Monthly Archives: April 2016

“(The book) involves a process of coming into knowledge of the places I come from and the places the book travels to . . .” | Q&A with poet Laurie D. Graham

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History tends to be a biased cut-and-dry listing of facts. So it takes new interpretations to vault new perspectives upon us and open our minds to events that may direct still involve us today. Poet Laurie D. Graham has done that with Settler Education. Her reflections on the Frog Lake “massacre” and the Northwest Resistance has given some pause to reflect what our history texts stated. Graham recently answered a few questions on her latest work.

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First, off, can you give a bit of an outline of Settler Education.

Settler Education travels west to the site of what’s called the Frog Lake “massacre” and, more generally, the Northwest Resistance. It stays in those places, in what’s now east-central Alberta and central Saskatchewan, immersing itself in what happened there 130 years ago and what remains of those events now. It then moves into the cities—to Edmonton, to Regina, to Toronto—keeping itself trained on the Resistance in these present-day places. Settler Education tries to say something about the violence and injustice that brought about the Resistance and the deaths at Frog Lake, and to see better the ways it continues today.

Did you do much research for the book, was it a product of ‘pure imagination, or a combination of the two?’ How long did it take you to write it?

I did a large amount of research for Settler Education. As the title implies, it involves a process of coming into knowledge of the places I come from and the places the book travels to, so I read an awful lot, I dug into archives, I went to look at sites, I got to know places, I listened to stories.

My first ideas about the book came before I finished writing my first book, Rove, the first poems were written around 2009, things started clicking into place around 2012, and (McClelland and Stewart) accepted it at the start of 2015.

You already have a list of dates where you will be reading Settler Education. Are there any events/venues that you are excited to be reading your work? Will you be adding new dates as well?

I’ve got two readings scheduled in London and one in Edmonton, and I just recently did a couple of readings in Toronto, one of which was M&S’s poetry launch, a very well-attended event. It was a great night. And I’m looking forward to all my readings: Edmonton because it’s my home and I get to read with Myrna Kostash, and my London launch at the Oxford Book Shop because I’ve wrangled Tom Cull and Jean McKay to read with me, and I admire their work quite a lot.

In a Q&A you answered for me about a year ago, I asked you if your jobs as an educator and an editor helped you with your writing. You wrote:

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.

Now, one year later and another book published, do you still feel that way?

Yeah, definitely. I’m still trying to make enough time for all three of these gigs and to keep them all to their corners, and I’m still learning a lot from the teaching and the editing. Lately the pattern of my years goes that I work like mad through the fall and a bit less through the winter so I can have the summers more to myself and to writing. It’s been a good pattern, overall. Not perfect, of course, but utterly workable.

 One of the most talked-about questions I always ask on my blog is asking a published writer’s views on social media. Are you still keen on using Facebook and Twitter?

I use them a fair bit, and they are really good for following issues you’re interested in and keeping abreast of or letting people know about readings or events or good things to look at or read. But I remain more of a listener than a contributor on those platforms (as in life, mostly), and there’s a point when I have to turn these things off and get to work already.

 Have there been any new writers or any new books that you have read in the past year that have earned your praise?

I just read Tim Lilburn’s new book, The Names, and it is wonderful. He has a new voice in these poems, or at least it feels new to me. Liz Howard’s Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent and Soraya Peerbaye’s Tell have both been nominated to the Griffin Prize this year, and I think both books are highly deserving of this recognition. I recently read a book called Stolen Life, written by Yvonne Johnson, a descendant of the Plains Cree chief mistahimaskwa / Big Bear (along with Rudy Wiebe). This book was new to me, and it’s wonderful and wrenching. I’m reading Jenna Butler’s A Profession of Hope right now, and, as someone who enjoys putzing around in the garden, I am having a great time with that one.

 Are you working on or planning any new works right now? If yes, are there details you can share?

I’ve got some new poems in the hopper, but I don’t know much about them yet. They’re multiple in their intentions and even in their voices. I don’t know how things will turn out, but right now they are about clearcutting, about suburban sprawl, about animals, about sitting beside water, about sitting beside a fire. Pretty vague, I know, but that’s how it begins for me: turn off the editor in my head and just proceed towards that unnameable thing.

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Link to Laurie D. Graham’s website

Link to Penguin Random House Canada’s page for Settler Education

Link to my review of Settler Education

 

“A woman shared her experience on how the book had impacted her, and how important it was, she was also visibly emotional as she told us this.” | Q&A with Illustrator Kelly Mellings of The Outside Circle

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Graphic novels have a certain immediacy to them. And when they deal with social issues, their impact can be truly effective and enlightening. The skill behind their creation is an interesting one, as Kelly Mellings, illustrator of The Outside Circle, (Link to my review) has documented in his answers below.

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1) You refer to The Outside Circle as a ‘special project.’ How did you get involved in working in it?

Working relationship with (Native Counselling Services of Alberta). I had been approached by an employee of NCSA who had attended some art classes I taught at the Alberta Gallery of Art. She let me know that NCSA wanted to create a comic book to engage and educate a younger audience. This would be in conjunction with some of the video work the they do. I was super excited, and especially since this was a great example of commercial art that has a positive social purpose behind it. So we started on this on project ( a comic book named Breach, about breach of probation.) and created comics and other visual materials to help Aboriginal youth navigate the legal system. NCSA’s been educating, advocating and building better communities for many years and becoming involved with them is a huge blessing…a turning point in my career and also how I see things. (Patti Laboucane-Benson)’s research especially has enlightened me so much to our history as Canadians and how colonial policy still impacts today.

2) The Outside Circle has been discussed and mentioned in several different areas that have brought it to my attention. How are you finding reaction to it? Are there any memorable comments or moments that you care to share in relation to it?  

I am amazed and encouraged by the response it has gotten. Memorable moments are Shelagh Rogers talking with Patti about the book (and saying my name on air!), and Patti’s interview on the Current was fantastic (even touching on restorative justice). I’ve had positive comments from industry people I respect, artists, writers and editors who have influenced me creatively have had very nice things to say. The interviews/reviews are too many and too awesome to mention all of them, but Suzette Chan, Michael Hingston, Isabelle Gallant, Ardo Omer, and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center are some standouts.  The biggest and most heartwarming reaction was the first person to come to our release at Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton. The That moment hit home how special the book was. This was the kind of reaction we had been hoping for, and to have the first person who we talked to about the book be so moved by it was humbling and affirming.

