The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

On Vacation


By Anna McDougall

Thirty-nine days into summer break and I’m finally relaxed. I know this because my thoughts are scattered, I flit from one task to the next without finishing anything; read throughout the day, visit with neighbors lesuirely, clean house only when necessary, cooking even less often, ignoring schedules... Even my writing is all over the place – literally. Scribbles appear on the inside covers of novels and on scraps of paper, segments of a short story pop up in the same word document as old poetry attempts. I’m not going to fight it, though. Exactly four weeks from today, we’ll be back to the grind with plenty of shopping trips and other preparations taking up the days preceding the kids’ first day back to school.

In honour of my temporary relaxed state, I’m taking the week off; I'm calling this my vacation blog and filling it with a few short blurbs about what I’ve been reading lately.

Canadian Journals
I’m determined to read one issue of every Canadian Journal this year rather than favoring the few with which I’ve grown comfortable. This summer I picked up Prism international 44:4 which includes the 2005 short fiction contest winners and I blew through it. Winning authors Deborah Willis, Nicholas Ruddock, and Ibi Kaslik share tender, well crafted stories with themes revolving around trust in oneself. Two of the stories uncover the psyche of the artist while the other explores the impact of insecurity on a new marriage. There are two other excellent short stories, as well as a range of gorgeous poetry including my favorite, Giving Up by Lorna Crozier.

Unreliable Narrators
What are the chances I’d pick up two British novels, one after another that have nearly identical character situations? The first book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon has been around long enough and discussed thoroughly so I knew what I was getting into, but the second was new to me, persuading me with its vague jacket promo and its Man Booker nomination. Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall is a richly intimate story of a woman struggling with depression following the loss of a child. Her situation is complicated by the loss of her own mother and a neurological condition which mixes the senses called synaesthesia.

Circumstances of both narrators make them unreliable: the former more consistently than the latter who is delusional only occasionally. I found it particularly interesting to compare how each author handled this challenge. Great books both of them, but not to be read in succession; at times I found I confused the two families (now who's unreliable?)

Happy Birthday
My husband bought me a subscription to the New Yorker for my birthday last week and my first issue arrived! No comment yet, I’m saving it for an afternoon when the only distractions will be a soft breeze and tinkling ice cubes repositioning as they melt in my glass.

Nellie’s Back
I finished reading Nellie McClung’s second autobiography, The Stream Runs Fast which covers her adult life, including her place in Canada’s political history. Stay tuned for a proper review.

Top of the Pile
I bought a copy of Glimmer Train while in Tucson at the end of July. I’ve never seen it here at home so this is my first time! I’m just one story in, but I’m already impressed. The contributors are highlighted in several places helping the reader connect in a unique way. Each has contributed a personal photo to the issue which is placed opposite the opening page of their story followed by a description of said photo. Beneath the picture is the author’s bio. Within “The Last Pages” each author takes a page or two to describe their motivations around writing the story they contributed or where the inspiration took hold. On the back cover, a significant line from each story accompanies the author’s autograph.

My preordered copy of Secret Confessions of the Applewood P.T.A. has not arrived yet. In the meantime, I think I’ll review my Strunk & White and keep writing.

my personal sources of inspiration

5 Comments:

Blogger Patricia said...

Anna, oh, god, you just pull at me in everyway, please, please give us the names of your children, they're sooo lovely, such great inspiration, thank you..xoxo

Happy Vacation...xoxo

Tue Aug 08, 03:02:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I finally just got into summer vacation mode, too.

Anne

p.s. Cute pictures, by the way.

Tue Aug 08, 08:41:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Oh your kids are fun! I bet they get up to mischief.

Tue Aug 08, 08:51:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

What gorgeous kids! How do you get a minute to write? Enjoy your precious time off/

Tue Aug 08, 11:36:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Man, that's a team of four that'll be making their mark on the world, especially considering who their momma is.

Wed Aug 09, 12:41:00 pm GMT-4  

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