Monday, March 06, 2006


Because it's nearly three am and I just finished my latest review - this time of Anar Ali's first book of short stories, Baby Khaki's Wings - I thought I'd take a moment to issue a few more commands (um, what I really mean is...recommendations) about what I think people would/could/should be reading:

Some Great Thing by Colin McAdam was actually some great, as my come from away's friend's Newfoundland-based lover would say. If nothing else, it contains the two most wildly different voices I've ever read in a literary novel. It also manages to wrench whatever organs you believe are the source of emotion in people - the heart, the belly, the lungs.

I saw McAdam read in great style from Some Great Thing at the book festival in Banff more than a year ago, but chose to take home Colm Toibin's The Master instead. I think it was the scene with the gondola and the floating dresses that seduced me, but I'm glad I also let McAdam's descriptions of construction sites and chip-truck sex have their way with me.

The 52nd Poem by Thomas Trofimuk came to me in exchange for a picture of the the night time woods. Fellow blogger Anita needed a picture for a poster containing young adult novels for a conference. I apparently needed this book. A trade was made, and our late night identical suitcases were made of electrons and packing tape.

Not unlike the night time woods, it took me some convincing to get intoThe 52nd Poem, as it contains a meta-fictional opening that is far too precious for its own good. The longing and meditation that form the center of the book is so unusually good that it makes the initial slog much so, in fact, that I've asked to review his next book, Doubting Yourself to the Bone, even though he's jumped ship from local Great Plains Publications to Toronto's Cormorant Books.

Now it's back to the ecopoetics for me...


Jill said...

Mcadam's voice at Banff stuck with me, too - especially the chip truck stuff. I read the book a few months ago to get that ghost out of my head and have found myself more haunted since. I'd like to drink beer with Mr. Mcadam because I believe his voices. I'm glad you're out there reviewing books, Ariel, because I'm not so articulate as all that and besides, I swear too much - wink. Another great book because of strong, original voice is Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang. That's a stunner. That's the truth.

Ariel Gordon said...

A friend recently commented that my child's first word will probably be goddamn...and I was pleased.

I haven't read much Carey, mostly because the first book of his I tried was sort of ho-hum...but M and I picked up nearly a hundred books in a Utah bargain book shop that was going out of a business ($1 for trade/$2 for hardcover), including, if memory serves, True History.

They should be arriving on our doorstep mid-April, along with our snowbird-y in-laws...

Thomas Trofimuk said...

Hi Ariel,
I'm glad you got past the beginning...and enjoyed the rest. I think you night like Doubting Yourself to the Bone....I think it gets to the point a lot faster than The 52nd Poem. It's a bigger book; in scope, I mean. Who do you review for? (Or in English: For whom do you review?)

Thomas Trofimuk

Ariel Gordon said...

Hey Thomas,

Though I'm partly mortified that an author whose work I've commented on has commented on my comment - and in such a gracious way too - I'm also glad to make your acquaintance...

As to your other question, as my editor at the Winnipeg Free Press puts it, I review "the pretentious literary novels."

(I've ALMOST stopped bristling when he says that...)

Thomas Trofimuk said...

I review for The Edmonton Journal, and I have to say as an aside, I found that having books out there in the world, for others to review, has made me a way better reviewer. I'm more fair. My observations are tempered by being in the same boat. Ha, yes, "the pretentious literary novels..." That’s what I aspire to!!! HA! Bottom line, as reviewers, we're not going like everything we read. As writers, we should not expect everybody to like what we write. Sometimes it's just taste, sometimes it's a failure on the part of the reviewer to "get it." I know, because of time contraints, I've failed a couple of books.
Anyway, I really wanted to let you that I moved away from Great Plains, a wonderful publishing house, with a very heavy heart...They were so good to me...And I hope that someday I can come back to Great Plains. It was about finding a publisher that was a bit bigger, where I could get my work exposed more, with more resources for promotion...
I'm working a third novel right now, (Meditations on Unfaithfulness) and it's NOT in 2nd person (Doubting is)(a point of view that some see as experimental, others just stupid and pretentious...Regardless, I'll likely come back to 2nd person POV at some point...I find it a really intriguing way to tell a story.)
Anyway, keep in touch.
You have my e-mail. Drop me a line after you're done your review, good or bad, no hurt feelings here.


Ariel Gordon said...

Mmm. The idea of a reader failing a book - instead of the book failing the reader - is intriguing.

Good luck with Doubting Yourself to the Bone by the way!

I hope that knowing that someone is going to be reviewing it that might say flippant things on her blog like "far too precious for its own good" didn't add to your anxiety...

Thomas said...

Thanks Ariel. I think that prologue was a little bit fact, I wanted to cut it...but somehow wound up not and son-of-bitch, the Globe and Mail review raved about it! I know people that never read a prologue. I liked your review on Children of the Day, by the way, (which I reviewed too, for the Journal). I thought it was brilliant.