What actually fills the bulk of Swiss Sonata’s pages is a cavalcade of back story about individual students and staff. You know those old Super Nintendo role-playing games, where you walk up to someone, press A, and then have to listen to forty screens of their life story? This novel contains the fictional equivalent, only it results in slightly less sore thumbs.
My latest dispatch from the history of the winners of the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction. This time we’re in a Swiss finishing school on the verge of World War II. Finishing schools are very weird places.May 9, 2013
My mission to read every Governor General’s Award-winner, in order, continues. The Dark Weaver was damn near impossible to find, but its narrative chutzpah (and righteous feminist streak) redeems all.Apr 15, 2013
Ultimately, Belinda’s Rings is about the intersection between personal ambition and domestic responsibility. While sitting on the plane, Belinda justifies leaving her family behind thusly: “The trip to England was as much for her children as it was for herself. She was setting an example: decide what you want from life, and don’t be afraid to pursue it … A passionate mother was better than a wholly disinterested mother.”
In this week’s column, I wrote about a new novel put out by NeWest Press, our local purveyor of literary fiction, poetry, and drama. Belinda’s Rings has squids and crop circles on the brain, but it’s really about family draaaaaama.Mar 25, 2013
I love Saunders’s gentle yet unswerving moral code, as well as his gift for wringing complexity out of very simple sentences. And I’ve recommended his fiction and nonfiction many times. But a strange new emotion came over me as I worked through Tenth of December: weariness. By the time I approached the final variation on an urban, goodhearted, semidelusional American wandering into a tragedy that the reader has seen coming from a dozen pages away, I was totally drained.
This story got lost in the Georgia Straight’s queue for more than a month, so now it feels as new to me as it does to you. I’d also liked to have updated some of the content, given how the conversation about Saunders has progressed and deepened since this new collection first came out.
Nevertheless! I still believe Tenth of December might be too good for its own good. In this week’s issue, I try to explain why.Mar 21, 2013
The spring publishing season is upon us, which means that things are about to get real busy around these parts, real fast. An action-packed fall already looms in the distance. So this week I thought I’d do one last sweep of 2012 and take a look at a few local titles that had, until now, slipped through the cracks.
Three local reviews in this week’s column! Why not? Who says I can’t? Why would you say that? That’s not very nice to say.Mar 8, 2013
Over at Ballast magazine (where I recently took over as books editor), here’s the debut of my new monthly column, where I read all 75 winners of the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction—in order.
We start in 1936, where a combination of luxury building materials and sketchy Biblical interpretations might lead one man to murder.Mar 4, 2013
Feb 15, 2013
Disinherited Generations focuses on one of the most egregious changes ever made to the Act: what is now commonly referred to as “section 12(1)(b).” This paragraph, introduced in an amendment from 1951, stated that any First Nations woman who married a non-status man would automatically give up her own legal status in the process. So would her children. Among other things, this meant she would no longer be allowed to live, or be buried, on her home reserve. She would also lose all access to the money and benefits that were her treaty-guaranteed rights.
Texas’s Manuel Gonzales practises something I believe in very strongly: don’t overexplain your silliness.
My review of The Miniature Wife, a solid story collection full of werewolves, murder robots, and receptionist butts, is in this week’s Georgia Straight, and is conveniently, clickably here.
On the whole, Godless but Loyal to Heaven seems like it ought to feel a lot darker than it does. After all, these are characters who’ve lived hardscrabble lives, many of whom are alarmingly comfortable with arson and casual violence. When the climactic brawl in the title story is first announced, people actually drive in from neighbouring towns to see it. (Later, two of the competitors square off again — one holding a Molotov cocktail and a claw hammer, the other his kid’s Disney toothbrush. The winner might surprise you.)
In this week’s column, I reviewed the latest story collection by Richard Van Camp. It’s a mighty fine thing. Read the whole thing here.Jan 25, 2013
Roberto Bolaño died a full decade ago, and we’re only just now running out of his novels, essays, and story and poetry collections to translate into English. Not that his honourable publishers haven’t given it their best shot: the first translation arrived a matter of months after the Chilean’s death from liver failure at age 50, and since then they’ve come fast and furious, well over a title per year, the biggest among them becoming genuine literary events. The fact that you can still find copies of the colossal 2666 in most mainstream bookstores is a coup in and of itself.Jan 4, 2013