A Dream of a Woman Playlist on Largehearted Boy

Ok I’ve always thought of how my musical past and training relates to my writing, and there’s always a rotating suite of music with me when I’m deep in writing a book. And I got to talk about that this time around for A Dream of a Woman and compile a playlist for Largehearted Boy‘s Book Notes section. IT IS VERY COOL.

Link here: http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2021/09/casey_pletts_pl.html

Fall 2021 A Dream of a Woman Tour

Alright! I’m doing a bunch of events for my new book of stories, A Dream of a Woman (which you can buy here direct if you can’t make it to any of these hootenannys.)

Below are all the dates with info and links. Most are virtual, but a few are in-person—in New York City, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. May have more things come up, but for now, this is what I’m doing.

VIRTUAL – starting Sept 20, ending Oct 18
Videos and readings up at Winnipeg Thin Air Festival
https://thinairwinnipeg.ca

NYC – Sept 23, 7 PM Eastern
US launch at McNally Jackson Seaport (4 Fulton St in the Financial District)
with Jeanne Thornton
https://www.mcnallyjackson.com/event/dream-woman-book-launch

VIRTUAL – Sept 24, 5 PM Eastern
Reading and Discussion at Toronto’s Word on the Street
with Grace Kehler
https://toronto.thewordonthestreet.ca/events/a-dream-of-a-woman-a-conversation-with-casey-plett/

VIRTUAL – Sept 26, 7 PM Eastern
Reading with Real Vancouver Writers Series
with Sydney Warner Brooman, Sarah Berman, Gilbert Gottfriedson, Aurore Gatwenzi, & RC Weslowski
https://realvancouver.org

VIRTUAL – Sept 27, 7 PM Eastern
Panel – Beyond the Year of Trans Creativity at Brooklyn Book Festival, in partnership with Bluestockings
with Jackie Ess, Jeanne Thornton, Jules Gill-Peterson, Andrea Lawlor, Alex McElroy, moderated by Riley MacLeod
https://brooklynbookfestival.org/event/beyond-the-year-of-trans-creativity-virtual/

VIRTUAL – Oct 14, 7:30 PM Eastern
Panel – Wrestling With Bodies at Charis Books Circle
with Venita Blackburn and Megan Milks
https://www.charisbooksandmore.com/event/wrestling-bodies-reading-and-conversation-venita-blackburn-megan-milks-and-casey-plett

WINNIPEG / VIRTUAL – Oct 15, 7 PM Central
Canadian launch at McNally Robinson (1120 Grant Ave) and streaming on YouTube
with Ben Sigurdson
https://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/event-18142/Casey-Plett-Book-Event-(THIN-AIR-2021)#.YUYLSS1h1QI

VANCOUVER – Oct 23, 2 PM Pacific
Panel – Short Stories, Tall Tales at Vancouver Writers Festival
with Alix Ohlin and Norma Dunning, moderated by Bill Richardson
https://writersfest.bc.ca/event/short-stories-great-tales-with-norma-dunning-alix-ohlin-and-casey-plett
($25)

VANCOUVER – Oct 24, 3:30 PM Pacific
Panel – The Afternoon Tea at Vancouver Writers Festival
with Jael Richardson, Ian Williams, Zoe Whittall, Myriam Chancey, and Linden MacIntyre
https://writersfest.bc.ca/event/the-afternoon-tea-with-myriam-chancy-linden-macintyre-casey-plett-jael-richardson-ian-williams-and-zoe-whittall
($45)

(NOTE TO VANCOUVER FRIENDS: If you would like to come to these but cannot afford it, particularly if you’re a trans person, give me a shout: casey dot plett at gmail.)

VIRTUAL – Oct 26, 9 PM Eastern
Conversation with Torrey Peters for Calgary WordFest
https://beta.wordfest.com/2021/event/2626-torrey-peters-casey-plett

Ok, thank you so much friends. I hope that if you want to come, that you can come.



I put so much of myself into this book and it was sometimes very difficult to write. I hope you like it and I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received so far. Thank you so much—see you out there.

