Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

jround's blog

IMAGINING PEACE

In David Bergen’s Giller Prize-nominated The Matter With Morris, from HarperCollins, a man named Morris Schutt is having a hard time holding on to reality. At the heart of it lies the death of Morris’s son in Afghanistan. Morris can’t accept his son’s death, largely because he has trouble imagining the reality of war.

COMFORT READING

There is comfort in reading. Or there can be. Sometimes you just want to get lost in a book. Other times, it’s comforting to recognize similarities between yourself and the characters. I look for the similarities. It’s a thing I do, like eating comfort food. Cake, for instance.

GENRE SNOBBERY AMONG THE LITERATI

It’s hard to know where the war between the genres started. Perhaps it was with Sophocles and Aristophanes. Sophocles, the great tragedian and author of Oedipus Rex, and Aristophanes, a sharp-tongued wit and author of political satires like The Wasps and The Frogs. Of course, Sophocles would tend to be a bit uppity, having written the first classic: “What? Guy wrote a play about frogs? That shit ain’t right!” (Similarly, one can imagine the impresarios of his day: “Listen, baby, this Oedipus dude is gonna put your name in lights. Have you thought about a sequel yet?”)

HERMAPHRODITISM AND LITERATURE

Kathleen Winter’s sumptuous, Giller-nominated Annabel, from House of Anansi, tackles the theme of hermaphroditism with gusto. Based on a true story, her book focuses on a child born in late-1960s Labrador, where the pressures of a male-oriented society conspired to make an inter-sex child male rather than female.

WRITING UPSIDE DOWN

Non-writers are often curious about the creative process. “How can you spend all day writing?” they ask incredulously, as though it’s akin to sleeping on a bed of nails or standing naked in the rain for hours. Others want to know how I prepare for my day’s work. I tell them: by standing on my head.

HAPPY 240TH BIRTHDAY, LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN!

As with many things in his life, Beethoven struggled with the words he set to music. Still, it didn’t stop him from composing dozens of songs, numerous choral works, masses and one opera, as well as making original arrangements for folksongs. Friedrich Schiller was one of Beethoven’s favourite writers, yet he considered Schiller “difficult” to compose for. The composer, he felt, must “lift himself far above” the poet.

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR

I recently learned that my poem, The One In The Mirror, is being featured on the website Q Review. I’d be grateful if you would give them some traffic. (See the link below.)

The poem was written in the early days of an affair with someone who broke my heart more thoroughly than I thought possible. So thoroughly, in fact, that afterward I refused to say his name, referring to him only as The Love Whose Name I Do Not Speak.

LUBA GOY RAKED MY LEAVES AND OTHER TRUE CONFESSIONS

My dog always knows what’s going on in the neighbourhood much sooner than I do. Earlier this week, he insisted on a late night walk in so-far-below-zero weather that it doesn’t even have a number. Emergency! his eyes shrieked at me. Get to the door now! When he’s in this mood, I seldom wait to find out if he means it, because generally he does. So out we went, all bundled up, only to find a diminutive figure dressed entirely in black, clutching a rake and smiling up at us from the front walk.

THE RESURRECTION OF PETER MCGEHEE

Recently I was made an ambassador. Not of a country, but of a cause. That cause is the revival of the voice of a writer who died of AIDS almost twenty years ago. A great many important artistic voices were extinguished by AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, before drug cocktails stemmed the tide somewhat. Many of these were writers already in their prime; others had barely begun their journey.

MACLEOD'S MENACING PARALLEL UNIVERSE

Menace is the prevailing tone in Alexander MacLeod’s Giller Prize-nominated collection of stories, Light Lifting, from Biblioasis. This is fiction that sets your teeth on edge. The fear is palpable as you read about head lice, newborns with mysterious ailments, riding a bicycle kamikaze-style through deep snow to deliver prescriptions for a local pharmacy and even—worst of all for me—jumping off the roof of an abandoned building into the Detroit River for kicks. At night. Heights? No, thank you.

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