Yeah, I know - I'm just as surprised as anyone. But yes, there's a new review of Off Book over on Daniel Perry's blog that popped up yesterday. Perry's got some nice things to say about the book's characters and story, and he's spot on when he describes it as a "hybrid of the academic novel and the bildungsroman." He is also, sadly, spot on when pointing out the text's various flaws and errors, about which I'm in full agreement. Still and all, I'm grateful for the attention.
(He says he's also looking forward to the release of my Korea novel. That makes two of us. Still no publisher, though. I'll keep you all posted if that ever changes.)
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
It’s not so much the idea as what you do with it. This has been the mantra of countless critics, reviewers, writing profs and editors, and it’s generally true. You can write about something as ordinary as surviving a trip to the supermarket (as, say, Amy Jones does brilliantly in her short story “How to Survive a Summer in the City”) or something as extraordinary as surviving the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima (as, say, Dennis Bock does in his novel The Ash Garden); and provided you do so with panache and originality, you can get away with it. The understanding, however, is that if you’re going to use a lot of well-worn ideas, you better find a way to make them new.
Margaret Gibson’s novel Opium Dreams travels unapologetically across some very familiar landscapes. Here is a book that explores memory and the past (sound familiar?), loss, sexual abuse, a parent dying of Alzheimer’s, and the impacts of war on the psyche. Published by McClelland & Stewart in 1997, Opium Dreams very much follows the Atwood-Urquhart-Michaels template popular with M&S at the time (think The Underpainter or Fugitive Pieces): elliptical narratives with no real sense of plot; a structure fragmented in, dare we say, predictably unpredictable ways; and characters who in no sense resemble real people but are instead navel-gazing manifestations of pure emotion.
Okay. Having said all that, there were times in Opium Dreams when Gibson was able to cut through this formulaic pap and write scenes that took my breath away a little. Her protagonist, Maggie Glass, is a writer, a single mom (referring to her son simply as The Kid), and sibling to a brood of women known variably as The Sisters Three. Maggie spends the novel trying to piece together the past of her Alzheimer’s-suffering father, especially his time spent in northern Africa during World War II, and how that relates to her own experience of being molested as a young teen, her subsequent suicide attempt using poison, and her incarceration in a mental institution. What grabbed me was not just Maggie’s ability to adopt the perspective of her father in relaying his narrative, but rather her ability to invert that perspective so that she can actually see herself through her father’s eyes and describe herself in a brilliantly dispassionate third-person point of view. This sort of thing is incredibly difficult to do well, but Gibson handles it with precision and skill.
Alas, that’s about the only positive thing I could get out of this novel. The rest of it is undone by its obsession with high-minded and overly literary fragmentation, not to mention a protagonist strangling on a brand of solipsism that seems unique to the Baby Boomer generation. (No one else has experienced a dying parent like I have experienced it. No one else has endured sexual abuse like I have endured it.) Is it possible to feel as though a novel is too autobiographical without actually knowing very much about the writer’s life? That’s the sense I got from Gibson, that she was working out a lot of issues in her personal life with this book and often lost control of that gushing hose of sentimentality:
What is there left to lose?Any more.Clarice hissing out, A boy … Down-there.My father’s arm, the bolt of the door.A sky turned black.Screams.Mine.Secrets. How many more secrets, how many more tender, mercy-giving strokes of the knife blade until … until … one is emptied?Emptied of everything.
To which I wrote in the margin: Oh, get over yourself! Opium Dreams is a novel that needs to learn that less is often more, that emotional resonance comes best—and paradoxically—from concision and detachment and well-chosen details, not from a relentless mucking around in the self and vague ejaculations about the past. This is no more the case than when you’re writing about feelings and experiences that have been written about so many, many times before. Do it new. Show me how this is different. Tell me why I should care.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
It’s been a while since I’ve dipped into the strange, elusive world that is French literature. With the exception of a Michel Houellebecq novel a few years ago and a backlist title by Marie-Claire Blais last year (she’s French Canadian, yes, but the elliptical weirdness and envelope-pushing was still there), I can’t think of the last time I had my brainmeats expanded by the forays of a French scribbler. Jean-Philippe Toussaint certainly holds his own with his language’s rich tradition in The Truth about Marie, a novel that possesses the cold, secular jolts and stylistic experimentation that we’ve come to expect from France’s contemporary literature.