Miriam Toews + A Gift Guide

I was blessed to publish two long pieces this year on Miriam Toews, an author whose work has meant a fuck-ton to me for a long time.

Reviewing her recent novel Women Talking in The Walrus:
https://thewalrus.ca/when-is-it-womens-time-to-speak/

Discussing her backlist (especially A Complicated Kindness but all her other books too) for The Puritan:
http://puritan-magazine.com/pine-and-sparkle-in-the-moonlight/

 

I should also mention that All Lit Up asked me to write a book gift guide for the holidays and I kinda went off the rails and they were nice enough to let me. https://alllitup.ca/Blog/2018/Gift-Guide-Week-Casey-Plett
I talked about Gwen Benaway’s Holy Wild, Catherine Hernandez’ Scarborough, Mallory Tater’s This Will Be Good, Tamara Faith Berger’s Little Cat, and Kai Cheng Thom’s A Place Called No Homeland, and who those books made me think of and how they made me feel.

Spring 2018 Little Fish Tour

Hi friends,

I’m on the road for a lot of this spring, touring my new novel Little Fish. All my dates below are as follows, with links as necessary, etc.

Some of these gigs will cost $ to come to. If you’re trans and that’d keep you from coming and you’d like to come, please e-mail me? casey dot plett at gmail.

April 14: Hamilton, ON, gritLIT Festival (https://www.bruha.com/event/2963) – A master-class on writing and self-promotion ($20)

April 15: Hamilton, ON, gritLIT Festival (https://www.bruha.com/event/2944) – A reading with Kevin Hardcastle and Nathan Ripley ($8-$10)

April 25: Winnipeg, MB, McNally Robinson (https://www.facebook.com/events/1560495753998421/) – A reading with Amber Dawn and Joshua Whitehead (Free)

April 27: Montreal, QC, Blue Metropolis Festival (https://www.facebook.com/events/1622514131118441) – The Violet Hour – A reading with Kamal Al-Solaylee, Amber Dawn, Daniel Mendelsohn, and Joshua Whitehead, hosted by Christopher DiRaddo ($5)

April 28: Montreal, QC, Blue Metropolis Festival (https://www.facebook.com/events/796262327227010/) – Outside The Margins: Community, Representation and Resilience – A panel with Amber Dawn and Catherine Hernandez, hosted by Leila Marshy (Free)

April 29: Ottawa, ON, Ottawa International Writers Festival (http://www.writersfestival.org/events/spring-2018/this-is-us-with-casey-plett-amber-dawn-and-joshua-whitehead) – A panel with Amber Dawn and Joshua Whitehead, hosted by Amanda Earl ($20)

May 3: New York, NY, Bluestockings (https://www.facebook.com/events/610393959307010/) – A reading with Amber Dawn, Megan Milks, and Joshua Whitehead (Free)

May 8: New York, NY, McNally Jackson (https://www.facebook.com/events/1829583774011182/) – A reading with Cat Fitzpatrick and Jeanne Thornton (Free)

May 23: Vancouver, BC, Vancouver International Writers Festival (https://www.facebook.com/events/180760762652838/) (Free)

May 31: Toronto, ON, Glad Day Bookshop – A reading with AMAZING PEOPLE TBD (Free)

 

?

About a year ago, I re-united with an old, close friend I then hadn’t spoken to in six years (Maybe she’s reading this—hi friend! Feel free to dispute if I fuck this story up.) Over a short time we gradually caught each other up with the many things that had happened to us in the interim.
 
As we were talking, she brought up this one time we were in Portland on the MAX together (this would’ve been ~2007-2009) and some guys started giving me shit for wearing a skirt. Pointing and laughing and jeering etc. I just stood up and quietly said something like “let’s go over here” and moved to the other end of the car. She told me, years later, that she’d always felt bad about this, that she didn’t say something, that she didn’t stand up for me.
 
