Monday, October 22, 2012

October Update!

No, I have not abandoned my first book in favour of a new project called Capsular Dispatches from a Library Addict - in fact, things are going quite well:

  • I'll be reading my featured story "Eyesore" at the launch party for Sterling Mag #3 this Thursday, October 25 at No One Writes to the Colonel (460 College St., Toronto). Things get underway around 7:00 p.m - details here! - and the magazine is already available to order, in print or digital.
  • Michael Callaghan, publisher at Exile Editions, interviewed me in advance of Exile Literary Quarterly #36.2's release this fall, in which my short story "Mercy" will appear. Check it out!

  • I can't help myself: when I see my work in a bookstore (Book City in The Annex, this time), I snap a photo. I like this issue of The Dalhousie Review (91.3) more than any previous ones because my name is on the cover - leftmost on the second line - and my short story, "Ode," is on the inside.

As for the book, it's nearly finished: the above are three of the 16 stories it includes, and the most recently-written one that rounds out the collection may have given it a new title: Nobody Looks That Young Here. This weekend I took the penultimate unfinished story in for an overhaul with the Toronto Public Library's Writer-in-Residence, Farzana Doctor - very helpful meeting! - and today I found out that though another new story, "The Territory," didn't win The Puritan's first-ever contest, it did get through several tiers of judging, which is encouraging... let's call it a (perhaps very) long list. By this time next month, all the stories should be printed as one manuscript and in hand for my final edit, as - yikes - a whole book this time. The self-imposed completion deadline is still December 31, and after some mild summer despair I've realized I'm going to hit it. I look forward to having more news to pass on - and more book reviews, hope you're enjoying them - between now and then. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reading Journal: The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson (2011)

A truly rare novel, one that is as heartbreakingly hilarious as its premise suggests: the adult children of performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang return home from their careers - Annie, an actrees, and Buster, a writer - and confront their parents about the childhood they spent as unwilling participants in their parents' experimental works. The central metaphor is of course a stroke of brilliance - all child-rearing is an experiment, and one that, if flawed, will produce damaged (if well-intentioned) products like the Fang children. The novel's written in a language that's plain and accessible, and the chapters alternate in focus from Annie to Buster and back, separated by flashbacks to the various projects that the children took part in and making of them an elephant in the room that reminds you of the damage done to the children at every step. You'd think from that sentence that it's a heavy read, but it's not, and it's not as flippant as a family chronicle by, say, Douglas Coupland, either. It's laugh-out-loud funny, particularly in its first half, and a book I loved, one of the last year's overlooked gems. Watch for its profile to rise now that Nicole Kidman's attached herself to a film adaptation... and before that, read it. Put it on your can't-miss list.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reading Journal: Saints and Sinners, by Edna O'Brien (2011)

I will still, eventually, read her controversial - at the time, in 1960 - first book, The Country Girls, but unfortunately this was not the collection for me. In many cases - a common complaint with short stories I've read lately - I found O'Brien layering on the detail, and my eyes glazing over as she did. I'd like to know when exactly Alice Munro said the line quoted on the cover, that O'Brien "writes the most beautiful, aching stories of any writer, anywhere," because her style struck me as almost out of date. There's a classicism in her work, though, and I can pick up the same elements of Chekhov and Woolf in these stories that we find in Munro, Cythia Ozick, etc., particularly in "Manhattan Medley" where Woolf is referenced directly. The stories among the 11 that I did enjoy were the grittier "Shovel Kings," in which a man comes unwound in the wake of job-site fatality; "Madame Cassandra," a more mystically-styled tale of visiting a fortune-teller, and the aforementioned "Medley," whose action turns around an affair. When the author stepped out of her default and somewhat flat style is when I liked her best, and though she nailed the old style in "Medley," in the other stories it just didn't grab me.