"A girl was never ruined by books," my mother used to say. I've spent most of my life trying to prove that wrong.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nothing But Good Times: A Little Story for Halloween

 Drawn and Quarterly Bookstore invited me to take part in their Haunted Bookstore night on Wednesday.  We were supposed to read a spooky story, and at first I thought I'd do something by Henry James, but he is just too wordy.  So I turned to a story in my last collection, The Truth Is which had a satisfyingly weird ending.  The  more I worked to cut it down--we only had eight minutes--the weirder it got.  So here it is in all its Halloween flavour:

Nothing But Good Times:

            Sylvie was thinking about what she should wear that night when the old woman started waving the $20 bill in her face. "Give me another bill.  It's one of them devil ones," she said. "The man gave me this one, and it's bad. It's got the sixes." 
            The sixes? Sylvie had  heard somebody raving about the banknotes with all the sixes on them, the three little boxes like dominos, making three sixes, the sign of the Satan.  This old crone with her shapeless body under her red and black dress and her white hair frizzing out from under her beret was the first to say anything about them here, though.   
            As far as Sylvie was concerned, a bill  was a bill, and the old woman was just a nuisance, somebody who came in to buy cat food and Cheerios, to trade change for banknotes or to turn in soda cans.  Sylvie had other things to worry about.  She'd left a few clothes at Anthony's but it was Saturday afternoon and his mother would be there. To change at his place would open up all sorts of things that Sylvie didn't want to have to deal with.            
            "I want another bill," the woman said again.  "One without the sixes."
            Last weekend, Easter weekend  they spent at the Hilton out by the airport.  Nice place.  Great time.  Couldn't expect to do something like that  this weekend but Anthony usually had good ideas...
            He was such fun.  He had a car, a red car.  He dressed sharp.  He liked to have a good time.  A good time, that's what he'd promised her for tonight too....
            The old woman leaned her belly against the counter and waved the bill so Sylvie couldn't miss it.  "You trying to bedevil me too, girl."
            The man next in line laughed   "Oh, give her a new bill," he said.  "She'll stand there all afternoon if you don't."
            The woman spun around so she could stare at the man.  She looked him up and down.   "What makes you think so?  They're all  alike," she said.  She smoothed the bill again in her hand.  "All alike, wanting to do dirty to the rest of us.."
             Sylvie decided she  didn't need this five minutes before her break, five minutes before Anthony was supposed to meet her .  She punched in the code that opened the cash drawer and  very carefully chose two fresh $10 bills.  She held them up to the light as if to check their honesty and then held them out to the old woman who grabbed them and then wadded the $20  up in a ball  before throwing it at Sylvie.
            "Oh, shit," Sylvie said to herself. But the old woman heard her.
            "Watch your tongue, girl," the woman shouted  "God gave us language. Language is a gift from God, and you shouldn't go messing with God."
            Sylvie didn't say anything.  She started to put the man's groceries in shopping bags.
            The old woman looked at her but didn't move. ""You shouldn't go messing with God. There are things stronger than you." She turned so she could look at all the people standing in line.  "Read your scripture," she shouted.  "All of you:  fear God and beware the sign of the Beast." 
            Anthony came through the door just then and waved to Sylvie.  She shot him a big smile and the old woman whirled around again.  "Beware," she shouted at Sylvie.                        
            Spring was late that year.  At the middle of April piles of snow still lay rutted in the lanes and packed under stairways, but they went for rides in Anthony's car with all the windows rolled down anyway. The air smelled sometimes damp and ,faintly of green, a whole lot better than the dog droppings slowly appearing from under the snow.           
            By then he  thought they ought to move in together. They were made for each other, he'd say. Then he would put his arms around her, reaching inside her coat if they were outside, running his hands over her back and sides, wherever they were.  She found that difficult to argue with. She decided that when she wasn't around him she was only half alive.  Even the way he'd started borrowing money from her didn't bother her.  After all, he'd paid for all their good times up until then; it was only fair, she told herself, that she start paying some too.
            But he was late meeting her at the souvlaki place on the first Friday afternoon in May. The setting sun colored the sky above the buildings across the street.  The days were getting longer.  If they were going to find a place, they should start looking, because leases were coming due all over the town.  
            Then the crazy old woman came past, dragging a shopping cart behind her. She lingered at the corner, checking out the recycling bins.
            One thing for sure, Sylvie didn't want to live in this neighborhood even with Anthony.  It was spooky  and full of crazies.
            And where was Anthony? 
            There, coming across the street.  He saw her through the window, and blew her a kiss as he passed.  In three seconds he was standing beside her, But he didn't sit down. 
            "Listen, Angel," he said, kneeling beside the table so their faces were on the same level..  He looked in her eyes.  His breath was warm on her face.  She wanted to be alone with him as soon as possible.  .
            "Yes," she said expectantly.  
            "Listen, I got to run.."
            She clutched at his hand.  "Hey, no, you can't do that.  ."
            "It's all right, Angel, not to worry.  All I've got to do is go around the corner and see this guy."
