I’ll be reading at the UVic Department of Writing Faculty Reading Night with Maureen Bradley, Kevin Kerr, David Leach, Tim Lilburn, Lorna Jackson, Joan MacLeod, Lynne Van Luven, JoAnn Dionne, Connor Gaston, and Fiona Mitchell. Should be a good night!

7pm Thursday, September 26
Room A240 HSD (Human & Social Development Building)
Everyone welcome!

WR Faculty reading poster_'13_Final

Tim Winton–Breath

I’ve been a fan Tim Winton since I read The Turning, his collection of short fiction. His latest novel, Breath, is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Not only is the story itself exhilarating, the technique is controlled to the point of being invisible. Want to write? Here is a guide to the retrospective novel.

Victoria Symphony and Miriam Toews

Two great things are happening this friday, and though I can’t do both I wish I could! Take your pick:

Victoria Symphony
May 6 at 8pm
Alix Goolden Hall

VS Principal Violist Kenji performs Jacques Hetu’s Viola Concerto in the second and final Odyssey concert of the season. Principal Guest Conductor Alain Trudel conducts this show, which also includes Adams’ Shaker Loops, Bouchard’s Exquisite Fires,
and Bolcom’s Commedia for (almost) 18th century orchestra. Join us for an evening of excellent (and slightly outside-of-the-box) modern classical music at the Alix Goolden Hall.

Munro’s Books Presents

Elizabeth Hay and Miriam Toews
Friday May 6th 7:30
Fairfield United Church
1303 Fairfield Road

M–awards; Steve Price’s new Novel; Aventa Concert

Had a great week of New Art in Victoria…

1.Bolen Books sponsored a reading of fiction shortlisted for the M Awards, (monday mag) and there to read were Jack Hogins, Matthew Hooton (my current fiction prof), Robert J. Wiersema, and John Gould (a past fiction prof of mine). Small gathering, but great readers. I look forward to wadding through their fiction this month.

2. Steven Price (also a past fiction prof of mine) debuted his new novel Into That Darkness at UVic Bookstore last Thursday. I expect it to be an interesting read as this is Steve’s first novel–he’s usually know for his poetry.

3. Yesterday Aventa premiered three works by Canadian composers: Falling–Markus Lehmann-Horn; Ask You Dance Me–James Rolfe; Fifteen Stages in the Search for Radium and Love–Tim Brady. Again, a small gathering here as well, with the audience mainly composers. Is there anyway to cross-breed audiences? Both the local lit world and music world are doing fantastic things!


I recently read Karen Russell’s new (first) novel Swamplandia! Karen has been anthologized in the New York Times 20 under 40 as a writer to watch, and with her first story collection titled St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, her new novel featuring an alligator wrestling family in the swamps of the Florida Everglades, her astonishing control of rococo prose, her age around the same as mine–I find I watch her wishing her words were my own. This isn’t a bad envy, though, (I’m eagerly waiting for her short story collection to land in my mailbox) rather it’s the sort of envy that inspires. In her opening to Swamplandia! she writes:

“Nights in the swamp were dark and star-lepered–our island was thirty-odd miles off the grid of mainland lights–and although your naked eye could easily find the ball of Venus and the sapphire hairs of the Pleiades, our mother’s body was just lines, a smudge against the palm trees. Somewhere directly below Hilioa Bigtree, dozens of alligators pushed their icicle overbites and the awesome diamonds of their heads through over three hundred thousand gallons of filtered water.”

Despite being pulled in and delighted by the prose of the story I did find myself asking a few questions: why does Ossie’s ghost-boyfriend Louis Thanksgiving get a whole huge chapter when Ossie herself is never pulled open (as her siblings Ava and Kiwi are)? is the Bird-man right for the story? (I ask that one because when I reached his chapter everything else felt like a beautiful lead-up.) Kiwi’s section is great, and I admire how Karen blended third person into a very first person story, but is it overdone? (I felt myself impatient with the huge whale and the flying gig)

I think the problems are that (at least) two of these chapters were written and published as short stories first: Louis Thanksgiving’s chapter and Ava and the Birdman. I have only read Louis’s short story (waiting on the other to arrive in the mail, as I said) but empathize with Karen not wanting to take the backspace key to any of that prose. I’m  guessing the Birdman section suffered a similar what-to-keep problem when it slid into the novel. I suppose that that is the danger of baroque prose–more is more, but more doesn’t fix little structural problems.

This is a beautiful, creative, and tender read by an author with obvious talent.

Writing Happy

Is it possible to write a happy story that isn’t…fake? There are plenty of examples of stories written with love–sad stories that are crafted with empathy–but an actually Happy Story? Not many. So here’s a good example: Andrew Kaufman’s new novel ‘The Waterproof Bible’ is a story about dealing with grief and emotion, yet is full of hope. Also frog/mer/people, a great flood, and a woman who keeps her feeling in (literal) boxes. I was thrown at first, unsure if I liked the prose and some of the leaps in fact the book asks the reader to make (despite having asked for rain makers there is no feel of drought) but by the end the vibe won me over. The simple, straight-forward prose pairs well with the tone and down-plays the oddities. Plus great title.