3) Have you attended any public readings/discussions or any events involving The Outside Circle? If yes, how did you like participating in those functions? 

Many, it’s been an honour to be attending events or to have Patti attend with people who’s work I respect. Writers like Camilla Gibbs, Saleema Narwaz, Tracy Lindberg,  and Lawrence Hill…real writers…real amazing real life book writers. 🙂 I feel very out of my element with literary types, but everyone has been wonderful and it’s been amazing talking to book people who have encountered the Outside Circle as their first graphic novel. The readings and talks have also introduced me to new voices in the writing world, and encouraged me to stray out of my classics and graphic novels rut. I’ve enjoyed meeting and reading work by writers and poets outside of my usual comfort zone.

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4) How did you get involved in illustrating? Are there illustrators that you admire? If yes, who are they and why do you like their work?

I’ve always wanted to draw, and as soon as I knew that there were people that created comic books and made animation, I knew I wanted to work in that field. Post secondary there weren’t many options at the time when i went to school. I took a BFA in Art And Design at the University of Alberta, with a focus on Figurative Painting and Sculpture. I still should have drawn more though! After university I dabbled in fine art, having some gallery shows and some success in public art…but all my work was narrative based, I just wanted to tell stories with my art. Through my friend Katalin Wagner, I got my first major illustration gig at The Royal Alberta Museum, and then through another school friend Tanya Camp, I was made aware of opportunities to illustrate and create animations for educational resources with Alberta Education. From there I started doing educational and safety illustrations for many companies. With a strong drawing background and understanding of how to tell stories, or distill information, things started steamrolling and it became quite busy.

When the government needed some other artists to work on creating those educational resources I told my good friend (and talented illustrator) Corey to throw his hat in the ring. He was super talented, but he wasn’t doing as much illustration, as he had been running his own graphic design company. He ended up getting hired and we worked together creating learning objects and kids games for a few years. When work was getting slimmer in terms of contracts, we decided to start Pulp, doing some promo illustrations, and amalgamating our portfolios. Corey’s promo piece won an applied arts award, which got us the attention of our first big client, GS Skinner, who brought us in to do art for an online game for Microsoft…not bad for a first assignment as a company. From there it grew, with many cool clients and projects building on each other.

I’d say Travis Charest, Adam Hughes, Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez, Brian Stelfreeze, Ryan Sook, Mike Mignola and John Byrne, George Perez, Bart Sears, Jean Giraud, Bryan Hitch, Cully Hamner, Frank Miller, Sergio Toppi, Kevin Knowlan, Alex Toth, Alex Raymond, Archie Goodwin, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis are my biggest comic influences.

They influence everything from drawing style, to storytelling…most of my comics chops are filtered through them.

Outside of Comics I look often to illustrators like Ian McCaig, Vania, Norman Rockwell, JC Leyendecker, John Bridgeman Drew Struzan, James Jean, Charles Bargue, Jean Leon Gerome, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, and Scott Robertson.

These guys I look to for composition, storytelling in one image, draftsmanship and impact.

I also look to movies and books for storytelling, language and pacing.  Writers like Michael Chabon, Jonas T. Bengtsson, Thomas King, and directors like Guy Ritchie, Don McKeller, Frank Darabont, Stephen Spielberg, Brad Bird and Chuck Jones all contribute to my storytelling brain.

I also try to be a student of film, literature and comics…always seeking to learn from the masters.

5) Explain what the role of Pulp Studios (Click for Link) is and your involvement in it. I assume that you would be working on something new right now. If that is yes, are there details you can share?  

We have created learning resources for the government, many educational pieces, we have good working relationships with local film production places and advertising agencies, so we do quite a bit of animation and storyboards. We’re doing another educational comic with NCSA, some animation for The University of Alberta…really edgy and engaging safety illustrations in collaboration with PCL Construction…all of our projects are really rewarding and challenging creatively.

On a personal front, I’m writing an adult graphic novel that should be done in about a year, and my business partner and I are finishing up an all ages graphic novel that I’ve described as what would happen if Adventure Time and The Legend of Zelda had a baby that was raised by Monty Python. It’s called Hairoes of Haarwurzel and we’re almost done the manuscript. We are hoping to get illustrating that this year.

6) You seem to participate quite actively on social-media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. How do you like using those tools?

Hah! I love the immediacy, being able to connect with people I admire and respect very easily, I also love the fact that I’ve met and engaged with other artists or fans of my work. I still feel like I fumble around most social media. The only platform that I feel works for me instead of me chasing is Pinterest,  as I just look up my feed and pin things that inspire or that I might need to reference. So the tools are wonderful and have opened things up, but i feel a bit lost using them…I like drawing and making things…that’s what I am best at 🙂

7) Your bios. list you currently living in Edmonton? How do you like living there? Does it cultural scene give you any inspiration for you work?

I love the city and the neighbourhood where I live. We are near the university, close to downtown. We have mature trees and a quaint school and parks for my kids…wonderful coffee shops and restaurants.

Edmonton has a vibrant art and music scene, wonderful galleries ( Hi Lattitude 53, Harcourt House and AGA!), talented writers, intellectuals, some of the best improv artists in the world…it has a lot going for it.

My studio mate and business partner Corey Lansdell is a huge reason why I work here and we have a healthy competition between us (and have had so since high school). He’s much more acclaimed than I am, but I’m catching up!

We have some amazing local illustrators here that inspire and provide a sounding board. Amanda Schutz, Kyle Sams, Dwight Allott, Nicola Pringle, and Jason Blower just to name a few…the city is full of talent which both inspires and pushes us to do better as a studio.

We also have some amazing independent bookstores and comic stores that help to promote exceptional Canadian and Local work.

Places like Variant Edition, Happy Harbor Comics, Audrey’s Books are wonderful for the City’s comic and literary circles.

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Link to House of Anansi’s  website for The Outside Circle

A Ship Comes Ashore | Review of “The Wind Seller” by Rachael Preston (2006) Goose Lane Editions

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Small towns can be such intriguing settings for books. The high seas have also provided keen adventures for literature. Mix the two together with a bit of historical fact and a wonderful novel will arise from the blank pages. And that is what Rachael Preston has done with The Wind Seller.

