Antigone Undone, the latest book by Montreal writer Will Aitken (University of Regina Press), is a fascinating and emotionally driven look at Aitken’s behind-the-scenes experience of a production of Antigone directed by Ivo Van Hove, starring Juliette Binoche, with a translation by Anne Carson. From strolling around Luxembourg where the play débuted, to a tense few days in Amsterdam, and back to Montreal, Aitken gives the reader a deeply personal glimpse at an episode of depression that was sparked by encountering Antigone, both the play and the character. Using his own experience as a starting point, Aitken then explores various interpretations of Antigone, through scholarly texts and through interviews with Binoche, Carson and Van Hove about the play. By blending genres and exploring the stylistic elements of memoir, travelogue, essay, and academic writing, it’s a beautiful book that examines the vast power art has over us, in both its creative and destructive capacities.
One of my biggest insights has been this: that one book can connect with readers for so many different reasons. I’m so heartened by this realization. That we writers can write one story and diverse souls will connect with many aspects of it. I mean, I always understood this theoretically, as one learns when studying literary theory in university, but, until my book got published, I never understood the freedom this gives an author.
Emily Keeler, my editor when I wrote book reviews for The National Post, asked me if I had any ideas for a long-essay-short-book when she took over Coach House’s Exploded Views line. The idea for Curry came from the way I read, which is to pick up an increasing number of books around a central subject I have an undefined interest in–Emily asking that question at the right time led me to actually nail down the reasons why I’d been reading old or atypical novels, memoirs, and travelogues about India. Much of it had to do with the way that market forces seemed to want from my writing, if what I wanted from my writing was money–which, I’m afraid, is true to a not inconsiderable degree.
THIS YEAR SHOULD HAVE been an auspicious one for CanLit. As Canada celebrates the sesquicentennial, it seems every newspaper, blog, and bookshop has a “top 150 Canadian books” list to push. Canada’s 150th also evokes fond memories of the 1967 centennial, when CanLit was just coming into its own. But for many, those 150 lists, chock full of CanLit luminaries like Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood, are hard to stomach right now.
I DON’T REMEMBER WHEN I first heard of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, though I do remember the first time I lied to seem more impressive. I was six-years-old at the Jewish Public Library in Montréal, as was my childhood ritual. The library was a short walk away from the duplex I lived in facing a park. My older cousin was there—he was, very impressively, seven years old and a boy.
EVERY COUPLE OF WEEKS, Robert Edison Sandiford calls me from Barbados. Robert is one of this year’s Quebec Writers’ Federation mentors and I am his protégé. We’ve made arrangements to speak at 5 pm via Skype so this interview would feel more face-to-face. At 5:10, we still have no audio so he switches from his laptop to his desktop. At 5:25 the recording app on my phone stops working. At 5:37 we decide we’ll have to hobble back and forth between the computers, a phone, and another phone app to make it work. Afterwards, when it’s all sorted, he say: “Well, there’s a lesson about tenacity.”