It’s that time of the Summer again, where ALU staff get together to talk about our favourite things: books! And for this year’s July edition of Book Club we are excited to do a deep dive on Paige Cooper’s debut short story collection, Zolitude, published by Biblioasis.
This debut collection of 12 short stories spans not only settings, but a range of human behaviour — everything from literally explosive personalities to the minute details of how someone takes their coffee is given Cooper’s undivided attention; and in turn she demands that attention of her readers with her vivid, unique imagery and incredible ability to so entrench herself deep her fully-realized characters.
What made us instantly fall in love with Zolitude was Cooper’s ability to mine for that perfect and unexpected turn of phrase, the perfect image that feels alien and new, so unconventional for a moment then so perfect that it quickly feels like any other description would be wrong. Her ability to take us and her motley crew of badass femmes to places and moments — both physically and emotionally — we never saw them coming. And as you read along with us, we guarantee you’ll be instantly hooked as Zolitude takes you along for the ride.
The effort behind such an incredible short story collection is not just limited to one person, though. So we talked to Biblioasis's Fiction Editor John Metcalf about the editorial and design process behind the book, and picked their brains about where they see Zolitude fitting into Canadian literature.
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All Lit Up: What first struck you about Zolitude that made you know you had to publish the manuscript?
John Metcalf: The language was charged. Finger-in-light-socket material. It gave off sparks. When I read my first Paige Cooper story in an issue of Fiddlehead magazine, I knew I was going to pursue her. That story was "The Roar." I thought immediately "New big dog on the block." The only problem was that I didn't quite grasp what her roar was all about — dogs, deer, women who possibly only seemed to be women, and dogs that possibly weren't dogs. All this was not my customary cup of tea. I was floundering. So I phoned my friend, writer Alice Petersen, who kindly explained all.
ALU: Where do you see Zolitude fitting into the CanLit canon and into Biblioasis' own list?
JM: Zolitude doesn't fit into the CanLit canon because the canon is, as Russell Smith put it, concerned with "angst on farms" and very often atrociously written. I wanted language that danced and disported itself, that was flatly marvelous. Zolitude fits into the Biblioasis list because so many of our books fit that definition — David Huebert, Kathy Page, Caroline Adderson, Kevin Hardcastle, Alice Petersen, Leon Rooke, Cynthia Flood...the list goes on. We are very deliberately building a new, improved canon.
ALU: How is the editorial process different for a collection of short stories? In addition to the individual stories, is the collection taken as a whole also an editorial consideration? What about design — how do you select a cover for a collection as opposed to a novel?
JM: With a novel, the editor leads more, is often more intrusive. With a story collection, the editor tends more to follow. The work is more like that of a watch repairer. Delicate. Intricate. I have no overarching vision of a collection. A collection is what a writer puts together. I intrude in this way only — I might say story A is stronger than story B, so drop B and write a replacement. As to cover design — when I'd read three or four of Paige's stories, I said to her, "You've got the most apocalyptic mind I've ever come across," and she replied, "That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me." So when it comes to covers, I said doom is what we want. Hell on earth or elsewhere, apocalypse.
ALU: Did anything surprising happen on the way to publication?
JM: On the way to publication, I was surprised but delighted by the way Paige conquered magazine after magazine and mildly surprised how quickly readers recognized her surging talent.
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Here's what's in store for book club throughout July:
(Psst. Our August pick, The Figgs, is also 15% off!)