Gift Guide Week: A.G.A. Wilmot

We consider A.G.A. Wilmot a monarch of horror writing over here, which is why we’re thrilled they’ve come on to Gift Guide Week to share four horror (or horror-adjacent) picks; perfect for the person in your life who likes a little scary mixed in with their season’s greetings.

Gift Guide Week: Picks by A.G.A Wilmot

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Tear by Erica McKeen
(Invisible Publishing)

For the person who hasn’t been traumatized enough this year:

My book of 2023 (so far).

I’m required to write more than that, but I really don’t want to. I went into this book cold, not knowing anything, and I think it was all the better for it. That said…

The story, which I’d call a little bit horrific, a little bit surreal, a little bit disorienting, revolves around Frances, a college-age recluse slowly losing herself in her dreams and memories. Like Medusa (mentioned later on in this list), the narrative deals heavily with manipulation, gaslighting, trauma, and parental cruelty as it treads a fine and very disturbing line between what’s real for Frances and what isn’t.

And… I think I want to stop there. This is psychological feminist horror, and at no point did I see where events were taking me. As such, I do not wish to rob readers of the experience I had. An experience, mind you, that left me emotionally wrecked and a little obsessed—McKeen’s writing is some of the most cutting and unforgiving I’ve encountered in some time.

Tear is a quick read, but one that will stay with you for quite some time. In short, it f*cked me up, and I mean that as the highest of compliments.

Find Tear here on All Lit Up or use our Shop Local feature to purchase from your local indie bookstore.

The Marigold by Andrew F. Sullivan
(ECW Press)

For the Toronto renter slowly losing their mind:

You know what’s gross? Sentient mould. What’s even grosser is calling it “the wet.”

A clever and sardonic near-future story about environmental collapse, the housing crisis, the gig economy, and the general inhumanness of the 1 percent told via an evolving cast of characters—tenants, public health inspectors, and a rideshare driver named “Soda,” among others—Andrew F. Sullivan’s The Marigold is… well, it’s disgusting. But, you know, in a good way. In a necessary way. It’s also one of the more imaginative and weird books I’ve read this year, and it certainly has a great deal on its mind. Employing body horror and ecological nightmare scenarios as needed, this book is a furious shot fired directly in the face of our already-terrible cost-of-living situation here in Toronto. If nothing else, its selfish villains and the destruction for which they are responsible show just how easily our sense of community can and will be fractured if things don’t change.

It’s also really gross. I go back and forth on whether it would have been worse to call it “the moist.” And if I have to think that, you do too.

Find The Marigold here on All Lit Up or use our Shop Local feature to purchase from your local indie bookstore.

Medusa by Martine Desjardins
(Talonbooks)

For the body horror-loving feminist:

As a child, Medusa is threatened by her mother, “If you ever show your eyes, I’ll have to sew your lids shut.” Not long after, she is sent away to the Athenaeum, an institute for “malformed” girls. Her ocular “Monstrosities” are reviled by all who encounter her, and she is treated as an abomination by those supposed to love and take care of her; she is blamed for the pain her family has endured via her existence and then taken advantage of by her benefactors and the cruel headmistress at the Athenaeum.

As a modern gothic variant on the myth, Medusa is a sharp, unflinching book that challenges the social expectations surrounding feminine bodily shame and masculine superiority, throwing a stone-gazed wrecking ball into the mix. It’s not the easiest of reads, but it is fascinating, and her journey to a position of power is quite satisfying. A terrific pick for anyone who likes their feminist social commentary with a skosh of body horror and a sprinkling of Greek myth.

Find Medusa on All Lit Up or use our Shop Local feature to purchase from your local indie bookstore.

The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr
(Coach House Books)

For the book lover playing catch-up:

Onboard a stranded train in 1929, a man named Baxter—Black, queer, with ambitions toward dentistry school—is beset upon by arrogant, rude, racist passengers that he must aid while at the same time keeping his true self a secret, out of concern for both his safety and his pay.

Last year’s Giller Prize winner is a significant feather in the cap of Suzette Mayr’s already-impressive career. Her fourth book, Monoceros (2011), is one of my top-five Can Lit books, and her writing has only gotten better with time. Baxter’s story in The Sleeping Car Porter is an important and often overlooked slice of North American Black history, putting a tightly focused spotlight on racism and anti-queer social norms, and how together they create an imperilled state that feels nigh impossible to escape.

Find The Sleeping Car Porter here on All Lit Up or use our Shop Local feature to purchase from your local indie bookstore.

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A photo of author AGA Wilmot, a nonbinary person with light skin tone and long, dark hair. They are sitting in a relaxed pose in a chair, and wear many rings on their fingers.

A.G.A. WILMOT (BFA, MPub) is an award-winning writer and editor based out of Toronto. Their credits include myriad online and in-print publications and anthologies. Their first book, The Death Scene Artist, was published by Buckrider Books in 2018. Their next book, Withered, will be published by ECW Press in April 2024. They are represented by Kelvin Kong of K2 Literary.


Thank you to A.G.A. Wilmot for sharing these horrifically-great gift guide picks! Catch up on the 2023 All Lit Up Gift Guides here.