The funny thing is: I don’t remember this happening. It doesn’t even, like, jog a memory or anything. Of course, I completely believe my friend—this would’ve been such a common experience for me back then, (including the “pals saying nothing” part) that it doesn’t surprise me individual moments have blended together. Obviously, when that kind of thing happens now, and it happens much less, it really eats at me.
 
I’ve thought about that a lot in the last year. I realized, among other things, that for a long time, my prime fear when I went out in girl’s clothing was that I was going to get hurt. Every time it didn’t happen (and though there were some scary moments, thanks to luck and privilege it never did/has yet, knock on wood) I counted it as a win, no matter what guys on the MAX or wherever was saying. For a long time, that stuff just didn’t have the effect on me necessary for an entry into the long-term memory. (Whereas I can tell you every shitty thing my parents said to me from that period, for example.) So it’s strange to think about, and go like: “Oh YEAH that was a constant experience for like a WHILE. Gee, that probably had an effect on me I don’t understand, eh?”
 
Why am I bringing this all up? For one, because I can’t help wonder what else it is that I don’t remember. What used to be so commonplace that I don’t recall, both the things I braved and the things I whined about and needed a shitty hand-hold all the way through. But beyond that, what unnerves me is thinking how this might work on a larger human scale, which traumas and gifts for which we might sustain mass amnesia and by default can’t name.

Coke

Of all the turbulent, dreading, apocalyptic thoughts I had in the immediate weeks following last year’s November 8, one very weird one kept crystallizing out of nowhere: I hate cocaine. I do. I hate how I can literally see the empathy drain out of a person’s brain as they do more of it, and I hate what it provokes in myself: Not just the compassion-decrease, but the stomach-lifting turning of night into day, how it makes three in the morning feel like three in the afternoon. It was looking at the picture in this article of that awful man’s shitty fucking mug that made me think this. For as much as I hate coke (and I guess maybe one of the understandable draws of it to many?) it always gave me the feeling of a world opening up to unlimited ersatz possibilities—it’s just that that scares and terrifies me, I guess; when I imagine unlimited possibilities it’s rarely any of the good ones.

I was working part-time in a porn shop during the election, and across from the counter where I sat were the dildos: Huge honkin’ dildos up to 18 inches with unabashed hypermasculine ad copy. One was called “THE GREAT AMERICAN CHALLENGE” and a lot of them had “BUILT IN U.S.A.” with big American flags on them. BUILT in U.S.A, Not made, BUILT. Like made was too wussy a term but BUILT meant a hard-working average Joe in a factory personally assembled this 18-inch polyurethane cock with his own damn God-fearing American hands.

When I stared across the store from the register at these enormous flourescent-lit dicks in the initial wake of the election, they would always lead my thoughts back to Trump. Look, I’ve worked on all sides of the sex industry, and I’ve been a sex worker, and I have a lot of mental tune-out armour against misogynistic whorephobia and transmisogynistic junkphobia and the swarming rapey wall of male want every woman has to navigate…and yet, in November 2016, these dicks I had to look at for hours every day just etched things in me I can’t quite articulate or comprehend. The hypermasculinity, this aggressiveness, these slabs of plastic just immediately transported me to a world of bright 3 AM teeth-grinding sun of being sure you are right, about everything, about everything being subservient to a man’s cock, about banging more hot girls, more hot skinny pretty fucking girls, everywhere, about more and more and bigger and bigger and bigger in a long unlit night that feels like the day, the cold feeling like warmth, other people meaning nothing, the wind meaning nothing.

One of the last shifts I worked, in January, an older man called to tell me, in the most sober-sounding, unprank-ish voice, that he was coming down to the store in 20 minutes to put his huge penis in my mouth. Of course he didn’t follow through on this, but I hated what I immediately knew: That I would be jumpy for a bit anyway, that fear would reawaken and bubble things that have happened to me, and also soon enough that bubbling would quiet down and go away and I’d forget about it. Which is what happened. I’ve been sexually assaulted by a stranger, funnily enough he didn’t alert me on the phone beforehand.

