Monthly Archives: February 2015

“(K)nowing what to expect from a poem might bring comfort or security in the midst of the overwhelming ideas a poem can raise” | Q&A with Poet/Editor/Teacher Laurie D Graham

No doubt, there is probably nobody busier than Laurie D Graham. Writing, teaching, editing and reviewing is all in her list of things she does. (Link to my review of her poetry book Rove.) But somewhere between all thing, she managed to sit down and answer a few questions for me, and gave some insight to her brilliant thoughts.

1) So it has been a few months since Rove was published. How has it been received by the reading public? Have there been any memorable comments about it you care to share?

The book has been well received, and it seems to prompt readers to think about their own homes and “origin” stories, which I especially appreciate and certainly didn’t expect. My favourite response to the book comes from my great uncle Emil though. He knows very well the places that make up much of Rove, and he said this after he read it:

“Of course, I’ve never read much poetry. But if you spend time with it and you read it carefully, it gives you a picture. The words give you a picture.”

That sums up my whole aim perfectly. Uncle Emil read the book and saw his home in it, and that equals success to me.

2) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, can you share details?

I’m working on a second poetry collection that will be out with McClelland & Stewart in 2016. It orbits around the events of the Northwest Resistance, but it’s anchored in the present, trying to engender more context and connection and history and knowledge about how Canada came to be. So far, it’s titled Settler Education.

3) What are you reading right now? Who are you favourite writers?

I tend to have a bunch of books on the go at once. Right now I’m reading Voices of the Plains Cree by Edward Ahenakew, Indigenous Poetics in Canada, an anthology edited by Neal McLeod and published last year by Wilfred Laurier University Press, and a favourite book from my childhood called There’s a Rainbow in my Closet by Patti Stren, published in 1979. I’ve just started re-reading Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion as well.

Favourite writers include Jan Zwicky, Dionne Brand, Dennis Lee, Andrew Suknaski, Ondaatje, Tim Lilburn, Thomas King, Adrienne Rich, Annie Proulx, Myrna Kostash. I could keep going…

4) Do you do many public readings of your works? If yes, is that something you enjoy doing?

I’ve done a quite a few readings, yeah. I think it’s a useful thing to do, especially when it comes to poetry, which needs to be heard as well as read. In fact, I’ll be reading at Fanshawe College at the end of March and at the Landon library as part of the Poetry London reading series at the end of April, and you can find all the details here.

5) You teach writing at Fanshawe College and you help edit Brick magazine. Does doing those jobs help you with your writing at all?

I think so. Being on all sides of the task of bringing a piece of writing to fruition has taught me a lot, but it’s hard to tell if teaching and editing influence my writing in any overt way. I know it has improved my eye. I’m more rigorous, more ruthless, more self-aware.

On the other hand, editing and teaching can keep me from writing, which ends up doing the opposite of helping… I teach out of necessity and I help put together Brick out of love, but I have to make sure these things keep to their “compartments” or else there’ll be no writing, and it’s writing that gave me these two gigs in the first place.

6) I recently met a poet who lamented that many people are disappointed that her work “doesn’t rhyme.” Do you find that poetry has a stereotypical image that may be keeping readers away?

Maybe. That’s a tough one. Why do people insist that poetry fall into lockstep with their perception of what it is? Is it about familiarity? Uncertainty? Unwillingness? Unexamined cultural bias? Resistance to emotion or idea? Is it about control, or the need to legitimize one’s knowledge or tastes? People do still turn to poetry at crucial moments in their lives, and knowing what to expect from a poem might bring comfort or security in the midst of the overwhelming ideas a poem can raise: ideas about death, birth, love, loss, injustice, reconciliation, commemoration, or just living as a human in the world. These are difficult things to work through, and poetry helps us work through them, and some people might disdain the route a poet takes simply because they would’ve taken a different one.