Page 13

When Hetty was a girl, schooners and their square-rigged forerunners moored cheek to cheek across the Halifax waterfront, as much a part of the scene as the Citadel and the town clock, their bows nodding with the swell, masts and rigging criss-crossing the sky from the north-end train station almost all the way out to Point Pleasant Park. Since she moved to the village Hetty has seen the odd ketch stranded, waiting patiently on the mud for the tide to buoy it up again. But never a vessel on this scale. There’s something menacing in the way the schooner, painted black almost to her keel, consumes the wharf she is moored to, the way her bow angles above the horizon as if she’s mounting the bank, threatening to climb ashore.

Drawing closer, Hetty makes out people on the tilted deck, leaning their bodies into the ship for balance, calling to each other; she catches only the cadence, their words hollowed out by the wind. The damage Laura spoke of appears confined to the bow. The jib sails hang shredded amongst twisted ropes and splintered wood, and the bowsprit is but a jagged stump. Perhaps the Esmeralda – Hetty catches the schooner’s name as a gust billows the errant and tangled sails – has been in a collision.

As the path rounds the bow Hetty sees what was hidden from her view before, dozens of people milling about on the wharf. Normally she would avoid such a large congregation of Kenomee villagers, but today Hetty is as curious as her neighbours. And for once she isn’t the focus of their gaze. Some nod at her approach, others step back to let her pass. As she wends her way through the crowd, she catches snippets of the men’s conversation – “widow maker’s snapped right off,” “squall in the bay,” “if she didn’t catch the flood.” The carnival-like excitement in the air, the buzz of speculation, lifts her strange mood.

Preston has quite the story here surrounding the principal two characters; Hetty Douglas and Noble Matheson. Both are confused by the codes of conduct they are suppose to be following in their little Nova Scotian town as the 20th Century unfolds. Douglas is in a ‘marriage of convenience’ and Noble is a casual labourer suffering from a tiresome family life yet dreams of literary glory. Both witnessed the Halifax Explosion and are trying to deal with the horror of the event. Yet all their frustrations seem to take a back turn as the odd schooner and it’s crew come to town.

Page 72-73

Butler slaps Noble across the shoulders and holds out the whiskey bottle. A peace offering. “For you, my friend, a swallow of of Scotland’s finest.” In the moonlight Butler’s eyes glitter with menace. Noble licks his lips, which have dried and cracked since this afternoon, and takes the square-shaped bottle from his friend. He recognizes the label. Bushmills.

“This is Irish whiskey.”

“Irish. Scotch. It sure as hell beats Cyrus Warner’s moonshine.”

Corn liquor. Butler got his big mitts on a bottle once but Noble couldn’t take the way it scorched his throat and the lining of his stomach. He wasn’t much of a Scotch drinker to begin with – though Warner’s hooch hardly qualified as such. He liked ale and not much else. Though he’d enjoyed champagne once. Lawson’s doing. They’d shared a bottle during his brother’s leave; it was shortly after Noble’s release from hospital and just before the build-up to Vimy. Lawson told him how what was left of his company had stumbled into a shelled-out village and taken cover in one of the few remaining buildings with a roof. And a wine cellar. Empty but for a dozen bottles of champagne buried under a pile of wood. Five men grateful to be alive and one blissful giddy drunk. Laughter. Bubbles up their noses. The sweet smell of hay in the stable, a welcoming bed. Soft and dry.

Noble raises the Bushmills to his mouth and takes a swallow. His eyes water, but the kick behind his rib cage is  welcome, as is the slow, delicious feeling that he’s growing another layer of skin beneath his own. It’s been a rough day. And it’s been a long time. Because of Prohibition, any kind of legal alcohol has been near impossible to get hold of outside Halifax since the war, a fact that doesn’t sit well with a few he can think of, and no doubt a lot more besides,  no matter how it might have looked three and a half years ago to the vote-counters. He hadn’t voted himself. Not many had if you looked at the numbers. Mainly the women and those with enough money to lay in a five-year supply before the law changed. Bankers. Lawyers. Doctors.

Preston has captured here the clash of ideals and thoughts that make up the human condition. Urban versus rural. Desires versus norms. Tradition versus progress. Even love versus hate makes an appearance here. Added with a right amount of historical facts and details, a reader is thoroughly engaged with this book.

Page 155

Whitecaps have gathered in the bay. Waves slap against the sides of the Esmeralda, which in turn rubs and bangs against the wharf. Her jib stays, spanking new, tremble and twang in the stiff breeze. The job boom lifts and drops, and the bow of the schooner shudders and creaks. Noble, intent on his whiskey hunt, ears filled with wind, does not at first hear the footsteps along the wharf. Then he stiffens. Could be one of the crew, or a villager on the prowl for another bottle. He hunkers down in the bushes, heels knocking against the bottle, which he grabs, holding his breath until the person comes into view. It’s a woman, all dressed up in fancy evening attire and carrying some fancy wrap. Hetty Douglas? But then she pulls her hair from her neck and he can see it is Esmeralda.

Esmeralda in a sparkly dress and men’s boots. A contrast that common sense tells him should look absurd but which instead is unsettlingly erotic. The dress, despite lines designed to hide her curves, slithers and shimmers as she moves. Swaying fringe at the hem grazes her thighs. There’s nothing more seductive than a woman unaware she’s being watched, Noble thinks. Was the dress for Butler’s benefit? He hopes not, for Eliza’s sake more than his own. But if Esmeralda has been with Butler, why is she walking back to the schooner alone?

Rachael Preston has brought together a great novel with The Wind Seller. A perfect amount settings, intrigue and historical fact here sets the reader in a enlightening read and a memorable one.

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Link to Rachael Preston’s website

Link to Goose Lane Editions’ website for The Wind Seller

 

A Well-Crafted Memoir which Enlightens | Review of “In-Between Days” by Teva Harrison (2016) House of Anansi

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We live our lives in too fast a pace. We want everything at once and we want it now. So what do we do when something horrid comes along and stops us in our tracks. Cancer has struck us all in one way or shape and we our dumbfounded in our tracks when it occurs. So what do we do? What do we say? What do we think? When Teva Harrison was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she did what she has done all her life. She drew. And then she wrote. And in turn she gave us In-Between Days: A Memoir about Living with Cancer. And in it she gave us a guide to understanding life with cancer a bit better.

Preface – Drawing Forward  – Page 1

The brain is a tangle of memory, feeling, hope and dream. Pull on a thread and it all unravels. In order to make sense of my cancer, I found myself work through all the buried, unresolved hurt and memory from my life before cancer.

