Thursday, January 09, 2014

Apocalyptic reading list

So I've been writing this end-times exquisite corpse with Darryl Joel Berger the last few months.

And then in December, I bought one of the Literary Press Group's All Lit Up Xmas book bundles, which contained nouveau-Manitoban Lauren Carter's Swarm, which I'd been hearing about all fall.

And then a week or so later, I was assigned to review Korean-American writer Chang-Rae Lee's latest, the apocalyptic On Such a Full Sea for the Winnipeg Free Press.

And so I found myself thinking on the pleasures and perils of apocalyptic fictions. My default is Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, but I thought I'd see what other people were reading, so I asked on Facebook.

To be completely precise, I asked while browsing the bookshelves at McNally Robinson Booksellers  while waiting for the late showing of second Hobbit movie. (SMOG! SMOG! I insist on pronouncing it SMOG!)

And I got such good suggestions that:

A) I bought Emily Shultz' The Blondes. (Also Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi. But that isn't apocalyptic, opting instead for all kinds of tomfoolery in/around storytelling and myth-making.)

The Blondes reminded me pleasantly of Swarm. Both have young, slightly inept female protagonists who are contemplating maternity. Both books expend a lot of energy on the procurement of clothes and food in the wake of their individual apocalypses, which is how I think things would be. Both books parcel out grief and loss around missing loved ones, the randomness of loss, in a way that I deeply appreciated.

B) I thought I'd share the rest of the list, in case you want in...

Nod by Adrian Barnes;  Into That Darkness by Steven Price; The Age by Nancy Lee; The Blondes by Emily Shultz; People Park by Pasha Malla; The Paradise Engine by Rebecca Campbell; Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood; Pontypool by Tony Burgess; Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley; PostApoc by Liz Worth; Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson; Boating for Beginners by Jeanette Winterson; The Hollow and Other Fictions by Richard Truhlar; The Last Canadian by William C. Heine.

Some of which I was familiar with, some of which I wasn't.

Finally, as this bookish e-conversation was winding down, another friend shared an image credited to a group called Grandmothers Against Bullshit. (Ahem.) The image consisted of a sunset with the following text overlaid on it:

"Apocaloptimist. def: Someone who knows it's all going to shit, but still thinks it will turn out okay."

Which I think sums up my worldview nicely, as someone who likes to write about in-between natural spaces, who likes to live in in-between natural spaces. And hopes against hope that I/they will somehow persist.

And I thought that was it, until I saw that 49th Shelf just published Lauren Carter's reading list of Survivalist Can-lit. Which contains a completely different and excellent list.

Clearly, there is no end to the books (and book-chatter) about end-times.

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