Then again, why shouldn’t someone want poetry to rhyme? Why can’t someone assert a preference? I think liking or wanting certain things from poetry is perfectly okay, and in fact normal. The catch, though, is that you have absolutely no grounds for demanding the poetry you want from a poet. Being a listener or a reader of poetry is a passive role, and some people can’t handle that or don’t realize it. It feels active—you’re experiencing, you’re feeling, you’re working things out, you’re taking part—but you don’t have a say in how that poem gets told. Poetry can take many, many forms, and it needs to be better understood that one’s definition isn’t the definition, nor has it ever been.

7) You seem to have some presence on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Does using those platforms help you with your writing at all?

It’s a different way of hearing, for me. It has made me hear perspectives that aren’t given proper voice in other print or journalistic mediums. I’m thinking mostly of Twitter here. There are legions of First Nations people doing essential work on Twitter. That has definitely informed my writing, and I owe a debt to Paul Seesequasis and âpihtawikosisân and Hayden King and Christi Belcourt, to name just a few.

8) I’ve encountered a lot of people who are writing poetry not necessarily to be published but in order to better understand themselves. Do you have any advice for that part-time poet who scribbles in a cherished notebook when the mood moves them?

Oh just keep doing it. You’re doing swell. Don’t worry too much. It’s the thinking through things that’s most important.

*****

Link to Laurie D Graham blog

Link to Hagios Press’ page for Rove

Link to Brick Literary Magazine

Understanding the Confused Mind | Review of “The Dogs” by Allan Stratton (2015) Scholastic Canada

Dogs

The secret of relating to a trouble mind is to understand it. And that is no easy task. One needs to spend time listening, talking and learning what caused that mind to be troubled to begin with. What hurts it has suffered. What lies it has been fed. What anger it is feeling. Allan Stratton has given us such insight to one such troubled young mind through his novel The Dogs.

Page 5

Mom left Dad when I was eight. She says he’d been acting strange since forever. I have flashes of things, but I’m not sure what’s read, what’s dreams and what’s things I overheard Mom say to my grandparents.

Anyway, Mom moved us far away; Dad came to see me a few times on supervised visits at some government building. Then, all of a sudden, we moved again. According to Mom, Dad did things she’ll tell me about when I’m older. So – hey, Mom – When’s older? This is our fifth move and nothing’s changed, except I’m more messed up than ever.

Mom says change is great: “Embrace change.” It’s like her motto or something. Only, for Mom, change means planning where to run next before we’ve unpacked. From the get-go, she’s scouting escape routes “in case of an emergency.” So I’m hardly surprised she knows where we’re going.

Stratton tells a brilliant tale through the eyes of Cameron. He and his mom have been on the move away from his father for a number of years and this recent move has brought them to an isolated farmhouse. Cameron is feeling out of sorts with the move and he is having settling in. He endures hours: of loneliness, bullying at school, confusion and sadness. But as he starts to explore the history of the farmhouse, he brings some drama and excitement to his life.

Page 85-86

I say goodnight and head back to my place. Good thing I have a flashlight. Mr. Sinclair’s corn rises above my head, a forest of darkness. The only sound is my feet on the stones at the side of the road.

Thoughts echo inside my head. When did Mr. McTavish get killed by the dogs? Where was Jacky? Gone with is mother or dead and buried?

A cornstalk snaps in the field. I stop. Whatever I heard stops too. I scan my light across the cornstalks. Is something hiding in there?

Who cares? It’s likely a rabbit or coyote; either way, they’re scared of people.

I walk faster. There’s another crunch from the field. Whatever’s out there isn’t scared. It’s following me. Sounds of panting. Dogs. The dogs. I start to run. So do they. They bound though the stalks beside me.

No, there’s nothing there, it’s all in my mind – just my sleeves rubbing against my jacket, my feet on the gravel, my breathing.

I hear Jacky: “I told you. It’s all right. They won’t hurt you. I won’t let them.”

“Leave me alone!”

“But you’re my friend.”

“Stop! You’re freaking me out. Go away!”

Stratton is a master of documenting the human condition and he has crafted that skill into this book. Any reader will learn to relate with Cameron and gain an understanding of his situation. A powerful and enlightening read no matter what the age of the reader may be.

