Too Many Books In The Kitchen

I'm Michael Hingston, books columnist for the Edmonton Journal (new columns every other Friday).

My first novel, The Dilettantes, was just published by Freehand Books. Here's everything you might want to know about it.

Other topics under discussion: podcasts, strange sodas, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Moby-Dick.

Email me, if you like, at hingston [at] gmail [dot] com. I'm available for hire and I like free books.

WRITING

Favourites: 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013
What I Read: 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 (so far)

All Reviews /
All Interviews /
All Columns

Mark Abley (1)
Henry Adams (1)
Chris Adrian (1)
Charlie Ahearn (1)
César Aira (1) (2) (3)
André Alexis (1)
Rona Altrows (1; interview)
Jonathan Ames (1)
Kingsley Amis (1)
Martin Amis (1) (2) (3)
Karen Armstrong (1)
Margaret Atwood (1)
Jane Austen (1)
Paul Auster (1)
Tash Aw (1)
Todd Babiak (1) (2; interview) (3; interview)
Chris Bachelder (1; Q&A)
Jacqueline Baker (1; interview)
Nicholson Baker (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
Rosecrans Baldwin (1)
Jesse Ball (1)
J.G. Ballard (1)
Julian Barnes (1)
Kevin Barry (1)
John Barth (1)
Arjun Basu (1)
Elif Batuman (1)
Samuel Beckett (1)
Robert E. Belknap (1)
Katrina Best (1)
Otto Binder (1)
Laurent Binet (1)
Mike Birbiglia (1)
Heather Birrell (1)
Caroline Blackwood (1)
Andrej Blatnik (1)
Roy Blount Jr. (1)
Boethius (1)
Roberto Bolaño (1) (2)
Mike Boldt (1; interview)
Jacques Bonnet (1)
Jorge Luis Borges (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Grégoire Bouillier (1)
Thea Bowering (1; interview)
Tim Bowling (1)
Stephen R. Bown (1; interview)
C.P. Boyko (1; interview) (2)
Inge Bremer-Trueman (1; interview)
Bertram Brooker (1)
Grant Buday (1)
Nellie Carlson (1)
Raymond Carver (1)
Adolfo Bioy Casares (1)
Michael Chabon (1)
Marty Chan (1; interview)
Dan Charnas (1; interview) (2)
Corinna Chong (1)
Chris Cleave (1)
Lynn Coady (1; interview) (2) (3; interview)
Douglas Coupland (1; interview)
Buffy Cram (1)
Lynn Crosbie (1)
Amanda Cross (1)
Nancy Jo Cullen (1)
John D'Agata (1)
Mark Z. Danielewski (1)
Diana Davidson (1; interview)
Don DeLillo (1) (2)
Charles Demers (1; interview)
Kristen den Hartog (1)
David Denby (1)
Helen DeWitt (1) (2)
Patrick deWitt (1; Q&A) (2; Q&A)
Marcello Di Cintio (1; interview)
Nicolas Dickner (1) (2)
Dave Eggers (1)
Alison Espach (1) (2; Q&A)
Percival Everett (1) (2)
Jim Fingal (1)
Anne Finger (1)
Meags Fitzgerald (1; interview)
Jonathan Safran Foer (1; interview)
Kaitlin Fontana (1; Q&A)
Cheryl Foggo (1)
Mark Frauenfelder (1; interview)
Jim Fricke (1)
Bill Gaston (1)
Marie-Louise Gay (1)
David Gilmour (1)
Malcolm Gladwell (1)
Misha Glouberman (1)
Adam Leith Gollner (1)
Manuel Gonzales (1)
Adam Gopnik (1)
Emily Gould (1)
John Gould (1)
Lee Gowan (1)
Linda Goyette (1)
Gwethalyn Graham (1)
Amelia Gray (1)
Chris Hadfield (1; interview)
Daniel Handler (1; interview)
Adam Haslett (1)
David Hayward (1)
Alan Heathcock (1)
Steve Hely (1)
Aleksandar Hemon (1)
Lee Henderson (1; interview)
Kira Henehan (1)
Lawrence Herzog (1)
Sheila Heti (1) (2; Q&A) (3) (4)
Jessica Hiemstra (1)
Miranda Hill (1)
Nick Hornby (1)
Robert Hough (1)
Sean Howe (1)
Mary-Beth Hughes (1)
Maude Hutchins (1)
Neamat Imam (1; interview)
Isol (1)
Harry Karlinsky (1) (2)
Esmé Claire Keith (1)
A.L. Kennedy (1) (2)
Etgar Keret (1)
Ross King (1; interview)
Chuck Klosterman (1) (2; interview)
Ryan Knighton (1)
Jane F. Kotapish (1)
Louise Ladouceur (1; interview)
Sarah Lang (1; interview)
Annette Lapointe (1)
Grant Lawrence (1; interview)
Nam Le (1)
Perrine Leblanc (1)
Fran Lebowitz (1; interview)
Shelley A. Leedahl (1)
Alex Leslie (1)
Lawrence Lessig (1)
Jonathan Lethem (1) (2) (3) (4)
Adam Levin (1)
Michael Lewis (1) (2)
Naomi K. Lewis (1; interview) (2; interview)
Tao Lin (1) (2; Q&A) (3)
Ewa Lipska (1)
David Lipsky (1) (2)
Sam Lipsyte (1)
Erlend Loe (1)
Lisa Lutz (1)
Janice MacDonald (1; interview)
Pasha Malla (1; interview)
Ben Marcus (1)
Adam Marek (1)
Clancy Martin (1)
Lisa Martin-DeMoor (1; interview)
Zachary Mason (1; Q&A) (2)
Colin McAdam (1; interview)
Tom McCarthy (1)
Franklin Davey McDowell (1)
Wendy McGrath (1; interview)
Yukari F. Meldrum (1; interview)
Herman Melville (1)
Laurence Miall (1; interview)
Peter Midgley (1; interview)
David Mitchell (1) (2)
Lorrie Moore (1) (2) (3) (4)
Horacio Castellanos Moya (1)
Haruki Murakami (1) (2) (3) (4)
Michael Murphy (1)
Billeh Nickerson (1; interview)
Jason Lee Norman (1; interview) (2; interview)
Dorthe Nors (1)
Benjamin Nugent (1)
Andrew O'Hagan (1)
Michael Ondaatje (1; interview)
Daniel Orozco (1)
John Ortved (1)
Patton Oswalt (1)
Boris Pahor (1)
Chuck Palahniuk (1; interview)
Orhan Pamuk (1)
Amanda Petrusich (1)
DC Pierson (1) (2; Q&A)
Hannah Pittard (1)
Padgett Powell (1)
Thomas Pynchon (1) (2)
Jennifer Quist (1)
François Rabelais (1)
Nathan Rabin (1)
Kadrush Radogoshi (1; interview)
Ross Raisin (1) (2)
Simon Rich (1; interview) (2) (3)
Edward Riche (1)
Ringuet (1)
Santiago Roncagliolo (1)
Adam Ross (1)
Nicholas Ruddock (1)
Salman Rushdie (1)
Karen Russell (1)
Richard Russo (1)
Mike Sacks (1; interview)
Daniel Sada (1)
Laura Salverson (1)
José Saramago (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
George Saunders (1)
Elissa Schappell (1)
Anakana Schofield (1)
Salvatore Scibona (1)
Will Self (1; interview)
Carol Shaben (1)
Leanne Shapton (1)
Mikhail Shishkin (1)
Gary Shteyngart (1; interview)
Norm Sibum (1)
Katherine Silver (1; Q&A) (2; interview)
Zadie Smith (1) (2)
Lemony Snicket (1; interview)
Carrie Snyder (1)
Muriel Spark (1)
Dana Spiotta (1)
Kathleen Steinhauer (1)
Cassie Stocks (1; interview)
Cordelia Strube (1)
Alan Sullivan (1)
J. Courtney Sullivan (1) (2)
John Jeremiah Sullivan (1)
Miguel Syjuco (1)
Justin Taylor (1) (2; Q&A) (3)
Rob Taylor (1; Q&A)
Lysley Tenorio (1)
Lynne Tillman (1)
Ken Tingley (1)
Miriam Toews (1; interview)
Wells Tower (1)
Matthew J. Trafford (1)
Neil Turok (1)
Ellen Ullman (1)
Deb Olin Unferth (1)
Jean-Christophe Valtat (1)
Richard Van Camp (1)
Padma Viswanathan (1; interview)
Jorge Volpi (1)
Sarah Vowell (1)
David Foster Wallace (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Russell Wangersky (1)
Mélanie Watt (1)
Teddy Wayne (1; interview)
Chris F. Westbury (1; interview)
Colson Whitehead (1)
David Whitton (1)
Ian Williams (1)
John Williams (1)
D.W. Wilson (1; interview)
Kevin Wilson (1)
Michael Winter (1)
James Wood (1)
Molly Young (1) (2; Q&A)
Vlado Žabot (1)

