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Form: A Vehicle for the Story

A recommended reading list by the author of the new book Cyclettes

Book Cover Cyclettes

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In my creative nonfiction book Cyclettes, I explore the literal and metaphorical cycles that have defined my life. Cultural, scientific, and philosophical musings are interspersed with coming-of-age snapshots, all displayed as textual and visual fragments, like a cabinet of curiosities gathered up to curate meaning from a chaotic world. It is experimental in form, but its skeletal structure is simply a numbered list. A list of every cycle I have ever known. Each item like a spoke on a wheel spinning round and round. The form is a vehicle for the story. Here is a list of other books that have drawn inspiration from different forms of writing to create unusual narrative structures.


“The epistolary”

Book Cover Griffin and Sabine

 The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy, by Nick Bantock

This collection of full-colour novels recounts the relationship between two distanced artists who correspond through post across time and place as their soulship and existential questions grow evermore complex. The books consist of letters (in physical envelopes for the reader to open) and postcards that are heavily collaged with a diverse range of imagery. Tension and mystery build in the absences of what is left out of the mail.

“The deconstructed manuscript”

Book Cover Document 1

Document 1, by François Blais

A fictional story of two friends with a modest ambition to take a trip from their Québécois town to a Pennsylvanian town. To finance the trip, they decide to make it into a literary project so that they can qualify for an arts grant. The book title refers to the default name for any document begun in Microsoft Word. The book itself appears like a working draft—as they record their progress on researching and planning the trip, the two characters include brainstorms, advice from writing guides, and meta discussions about how to shape plot, style, and character development for the story version of their lives.

“The auction catalog”

Book Cover Important Artifacts

Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry, by Leanne Shapton

The book is a fake auction catalog with objects shot on grey backdrops, removed from their homes. Alongside each image is a lot number, plain caption title (like “Two pairs of white shoes”), and a description. These descriptions present a portrait of a relationship through its early stages to its end. Now the objects are being sold off as the exes part ways. So much is revealed about who these characters were and the love they made with one another through the belongings they have left behind. 

“The verse”


Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson

One of the most famous verse novels, and books of Carson’s. Greek mythology converges with far-reaching metaphors as we follow the story of the monster Geryon in a love triangle with Ancash and Herakles. The story is told through lyrical fragments that hold the reader in each line then drop them into the next. 

“The play, the e-mail”

Book Cover How Should a Person Be

How Should a Person Be, by Sheila Heti

Genre-defying-almost autofiction, the protagonist grapples with her self as artist and friend, comparing herself to creatives around her to try to make sense of what one’s life should mean. We grow acquainted to the character from multiple vantage points: through her inner narration, recordings of conversations between herself and others, and e-mail exchanges with an artist friend, together painting an unapologetically flawed portrait of the psyche.

“The note”

Book Cover Mad World Mad King

Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition, by Lisa Fishman

Made of clusters of notes-to-self amassed over sixteen years that span style and content, Fishman reflects on all her personal and professional ongoings. Together, the notes feel like a sketchbook of a creative mind mid-thought. These snippets shuffled and abrasively juxtaposing one another becomes poetry. 

“The book title”

Book Cover Library

Library, by Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber

Like a peek onto someone’s shelf, this compendium of fictional book covers painted by the two authors offers a window into their consciousness. Each cover features a handwritten, made-up title like “it’s possible to be both simple and unexplainable,” “I thought this mirror was a window,” and “things I’ve heard, revisited.” Often hilarious, sometimes bittersweet, relatable truths without any need to open the fake covers and read further to feel the impact of their inner wisdoms.


“The list”

Book Cover Cyclettes

Cyclettes, by Tree Abraham

What does it mean to be happy, to be sated, to live a meaningful life? Is wanderlust curable? Is depression? Echoing the sensation of riding a bicycle, Cyclettes is a multidisciplinary contemplation on the borderlands of adulthood.

Part travelogue, part philosophical musing, Tree Abraham's work probes the millennial experience, asking what a young life can be when unshackled from traditional role expectations yet still living in consistent economic and environmental uncertainty.

Text is interspersed between drawings, scientific charts, ephemera, maps, arcane designs, and diagrams of cycles—of vehicles and of life, from the Buddhist Eightfold path to patterns of depression, desire, and motion. The result is a disarming, welcoming work that asks us to consider what the interflux of exploration and ennui mean to our locality within the universe.

Cyclettes is an original, insightful artifact of modern life.


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