September 7, 2014
I was so pleased to review Joan Thomas’s new novel, The Opening Sky, in this weekend’s Globe and Mail.
““Never explain, never apologize,” is part of a quotation attributed to Nellie McClung, the title of a chapter in Joan Thomas’s novel The Opening Sky, and an admirable motto, unless one happens to be parent to a young person whose behaviour embodies it. Which is the predicament in which Aiden and Liz find themselves.”
August 19, 2014
Today, a little dream came true. My short story, “If Life Gave Me Lemons”, has been published at Joyland. It’s a story about unrequited love, finding yourself, the bizarre culture of English teachers in Japan, and all the ways we fool ourselves. I love this story, not just because it’s part-ode to my life in Japan more than 10 years ago, though the lovingness of that ode is mostly hidden. But it’s there. So I’m so pleased that the story has found a home, and what a home it is. Thanks to Kathryn Mockler for her great edits, and to the Joyland team for making such a fantastic space online. I’m so thrilled to be a part of it.
August 3, 2014
My review of K.D. Miller’s wonderful story collection, All Saints, was in the Globe and Mail yesterday. I enjoyed the book so much when I read it in July, and appreciated its vital links to Lynn Coady’s Giller-winning collection, Hellgoing, as well as its Barbara Pymmishness, and the ways in which outright Pymmishness is subverted.
“…All Saints reads like a collision between Pym and Lynn Coady’s recent Hellgoing, whose epigraph is from Larkin’s “Church Going,” a poem which asks the question, “When churches will fall completely out of use/What we shall turn them into.”
The easy answer is condos – their developers are the only ones still banging on All Saints’s door. As with those in Coady’s collection, Miller’s characters are negotiating existence in a world in which the old rules and morality Pym satirized no longer apply.”
July 2, 2014
Things are busy around here with the usual summer things (swimming pools, barbecues, celebrating Canada Day at Queen’s Park, not sleeping at night, lazy days, beer and chicken wings with my husband on a rooftop patio) and with a top-secret project that is going to keep things quieter on the blog front this summer. Which is as it should be–you’re all out gallivanting anyway. But I did want to share two amazing things I’ve been up to lately in celebration of two really excellent books.
The first is All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, which I was lucky enough to review for Canadian Notes and Queries 90, their summer issue. It’s out now. The review was a pleasure to write, to be working with material that was just so good. The book is the most hilarious heartbreak I’ve ever experienced. A teaser of my review:
“While markedly different in style and tone, All My Puny Sorrows reads as an interesting companion to Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir, Wave, another book about grief and trauma, in which Deraniyagala recounts the loss of her family in the 2006 Boxing Day tsunami. Both books are haunted by narrators whose voices are measured and understated, existing to evoke the dead and the past rather than to illuminate the present, partly because the narrator in the present is a hollow shell of grief. And that grief itself remains a quiet presence in the text, until it doesn’t, bursting onto the page with a torrent of rage. Interestingly, both narrators enact their rage by making obnoxious phone calls, describing themselves as “haunting” the calls’ recipients on whom they (inappropriately, but who can blame them for that?) lay blame for their tragedies.
Unlike Wave, however, and just like everything Toews has ever written, All My Puny Sorrows is also terrifically funny. The young version of Elf is a wonderful character, with her dramatic flares and karate-chop gestures. The most hilarious scene in the book takes place at a funeral (of course) when a young child steps up and begins to eat the ashes of the deceased. Elf and Yolandi’s mother emerges as the real hero of this story, a woman of unlimited faith and optimism (and who, in shock after her daughter’s death, answers every utterance with, “Ain’t that the truth”). And this is Yolandi’s revelation as well, that all this grief has not been put upon her alone, and that her mother, in her obsession with Scrabble games and detective novels, is trying to decode the mystery of things and put words together so they mean something, just as Yolandi herself is.”
I am also very pleased with my interview with Saskatchewan Metis writer Lisa Bird-Wilson about her short story collection, Just Pretending. I read the book in early May and found it incredibly affecting. Bird-Wilson’s answers to my questions were thoughtful, challenging, provocative and profound–just as her book is. And a taste of that?
“Also, don’t you think there’s something a bit unfair about criticism that turns on the fact that stories made the critic feel bad? It’s unfortunate, but I’ve really noticed that audiences want you to read things that are funny—boy, they love that kind of thing. I find myself sometimes trying to excise funny bits from my stories and use them for readings—shame on me for bowing to the pressure but we all want to be liked, don’t we? I guess it’s human nature—we want to be able to laugh together—but in order to laugh together we also have to cry together sometimes. And sometimes we just laugh our way through the pain because there’s nothing else you can do.”
