The Dusty Bookshelf - What We're Reading - November 2017
We don't quite know how we found the time, but here are the books we've been reading lately.
Alana Wilcox, Editorial Director
I’ve just been in Minneapolis for our American sales conference and thinking about geography and class issues, so I’m reading Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. Troubling, to be sure, but it’s an engrossing read.
I’m about to start Laura Raicovich’s At the Lightning Field, published by our friends at Coffee House Press. It is a meditation on art as experience rather than object, inspired by a few trips to The Lightning Field, an art installation in New Mexico. It makes me think of what our own Darren O’Donnell has done to theatre.
Crystal Sikma, Managing Editor
I've only just started Scarborough by Catharine Hernandez (Arsenal Pulp, 2017) but I'm so hooked. After seeing the author read at the Toronto Book Awards ceremony, I've got that curious child's voice—that she evokes both live and on the page—in my head. But all of the characters are completely compelling. I can't wait to finish this book and lend it to everyone I know.
I made a big move from Brooklyn to Toronto this summer and have finally been able to unpack and start reading two books by two brilliant friends back in New York. The first is Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke (Pantheon, 2017). This debut graphic memoir perfectly and poetically captures sadness and longing and uncertainty and all the feelings we project onto the landscapes around us. Oh, and it features one of the best cats I know.
The second book I pulled out of a moving box wasThe Epiphany Machine, about a machine that tattoos an essential truth about a person on their arm. With a conceit like that, this book is as clever and insightful as you could hope for. It's also the best New York novel I've read in a long time.
Jessica Rattray, Publicist
Shortly after lamenting that I was envious of readers who would get to encounter the genius that is Camilla Grudova’s The Doll’s Alphabet for the first time, I found Carmen Maria Machado’s equally eerie book, Her Body and Other Parties (Graywolf, 2017). These sister short story collections share themes: feminism, women’s bodies, and reproduction, – all sprinkled with a dose of dark horror. The first story in Machado’s book – ‘The Husband Stitch,’ bears a spooky parallel to the first story in Grudova’s – ‘Unstitching’. For those of you who’ve devoured The Doll’s Alphabet, you will feel right at home in Machado’s unsettling universe.
My Conversations with Canadians (from the small, but mighty BookThug, 2017) is the product of the legendary Lee Maracle’s years on the road, beginning with her tour for the now classic Bobbi Lee in 1976. Maracle uses an (oftentimes downright racist) question from the many audience Q&As she's endured as a jump off for each of the book's thirteen chapters – What Can We Do To Help, What Do I Call You, Appropriation and so on. She responds to these Canadians, not with direct answers (because where's the fun in that), but instead a delicate balance of wit, heart, tough love and historical grounding. Each carefully considered hindsight is as relevant today as it was at the 1988 Vancouver Writers Festival (of which she writes about), and perhaps even more so as we head into 2018. For the full effect: read these out loud as the tone is conversational, and you just might spark a great debate with your listeners.
Because Hallowe’en is a lifestyle, not a holiday, I’m including The Ghost Box created by Hingston & Olsen, a boutique independent publisher based in Calgary who are also the masterminds behind the Short Story Advent Calendar. The Ghost Box is a gorgeous little package: a magnetized box (that one could say resembles a coffin) contains eleven individually bound stories (printed on high quality paper and fastened with copper staples), from horror writers past and present, a note from the anthology’s unexpected editor – comedian Patton Oswalt – and a conclusion in the form of a poem from none other than HP Lovecraft. George RR Martin’s contribution (I know, I know) is, unsurprisingly, the longest, but there are some slim tales that slither inside as well – W.F. Harvey’s story, “clocks” in at just under 10 pages. In between are tales that run the gamut from subtle, spine tickling horror to full out slasher stuff with blood and guts galore. This is a thing of wicked beauty.
Sarra Francis, Sales & Marketing Co-ordinator
I am not ashamed to admit that I started reading Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon in August, and will gladly continue reading it well into 2018. It's just that good!
From one genius work of non-fiction to another - John McPhee's Oranges has got me hooked on, well, oranges.
Rick Lima, Intern
Dodge and Burn by Seraphina Madsen, published by Dodo Ink. You probably know this already but small publishers put out the most interesting stuff! Dodge and Burn caught my eye on the concept alone and kept me reading with its great prose. The story revolves around a woman who is abducted by a man after the death of her mother and taken all across North America, or so it seems! There is a heavy dose of magic realism in this book which I'm way into. If you dig movies like Dog Tooth or writers like Hunter S. Thompson, I think you'll be into this novel by Madsen.
Shit and Piss by Tyler Landry, published by Retrofit Comics. I met Landry at TCAF this year and was blown away by the style of his work. It's essentially about a sewage processing plant and the horrible things that live within it. What I love about Shit and Piss is how quiet it is. The tension that Landry builds in his panels is incredible and make for a very uncomfortable read. Landry also has a great eye for really gross things which I really appreciate.