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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:      ...

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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...

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CBC Interview/article

Posted on Feb 10, 2016

CBC Interview/article

CBC interview and article My last blog post (on sexual assault, truth, trauma, and the body) got a great deal of attention, and during the unexpected flurry of that attention, I was approached by CBC Vancouver to interview about it. Here is that interview, embedded in an article discussing both the interview and the original blogpost. The interview is archived under the photograph, to the left. Thank-you for your response to this. It has meant a great deal to me....

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Is That A Wiggle or a Broken Hip?

Posted on Feb 5, 2016

Is That A Wiggle or a Broken Hip?

Is That A Wiggle or a Broken Hip? ©2016 Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer     When I published my first novel in 2005, a dear friend of mine pointed out to me that it seemed to have escaped most people that the book was basically a wide-open vagina, that it was, in its deepest purpose, a feminist cri-de-coeur. He also pointed out that the reason that the book was not noticed as such was that to most people strong articulate women are fucking terrifying. I did not know this. Or, to be fair, I knew I terrified certain men and certain women — I’d seen it on the faces of people and in their body language — but I didn’t know it was a generalized thing. I didn’t know how bad things were for women, and for men. The central story of that novel is rape. The rape of a girl obsessed with an ancient rape story, and also, as a allegorical corollary, the rape of the earth. In these themes, my story is a kind of historical novel. Perhaps that is glib but I think you see my meaning. Rape adheres to the body. This is why it is an age-old aggression. I’ve been suffering this last year from Achilles Tendinitis. That is to say, I have Achilles Heel, for real. It hurts to walk and I haven’t been able to run for more than ten months. The physiotherapist noticed that when I stand, I lock my knees up. “Oh,” I say. I soften them and a gush of tears come with that softening. What we hold in the body. Later, she notices that I toe in a little, and shows me how to walk. At 50 I learn how to walk. I notice two things: 1. It feels like I am wearing diapers when I walk properly, and 2. I remember that in grade three or four the boys used to sing at the girls, “Is that a wiggle or a broken hip?” So. I used to walk properly as a baby and I stopped around the age of ten, when the boys noticed I had an ass. I have not wiggled my ass in forty years. And now, as a result, I have Achilles Heel. The body is the first mechanism of defense. And relationships are complex. We live in a complex. Right now as I write, a lengthy, three month, court case is going on involving a man who is purported to have assaulted women and those women accusing him of assault. I never knew this man, except as a celebrity, a smooth drone on the radio. Most times I turned the radio off when he came on, not because I knew, but because I knew men like him. I won’t get into the details of my own personal story. It’s my story, after all. It’s all coded in the novels and stories I’ve written — the writing helps, and even if I once thought it might heal, it does not. What it does is show me the symptom. It reveals, like a dream does, the nugget of information I might need to look upon. Anyway, I have started to wiggle my ass, again. I forget and then I remember, so I go from tight to loose, from tight to loose. The sway of my ass makes me feel massive — like a giant. I do not know the parameters of my own body anymore, assume I am making a spectacle of myself. And I have been dreaming about prosthetics. I am reconstructing myself, so I guess...

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The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales

Posted on Jan 18, 2016

The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales

The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales Edited by the fairy tale scholar, Jack Zipes, the second edition of The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales includes over a hundred new entries, including J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins and…me! This is about the most exciting thing in the entire world, because the acknowledgement is nestled in amongst some of my very favourite people. Not only the more obvious entries like Charles Perrault, Andrew Lang, Brothers Grimm but MRS. PEPPERPOT, and Wanda Gag, and Sara Maitland, and Angela Carter!!! Pippi Longstocking! What made me especially happy was to see that Helen Oyeyemi and Yoko Ogawa are also listed. As well, the brilliant fairy tale writer, Lyudmilla Petrushevskaya, the Nigerian storyteller Amos Tutuola, beloved Franz Kafka, ingenious artist Kiki Smith. Swoon! I feel very completed tonight, browsing through this. It came completely unexpectedly, as so much fortune does. I feel like I have won a magic tablecloth that provides or a golden-egg goose or that a bird has spoken to me. Magic!! The screen capture below is from Pippin, the storyteller’s of Toronto journal, and is a short piece I wrote when All The Broken Things came out about writing fairy tales and writing about and for Toronto. All the Broken Things makes use of the 14th century romance Sir Orfeo as a structuring device. I flipped around to see if I could find it in the Oxford Companion, and sure enough, there it is. Ah, blissful luck. Thank-you, wood sprites and faeries....

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Canada Reads Longlist 2016

Posted on Dec 17, 2015

Canada Reads Longlist 2016

Canada Reads 2016 Just a quick happy post to let y’all know that All The Broken Things has been long listed for Canada Reads 2016. And guess what: they nominated Ethel Wilson’s Swamp Angel, too. So, that makes me extra happy. Here is a pic of the first edition cover:     And here is a link to the full list: Canada Reads...

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