What is John Vardon Reading?
When it comes to the reading of new books, and and I’m happy to say that the opportunity comes for me much more frequently in retirement, my choice ( mostly literary) is governed by the love of specific authors, curiosity aroused by reading and conversations with friends, a certain degree of serendipity, or a combination of the above. In my house overflowing with books, I sometimes choose titles at random or find an earlier book from an author I have just read and enjoyed. I do the same in browsing thrift shops and stores selling books used or new.
A less familiar reason for my reading choices is faith in the publisher. I have bought books from Gaspereau Press simply because I like their unique design. Fortunately, they also publish some superlative writers. For quality of writing, content, and design, however, I don’t think Biblioasis has an equal in Canada ( except perhaps The Porcupine’s Quill), thanks in part to editors like John Metcalf and publisher-editor Dan Wells. As soon as I recognize their Cervantes-suggestive windmill logo on the spine, I pull the book of the shelf, regardless of genre. And so it
is that I read poet Robyn Sarah’s memoir about relearning to play the piano, Music Late and Soon, Marius Kociejowski’s A Factotum in the Book Trade, an account of the author’s long experience in selling antiquarian books, and Emily Urquhart’s book of essays, including “Years Thought Days,” a sadly beautiful reflection on her father Tony’s descent into dementia.
I have digressed a long-winded way from what I am reading now. So let me just mention Lisa Moore, a fine fiction writer who has won The Canadian Authors Association Short Fiction Prize, The Commonwealth Book Prize, and CBC’s Canada Reads. Nominated, long-listed, or short-listed for other prizes, including the Mann-Booker Prize, Moore first published in TNQ almost three decades ago. She also figured prominently in issue 91, which featured fiction from Newfoundland’s Burning Rock Group.
I have just finished Something for Everyone, her latest and possibly best story collection (Anansi, 2018), published 16 years after her first, the time in between devoted to writing one other story collection and five novels.
Few writers can combine plot, characters and narrative technique as engagingly and intelligently as Moore. For me , it’s the third of these elements, the way she tells stories, that elevates her writing so far above the ordinary. The ten stories in Something for Everyone demonstrate her narrative skills convincingly and consistently. Her narrative point of view has always been adventurous and varied, her command of voice consistent, and her use of language, especially her orchestration of detail, impeccable. Just consider these randomly selected lines from “The Fjord of Eternity: “The light at that hour was Bubblicious pink and Orange Crush orange and hazard-tape yellow and it shone through the haze rising from the water, brackish and old-fridge
Her narrative viewpoint is both varied and versatile, too much so to explain adequately in anything short of a PHD thesis. Take for example her tactic of focusing on one incident in a story, moving back and forth from it in time, as she does in “Lovers with the Intensity I’m Talking About”, in which two ex-lovers meet and talk awkwardly in the entrance to a large grocery store,
the automatic doors opening and closing, shoppers entering and entering as a storm rages outside, a central incident reflecting the way in which characters come and go in the narrator’s recollected tempestuous life.
A cliche in the book promotion business is to say that you wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a work to anyone capable of reading. But I do hesitate, bearing in mind the advice of Martin Latham, author of A Bookseller’s Tale: “If you want to get someone to enjoy your heartfelt recommendation, a sort of take/it-or-leave-it insouciance is required. An overly enthusiastic recommendation gives your friend a burden: he or she must find the book life -changing, or they are not deep enough, or insufficiently caring about the friendship itself.” I’m not sure how I’d feel about anyone who disliked Lisa Moore, but I am sure that I don’t wan’t to find out. That said, I did give my eldest daughter a copy of Moore’s selected stories, knowing that she would, as a fiction writer herself, appreciate them more than others.
I am now ninety pages into Moore’s latest novel, this is how we love, drawn in irresistibly by the the was first paragraph, which begins with the narrator learning in a late-night phone call of her son’s near fatal stabbing. Moore’s fictional universe unfolding as it should.
After conducting the interview and writing these three blog posts, John Vardon is now participating as a judge for this year’s Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest.
You must be logged in to post a comment.