Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Q&A with Christopher McKinnon of the Holy Oak Book Club

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Q&A with Christopher McKinnon of the Holy Oak Book Club

Open Book talks to Christopher McKinnon, co-founder of the Holy Oak Book Club. Andrew Kaufman will be reading from his latest book, The Waterproof Bible, at the Holy Oak Book Club on March 27th. See Open Book's events page for details.

Open Book: Toronto:

When did you decide to start the Holy Oak Book Club, and how did it develop?

Christopher McKinnon:

I spent a couple years programming the reading stage for Pride Week. When it was time to move on, I kept promising myself I'd start a semi-regular kind of reading series again some day. I got talking about it with my pal, Laurie McGregor (who helps with the Toronto amateur lecture series Trampoline Hall and is an editor for the online music magazine Soundproof). We both read a lot, and we're the kind of pushy people who are always pressing a book into a person's hand and saying evangelical things like "This will change your life!" We also share the belief that there are a lot of bad books out there — just a lot of dreck that you don't need to waste your time with.

We joked about starting a book club, because it would give us an excuse to make people read the books that we like, good books, the kind that make you want to read more. And also because we like drinking — it seems to me that other than books, book clubs seem always to involve drinking. And discussion questions. Except, if we get a group of friends together at my house or Laurie's house, and we hand out discussion questions, well that's just too nerdy and pretentious. We thought, oh hey, what would make discussion questions less pretentious? Our answer: Drinking. And strangers.

Reading series masquerading as a book club. At a bar. Voila: The Holy Oak Book Club.

OBT:

What can people expect from an evening at the Holy Oak Book Club?

CM:

Expect to hear an author read. This month, it will be Andrew Kaufman, reading from his new book The Waterproof Bible.

As adults, it's rare that we have people read to us, and it's such an extraordinary experience when it's done right. I get nostalgic for it. I have no idea if kindergarten teachers still read to their students, or if parents still read to their young children. But, I know this: No one reads to me anymore. And I miss it.

Other than that, the agenda is loose: Chat about the book, if you want. If you're lazy (like me) then we'll even provide the discussion questions. Andrew will be around, so he'll probably autograph your copy of the book, if you ask him politely. And the bar will be open. So, if you're shy, there will be liquid courage. Good times!

OBT:

Tell us about the title you selected for the second installment of the HOBC. Why do you think The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman is a book people should read?

CM:

Laurie and I are both big fans of Andrew's first book All My Friends Are Superheroes. It was just about the most adorable little book that we could imagine... until we read The Waterproof Bible. Have you read the synopsis? It's basically this:

Rebecca is a woman with an unusual problem — her every emotion is projected into the world, so that those around her know exactly how she is feeling at every moment, prompting all manner of awkwardness and social anxiety. When she discovers that she can store those emotions in mementos, little trinkets and souvenirs from her most emotional moments, Rebecca believes that she will finally be able to live a normal life. Yet, as she accumulates memories, she soon finds herself weighed down by the past, literally, as shoeboxes upon shoeboxes fill her life and her storage space. With the sudden death of Lisa, Rebecca's sister, a chain reaction of bizarre events is set in motion — Lisa's husband Lewis flees the funeral and lands in Manitoba (where he meets a woman who claims to be God), a strange frog woman embarks on a desperate cross-country voyage to save her mother from certain damnation, and Rebecca is forced to make a difficult choice: Live with the crushing weight of her painful personal history, or throw it all away forever.

If Superheroes was a short, perfect little chamber piece, then Waterproof is a full-on symphony. Andrew pushes his signature wit and magic realism to a new, epic scale. And, just like a fairy tale (for adults), the story tackles some big-tough themes with playful allegory.

Plus, it's a gorgeous book — gold-embossed, hardcover, with a sexy little crop-top of a dust jacket. It looks really hot on your shelf, once you're done reading it.

OBT:

Why did you choose the Holy Oak as the venue for your book club?

CM:

Holy Oak is a great space. It's intimate and friendly — a real neighbourhood kind of place. They stock their fridges and shelves with fine hooch, and serve some of the best coffee and tea in the city. In short, it's a perfect place for writers, readers and us! Also, we know the owners, Justin and Melissa, and we convinced them to let us sell the selected book in the cafe — The Waterproof Bible is available now at Holy Oak for only $20.

OBT:

What's next for The Holy Oak Book Club?

Christopher McKinnon:

More books. More authors. More discussion questions. More. Period.

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