Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tonight's the night!

Okay everybody, one last reminder from me. Tonight is the Toronto launch party for Sad Peninsula. If you're free and can make it out, I would love to see you. Here are the details:

When: TONIGHT, Tuesday September 30.
What time: 6 to 8 pm
Where: Ben McNally Books - 366 Bay St., Toronto

M.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Interview with me in Open Book Toronto

I just want to alert y'all to this lovely interview with me that appeared on the Open Book Toronto website yesterday. Not only do I talk about some of the themes and characters in my novel, Sad Peninsula, but I also let readers in on my daily writing rituals and what I've been reading lately. Anyway, thanks to OBT for giving me some digital ink. Check it out.

M.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

An interview with Ron Schafrick

So I'm back on Canadian Writers Abroad today, this time to interview fellow Toronto author Ron Schafrick about his killer debut collection of short stories, Interpreters (Oberon, 2013). These seven tales take a fresh, unique approach to the standard expatriate narrative, told mostly from the perspective of gay men trying to find a sense of self and of belonging in a foreign country. In this interview, Ron talks about the extreme emotions that his time in South Korea engenders in him, and how the country continues to shape and influence his imagination. Anyway, thanks to Debra Martens for asking me to do this, and thanks to Ron for being such a generous interviewee. Check it out!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Stowaways, by Ariel Gordon

I feel like this review requires more than one ‘full disclosure’ from me. I’ll confess that I’ve known Ariel Gordon since the 1996/97 academic year, when we were journalism students together at King’s in Halifax. I’ll also confess that I myself have entered into a relationship with her publisher, Palimpsest Press, which I’ll be making an announcement about in the coming weeks. What else? Should I mention that I spotted a number of Ariel’s poems when they were first published in literary journals, and admired them immensely? That they whetted the appetite to read a full collection of hers? Is that something one needs to disclose?

At any rate, I would still say that Stowaways is a delightful and energetic sophomore outing even without these tenuous connections to its author. The poems in this collection grapple with both the wild and the mundane, the animalistic nature of nature and relentless responsibilities of parenthood. Many of these pieces, especially in the first two parts, are in fact about collisions between the feral world and the domestic one. In poems like “Wingless Females”, “Little Pig,” and the collection’s title poem, Gordon (switching to the surname now; this is a review, after all) shows us how the natural world can insinuate itself into small, household moments. From the latter example:

I was glaring at the roof of the car
when I saw the wood tick
on your neck & when you lowered
the window & tossed it out, its legs skittered
against the dray ridges of skin
on your thumb

In each of the poems mentioned above, we see how the feral and domestic are not separate spheres that never touch; they are in fact informed and influenced by each other, in lots of small, startling ways. As if to remind us of the omnipresence of nature, Gordon peppers a number of her pieces with little asides of birdsong, from geese, grackles and other fowl.

There is also a great deal of playfulness to be found in Stowaways, especially in Part 3, which is a compilation of how-to poems. We get everything from “How to Make a Collage” and “How to Treat Leprosy” to my favourite, “How to Be Angry in Public”: “For use when women are on opposite sides of busy roads or being successfully restrained by spouses or members of one’s book club.” Here, Gordon is unafraid to stretch her funny bone for the pure zest of it.

I did have a few gripes, here and there. A few how-to poems bled into Part 4 of Stowaways, with no real explanation as to why they weren’t included in Part 3 with the others. There were some questionable punctuation decisions with a number of the pieces, especially in Part 1. And I also felt the collection would have ended much more strongly on “Apparent Magnitude: the Finlay 15P,” rather than making it the penultimate poem. This piece is a tiny tour de force about the astrologer William Henry Finlay, and its lines loop and swing and sparkle across our night sky like the very comet it describes. It also ends on the single-most devastating line in the collection, “(My father died alone)”, which would have been a much stronger note to finish on.

But small quibbles about a strong book. Gordon shows she’s got the chops to write in a number of modalities, and has a rich variety of subject matter in her brain to keep us guessing what she might write next.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sad Peninsula news: More event dates!

Okay, so I'm very excited to announce that I've got some additional events confirmed for Sad Peninsula (including a mini-tour of the Maritimes in December, which I'm very excited about.) Here are the newest additions to the tour, in chronological order:

  • Signing: Sunday, September 21, 2014. 12:00 to 12:30 pm. The Dundurn booth: Word on the Street, Toronto.
  • Reading: Thursday, October 16, 2014. The Bookshelf. 41 Quebec St., Guelph, Ontario. With John Jantunen. Details TBD.
  • Reading: Tuesday, December 16, 2014. The King's Bookstore, University of King's College. Halifax, NS. Details TBD.
  • Reading: Wednesday, December 17, 2014. The Confederation Library, Charlottetown, PE. 7 pm.
  • Reading. Thursday, December 18, 2014. The Attic Owl Reading Series. Moncton, NB. 7 pm. Details TBD.
So if you're in any of these cities and can make it out on the nights listed above, I'd love to see you. And as always, please check out my events page for the full list of upcoming and past events. (If you run a literary event series and want me to come read, please drop me a line.)
M.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Me on the 49th Shelf

So today is actually my birthday, and the morning started off with many fine things: a series of delightful gifts from my wonderful wife; weekday waffles (so decadent!) for breakfast; and the good folks at the 49th Shelf posting this piece by me, "Lives Abroad", on their website. In this essay, I talk about a number of works by Canadian authors that either helped inspire Sad Peninsula or share a kinship with it. I include fiction by Margaret Laurence, David Bergen, Esi Edugyan and others. I consider this a nice little intro list into Canadian expat writing or writing about life aboard, so you should check these titles out if you haven't already. (And Sad Peninsula, too, of course.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Interview with me on the Dundurn Press website

So I'm very grateful to Dundurn for publishing this interview with me on its website yesterday. Here I talk about the themes and some of the inspiration of my new novel, Sad Peninsula, how I came up with the title, and the level of research involved in writing the story.

Dundurn has been pushing the book pretty hard since it was released last weekend. It's available in bookstores nationwide and also available through many online retailers. Anyway, I'll have more news to report on the book shortly, so stay tuned for that!

M.