            "Why?" His gaze went out the window as if he were seeking the answer there.  Then obviously he decided he had to tell her something.  "I got to see a guy about the car repairs. It's nothing to worry about," he said.  "Look, I'll be back in l5 minutes. " And he was gone.
            Fifteen minutes.  She shook her head,            He had secrets, that she knew.  But then so did she.  Secrets were normal.  You couldn't let them get in the way.  Life was too short, there wasn't enough fun in it to ruin what there was by worry.  That's what he'd showed her.  That's what he always said: good times, we're going to have nothing but good times.
            Across the street the old woman was moving again.  She grabbed hold of the handles of the shopping cart and started down the street, scanning the sidewalk for more recycling.
            The street lights came on. The waitress  came over with the beers Sylvie had ordered..  She took a few tentative sips as she watched the old woman open the little metal gate that enclosed a patch of front yard and then wrestle the cart around the outside stairs  toward the placed where the recycling must be. 
             An outside light flooded the little yard casting long shadows toward the street and suddenly the woman was on the sidewalk again.  She threw back her head and arms in a scream that Sylvie could almost hear. 
            A woman passing on a bicycle pulled to a stop and  looked around.  The old woman pointed toward the courtyard, so she went  to look inside.  But she came hurrying back  too.  She ran up the outside stairs and began pounding on the door to the apartment on the first floor.
            Sylvie, of course, could not hear what was being said, but she could tell from the way the man at the door reacted that something grave had happened.   Just around the corner, Anthony had said.  Only 15 minutes.
            Then she heard the sirens.
            After the police and the ambulance arrived, the old woman headed toward the restaurant where Sylvie still sat. She rapped on the window with both
"Your man," she shouted loud enough to be heard through the glass.  "The wages of sin are death.  Your man has been paid in full."
            Anthony. Sylvie stood up quickly, almost knocking over her chair and the beer.  She grabbed for her coat and her purse.  The waitress saw her and started toward her.  "You haven't paid," she said.
            Sylvie stopped and rummaged in the purse for a $20 bill.  As she hurried out the door, she thrust it at the waitress.  The sixes: she had no time to think about the sixes.
.            It was Anthony all right, lying curled on his left side, his right arm up over his head as if protecting it.  There was a line of blood running out of his mouth.  His eyes were shut, his skin was pale under the stubble of his beard.  His red scarf was still around his neck, pulled tight, but Sylvie also saw that  the smooth curve of his  forehead was broken.  The skin appeared uncut but the bone underneath it was pushed in.  He was breathing, she could see his chest moving beneath the blanket which  covered him from his shoulders to his feet. 
            "Anthony," she said, softly.
            One of the medics heard and turned around. "You know him?" he asked. 
            She nodded. 
            The medic stood up.  "We'll do our best.'
             She took a step closer. She was shivering so hard her teeth were chattering..  Car repairs he'd said.  Being beaten up had nothing to do with car repairs.  "He was mugged," she said.  Anybody could be mugged.  It happened all the time.
            "Maybe, maybe not," the medic said.  "You should talk to the police about that."           
            "The Force will have its way," came the old woman's voice from  behind her. "He dared to mess with ungodly, and the ungodly smote him.  Let that be a lesson to you, girl.  Avoid evil.  Cast the devils from you..."
            Sylvie shut her eyes.
            "Did he have any enemies?" one of the policemen asked , coming over with a clipboard.  "Do you know if he was in any trouble?"
            "Does he had any money on him?"  she asked back. "He'd just gone to the bank, I think.  He should have had quite a bit ..."  The sixes, the sixes.
            The policeman looked interested, but before he could ask her more, the door to the basement apartment opened. Sylvie held her breath as soon as she heard the hinges begin to move.  The eyes that peeked through the narrow crack were dark and suspicious, and when the policeman ordered the door opened further, they blinked twice, as if considering.  
            A tiny groan came from Anthony, so tiny that Sylvie could barely hear it.  She wanted to lean over, to listen more closely, but the sight of the eyes  at the door made her blood freeze.  This could not be happening. All she wanted was a good time,  she hadn't asked for anything more than that.
            The groan thickened into a sort of croak in the back of Anthony's throat.  The medic who'd been monitoring his blood pressure  looked up and called something to his colleague that Sylvie didn't catch.  The policeman stepped forward and put his hand on the her arm.  "Miss," he began.
            But she knew she couldn't stay any longer even before the medics began to push her out of the way.  She wanted out.  She would leave and never come back.  She didn't belong here, nobody belonged here. 
            "You can't leave," the old woman said.  "The Lord will judge you, you have to wait..."           
            The red car, Anthony's red car, was parked half-way down the block.  Sylvie brushed past the old woman's hand.  If she got to the car, everything would be all right.  Anthony would get well, the world would go on, there would be pleasure again. 
            But before she got there, she heard the old woman screaming:  "She's going, she's going.  We cannot let her get away."
          And then she knew she was trapped, and that it would be a long time before the next good time.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Ghosts of Henry James: Tales for the Halloween Count-down--If You Don't Mind Verbiage