I guess this man hated women so much that making this call to a stranger did something for him? Like I guess it scratched an itch. He had a reason and it must have been satisfied, I guess. I don’t know. The shop got a LOT of prank calls, uniformly from dumb kids thinking it was hilarious to ask about dildos, but this guy was different, I felt that sense of it right away.

He did not remind me of Donald Trump, of grabbing women by the pussy, but now that I think about it, just typing this, he makes me imagine the coldness of a Bannon or a Miller, whispering one calm threat over the phone, unseen, making malevolent calculations I couldn’t figure while in this warm Canadian winter void of natural light a distractedly brightly lit 18-inch cock proudly built in America burned a hole in my eyes.

From Chandra Mayor

“My mother’s answers to potlucks was invariably a giant vat of chili made with a pound of ground beef seasoned with pepper from a shaker, a giant tin of tomatoes, and a couple of tins of pork and beans. Add cayenne, stir, serve. That, however, is the wrong kind of food domesticity for the queer/feminist crowd—failures again, my mother and I. The last time that I attended a Women’s Studies department potluck, I lost my mind with anxiety, went into some kind of altered insane state, and spent hours making fortune cookies, one at a time, burning the pads of my fingers pressing the hot edges together to make them stick. I filled them with tiny pieces of paper on which I carefully copied out quotes from feminist artists, poets, and theorists. They were a big hit. One prof held up her little feminist fortune and said, “Chandra, the paper is so beautiful! Is it rice paper?” The answer was that no, it was not rice paper. It was regular old computer paper, taken from my printer tray and cut into strips with my daughter’s safety scissors. It only looked like rice paper because the cheap margarine I’d used in the cookies had soaked through everything, making the paper translucent with grease. “Yes, of course,” I said, smiling, toying with my blistering fingers, shame and failure rising up inside. “Rice paper. Lovely, isn’t it?” And I vowed: never again will I try to be this kind of woman, for anyone.”

A girl I used to know

I used to have this friend Sara. She was quiet, she was an alcoholic, she loved drugs, she loved really weird stuff; she kept dead animals in her freezer. She was obsessed with dead things; she wished she was dead so she could be pretty. She was a little older than me, I forget exactly how much. Five-ish years maybe.

I met her in the fall of 2007, when I was re-trying to come out and make moves toward transition. I was 20. Sara’d moved up to Portland and in with a friend, which is how we met, and the first day we did I was wearing a skirt. She thought the skirt was pretty. She was animated about it. She squealed in a way that would have had me eye-rolling years later but back then was like water.

She worked at Victoria’s Secret downtown in the mall. The next time I saw her she said: “I have something for you!” And she put in my hands a pair of girl underwear. They were cotton white with red webbing on the sides, and pictures of apples sliced in half on them. I loved them. I hugged her. She squealed again. And that was it. And the next time I saw her she gave me another pair. Which she did sporadically every time she saw me for well over a year.

It’s hard to think clearly about that point in my life. I’ve started and deleted a few sentences that seem representative. I don’t know. I’ll try. I was living with my old dudely best friend from high school, going to classes, smoking a lot of weed, and feeling really sad. Sometimes I talked about being trans; no one was kind to me about it. A lot of people were mean, many apprehensive and condescending—and there were some people who were nice. Which I cherished. But there’s a difference between nice and kind. That’s semantics I guess, but it’s how I feel: Nice is the thing that won’t hold up against meanness and coldness and cruelty; kind is the thing that does. It’s not always proportionate to the effort a person puts in either, though sometimes it is. Apply that however you like.

I’ve written elsewhere about this period (my essay in Untangling The Knot, mostly) and I don’t know what good it does to type it all out again here. Let’s just say that even in Portlandia it was still not popular or cool in any liberal or gay circle to like trans women, let alone actively support and think about trans women, and there were literally no trans women I would meet and befriend for a while, none, period (Though that fall I would see Elena Rose perform this piece, which was so powerful and I will never forget it.)

