amongst books

amongst books

Monday, June 06, 2011

a fictitious summer

summertime & the living is not lazy exactly but for my part, more contemplative. i am less interested in attending readings & more interested in writing/reading. & what i am writing/reading more these days is fiction.

currently reading: Ten Thousand Lovers – Edeet Ravel (Headline Review, 2007, first published 2003). i am a big fan of Ravel’s, both her fiction for adults and children. this is the first of the Tel Aviv Trilogy. the main character who is a Canadian studying in Isreal, falls for an Israeli interrogator.

recently read:

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (Random House, 1997)
i had to pause over many sentences in this book, so filled with lyricism. i enjoy reading works set in India. my favourite Indian novel is Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, a thick epic that took me about three months to read one summer, very entertaining and full of detail about India from the time of partition and onwards, but mostly the story of a woman’s attempts to fend off her parents’ plans to set up an arranged marriage for her. very excited to hear he is writing a sequel. and just recently i read the short story collection by Clark Blaise, The Meagre Tarmac (Biblioasis, 2011). These are linked stories featuring characters from India who have moved to the USA or Canada. i had the pleasure of hearing Blaise read as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

February – Lisa Moore (House of Anansi, 2009)
Moore is very skilled at creating characters i can care for and the way she depicts the grief of the main character, Helen, is well done. note that three of the books on my recently read list were set in Newfoundland & Labrador. i have enjoyed reading other Newfoundlanders in the past, including Michael Crummey whose book Galore is on my list of books to read, & Michael Winter. i am not so sure about his new book The Death of Donna Whalen, as i am not much into true crime stuff but will give it a try at some point. & despite having enjoyed her reading at the Dusty Owl quite a few years back now, i have not yet read any of Michelle Butler-Hallet's work. so i add her to my list of authors to read.

Annabel – Kathleen Winter (House of Anansi, 2010)
i loved this novel, set in Labrador, about a hermaphrodite child who is turned by the doctors into Wayne. i had compassion for all the characters, particularly for Wayne. the voice of this character is so strong it still resonates even now, months after reading this book. and it was a pleasure to hear Winter read and to meet her at the Plan 99 Reading Series at the Manx recently. i was very interested by her comment that she tends to stuff her work with truth and then puts in a little bit of not true that sounds plausible because it is surrounded by all the true bits. she said that better than i just did. i have always worked the other way around, inventing most of what i write and putting in the occasional true detail. now i might try this method.

The Fetch – Nico Rogers (Brick Books, 2010)
i was enchanted by the stories in this collection, set in Newfoundland with very strong voices. and there’s nothing smarmy or sentimental in the telling. Rogers is a fine storyteller.

The Red Garden – Alice Hoffman (Shaye Areheart Books, 2011)
this is a collection of linked stories about the inhabitants and origins of an American town called Blackwell, Massachusetts. i am a big fan of Hoffman’s writing and these stories were compelling and as always left me wanting more. Hoffman has a way with the fairy tale & with misfit characters the way Anne Tyler used to in such books as Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant and the Accidental Tourist. If you’ve never read her teen book Green Angel, you should.

Sub Rosa – Amber Dawn (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010)
i loved this book, an urban fairy tale about an alternate world of young prostitutes. it mixes magic with realistic insights about runaways and prostitution. it is in no way heavy-handed. a fascinating, compelling book that i didn’t want to end.

Through Black Spruce – Joseph Boyden (Viking Books, 2008)
loved the voices in this book, the Cree bush pilot and his family. loved the lyricism of the descriptions of nature. not so keen on the story of the missing niece who becomes a model. i enjoyed this novel very much, but preferred Boyden’s first novel Three Day Road.

these are the novels and short story collections i’ve read so far in 2011. on my list is more fiction set in India, more work about misfit and eccentric characters. if you have suggestions, please send them my way.

the main thing i’m looking for in a work of fiction is a compelling and imaginative story with characters i can care about. i want to be transported: into complete fantasy or into different realities than my own or to see aspects of my own reality reflected back by the author in different ways. i’d love to hear from you about your favourite fiction or current fiction that is consuming you. i am also on & there's even a wish list there...

i have resumed writing fiction myself, but am finding the challenges pretty scary. with poetry i am used to and comfortable with removing much of what i’ve written or recasting it, but not as much as what i imagine i will be doing with fiction this time around. i need to do a lot of writing to get to where i want to be, if that makes sense, or to get to where i suddenly realize i am. i want to be able to tell a compelling story and i want to help readers who find they need to escape for a while be able to do so. nothing more than that. fiction has served me greatly over the past few years, as a form of escape and in recent years, as a way to pass the time with characters who become friends when i have been at home or in the hospital with time on my hands and in need of a distraction.

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