Episode 100: Christine McNair

Recorded on Friday, March 17, 2023

I speak to Christine McNair: book doctor, writer and dear friend as part of the page-adjacent, extra-literary thread this year. We are celebrating our 100th episode of the Small Machine Talks. She tells us she lives a life of books. We learn about her job as a book conservator and consider the book as object. “A book is a form of machine,” was one of the delightful and fascinating things Christine said about books in this intriguing episode.

Christine talks about how to repair books. I point out the human relationship Christine seems to have with books. I ask if Christine owns old books. She talks about one of the worst book designs she’s seen.

I ask about how Christine ended up being a book conservator. We talk about her job as an “editor’s devil” at Gaspereau Press.

I ask about the first books Christine ever loved.

Christine talks about the relationship between her writing and bookwork. She discusses how damage can impact meaning and tell us things about the book and ourselves.

We talk about what Christine likes about book binding. She tells us about the different streams of book binding.

I ask more about design binding. Examples via the Designer Bookbinders, UK

Christine tells about her forthcoming workshop:


26 MAR 2023 • 03:00 PM–04:30 PM EASTERN, KNOX CHURCH, 120 Lisgar


which takes place at VERSeFest. $20. registration required.

Christine is the president of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists’ Guild. https://www.cbbag.ca/ There’s a local chapter that had book arts fairs and is hoping to do it again. https://cbbagottawa.ca/

It’s the 40th anniversary of CBBAG. They have workshops, fairs and other activities throughout Canada. There will be a special event in London, Ontario and some of the lectures will be streamed online for members.

The local chapter has monthly meetings at the Carleton University Book Arts Lab where they have mini-workshops and talks.

Christine talks about the Ottawa Press Gang, a local letterpress group.

We talk about Christine’s residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. I ask about artists’ books, some of which she saw at The Paul D. Fleck Library & Archives.

I ask about whether it is “artist’s books” or “artists’ books.” We discuss a few examples of artists’ books, such as Karenjit Sandhu’s Poetic Fragments from the Irritating Archive and michele provost’s work. We discuss my books of whimsy.

I ask about Christine’s dream artist’s book. Christine tells us about sailor valentines and medieval renaissance heart-shaped books.

I ask Christine about how she feels about altered books. I mention my ongoing project, Erasing Kerouac, and Christine talks about Ikea using book pages as wallpaper.

We discuss writers’ fascination with burying books, hanging books outside etc. She talks about covering books in materials attracted to bugs.

We discuss burning teenage diaries. Christine talks about the modern materials that books are made of.

I ask about Christine’s forthcoming book, coming out with Book*hug Press in 2024.

Thanks to Christine for being on the show, to Jennifer Pederson for the intro and outro, to Charles Earl for processing and to you for listening to and sharing the episodes each month.

Stay tuned for our April episode with Dr.  Sarah Bodman, who is responsible for Artists’ Books at the Centre for Print Research at the UK”s UWE Bristol. The episode will be  another in our extra-literary thread where we discuss page-adjacent aspects of literary, small press and visual poetry subjects.