Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Again at Type

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Painting by Jenny Seville

To stand among the Type book stacks again after a summer of being mostly away has put me in such a lovely frame of mind. There is nothing more endemic of my time in Toronto than coming in off of Queen Street only to see many familiar faces strewn amongst the books, their attention diverted to the designated standing room for the showcased writers a little deeper into the book store. I feel as though I am shaking off a summer spent mostly in the woods, mostly with books and canoes and moccasins, and I am entering back into the city of Toronto and all of the events of a busy fall literary season.

The evening’s event generated by the YOSS crew (Year of the Short Story) featured three excellent writers in the genre: Carolyn Black, Dennis Bolen and Andrew Borkowski, who speak of the event and their writing in an interview for Open Book here

I picked up Black’s The Odious Child because it somehow synthesized with Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality inside my brain and informed some of the power politics that I had just chatted about in one of my OCAD Graduate courses. I find this is happening a lot.

THE ODIOUS CHILD
Now that I am reading The Odious Child, I love how right that gut feeling was. Black is continually throwing the power dynamics of sexual attraction by allowing for an exploration of alternative narrative wherein power shifts from where it is expected, to another more surprising location. One story in particular that caught me was "Wife, Mistress," where once the mistress and the wife discover each other, the man becomes less of a power source and more of a pawn in the growing relationship of the two women. He in fact can be totally done away with once the two female characters find power in each other.

It is interesting to consider power in the realm of sexuality and to watch what happens when we all acknowledge the Foucaultian consideration that power is maintained from the bottom. When we all start questioning our assumptions about "the way things are" and wonder what would happen if we stopped believing in those assumptions, so many surprises explode onto the scene.

Black’s dance with technology and dating versus real-life encounters, most prominent in her story "At the World’s End, Falling Off," informed many thoughts I have had lately about the interface of the body and technology, our expectations around this interface and the strange moments of disconnect that occur when we transpose our cyber reality onto our third-dimensional reality. I love how the beautiful boy in the story, seemingly uncomplicated and happy in his profile, becomes brooding and brow creased and nothing like his profile in real life. When the female character’s physical distress enters into the scene on a date, we watch the dream of cyber reality fall away and a more awkward human reality begin to inform the narrative.

Not unlike this story, I have recently experienced in a most surprising way the transition of a cyber relationship (albeit brief) into the reality of my life. Nothing like looking up in class one afternoon and thinking to myself "I know that face…." Most surprising when this transference occurs, and the result can be a complete disaster or a delightful surprise. It depends.

Black’s prose reminds me of the paintings of Jenny Seville. To me, Black’s words and Seville’s paintings become a rewriting of the human female form from one of passive authorship to an immediate vibrancy. It is a lovely thing when such traditional mediums such as the short story and the painting can bend a conversation in such a contemporary way. I have left you with some of Seville’s images to ponder.

It’s nice to be back in the Open Book: Toronto community again after a summer away. Please do e-mail me at contributers@openbooktoronto.com if there is something you would like me to write about. Until next time.


Suggested Reading: Recently Published Short Story Collections

The Meaning of Children (Exile Editions) by Beverley Akerman
The Odious Child (Nightwood Editions) by Carolyn Black
Anticipated Results (Arsenal Pulp Press) by Dennis E. Bolen
Up Up Up (Anansi) by Julie Booker
Copernicus Avenue (Cormorant Books) by Andrew J. Borkowski
Nothing Could Be Further (Emmerson Street Press) by Tim Conley
Better Living Through Plastic Explosives (Hamish Hamilton Canada) by Zsuzsi Gartner
Mystery Stories (The Porcupine’s Quill) by David Helwig
Echoes from the Other Land (TSAR) by Ava Homa
The Journey Prize Stories 23 (McClelland & Stewart) selected by Alexander MacLeod, Alison Pick and Sarah Selecky
I’m a Registered Nurse, Not a Whore (Insomniac Press) Anne Perdue
The Divinity Gene (Douglas & Mcintyre) by Matthew J. Trafford
And Also Sharks (Cormorant Books) by Jessica Westhead

Help us build this list by posting titles of short story collections that you recommend in the comment space below.


Melanie Janisse is a native of Windsor, Ontario where she retains memories of old docks jutting out into the Detroit River and the smell of hops. Melanie began her education by leaving home early and wandering around the abandoned houses of inner city Detroit, and then the intense forests of the Canadian West Coast. Formally she holds degrees form Concordia University in Communications and Literature and from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Photography. Melanie has resided in Toronto for the past nine years, keeping active as a visual artist, poet, designer and shop owner. Her work has appeared in Luft Gallery, Common Ground Gallery, Artcite Gallery, Dojo Magazine, Pontiac Quarterly, The Scream Literary Festival, The Southernmost Review, The Northernmost Review and The Windsor Review. Her first poetry book, Orioles in the Oranges (Guernica Editions), tells the tale of on old Metis legend, allowing it to dovetail with Detroit's gritty modernity in an unforgettable series of prose poems. Melanie is happy to be a part of Open Book: Toronto ruminating about books and book-like things around Toronto.

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