Looking back and ahead

January 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

In 2012 I had one clear favourite out of all the books I’d read: Helen DeWitt’s Lightning Rods. This year I had no single best book. Here are my top ten books from 2013, plus a bonus one, in no particular order.

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (which I reviewed for the Globe and Mail)
  • The Canvas by Benjamin Stein, translated from the German by Brian Zumhagen
  • Idiopathy by Sam Byers
  • For Sure by France Daigle, translated from the French by Robert Majzels (which I reviewed in last week’s TLS [paywall])
  • The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan (which I reviewed for the National Post)
  • First Novel by Nicholas Royle
  • Not Anyone’s Anything  by Ian Williams
  • Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavic
  • Permission by SD Chrostowska

And now some recommendations for 2014. Two of my friends are bringing out books: Jonathan Bennett’s excellent The Colonial Hotel and Michelle Berry’s Interference, which I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading. I’m also looking forward to Carrie Snyder’s Girl Runner, Eliza Robertson’s Wallflowers and Padma Viswanathan’s The Ever After of Ashwin Rao. On the translation front I recommend Quebec author Raymond Bock’s Atavismes (translated by Pablo Strauss), from which two very good stories were excerpted in the Review of Contemporary Fiction last year and Julia Deck’s Viviane: A Novel, which I suspect Kerry Clare (whose forthcoming non-fiction anthology The M Word looks absolutely fascinating) would like.


Six Canadian writers I wish would hurry up and publish another book

January 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’m not including people who published a book in 2013, nor people who have one coming out in 2014 (post to follow…probably), but here’s a very short list of some of the Anglophone Canadians I want to read more of, and soon. Maybe some of them have been quietly beavering away and do in fact have a book coming out this year. So much the better. Whenever their books are launched, I’ll be first in the queue. I wish I could have included images but WordPress was not cooperating.

Pasha Malla

The Withdrawal Method, Malla’s debut short-story collection, is fantastic. Its stellar nature may have led me to be overly harsh when reviewing People Park, and I could well be in a minority of one in thinking it wasn’t his best work even though it was fascinating, ambitious and clever. Nonetheless, I look forward eagerly to a new Pasha Malla book. For a little taste, check out Malla’s fantastic review of Robert Walser in the Globe and Mail last year.

Ian Williams

Another great short story writer. Williams’ Not Anyone’s Anything is, like The Withdrawal Method, the perfect blend of realism and grounded fantastic. Williams is also a poet and was shortlisted last year for the Griffin Prize.

Jessica Grant

Everyone seems to love Jessica Grant’s Come, Thou Tortoise, and I think its success is partly down to the fact that it can be a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I liked her short stories in Making Light of Tragedy even better. What will be next?

Anakana Schofield

Malarkey was one of the big seriously literary novels of 2012 for me, with its strange but brilliant mixture of exuberance of tone and the grief and darkness it deals with. Since Malarkey took ten years, we might be waiting a while for the next book, but we know it will be excellent.

Heather Birrell

Heather Birrell’s second short-story collection, Mad Hope, was another great 2012 book. I didn’t intend this post to be about so many short-story writers, but it is a genre that Canada as a whole excels in. A bit more to the realist end of things than some of the others, Birrell can write stories that feel as though they actually thump you in the chest.

Madeleine Thien

Simple Recipes came out when I was living in Vancouver and Thien was quite possibly the first young Canadian writer I had read. She’s written three books since then, the latter of which, Dogs at the Perimeter, was a powerful and lyrical novel about the aftermath of the Cambodian genocide. On top of her fiction writing, Thien is also a smart thinker.



Something Rhymed

January 3, 2014 § 1 Comment

My friend Emily Midorikawa has been working on a new website, Something Rhymed, about the literary friendships of famous female authors. Each month they’ll profile a different pair and post a challenge based on some feature of their relationship. This month the focus is on Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf. Go and have a look!

Where Am I?

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