It took months of drawing about my childhood before I even started to draw about my experience living with the disease.

I’ve been an artist my whole life, but this is the first time I have felt the need for narrative. Figuring out how to tell my story with comic strips has been interesting and empowering. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I’ve since learned that it’s the unspoken that is most frightening. Shining alight on my experiences takes some of the power away from the bogeyman that is my cancer. I’m taking my power back.

I was extremely excited that Chapters/Indigo and Canada Post were somehow able to get this book to me one day before it’s official publication. I had been a fan of Harrison’s work in The Walrus magazine for a while now and she was gracious enough to do a Q&A for me a few weeks ago.(Link here) And many of us book fans have been eagerly awaiting this book. Cancer has a major hold for many people that it is a major factor of the human condition. Teva has opened up about her experiences here. Using her skills and her time, she has given us a guide of what living with cancer is like. And kudos are deserved for her effort!

Some People get Lucky – Page 16

If I found a magical elixir to turn back time, when would I go back to? What difference would it make, really, since my cancer is hereditary? Conception? Would I let the egg that became me flow, infertile, away with the menses?

No. I like to exist.

The clinical trial I’m on now doesn’t allow most of the complementary therapies I was taking. We just don’t know how they’ll react with the investigational drug. So I eased off. I still take very good care of myself, but two years in, the fever pitch has slowed.

I mean, the cancer is here, and I have a life to live. And sometimes living well includes eating something made with sugar or having a glass of wine with dinner. I’m not going to be hard on myself. I’m going to enjoy every minute I can.

Plenty of people eat fast food every day, watch hours and hours of TV, get blackout drunk, and they’re just fine. But it doesn’t matter if I treat my body like a temple; the problem is in my genes.

So, Here I stand.

This is luck of the worst kind.

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I CAN’T SLEEP – Illustration by Teva Harrison. Scanned image of Page 86 from In-Between Days

There is a certain frankness in both Harrison’s words and her black-and-white illustrations. The feelings shared are blunt, honest and deeply personal. Yet they are ones that many people have when dealing with cancer. Teva has given readers a strong message that they are not alone with the creation of this book.

Trying on Small Talk – Page 115

Small talk is easy when you have a job. If somebody asks you what you do, you already have an elevator pitch at the ready. Or if you have kids, you can just go on about their latest cute discovery. I can see why. Kids keep your eyes wide to the world.

Small talk is a minefield when all you have to offer is cancer. It’s touched everybody, but most people don’t know how to talk about it or don’t want to.

Except for a few people. There’s a type of person desperate to talk about cancer: people who want to process the loss of a loved one.

And let’s get real. The last thing this cancer patient wants to talk about is dead cancer patients.

But it is not all dire and seriousness in the book. Like the leftovers in mythical Pandora’s box, Tera documents the hope she has. There is some brightness and joy to be had and she shares that hope again with readers who need to know it exists for themselves.

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Dancing With My Mister
Illustration by Teva Harrison. Scanned image of Page 76 from In-Between Days

In-Between Days: A Memoir about Living with Cancer by Teva Harrison is a great example of literature and culture. Harrison has taken her illness and all the items associated with it and shared it with readers, making them not feel so alone and confused. This is a book that has been highly anticipated and deserves many laurels.

*****

Link to Teva Harrison’s website

Link to House of Anansi’s website for In-Between Days

Jarred from One Scene to the Next |Review of “My White Planet” by Mark Anthony Jarman (2008) Thomas Allen Publishers

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Reading a collection of short stories vaults a reader from one scene to the next and with it one emotion to another. It can be disconcerting for a reader but that is not necessarily a bad thing. If a reader is open to emphasizing with the protagonists in the stories, then the collection can be a personal enlightenment for the reader. And My White Planet by Mark Anthony Jarman is a great collection of short stories for doing just that.

Night March in the Territory – page 1

Post-battle march, stormy sky, no light. The weary surgeon pores over our bloody wounds, pours himself another drink. We hear our orders travel down the slope: Bury the officers, but not the enlisted men. A blunt message to us peons.

In this Territory there is too much light, then there is absolutely no light, then there is absolutely no light. The surgeon hides crates of brandy in his white tent. I would take a drink, some corn. We are bloodied and splayed like egrets on the oatgrass.

Where’s old Crabtree? I ask.

Stay here and you’re dead.

They shot Crabtree. They shot all of us.

Dead?

No answer from the yarb-doctor.

There is a brilliance in the way Jarman vaults us into deeply personal situations of anonymous characters in vague locations. We are pulled into each story and read on trying to found out more. But we are given more profound thoughts and deep emotions then the ending is upon us. The process is almost cleansing to read to the psyche and somewhat addictive to be wondering what more is involved in each story.

My White Planet – Page 26-27

We inhabit a line station secretly functioning after the accord, but something went dead after June 11. Our dishes and software seem without flaw, but our screens remain blank, thoughtless. No printouts. No officiant plies us with coded orders or fervent denials or demands our narrow circumspect data. Is everyone erased in a war or did a budget-conscious computer take us out in a bureaucratic oversight? We are paid puppets, but no one is pulling the strings and no cheque is in the mail.

The freezing girl is alive but unconscious, and our ungenerous God has delivered a delirious female to our ice garden where we look at each other in wonder, wondering about things, about our farm-girl concubine with drained lips, our charcoal-eyed dream girl, our homage, our stockpiled ohmage.

Peter the Preacher pulls out his blue-grey Czech pistol, says he’ll shoot us or kill her rather than let her be touched, and we know what he means, means our ugly paws on her lily-white flesh other than to save her, resurrect her, and I believe I once dreamed this part too, saw Peter the Preacher’s fine skull and fine rhetoric and his fine Czech pistol at our nostril hairs.

I was introduce to Jarman’s work via novelist William Kowalski. (Link to my Q&A with him) and read reviews of his work by Mark Sampson (Link to Sampson’s review of Jarman’s latest work Knife Party at the Hotel Europa.) One can see traits all these writers  have in common. It is almost evolutionary the way both explore the range of insecurities that their characters have and the situations they get themselves into.

Bear on a Chain– Page 57

Another bridge’s ethereal arches float to the southeast. His body fell from this bridge and passed under the exact middle of the second bridge, and when I look I feel I am looking down a gunsight. Trev came from the north side, ended up on the south side, had no lessons. And the course is pass-fail. He dropped out, they lost him on the radar.

