ALU Summer Book Club: Intro to After Realism

The Summer of Andrés continues with our August #ALUbookclub pick, After Realism, a short fiction anthology edited by André Forget and published by Véhicule Press. To kick off the month, we share André Forget’s introduction to the book and interview Véhicule Press Carmine Starnino on how After Realism came to be.


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The ALU book club hits keep on coming! This August we’re reading After Realism (Véhicule Press), an anthology of 24 short fiction pieces by stunningly talented millennial writers, edited by André Forget. From a collection of business letters that quickly grow scintillating, to a story with a talking cat, to the incorporation of Dungeons & Dragons tables; these stories are reflective of – even embrace – a world that isn’t certain to be the same going to sleep as it was upon waking. As André says in his introduction, “we no longer have the luxury of assuming present conditions will maintain indefinitely. The exhaustion with realism is not just a matter of taste but arises from a sense that a realist style can’t cope with reality as we now experience it.”After Realism and read on for our interview with Véhicule Press editor Carmine Starnino to learn how the anthology came to be.

An interview with Carmine Starnino

All Lit Up: You had the original idea to produce this anthology. Tell us about how that idea came about and what you’d hoped would come from the initial call-out for submissions.Carmine Starnino: I edited a poetry anthology in 2005 called The New Canon, which was billed as a generational snapshot and a shot across the bow. I had always wondered what a short-story equivalent would look like—something similarly combative, that staked out a position and defended it. When I starting working with André, I realized he would be the perfect editor. That realization was almost entirely based on the literary essays he was writing for me at the Walrus, pieces where described the newer, millennial writing in engaging and discerning ways. I’m grateful he said yes, and that he shared my manifestoing vision for the book. He hammered out a list of 24 candidates that he believed set the stage for what was coming next in Canadian short fiction, and we took it from there.ALU: How does this anthology find its place, and at the same time subvert, the “CanLit canon”?CS: As André makes clear in his introduction, while these writers represent a significant stylistic break, they don’t necessarily upend what came before. More often, they extend the realist tenets that dominated 20th century writing in Canada in provocative and unprecedented ways. Worth noting, too, is that we decided not pitch the anthology as an explicitly Canadian project. Most of these young writers don’t see themselves in those parochial terms.ALU: What can readers look forward to in After Realism? What do you find most exciting about it?CS: I love that André was able to show how these stories reflect our political moment without shortchanging their experimental qualities. But the anthology doesn’t need special pleading. It’s a collection of good writing, period. As a friend of mine described the book: all killer, no filler.ALU: We know it’s hard to play favourites, but is there any story or stories you feel are an indicator of the collection as a whole?CS: It’s always invidious to single out one example, especially when each story hits its mark so brilliantly, but I will say Jean Marc Ah-Sen’s contribution scandalized me and charmed me in equal measure.
ALU: We love this cover! Why googly eyes, and how do you think they evoke this idea of writing “after realism”?
CS: That cover is why working with house designer David Drummond is such a delight. You never know what he will do. The eyes are a play on the idea that these are writers to watch, and that the eyes are in turn watching back—tracking our moment. Why googly? Well, this is a book about a big generational shift, about writers who might change the whole game in Canadian writing. But the googliness reminds you that they’re also a whole lot of fun.ALU: Did anything surprising or wild happen on the way to publication? Any anecdotes you might have?CS: Alas, no. There are a lot of wild stories in this book. But everyone was pretty professional.

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Many thanks to Carmine for chatting all things After Realism with us, and to Jennifer at Véhicule Press for providing this month’s excerpt! If you too want to experience the “googliness” that are the stories of After Realism, you can do so for 15% off, right here on All Lit Up (but only until the end of August!). And stay tuned for more #ALUbookclub this month, including an interview with anthology editor André Forget next week.