Happy Father’s Day from Biblioasis!

Happy Father’s Day from all of us at Biblioasis! We hope you have a wonderful day with your father-figures. If you’re still looking for a gift, why not check out a Biblioasis title?

 

Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Mark Bourrie

Murderer. Salesman. Pirate. Adventurer. Cannibal.
Perfect for Dad on Father’s Day

Whose dad wouldn’t enjoy what Ken McGoogan of The Globe and Mail called “A dark adventure story that sweeps the reader through a world filled with surprises”? In The Winnipeg Free Press, Michael Dudley called Bush Runner “Highly entertaining reading…fascinating…an engaging achievement.” The book has also been reviewed by Washington TimesCanadian Geographic, and ARTSFILE, and with his recent appearance on national television via Global News and on radio via CBC’s Ideas, the buzz about Bush Runner has never been louder.

Many people know Pierre-Esprit Radisson as the co-founder of the Hudson’s Bay Company, but few know of his adventurous life: a guest among First Nations communities, French fur traders, and royal courts; witness to London’s Great Plague and Great Fire; and unwitting agent of the Jesuits corporate espionage, Radisson double-crossed the English, French, Dutch, and his adoptive Mohawk family alike, found himself marooned by pirates in Spain, and lived through shipwreck on the reefs of Venezuela.

Dad wont be able to put down this swashbuckling page-turner!

 

Fail Better: Why Baseball Matters by Mark Kingwell
Fail Better… is a ballpark ramble of memoir, lore and nostalgia. Its north star is baseball’s time-out-of-timelessness, its leisurely Zen gaps between actions.” New York Times      
Provisionally Yours by Antanas Sileika
“Sileika humorously portrays the bureaucratic bungling and missteps among those competing for power…“We are the trash men,” Landa observes, “and no one wants trash but no one respects the people who take it out.” Readers curious about the small Baltic country and a key period in its history will be rewarded.” —Publishers Weekly
Original Prin by Randy Boyagoda
“Boyagoda writes with real panache and drive. An unputdownable book.”—Salman Rushdie
“An original animal…Clever, often ingenious…[raising] fascinating questions about fanaticism and the state of the modern world.” —The New York Times Book Review

 

They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada by Cecil Foster
“Foster had the courage to examine the realities of race in this country long before it was commonplace to do so…Canadian multiculturalism rests on the shoulders of the sleeping car porters.”—Globe and Mail

 

 

Randy Boyagoda’s ORIGINAL PRIN and Adam Foulds’s DREAM SEQUENCE both in THE NEW YORK TIMES!

We’re thrilled that not one but two of our summer novels have gotten some New York Times love!

On May 30, Tom Barbash wrote that Original Prin is “an original animal…Clever, often ingenious . . . [raising] fascinating questions about fanaticism and the state of the modern world. Prin evolves in surprising ways, and tensions spike. For readers feeling confounded at the end, fear not. It’s the first in a planned trilogy.”

The very next day, Julie Klam wrote, “Dream Sequence succeeds as a narrative thanks to Foulds’s prose. He doesn’t waste a single word, is frequently very funny, insightful and surprising. And he does a marvelous job of making us wonder who loves Henry the most, Kristin or Henry—and which of these possibilities is the most alarming consequence of celebrity.”

These NYT plaudits follow streams of praise from other sources.

Other Praise for Original Prin:

Original Prin is many things at once: a richly funny campus novel, a painfully humorous portrait of a modern family, an examination of a whole spectrum of religious faith from shaky to fanatical, and finally, in a climax of pitch-black comedy, a thriller too. Boyagoda writes with real panache and drive. An unputdownable book.”

Salman Rushdie

“University corruption, infidelity, Catholic theology, Middle Eastern politics: not many writers could convincingly keep so many balls in the air, and that Boyagoda does so in a truly funny novel is impressive enough. But perhaps even more striking is the depth of sensitivity and understanding that Boyagoda brings to the emotive issues of faith, immigration, and violence. By examining the messy intersections between religious fundamentalism, global capitalism, and liberal values through the gentle comic form of the campus novel, Boyagoda does more than offer clever satire—he humanizes these vast impersonal forces even as he imbues them with a moral complexity that frustrates easy political judgment.”