A north-sider tells me that your lungs fill up with river water and you sink down with the new weight, lower and lower and gone.

How stunningly simple to leave our corner of the world, how fast, how easy – poof? Blink and you miss it. I demand more time, complications, pomp and circumstance, demand more pay dirt.

Walk along  the river, drive in a car over the river, see it every day for x number of years, mundane as an insurance office, an ordinary postcard, then one day you fall into the boring postcard and the boring postcard kills you.

My White Planet by Mark Anthony Jarman is an emotional yet enlightening collection of short stories. A reader that shouldn’t be rush and a read that should be pondered upon.

 

*****

Link to the University of New Brunswick’s biography page for Mark Anthony Jarman

Link to Dundurn Press’ page for My White Planet

 

 

“(I)t was just a matter of that year feeling very profound to me—so much so that I was moved to write about it” | Q&A with writer Craig Davidson

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Craig Davidson certainly enthralled us a few years ago with his book Cataract City. By writing it he certainly had us pondering our upbringings and wondering about the world we have around us for those we are raising in it. So a memoir by him describing a year he spent driving a school bus should be as equally enthralling. Hence Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077 should be equally enthralling.

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1) First off, could you give an outline of Precious Cargo?

Well, it’s pretty much a memoir about my year driving a school bus. An account of that year, the students I met onboard the bus, and the stories we shared with each other.

2) What was your motivation to write Precious Cargo? Is there anything you hope writing it will do?

I guess it was just a matter of that year feeling very profound to me—so much so that I was moved to write about it, which has never happened to me before. I don’t think I harbour any hopes beyond the hope that I did a good job, treated the subject matter and those kids and their families respectfully and lovingly, and gave a true and honest account of that year and what it meant to me.

3) Are there any common themes between Cataract City and Precious Cargo? Both books seem to deal quite a bit with youth and upbringing.

I’m not sure there are. You could probably find some if you really tried, bent your mind to the task, but there wasn’t any specific linkage I was going for or that seemed to jump out to me now, thinking about it. They’re both really important books to me, one an account—in some ways—of my own childhood, and this new book a real-life account of a slice of some other people’s childhoods. So there’s that element, I guess.

4) Are you planning a book tour with Precious Cargo? If yes, are there dates you are excited to partake in. Are book tours and public readings something you enjoy doing?

I’m in the midst of a small tour right now, but it’s primarily a press tour, as I guess you’d call it. Just radio shows and newspaper interviews, not a lot of readings. They’re something I enjoy doing to a degree, yes, but also there’s a worry—perhaps a small one, or perhaps one that will become more profound depending on how things go with this book—that I might be looked upon as some kind of an expert or advocate on a subject that I would never claim an expertise in. The book was written from a position of ignorance of a lot of things, including special needs and what that means and how society looks at adults or children who have some of the conditions presented in the children I drove. So while I’m happy to speak on what I learned, and hold opinions, they are not ironclad and are constantly shifting because it is a topic that seems to me so vast, and so nuanced, that I often feel helpless in trying to talk about it, thinking that I’m not finding the right words or expressing myself in the way that is truest and more importantly, respectful towards those kids. So … ask me again a year from now. We’ll see how I’m feeling.

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

Oh, all over the map. Stephen King. Thom Jones. Atwood. Didion. Goes on and on. I’m reading a lot of Robert R. McCammon right now. He rocks my socks off.

6) Has your writing changed much since you first started? If yes, how so?

I’m not sure it has. Or maybe. Probably unavoidably, yes. I’m not sure I can say how. I was disciplined from the start, in terms of putting myself on the grindstone and just, yeah, grinding out work. A kind of work ethic. If anything, that obsessional quality has slackened with having a wife and a child—can’t go squirreling myself away for days-long writing sessions with a family. Not the key to family harmony.

7) Is there much difference between the writing styles of Nick Cutter and Craig Davidson. If yes, how so?

I would say much. I’d say I’m a little more unhinged writing as Cutter, but that’s more a function of the subject matter and the flights of fancy one can occasionally take when writing horror. I bring the same discipline and focus no matter what hat I’m wearing.

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

Well, I’m glad you think so. I thing real Twitter-ers and Facebookers can see that I’m kinda just plopping stuff up on those apps just to be like, “Hey, I’m here! I’m Twittering, just like a real, socially-engaged writer!” I think it’s a skill, to be really funny and wise and interesting and prolific on those platforms. It’s not really my bag. But I struggle along.

9) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you care to share?

I’ve got a new collection of stories coming out next year, maybe, or whenever the publisher feels like publishing them. And a new Cutter book, Little Heaven, slated for Jan 2017.
10) Your bios. have you listed living in Toronto right now. How do you like living there? Does the city’s cultural scene help you with your writing at all?
Yeah, I’m in Toronto. I’m a bit of a hermit. I play basketball with a few writers, poker with a few writers, go to the odd event. I think there’s certainly a vibrancy to the scene, but I’m feeling more and more like one of those mid-career writers and the scene, as it is, seems to belong (as it should) to the young. I’m happy fogey it up on my own.

11) Any good advice for starting out or wannbe writers?

Butt in chair. Advice as old as time. Don’t wait on the muse. She’s got better things to do.
*****

“I would say having lived in a lot of places affects what I write about, and the kinds of stories I’m drawn to: displaced people, the marginalized, those who don’t quite fit it” | Q&A with author Rachael Preston

*****

1) First off, could you give an outline of The Fishers of Paradise?

It’s the story of Egypt Fisher and her family, who live in the boathouse community, a
collection of squatters’ shacks that line the shores of Cootes Paradise, a marshy
wetland at the head of Lake Ontario and the city limits of Hamilton, and what happens
when politicians try to drive them out to make way for a new bridge. And then a
handsome drifter settles in the community, as handsome drifters do, and Egypt and her
mother both fall under his spell. As if this wasn’t trouble enough, Egypt’s gambling con-
man father, Ray, suddenly returns after a mysterious six-year absence. Ray sorts by
self, the kind of man whom trouble follows. Unhinged by jealousy and a harrowing brush
with the local mafia at a cockfight, he reveals a family secret that sets Egypt’s world off-
kilter and poisons her relationship with her mother. When Egypt tries to turn the
situation to her own advantage, her lies set in motion a series of events with devastating
consequences.

2) How long did it take you to write The Fishers of Paradise? Is it a work of pure imagination for you or did you include any real-life events into the story?

