Most likable of all is Los Angeles-based Jonathan Ward, who has no illusions about the heterogeneous profile of most of his peers, as well as the uncomfortable truths about why the blues has become by far the most valuable and sought-after genre of 78s: “Oh, there’s music all over the world that’s equally as rare,” he says. “Let’s not say more rare, because those [blues] records are incredible, they’re rare, and they represent a very interesting piece of Americana in a very finite period of time. But that same thing exists in many other places. It’s just: does it captivate white dudes?”
I reviewed Amanda Petrusich’s new book for the Globe and Mail.Aug 25, 2014
And even when sex occurs, Gaston is quick to remind us that it causes at least as many problems as it solves. “Black Roses Bloom” features a woman who discovers that her orgasms are giving her minor strokes, and no amount of fooling around during a snorkeling expedition can salvage the nose-diving relationship at the heart of “To Mexico.”
Reviewed the latest from CanLit stalwart Bill Gaston in the Globe and Mail this past weekend.Jul 14, 2014
It’s a provocative approach, and, for my money, among the most delectable brands of historical fiction out there. By locating, and then shamelessly exploiting, a few quirks in Nobel’s biography, Karlinsky is daring us to call his bluff—to point out exactly where truth ends and fiction begins … With so many provocations and feints, Karlinsky had me merrily by the nose for long stretches of the book.
Did you hear the one about Alfred Nobel convincing Ivan Pavlov, Theodore Roosevelt, Rudyard Kipling, and Marie Curie to try to solve the mystery of Stonehenge?
Well, it didn’t happen. But Harry Karlinsky’s new novel imagines it were so.Jun 4, 2014
To be sure, Novelists does take the occasional shot that readers attuned to the premise will see coming. But Boyko seems to anticipate such guesswork, which is why he combines his skewering of creative-writing workshops and literary prize juries into one scathing story (“The Prize Jury”) and then sticks it way at the end of the collection. This frees him up to instead lampoon novelists as they attempt to camouflage themselves in the real world, doing everyday tasks while, unbeknownst to those around them, gathering material for new books and itemizing the ways the world has already screwed them over.
I loved this book. Click through to read my full review, from the Globe and Mail, but the gist is this: read it, and read it now. If Novelists doesn’t catch fire, I’ll be cheesed.May 20, 2014
May 12, 2014
It isn’t until Joe’s mission suddenly turns into a cross-country road trip, as the Man in his head cryptically tells him to venture west, that we realize just how unambitious this novel really is. Cut through the obvious signifiers of North American frivolousness (product placements, 24-hour video streams), the constant but distracting references to pop music (from the Velvet Underground-inspired title on down), and the intrigue of an experimental premise (reminiscent of Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s Bathroom, among others) and you’re left with a story that’s been told a million times over: the disaffected cosmopolitan who finds a truer and more authentic life in the country.
The stories in Bark, the fourth collection from American writer Lorrie Moore, date back as far as 2003. I don’t know whether that indicates a five-year period of writer’s block—between 1998’s Birds of America and “Debarking” first appearing in the New Yorker—but either way, it’s no accident that the new book opens at the dawn of the Iraq War. Over time, Moore’s fictional muse has started to wander: from people to politics.
This is belated, I know. Blame the queue at the Georgia Straight, if you must. Regardless! I reviewed the new book by Lorrie Moore, who started out as one kind of writer and has lately become a different kind.
(Also: Someone in the comments says that Moore in fact published “many things” between ‘98 and 2003. Anyone know if this is true for fiction? I found nothing.)Apr 24, 2014
Late in the novel, Lance’s co-conspirator and love interest, a thinly drawn rogue etymologist named Elena, suspects that the building is now forcing the two of them to fall in love. She resists, telling him, “This isn’t how you and I would really end up together. Our story’s not this tacky. Is it?”
My latest review for the Globe and Mail is about murderous dictionary publishers, rogue etymologists, and the unlikely, illiterate employee who tries to bring it all crashing down.Apr 16, 2014
Nors also has an excellent sense of proportion. She lets all kinds of fascinating details linger around the periphery, giving the reader glimpses of a larger fictional world that always stays just out of reach. “Female Killers,” for instance, is ostensibly about a man who stays up late reading about women like Aileen Wuornos (the serial killer who inspired the Charlize Theron film Monster) on the Internet. But the story’s opening and closing sentences alter the frame, very subtly, to include the man’s girlfriend; the story concludes with him taking off his shoes, “so as not to make a noise when he goes up the stairs to her.” Why end things this way? I’ve been turning that question over in my head, with relish, for days.
My review of Karate Chop is in this week’s Georgia Straight.Mar 19, 2014
In a modern context, the pastoral, with its whole-hearted celebration of feeling the grass between one’s toes, feels dangerously earnest, even naïve. It’s easy to imagine a 21st-century take as nothing more than a rudimentary Blue Velvet for shepherds: revealing the darkness lurking just behind that rural tranquility.
How do you write a pastoral in 2014? I reviewed Andre Alexis’s attempt at genre resuscitation for the Globe and Mail this past weekend.Mar 18, 2014
Kennedy is all too aware that stories are an inherently messy medium. Sometimes we forget the punch line. Sometimes we get distracted by what we see out of the corner of our eye. To trim off these loose ends, Kennedy argues, is to excise much of a story’s honesty.
This past weekend, I reviewed the most recent collection from A.L. Kennedy in the Globe and Mail. I am not on the fence about this woman. She is fantastic. Stop trying to put that fence under me. I will jump right off of it.Feb 18, 2014