Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with David James Brock

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David Brock

Playwright and librettist David James Brock has branched out into poetry with his much-lauded debut collection, Everyone is CO2 (Wolsak & Wynn).

The poems have been described as "never resting", "fun to read" and a "combination of smart, snappy phrasing and interesting, offbeat subject matter". The collection ranges widely, touching on subject matter as diverse as the epic of Gilgamesh and Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys.

Today David speaks to Open Book as part of our WAR: Writers as Readers series, telling us about the books that have influenced and changed him as a writer, from frightening early reads to recent favourites, and gives us tips on how to use your cell phone to make a book club even more fun.

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The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
The Jungle Book, but not the Kipling — the ‘A Little Golden Book’ picture book adaptation of the 1967 animated Disney movie. My mom would record me reading it aloud onto a little yellow cassette in those brown Fisher Price tape recorders. I’m not sure if the tape still exists. Hearing it again would be like being in a Beckett play.

A book that made me cry:
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights while in a hostel in Australia in the early 2000s. A character had just died. Or maybe everyone had just died.

The first adult book I read:
Pet Semetary in 1989 to get ready for the movie. I also played the Ramones song Pet Semetary from side two of ‘Brain Drain’ non-stop to get ready for the movie. I was ready. Zelda terrified me.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
I’m taking two here because I like a good chortle. David Niven’s Bring on the Empty Horses & Spencer Gordon’s Cosmo.

The book I have re-read many times:
Dennis Johnson’s collected and new poems The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly. Johnson was recommended to me by a number of poets when they saw the poems I was trying to write. I hadn’t heard of him. Then it was given to me by Paul Vermeersch, who was set to edit my book and knew I needed to see Johnson to 1. Be inspired and 2. Stop (accidentally) copying him.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
Hello, my name is David. And haven’t read 1984.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:
Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles with an inscription that said the following: “Dave, read this. Then read all of Bradbury. Then read a bunch of Margaret Atwood, you dummy. Love, yourself from the future.”

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:
Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Probably not so much because I write anything like it, but his combination of fast plots, dark characters and magical elements is never too far from what I’m trying to do in my plays, operas and poems.

The best book I read in the past six months:
Poetry: Aisha Sasha John’s Thou.
Drama: Nicolas Billon’s Fault Lines.
Fiction: Camus’s The Plague.
Non-Fiction: Duff Mckagan’s It’s So Easy and Other Lies.

The book I plan on reading next:
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s part of this book club I’m doing with a friend to catch up on glaring holes in our reading. Each month, we alternately text a photo of three books to each other (the nomination ceremony). The text receiver picks one of the three to read and sends a book photo back (the selection). This month I nominated The Left Hand of Darkness, The War of the Worlds and The Edible Woman and he selected the Le Guin.

A possible title for my autobiography:
Prog Brock.


David James Brock is a playwright, poet and librettist whose plays and operas have been performed in cities across Canada, the US, and the UK. His first collection of poetry, Everyone is CO2, was recently released by Wolsak & Wynn. He is co-creator of Breath Cycle, an opera developed for singers with cystic fibrosis through Scottish Opera which was recently nominated for a Royal Philharmonic Society Award. Website: http://www.davidjamesbrock.com Twitter: @davidjamesbrock.

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