In Visible Ink


“For the real miracle is language, that we humans want not only to touch each other but that we want to exchange words, like marbles from a fist, that we want to hear discernable sounds from each other’s mouths, that we want to decipher them, that we utter our own sounds and others understand them. Even more miraculous, that we put these various marks on paper, written or printed or typed, and others understand the message, make some connection with these particular runes. This is a sweet and terrifying exchange, this intricate and shared knowledge of what is certainly a secret code.”

From a frozen ocean of a Nordic goddess’s tumbled cake pans to the endless dishes that close every fictional feast ever written, In Visible Ink crosses a vast stretch of critical, fictional, and physical territory. Troubling binarism, In Visible Ink rails against the “smug intrusion” of footnotes, the Puritanical maleness of the prairie Canon, and the vilification and erasure of biblical heroines. Not content to be only fictioneer or buchaneer, van Herk takes her readers through an eclectic assortment of topics, by buses marooned in Winnipeg weather and time-bending trains. Touching on the work of Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje, Robert Kroetsch, Paulette Jiles, Nellie McClung, and others, In Visible Ink looks at stories from beneath and between, the stories we’re told and the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, our pasts, and stories themselves. Blurring and blaspheming the boundaries of genre, truth, place, and gender, candid and cryptic in turn, In Visible Ink isn’t coy about its crypto-frictions: it grates against sterile and dated delineations as gently as sandpaper.



In Visible Ink explores the magic and the curse of literature and language in the face of life – life as a Canadian discovering the hereness of the Arctic, as an immigrant daughter, as voracious and perspicacious reader, and especially as funny, gutsy and learned prairie feminist writer. As one essay puts it: ‘Readreadreadreadread’.”
Linda Hutcheon