AMERICANS WHO BELIEVE that Canada is a country with limited influence will have to reconsider their position after purveying the fine chap-books from Toronto publisher pas de chance. Celebrations of irreverence, these tiny books highlight the individual within a global context, while furthering the conception of a planet whose polyglot population is increasingly insistent on one thing: an equanimity of style.
Pas de chance's low-budget, tactile delights are as saleable as they are laughable. Each compilation personifies the whimsical, perverse humor that is the foundation of Canadian-style wit (just check out any episode of Kids In The Hall) while espousing a pocket-sized worldview where packaging both transcends and encompasses idea.
The dog-treat adorned Snacks ($3) is perhaps the funniest, most blatant example of the pas de chance vision. Here the reader is favored with page after page of enjoyably pathetic "lost pet" posters such as one for Cleo, a 10-year-old Sharpei lost "due to carjacking" in San Francisco. This brilliant mail-art project compiles a never-ending roster of goofy pet names and blurred, photocopied puppy pictures sent in by panicked owners from all around the world. As if that weren't enough, the book is constantly in flux--no one copy is the same as another. There's even a color version.
Wanna know what candy looks like in Japan? Candy ($3), cousin to Snacks, also insists on endless variety. The subject here is treats and sweets and their packages, again from around the world, rendered universal with monochrome ink tones. Oh, tasty irony: You are as unlikely to come across these strange and enticing samples of foreign junk food as you are to find the striped orange tabby Francois lost last year in Paris.
Then again, don't be so sure. One theory that these books bear out is that history, a series of coincidental productions, cannot help but repeat itself. Angels of Demise ($9.95), pas de chance's latest and most captivating endeavor, is no mere compendium of chance true-life medical terrors. In recording the misdeeds of nurses across the world such as Anders Hansson--the Swedish nurse's aid who decided to help old age along by feeding geriatrics concoctions of fruit juice and disinfectants--it delves deep into the global phenomena of psychotic caregivers. The accounts are accompanied by warped, full-color pictures and titles ("That Nice Nurse Nancy," "There Came a Surgeon") inspired by the pulp fiction sub-genre of nurse novels. This oddball collection of poisonings, smotherings, and bloody scalpels is guaranteed to both transcend time zones and provoke cringes.
Forget the global village, that failing dream. The cutesy-weird chapbooks from pas de chance will tempt you with slightly bent versions of our sad, funny and not-so-far off world. Pas de chance can be reached at P.O. Box 6704, Station A, Toronto, Ontario, M5W 1X5 Canada; or on the internet: firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www. interlog.com/ ~ian/. Send for their ultra-fun zine/catalogue of goodies.
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