A long time. Eight years from start to finish. Not that I was writing every day during this
time. Far from it. Several times months would go by when I felt unable to move forward.
Partly because I felt hamstrung by real-life events. With the exception of politician
Thomas McQuesten and his family, all the characters are fictional. But the boathouse
community did exist and the city did eventually drive them out. Without giving anything
away, one of the big turning points in the plot is based on a real event. But I struggled
with deciding who in my story was ultimately responsible. I used a lot of real settings—
industries, stores and cafes that existed at the time my novel is set—1930-1. Laura
works at Hand & Company Fireworks, another character at Greening Wire. The normal
and model schools feature prominently.

 

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

My favourite writers change all the time. A novel I read in the last year or so that is still
with me is Vincent Lam’s The Headmaster’s Wager. I read a lot of Canadian authors,
and I love big sweeping historical novels: Three Day Road, The Last Crossing, What the
Body Remembers. And novels about relationships: Bitter Lake, All Times Have Been
Modern, Annabelle, The Girls. I’m currently reading Helen Humphreys. I love her work.
Such powerful books.

4) Your biography has this book listed as your third novel. Has your writing changed since you started publishing? If yes, how so?

My writing process has certainly changed. I trust story more, trust the process. And I
can juggle more storylines now. Writing when you haven’t been published is very
different to writing once you have. I think every writer experiences this—the
expectations are different. What you expect from yourself and what others expect—or
what you believe they expect from you. That can mess with your head. My head,
certainly.

5) Are there any plans for a book tour for The Fishers of Paradise? If yes, are there any events you are excited to partake in? Are public readings/discussions of your books something you enjoy?

I just returned from Hamilton where I took part in gritLIT, Hamilton Writers Festival, a
festival I actually chaired for two years, many moons ago. I also had a library event in
Burlington. I love reading from and discussing my books. I tend to freeze in front of the
camera, but I spent over twenty years teaching, so once my hands stop shaking, I warm
to the audience and take my cues from the energy they bring. gritLIT was exciting too,
because I haven’t read at any public events in ten years—if you don’t count Talent
Nights and Choir Concerts (on Saturna Island where I took the opportunity to read from
manuscript pages).
I’m scheduled to return to Hamilton in June for what is the biggest moment in my career
The Fishers of Paradise has been chosen by Miranda Hill’s Project Bookmark
Canada to be Bookmark #16. The plaque will be unveiled June 10th along the
Desjardins Waterfront Trail. Other events are to be rolled out during this time, including
a Hamilton Public Library event, the official launch for Fishers and a new imprint launch
—James Street North Books—by Wolsak & Wynn. Fishers is actually the first book
published under this imprint.

6) You seem to be an active participant on Facebook and The Fishers of Paradise is part of a giveaway promotion on Goodreads. How do you feel about using the internet as a means of promoting your works? Will you be expanding your social-media presence to other sites (i.e. Twitter) soon?

“When I first got sick, I had trouble finding anything that showed me how it feels to live with cancer, how to make sense of the emotional weight of it, of the changes to my life. So, I started to draw.” | Q&A with writer/graphic artist Teva Harrison

days2

Cancer, when it hits us or our loved ones, throws us into shock.  And, no doubt when Teva Harrison found out that she was diagnosed with cancer, she was in shock too. So she drew. And she wrote. And through all drawing and writing came out her book In-Between Days. And in it she has given us something to consider and relate to when the disease strikes.

*****

1.Using your own words, can you give a bit of an outline of In-Between Days?

In-Between Days is a book about making sense of a terminal cancer diagnosis, and learning how to keep on living. It’s a non-chronological memoir told in comics and short essays that explores what it is to live with cancer, what’s lost and what’s still here. Notably, I’m still here.

2.What was your primary motivation to create In-Between Days? How long did it take to create?

I wasn’t initially drawing to make a book. I was drawing for myself, to make sense of my muddy, muddled thoughts and feelings. It helped me to draw, it still does. I decided to share the work online in hopes that it would find is way to somebody working through similar experiences. I’m still amazed that I had the opportunity to turn those initial investigations into a book. I’m really grateful to House of Anansi for welcoming and guiding me through that process.

This is my first book, so my perspective isn’t worth much, but I am told that this book was produced very quickly. It took about a year.

3. The descriptions for the book state that it is a combination of illustrations and essay. Is all the work based on memories and experiences or did you do any research for it as well?

The work interprets memories and experiences. They essays are personal, but I believe there’s something universal about my experiences and emotional response. Rather than writing a book about cancer, I wrote about how I am figuring out how to live with cancer, how to still have meaning with diminished possibilities and capabilities.

4.It looks like a limited circle of people have already seen the book. How has the reaction been to it so far? Has there been any memorable reactions to the book you care to share ?

I’ve felt so grateful for the positive response the book has received so far. I feel that people have been very kind. It has been so heartening to see authors and artists I respect like Joseph Boyden, Vincent Lam, Guy Maddin, and Kathleen Hanna respond so positively to the work. The most rewarding thing, though, has been the look of knowing – of understanding and being understood – that I’ve encountered from other people living with cancer or other terminal or chronic illnesses, and the people who care about and for them.

5. Do you have any specifics hopes for the book? Is there anything you would like it to accomplish?

It is my sincere hope that this book will find its way to somebody who needs to feel understood, not alone, in their health crisis. I am sharing it because I wanted to find something like it – emotional, honest, explicit, when I was first diagnosed – to give me some idea of what I was going to experience. I look forward to seeing if and how it can be useful to other people, either ill themselves or supporting an ill person.

6. You seem to have an active role on social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. How do you like using those applications? Are you hoping to use those apps. in order to gauge reaction to In-Between Days?

I’ve been active on social media for a long time. One of the things I love about these kinds of platforms is the opportunity for an immediate response. I think there’s a great possibility for iterative improvement in these environments. The comics that developed into this book were first published online. That means that I had a real-time response as my comics developed. That absolutely influenced me to develop my craft at a more rapid rate than I would have in a vacuum. In addition to gauging reaction, social media has afforded me the opportunity to tap into a remarkable online community gathering around the shared experience of a cancer diagnosis, stage IV or otherwise. I feel really lucky to have made the connections I have, although I do wish the circumstances were different for all of us. 

7. Is there a tour for planned for In-Between Days? (I know of the launch at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto on May 4) If yes, are there any dates you are excited to partake in?

