Books don’t have to be arranged in a traditional format – there are many writers looking to change the traditional sentence and paragraph structure. For a very long time, much writing has been arranged in a paragraph-by-paragraph format, which is easy to read and what most people are used to. However, if the text itself is concerned with breaking traditional rules of storytelling and narrative, it fits that the way the story is visually told to the reader would change as well.
Many would see traditional methods of laying out print on a page to be too restrictive and traditional – and would also see breaking with these conventions similar to how a film-maker can alter traditional methods of visual storytelling and narrative to approach viewers in a different way. When one thinks about it, there’s much less for a writer to do visually than there is for a director or film-maker. It’s often been considered the case that a writer has to work within the paragraph and sentence format seen (with the exception of footnotes) in every book, and use their writing itself to alter the ways in which a story is told to the reader. Just as a filmmaker has to display their film in the traditional projected-on-to-a-screen, square format, a writer has to use sentences, paragraphs and traditional book typeface layout to tell their story – no matter how unconventional it is. However, there are some writers who are choosing to buck these conventions.
The book ‘House of Leaves’ subverts a lot of these conventions by arranging paragraphs all over the page, beginning and ending sentences in odd places, and making odd formatting decisions throughout the novel. It all adds to the book’s sense of claustrophobia and things not being quite right.
The work by William Gibson, ‘Agrippa’, is a poem that exists entirely on floppy disk within a larger book that does not actually contain the poem. The book itself has type that is designed to fade and decay as it is exposed to light, and the poem is part of a program that essentially deletes itself once the poem has been viewed once – it self-encrypts and cannot be accessed again. This is a way of highlighting the possible transitory nature of memory, and removing the ‘concrete’ nature of movable type by creating a ‘one-use-only’ kind of work that denies the reader the usual