Looking for something spooky to read at Drawn and Quarterly's Haunted Bookstore evening October 30, I began reading Henry James's various weird tales. 

James is such an aristocratic writer with such a convoluted style that ghost stories are not what immediately spring to mind when his name is mentioned.  But the darker side of life comes through in several of his tales

Specifically there's The Turn of the Screw, set in a properly Gothic English estate whereThe Jolly Corner is a novella I read when doing my James seminar as a senior at university, and which profoundlly troubled me.  So did The Beast in the Jungle in which it's quite clear that the well-bred world that James lived in and wrote about is much stranger than one would think.
a new governess discovers some strange goings-on that affect the children in her charge. 

But as I dipped into the tales I was frankly annoyed by James's stylist contorsions.  The man never used one word when a paragraph with three dependent clauses would do.  None of the stories have the directness that would connect with Halloween-crazed young'uns today, so I (not too unhappily) decided to look elsewhere.

At the moment I'm considering reading from an adapted version of a story from my last collection, The Truth Is.  Called "Nothing but Good Times," it has a weird old lady who talks about the Force and God, and an ending that is sort of spooky now.  Perhaps if I tweak it some, it will do....

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Countdown to Desire Lines Launches!

Desire Lines is my first short story collection in more than a decade, and it's something to celebrate.  That's why we're having not one, but two launches.  You're all invited to attend one or both:

Wednesday November 6 at 7 p.m.
Librairie Drawn and Quarterly
211, Bernard ouest
Mile End, Montreal
(80, 435 and 160 buses)


Tuesday November 12 at 7 p.m.