I did know and befriend a lot of let’s-end-gender AFAB type folks, and they didn’t really know what to do with me crying about wanting to be “seen as a girl” or “just wanting to be a girl for a little bit”, which was the language I had at the time. Those folks were trying to get away from that—Imogen’s MRR column of  a bit ago about it touches on this exactly. (Queer Community’s still like that in a lot of ways, of course, but trans lady culture is easier to find now in a way that just was so, so much harder back then.) Whipping Girl had just come out, it definitely wasn’t close to penetrating my crowd; the idea that trans women would always be men had a lot of currency and the idea that trans women were women, unconditionally, full stop, was an idea virtually no one but trans women were espousing. It just wasn’t a thing. And I didn’t know any trans women, wouldn’t have an actual conversation with a trans woman until 2009. So. You know.

My other group of friends were high school hometown folks from Eugene, young Democrat types who were down with the gays but still weirded and grossed out by trans girls. I could run around in skirts and that was fine to a point (and I felt blessed for that freedom—still do, really), yet no one wanted me to transition and a lot of people I desperately loved said that loudly and meanly and nobody was there to tell me anything else.

It’s hard to speak plainly and unsentimentally about your womanhood being so unloved—I so badly, and not unconsciously, just wanted someone to tell me that I could be a girl and that being a girl was ok. I did a good job (for the most part) of acting bouncy and happy during that time but I was dying inside. That period of 2006-2009 was my own version of a James H time, I guess—I knew I was trans but I also believed I could never be a woman. I’m grateful it only lasted three-ish years! Yet I’ve still got a lot of bile and crud built up in me from living like that.

Whenever I talk about this point of my life, I usually do so in the context of being disillusioned with queer community and the pervasiveness of transmisogyny in liberal/queer circles/etcetc. But I’ve rarely talked about Sara. What she did for me was so kind, it was a kindness and love and validation I received nowhere else and I can’t begin talking about what it meant to me. I don’t know. It was never a production when she gave me new underwear, it was never creepy or condescending at all, it was always just “Hey, I got these for you.” Like it was the most natural thing in the world. Which, even in my emotionally blanked-out state, it was. She stole underwear for her cis girl friends too. (Which, it probably goes without saying, never slipped my mind for a second.) She wasn’t a gregarious or a performative person, and in public especially she was quiet and shy and nervous, she wanted to be dead. And I doubt she intended it to be this big a deal but she did this thing I’ve never forgotten. She vanished from social media years ago and I don’t talk to the people who knew her anymore. The one trace of her on Google is a student art show she did last year in another state; it’s nice to see she’s both making stuff and alive.

I’ve been thinking lately about social justice Internet discourse and the way we’re supposed to be allies/showing solidarity/etc. I’ve been thinking about the obsessiveness of *We’re Doing It Wrong Here’s Another Way We’re Doing It Wrong* articles and posts and tweets. I’m not thinking about toxicity or rage or judgement, though like you (I’m going to guess) I’ve felt call-out culture breed enough cruelty to want to Never Discuss Anything Again—see any of a dozen wise pieces from Katherine Cross but especially this one and this one. And I’m not thinking about performative politics, though like you (I’m going to guess) I’ve felt political posturing both offline and on get so gross and meaninglessly unproductive. And I’ve taken part in my own share of rage and posturing.

What I’ve been thinking about lately is how social justice Internet discourse promises a nourishment, gives us a goal and something to work towards, gives us a feeling of purification when we discover more things to cut out of our lives, more things to toss aside for being Wrong. It always reminds me of a feeling that a lot of secular people never understood about the intense religiosity I was raised with: The yearning I used to feel for purity, the desire for clear markers on how to be clean, holy, how to live a Godly life, a yearning by no means unique to religious people. It wasn’t born of rage nor posturing but genuine desperation.

If rage is one side of call-out culture’s coin, the other side is the promise of How You Can Be Better. The promise of easy guidance in this hopelessly shifting monster world of Hydra-like evil. The titles of those Everyday Feminism articles, so well-intentioned, always read to me like the worst magazine articles that prey on insecurities, or like the preachers my grandmother watched: “Popular Foods You Need To Stop Eating” “Turn To This Bible Verse In A Time Of Need!” “Oppressive Words To Remove From Your Vocabulary.” Right. Now.