OTHER PIECES

"Comic Sans" (The Incongruous Quarterly)
"'No Fear' T-Shirts Based on Board Games" (McSweeney's)

"The Men in the Mirror"
"Moby-Dick; or, My Favourite Book"
"The Pop-Culture Annotated 'Lord's Prayer'"
"Tumblr Recommends"

David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

Mitchell’s love of writing was predated by a love of maps: as a child he would spend hours drawing imaginary continents and then studiously naming each part of them. He even refers to these drawings, now, as “protonovels.” The map described by Mitchell’s fiction, however, is a living document that has grown larger with each new novel–and there is always a sense that some key piece of information, the legend that will explain it all, remains just out of reach, visible only to the cartographer himself.

Holy smokes! The Globe and Mail asked me to review David Mitchell’s new novel. That should explain why I’ve been walking around distractedly mumbling to myself for the past two weeks.

Read the whole thing here.

Sep 8, 2014
Comments

Amanda Petrusich, Do Not Sell at Any Price

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.

Read the whole thing here.

Aug 25, 2014
Comments

Bill Gaston, Juliet Was a Surprise

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.

Read the whole thing here.

Jul 14, 2014
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Harry Karlinsky, The Stonehenge Letters

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.

Read my full review, from the National Post, here.

Jun 4, 2014
Comments

C.P. Boyko, Novelists

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
Comments

Arjun Basu, Waiting for the Man

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.

Over at the Globe and Mail, I reviewed the debut novel from Montreal’s Arjun Basu.

May 12, 2014
Comments

Lorrie Moore, Bark

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.

Read the whole thing here.

(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
Comments

Peter Norman, Emberton

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.

Read the whole thing here.

Apr 16, 2014
Comments

Dorthe Nors, Karate Chop

image

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.

Read the whole thing here.

Mar 19, 2014
Comments

André Alexis, Pastoral

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.

Read the whole thing here.

Mar 18, 2014
Comments