BOUND TO WRITE

“..leaving the page of the book carelessly open” – Anne Sexton

A Tragic Honesty

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on November 8, 2009

yates olderI just finished reading A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates by Blake Baily (who has also recently written a bio of John Cheever).  Lacking enough time to pleasure read, I had to renew it from the library twice so for about three months I carried this hefty 650 + page book to and from work, hauling it out to read on transit. In the age of e-readers and soft covers, let me tell you, a hard back, very thick book elicits stares. Not that I noticed them really, Mr. Yates‘ life was so engrossing that a couple of times I almost missed my subway/bus stops.

As a self-confessed literary snob, and reader of what I consider fine literature, I’m feeling a bit sheepish that I only discovered Yates last year, because of the pending film treatment of Revolutionary Road. He was writing in my adult lifetime therefore I could have bought his books and helped, at least in a small way, to contribute to his livelihood. That’s probably a ridiculous thought but it does occur to me that a man who is more well-known posthumously as one of the greatest contemporary American writers could have used at least one more reader while he was alive.

Yates did possess a tragic honesty, in his writing and in his life. He lived in ways people couldn’t understand, perhaps not even himself. He wrote about things people didn’t necessarily want to see in the world and recognize in themselves. It occurred to me while reading about his efforts to get those wonderfully crafted stories published in various magazines (esp. his heartbreak over the elusive New Yorker), that the era of reaching career pinnacles is somewhat behind us. The struggle for an agent, publisher, good review, film contract – these are dying goals in an age when you can publish your own blog, thoughts in 140 characters, and books to sell on consignment in stores. Hell, we might not be needing bookstore soon. So reading this biography was in so many ways a look back into an increasing lost time of the great struggle for lasting art.

Yates was one of those creatives who really couldn’t fully see his own talent – all the while using it – and his yates youngstories were often rejected because his characters seemed “bleak,” the atmosphere “dismal.” In actual fact, he was writing about human foibles and realities that are largely inarticulated, even still. Some criticized the fact that he mined the same field – that of his chaotic childhood, father-less (for all intents and purposes) and mother-ful (always there but terrifically selfish). I just think autobiography is  what most artists circle back to. His writing was so much more than a mere account of wrongs done to him. He nailed human intention vs. behaviour – for better or worse. I can’t think of anyone I’ve read who does it better.

Now I’m back to reading (in some cases re-reading) his novels and stories, which are all the richer by knowing what influenced and affected him. Like many artists, he was his own worst enemy, procrastinating writing by poor living habits, and sadly because of  his post-war ill health, made worse by his  alcoholism. Although I have yet to write my first novel, and have only published one short story, I can certainly relate to the difficulty of having to hold down a responsible “day job”  that leaves no free time, physically or mentally, for writing. I fully relate to his frustration with the “PR dodge” an anathema to any kind of creative writing. In true form, he came up with the perfect phrase to encapsulate the rally of many writers between paying the rent and contributing artistically.

Obviously anyone who admires the work of this master should read this book. After I exhaust the far two few books in Yates’ library I plan to go back to the book and author that drove his writing ambition, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby Thought I’ve read it numerous times, this time around I want to try to see it through the keen and sensitive writerly eyes of Richard Yates.

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Toronto Book Awards

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on September 15, 2009

Congratulations to the nominated authors for the 2009 Toronto Book Awards. The winner will be announced at the Toronto Reference Library on Oct. 15th.

Austin Clarke, Moremore

Anthony De Sa, Barnacle Love

Maggie Helwig, Girls Fall Down

Mark Osbaldeston, Unbuilt Toronto

Charles Wilkins, In the Land of Long Fingernails.

Toronto Book Awards

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Fall Books 2009

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on September 7, 2009

Every fall for the new big book season I do a roundup of selections for The Ottawa Citizen – usually picked up by most CanWest papers.

munro new 2009Due to editing, for some reason Doug Coupland’s Generation A got left off. Now I’m a huge Coupland fan so I would generally always recommend him, but I’ve also read the new book and it’s well worth the read.