Yet what The Truth about Marie gains in its alluring eccentricity, it loses in its structure and, well, raison d'être. The book appears to be a sequel of sorts to a Toussaint novel that I haven’t read, called Running Away. That’s perfectly fine – I’m happy to truck onwards without an adequate back story at my disposal – but I’m still wont to judge a work by how it stands on its own. The Truth about Marie has three sections, all narrated by Toussaint’s unnamed protagonist and involving his capricious love interest, the titular Marie. While the story drops us unapologetically in medias res – with the narrator and Marie on the outs with one another upon returning to Paris from Japan, and each having sex with a new partner at the same time just a few city blocks apart – I still felt like there wasn’t enough on the page to warrant my caring for these characters and what they meant to each other. Even a single line or short paragraph of history might have brought enough illumination about their relationship to give it definition, but it felt as if Toussaint was relying on the previous novel to do that work for it.
Each section sets up a fairly straightforward situation and then blows it apart with an off-the-wall catastrophe. In part 1, Marie calls the narrator after her new lover, Jean-Baptiste de Ganay (though the narrator mistakenly refers to him as Jean-Chistophe throughout the section, for reasons that are in no way apparent) has suffered a heart attack shortly after having sex with her. The narrator races over to her place, leaving his own lover (in a flight of po-mo improbability, she is also named Marie) in his bed. What happens in between is a brilliant third-person description by our first-person narrator of the utter chaos of the paramedics treating Jean-Baptiste and trying to save his life.
The second section backtracks to the ill-fated trip to Tokyo. Marie and the narrator are there for an art exhibit of Marie’s work, and while on the outs with him she meets Jean-Baptiste, who owns a racing horse, and takes him as a lover. What starts out as a simple love triangle in a foreign land becomes a situation of dire absurdity. While Marie accompanies Jean Baptiste on the cargo flight to transport his award-winning horse back to Paris, the animal escapes just before take-off and runs chaotically around the tarmac, getting chased down and finally cornered by airport staff.
The third section jumps ahead, with Marie now on a horse ranch on the island of Elba following the death of her father. The narrator joins her there, and the two slowly circle each other with romantic intentions following the situation with Jean-Baptiste. Their tryst, however, is interrupted by a huge fire that breaks out randomly on the ranch, and the two have to work to save the lives of as many horses as they can.
The question that kept coming up as I read this was: what holds these three disparate sections together? Often, it felt like nothing. It felt like The Truth about Marie was little more than three randomly selected excerpts – brilliantly written excerpts, mind you – from a much, much longer work that perhaps could never be published. I’m not sure this is enough to constitute an actual novel. I felt there wasn’t sufficient interstitial tissue between the three sections to give this work a life of its own.
Still, there’s no denying that Toussaint is a supreme stylist with an incredible cadence to his sentences. (Sentences rendered, I should add, into English by the excellent work of translator Matthew B. Smith.) There were passages that knocked the breath from my lungs, and paragraph for paragraph this was some of the finest writing I’ve read in a while. But in the end, we must ask what a novel amounts to; we must ask, what is its arc? Unfortunately, The Truth about Marie kept those answers, at least for me, somewhere beyond the outskirts of its pages.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
If you read a lot of literary journals, as we do in this household, you’ll know that every issue of every journal is a distillation of the very best writing among hundreds or even thousands of submissions. So to take every issue of every major journal published in Canada in any given year and painstakingly select 50 of the best poems from them, then what you end up with is a distillation of a distillation, a chosen few among the chosen few.
