Authors on Reading, Writing, and Inspiration
Presented by Goose Lane Editions
The Deep is sponsored this month by Goose Lane Editions, one of Canada’s most exciting independent publishers. Take a look here at their lineup of new and forthcoming books, from fiction to history to cultural criticism and beyond. Visit them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This month, The Deep goes into the homes of Goose Lane writers Lauren McKeon, Mark Anthony Jarman, and Jan Wong, to learn about the books they surround themselves with, the writers that have stuck with them over the years, and the books that made them the writers they are today.
author of F-Bomb: Dispatches From the War on Feminism
In F-Bomb, Lauren McKeon takes readers on a witty, insightful, and deeply fascinating journey into today's anti-feminist universe. Through a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the new gender wars, McKeon explores generational attitudes, debates over inclusiveness, and differing views on the intersection of race, class, and gender.
And she asks the uncomfortable question: if women aren't connecting with feminism, what's wrong with it?
think there’s something calming to having an apartment filled with books—being literally surrounded by good writing is inspiring and it fits the sort-of haphazard way that my brain works.
While researching F-Bomb, I started acquiring what I refer to as my feminist bookshelf. It just kept growing. Having that enabled me to see what’s already been done, what's been done well, and what could be improved. It also reminded me that it was possible to do this thing!
My copy of Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter has dozens of sticky notes through it. It was funny and entertaining and full of great scenes and writing. There’s this real perception that feminist writing is boring or overly academic, but this was a New York Times bestseller that was critical and smart and full of great analysis. When I read it I though, 'this is what I want to do'.
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert is another one. It’s a science book, but the way she mixed field reporting with heavy research is fascinating and terrifying. I returned to it a lot while writing to see how she structured it and was able to blend rich scene reporting, argument, and a little bit of memoir too.
I read Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy when I was in university and it blew my mind. But when I went to re-read it, it also gave me a good lesson in how books can go stale. Not that the book isn’t still fantastic, but a lot of her analysis about trans culture felt out of date. It taught me to be critical about my own thinking: how will these issues evolve, and how can I be open to the fact that my word is not the final word on this issue?
Mark Anthony Jarman
author of Knife Party at the Hotel Europa
Shortlisted for the Alistair MacLeod Award for Short Fiction, the New Brunswick Book Award for Fiction, and the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, Knife Party at the Hotel Europa is a moving, amusing, gorgeous collection in which Jarman's stories circle and overlap in surprising, weird, and wonderful ways, tangents turn out to be crucial, and nothing turns out the way you expect.
Knife Party at the Hotel Europa is available in bookstores now.
use newspapers and magazines a lot for research. The title story for Knife Party at the Hotel Europa is about a party where a guy gets stabbed in the leg and bleeds out and dies right there. I set it in Naples, which has a reputation for being violent, but it was actually inspired by a clipping in a local New Brunswick paper.
I also like old travel books because you can find odd details and scenes about the past. I’ve got beautiful picture books like Italy 2005, and Sicily: Land of Forgotten Dreams. Even maybe an Italian-English phrase book, where I’ll find odd phrases and drop them in. I’m a bit of a sponge, always looking for details that I can use. Things just falls into your lap if you’re looking and open.
In terms of my early books, definitely Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was influential.
And John Dos Passos, who was writing at the same time as Hemingway. He did a trilogy called USA, and it’s just amazing. It’s almost mixed media—he included newsreels and biographies. He’s got recurring characters that pop in and out, and illustrations. He wrote about rich people and poor people, labour problems, people riding the rails, tycoons in Manhattan.
I read Denis Johnson’s poems first when I was at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I find his work feeds my fiction in terms of images and vocabulary. His collection The Incognito Lounge just made me write. It’s one of those books that sparks you. In one of those stories, he grasps on to this weird scene in a bar that has nothing to do with the rest of the story, but it’s such a good paragraph that you’re satisfied. That’s a good way to get out of a story. As long as the reader thinks it’s working, it’s working.
author of Apron Strings: Navigating Food and Family in France, Italy, and China
Jan Wong knows food is better when shared, so when she set out to write a book about home cooking in France, Italy, and China, she asked her 22-year-old son, Sam, to join her. On their journey, Jan and Sam lived and cooked with locals and saw first-hand how globalization is changing food, families, and cultures.
Along the way, mother and son explored their sometimes-fraught relationship, uniting—and occasionally clashing—over their mutual love of cooking. A memoir about family and an exploration of food cultures, Apron Strings is complex, unpredictable, and unexpectedly hilarious.
don’t really have a library; I have books all over the place. One of my favourite places to get books is Frenchys. I go every couple of months, just for therapy.
That's where I bought Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. So I’m reading about his life as a slave, and in my new book, Apron Strings, I’m in three countries—France, Italy, and China. In China, I end up cooking with very rich families. I intend to work with their maids, but it doesn’t quite work out like that, because the ladies of the house think their maids don’t even know how to cook.
Suddenly I’m in this class-struggle environment. Mid-way through the stint in China, I thought 'wait a minute.' It reminded me of another book, The Help. So I came home and I re-read it, and the echoes were so eerie. There’s a more universal lesson about people being oppressed; it’s not just China. That’s when books really help. One of the things you have to do as a writer is cast a wide net so readers can identify with what you’re writing about. You can’t just stay in your perspective.
Another great memoirist is David Carr, who died a couple of years ago, very shockingly. I admired his writing so much. I read his memoir, The Night of the Gun, and the lesson I got from him was: dig deep and tell me about your emotions. He was so brutally honest about everything—about his feelings, about his inadequacies, about his parenting. My book is also, in a way, about parenting. It’s about my relationship with my second and younger son because we traveled together, and I looked to David Carr as a role model. It’s that kind of honesty you’re trying to hold yourself to. No one is going to do it for you.