Right now, I am booked into a few upcoming readings and festivals, The Ottawa Writers Festival, The Ontario Writers Conference Festival of Authors, and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I’m also helping out at two of Toronto’s many amazing bookstores for Authors for Indies Day. I am really excited about all of the events! I feel very lucky, not just to be invited, but to be well enough to participate. I look forward to seeing where else the book might take me!

8. What is the state of your health? How are you feeling?

Thanks for asking. Right now, my cancer is basically stabilized by the drugs I am taking in a clinical trial. My pain is fairly well managed thanks to my palliative care team, acupuncture and massage. I get tired easily, but if I manage my time well, building in time for naps and rest, not taking on too much, I’m able to feel fairly well. There are some things, of course, but as symptoms and side effects come up or change, I work with my healthcare team to manage them. Stage IV breast cancer is incurable, but it can be treated, at least for a time. In the best case scenario, it can be rendered chronic with a series of treatments, adjusted and applied as the cancer adapts to evade them. I have regular clinic visits, blood work and CT scans to monitor my tumours. I’m getting better at living with the uncertainty of living scan to scan.

9. Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you care to share?

Yeah! After spending so much time drawing exclusively about cancer, I really wanted to spend some time just focusing on things that delight me, so I’m working on The Joyful Living Colouring Book. It’s a lot of fun to draw!

*****

Link to Teva Harrison’s website

Link to House of Anansi website for In-Between Days

The Ability to Improve Humanity | Review of “STOPGAP” by Liam Card (2016) Dundurn Press

Stopgap

Imagine if you had the power to improve humanity – everybody on Earth – all at once, would you do it? And are you certain that  thing you would do would actually improve humans? Hmmm. Quite the quandary. That is the premise that Liam Card brings forward in his book STOPGAP.

Page 8

For much of my abbreviated life on Earth, the relationship I had with death was a inconsistent as it was mystifying. As a boy, attempting to wrap my mind around the unflinching laws of nature seemed the most unnatural of tasks – a mental decathlon resulting in total upheaval versus that of order and balance. Suddenly, life no longer came with a guarantee on the packaging. Life was something that could be lost. And not lost like an action figure or a baseball over the fence. Not like a scarf or rogue winter glove that could find its way into the lost and found. Life was now something that could be permanently unaccounted for. No tricky coin slot for second tries. No chairlift up for another wild run at it. On any given day, one could happen to be with out it.

Dead.

Yet, dead is what Luke Stevenson finds himself in. This simple jeweler who was trapped in a frustrating marriage should have been granted a simple afterlife. Yet, as a ghost, he is put in charge to mentor Safia, an angry teenager who died a violent death. But Safia’s powers go beyond what any other ghost can do – actually interfering with the living to the point of killing them – and Luke becomes ensnared in Safia’s plans to rid the world of violent acts between humans.

Pages 101-102

“I’d like to know why my involvement and service is required before you go on your self-justified killing spree.”

“First, let me tell you about Operation Stopgap,” she said. “The world has been able to operate as it has for far too long. Too often, those who harm or kill others walk away with little to no punishment to speak of, and to be clear, I do not consider time behind bars or life in prison to be justice. Clearly, then the criminal justice system in place is not working, nor is it terrifying enough to deter a person from committing atrocities. The world needs something to close the gap between violent crime and punishment. Thus, I present to you our operation. Anyone caught in an attempt to commit a malicious act toward another human being with the clear intent to maim, murder, or cause sever bodily harm is considered guilty, as per the mandate of Operation Stopgap. Upon identification of the Thought Marker, that individual is to be executed before the act of violence can be committed. Luke, this is where you come in. I cannot be gathering information to process. I need you to collect the data. I need you to chart the thought patterns of malicious intent and rank those individuals according to Thought Markers and the time horizon of the event taking place,” she said, and she showed me exactly how to do that. “You send me the coordinates of Thought Markers, and I will be racing around the world, protecting the innocent. It’s that simple.”

“You don’t think any of this is wrong?”

Card has a unique writing style perhaps coming from his background in film. His descriptions are short, quick, descriptive and vivid. And  that works well for a plot dealing with abstracts from visions of the afterlife. Trying to understand something we haven’t truly experience can be hard to explain, but Card does give us a suggestion of what might lay beyond.

Open-minded or closed, agnostic or fundamentalist, no one is prepared for the Post-Death Line. And being unprepared is without fault. As humans, the one thing we are all guilty of is living in the world. You can’t pick the continent or country of your parents, nor can you pick their belief system. We become bombarded with right and wrong from an early age. We are hammered into form like a blacksmith shapes wrought iron, and generally, we do out best to fit in with the herd. We become consumed by stories and promises and drink it all in. There is power in words and in numbers. We remove ourselves from what’s real and hang on to what sounds good.

The Line gets all of this sorted rather quickly and efficiently.

Here’s how it works:

Imagine the impossibly long lines at customs after an international flight or two has landed. Lines chock full of people from varying countries and creeds, all ripe with unique experiences and stories to tell. Imagine each line running parallel to one another and place tens of thousands of people in each row. Now arrange those lines as if they are the steel spokes on a bicycle wheel, attached to a centre core.

Where the spokes meet the core is where the Bookkeeper exists.

Many of him, actually.

Copies of him, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, like a string of paper dolls. And the Bookkeeper stands there, receiving the recently deceased after they have made their way to the Post-Death Line.

STOPGAP is certainly a unique and interesting book. It causes a reader to ponder and wonder not only about life after death but the notions of right and wrong. In short a good read.

*****

Link to Dundurn Press’ website for STOPGAP

Link to a Q&A Liam Card did for me about STOPGAP – “For me, this novel was born out of my frustration watching the news and reading the paper every day”

Nowhere to Heal a Warrior’s Wounds | Review of “The Hundred Hearts” By William Kowalski (2013) Thomas Allen Publishers

hearts

A family unit is suppose to be one place where a member can go to experience love and healing.  It is suppose to be a place where members come together for nurturing and support. But when one or more members of the family unit themselves are seriously damaged, then that family unit itself becomes dysfunctional. And the pain and suffering quietly continues for each of the members. It is a more common reality than our mass-media induced society cares to show us but it is one that William Kowalski has skillfully crafted in his book The Hundred Hearts.

