Blog

Fabulous Fabulism

Posted on Apr 27, 2016

Fabulous Fabulism

I spent last weekend at a Lacanian Conference in Colorado Springs—which is to say, I spent the weekend listening to the unconscious desires of a whole lot of theorists talking about things like: what is repressed when a symbolic leader is privileged, how love emerges in quiet ways, how silence can be radical (ask Bartleby the Scrivener), how an analyst listens for telling puns, since punning is a portal to the unconscious. My paper was about Robinson Crusoe talking to gold. I do not know what it is about the scene where Robinson pillages the useless money and hides it away deep in the novel for twenty-eight years, except that it is a fabulous moment, one that can’t quite be reckoned to the realist impulse most critics have attributed to the “novel.” This short paper is the tiny seed of a bigger project I will be working on for my dissertation—the long essay I am beginning to earn a PhD. Wish me luck. This is a topsy-turvy blogpost because I’m too tired to sort out the overarching connection among the things in it, and besides I am still dreaming my last night’s dream, about keys, and wanting to swim, and then dancing gloriously with my mother, both of us twirling. Here is a lovely wee article about fabulism that I enjoyed this morning. It’s about a purse which is really a portal. Maybe all metaphors are portals, I am thinking. Maybe language—itself metaphorical—is a portal. That’s a pretty Lacanian thought, after all. Sometime over the weekend, a book club sent me questions about All The Broken Things and I liked the tone of the Q&A so I asked them if I could post it to my blog (two for one!). I had hoped to Skype in (something I do for free when book clubs request a visit) but our timing did not work out, so I suggested they send me questions, if they had any. I will put it here, since it discusses fabulism and my interest in it: Bookclub: The time in High Park: we see the reference to the play Orpheus and Eurydice but it also has a feeling of magical realism – was this intentional? Me:  Yes, the line between the factually true and the fantastic or the fairytale is immensely interesting to me. In my first novel, The Nettle Spinner I was already developing a playful interaction along the border of the real and the not-quite-real. For this interest, my name has an entry in the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, edited by the fairy tale scholar, Jack Zipes. I am endlessly fascinated by the way that fairy tales convey meaning — by amplifying consequences for their protagonists etc. And I have always loved magic. It was always the intention with ATBT to tell the story through a fairy tale, or Romance, lens, and the use of the play was a way to connect the practice of storytelling (theatre) with the sort of truth one may find in a fairy tale. I am glad that you caught this! Bookclub: We all (for different reasons each) thought that Max was one of the most interesting characters in the story, what was your intention of Max’s role in the story? Me: Max is a strange villain, and in a way he is not really even a villain. It’s hard to talk about intention here because he literally just popped into the story one day while I was writing and I loved him so well that he had to stay. I had so much fun watching Max emerge out of my...

Read More

Authors for Indies

Posted on Apr 20, 2016

Authors for Indies

Authors-for-Indies Time Again! If you are not familiar with this brilliant initiative, you can read about it here. Last year, I spent the day in three book venues, hand-selling books: Bloor West Book City, The University of Toronto Bookstore, and Type Books.     This year I’ll be handing out bad #writingtips on paper. These will be carefully selected from the 19 pages of egregious #writingtips I’ve been offering the public on twitter for the last two years. I solemnly promise you all that if you follow my advice you will end up happy and probably unpublished, which is a tautology. Here are a couple from the archive: Colons are messy business. #writingtips Hey you writerly mofos. Today, we are going to collectively rock that damn Casbah. #writingtips Take your foot out of your mouth. #writingtips Invite Marx into your heart. #writingtips My very first #writingtips was: I will begin by kissing all the words. #writingtips. I’ll be at Book City in Bloor West Village on April 30th, at 11 am, tea in hand, #writingtips in hand, smile in back pocket. Come!!!!!! Sign up for Kiki’s occasional newsletter...

Read More

Hieronymus Bosch

Posted on Mar 27, 2016

Hieronymus Bosch

Hieronymus Bosch   Because I am extremely excited to be lucky enough to be going to the 500 year anniversary of Heironymous Bosch’s death in  ’s-Hertogenbosch in May, I have decided to let you read my most Boschian of stories. The story is called “Will You Staunch the Wound?” and was originally published on the app Storyville, where it has won the inaugural Sidney Prize for Fiction (and possibly last; I may have actually broken that prize). Here is an article about this amazing Bosch exhibit in Holland. And here is my story (I plan to take it down and leave a stub in a week, so enjoy while you can, and please do respect my copyright):   Will You Staunch the Wound? © 2016 Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer It used to be that you weren’t allowed to take the deadfall branches but either the rules have changed or else no one cares any more about the rules. There are dogs everywhere, too, and I can’t remember the last time I saw one on a leash. They just roam around, and you have to watch your back. Some of the gleaners call themselves survivalists and I’ve heard the new euphemism is eco-activist but really we are poor. It’s that some of us are self-consciously poor and some of us are just poor. In a good day, Robbie and I can cart thirty dollars worth of firewood, gathered from High Park, the Lakeshore and up through the Humber. We started this enterprise first with returnable bottles, but with the economy in its last plummet, the middle class got miserly. And as I said to Robbie, I’m not scrapping with a middle manager over an empty bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pape. Robbie is eleven. I located him in a doorwell on Dundas West. A halo of filthy blonde hair, and just enough naivety in his clear eyes, and I was a goner. He wasn’t a replacement child, if that’s what you’re thinking.   Two viruses—one electronic, one medical—had culled the city’s population. And anyone with expertise in any field, excepting the very brave and the very altruistic, had fled. There were, quite simply, fewer people. And more dogs, more of them rabid—it was not uncommon to see frothing, staggering mongrels anywhere in the city. Darwinism at work, I supposed. Robbie and I had Pavlov, the bloodhound. The animal was so nose-directed it was a miracle I found him and not the other way around. The miracle involved a festering gunshot wound, his left flank, which I stuffed, after disinfecting it with a salt packet ‘gleaned’ from the Ukrainian Deli at Quebec street and Bloor, and shoving it full with the cleanest leaves I could find. Dog meat was better than no meat at all to some, and poaching had become something of a youth pastime—many of the school gyms had been pilfered for bows. And guns?—guns were easily had if you knew whose palm to grease. This was no different than any other time in history, but it was new that grandmothers, and also very young children, openly carried. Contrary to popular myth, we did not live in the park. We had a bedsit in the decaying condo project on the old Canadian Tire lot, abandoned some years prior. So we were in no way homeless. Robbie and I had hauled, and rolled, a parlour stove scored from a back alley up the fire stairs, then jerry rigged stolen pipe through a broken window—well, once we’d broken it. When I say stolen, keep in mind no commerce had taken place in that...