Librairie Clio
245-N. Boulevard St Jean
Pointe Claire, PQ,
Plaza Point Claire

Dobryd, the Novel of a Captive Child, Or Happiness Is Where You Find It

When I recently read Emma Donoghue's best-selling novel Room, I couldn't help thinking of   Ann Charney's novel Dobryd. Like Donoghue's narrator Jack, as well as the under-nourished living ghosts of refugee camps, Charney spent the first part of her life in peril. Dobryd in fact begins: "By the time I was five years old I had spent half my life hidden away in a barn loft."

Those words took my breath away when I first read them many years ago. The novel's unsentimental, clear-eyed vision offers hope that, with luck, the human spirit can blossom under the most dreadful circumstances.

Dobryd was published in Canada  in the mid-1970s to a few, very good reviews. "One of the truly significant insights into the effects of war," said Books in Canada, but despite such praise, it wasn't a commercial success. Republished  in the 1990s,  it still is available from  Permanent Press, and has been translated into French (editions in both Canada and France), Italian and German. Given  continued violence against civilian populations all over the world, it should be read everywhere.

Dobryd is a simple story simply told. After two and a half years hiding outside a small town in Poland, a five-year-old girl, her mother, her aunt, and her cousin along with four other adults, all Jews, are rescued by Russian soldiers as World War II draws to a close.

The child is at first terrified by the reaction of the people in her little world: "Weeping and laughing at the same time, they hugged me and embraced one another. I felt smothered in their arms. These embraces were not the ones I was used to; too tight, too close. I was frightened." And, looking outside the barn for the first time, she says: "A large orange circle covered the sky and coloured the world below. The fields, the animals, the farmhouse, all were illuminated in this strange, intense, blood-like colour.I heard myself scream, again and again."

The scream is the one that she has been prevented from letting out during their long period of hiding. Finally Yuri, the Russian soldier who has been carrying her, calms her. "My new friend.carried me outside. All the while his soft voice reassured me, and the sound of those words made me feel safe.. The fresh air of the summer evening felt soothing against my skin. I looked around me. I was no longer afraid."

The girl's mother finds work as a translator for the Russians, while her aunt, older and less dynamic, takes the girl to the market which has sprung up as part of the barter economy. The two of them become extremely close, and the aunt recounts how the family arrived at the barn where they hid, and what it had lost. Her stories have a fairy-tale quality: the family was rich, educated, and refined, with cupboards full of linens and rooms full of books.

The little girl's world seems a universe away. She is delighted to help clear the rubble from their first lodgings in Dobryd. She gets her first taste of ice cream when her mother and Yuri decide after much discussion to trade a can of meat for it. Her treasures are a piece of white tulle and an empty perfume bottle that she and her friends use for their games of make-believe.

But these privations do not make an occasion for sorrow and regret. Charney says her book is an attempt to distance herself from the work of other survivors of Nazi oppression like Elie Wiesel and André Schwarz-Bart. "I didn't find my experience in their books, and I didn't want to spend my life following the narrow lane of lamentations," she says.

"I wanted to show that one can live through all that and still go on to be a whole human being. I wanted to have the world as my oyster the way it is for other people, and I wanted to feel free to go on to explore other things." She adds with emphasis: "One should really exalt life." That's why the book begins as it does with the liberation, and why there is so much about pleasure: the ice cream, the feel of air on skin, the joy of being able to see further than four walls.

She says she began to write the book in an attempt to capture the emotions she remembered from that time. At first she remembered very few details, which is the reason she chose to call this work fiction. The conversations are invented, and the background is fairly standard for educated, well-off Jews in Poland.

But as she wrote, she found more and more coming back to her. "Indeed some of the things I thought I was inventing are things people have written to me to say that they remember from their own lives," she says. "Which means, I guess, that the inventions are in some larger way true. Because the book is fiction, it grabs people and appears to speak to their experiences also. In a way it is a generic book, rather than a specific book, about childhood and war."

