To argue why the typo/graphic devices are more than (mere) gimmicks, I need to define what a gimmick is. Merriam-Webster online: "a: an important feature that is not immediately apparent b: an ingenious and usually new scheme or angle c: a trick or device used to attract business or attention gimmick>" (see my post: "this is not a threat" for another definition that is more negative in tone)
So the definition is not necessarily negative, except in 'c' where it is described as a 'trick' (playful at best, deceptive at worst). The negativity associated with the term 'gimmick' in the context I'm talking about – fictional literature – comes from a value judgment about language over image: the perceived 'hegemony' of word over image. Literature is highbrow, but advertising (associated with gimmickry) is lowbrow. So these visual 'gimmicks' or 'tricks' are criticised because they are perceived of as 'hype' - included as marketing hooks (conversation starters?) rather than for their literary merit.
To show where I'm getting the issue of 'gimmickry' from:
Steven Hall: "these storytelling techniques are still considered 'experimental' or even worse, 'gimmicky' in some book circles; whereas in art you can sit in a gallery with a dead lobster on your head for a week without fear of being accused of either."
From Khan, Design Week: According to Safran Foer, the use of images in novels is 'still considered to be a gimmick or some expression of the failure of language'.
Arguing for the inclusion of images, from an interview with Gabe Hudson in the Village Voice:
"It's a shame that people consider the use of images in a novel to be experimental or brave. No one would say that the use of type in a painting is experimental or brave. Literature has been more protective of its borders than any other art form -- too protective. Jay-Z samples from Annie -- one of the least likely combinations imaginable-and it changes music. What if novelists were as willing to borrow?"
CRITICS: (I've only cataloged Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close so far)
Myers in an article called 'A tired bag of tricks' says: "What may hurt the book even with its intended audience arc the various diversions that both writer and publisher seem to have thought would constitute a selling point...After a while the gimmickry starts to remind one of a clown frantically yanking toys out of his sack: a fatal image."
Upchurch subtitles his review 'Gimmicks drown out power, poignancy'
Greer: "Oskar's grandfather's letters are the most gimmicky in the novel...He never really comes alive, and is perhaps the one major person in the book that is more a metaphor than a fleshed-out character."
Updike: "But, over all, the book’s hyperactive visual surface covers up a certain hollow monotony in its verbal drama. "
Robert J. Hughes: "The novel's ramblings and gimmicks are meager representations of catastrophe and often badly out of key. The end of the book features a stunt -- a short flip-book of photographs with a body falling upward to a World Trade Center tower, as if we could turn back the clock. We can't, of course, but we already knew that. It is fairly offensive to see a novelist co-opt such an indelible image of desperation and death for such a trite purpose. Whimsy and terrorist tragedy do not add up, at least in Mr. Foer's hands.
Jonathan Raymond, Artforum: Impressively, the book's bells and whistles actually feel appropriate to its larger meaning, rather than coming across as mere gimmickry.
How many of these authors have websites/blogs? Almost all of the contemporary (last 5 years) I've looked at do. Steven Hall was actively involved in the marketing strategies of his book (TBS interview?), Mark Danielewski released parts of House of Leaves on the Internet pre-publication. The contemporary novel is embedded in a marketing culture, and, more broadly, what Mitchell etc describe as an age characterised by a 'pictoral turn' – how does this context effect the content of contemporary fiction?