Page 101-102

Mom’s back at five. She calls me to the kitchen table. I sit like a prisoner waiting to be executed. Will it be the “I’m disappointed” speech or the “I love you” speech? I know she loves me. I know she’s disappointed. Why does she have to say it?

Mom reaches across the table and puts her hand on mine. “Cameron,” she says softly, “I want to apologize.”

What ? I stare down at our hands. Mom still wears her wedding ring. She says it’s to keep men away, but it reminds me of Dad. I wonder if it reminds her.

“I should never have said what I said yesterday, about a fight being the beginning.” Mom says. “You are not your father. You are you. And who you are is a good, kind, bright young man, who cares about people.”

My insides quiver. I’m not good. I’m not kind. I think mean thoughts about people. I go behind your back. I lie. I make things up. I’m a horrible person. I’m  . . .

I wipe the corner of my eye. “It’s OK.”

Mom hands me a Kleenex. Somehow she always has a Kleenex. “I want you to know that what’s been happening with you, what you’ve been going through, isn’t your fault.”

Is this about me being picked on at school? Eating lunch alone in a bathroom stall? Did I say Jacky’s name in my sleep?

‘I don’t know exactly what’s going on in your head.” – what a relief – “but I see the signs. The nightmares. The talking to yourself.”

I want to crawl in a hole.

“It’s all right, Cameron, I understand.” You don’t. “It’s been like this ever since you were a child. Whenever you have a problem, you go off into your own world. I can be talking to you, others can, but it’s like you don’t hear us. Since the last move it’s gotten worse.”

The Dogs by Allan Stratton is an insightful read. While the protagonist is a complex and confused young man, Stratton writes his story with a style that is easy to follow. A great piece of literature.

Link to Allan Stratton’s website

Link to Scholastic Canada’s page for The Dogs

Looking Beyond our own Realm | Review of “The Green Hotel” by Jesse Gilmour (2014) Quattro Books

hotel

Literature allows us to expand our perceptions into other people’s reality. We may think we understand what is going on in their lives but until a writer gives us the opportunity to immerse us into somebody else world, we are truly at a loss to understand what problems and issues they may have. Jesse Gilmour has given us a detailed glimpse into Toronto’s darker side with his novella The Green Hotel.

Page 11

We live in a two-floor loft a block away from Chinatown, but you can see it from the window in my room. In the day it’s depressing, figures moving too quickly, selling garbage. They strike me as the kind of people who wouldn’t help you even if you really needed it.

At night it’s pretty, though. It’s a mysterious place and even before we moved to the area I’d go there as a teenager, always at night, just to walk around and watch the people in the corridors of gambling halls and in the windows of the orange-lit restaurants. There were alleyways in Chinatown that seemed like they’d been there for hundreds of years. I’d sit in them alone and smoke cigarettes, and later on, I’d go there to drink.

Gilmour captured a bitter slice of reality with his protagonist Hayden and his suicidal father. They exist in a world of booze, drugs, and petty crime. But considering all the hopelessness that his life contains, he has small moments of profound thoughts that provide some glimmer in his life.

Page 48-49

One night I caught her praying in the bathroom – her hands clasped over the toilet seat. I’d never seen anyone pray before. At first I thought it was a joke. Like she was going to turn around and grin and say “gotcha!”

I was bartending the lunch shift at a sports bar on College Street at the time. They had pictures of Sylvester Stallone everywhere – not movie shots, they looked like personal photographs. Sly outside of a barn, Sly next to the refrigerator . . .

It was weird.

My shift ended around the time she finished school (she was taking philosophy at York) and almost every day after work I’d step out into the street with a pocketful of money and there she’d be on the patio, her green knapsack on the chair next to her, her hair in braids, smoking a cigarette and drinking something orange and sticky and glowing. The Portuguese guys would stare at her.

