First Fiction Friday: Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian)
October 11, 2019
A playful and poignant novel
Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) (Metonymy Press) is a love letter narrated by a queer trans woman whose working through the unrelenting grief of losing her straight trans friend Vivian and the unrequited love she feels. Author Hazel Jane Plante says in an interview with publisher Metonymy Press: "I really didn’t set out to write a book about grief. The character of Viv just tumbled out of me and I kept discovering her as I went along [...] I found myself caring so much for her and just wishing that I’d had someone like her in my life. But relationships between trans women can be messy and thorny, so I wanted to get at some of that, too.”
Hazel Jane Plante is a queer trans librarian, cat photographer, and writer. In a previous life, she co-founded a micro-press, co-edited a little literary journal, co-hosted a podcast, and released lo-fi albums under the name Sparse. Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) is her first novel.
She currently lives in Vancouver on the unceded ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and sə̓lílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Why you need to read this now:
The world can feel like a terrifying place these days. From the rise of the far right to rising sea levels, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. Hazel Jane Plante’s debut novel is a roadmap for how art and pop culture can soothe us in dark times.
In a recent interview with Metonymy, Plante described one of her inspirations for writing this work of experimental fiction:
“I realized that a lot of people in my life were turning to television series as a way of giving themselves something that they needed, especially people going through really difficult things, and they got a certain level of comfort from spending time with familiar characters. If things aren’t going well in your life, you can still sit down and go through the emotions of a show, and it’s pretty safe.”
Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) is narrated by a queer trans woman whose name is only revealed at the end of the novel. She struggles with the grief of losing her close friend Vivian and ends up coping with this loss by revisiting the fictional TV show Little Blue that they spent hours watching together. It’s a quirky and short-lived series from the nineties that Vivian introduced her to. There are dozens of offbeat characters, ranging from a soda tycoon to an ex-professional baseball player turned alcoholic high school teacher to an arborist who wears medical supplies as fashion accessories.
By weaving encyclopedia entries of each Little Blue character in and out of the main narrative, the reader gains a picture of the totally bizarre world director Jason Bloch created through his 10-episode series, shot on a fictional island off the coast of BC. They also learn about the emotional depth of the relationship between the two women, and why writing an encyclopedia about Vivian’s favourite TV show is the most appropriate way for the narrator to honour her late friend.
“I really didn’t set out to write a book about grief. The character of Viv just tumbled out of me and I kept discovering her as I went along,” says Plante. “Looking back, I can see that I really needed to write about sadness and grief and loss. Halfway through writing, I realized that I really, really wanted to go back and keep the character of Viv alive. I found myself caring so much for her and just wishing that I’d had someone like her in my life. But relationships between trans women can be messy and thorny, so I wanted to get at some of that, too.”
The introductory chapter of the book closes with these lines:
This book is the closest you’ll get to knowing my favourite person and it’s the closest you’ll get to watching Little Blue with her, which was a delightful experience. I miss you so fucking much,Viv.
X plus Y
The structurally daring and playful nature of Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) is comparable to Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion and Jewelry by Leanne Shapton — a novel about a relationship in the form of an auction catalogue. Plante’s writing also illuminates relationships between complex and flawed transgender characters, which can be likened to Casey Plett’s recent novel Little Fish.
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Thanks to Ashley at Metonymy Press for sharing Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian) with us. For more First Fiction Friday,
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