Reading the whole thing here.
June 26, 2014
I had the pleasure of reviewing Peach Girl by Raymond Nakamura and Rebecca Bender for Quill & Quire. It’s a story about a feisty girl that depicts the gorgeous countryside of Japan, a country that was once my home. I definitely recommend it.
“In his engaging debut, author Raymond Nakamura puts a feminist bent on the Japanese folk tale Momotaro (Peach Boy).
In Nakamura’s version, a young girl emerges from a giant peach discovered on the doorstep of an elderly couple (who are, notably, a farmer and her husband). Momoko, which translates as “Peach Girl,” is a feisty creature determined to make the world a better place, a mission that involves ridding it of a child-eating ogre. Gently shrugging off her adoptive parents’ concerns for her safety, Momoko embarks on her quest with peach-pit armour for protection, plus a bundle of peach dumplings to eat on the way.”
You can read the whole review here.
June 8, 2014
I wrote a fun blog post for 49th Shelf last week about books with fun summer covers, including my favourite summer cover of all time which is All the Voices Cry by Alice Petersen.
And speaking of summer reads, Chatelaine has a bumper-crop of great books lined up in their Summer Reading Special. I am happy to have reviewed the memoir Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan, about a young American woman whose eyes are opened to motherhood and the experiences of her own mother during a gig working as an au-pair for a widower and his children in Australia. I found the book touching and remarkable for its M Word associations. You can read my take on it here.
Some summer reads I’m looking forward to getting to soon are Mating For Life by Marissa Stapley, The Vacationers by Emma Straub, Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken and Based on a True Story by Elizabeth Renzetti.
June 6, 2014
I’ve had no blogging mojo this week—sometimes this happens. I have also been incredibly tired, a condition that will not be ameliorated by my attendance on Harriet’s school trip to the High Park Nature Centre this afternoon. With the baby in tow. In my experience, shepherding 20 kids on the subway is one of the more crazy-making circumstances of one’s life. But the weather is beautiful, and I think we’re going to have a great afternoon. Tonight’s plan is wine on the porch, followed by Top of the Lake. The wine is from the Farmers’ Market, which means that the Farmer’s Market (and summer) have returned to us, and also that wine is now permitted to be sold at local markets, and both of these points are incredibly pleasing. So I am looking forward to tonight, though not so much, because I find that evenings that are too anticipated usually result in my cleaning up one of my children’s vomit. Somehow, they just know.
Also pleasing, I wrote a review of the memoir, Birding With Yeats, by Lynn Thomson in the National Post. It’s a curious book which only became weirder the more I thought about it, which I mean as an endorsement, actually. The fact that I thought about it so much, mostly. I was also reading it at the same time I was reading A Siege of Bitterns and Pluck. So many birds. It inspired me to create a list of these books and more–as ever, putting a bird on it is popular.
And I was thrilled by this review of The M Word in The Winnipeg Review this weekend by Angeline Schellenberg. She got the book exactly, and wrote about it so well. I loved, “Some moms decorate Barbie cakes in their sleep. The M Word is a kind of What to Expect When You’re the Rest of Us” and “A book about motherhood that includes those who never gave birth? Those who’ve been pregnant but never held a child? Halleluiah! Finally: a conversation with no “us versus them.” Here is only “us,” those who desire to “be connected by this understanding of what it is to love and celebrate your children.” The M Word offers what mothers (new and old) need most: to know we’re not alone.” So proud of this, and pleased that this book continues to find its way into the world.
May 21, 2014
I am thrilled beyond measure to have a new published short story in the world, “Helter-Skelter” appears in The New Quarterly 130, and my name is on the cover, which means that you can sing this song about me now. It’s a great issue of a magazine that has done so much to support my work and which I credit for most of my career–both The M Word and my job at 49thShelf were spun out of their publication of my essay “Love is a Let-Down” a few years ago. I’m so pleased to return to their pages, and in fiction to boot. And it’s pretty wonderful that this story has finally found a home.
You can buy a digital or print edition of the magazine at the TNQ website, or wherever good magazines are sold.
May 15, 2014
And here it is! My essay from The M Word appears on The Huffington Post Canada, and I’m so relieved and bolstered by the feedback I’m receiving. Hope you will enjoy reading it.
April 14, 2014
I am so pleased to have my essay, “Rereading Fear of Flying: On Not Being Pregnant in Mid-Air With Isadora Wing,” featured on The Toronto Review of Books today. It’s sort of a companion to my piece in The M Word, so the timing is particularly nice.