My point is not that social justice Internet discourse is bad! (I think it’s easy to forget how much good it’s done, actually, but that’s another post.) And my point is not that cis people just need to stop reading Everyday Feminism and start blanketing their local trans woman with stolen panties (as fun as that could be for a week). I’m not sure if I know what my fucking point is. I just keep thinking about how, in our day-to-day personal messy-as-fuck human lives where we have to interact with other messy-as-fuck humans, where people are fucking and yelling and working and dying, it’s so easy to overlook who is not receiving kindness and why. And that lots of this “How To Be An Ally To Trans Women” stuff that has sprang up in the last couple years sometimes leaves me feeling really empty, feels so disconnected from the problem every human with a conscience is faced with: of how to be good to the complex people you come face-to-face with in your every day life. Does anybody else feel this way about stuff written about them? Anybody who sorts through People Are Trying To Ally At Me, not just trans women? I don’t want to be a 20-year-old in 2007 anymore—God, I don’t. But 95% of the time when people Ally at me, I still feel myself floating away behind glass until they stop. In the best case senario.

“It’s horrifying!” said the cis gay dude employed as a youth programmer at the LGBT non-profit who brought me in to do a workshop last year at a youth camp. He’d done some training thing in Toronto about trans women. He had the most concerned face. “I didn’t realize all these things about transmisogyny!” This was the summary of his thoughts on the subject. I would love to be gracious about that in an objective sense, think it was a net good he went to whatever that training was, that he needed something like that, that he was gonna be the guy working this job whether he was trying or not—and hey, maybe he’s doing good things for young trans girls right now and a minimal amount of harm. And maybe neither of those things is the case in a serious way—I wish I could be starry eyed about it, but knowing from the previous two years volunteering there how ignorant everyone in that organization was personally about trans women (and where, of course, no trans women worked) He said some nice and correct things but I still left it just feeling so oogy.

But regardless of thinking in the context of community, personally I was sick, realizing how little this man who was paid to watch out for us knew about me or my sisters, how little the specifics and intricacies of my stupid life would mean to him in this context, how anything I might tell him about myself or my experiences would only serve to plug into something from a workshop, what he thought he had carefully learned, as opposed to the fullness of one stupid breathing weird human in front of him, with her own unique sets of shittinesses and talents and needs.

==============

“Check it out!!” Sara said one night at a party at our place (we had a lot of parties). “I got you gay dancing sailor underwear!”

Yeah she did.

I hugged her and asked if I could make her a drink.

“Yes.”

“Light, medium, or strong?”

“Strong.” She was such a tiny girl.

I don’t know if I’ve really expressed myself clearly here. Eight years ago I was a sad mess crying out to be a girl but nobody knew how to deal with that. And then another fucked-up mess of a girl didn’t try to talk about it (even if she wanted to, she couldn’t have) and instead did stuff like give me gay dancing sailor panties. I will remember her more than many other people. She was just really fucking kind to me in the most unassuming and beautiful way. I miss her. I miss people like that.

Silence

Hey folks! A lot has happened since I came around to this place. For one, I took an oatmeal bath tonight and it was great. Like, GREAT. I was hoping it would help with my winter itching. It’s helped a little.

I also released my book, helped put on Writing Trans Genres, protested Germaine Greer at the CMHR, got two new tattoos, taught in New York for a few weeks, ran my love life through a blender, and went on two book tours, one of which literally went around the continent. I am back in Winnipeg now and have been pretty quiet (writing-wise anyway) for the last few months. I am working on another thing, and hopefully by the end of the year the thing might become a Thing. We’ll see. I have started reviewing books for the Winnipeg Free Press. I have an article in The Walrus coming out in April that was a blast to work on. I just published a short story in Rookie.

It hasn’t been as cold as usual here in One Great City, though it is -15C right now (-20C with the windchill). I’ve now been back in Canada for two years as of last Friday. What a time. The Wailin’ Jennys were my constant throughout 2014. Here, have a pretty song: If folk-y stuff and lady harmonies are your thing anyway.