We’d go all over the city. We’d go to High Park or to Scarborough – anywhere we hadn’t been before. It didn’t matter, as long as it wasn’t Chinatown or Yonge and Eglinton. We’d find parks, usually. We’d find parks and kiss. She had a way of touching me that calmed things. It made me light-headed, dizzy almost.

Gilmour’s words here are both lyrical and frank at the same time. In that manner we understand both the quagmire that surrounds Hayden’s life and the beauty of what he desires. It is an easy read but one that is full of depth at the same time.

Page 55-56

In June one night, I came home from work and her mother was standing on the front porch in a rain jacket smoking a cigarette. She looked kind of sexy, her hair matted, her eyes dim. She told me she was sending Samantha to rehab in California. The place cost twenty thousand dollars. She was leaving in three days. I asked if I could go upstairs and see her. No, she was sleeping. I had to leave, now.

I still remember the consecutive amount of raindrops vibrating through my work fleece when it hit me.

I wandered around for a little while and then I went back to my father’s. I hadn’t seen him, or spoken to him for more than a year. I passed the abandoned house on the way up my old street. Our door was open.

He was sitting on the couch in his boxers with one sock on, The X Files on television. He looked okay, he had colour in his face and the house was clean. The was a poster of Britney Spears in a schoolgirl’s uniform on the wall in the kitchen.

I told him what had happened; he nodded like he already knew.

I asked him what was going to happen to me, now that she was gone.

“Of course it’s raining, right?” he said.

I went into the kitchen and made myself a pop tart – then I went back into the living room and asked him if he wanted to paint me.

He said, as we moved into this study, that he had taken nine sleeping pills and drunk eight beers – and for the first time, in a long time, he felt really good.

The Green Hotel by Jesse Gilmour gives great insight to a reality that many of us may not be familiar with. Filled with frank and lyrical writing, it is a novella worth the read.

Link to Quattro Books page for The Green Hotel

The Difficulties of being Transgendered in Today’s Society | Review of “Jazz” by Elizabeth Copeland (2014) Quattro Books

jazz

Being an adolescent today is a tough place to find oneself in. Trying to be yourself with all the rules, norms, expectations and stereotypes that exist in modern society is frustrating at the best of times. Yet imagine being an adolescent and being trapped in the wrong body type. The confusion and frustration of a transgendered youth trying to find their place in the world is insurmountable. Elizabeth Copeland has given us some insight to the problems of such a youth with her novel Jazz.

Page 15

I see my reflection in a window outside of Zellers. With my hair short, I may just have a chance in hell of passing as a guy.

I jump on the bus. Find a seat in the back where I can sit alone. Where I can think. Where I can enjoy this final ride from my past into my future.

I swallow the knot of fear that sits like a golf ball in my throat. Time to take stock of what I have. I dig down into my back pocket. Feel the envelope that was Auntie’s gift. Pull it out. Rip it open and count. One hundred dollars.

What else do I have? Three tokens. A ten-dollar bill. Two loonies. Three quarters and a dime. A penknife. My library card. My health card. My cell phone. Half-charged. And no charger.

I check the pockets of the black windbreaker. Five dollars. A few pennies. A coupon for Burger King. A half pack of Trident gum. Mint. And a paperback.

On the subway platform, I flip open the book and begin to read. Perfect. A book about Thomas Cromwell. Overarching ambition. Nefarious plotting. Betrayal. All leading to a rise to power, and then. Off with his head! A bad omen. I leave it on a seat in the subway car when I get off at Yonge station.

Copeland has given us great insight though her telling of the story of Jazz. Being born a boy in a girl’s body, Jazz makes his way from the suburbs to the downtown core to find an identity that is more suited for his emotions. Along the way, Jazz deals with a collection of people – employers, social workers, street people, roommates, – that makes Jazz’s odyssey a combination of heartache and humour can’t be forgotten.

Page 29

The coffee tastes bitter. But’s it’s free. No cream or mil. Just powdered creamer. Mixed with three teaspoons of white sugar, it’s not so bad. I slip two packages of Dad’s cookies in my jacket pocket. For later.