Dobryd is also remarkable for the clarity and simplicity of its language. Charney says she wanted to avoid sentimentality. "I tried to write as sparingly as possible. I went over the manuscript several times to review adjectives and other words that would tell the reader what to think." She adds that she is perhaps more conscious of language than writers who have spoken English from their earliest years. It wasn't until she, her mother, aunt, and stepfather arrived in Montreal, when she was eleven, that she learned English and then French: she'd read Anne of Green Gables, but in Polish.

There is a question why Dobryd, despite its excellent reviews, made such little impact when it was first published. One reason may be that it was issued just as the Canadian literature industry was revving up. Books in Canada only began in 1971, remember, and its first novel prize was established a few years later, too late for Dobryd to qualify. In addition, there is the warm portrayal of Yuri, the Russian soldier who rescues the heroine's family and becomes its protector. Young, cheerful, and enthusiastic, he urges them to be hopeful even though their home village has been destroyed. "You'll see-we know how to build in Russia. We'll build a new town for a new kind of life. Yes, today is a sad day for you. But in six months, I promise you, we'll all be working so hard rebuilding this town that no one will have time to grieve."

No matter that Yuri's faith does not overcome the suspicions of the heroine's much more sophisticated and better-educated mother. No matter that the family ultimately chooses life in Canada. When Dobryd was first published the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire, and this kind of portrayal was definitely out of fashion. Given the vagaries of the publishing world, that might have been enough to keep it from being more widely reviewed.

Times have changed since then, of course, but there are  still children in peril from stife both political and personal.  Will a few of them  bear as eloquent witness to the strength of the human spirit as Charney has? One hopes that some of them will have the same sort of luck that she had.

Luck? Yes, Charney benefitted de la chance dans la malchance, as they say around here. She was lucky enough to be born to a mother who was strong and clever and had enough resources to pay for help. Then once they were in hiding, the adults around her doted on her, teaching her to read and write, to knit, to sing. Afterwards Yuri became her special friend, and the champion of the family. It is from these repeated experiences of love and attention that Charney has built a sensibility that allows her to say that she had a "happy childhood".

Like Jack in Room she is a survivor because of the love that surrounded her.  And she continues to write compelling stories.  Her latest novel Live Class will be published in November by Cormorant

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Room: A Book from the Headlines and Perhaps Also from the Heart

I finished reading Emma Donoghue's Room a few days ago and I've been puzzling about it ever since. 

The novel, which according to Donoghue's website has now sold more than a million copies, was nominated  for and/or has won a raft of prizes including the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize (for best Canadian novel), the Commonwealth Prize (Canada & Carribbean Region), the Canadian Booksellers’ Asand the Orange Prize.  In addition the American Library Association gave it an Alex Award (for an adult book with special appeal to readers 12-18) and the Indie Choice Award for Adult Fiction.

That means, I guess, that a lot of people found it compelling reading.  As did I. But what's the point, I found myself asking.

Donoghue's narrator is  Jack, a five year old who has been imprisoned since his birth with his mother in Room, a reinforced, sound-proofed garden shed.  She makes him sound like a kid, giving him the same grammatical quirks most children that age struggle with, such as how to form the past tense of words like "got"--is it just "got" or "gotted?"

Ma is everything to Jack, as mothers frequently are to pre-school children.  But we quickly learn that their connection is orders of magnitude stronger than most because she is the only person he has ever seen. Even though  Old Nick, Jack's father and their jailor  visits Room most evenings, Ma protects Jack from him: the only people he knows anything about are those he sees on television.

How they escape from Room occupies the first two-thirds of the novel.  Donoghue makes it every bit as exciting as the best action movie, and she also lets us know that having watched Dora the Explorer can be very useful too.  The rest of the book deals with how Jack and Ma learn to live Outside.