Read More

Carol Nguyen’s Kickstarter

Posted on Mar 25, 2016

Carol Nguyen’s Kickstarter Go to Carol’s Kickstarter here. Carol Nguyen is the young, brilliant filmmaker who made the trailer for All The Broken Things. In her four-year career at the Etobicoke School of the Arts, she has won: TIFF Jumpcuts Best Documentary 2014 & 2015, as well as Heartland Film Festival’s Grand Prize High School Film Competition 2013 & 2015. Her films have played at various film festival across the globe including Fantastic Fest, Los Angeles Film Festival and Citizen Jane Film Festival. Basically, her work is astounding, evocative, and complex. She’s extremely gifted and (more to the point) hard working. Her parents own the mechanic shop where I’ve serviced my cars for twenty years, and this new film seems to be set right inside the garage. Clearly a brilliant stoke of genius as she bids her folks farewell and heads off to what will surely be a wondrous life. Please share this, pledge, and check out Carol’s work: And the trailer for All The Broken Things, which I share at every opportunity because I love it so much:...

Read More

Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab

Posted on Feb 29, 2016

Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab

Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab It took me forever to finally read Shani Mootoo’s Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab partly because of school commitments and partly because of writing commitments. I sat down with it this weekend and basically gobbled it down over two days. Mootoo’s voice is like silk, people. It wraps around one and feels so damn good in there. This novel is about a young man’s search for his Trinidadian parent. The prose is elegiac, lyrical, elegant. What is most entrancing is Mootoo’s attention to detail, to particular moments, as they shift, and alter a scene’s meaning, and the exquisite texture of that movement as it accumulates. The novel, about a transitioned female-to-male character, and the beauty and suffering of a single lifetime, is most seriously about transformation — about becoming other than what you are, in order to become more closely what you are meant to be. The form the novel takes — as the young man listens to his parent, and reads letters to and from this man, and then re-animates in his own writing the energetic impulse inherent in this man’s story, is also concerned with the alchemy of artistic transformation, and how story emerges from its various places — memory, self-narration, the community, loved ones, and ones who do not love one. The magic of Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab is that the prose itself, as it mysteriously runs along a current in the reader’s brain, latching there — well, for me at least! — begins its own transformative work. “Your black hair in this photo is pulled back, but looks as if it has been freshly groomed, with deep grooves that could only have been caused by the teeth of a large comb. Because of all this, and because the water spraying out of the shower tap hasn’t disturbed your hair, and the mascara and the kohl that thickly outline your large bright eyes haven’t run, the photo seems staged. The water from the shower hits your hair and each drop, or rather dash, each smart dash, shatters like fireworks” I want so badly to spoil the novel by quoting at length from its final scene. I won’t, of course, but the temptation is huge. The scene runs pages and pages, and in it, we witness a gorgeous shock alongside the young man. He can’t have imagined himself in this scene, and even as he tried, he failed so badly, the scene becomes almost a joke in its insistence of being NOT that thing he thought it would be. We also — or certainly most of us — can’t begin to imagine this scene that Mootoo painstakingly delivers to us, in tiny, shifting new knowledge, so that in the end, we are the young man, being wrought anew. It’s one of the most beautiful, smart pieces of writing I’ve come across in a while. I probably should disclose to you that I know and love Shani Mootoo and that this should not diminish in the least what I’ve just written. You should read this gorgeous book because it is that good AND because I adore its author. Shani started out her adult life as a visual artist and has been painting again. I bought this diptych from her this summer — a swing on the left and a lantern on the right. These images helped keep me moving and inspired while I wrote the first draft of a new novel this past summer:      ...

Read More

Interview with Deborah Eisenberg: Window from Twilight of the Superheroes

Posted on Feb 19, 2016

Interview with Deborah Eisenberg: Window from Twilight of the Superheroes

Interview with Deborah Eisenberg: “Window” from Twilight of the Superheroes Many years ago, for a course I taught for the (now defunct; no fault of mine!) New York Times Knowledge Network, I interviewed Deborah Eisenberg in her beautiful Chelsea digs. Wallace Shawn brought us sandwiches, as I recall, and we played around with my new computer’s photo booth (see above). We mostly talked about her story “Window,” which I love, and which was on the syllabus of my Writer’s Talk online course. Window is a brilliant inside-oout story, which is to say that most everything that happens in the story happens in the past. The framework is so simple and so still, as to hardly matter. The kinetic movement is all backstory. It shouldn’t work but it’s one of her best stories, in my opinion. My favourite part is when she speaks about punctuation marks. I asked her ages ago whether I could post this interview and she said yes, and life intervened (mine did, and I forgot to post it). But here it is, finally, in two parts: Part One Part...

Read More