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Pickle Me This

October 27, 2015

On Rereading: CNQ 93

cnqWhile I wish it were otherwise, the truth is that it’s rare for a magazine to arrive on my doorstep and for me to have devoured the entire thing in a day or two. But then a magazine like Canadian Notes & Queries 93 is a rare thing. Guest-edited by Kim Jernigan, beloved former long-time editor of The New Quarterly, the issue’s focus is on rereading, inspired by the 2005 anthology, Rereadings, edited by Anne Fadiman. And basically once Anne Fadiman turns up on page 7 of your magazine (in Jernigan’s intro: “On Rereading, its Pleasures and Perils”), I’m totally hooked.

(I reference Fadiman in my own essay about rereading Fear of Flying; come to think of it, my most recently published essay is about rereading too. It seems that I am the target audience for this issue of CNQ.)

Do you know Anne Fadiman? Oh, but you have to. Her essay collections Ex Libris and At Large and At Small are two of the best books I have ever read. Loving Anne Fadiman’s work is a bit like being in the world’s best secret society, except none of it’s a secret and we want everyone to join.

Anyway, an entire magazine inspired by Anne Fadiman. Think of it. In fact, go out an buy it. To read Caroline Adderson on rereading (and rewriting) her first novel, A History of Forgetting. It’s about missteps, failure, cringeworthy moments, and on what remains: “First this book tortured me, now it’s humbled me.” And Carrie Snyder on reading The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which has changed and not changed both in what it has to tell her about being a writer: “It is the book I aspire to write…” And then Anne Marie Todkill on rereading Mrs. Dalloway. Kathy Friedman on Jane Urqhart’s Changing Heaven, which fails to measure up. (A funny aside: recently I spent an evening laughing hysterically with old friends about how strange we all were when we met nearly 20 years ago. One of us had a Jane Urquhart poster on the wall, my friend Kate remembers. This idea now seems absurd: that Urquhart had such cultural currency. I couldn’t believe it. And then not a half hour later, I was looking through an old scrapbook into which I’d etched a quotation from something by Urquhart, from The Whirlpool, maybe. I even now remember that I once wrote a poem inspired by her book, The Underpainter. All of this feels impossible now. Who knew she was such a touchstone?). And then Susan Olding on The Golden Notebook, weaving her read and her reread into a terrific story of learning lessons again and again, about fragmentation and discovery. The ways in which our readings and rereadings can go oh so wrong.

Plus there are three poems by Robyn Sarah, from her collection, My Shoes are Killing Me, which has been nominated for the Governor Generals Prize for Poetry. The kind of poems you read and that have to read aloud to whoever is sitting on the couch beside you. And a story, “Multicoloured Lights,” by Jess Taylor, from her short story collection, Pauls. And book reviews by Emily Donaldson and JC Sutcliffe. It really doesn’t get any better. (There is also work by men in the issue, although those are the ones that I skimmed…)

So go buy it. That’s all. I think it’s available on newsstands now, so go and delight in its goodness, in the worlds these pieces open and reopen, and how the best thing about literature is that we’re never ever though.

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