Andrew Tibbetts, "The Hanged Man Café"
I just finished Jan Wong's Out of the Blue, a blistering memoir of workplace depression. This writer is one of Canada's more fearless and skillful journalists. She wrote a piece about the Dawson College shooting that placed the situation in the context of Quebec's socio-political climate vis-à-vis immigrants and ethnic minorities. The backlash was enormous—hate mail, death threats, criticism from vote-mongering politicians—and her employer, The Globe and Mail, instead of supporting her, threw her to the wolves. Her mental health suffered. She weaves her personal account in with scrupulous and fascinating research into depression, labour relations and journalistic integrity. She's crafted a passionate and important book that enraged and moved me.
Dorothy Field, "Duncan City Hall"
In fact, what I'm reading is the latest Brick Magazine and especially Eleanor Wachtel's interview with Anne Carson. It shed much light on a troublesome Ms. I've been working on, an elegy/search for a friend who died at Jonestown. Then by chance I heard the same interview (replayed) on Writers and Co., and listened as raptly as I read it. Now I'm going back to Anne Carson.
Kim Jernigan, Fiction Editor
Richard Ford's Canada: I confess to having stolen the first book of Richard Ford's I ever read. Well, after a fashion. I happened onto his collection Rock Springs while staying at a friend's beach house, fell in love successively with each story I read, and slipped the book into my bag when I left, only years later owning up and receiving absolution. (It was not, after all, my host's book but one foolishly abandoned by a previous guest.) I've since taught many of those stories. From there I went on to Wildfire, and to other stories and novels as they appeared. Ford's latest, Canada, was the long read of my summer: I found it so emotionally harrowing; I could only manage it in titrated doses. In style and structure it is very like Wildfire: the essence of the story is revealed in the opening lines; the rest is an attempt to understand (and perhaps forgive) certain life shattering actions of the narrator's parents. The first section seemed awkwardly recursive to me until I realized what Ford was about: recreating the way our minds worry over unhappy memories trying to make sense or come to terms or at least wear off the edges. I won't give it away, but there's a passage at the end that rivals the closing lines of Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief ('All of us are better when we're loved.') for its breathtaking rightness about the nature of love and loss.
Lindsay Bird, "Safety Meeting"
I just finished One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Catching up with Ivan eating his lunch, on my lunch—tucking into bed as he curls into his bunk in the Gulags. But there's so much more to this slim novel book than a Russian history lesson—it's one of the best character studies I've come across. Ivan wades through his day with equal amounts of purpose and pointlessness, and in the end, you see he isn't just surviving, he's wonderfully alive. It's pretty weird to find yourself smiling while reading about a Russian work camp, but amid the drudgery, moments of genuine delight pepper the book like Ivan's treasured breadcrumbs.
Kerry-Lee Powell, "Negotiating the Past in Poetry"
I'm on a CanLit crash course at the moment; acquainting myself with a backlog of poets whose work I haven't read because I was living abroad for so long and then had a lengthy illness. I recently read Sina Queyras' amazing Expressway and now consider her to be one of the most outstandingly gifted and intelligent contemporary poets I've come across. I'm planning to get everything she's ever written! I've also been hugely enjoying the poetry of Lisa Robertson and have her book The Weather on my desk next to Sue Goyette's wonderful Outskirts, which I also highly recommend.
Andrew J. Borkowski, "Time-Travellers: In Conversation with Eva Stachniak"
I've been reading Méfiez-vous des poètes by Michel Arseneault. This is the first novel from Montreal-born Arseneault, a National Magazine Award-winning journalist who has worked for both CBC and Radio Canada and is now based in Paris. The novel takes the form a series of documents left by Michel Gallais a world-weary professor at the University of Ottawa to his one-time protégé, Maude Abel, now a professor of history in her own right. The 'dossiers' inherited by Abel recount their illicit affair, and the academic and moral conflict that arises between herself and Gallais when, in the course of her doctoral research, she discovers that the 18th century sailor-turned-poet/composer whom Gallais has built a career on was engaged in the slave trade. A great read, full of insights into the slave trade, academic life, and glib assessments of the mores of Canadaís cultural and political capitals.