This is the daunting task that Tightrope Books has established for itself in recent years with its Best Canadian Poetry in English series. The 2011 edition, edited by the prolific academic, poet and prose writer Priscila Uppal (the series editor is Molly Peacock), brings together a broad array of poetic styles and sensibilities, subject matters and approaches. But of course it would. With so many poems in so many journals to chose from, it would be hard not to cast a wide net. Thankfully, Uppal’s aesthetics are open-minded and her tastes vast, even while she maintains a healthy level of discernment.
The really great poems in this anthology are, of course, really great. Reading them in this kind of arrangement seems to even heighten their excellence. I’ve seen Shane Rhodes’ name around a lot recently but it took focusing on his poem “IntraVenus” here, with its incredible rhythm and half rhymes, its astonishing assonances, to make me realize just how brilliant he is. I loved Daryl Hine’s “& 30” in The Fiddlehead 244 and I loved it here. Karen Solie comes bearing her quiet wisdom in “Birth of the Rife” (“Power without accuracy/ is a triumph of unreason”). Evelyn Lau does a fantastic job breathing new life into a tired old subject matter in “Grandmother”. Daniel Scott Tysdal takes online intertextuality to a whole new (pornographic) level. And the always brilliant Patricia Young sings us out with a wonderful flight of anti-war fancy with “The Big Siesta (or: The End of Modern Warfare).”
There were a handful of poems that I didn’t care for, but considering they cleared the hurtle of getting published in journals in the first place and then earned their place here, there’s no point in quibbling or even naming names. These were pieces that I felt were either a draft or two away from being brilliant or were simply just bad poems, but of course you can’t please everyone.
Tightrope is doing a great service to Canadian poetry by launching this series, and Uppal does a commendable job with this go-around. I will definitely keep my eyes open for subsequent editions in the coming years.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Sunday, January 8, 2012
I consider it a real mark of my maturity, the way my opinion of Mavis Gallant has evolved over the years. When I first read her work in the form of her collection Home Truths, back when I was a fresh-faced grad student in Winnipeg, I remember being less than impressed. “What’s the big deal with this woman?” I remember telling myself. “These seem to be little more than character sketches. Where are the real stories?” Years later, I gave her another try and delved into her collection In Transit. I had a much easier time seeing the genius behind Gallant’s approach to the short story form, but I still wasn’t convinced that what she did was actually something that I could actively like.
Having read Paris Stories over the Christmas break, I finally feel like I’ve come around to what so many smart people have known about Gallant for decades. This collection of her most European-focused stories, selected by Michael Ondaatje, blew me away from cover to cover. I finally get it; I finally feel like I’ve grown up enough to appreciate Mavis Gallant.
It’s hard to talk about these pieces as a whole collection, since each one is different and brilliant in its own way. Gallant shows off her great versatility in this book, in one instance giving us the lengthy, expansive and character-driven “Speck’s Idea” alongside the shorter, more po-mo piece “From the Fifteenth District,” followed by two of her hilarious Grippes stories. The human emotion and range of moral conundrums offered in these pieces are so vast, so multilayered, it’s hard to know what to praise first.
My favourite pieces in the book were “Speck’s Idea” and “The Remission.” In the former, we meet a troubled but ambitious gallery owner who is trying to revive the reputation of a dead artist by putting on an exhibit of his work, only to run afoul of the artist’s capricious widow. It’s a funny and touching piece with wonderfully fleshed out characters and an incredible ending. “The Remission” is a sad tale of a man who travels abroad from England with his family to die, only to watch the convoluted dynamics of his relationships explode around him. Both pieces show what the short story is capable of in terms of revealing deeply interior emotional worlds that we all live.
The richness of Gallant’s style and the depth of her visions make her a writer with very few peers. Paris Stories is another testament to her enduring genius. I’m glad I’m finally catching on.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
When it comes to the poetry of Dionne Brand, (as the title of one of her other books tells us), no language is neutral. And in the case of Ossuaries, her most recently released collection, no language is safe either. In this starling long poem, words and phrases become at once unshackled and conscripted– freed from their conventional meanings and complacent connotations, but also enlisted to serve a higher mission, a noble war. This poem is a brazen attack of free-form associations, an art meant to jar us from, as Brand puts it, “nights of insentient adjectives” and “a lover’s clasp of/ violent syntax and the beginning syllabi of verblessness.”
