Funny how these things sort of get away from you, isn’t it? I wish I could tell you it was because I was off writing, but alas. I’ve been reading, and learning, but not practicing as much as I should. That’s why they call it the struggle. The bulk of the work has come from reading a few books on fiction [Gardner’s classic ‘The Art of Fiction’ as well as Charles Baxter’s ‘The Art of Subtext’, a fascinating little book on how to create things out of elements that aren’t there, if that makes sense] and letter writing, actually. I’m finding lately I greatly enjoy the practice of correspondence as a means of warming up for any sort of work to be done. My last day in Windsor I tried this method for the first time, and had one of the more productive days I can remember [productive as in, ‘wrote more than one line I was utterly happy with’].
So I suppose the point is, if you’d like to start a correspondence, shoot me an address. Bear in mind, this is strictly snail mail. I’m not going to write you something in longhand and then retype it for email.
The other thing that’s been brewing on my mind lately are a few of the practices the publishing industry seems to have adopted lately that I find troubling. Working in a bookstore, they pile up quickly.
I will never understand the purpose of these ‘liner notes for books’. I find something so much more elegant about the dedication on the front page of the book, than the two pages of awkward thank-yous at the end. I understand a whole team of people go into the publication of a novel, but I don’t understand why they need to be thanked publicly. I don’t know who those people are. I don’t know the person you dedicated the book to either, but the mystery of a dedication is just so much more appealing to me. ‘Once again, to Zelda’ are the four most simply beautiful words Fitzgerald ever wrote. Richard Ford uses one word: Kristina. No need to slap platitudes to their editors and agents in the back of the book. You want to thank them, send them a card.
All right, not all of them. But working in a bookstore, I see what arrives, and it seems as though the bulk of memoirs that end up on our shelves are written by white people in their 30s. And I’m sorry, but really, no matter the calibre of your writing, what the fuck do you really have to say about your life? Elie Wiesel can have a memoir, he survived the holocaust. You had a meth addiction, boo fucking hoo. Frank McCourt wrote three memoirs, you know why? Because he was sixty when he started! Jen Lancaster, you have what, seven? I mean, damn.
This is where I really shoot myself, I suppose. Granted, you could argue that the State of CanLit is in the best shape it’s ever been, and the current crop of younger writers offer a welcome alternative to the previous Atwood/Ondaatje/Munro trifecta [much love for Alice, though] but it was a rough spell for a while there. We had a running joke at work where my coworkers and I would concoct the plot for the great Canadian novel:
“How many generations?”
“Country of origin?”
“Let’s go…Eastern Europe. Croatia?”
“Excellent. Set in the Maritimes or the Prairies?”
That’ll at least get your foot in the door for a Canada Council grant.
Books based on blogs
Some of these work [Stuff White People Like]. Some do not [I Can Has Cheezburger?]. People, know the difference before you start tossing your money around.
Those are the top of the bullet list for right now. I have a number of others but frankly internet, I don’t think we know each other well enough for that.