Monday, March 20, 2017

Literary Lineage

My first literary influence was Margaret Laurence. 

Laurence was born & went to school 50 miles from where I grew up in Manitoba. She wrote about places I knew and people exactly like the people I was related to, including an old woman with dementia lost in an abandoned BC cannery. I was about 14 when I read The Stone Angel. When I read The Diviners I felt that there was absolutely nothing left to say. But I recovered somewhat after a few years. I went to university 50 years ago in the age of raging Canadian nationalism, after the Centennial. For many years I read only Canadian writers. Then my influences in order of importance were Leonard Cohen, Dorothy Livesay, Carol Shields, and Alice Munro. I took a course from Dorothy and I met Carol through the writers' guild. Before I was bitten by the Canada bug, I was into D.H. Lawrence and John Fowles. A gaggle of romantics, for sure. I have always been more interested in content than in style. I guess I like male writers who talk about sex and relationships and nature and addiction, and female writers who highlight the importance of the lives of girls and women. In my novel Embers, my first goal was to write a story with an older female protagonist. I am so tired of coming-of-age stories of teens inventing sex.

I know Cohen was influenced by Layton (very lusty) and in The Diviners Laurence returns to Old Country roots and to the ancestral writers who celebrated the Celtic heritage buried beneath Britain. This may also explain my passion for Irish literature (anything by John O'Donohue or Roddy Doyle). Coming to terms with "being on the wrong side of history," with being descended from oppressor colonials (how I hate the term "settler"), learning to meet and know Others, being able to empathize with and identify with victims and victim groups, giving voice to the voiceless are other running themes for me. And the importance of place. Our rootedness in place. Our place in the world.

For relaxation reading, I like detective stories where the protagonists always succeed in restoring order out of chaos. Lately, my two faves are Louise Penny (Quebec, Montreal & the Eastern Townships) and Ian Rankin (Edinburgh). Face it, I love Rebus, a man who loves his city and whose work is his life. And my guilty pleasure is Lee Child's Jack Reacher thrillers. So sorry to admit that. Although I always refuse to acknowledge the body count, these novels are page-turners, but well-written page turners, I like to think. Child has a lot to teach us about character development, hooks, scenes, pacing, and about hiding personal story within the larger political plots. Never thought of it quite this way until I took Nicole's CNF course. Thanks again. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Killing Floor

Lee Child. Killing Floor: The First Jack Reacher Novel. 1997.

Another lost weekend, starting and finishing a 500-page thriller. The first Jack Reacher novel, set in Georgia. Jack's brother has called him to Margrave in search of Blind Blake. Jack meets Roscoe, a local policewoman, and other residents of the mysteriously clean and well-kept town. Chaos ensues. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Two Pints

Roddy Doyle. Two Pints. Jonathan Cape/Random, 2012.

Hilarious. Two characters meet daily for a pint, two pints, in a Dublin pub and discuss the latest news, sports, family drama. Told completely in dialogue. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sex, Death & Travel

Mona Fertig. Sex, Death & Travel. Oolichan, 1998.

The secondhand copy of this book I found at The Bookman has a beautiful full-colour French-fold cover. The title page identifies the collection as "prose poems" which is a good reminder that prose poems have been published for at least twenty years. I never cracked the code as to why some phrases are in italics although I have faith that there is a reason. I found the Travel section the most accessible. I imagine I have experienced the look and feel of Australia and some islands without ever having been there. The section on Death makes me wonder: are these prose poems non-fiction? It is still never safe to assume. A wonderful gift as I labour at my creative non-fiction course. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Black & Blue

Ian Rankin. Black & Blue. Orion, 1997.

I still love Rebus, and this is an earlier title I somehow missed. Bible John and Johnny Bible, in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Shetlands, Peterhead, and on the North Sea oil rigs. This is the cover of the secondhand paperback I found, but this is not the actor whose face I see when I read the novels. 

 And Rebus and Siobhan:

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Defiant Mind

February 12, 2017

Ron Smith. The Defiant Mind: Living Inside a  Stroke. Ronsdale, 2016.

A very interesting and beautifully written insider's account of recovery from a stroke. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Beautiful Losers

Leonard Cohen. Beautiful Losers. Viking, 1966. Bantam, 1967.

How many times have I read this novel trying to figure out some meaning?