The Walrus

“That Boyagoda can take on faith, global capitalism, religious terrorism, upper-middle-class preciousness and self-delusion—all the while implicating Canada in traditionally “American” problems—attests to his talent. It also manages to be a taut and funny novel throughout…This is the first volume of a planned trilogy. If I could hazard my own divination of signs, I would bet Boyagoda could take [Prin] anywhere.”

America: The Jesuit Review of Faith & Culture

“One of the best satirical writers today…immediately funny.”

Micah Mattix, The American Conservative

“Boyagoda sets up a tightly paced novel in Original Prin that succeeds on a number of fronts. It’s a hilarious romp of a campus novel, poking fun at the market-driven ethos of the modern Canadian academy. It’s a touching look at the complicated sacrifices demanded of familial love. At heart, it’s a richly humorous novel that explores the struggle for spiritual believers in a fiercely secular world…capturing the rambunctious multi-faith, multicultural zeitgeist of the city, particularly in corners where cultures and faith overlap…Boyagoda has crafted a novel that’s fresh and utterly original.”

Toronto Star

“Timely…supremely funny…Original Prin deals with much that is purely human, centering on Prin’s desire to do the right thing and the very relateable hang-ups and weaknesses that constantly thwart him. Boyagoda’s novels are a reminder of what Catholic literature should be like.”

The Catholic Register

“A winning combination of academic satire and sociopolitical commentary that leaves readers facing grim reality and acknowledging the irrationality of it all. Globally aware and witty, this is the opening title in a projected trilogy and a tale that offers a fascinating new perspective on journeys of faith and contemporary intellectual pursuits.”

Booklist

“[Original Prin] skewers the corporatized university and modern world politics alike in this delicious satire…A lively complement to Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim, Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man, Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, and other academic sendups.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Princely Umbiligoda appears to have it all—a great job as the leading expert on the marine imagery in Canadian literature; a loving family consisting of a wife and four Disney-obsessed daughters; and a strong spiritual connection to his Catholic faith. But underneath there’s trouble. Trouble at home, trouble at work, trouble in the newspapers, and trouble with his prostate, troubles that lead to troubling doubts about God. And the disturbing reappearance of an old girlfriend. And a career change to…suicide bomber? Did I mention this is a comedy? Well, it is, a great comedy with a brisk pace and a delightfully hapless protagonist the likes of whom I’ve never met before. Original Prin left me eager to read many more of his exploits. Secondary Prin? Tertiary Prin? Bring ’em on.”

James Crossley, Madison Books

“Boyagoda tempers the subject matter with deftly cunning and witty prose, pinning classical literary references alongside the mundane beauty of office supplies. If it’s possible to create a sympathetic character in a potential suicide bomber, Boyagoda has done it: Prin is a complex yet relatable man searching for, above all, a reason to live.” —Morgan McComb, Raven Book Store

Original Prin is one of those books that defy classification. It’s very real, yet surreal. It’s funny – actually laugh-out-loud so – but sad.” —Desi News

“A very entertaining read…Prin’s antics are alarming and funny, but the story’s themes of faith and self-deception resonate long after the last sentence.” —CBC Books

Original Prin finds Boyagoda working explicitly in the tradition of comic Catholic writers such as Evelyn Waugh…It is fabulously rare, in our secular age, to find a novel that focuses so insistently and unironically on a character whose religion is not an ancillary aspect of his persona but absolutely central.” —Quill & Quire

“Boyagoda gets it right.” —Hamilton Review of Books

 

Other Praise for Dream Sequence:

“Everyone loves a good page-turner full of aspirational scene-setting, but few literary novelists dare to try it . . . [Dream Sequence] is a sexy, celeby drama . . . just like The Great Gatsby, this novel billows around you like a queasy dream, its grand scenery and awful characters combining to take us out of the real world and into another, oddly shimmering version of it.”

