Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

jround's blog

CUNNINGHAM'S NEW YORK BY NIGHTFALL

After the runaway success of his fourth novel, The Hours, a post-modern rendering of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway set partially in New York, Michael Cunningham was in a bind. Pressure was strong to produce something just as original and powerful, a feat many considered impossible. Yet, in a way, he met the challenge with Specimen Days, a cross between a Victorian ghost story, a contemporary thriller and speculative fiction, this time set almost entirely in New York. Nobody could say it wasn’t original or memorable.

WRITERS AND BEARDS

When I was four I decided I was a writer. Not that I would be a writer, but that I already was one in some atavistic way. I assumed, naturally, that I would also one day acquire all the characteristics of a successful writer. It didn’t matter that at that point in my training I could not wield a pencil in any useful way. (Crayons were another matter, and I was good at that.) Nor could I spell, not yet having learned the alphabet. These were mere logistical problems, however, and I felt the solutions would come in time.

BILL C-32

As many of us know, a bill to “modernize” the Copyright Act, is being considered in the House of Commons. It will affect our rights as creators of original work and needs to be looked at carefully. At present, groups like the Writers’ Union of Canada are concerned that the bill as it stands will jeopardize those rights by legalizing or eroding protection from unfair copying practices.

What can you do? First, educate yourself if you feel you don’t know as much as you should. (I didn’t.) Here’s a link outlining the perceived flaws in the bill as it currently reads: http://www.copyrightgetitright....

SKIBSRUD'S GILLER PRIZE-WINNING SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY

The first thing you notice about Johanna Skibsrud’s author photo is how young she appears. That’s no surprise, really, because she is young. At thirty, she’s the youngest winner of the Giller Prize. One of the first things you might notice on reading her prize-winning debut novel, The Sentimentalists, is how mature the authorial voice sounds. It comes across as rich and dreamy and well lived-in. Skibsrud’s relative youth, combined with her experienced-sounding prose, makes for an interesting and enviable dichotomy.

BANNING MASTERPIECES

A good deal of art has been banned on political (and while we’re at it, let’s include religious) grounds, but few works have been banned simply for being great. Recently, however, a renowned music critic suggested banning musical masterpieces lest they become hackneyed and lose their aesthetic appeal.

TRAVEL AND INSPIRATION

How far would you travel for inspiration? I ask because I would go to the ends of the earth and I might need a companion one day.

In recent years I have travelled to Chiapas, Mexico, home of the Zapatista Liberation Army. I drove 2000 km over a ten-day period to research a single chapter in The Honey Locust, my novel about a Canadian war journalist. I went there to learn what it means to travel in rebel territory with a formidable army presence stationed everywhere. Needless to say, I found out. The bullet holes in the highway signs are real. Don’t drive at night if you go, is all I’ll say here.

On another trip, I found inspiration in post-Katrina New Orleans, where I was awed by the destruction as much as by the strength of human perseverance. As of this writing, approximately 78% of the former population has returned home, some five years after the hurricane. That tells you how much the native N’Orleaners love their city. It's their inspiration and it will take a lot more than nature to drive them out again.

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