Revived by caffeine and sugar, I start in on the form. The first page is basic stuff. Name. Jazz Gupta. Address. The streets. Phone. My cell. Employed. No. I added three years to my age. Scribbled in my Medicare number. My medical history as best I could remember it. Reason for your visit? To be discussed.

Another swig of coffee. This stuff grows on you. I turn the page. Hold up. These are pretty personal questions. Had I experienced any early childhood trauma? Was I sexually active? If so, in a committed relationship or with multiple partners? Had I ever suffered from depression? Been diagnosed with a metal illness? Been hospitalized? Had I ever tried to commit suicide? To all of them I answer – none of your business. Then scratch it out. Better to leave it blank.

The language in the book is simple and frank – perfect for describing the world around Jazz. We empathize with him as we witness the trials, the pitfalls and the joys the frustrated youth endures to achieve his new identity. Readers gain an understanding of transgendered individuals no matter who they are or where they live.

Page 73

I’m back sleeping on the cot at the back of the salon. From the frying pan into the fire.

Sister Mary is nowhere to be found. When I call her office, Carrot-top says that she is unavailable. Yah right.

Rosa finished her course at the ballet school, and has gone home to her boyfriend in Kingston. What an idiot I am. I should have known better than to think a girl like that could want me.

Kim is not happy to have me back and is getting on my last nerve. Always making snide comments. Sticking in the knife.

“You’re late. Your attitude sucks. You need to get it together.”

And my favourite one. “Are you stoned?” Hell yah.

Jazz by Elizabeth Copeland enlightens readers about the world of today’s transgendered youth. It is a novella that uses frank and bold language to tells it’s bold tale. A stunning read.

*****

Link to Quattro’s Books page for Jazz

Getting the Feel of the Land | Review of “I see my love more clearly from a distance” by Nora Gould (2012) Brick Books

mylove

We have lost something as we became more urbane. Not only have we lost touch with the feel of the soil or the ability to view the horizon, we also have lost the ability to connect with family members or even with the food we consume. Nora Gould has given us an opportunity to regain that understanding of nature as she documents her experiences with living in the prairies in her collection of poetry I see my love more clearly from a distance.

Song of Songs (Page 15)

Prairie knows her own beauty, silver willow, golden-

rod, her slopes thick with prickly pear, hawthorn,

meadow sweet, meadow rue, Orion in her deep

violet-blue haze, the shining arnica of her coulee.

<

To hold my quiet, in the noise

of oil rigs moving on the road a half mile east,

on the gravel at the end of the lane,

to hold my quiet in silence, desire unable to vibrate

<

out from me, no pheromones to underscore

the call in my eyes; to hold this quiet,

it has to be filled with the sound of the ’52 Chev

home from the hay field: the goat’s flehming,

upper lip curled.

<

Winter sun would life my face.

Ribbons of Sandhill Cranes would bind me

here, their necks and legs unfurled

as they gargle in the seasons with their rolling

garooo-a-a-a garoo-a-a-a

Gould does more than explain the scenery she sees around her in this book. She describes in brilliant detail the full range of emotions that come with her life in the prairies. Her experiences with her family and her work come through in such vivid detail that the mind’s eye of the reader comprehends what she is expressing.

But if this poem is to be all happiness and light (Page 30)

There is so much I cannot say. I’d crossed

the Watson Coulee to see if the red brockle-

faced cow had had her calf. Deep in buckbrush

I saw it wet, already knowing mother’s tongue.

I lay in prairie wool to photograph this

glacier-divided hill, its scooped curves

where moon rests early in her rising up that deer path

in the ice-age draw. I climbed that trail, circled

down to the hollow on the slope where

a rock’s animal face is aligned south for winter sun,

not chiselled, no mark of stone on stone.

Where grasses eddy by that rock, see the poem

on my notebook pages blown by the wind,

held by binding. Read of rock-warmed night,

morning: flooded, sun-licked as the deep

violet-blue of silverleaf psoralea.

