I drag myself to the keyboard this morning after a successful TINARS launch for Combat Camera last night, bleary eyed, my head thrumming like an overloaded transformer. A great event: I got to meet Russell Smith, Ray Robertson, James Grainger, and any number of others, and to see a whole bunch of people again. I took the opportunity to express a certain dismay over the decline of Andre Alexis — I do hope he will recover from rabies — to one of his more recent bite victims. And people said nice things about my book.
I like it when people say nice things about my book.
Afterwards, I accepted an invitation to discuss literature with a small group of people. Innocent as I am of big-city ways, I had no idea where this would lead, and my habitual discretion prevents me from elaborating. Suffice to say that I had no idea that Dan Wells is such a nimble dancer, especially on such a small table, and that he looks suprisingly fetching in a skirt.
The rest is pretty much a blur.
Montreal’s Rover arts magazine has posted a review of Combat Camera, which accuses it (among other things) of being “unabashedly Canadian.” Not that I’m complaining. I suppose it is; there’s that Mordecai Richler thing about being an honest witness to your time and place, which in my case happens to be Canada, right about now. And I guess I’m not really bashful about that. Anyway….
Though constantly sought by avid readers, it seldom happens: complete immersion into a novel, getting lost in the pages. It’s the benchmark for good writing. And after a long dry spell of books which, though good, didn’t seduce me into complete suspension of disbelief, I picked up Combat Camera by A.J. Somerset. His beautifully written novel, full of dark humour and utterly compelling characters, took me to that place most readers long for.
Go here to read the rest.
I drag my exhausted frame to the keyboard to offer a brief recap and reflection on events of the past week. It’s brutal, being a new parent: up in the middle of the night, the damn novel won’t stop crying, etc., etc. But despite exhaustion and a bout of what I believe to have been food poisoning, I am here. Do your worst, critics.
Monday: Launched Combat Camera at the London Public Library to an appreciative crowd. Alexander MacLeod also read from Light Lifting, fresh off his Giller nomination. By a strange coincidence, both of our selections referred to acres of Canada Goose droppings. Must be something in the zeitgeist. In the general post-reading excitement, I forgot to pick up a box of books I needed from Biblioasis publisher Dan Wells, with devastating results….
Tuesday: Drove downtown at 2 am to pick up said box of books from Dan, who was still hard at work. Slept one hour, then got up to pack, drive to the airport, and catch a flight to Winnipeg via Toronto for the Winnipeg International Writers Festival. Snoozed briefly on flight.
Spoke to a classroom full of creative writing students at the University of Winnipeg, who to my surprise actually took notes and stuff. I felt like saying, “No, don’t write that down. These are the ramblings of a sleep-deprived hack—do I look like I know anything?” The students asked lots of good questions, questions to which (writing being writing) there is often no single answer.
Stumbled back to hotel room and worked feverishly to find a good excerpt to read on the main stage. After two hours, returned to my original plan, wishing I had slept. Folded my carefully prepared notes into the book and went on down to face the music. Got to the podium and found my carefully prepared notes had somehow changed places with my to-do list. Lesson: plan to wing it, remarks-wise.
Wednesday: Flew back to London. Ate something.
Thursday: The day of food poisoning. Awoke to discover something trying to eat me back. Stumbled into the bathroom and lay on the floor, moaning. “Oh, the tragedy,” quoth I, “the flower of Canadian literature dying so soon after his first book!”
Wife ran into bathroom in obvious panic, and said, “Alex MacLeod is dying?”
Spent remainder of day moaning in emotional distress.
Friday: Wildly successful Biblioasis fall launch at Phog Lounge in Windsor. Dan Wells elected me to read first, although I had not yet decided what to read. Decided en route to microphone. Somewhere between this and the carefully prepared notes, there must exist a happy medium. Shot two rolls of Delta 3200 at a desperate ISO12500. We’ll try them in Microphen. Then drove back through the night: firearms safety course starts Saturday, 7:30 am.
Fall is far too busy.
… if I may borrow from Neil Young.
I’ll be reading at Windsor’s Phog Lounge, along with Alexander MacLeod, Marius Kociejowski,and Norm Sibum.
Phog Lounge, 157 University W. 7:30 pm.
I’m getting hits, not surprisingly, from people looking for reviews of Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting. Well, I finally had time to read it, flying back and forth to Winterpeg, and….
Alexander MacLeod’s debut collection of short fiction, drawn from 15 years of writing for literary magazines in Canada, tempts you to indulge in the kind of superlatives that might be counterproductive in the age of hype; just how brilliant can it really be? Well, pretty damn brilliant, actually. Among the seven longish stories that make up this collection, there is not a single misstep. This book is that good.
