The Giller Prize Book Club: Book 2

imgres-1Now that was a story. I have just discovered that the best possible compliment for a novel is not to call it a book, but to call it a story. This occurred to me because the entire time that I was reading David Gilmour‘s Extraordinary, I kept referring to it as my story. 

-What are you doing? Reading my story.

-Darling, what’s for breakfast? Coffee. Can you pass me my story?

The structure of Extraordinary was obvious and simple. We know what’s going to happen from the get-go. The reader is simply present for the journey. Even that isn’t all that outrageous. It’s plain, warm and tangible, extremely insightful – but not extraordinary.

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The Giller Prize Book Club

GILLER-books So last week I attended a short and lovely ceremony announcing the Giller Awards longlist. It was so fun and beautiful and it made me feel like such a part of things.

There was only one snag. I hadn’t read any of the books. All my grad-school friends were there and none of us had read a single book, I don’t think. How embarrassing.

To add insult to injury, the Artistic Director of the Vancouver International Writers Festival went on a very flattering diatribe about our writing department and how it’s the best, most respectable in the country. He said that when he flipped through the list of authors attending his festival, he was pleased to see that a sizeable chunk of them were grads of the program. I didn’t know that. I should have known that.

In drastic reaction to my ignorance, I’ve decided, as a (self-appointed) member of the Canadian Writing community, that it’s high time I start acting like one. A writer ought to read the work of her contemporaries and so I began the Giller Prize Book Club. That way I can guilt my writing friends into doing it with me and my shame will motivate me to follow through.

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The Day Job vs. Bliss

It happens from time to time that a tortured artist toils and bleeds for her craft, only to die before it means anything to anyone. It also happens that an artist toils and bleeds for her craft and no one reads or cares about her work, dead or alive. But hopefully, the artist is dead by then and, presumably, doesn’t care.

No one likes to think about these things, but it’s true. Sometimes, the thing you love doesn’t love you back. Just like a girlfriend who doesn’t love you back, it so happens that, a person can follow his “bliss” (just as Joseph Campbell tells him to), and nothing comes of it. Sometimes people get hit by Mack trucks. It’s not personal, it’s physics.

So, in the mean time (the space between being a raging success and the Mack truck), you’ll probably need to get a job. You’ll want a job for the moneys that keep writers in mac laptops, gluten-free muffins and five-dollar lattes. But, what should a writer do? Isn’t a job selling out?

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Thank you, Science Fiction

Today I caught a Sunday matinée of Prometheus — a heavily criticized film that is meant to be something of a pre-Alien movie. I’m just going to come right out and say that I thought it was fine. I don’t know if I thought that because so many big block busting sci-fi films have let me down so spectacularly or because it actually was fine (please direct all of your well-composed thoughts to the contrary to someone who hasn’t thought of them already). It made me think about my beloved science fiction genre (or Speculative fiction, if you please) and I realized that I haven’t yet posted about my heart, my genre, my raison d’écrire.

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The CCWWP: What on Earth is a Writer’s Conference like?

 Before I left on my trip to the CCWWP in Toronto, people asked me, “What exactly do you do at a writer’s conference?” Though I made things up, I didn’t actually know.

I figured we’d talk about the state of the publishing industry or the fate of the Creative Writing Program in Canada. There would definitely be lots of talk about the frontiers of poetry. Believe me, no one really wants to hear about the theoretical frontiers of poetry (even poetry lovers, like me), but people love to tell you about them.

Here’s how it went:

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Murakami: 1Q84

I made the hideous mistake of unabashedly disliking Haruki Muarakami’s novel 1Q84 in front of someone who had just started reading it and I may never forgive myself for it. So, allow me this moment to redeem myself and explain my position on subject.

You see, I LOVED The Wind Up Bird Chronicles so much. That book did so much for me. It reminded me that there was still a lot that a novel could do. It was the first unapologetic piece of surrealist literary fiction that I had read in a modern context. I needed that book to exist if I was ever going to hope to write the kind of fiction that I like to write.

I could hardly wait to read 1Q84 and as soon as it became available on KOBO, I was on it. I started reading right away, expecting to be otherwise unavailable for the entire 1031 page duration.

Very quickly, I felt obviously manipulated by the author. I could sense that this book was written to be a “great work”. I didn’t believe in the characters or their motivations and I could barely slog through the clunking, repetitive prose. There was nothing of the subtle, brave Murakami who wrote The Wind Up Bird Chronicles. This was in your face, heavy-handed, bludgeoning the reader to death with over sentimentalized symbolism.

I thought to myself that, surely, this is a translation issue. Or, 1Q84 had suffered the same fate that most serialized novels do with its redundancy, over explanation, and over exposure. And I might have been able to excuse him from it if it hadn’t been so consistently boring as a result. Continue reading

The Hardest Things to Write

A writer buddy of mine and I were chatting about topics that are traditionally difficult to write about and how writers are attracted to them — like flies to a dead bunny. Our original list was Sex, Death, and Boring. So, we held a competition among our fellow writers to see who could write the best sex scene. I sat down in the morning and didn’t get up from my desk until the early evening. It was one of the best spent days ever.

The results of the competition were unfortunate. Despite the wide range of ideas, styles and topics (and I mean a very wide range), what we learned was that sex scenes are all fairly similar give or take a hand here or a member there. In the end, all of our hopes for a stimulating afternoon were drowned out by the cider and the loud mouths at the table beside ours.

Nonetheless, the afternoon I spent with my first real attempt at erotica was a great one — one that I followed up with a glass of wine and a bubble bath. Because that’s what one does, clearly.

So, if you’ve got a half hour, a tub and some bubbles, here’s a little something to help you pass the time.  A Family Man. Continue reading