Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Andrew Pyper and literary envy

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I’m right in the middle of reading Andrew Pyper’s newest novel, The Killing Circle, about a shadowy serial killer stalking a wannabe writer. (I will be interviewing Pyper onstage at the Toronto launch of the book in August, as part of This is Not A Reading Series)

One of the themes running through the book is that of literary envy, and I have to admit, I had my own pang of painful self-recognition when I read this bit, in which the narrator confesses why he had to stop reading The New York Times Book Review:

“The reviews themselves rarely mattered. In fact, I usually couldn’t finish reading the remotely positive ones. As for the negative ones, they too often proved to be insufficient salves to my suffering. Even the snarkiest vandalism, the baldest runs at career enders, only acted as reminders that their victims had produced something worth pissing on. Oh, to awaken on a rainy Sunday and refuse to get out of bed on account of being savaged in the Times! What sweet agony that would be, compared to the slow haemorrhaging in No Man’s Land it was to merely imagine creating words worthy of Newspaper of Record contempt.”

I've been more than lucky, with my own novel, to have received mostly positive reviews so far, but even when a discouraging word has been heard, there is part of me that nonetheless feels glad that the book is out there and being read.

And if that sounds noble and dignified and mature, trust me: it's not. Rather, it's merely relief that I am on the other side of that No Man's Land at last, however tenuous or temporary my position here may be.

(There's more on along that line in a short essay I wrote for the Pages website back in April.)

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Nathan Whitlock

Nathan Whitlock is the review editor of Quill & Quire magazine. His writing and reviews have appeared in The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Maisonneuve, Toro, Geist, Saturday Night and elsewhere. His novel, A Week of This: a novel in seven days, was published this spring by ECW Press.

Go to Nathan Whitlock’s Author Page