Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Storm of History behind The Drifts, Part 1

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The Storm of History behind The Drifts, Part 1

This month, I’m doing the writing part of an essay I’ve been researching for two. Double Dialogues, "The Hunger Artist", a University of Toronto conference on food and Art, has invited me to present a paper next month. In it, I'm going to attempt to answer, using Walter Benjamin, Paul Klee, Melancholy and my Aunt Sarah's Brown Cake recipe — where does The Drifts come from? The paper is about the site of art creation. Not so much the why, but the where. Over a few posts, I can offer you an interesting take on where our Art comes from. Or, at the least, a provocative and fresh way to think about art creation. On the road and at my desk, I’ve been fleshing out a particular part of Paul Klee’s watercolour Angelus Novus. At the end of his life, Angelus belonged to a critical crush of mine, Walter Benjamin. Without committing myself, I’m poking around another future literary novel that deals with exile and displacement. If The Drifts puts the reader into internal displacement, this book would pile on with the external displacement. I know, I'm intense.

Getting shoved out of your own country because you aren’t good enough, and getting another to accept that you are, is the dirty, not-so-little secret of globalization, racism & heterosexism. I want to put that external displacement onto the page.

Allegory & metaphor are to me what wrenches & butt cracks are to plumbers. They let me get in there to loosen pipes, unclog drains and let the story flow.

In Angelus, the story, according to Klee & Benjamin, is that this angel is caught in a storm. He is being blown to the left, his hair is wild & wind-blown, his wings beat madly. At his feet, debris has gathered. The angel’s eyes are cast to the past, but he is being blown into the future. He, like us, are blown or ‘shoved’ into the future. If we’re lucky. Benjamin calls this weather, the storm of progress.

After I’d turned in the close-to-the-last edit of the book, Alana, my editor, wondered if I didn’t want something at the top of the book. Some epigraph,some something. So focused on the story, I hadn’t even thought of things like epigraphs. Dedications and Thank You’s were easy (my aunts, Cubby, Vajdon, our magical lawyer, Michael Battista, etc.), an epigraph was a bit harder. I turned to Mr. B (Benjamin). He’s always got something to say….

What Mr. B offers continued in The Storm of History behind The Drifts’, Part 2

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.

Thom Vernon

Thom Vernon has worked in film, television and theatre since 1989. He has been the Actors’ Gang Youth Education Program director and has worked as an arts educator at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People. The Drifts (Coach House Books) is his first novel.

Go to Thom Vernon’s Author Page