This is where a few question have to be asked.  It might be easy to dismiss the first part of the book as a light weight adventure lifted almost bodily from the headlines: there are after all  terrible stories of the man in Cleveland who held three young women hostage for a decade, and before that men in California and Austria.    But Donoghue isn't interested in why such things happens, she concentrates on Jack, whose existence isn't terrible, thanks in large part to Ma's efforts to keep him from  Old Nick. 

This part of the book reminded me of Montreal writer Ann Charney's account of her own escape from imprisonment at the end of World War II.  In her novel Dobryd (a very good book BTW) she tells how she  had been hidden in a barn along with a dozen adults for two and a half years when the sector of Poland where they were was liberated by Soviet forces.  Her memories of the time are not unpleasant, though, because she was cosseted and played with, in part to keep her quiet, but also because she symbolized life to those in hiding.

Similarly Jack regrets leaving Room a little because Outside has a terrifying number of choices to make.  Nothing is certain, everything changes, Ma isn't always there. 

This is, perhaps, the point of the book, what rescues it from being just light suspense reading.   There are many varieties of danger and captivity, Donoghue seems to be saying. Those of us on Outside may not recognize what traps we are in, or what threatens us.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize--and Good Writing Wins Too

My reaction this morning was sheer delight when I heard that short story writer Alice Munro has become the first Canadian and 13th woman to win the Nobel for literature.  There have been some dismal choices in the past, but this time I think the Swedish Academy was right on.

Ever since I read The Lives of Girls and Women, I've been a Munro fan.  About the same time I read Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman and though it was very good too.  But in the intervening years I've come to the conclusion that, while both writers are very good, Munro goes  straight to the heart of the human condition while Atwood veers into narrative bling when she comes face to face with emotion.

Below you'll find an appreciation of the two that I wrote a while back.  Atwood, unforunately, has not worked so close to the grain since, while Munro returned to it in her most recent stories.

From 2007:

"The publicity blurb for Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder on the US Random House website is a little coy: the short story collection is “fiction, not autobiography; it prefers emotional truths to chronological facts. Nevertheless, not since Cat’s Eye has Margaret Atwood come so close to giving us a glimpse into her own life.”

Well, there are those who say that it’s Life Before Man that one should read if one wants to see between the lines into Atwood’s life, particularly as it concerns her relationship to her partner Graeme Gibson and to Shirley Gibson, his late ex-wife. But, no matter: the stories of Moral Disorder are not only good reading, they are fuel for reflection on the ways that writers use their own lives in their fiction. There is a triangle at the heart of Moral Disorder--a man, his talented but erratic wife, and the younger woman who comes to share his bed and help raise his children—that resembles the Atwood-Gibson ménage. The resemblance is not important to judging the book though: almost all the stories are strong, satisfyingly well-imagined and would stand on their own even if you knew nothing about Atwood's own life.

As it happens, I came to them only a month or so after I read Alice Munro’s The View from Castle Rock. Munro’s short stories at their best have absolutely no equal, but in Castle Rock it seems to me she found herself too fettered by the facts of her life and family to allow herself to soar as she does so often elsewhere.

Much of Moral Disorder takes place in Munro territory—WASPish, intellectually worthy, properly modest Ontario society. Atwood, whose imagination has wandered through time and space increasingly in recent years, allows herself to focus on childhood, early womanhood and maturity as they have been lived in recent years in central Canada. This return to experiences closer to her own allows her, it seems, to write more affectingly than she has in a long time. The reader can see through cracks in Atwood’s wise-cracking, science-fiction-loving, dazzlingly brilliant persona to a real person--loving, and maybe even loveable--underneath."

And about Castle Rock itself:

This last week I've taken a break from 19th century Paris, and read The View from Castle Rock (McClelland and Stewart, 2006) by Alice Munro. What a pleasure, and an interesting experiment in walking the boundary between fiction and non-fiction!