These stories lead in one direction, dart down a side alley, and then return to themselves, without any bad welds or weak seams to give away their construction. “Number Three” erects the Chrysler minivan as a mythic object, while exploring the consequences of a devastating accident; “Adult Beginner I” finds teenaged lifeguards diving into the Detroit River from the roof of the Holiday Inn, as a swimmer goes out of her depth; and “Wonder About Parents” encapsulates, in staccato prose, the strange intimacies of parenthood. “Good Boys,” an apparently simple story about four brothers and the kid across the street, manages to be both funny and moving while avoiding any form of predictability.
Read it. Oh, yes. Read it.
(Disclaimer: I have a certain, obvious bias. But still … read it.)
Do not stick your chewing gum to the armrest of your airline seat. This is asinine.
If you do this, I will take DNA samples from your residual saliva, track you down, encase you in well-chewed Hubba Bubba, and stick you to the fuselage of a westbound 737. When the aircraft reaches 40,000 feet, where the outside temperature is always minus sixty, the gum will freeze, harden, crack, and detach from the fuselage, and you will fall, encased in a streamlined cylinder of gum, attaining a terminal velocity well over the speed of sound, and your gum-coffin will penetrate the ground to such a depth that it will be unnecessary to excavate a grave. All we will need will be a cross to mark the spot.
You have been warned. And now, I’m off to the dry cleaners.
I’m just back from a very successful reading here in London for Combat Camera, and for Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting. Melissa from The New Quarterly deserves endless kudos for her tireless last-minute work to promote the reading.
Now I’m off to Winterpeg for Thin Air 2010, where I’m looking forward to reading on the main stage tomorrow with David Bergen et al. Alexander MacLeod is off to Toronto for his launch at TINARS, also tomorrow.
So, if you live in Toronto, I strongly advise you to buy a plane ticket and fly out to Winnipeg to see me. Or, if that’s too expensive, go see Alex’s TINARS launch. You won’t be disappointed—I have been blown away by his readings at Eden Mills and here in London, and think his Giller longlist nod is well deserved. If you’re in Winnipeg, I’m sorry to say, you’ll have to put up with me.
A shortage of time prevents me from saying much these days, but a few quick points need to be pointed:
- Sunday morning will find me up at an ungodly hour so that I can get a bout of dog training in before heading up to Eden Mills for the rest of the day, where I plan to catch Alexander Macleod, Leon Rooke, and whoever else.
- The discovery, via Nigel Beale, that the Governor General doesn’t keep a collection of the books that win the Governor General’s Award is just plain depressing. I guess that’s how much Canada prizes its literary culture.
- Here’s some bitching about author photos from someone who evidently knows jack-shit about portrait photography. Three of the cliches that post supposes are unique to writers are, of course, staples of portrait photography in general. And if you were going to make an environmental portrait of a writer, what environment to choose other than that where the writing gets done? But don’t mind me; if photographic cliches irritate you, by all means blame the writer.
- I like this Globe piece on “the death of do-it-yourself” because, while I have no interest in fixing cars, it applies to all kinds of other things. We shall soon become a nation of people who have no idea how things work. I like stuff I can figure out how to fix. Every year, there’s less of that stuff around.
- Ashley Gilbertson’s photos of military rations from around the world brings back memories both pleasant and less so. Thankfully, the Canadian Forces have discontinued the most unpopular menu selection, Ham Omelette, affectionately known as “lung in a bag.”
- Oh, look. Seems PTSD is going to be the flavour of the day for a while.
- As evidence of just how far behind I am, I will now comment on Samantha Haywood’s 16-day-old piece on preparing the perfect manuscript. Well, what to do? The economics of publishing resemble an inverted pyramid, where the point is demand, the whole thing wobbling precariously under the pressure of a zillion people convinced their story must be told. Nothing we can do about that. So apparently, Peter Cheney in the Globe is wrong, and do-it-yourself isn’t dead at all. Except that we still can’t do it our fucking selves, can we?
And that’s all I have to say about that, as Forrest Gump liked to say. Or at least, that’s all I’m willing to say about that at this time.
Yack! Is it September already? Where does the time go?
Things have been busy here recently what with back to school and dogs and that thing I sometimes do, called “work.” It’s the busy season for that.
It’s also the busy season for the book world, what with all the fall books coming out. Which includes mine. The hour is almost upon us. It’s next frigging week! So this might be a handy time to draw attention to a couple of upcoming events:
- London launch: 20th September at the Central Library, 7 pm
- Winnipeg International Writers Festival: 21st September
- Campus program, 4 pm
- Mainstage, 8 pm
- Windsor, Ontario: 24th September, Phog Lounge
- Toronto launch (TINARS): 28th September, The Garrison, 7:30 pm
You can tell I was a technical writer from them there bullet points. And if you want more details on these and other events, you can check the handy “readings” link at the top of the page, or join the Facebook page, where all the announcements will get announced. You’ll find that page at, uh, Facebook.
How do I feel about all this? Well, a bit like throwing up.