Fall Preview Week: Day Three, Evan Munday's Picks
Autumn brings with it many fine things: sweaters and their butch counterparts, sweater-vests; the return of the school year; the only season with an alias (a.k.a. 'fall'). Most importantly, though, it heralds a new season of titles from publishers across Canada, and All Lit Up has some of the most interesting books to be released this fall.See more details below
Autumn brings with it many fine things: sweaters and their butch counterparts, sweater-vests; the return of the school year; the only season with an alias (a.k.a. 'fall'). Most importantly, though, it heralds a new season of titles from publishers across Canada, and All Lit Up has some of the most interesting books to be released this fall.
I've attempted to narrow the panoply of titles I'm most looking forward to into a shortlist of five. That was a near-impossible task. (A top ten or top fifteen would have been much more manageable, but five is a magic number. It is, after all, the original number of Power Rangers and Planeteers. Also, the number of golden rings your proverbial true love gives to you.) So, while I would have loved to include books like Paul Vermeersch's Don't Let It End Like This Tell Them I Said Something and Martha Baillie's The Search for Heinrich Schlögel, and a book that can really only be described as "How Stella Got Her Groove — but Not Her Foot — Back" mixed with Alan Moore-era's Swamp Thing, Alisha Piercy’s Bunny & Shark, I'll have to hope someone else, selecting their most-anticipated All Lit Up titles of the fall, pick up the slack. Without further ado, here are five of the fall titles published by All Lit Up publishers that I'm most eagerly anticipating:
Inspection House: An Impertinent Guide to Modern Surveillance by Emily Horne and Tim Maly (Coach House Books, available now)
I'm a big fan of the recent trend of novella-length nonfiction books many indie presses have been publishing: think ECW's Popped Culture series or The Atlantic's Object Lessons. And Coach House's Exploded Views series has a solid track record, publishing excellent nonfiction books like Sarah Liss's Army of Lovers and Geoff Pevere's Gods of the Hammer. Inspired by the writings of both Jeremy Bentham (who — fun fact — was not just an alias of John Locke on Lost) and Michel Foucault on the concept of the 'panopticon,' Inspection House promises to be a revealing and critical look at modern surveillance. Or rather, how we're almost always under surveillance. The authors — one of whom is a writer on infrastructure, cyborgs, and drones, the other of whom is half of the talented team behind the web comic A Better World — look at everything from shopping malls to container ports and Guantanamo Bay to their own smart phones to see how we're being watched and monitored and what that means. Between drone warfare, the NSA's shenanigans, lack of cameras on Ferguson police, and the U2 songs no one wanted but everyone received via iTunes, Inspection House may be one of the most important and relevant nonfiction books of the fall.
Will Starling by Ian Weir (Goose Lane Editions, available now)
Think of the genre "historical fiction written by Canadians." Now forget everything you’re thinking, because the historical fiction Ian Weir writes reads like it comes from a different planet than most of those books. Will Starling is the assistant to a military surgeon who returns from the Napoleonic Wars to help his old mentor set up a medical practice in London. Naturally, grave-robbing, murder accusations made of sex workers, and massive conspiracies ensue. In this case, the conspiracy centres on leading British surgeon, Dionysus Atherton. (What a name!) Part From Hell, part The Knick (though chronologically much earlier than both), Will Starling — if it was written by the same person who wrote Daniel O’Thunder, and it probably was, since they have same name — is going to be a bare-knuckled, funny, and bizarre journey into nineteenth-century England.
They Came from Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema by Caelum Vatnsdal (Arbeiter Ring Press, available November 22)
There are few things I enjoy reading more than a good book about movies. When the original edition of They Came From Within was released in 2004, I wasn't quite as obsessed with horror movies as I am now. In the second edition, Winnipeg filmmaker and writer Vatnsdal focuses on the under appreciated genre that's one of Canada's biggest exports: horror films. Did you know that there's a genre of film called Canuxploitation? It includes such gems as Black Christmas, Deathdream, Curtains, My Bloody Valentine, and many of David Cronenberg's early works (Rabid, Shivers). (The genre also includes the mostly forgotten but really disturbing Pin, which also stars character actor Terry O'Quinn, John Locke on Lost.) Maybe it's because the film festival just passed through Toronto, but I am eager to bone up on the history of (and stare at the gorgeous poster art of) Canadian horror films. Given this is the second edition, I'm sure there will be new information on recent entries in the genre, like Pontypool and Father's Day.
Burqa of Skin by Nelly Arcan, trans. by Melissa Bull (Anvil Press, available October 31)
Nelly Arcan is not a name that may be well-known in English Canada's literary circles, but she was one of French Canada's most incendiary and talented young writers before she died at the untimely age of 36 in 2009. And as someone who (a) perennially feels guilty about a lack of francophone writers in his bookshelves and (b) can read almost no French, this translation of three short stories and two essays of Arcan's work from Anvil Press is a real gift. (Especially given they're translated by a talented anglophone writer in her own right, Melissa Bull.) The stories and essays are, in turn, inspired by Arcan's own humiliating experience of appearing on a TV talk show, speed-dating, and, finally, her own struggles with suicide. Burqa of Skin (the title a reference to Arcan's phrase for Western women's obsession with physical perfection) is likely to be devastating reading, but given Arcan was twice nominated for the Prix Fémina and once nominated for the Prix Médicis in her short life, I'm sure there will be beauty in the devastation.
Invasive Species by Claire Caldwell (Wolsak & Wynn, available September 30)
I'd be remiss if I didn't include at least one poetry title in my most-anticipated list, as I am anticipating many poetry titles from ALU publishers: Ken Babstock's On Malice, Lisa Robertson's Cinema of the Present, Kate Hargreaves's Leak, Stevie Howell's [Sharps], and the list goes on.
Caldwell is a poet whose debut book I've been looking forward to for quite a long time. Not only has she spent time picking up awards and publication credits over the past few years, but she works frequently to bring poetry and poetry workshops to young writers through groups like Small Print TO. Her book, Invasive Species, looks like it will be nature-based, but perhaps not in the way you'd usually expect: a poem written from the perspective of a woman mauled to death by a bear, a paean to a blue whale decomposing at the bottom of the sea, ecological catastrophe. This is nature poetry I can get behind!
Evan Munday is the author and illustrator of the Silver Birch-nominated series of novels for young adults, The Dead Kid Detective Agency (ECW Press). He works as a bookseller and does various freelance publishing jobs in Toronto.
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