The poem is comprised of 15 “ossuaries”, a term meaning a depository for bones, and takes us ostensibly through the story of the book’s itinerant protagonist, Yasmine. From the first ossuary’s obsessions with prisons and steel and claustrophobia, to subsequent renderings of love and hate, explorations of technology and the re-sensitizing qualities of poetry itself, this collection dazzles us with its many layers and near-hypnotic voice. This is Brand at her most militant, her most brutally violent; Ossuaries is, at its heart, a relentless assault on our expectations of poetic imagery and language itself.
While the “narrative” of Yasmine stays aloof through much of the long poem’s successive tercets, Brand’s unmistakable style remains front and centre. She is a master of reoccurrence, using patterns of repetition to create music for the eye. Take, for example, this excerpt from “Ossuary VI”:
where was she, that again, which city now,
which city’s electric grids of currents,
which city’s calculus of right and left angles
which city’s tendons of streets, identical,
which city’s domestic things,
newspapers, traffic, poverty
Or this, from “Ossuary III”, a passage about love as kinetic as any you’ll find in poetry:
... I tried love, I did,
the scapulae I kissed, I did
the flat triangular bones I filled with kisses, spumes
of kisses, gutters of kisses, postponed kisses,
and early new-born kisses
the curve of clavicles, I dug artesian wells of kisses there,
utensils of kisses,
spoons of kisses, basins of kisses, creeks of kisses
the jugular notch I ate in kisses
I devoured kisses,
teeth-filled kisses, throat-filled kisses, gullet-stuffed kisses
so don’t tell me how love will rescue me,
I was carnivorous above love, I ate love to the ankles ...
I do have to admit that during my first reading of Ossuaries, there were times when I felt somewhat outside of Brand’s imagery; and no matter how much I opened myself up to her guerrilla attacks on my expectations, there were passages that came off as kind of lyrical gibberish. (I don’t know, for example, if I’ll ever know what “povertous dowries wait at their landings/ scapegoat necklaces ring harbours,/ felonies of buses, and bars, and school” means.) But as I’ve dipped back into this collection to prepare for this review, I’ve found moments of illumination where I had only found confusion before. It’s a testament to the work when these revelations happen.
It is deeply satisfying, in the end, to read a collection of poetry that subverts so fully as this one does. No language is neutral, indeed; every phrases is called forth to serve. This box of bones is very much alive.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Anyone who has read The New Yorker even occasionally over the last two decades will be familiar with the works of George Saunders. His short fiction has become a mainstay in the pages of that venerable magazine and he counts himself along with Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant as one of its most constant and consistently good contributors. In Persuasion Nation, published in 2006, collects many of Saunders recent stories first published in The New Yorker and other leading magazines.
The subject matter of these tales is consumer society, the oppression of advertising, allegories of war, and our willful complicity in the face of technology out of control. These preoccupations are clearly Ballardian in scope, but they come with something that most of Ballard’s work does not – a tongue planted firmly in cheek. Indeed, it is Saunders’ humour that saves many of these stories from the dourness of straight-up dystopia. In tales like “I CAN SPEAK™” - about an artificial face that parents can put over their babies’ faces to make it appear as if they’re talking – or “Adams” – a hilarious suburban allegory for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq – the satire is ratcheted up so tightly that we cannot help but laugh out loud.
Critics have said that Saunders is able to paint a picture of the modern world without losing a sense of its humanity, but I sometimes felt that in this collection didn’t quite live up to that. The cynicism about the current state of America is here, and so is the humour, but I felt that some of these stories were a bit colder, more aloof than they needed to be. In tales like “Jon” and “Christmas,” I sensed there was a gap between myself and the characters (as well drawn as they were) that I could not close.
