For my Toronto friends.
Okay. So. Here’s the deal.
My mother’s attending a food bloggers’ conference at the Harbourfront Centre, so my hours in Toronto are between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM.
The incomparable Dan Perry will be meeting me at the Second Cup near the Harbourfront Centre/Queen’s Quay Terminal, and we’ll be heading out to explore the city from there.
That’s about all I have for concrete plans so far.
You can join me at any time. Just shoot me a text or a tweet to see where I’m at. If you don’t have my number, you can request it via Twitter DM ( http://twitter.com/BraydonBeaulieu ) or via email ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).
What I’ll probably do during the late afternoon — until I have to book it — is find a cool restaurant to chill, and everyone who hasn’t seen me yet can come and go as they please. That said, I have no idea what’s good in Toronto, especially around the Queen’s Quay area.
So, any recommendations for places to eat? things to see? etc.?
How to make yourself a more resilient writer.
I’ve gotten used to seeing excellent stuff coming from the Twitter account of Hayden’s Ferry Review, but a link they shared earlier today is pure gold. The Stoneslide Corrective’s Rejection Generator Project emails out rejection letters, which (they claim) “helps writers take the pain out of rejection.” Here’s their logic:
The Rejection Generator is designed for all writers. Emerging writers can utilize it to remember life before their first break. Writers well-established in their careers can use it for balance: no matter how successful a writer is, each year there are Pulitzers to lose, as well as National Book Awards, PENs, and Nobels to not be selected for; maintaining a sharp sense of rejection as award announcements approach is important. And, of course, beginning writers not used to or only barely used to the sheer weight of rejection that lies ahead can use the Generator to get ready for the future.
I signed up for an email in each rejection category, and loved my results. You can find them below, in all their depressing, insulting, world-shattering glory.
Dear Writer,Ease up on the anti-depressants.The Editors
Dear Writer,We know the feeling of hope with which any writer opens a message from a publisher, expecting a new breakthrough, a new recognition. That is a good feeling, and you deserve to feel good. Savor it. Maybe jot down a few sentences describing your dizzy near-elation at this moment. It’s about to end.Your piece is not for us.Regards,
Dear Writer,We regret that we cannot use your piece. We want to reassure you that we are respectful of all writers who take a chance and submit work. We have given the piece our utmost attention and read it carefully from beginning to end. That’s why we’re rejecting it.The Editors
The Southern Gentleman:
Dear Sir or Madame, Miss, or Ms.,Life is a peculiar thing. Victory goes not always to the swiftest, as we are taught when very young. But there is always a good bit of wisdom to be found. We regret that we will not be able to publish the piece you submitted at this time.We remain, as always, yours & etc.,
Big Chakra Dosing Agent:
Dear Writer,Energy is what it’s all about.Save yours.Sincerely,
The Civil Gesture:
Dear Writer,This piece is amazing. We were utterly blown away reading it. We laughed and cried at the same time, creating a strange gasping noise that went on so long our neighbors called an ambulance. That’s how powerful your writing is.We’d just like to see one change: Could you make the narrator an eighty-year-old grandmother who hears about the story while waiting for gall bladder surgery via a phone call from her goddaughter who only speaks Dutch and Mandarin? That would really pull it all together.Regards,
Destroy! Destroy! Destroy!:
Dear Writer,If we had the budget, we would hire one of the crews that cleans up toxic Superfund sites to visit your office and expunge all evidence of your attempts at writing. Perhaps we will apply for a federal grant. We’ll let you know.Regards,
A quote from Roberta Seelinger Trites.
Adults need to remember that children’s literature should be read as literature—where embedded meanings and symbolic representations have powerful influences on readers and listeners. Rather than banning books or censoring stereotypes, adults should take on the role of mediating the text.
Roberta Seelinger Trites
In Review: Dani Couture’s Algoma
Congratulations to Suzette Mayr and Coach House Books!
This morning, Coach House Books received word that Suzette Mayr’s Monoceros is a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction. Congratulations, Prof. Mayr and the staff at Coach House, for nomination for this stellar award!
Check out my guest review of Monoceros on bookgaga: http://bookgaga.posterous.com/monoceros-by-suzette-mayr
Dani Couture reading at the University of Windsor.
Dani Couture. University of Windsor’s Freed Orman Centre. Wednesday, November 2 at 4:30 p.m. Be there.
Rawi Hage’s De Niro’s Game ruins a young writer’s life.