I don’t have a lot else right now. I’m itchy again. Fucking oatmeal.

I wrote a book

Ok I keep meaning to write this post and not doing it BUT like, uh, I have a book coming out! It’s called A Safe Girl To Love and it’s a collection of eleven short stories about young trans women. Four of them have been published before and the rest haven’t.

http://www.topsidepress.com/titles/a-safe-girl-to-love

It’s $16.95 US and you can pre-order it at the link above and it’ll ship out in the next few weeks. If you’re in Winnipeg, we’ll have copies at the Writing Trans Genres conference I’m involved with (http://www.writingtransgenres.com) May 22-24, and I’ll also be doing a co-launch with Trish Salah at my work, McNally Robinson, on June 20. I’m also gonna be doing some touring in early June around the American Northeast with some pretty incredible other Topside ladies like Sybil Lamb, Imogen Binnie, and Red Durkin. Info on that is here: http://topsidepress.com/tour/ There’s a couple NYC dates and also Philly, Providence, Brattleboro VT, Hartford, Baltimore, and Cambridge (though I won’t be around for that last one, bummer). If you feel like pre-ordering one (and/or the other books Topside is releasing y/y?) it’ll help us fund the tour, so that is cool.

And then we’ll be doing a bigger tour in the fall! Around, like, the whole continent and stuff. September 2nd is also when the book’ll be available on Ingram and through distributors to put in stores.

Ok! Done my “I wrote a book” blog post! Phew.

America and Canada

Hi!

There are some kind of cool things I’ve been doing lately, and I will be posting about them in a semi-maybe-kind-of official capacity in a bit. But in the meantime, I just did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time…write a list of Canadian cities and their American equivalents.

Banff = Aspen
Calgary = Dallas and to some extent Phoenix
Nelson = Boulder
Edmonton = Denver
Victoria = Honolulu

Saskatoon = Omaha
Regina = Fargo
Lethbridge = Cheyenne
Timmins = Marquette
Thompson = Williston

St. John’s = Portland, ME
Vancouver = every major American West Coast city rolled into one

Montreal started out as our New York but ended up our Boston
Toronto started out as our Buffalo but ended up our New York
Winnipeg started out as our Chicago but ended up our Minneapolis

Short Stories and Voice

Well, I’m drunk, I can’t sleep, I have to work tomorrow, and I finally picked up and started reading Etgar Keret’s The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God today, and all of this made me want to talk a bit about short stories. Part of this, btw, is because I’ve been finishing a book of short stories in the last few months, and am (HOPEFULLY HOPEFULLY) really close to soon saying “I finished a book of short stories.” So they’ve been on my mind a lot.

A few stories into reading Keret, I thought that it reminded me a lot of when I read Miranda July’s collection of stories. It reminded me so much of how I felt reading her that I Googled “Miranda July Etgar Keret” and it turns out they’ve done a collaboration together. Wowserz! So I guess it’s not just me. I liked July’s book, and I’m liking Keret so far, but neither of them (so far) have really struck me in my heart all that much? (with the very notable exception of July’s story “Something That Needs Nothing,” which really gets me every time for a few different reasons). And I like both their books, maybe it’s like they tickle me in every part of my body except my heart.

It’s not that they’re clinical like the way some super-talented writers are, where the story feels overproduced. I feel this way, say, about most of David Foster Wallace’s Girl With Curious Hair (though I love most of DFW), and George Saunders’ In Persuasion Nation (haven’t read any other Saunders though). I guess the weird thing is about books like Keret’s and July’s, is that even though I really enjoy reading them, like really! I’m digging Keret and I dug July! They also remind me of books I love more?