Page 9

A month after they’ve consigned the remains of his grandmother, Helen, to the flames of the crematorium, Jeremy sits in his car in the parking lot of Sam “The Patriot” Singh’s Fortress of America Motel, a crumpled note in his hand. The not had arrived today in his faculty mailbox. It’s written in pencil on a piece o ragged-edged notebook paper. The handwriting is decidedly feminine. He knows whose it is. In just a few weeks, he’s learned to discern the penmanship of most of his nearly forty students. He’s wrestled with himself over whether he should open it, sensing that whatever it said, it would get him into trouble. But in the battle between curiosity and discretion that took place in his mind, curiosity had discretion on the ropes.

Room 358. I need you, Jeremy.

You’re the only one who can help.

Help with what, he doesn’t know. Merely being in possession of this note makes Jeremy nervous. He’s already received a lecture from Peter Porteus, principal of Elysium High School on the importance of propriety: don’t let yourself be caught alone with a female student, for God’s sake, and if you do keep doors open, keep hands to self, et cetera. It is preferable to wrap yourself hermetically in plastic and stay on the other side of the room

Kowalski has a direct yet sincere writing style and this book is a perfect example of it. The story deals with Jeremy Merkin, a former soldier whose tour of duty in Afghanistan had traumatic events that  his body and mind have issues still dealing with. He has returned to his hometown of Elysium, California but the town has no  mythical or realistic hopes for him or its citizens for an ideal life. It is a fading community on the edge of the desert whose citizens merely exist in a state of shock, waiting for the results of a broken promise to come true. Jeremy lives in the basement of his grandparent’s home along with his mother and a mentally-challenged cousin and works as a high-school teacher. He is constantly self-medicating on marijuana to deal with the pain and anxiety he suffers from which in it self leads to interests results.

Page 67-68

Downstairs, he makes himself comfortable on his mattress and eats his double-frosted sugar bombs while watching the latest Japanimation classic Rico’s Dropboxed him. Then he pours himself a cup of tea. Now that he has a job, the guilty edge these mornings used to have has faded. He leans back against his pillow with a sense of pleasantly high contentment. Nowhere to go, nowhere to be, nothing to do. Monday is a light-year away. If he were a truly dedicated teacher, which he isn’t, he’d already be thinking about what he was going to teach next week. Tomorrow night he’ll hop on Google and see what lesson plans exist out there for him to steal.

The last three weeks have been a panicky time. He hasn’t been teaching; he’s been doing his best imitation of a teacher. Porteus knew he didn’t have any experience when he hired him, but he’d assured him he’d be fine, that he could tell he’d be a natural in the classroom. He can see this was a blatant lie; Porteus was desperate for a warm body.

In his naivete, Jeremy had believed he could simply engage his students in Socratic dialogues of the sort he and Smarty used to have, and together they would wing their way through the world of knowledge, delighting in the mysteries of the universe. Maybe he could even teach them about the Fibonacci sequence. He’d forgotten the crushing load of ennui that high school students carried with them everywhere, the blank stares, the hostile resistance to doing absolutely anything. He’d hoped to find out what interested them and build a curriculum of sorts around that, but he’d realized within about two minutes that they weren’t interested in anything, at least nothing he was allowed to discuss.

He’d also thought, for some insane reason, that the students would respect him because he was young. Instead, they seemed to think this meant they could get away with anything. On the first day of school they’d aligned themselves into groups, boys on one side, girls on the other, cool kids in the back, dweebs in the front, and had begun to talk amongst themselves as if he wasn’t even there. Engage them, Porteus had said; teaching is infotainment. But Jeremy was not an infotainer. In his vocabulary, to engage meant to lay down heavy fire, to shoot to kill. During his very first class he’d felt a panic attach coming on, and he’d only been able to prevent it by pretending that getting to the end of the period was an objective, and that his job was to attack and hold objective until reinforcements arrived. He’s still not sure how he’d made it this far. sometimes he looks at their glazed-over faces and thinks, If only you could see what I have seen. But he’d been trained to see those things so other people didn’t have to see them. That was the role of the army: not to fight for freedom, whatever that nonsense meant, but to see the unseeable, do the undoable, and later to try to forget the unforgettable. And to somehow try to fit back into a society that had no clue.

I usually hate using $50 psychological terms but Kowalski has written something here that reflects the zeitgeist – the spirit of the times. Jeremy is an adult trying to fit in someplace but it doesn’t happen. He is missing the guidance, the social network and simply the love to survive to be a positive member of society. He exists and that is it. He is like so many people in real life but one that rarely discussed or portrayed in mass media.

Page 95-96

Jeremy remembers that birthday party clearly. Abortive is a charitable way to describe it. Wilkins had appeared out of nowhere, uninvited, his presence unnerving everyone – most of all Rita. His birthday present to Jeremy had been a rock. Not a particularly pretty or interesting rock, just a rock like you might find anywhere, but which for Wilkins apparently had some sort of symbolic significance. He’d tried for several minutes to explain it to Jeremy, with no success. Then he’d wrapped himself in a bedsheet and spent the afternoon in a corner, glowering at the other partygoers, all boys who were tripping balls on sugar and making tremendous amounts of noise. When they’d asked who Wilkins was, Jeremy pretended not to know. The highlight of the party was when the police arrived. It transpired that they had been called by Al, and they led Wilkins away, sobbing. Jeremy had been very popular after that, because no one else had ever had a police birthday party before.

“It’s okay,” Jeremy says. “Hardly anybody has fathers anymore.”

“Sad but true. You’re not angry?”

“I guess I would be, except that so much other shi-stuff . . . has happened that  . . .well, it’s all relative, you know?”

“So you didn’t come here for a confrontation?”

“A confrontation? No. Why would I do that?’

“You know. Son accuses father of being a bad father. Of being absent, abusive, egocentric. All of which I’m guilty of. Father repents, begs forgiveness. Father and son hug. Emotional string music on the soundtrack. The audience sniffles and goes home feeling redeemed.”

Maybe in some other, forgotten era of his life, Jeremy has harbored such thoughts. Maybe there was a time when he was angry at his father for not being a father. But all this is so far in the past that he doesn’t even remember it. It all ceased to matter a long time ago.

William Kowalski has documented an unexplored yet common state of life in his book The Hundred Hearts. It is a touching and poignant read for our anxious and lonely times.

*****

Link to William Kowalski’s Website

Link to Dundurn Press’ page for The Hundred Hearts

Link to a Q&A William Kowalski did for me “Anything that isn’t writing is hindering my writing . . .”