Still, there’s no denying Saunders’ enormous talent. These are sharp stories about alternative realities and bleak futures that will be give you much to mull over. If for no other reason, you should pick up this book for its final story, “CommComm”, which is a tour de force in quirky (and disturbing) science fiction.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
So it’s been a bit quiet here on Free Range Reading over the last couple of weeks, but of course that’s because I’ve been on vacation and trying very hard not to do any actual work. But I have taken some time from all this lounging around in my pajamas and drinking myself blind to compile my annual reading year in review – my top 10 books, my top 5 disappointments. After much eggnog-induced contemplation, I feel pretty confident about my choices.
What struck me about 2011’s top 10 list was that only three novels made the cut. Three short story collections, three works of nonfiction and a poetry book make up the rest of the list. This seems odd to me, as I often feel like I read a disproportionately high volume of novels every year, compared to other genres.
I often make apologies for my top 5 disappointments, stating that they aren’t necessarily bad books but just books that didn’t live up to the expectations I had for them. Not this year. I can confidently say that all five books on this list were bad as well as disappointing.
Anyway, here we go:
Top 10 books I read this year:
Self-Help, by Lorrie Moore. “You get the sense that Moore – who was just 28 when she published this book – is writing out of a profound sense of freedom, of unencumbered movement, flinging her limbs to the sky and not caring who is watching or what she looks like as she performs. It’s what gives these stories their startling originality.” Full review.
Are You Somebody, by Nuala O'Faolain. “Yes, Are You Somebody? is probably not the best structured book I’ve ever encountered. It hops around in time and place and doesn’t linger enough on any given person in O’Faolain’s life to give us a full sense of that person’s impact on her. But what so engrosses us in this memoir is not the bare facts of what happened over the course of this Irish woman’s tumultuous life, but the voice in which she shares those events with us. This is writing that does not contain a gram of self consciousness. This is writing that is entirely caught up in the moment of itself, in the truth it is trying to express.” Full review.
Mordecai: The Life & Times, by Charles Foran. “One the great strengths of Foran’s writing is that he never takes his narrative off in directions that aren’t appropriate for the subject itself. Richler would have had a low tolerance for high-falutin’ literary analysis (even of his own work) or didactic extrapolations on biography, and Foran wisely keeps both out of his book. Instead, he approaches his subject with an eye for storytelling, for humour and for presenting details at face value and allowing the reader to come to his or her own conclusions. Richler would have thoroughly approved.” Full review.
Absurdistan, by Gary Shteyngart. “It’s really difficult to sum up the vast array of sacred cows, current affairs and cultural phenomena that Shteyngart is skewering in this novel. Capitalism, communism, strip joints, the Iraq War, the ‘immigrant experience’, senses of national identity, 9/11, porn, globalization and Mother Russia herself all fall victim to his fearlessly satiric eye.” Full review.
Forms of Devotion, by Diane Schoemperlen. “Forms of Devotion is one of the most satisfying collections of short fiction I’ve read in a long time. Schoemperlen’s experiments and craftsmanship keep the rewards coming with nearly every turn of the page. This book is definitely worth reading again, and again.” Full review.
Bullfighting, by Roddy Doyle. “In the end, Bullfighting is exactly the kind of work we’ve come to expect from Roddy Doyle: funny and sad, brilliant in the way it balances small details with large concerns, and infinitely, compulsively readable. I strongly recommend it – for men and women alike.” Full review.
Guesswork, by Jeffery Donaldson. “From this launching pad, Guesswork ascends into a stratosphere rich in delightful preoccupations. One might surmise that the collection’s title is ironic, since none of the poems here come off like guesswork at all; rather, they feel forged out of obsessions or observations that may have taken years, or even decades, to incubate.” Full review.
Gunmetal Blue, by Shane Neilson. “What [Neilson has] written is a raw-boned, devastating, unflinching, uncomfortable and fiercely honest portrait of his life as a doctor and a poet. Neilson describes these duo careers … without a hint of sentimentality or pretension. Medicine is a matter of life and death, but for Neilson, so too is poetry. He weaves its importance into the very fabric of his life, treating it not as a pleasant adjunct to his existence but as a core component of it. Gunmetal Blue is about a man finding his voice both as a physician and as a scribe. It is cold-eyed and elliptical. This is a memoir as memoir should be.” Full review.