This is a read that is in-depth and deep. One can feel the crafting Gould went through to bring this phrases to light. It wasn’t an easy task to bring this work to light and the effort is rewarded by enlightening us urban dwellers with both the pleasure and pains she documents here.

As if that absolved him, made him not complicit (excerpt) (Page 41)

When I called home from the airport Charl knew

but didn’t tell me my father had died, said later

your sister told me not to.

By the time my flight was in, the funeral

was set, no time for my children to attend.

No question of Charl having time,

he’s a busy man. I drove without him

>

to both my surgeries. First one

ovary, big as saucer. Blood

and fibrin bound it to my uterus, glued

ureters, bladder and loops of bowel

together. People don’t speak

>

of this blood, where it grows, what

it strangles. My left ovary

tied to my side, a hardball,

a shiny nickel in my pocket.

I see my love more clearly from a distance by Nora Gould is an enlightening collection of poetry of what we urbanites have forgotten about nature and ourselves. There are some deep and well-thought phrases here that make it a pleasure to read.

Link to Brick Books page for I see my love more clearly from a distance

“I was most pleasantly surprised by the humour that was found in it.” | Q&A with novelist Cassandra Cronenberg

It is amazing the things I find in the “New Releases” sections of bookstores and libraries. That is where I discovered Cassandra Cronenberg novella Down The Street. (Link to my review) In it, Cronenberg has brought forward a familiar tale of so many people we know and witness going through a mental and emotional crisis. A brilliant yet complex book, it attempts to enlighten us to grasp what is going on with so many family members and friends we have seen go through a meltdown yet are unable to help. Cronenberg answered a few questions for me via email recently

*****

1) How has the reaction been to “Down The Street” been since it was released? Have there been any memorable responses to it you care to share?

A: Very good, I think. I have been very happy with the response. Yes, I guess I was most pleasantly surprised by the humour that was found in it. And some one said the main character was sweet and vicious, I think she said.

2)  Your bio page on your website lists you as “painter, writer and filmmaker.” Is writing something you enjoy doing as compared as the two other endeavours you partake in? 

A: Yes, I do enjoy writing very much. Writing and painting.

3) The cover art of “Down The Street” is listed as something you did. Is it a piece you did specifically for the book? 

A: No, not in it’s original form. I did however, photograph the original piece in black and white for the book and then they cropped it and turned it upside down. I’m very happy with the cover. They did a great job.

4) How did you get involved with Quattro Books?

A writer friend of mine suggested that I send to them.

5) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?

Salinger, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Paul Auster, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Silvia Plath, Virginia Wolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (although I haven’t read very much of the last three), Margaret Atwood’s early work, some Timothy Findley, Robertson Davies, Henry Miller, Anais Nin. Also Stephen King

I just started re-reading Head Hunter and recently read Jesse Gilmour’s book, The Green Hotel, which is very good, also published by Quattro Fiction, and my father’s book Consumed.

6) Have you done any public readings for “Down The Street?” Has it been used for any reading circles or book clubs? If yes to any of those questions, how did you feel in participating in those events. If no, is it something you would like to partake in?

A: Yes, two public readings and one on the radio. No book clubs as of yet. Yes, I learned a lot about my writing giving readings.

7) Are you working on any new fiction right now? If yes, are there details you can share? If no, why not? 

A: No. That’s a difficult question to answer; it’s all interconnected right now. And at the beginning, so to speak.

8) You seem to have an active role on social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. How do you like your experience with those programs?

A: Social media is an interesting tool. I have grown using these platforms; there are also many holes one can fall down. I think it can help when the work you do is mainly solitary. It also stores my information and reflects it back, and you can edit it! It is a bit of a trap as far as self-promotion goes, however.

9) You opened the book with the phrase “No characters or events are based on any reality” yet it seems that Itessa is such a familiar figure. Where did the notion of her come from?

A: Her name came from a Music Dictionary I picked up second hand, originally it was Istessa, it is an Italian word for tempo. And then I dropped the s. It’s funny because she doesn’t have an iphone or anything, so she really is Itessa before all of that, she is just discovering the on-line world really. That phrase is kind of a disclaimer and facetious at the same time.