Munro has always drawn deeply on her own experience in creating her remarkable series of fictions, which in many respects are truer than non-fiction. When I first read The Lives of Girls and Women in the early 1970s I was blown over at their resonances with the lives led by women in my family. With some trepidation I bought a copy and sent it to a cousin whose struggle to break free of small time life was still going on at that time. She never commented on it, which I took then to mean just how uncomfortably close to her reality Munro’s stories were.

But at the age of 75, Munro suggests that Castle Rock is something closer to the facts about her life, that it approaches memoir in some respects. Part of the book consists of stories which she wrote over the years beginning with documents from her Laidlaw ancestors. At the same time, she says in the foreword to the book, she found herself writing about the figures in her own life, using their real names, but discovering that they began to take on new “their own life and color and did things they had not done in reality....You could say that such stories pay more attention to the truth of a life than fiction usually does.”

In The View from Castle Rock, Munro writes with her usual elegance and elliptical economy. But, oddly, the stories are not as compelling as other fictions she has created out of the same life experience. It is as if writing “fiction” from the beginning allowed her really to soar, like her ancestor who said he could see America from Castle Rock in Edinburgh.

For the facts about her life, read Lives of Mothers and Daughters: Growing up with Alice Munro ( McClelland and Stewart, 2002) by her daughter Sheila Munro or the literary biography, Alice Munro: Writing Her Lives, by Robert Thacker (McClelland and Stewart, 2005.) For marvelous literary experience, read any of her books of short fiction."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ashamed to Say: A Little Self-Censorship

This is the photo that I'm using on the hardcopy invitation to my book launches for my new collection of short stories, Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography next month.  

It's appropriate, in a way, because this sinuous path crossing the Champ des possibles open space near where I live started me thinking about the resonances of "desire lines."  They are, urbanists say, the paths people choose to make when they want to get some place.  They frequently have nothing to do with formal layout of streets and sidewalks and almost always they say a lot about  people's aims.

But I can't say I'm too pleased with myself for using the photo to promote the two parties we're planning to launch the book.  The cover, which I love, is a little racey and it's been mentioned to me that it's not the sort of thing that librarians and others might like to find in the hands of kids.

Since the image is a detail from a painting by Edwin Holgate, a member  of Canada's legendary Group of Seven parinters, it shouldn't get much flack.  But just the same I've buckled.  The e-mail invitation will use the book cover, though.

Whatever, you're all invited to attend one of both of the launches:
Wednesday November 6 at 7 p.m.

Librairie Drawn and Quarterly
211, Bernard ouest
Mile End, Montreal
(80, 435 and 160 buses)


Tuesday November 12 at 7 p.m.

Librairie Clio
245-N. Boulevard St Jean
Pointe Claire, PQ,
Plaza Point Claire

Friday, October 4, 2013

Halloween Coming Up: A Spooky Night at the Drawn and Quarterly Bookshop

Drawn and Quarterly is a Montreal publishing house that specializes in what is quaintly called "graphic novels."  They are far more than simple comic books: one of their best sellers a biography by Chester Brown of Métis martyr Louis Riel, a book that is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

It also has a great little bookstore in Montreal's Mile End district with a very electic mixture of fiction, non-fiction, and children's books from a wide variety of publishers.  October 30 it will deck itself out as The Haunted Bookstorre, with readings and other neat stuff for the young and old.

They've asked me to take part, and at the moment I think I'll read from my story "Nothing But Good Times" from my last collection The Truth Is which has a kind of spooky ending. Alternatively, maybe I'll choose a part of "The Jolly Corner," one of Henry James's ghost stories. 

Looking forward to this.  Here's the relevant info:

"The Haunted Bookstore
Wednesday, October 30, 6 to 8 pm, at Librairie Drawn and Quarterly, 211 Bernard W.  Montreal.
Join us on October 30th at 6 p.m. for a Halloween party at Librairie Drawn and Quarterly. Come get tricked! Come get treated! Enjoy the spooky décor and listen to scary readings !"