During these days of isolation, whatever gets you through is the right thing to do. For some, that’s reading. CFMU spoke with several local writers to find out what they’ve been reading in the last few months. We asked for lists, but often we got more than that – what can we say? Writers gonna write.
PICTURED: GARY BARWIN [PHOTO BY GOERGE QUA-ENOO]
Gary Barwin is an author, poet, musician, composer and multimedia artist. His novel Yiddish for Pirates was short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General Award, and was awarded the Leacock Medal for Humour. His new novel, Nothing The Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy, comes out in 2021.
What is Gary Barwin Reading?
Always many things at once. Olga Tokarczuck's bindmending novel in fragments, Flights. I bought it at The City & The City Books. What is travel anyway? Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, because, you know, it features a touchlesss musical instrument—the theremin. This I bought at King West Books, I think while walking to Mac and getting distracted.The Odyssey by some guy called Homer. Oh, to go back home. Oh right. I’m there already. I’m stuck there. But it’s never a bad time to remember epic stories. This I didn’t buy at Epic Books, but I should have.
Science Poems, published by Penteract Press (a UK small press) bought directly from them. Strange and surprising poems engaging with science in some way. I liked the section about unkillable “extremophile” viruses. Yikes! I just got Banff poet, Derek Beaulieu's huge and intricate visual poem poster, Prose of the Transcanada, directly from its publisher, Toronto’s Book*hug Press. I’m going to decorate my quarantine writing room with it. Maybe Burroughs said that language is a virus from outer space, but this squirming tapestry of text is hugely grounding in its tactility.
And I’ve been reading two poets work, shared on Facebook, both written in response to the pandemic. Toronto poet, Lillian Necakov's ongoing series of poems, Il Virus and North Carolina poet/scholar Alessandro Porco’s series of poems written on a small sign posted inside. I’ve also been reading and rereading my own squalid prose, hoping to hone my novel into something healthy.
PICTURED: KRISTA FOSS
Krista Foss is a writer of novels, essays, short stories and journalism. Her short fiction has twice been a finalist for The Journey Prize. Her first novel Smoke River was published by McClelland & Stewart (2014). It won the Hamilton Literary Award and was short-listed for The North American Hammett Prize. Her essay writing has been nominated for a National Magazine Award, and won the PRISM international creative non-fiction contest (2016). She is a senior editor of the on-line journal, Hamilton Review of Books.
What is Krista Foss Reading?
I just finished reading Weather by Jenny Offill. Offil takes us inside the mind of a doomer-obsessed New York librarian/mother/sister with precise arch prose that’s feels so very timely. Now I am reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. Fast-paced, stream-of-conscious multiple points of views inside the lives of contemporary black British women - funny, affecting, skewering. And up next is, Rebecca Solnit’s Recollections of My Non-Existence and Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of the Wild. Jaime at Epic Books sent me all these books (and suggested WEATHER).
PICTURED: NAIRNE HOLTZ
Nairne Holtz began her writing career in the early 90s with the creation of a pansexual queer porn zine, Pornorama. The Skin Beneath (Insomniac, 2007), was shortlisted for Quebec's McAuslan Prize (rather respectable) and won the Alice B. Award for Debut Lesbian Fiction. This One’s Going to Last Forever (Insomniac, 2009), was a Lambda Literary Award finalist (terribly thrilling). Her last novel, Femme Confidential, was published at the end of 2017.
What is Nairne Holtz Reading?
I just finished re-reading Michelle Tea’s Rose of No Man’s Land. It’s very rock’n’roll. It’s about a teenage girl who lands her first job under false pretences and in one memorable day gets fired, loses her virginity to another girl, tries crystal, and FIGURES SHIT OUT. It’s a grimly funny book – I found myself howling with laughter at a particularly deranged scene. Michelle Tea is like a queer Heather O'Niell – she writes about queer white girls from lower socio-economic backgrounds with intelligence, snark, and poetics.
PICTURED: AMY JONES
Amy Jones’ first novel, We're All in This Together, was a national bestseller and won the Northern Lit Award. Her debut collection of stories, What Boys Like, won the Metcalf-Rookie Award. She won the 2006 CBC Literary Prize for Short Fiction, was a finalist for the 2005 Bronwen Wallace Award, and is a graduate of the Optional Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at the UBC.
What is Amy Jones Reading?
When the pandemic first hit, I had trouble reading fiction, so I turned to poetry. I read Teva Harrison's Not One Of These Poems Is About You and Canisia Lubrin's The Dyzgraphxst. Now I am finally getting back to fiction, and am reading Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline and re-reading one of my favourite short story collections, Florida by Lauren Groff.