The first line in De Niro’s Game (House of Anansi, 2006) ruined my life. And by “ruined” I mean pulled me into one of the most visceral, war-torn, disturbing roller-coaster rides of my literary life.
Hage’s hallucinatory poetic style is the first thing I noticed reading this novel. Reminiscent of the poetry of Lebanese author Kahlil Gibran, Hage’s prose fuses concrete imagery with limitless intangibilities. While creative writing students might cringe at the thought of anything they can’t touch or taste or smell, they needn’t worry about being pulled away from the moment in De Niro’s Game. Not only are abstract concepts grounded so skilfully in sensory detail that one can smell the stench of the “sewer that carried our collective sins,” but the first-person narrator is so intriguing that we forgive him his cosmic musings because we understand that they come from his own tortured mind, and not by any flaw of Hage’s craft.
This is where De Niro’s Game excels in ways that the majority of books could only hope to: even given his attention to stylistic innovation, Hage doesn’t let the poetry of his text detract from the gripping tale it tells. Here is a book that anyone can enjoy; casual readers and critical bookhounds alike. Given the balancing act between excellent style and exhilarating story, it’s really no wonder that De Niro’s Game won Rawi Hage the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, among other accolades.
The story is of Bassam and George, best friends who grew up and live in Lebanon. Their country is shattered by war and the two find themselves irresistibly drawn into its conflicts, and they must choose to live as soldiers, or flee the only homes they know. The book is divided into three sections: Roma, Beirut, and Paris. Each section begins with destruction and ends with devastation, usually for Bassam. Holding the text together is the mantra of “ten thousand,” which Bassam uses to describe the number of bombs falling in Lebanon, of times he was hit during torture, of soldiers’ coffins buried in the dirt, of kisses he lays on his girlfriend’s body. Each repetition of “ten thousand” is laced with loss; every time Bassam repeats something, it’s usually to communicate the death and hopelessness by which he is constantly surrounded.
Hage’s choice to exclude quotation marks from De Niro’s Game plays significantly into the construction of the narrator. As Bassam’s mind begins to deteriorate under the pressure of war, torture and the loss of his loved ones, it becomes less and less clear when he is actually speaking. This is, for a writer, a dangerous line to walk. Thankfully, Hage doesn’t overdo it. The lack of signalling for verbal exchanges lends an even more hallucinatory and chaotic tone to the novel. Given the poetic voice of the narrator and the subject matter of the novel, this proves to be fitting.
This focus on narrative devices brings us to the most striking thing about De Niro’s Game: Bassam’s voice. Seemingly disconnected from the world, Bassam lives as much inside his head as on the blasted sands of Lebanon and the filthy streets of Paris. He reports everything he sees, smells and hears in astounding detail, cataloguing his experience without preaching against the injustices of civil war. This is his life, and he accepts it. His unemotional dictation carries us through the entire story, remaining detached and observant even in the most distressing situations we can imagine. The death of his mother, his torture at the hands of Rambo, his betrayal by George; all are narrated to us by a man who doesn’t understand that he could possibly be anything more than an empty shell, a man who cannot even cry at his own mother’s funeral.
Reading De Niro’s Game as a reader is a breathtaking and harrowing experience, but reading it as a writer-in-progress is a lesson in what prose should be. Flawlessly balancing style and story, Rawi Hage manages to pull off the novel that thousands before him would kill to have written, including myself. From reading this gem of a novel, I’ve learned that no subject is too difficult to tackle, no story too wild or dramatic, as long as you have the solid language skills to support it. I hope to one day write a book as skilfully riveting as De Niro’s Game.
I’ve recently picked up a couple publications in online literary magazines.
Then check out my dirty, blasphemous poem "Lesser Light to Govern the Night" on page 76 of the not-for-profit art collective Steel Bananas, issue 28. I’ve embedded the journal below — for easy access — and opened it to my page. Please check out the rest of the journal, too. My good friend Kate Hargreaves has a poetry suite in this issue, starting on page 40. Steel Bananas is, by the way, accepting submissions now for its twenty-ninth issue, the theme for which is: austerity.
For class tomorrow (Monday, October 3).
Remember how I’d hinted that there might be things to print off for tomorrow, and that you should all check back tonight for links and/or documents tongiht?
Don’t worry about it.
All you’ll need to bring to class tomorrow are:
- your thinking caps.
- your Writing in the Works textbook (I’m planning on using this, but may drop this part of the lesson plan depending on how other things go, so bring it just in case).
- your laptops, which will come in handy for our research activities tomorrow.
See you all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning.