VAS: An Opera in Flatland
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University of Chicago Press

loading VAS paper coverA novel by Steve Tomasula.  Art and design by Stephen Farrell

370 pp, 3-color throughout, including artwork, illustrations and diagrams.  One trifold foldout page.

Adult Fiction/ Biotechnology/ Cultural Studies/ Graphic Design

University of Chicago Press, December 1, 2004.  $18.00 paper, ISBN 0-226-80740

Synopsis
Up until now, everyone alive on earth was bound to one another through African Eve, our last common ancestor, who 5,000 generations ago passed her genes and language to sons and daughters who did the same as they gradually populated the world. Today, however, Square, Circle and the other inhabitants of Flatland have the opportunity to step outside this lineage.  To rearrange the bodies of animals, plants, and even themselves. VAS: An Opera in Flatland is the story of Square’s decision to undergo an operation that will leave him sterile for the good of his wife, Circle, for the good of their daughter, Oval, and for the good of society, including the unborn descendants he will never have. VAS is, in other words, the story of finding one’s identity within the double-helix of language and lineage—and Square’s struggle to see beyond the common pages of ordinary, daily life upon which he is drawn.

Utilizing a wide and historical sweep of representations of the body, from pedigree charts to genetic sequences, this hybrid novel recounts how differing ways of imagining the body generate differing stories of knowledge, power, history, gender, politics, art, and, of course, the literature of who we are. It is the intersection of one tidy family’s life with the broader times in which they live.

VAS will be of interest to anyone concerned with the futures we are now writing into existence.


A breathtaking inquiry into the artifacts of the human imagination, VAS: An Opera in Flatland is sensuous, ferocious, and original.  
    —Rikki Ducornet, The Novelist
pages 72-73 loading

…this novel 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


Steve Tomasula's extraordinary "novel" —or is it a film script? collage art work? philosophical meditation? —tracks the story of a "simple" event in the life of a 21st century family.  But "story" is the wrong word here, for Tomasula's dissection of post-biological life is about the new interaction of bodies and DNA possibilities. Tomasula's imagination, his satiric edge, his wildly comic sense of things, combined with Farrell’s inventive page lay-out make reading this "Opera in Flatland" an unforgettable experience.
    —Marjorie Perloff, The Critic


VAS, a beautifully vibrant collaboration…balances terrifying facts and a desperate humor with an ease worthy of David Markson,…an experience both disturbing and enlightening, and one for which I am grateful.
    —Review of Contemporary Fiction

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VAS is an encyclopedic quest for three-dimensional thinking in a two-dimensional quadvaverse of cloned geneticists replicating racialist double binds.  With striking visual aplomb, VAS casts factoids off the steps of the Temples of the Predetermined into the yet-to-be-written name of errant possibility.
    —Charles Bernstein, The Poet


VAS: An Opera in Flatland is a beguilingly intricate, immaculately crafted labour of love and anyone interested in the future of genetics or writing, or both, should seek it out.
    --Eye [U.K.]


…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 Review of Books


VAS is a welcome and an innovative contribution to the ongoing discussion and debate on biotechnology and the posthuman....
    --Leonardo


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Bound in a cover made to look like human flesh…VAS: An Opera in Flatland…interweaves myriad forms: novel, short story, poetry, comic book, history, science, reference, libretto, musical score, epigraph, science fiction, meta-text, and genetic code….The result is a project so stunningly ambitious its occasional shortcomings are easily forgiven, and the only true disappointment is that it has to end.
    --Gulf Coast Review


Amazing, breathtaking in its originality….
    --SirReadalot


…an unforgettably unique reading pleasure and the most visually exhilarating fiction to appear in years.
    --American Book Review






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