10) The narrative of “Down The Street” in not a common one for most novels. Is the term ‘streams of consciousness’ the right term for the type for the book. Was it difficult to write in that style?

A: I think “streams of consciousness” is exactly right although my editor wasn’t so sure either, which still confuses me. It was very easy to write like that.

******

Link to Cassandra Cronenberg’s website

Link to Quattro Books page for Down The Street

What is she thinking? | Review of “Down The Street” by Cassandra Cronenberg (2014) Quattro Books

Street

We all have that friend who starts to act dangerously irrational. We all have looked at them at wondered at what they are thinking as they act and do odd things. Cassandra Cronenberg has given us insight into one such mind as it starts to go through a mental breakdown in her novella Down The Street.

Page 7

DOWN THE STREET, on the street, these lyrics can’t be beat. This is my head don’t destroy it. “I gotta place to be to be,” he said. “I gotta place to be,” he said, bouncing along the street as he often did and always did and always did before and forever. This is the way he walks; this is the way he walks. He/she, he/she, he/she, this is where it is, the never-ending flow, why does there have to be finality? Why doe there have to be a finality? Can it not keep going? Can it not keep going?

“THIS IS SHE.”

This is a girl’s life, the life of a girl, not the life of this hustler, this hustler who is on the street doing coke, living to the beat, coughing and cursing and hurting, this is not his life this is my life. This is my life now. “What do you want?” he said to me once and I crossed my hands in front of me and back out and jutted my chin to him and he said, “I’ll remember that for next time.” A fight, I wanted a fight

While this book is only 142 pages, it is a complex novella and shouldn’t be rushed through. Cronenberg goes from one thought to the next (known as streams of consciousness) of the protagonist as she deals with not only the collapse of her marriage and the raising of her children but deals with her desires and her impulses. The language is frank and bold yet not too complex.

Page 49

That night in bed I had a fever and it was like my shoulder was dislocated. I started on antibiotics the next day.  At first I thought I had completely fucked everything up by that last visit and I could never go in and would have to move and never go in again and that destroyed me, although someday to live in the Annex would be cool, not now though, my community was here and the thought of not dating him was fine because we were already together. I am abstaining from sex anyway, so . . . I do need his music though.

My friend who has been trying to bag the boys at Terroni jinxed me by saying, “Remember when you made me that mixed tape?” to one of them. Now she just works/lives there, every meeting, etc.,  but I now know we are special to each other and a mixed tape still signifies something special, as does dinner; if he made me dinner, I would just about die. His boss was right. “I bet you want that (blank fill in the words) now don’t you?” Yes, I want the tape and the dinner, yes, yes I do. How are we going to get there?

We seek cultural items out to give us quick answers and that is a mistake. We should be engaging culture to give us an insight – if not an understanding – of subjects around us. That is what Cronenberg has done with this novella, given us an insight into a mind of somebody we have pondered about – an ex-girlfriend, a sister, a friend, a daughter, whatever. We can’t have easy answers to our complex lives but we can have a bit of insight to the thoughts of others.

Page 80

The Conversation with my ex was the first we had had that was good in a while, really good, about the girls, and I was, am, stoned. There you go, women in need or pot to get in touch with their emotions. Well, I needed that for sure.

Shit, I’m old. I’m too old. That woman at the counter, in the coffee shop, even if my coffee friend talked about me to her and the “hi” was because I was standing there and he didn’t think I would come in. He needs to be with someone young like himself. I am too old, I’m having a midlife crisis, perhaps; I mean the thought had crossed my mind. Going through all the boys and men in my life, and they are young.

“Night and day,” he said, as he followed my gaze out the window to a mother and daughter running together. Running with the girls and not.

Down The Street by Cassandra Cronenberg is a complex novella that gives insight to a confused mind to somebody we all know. A brilliant and bold read that is frank in it’s language. A great piece of literature.

Link to Cassandra Cronenberg’s website

Link to Quattro Books page for “Down The Street”