Back in the summer, when reading outside was a thing, I was sitting on my stoop, engrossed in Tommy Orange’s There There, when an older white woman interrupted to inform me that she’d quit reading the same novel a quarter of the way through because it was “too sad.” She said it like, How could I be expected to digest such a thing? Like, Isn’t reading supposed to be a pleasure and what was this, some kind of tricky trick to make me feel bad? And then she asked me, dubiously, whether I liked it and whether I was going to finish it.
I don’t know exactly when I started being exploited…At the time, I worked in the most absurd and fucked up place in the whole universe: a large industrial factory. The owners were related to each other, a nepotistic mess. It was a father and son team. The son was a forty-year-old man who was brought up to feel entitled to everything. He sort of ran the show or aspired to. His parents had both been abusive to each other and their children. There was no such thing as boundaries or professionalism in this job. They brought all their internal drama to work, and yelled and screamed at each other in front of me. I was the only administrative staff. The rest of the workers were in the back. Read more →
Trans girls have surgery for many reasons. People often think of our surgeries as horrible experiences that rupture your life apart, but they can also be moments when you give birth to another world. It’s possible to hold two thoughts in your head at once. You can say this is hard and I’m so happy now at the same time without either one being untrue. Some of the reasons trans girls decide to have surgeries make more sense to people than others, but they’re all valid because we’re all valid. Read more →
The world of The Blue Clerk comes alive in colour. It is all “violet toll roads, freezing violet, museums of blue, violet turbines, blue vistas,” (211) all “the sense of orange” (209), all “the escarpment of a yellow house” (209). This world is moving like the water by the wharf where the Blue Clerk lives, a space of experience and texture, rather than time and place. The text is urgent and it is contemplative, it is stressed and unstressed, it lives in the complexity of difference and duality. Within the narrative, the main fixed points are the conversations between the Clerk and the Author,
I told someone a story because I knew they would spread it. Stories were told to me with the same intent. Between women in Canlit, these circulated narratives are often about men in the community. Charming abusers. Tenured predators. Shitty men with track records of repeated shittiness. Let’s be explicit: women don’t take joy from these stories, in being the orator or the audience.Read more →
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.
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.