A few months back I read All The Pretty Girls by Chandra Mayor (if you have never heard of her, just get the book now so your reading life can get better). I loved it to fucking bits and it took my heart out for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that it portrays the city of Winnipeg in a way that was very visceral and real to me, and particularly speaks to the world I lived in when I was a kid, which, until I moved back here, I had little else but my memories to relate to. But anyway, in Chandra’s book, the protagonists in her stories seem to be more or less the same woman. And it made me think: I love collections of stories like that. Hell, I just love authors like that. I thought about this a lot too when I read Amy Hempel, which I did very slowly and deliberately for a lot of last year. The voice of her narrator doesn’t really change that much, and I absolutely love that. I really don’t mind. It’s the collections of stories that span all gamuts of characters and internal people that honestly never quite hit home for me, that always feel to me a bit detached. As much as I love the above David Foster Wallace, for instance, his fiction only pushes on my heart in very specific and rare moments, and I wonder if maybe for this reason.

I also get to read with Chandra Mayor in a few weeks at McNally Robinson (I dunno if anybody from Winnipeg will read this blog but HERE’S THE EVENT PAGE JUST IN CASE) so that is kinda stupidly cool and exciting.

I thought about this especially when I re-read Miriam Toews’ Swing Low a couple months ago, her  spare, dark, beautiful book about her father’s suicide, told through his eyes in first-person. Her father, as a character, is so obviously different from Miriam’s usual fictional protagonists: a mid-century Mennonite schoolteacher from Steinbach, Manitoba struggling with bipolar, as opposed to the desperate broke sad apostate girls that make up the protagonists of her fiction. But her writing voice, somehow, to me, is the same. Like I can hear her voice behind the keyboard at the same time that I hear her father speaking. That book hit really hard and close to home the first time I read it (being in my grandfather’s basement in Blumenort, Manitoba at the time probably didn’t help). I cried again reading it this time, though not as much as the first time.

I suppose what I’m trying to say here, though it’s not really that revolutionary a thought, is that I never really connect as much with books when the authors have such a level of wizardry that no story feels the same from one to the next? When there isn’t a voice. That’s how I felt when I read Girl With Curious Hair. While the opening story’s ending just killed me, and the title story absolutely was genius enough to push beyond the Cleverness Mountain, the rest of it was like…it was good, very very good and I liked reading it…but I couldn’t really pick out a voice. Like it was a blast and it was thoughtful but it didn’t move me. I couldn’t really hear him as an author speaking to me (which I do when I read his non-fiction, I should say, which I mostly love quite a bit). And I wonder if that’s why I didn’t love it, like I do his non-fiction, or I love Brief Interviews With Hideous Men. Another good example here is Junot Diaz, whose short fiction I finally read this past year, both Drown and This Is How You Lose Her. I mean, he’s done the thing where he’s just put the same dude, Yunior, as the same narrator for every story, but to me it works the same as Amy Hempel or Chandra Mayor: You can hear their voices so strongly and clearly. I love that. So who cares if a dozen stories with ostensibly different names and faces and descriptions swirl together into a mass. (Lorrie Moore is another good example of someone who pulls this off, I think.)

Why am I bringing all this up in a fit of whiskey haze and insomnia at 2:30 in the morning? *scrolls up* Etgar Keret, right. I guess I should really just finish the book. In the meantime, it’s -30 and balls-ass freezing here in One Great City y’all, and my radiator is overheating and I am sweating bullets, so I may actually crack a window. In the meantime, g’night.

Heart of the Continent

Hi everyone. God I’m really bad at updating this. But hi everyone!

I wrote a couple pieces of flash and they’re here and here The collaboration between Annie Mok and I for this story I wrote isn’t going to be a zine anymore, but it’s still happening and going to be, like, an existing thing.

I’m still trundling away here in Winnipeg writing and working too much and doing dumb things. I just discovered Erika Lopez, who’s awesome! I found one of her books in the basement of my bookstore about to get oblivion-shelved into a storage box. In some ways it’s kinda crappy being the only one working in my bookstore who actively likes gay shit and stuff written by women, but on the other hand, it does means I always get first pick on the cool stuff.

It’s been raining a lot here in One Great City. Or, as the official motto of Winnipeg now calls it, the Heart of the Continent.