Last summer I pitched a small essay to carte blanche because I wanted to write about an out-of-print novel that I had discovered several years before. The author has long since passed away, and the book itself has been all but forgotten: with the exception, perhaps, of a handful of people, most of whom are outside of the literary community and who were interested in the life of the writer, who was a scientist. The novel received lukewarm reviews following its publication in the 1960s. After a small print run, it seems to have disappeared altogether, besides a handful of copies from online used bookstores, and one I found in a book saleroom tucked behind a torn Atlas and a Baby-Sitters Club boxed set.
Stephen Henighan is a novelist, short-story writer, journalist, and professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Guelph. Most recently, he was written the novels The Path of the Jaguar (Thistledown Press, 2016) and Mr. Singh Among the Fugitives (Linda Leith Publishing), which is available on March 25. Brad de Roo chatted with Stephen about multiculturalism, literary nepotism, satire, Victorianism, performativity, and cultural appropriation.
carte blanche, founded in 2004, is the official online magazine of the Quebec Writers’ Federation. We are celebrating over 12 years of promoting poetry, creative nonfiction, comics, translation, photography, fiction, and literary commentary from Quebec, Canada, and around the world.
I am shortly going to be leaving the team in my official capacity as editor. I do so with mixed feelings. Once upon a time, I honestly felt I could tackle any amount of work that was thrown at me. The days seemed elastic. I could stretch them at either end, conjuring up just enough minutes or hours to always get things done. But I don’t feel that way anymore. I am trying to figure out how big each relative part of me is, and how to accommodate them all within a finite body.
“One of the reasons I find Seth and his contemporaries’ works so interesting is because it and they ask the reader to use a very different rubric when they are experiencing – reading – the art. For me, the critical debates in the visual arts seemed to dead end when the voices of anti-skilling, self-reference demanded that analysis always trumped emotion and humanity when confronting a work of art to determine significance. For me, there was always a whiff of intolerance toward visual art that explored humanity as a wide-spectrum project.”
The first job I ever had in the Montreal region was at a company called Bath Fitter, aka Bain Magique, up beyond Laval in a town called Saint Eustache. As I listened to the explanation of the pension benefits that I was entitled to, a repeat of conversations I’d had with prior employers in Edmonton, it dawned on me: I’ve never cared about this conversation, I still don’t care, and I actually feel it’s OK to not care, because I have very little faith that, by the time my retirement rolls around, the world that we know – mortgages, insurance plans, “financial security” etc. – will exist.