It’s never not chilling. Each year in early December, remembrances unfurl on social networks and in the mainstream media. Every single time I walk through the Place du-6-décembre-1989 between the fourteen granite stelae, I have a lump in my throat. And I’m dismantled, again and still, as I sit here reading Josée Boileau’s account of the Montreal massacre and its echoes.
The dark side of Chicoutimi, an industrial town in the Saguenay, is the main character in Kevin Lambert’s first novel, recently translated into English by Donald Winkler as You Will Love What You Have Killed. Lambert, a Chicoute native, channels the resentment that fuelled his flight to Montreal in early adulthood into this vengeful, desperately violent novel.
This latest book from the prolific and thoughtful novelist and non-fiction writer Mary Soderstrom considers instances of imperfect cleavage. So-called frenemy nations, she writes, are separate states with “so much in common they might seem like unidentical twins.”
Does nationalism make us small, even if we try to confine it to coffee, football, and grilled meat? Why didn’t Communism make us better? Why is ownership fatal while belonging is salvific? Who exactly is supposed to forgive you when you leave home? Do all children more or less consciously live out an allegiance to their parents’ beliefs? And are the contradictions between the remembered past and the necessary present impossible to reconcile?
Wisdom in Nonsense, which is based on the CLC Kreisel Lecture O’Neill gave in 2017, introduces The Real Mister O’Neill. Having aspired to become a gangster in his youth, Buddy O’Neill stepped up to the paternal plate after his once-and-former love shrugged off the yoke of motherhood. In these thirteen “lessons” (and one incongruous blank-paged invitation for readers to contribute their own dadnecdotes), O’Neill fille catalogues what good can be gleaned from advice that is at worst delusional and at best out of step with reality.
Mary Soderstrom might just be my new favourite writer. She’s been writing for years, and we’ve been reading her for years, but meeting her reveals an energy that is contagious, and a humility that should be. Soderstrom in person is as unassuming, open, and delightful as she is erudite and elegant on the page.
There is a moment in childhood that first marks our awareness of the wider world, the moment we recognize what takes place beyond our own sphere. Our young selves are drawn to the narrative, to the images played and replayed on the news, to the hushed thrall of the grown-ups.
What a thrill to follow a writer from promise to fulfillment. Alice Petersen’s debut collection of short stories won the 2012 QWF Concordia University First Book Prize and marked her as a young writer to watch. Her second collection, Worldly Goods, more than delivers.
If the author is spectral, as Moure suggests in Secession/Insecession, then this book is doubly haunted, with the renowned Canadian poet translating and responding to an award-winning series of poetic texts by Pato published in Galicia as Secesión.
So, girl dates cad. Girl leaves cad. Girl trips serendipitously over business card. Girl buys into expensive arranged-marriage service. Marriage is arranged. Newly-met husband turns out to be knave. Girl leaves knave. Arranged husband professes love, knaveship is overturned. Ta-dah!