the typographic design overshadows and overextends the plot. Scenes are drawn out (seventy pages for an uncomfortable dinner; fifty pages for the sex scene) ostensibly to allow room to play with the type, but compromising the narrative.
I love the book’s design, and I wish the story had been as exciting.