The Antagonist, by Lynn Coady. “I’ve been a huge fan and advocate of Coady’s work since reading her first novel, Strange Heaven, more than 10 years ago. I can tell you without a gram of hyperbole that The Antagonist is her finest work to date by a good country mile – and that’s saying a lot, considering how brilliant her other books are … [I]f someone were to go about tailoring a novel for my exact and specific tastes, the end result would resemble something like The Antagonist.” Full review.
The Enemy in the Blanket, by Anthony Burgess. “What’s interesting is how the dynamics of these characters’ relationships –multicultural, fragmented, decentralized from a sense of self – mirrors the broader political situation in Malaya … In the end, the future for everyone is uncertain, loyalties are vague and the past cannot be unwritten.” Full review.
Top five disappointments this year:
The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson. “I could tell there was something profoundly wrong with this novel right from the beginning. The book never seems to settle into a single scene, into a clear-cut time and place – it hops around aimlessly from past to present, from moments of immediacy to ones of pure hypothesis. For the first third of the book, the narrative never finds a comfortable place to sit. Then you begin to realize why. You start to see that this is not an organic story arising naturally out of itself. This is a narrative intended to make massive, multifarious commentaries on contemporary Jewishness – on traditions, religion, the state of Israel, the Palestinian question – and each and every character is merely a prop used toward those aims.” Full review.
The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, by Jonathan Coe. “It’s been a long time since I’ve hated a novel as much as Jonathan Coe’s The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim. I mean, wow. This book is so bad that it can’t help but acknowledge – inadvertently or otherwise – its own awfulness at odd intervals … You realize early on that you’re in for a long slog, not simply because this novel tells you you’re in for a long slog (and it does!) but because you find yourself wanting to line-edit the first 20 or 30 pages. Many of Coe’s sentences at the beginning of this book are in desperate need of tightening up and expose an occasional slip into questionable grammar.” Full review.
Mongrel, by Marko Sijan. I have no actual review to point to, as I didn’t get much past page 30 of this novel. I had such high hopes for Mongrel after reading Sijan’s (very candid) essay in CNQ about its long road to publication. I know some people loved this book (including Jim Bartley, “first fiction” reviewer at The Globe and Mail) but Mongrel wasn’t my cup of tea at all.
Larry’s Party, by Carol Shields. “There’s a lot to admire about this book, but also a lot that annoys. Chief among the problems I had with Larry’s Party is its structure: each chapter is written as a stand-alone piece, as if this were a collection of short stories and not a novel. Characters and their backgrounds are reintroduced in each chapter and each chapter has its own small arc. And yet this is not a short story collection, and it’s not even a collection of linked stories. If it were, Shields wouldn’t be so preoccupied with the linear track of Larry’s overall story and would have made the various ‘slippages’ necessary for a linked collection to work. This is a novel, and yet is inexplicably framed like a short story collection.” Full review.
The Perfect Order of Things, by David Gilmour. “The Perfect Order of Things is bound to be forgotten five minutes after you’ve finished the last page, and rightfully so. Still, many readers will emit little titters of delight along the way before consigning it to a final guffaw of dismissal.” Full review.
This year's full reading list:
64. December 28. Paris Stories, by Mavis Gallant. 378 pps.
63. December 14. Ossuaries, by Dionne Brand. 124 pps.
62. December 12. In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders. 228 pps.
61. December 6. The Enchanted House, by Beth E. Janzen. 64 pps.
60. December 5. How to Be Well-Versed in Poetry, edited by E.O. Parrott. 270 pps.
59. November 30. Beds in the East, by Anthony Burgess. 219 pps.
58. November 25. The Enemy in the Blanket, by Anthony Burgess. 200 pps.
57. November 21. Time for a Tiger, by Anthony Burgess. 203 pps.
56. November 17. Verbatim, by Jeff Bursey. 294 pps.
55. November 9. A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster. 363 pps.
54. November 1. The Antagonist, by Lynn Coady. 337 pps.
53. October 27. The Perfect Order of Things, by David Gilmour. 222 pps.
52. October 22. A Glass Shard and Memory, by J.J. Steinfeld. 240 pps.
51. October 18. Gunmetal Blue: A Memoir, by Shane Neilson. 198 pps.
50. October 13. Half-Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan. 309 pps.
49. October 4. Hitting the Charts: Collected Stories, by Leon Rooke. 298 pps.
48. September 27. The Big Dream, by Rebecca Rosenblum. 190 pps.
47. September 25. Larry's Party, by Carol Shields. 339 pps.
46. September 16. Eye Lake, by Tristan Hughes. 179 pps. (For review in Quill & Quire.)
45. September 12. Description of the Blazing World, by Michael Murphy. 234 pps.
44. September 7. (reread) The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. 499 pps.
43. August 28. The Return, by Dany Laferriere. 227 pps. (For review in Quill & Quire.)
42. August 23. The Millstone, by Margaret Drabble. 172 pps.
41. August 19. (reread) A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Iriving. 617 pps. (For the Co-habitational Reading Challenge.)
40. August 17. How Stories Mean, edited by John Metcalf and J.R. (Tim) Struthers. 356 pps.
39. August 6. Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew, by Stuart Ross. 178 pps.
38. August 2. Mongrel, by Marko Sijan. (unfinished) 32 pps.
37. July 31. Measure for Measure, by William Shakespeare. 255 pps.
36. July 26. Dog Eat Rat, by Tom Walmsley, 180 pps.
35. July 23. Guesswork, by Jeffery Donaldson. 78 pps.
34. July 21. Campfire Radio Rhapsody, by Robert Earl Stewart. 95 pps.
33. July 20. The Fry Chronicles, by Stephen Fry. 446 pps.
32. July 13. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo. 483 pps.
31. June 26. The Italian Girl, by Iris Murdoch. 171 pps.
30. June 23. Disarmament, by John Terpstra. 98 pps.
29. June 21. (read) The Glass Knight, by David Helwig. 190 pps.
28. June 15. The Shadow of the Sun, by A.S. Byatt. 298 pps.
27. June 8. Pigeon, by Karen Solie. 100 pps.
26. June 7. Bullfightng, by Roddy Doyle. 214 pps.
25.June 2. The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, by Jonathan Coe. 314 pps.
24. May 24. Forms of Devotion, by Diane Schoemperlen. 223 pps.
23. May 20. Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino. 165 pps.
22. May 17. The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard, 302 pps.
21. May 10. A Season in the Life of Emmanuel, by Marie-Claire Blais. 145 pps.
20. May 8. Absurdistan, by Gary Shteyngart. 333 pps.
19. May 2. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy. 302 pps.
18. April 26. Folk, by Jacob McArthur Mooney. 103 pps.
17. April 25. Underground, by Antanas Sileika. 310 pps.
16. April 18. The Rush to Here, by George Murray. 79 pps.
15. April 15. Winter Sport: Poems, by Priscila Uppal. 122 pps.
14. April 13. Find the Words: Writers on Inspiration, Desire, War, Celebrity, Exile, and Breaking the Rules, edited by Jared Bland. 320 pps.
13. March 30. Mordecai: The Life & Times, by Charles Foran. 752 pps.
12. March 14. Bloom, by Michael Lista. 76 pps.
11. March 12. Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon. 368 pps.
10. March 6. Blue Angel, by Francine Prose. 314 pps.
9. February 28. Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. 186 pps.
8. February 26. Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter, by Carmen Aguirre 277 pps. (For review in Quill and Quire.)
7. February 18. Ravelstein, by Saul Bellow. 233 pps.
6. February 13. C, by Tom McCarthy. 310 pps.
5. February 5. Remainder, by Tom McCarthy. 308 pps.
4. January 30. Are You Somebody?, by Nuala O'Faolain. 225 pps.
3. January 25. The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson 307 pps.
2. January 19. Self-Help, by Lorrie Moore. 163 pps.
1. January 16. Collected Stories, by Frank O'Connor. 715 pps.