A Bountiful Harvest: Highlights of a fall season full of richesgen a

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Frank McCourt

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on August 3, 2009

mccourt.184.3.650It was very sad to hear that Irish/American teacher/writer, Frank McCourt had died. It got me thinking about the two times I’ve been lucky enough to meet him.

Read about it here.

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February, Lisa Moore

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on June 21, 2009

feb lisa moore

Here’s my review in the Ottawa Citizen of Lisa Moore’s new book, February. Highly recommended.

Loss of a Family Man

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February by Lisa Moore, reimagines the Ocean Ranger disaster

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on May 31, 2009

In February of 1982 the Ocean Ranger, a large “unsinkable” oil rig sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Newfoundland. All 84 crew members (men) working aboard were killed, 67 were Canadian, 59 were from Newfoundland.  At the time, it was the largest offshore drilling accident in Canadian history and devastating to the families of the drowned men.

I wish I could say I remembered this, but I don’t. I have, however, recently watched news reports on the tragedy and it’s scope is pretty amazing, the confusion around the causes pretty evident. You see all the hallmarks of modern PR there, spin, denial, deflection. In the end, several new safety and training procedures were adopted around, what was then, fairly new oil drilling technology. A little too late for the loved ones of the lost.

The sinking of the Ocean Ranger lives on in the hearts, minds and memories of Newfoundlanders. An internet search brings up literature, music and films that document the event and its after effects.

feb lisa mooreIn her new book, February (Anansi, June 2009), Lisa Moore has imagined life after this tragedy for a young family. It’s a powerful novel full of insight into how life goes on, in spite of us, even if it leaves broken slivers of hearts in its wake.

It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that one result of losing a brother, husband, father or son to the sea would be loneliness. Loneliness is hard to write about without becoming maudlin, or cliche. Lisa Moore does not have that problem. She seems to understand this very human facility. It’s amazing just how well she can put words to an extremely indescribable emotion.

Ms. Moore is a new author to me. Though she’s been twice nominated for the Giller Prize, I have not read any of her previous books. I like knowing I can go back to her list, learn more about her craft and lose myself in her stories.

Of course, I recommend this book. You’ll be surprised how it makes you feel.

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The Factory Voice

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on May 13, 2009

51mLDD5XZ5L._SS500_The Factory Voice is the debut novel from Canadian poet Jeanette Lynes. It’s set in an airplane factory in Fort William, ON  (now Thunder Bay) during the war, and revolves around the lives of four women workers. I highly recommend reading it. It’s a delightful book.

Here’s my Globe review:

These Women Take Flight

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BC Book Prizes winners

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on April 27, 2009

mangameCongrats to Lee Henderson who won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for The Man Game (Penguin).

And Gabor Mate, winner of the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize for In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. (Random House). Other BC Book Prize-winners can be found here.hungry-ghosts

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Quill & Quire says goodbye to editor

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on April 16, 2009

This is a sad but fitting tribute and loving article to Derek Weiler, Quill & Quire‘s editor who died earlier this week at the far-too-young age of 40.

Saying Goodbye

For those of you in Toronto who’d like to celebrate Derek’s life there is a gathering at the Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen Street  W., on Wednesday, April 29th at 8 pm.

Life is short, let the people in your life know you love them and appreciate them.

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Derek Weiler 1968-2009

Posted by Carla Maria Lucchetta on April 13, 2009

I woke up this morning to the tragic news that Derek Weiler had died. We in the Canadian book world know Derek as the excellent editor of Quill & Quire, our publishing industry bible. I’ve met him on a number of occasions, and pitched him stories over the years, but I didn’t know him personally. Many others did and anyway you look at it, it’s a terrible loss, at only 40 years of age.

dw

Here are a couple of tributes with, I’m sure, many more to come.

Quillblog, Obituary

Farewell, Derek Weiler, Martin Levin, Globe Books

More…

Steven Beattie‘s tribute

Author Emily Schultz’s thoughts via The Joyland Blog

A few words from Arsenalia

Derek’s friends, colleagues and family have gathered on this Facebook dedication page to share memories and photos.

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