The Times (London)

“Adam Foulds is one of the best fiction writers working today. Dream Sequence possesses all the hallmarks of his previous books–emotional acuity, beautiful prose–and also a seductive plot and an ingenious structure. It’s a great novel. I read it practically in one sitting.”

—David Bezmozgis, author of the Giller-shortlisted The Free World

Dream Sequence notices everything . . . Description is intimate and visceral, scratching at the glossy surface of the lives of the characters and underpinning the ‘vacuum’ they move through, together but apart . . . This is a novel of screens, of echoes and constant counterpoint, driven by changes in light as much as its reflective plot where matters of ‘acting’ are paramount … [a] shimmering novel.” 

Times Literary Supplement (TLS)

“What makes this pair so interesting isn’t the asymmetry of their relationship, but that deep down, they’re so similar . . . Both of these people channel their dissatisfaction with the present by living in a rich fantasy land of the future they imagine for themselves – to borrow the novel’s title, a dream sequence – albeit in different ways . . . Proverbial are the dangers of living in the past, but we rarely speak about the perils of living too much for what we imagine to come. Dream Sequence reminds readers to be present and to value what you have now.”

The Globe and Mail

“[An] entertainingly skewering new novel about ambition and obsession.”

Toronto Star

“[A] livewire exploration of sex and power.” 

Metro News

“An outstanding and unyielding exploration of celebrity, fame, and all its attendant obsessions…Foulds’s novel is fun, smart, and tense, part psychological drama about media-driven obsession and part razor-sharp social critique.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[Dream Sequence] is an exquisitely concocted, riveting account of artistic ambition and unrequited love verging on obsession . . . Foulds is proving himself to be a versatile writer of intelligence and charm.”

The Spectator

“Precise and compressed language . . . while Henry’s precarious mix of insecurity and massive self-regard is sometimes played, effectively, for comedy, Foulds is also taking a serious look at contemporary identity and the alienating consequences of fame . . . terrifically good writing.”

Winnipeg Free Press

“The dream Adam Foulds weaves in this scintillating novel is gradually revealed, with grace and subtlety, to be an especially timely form of waking nightmare—but a nightmare so precise, and often beautiful, that one comes to prefer it, in some ways, to dull reality. Read this book.”

—John Wray, author of Godsend 

“Adam Foulds’s fourth novel, Dream Sequence, is an exquisitely concocted, riveting account of artistic ambition and unrequited love verging on obsession . . . One finishes the book wishing the dream were longer.”

—Philip Womack, The Spectator

Beautifully written . . . A novel about loneliness and obsession in contemporary life, set in hotels and airports, sterile apartment blocks, gyms and yoga classes.”

—Alice O’Keefe, New Statesman

“Entrancing language . . . Lyricism abounds throughout this deftly handled ­cautionary tale—one which warns that meeting our heroes can be dangerous and dreams can be frighteningly real.”

Abu Dhabi National

“There’s deep psychology on every page . . . it’s the details of the writing itself—the precision of the word selection combined with the precision of the observation—that make for such enjoyable reading . . . Add to this keenness of perception a poetical ear for euphony and cadence and you have the quiddity of Foulds’s gift.”

The Guardian

“[I]ncisively well-written and alluringly readable . . . Adam Foulds—whose previous work includes The Quickening Maze, about the poet John Clare’s incarceration in an Epping Forest asylum in the 1840s, and In the Wolf’s Mouth, set in North Africa and Sicily during the Second World War—is acutely sensitive to shifting environments, conveying them brilliantly with few words. This prose is truly poetic . . . Yet this novel also moves like a thriller, as these different vacancies, Henry and Kristin, collide in their desires. A terrific book about the realities and delusions of fame distorting the way we live now: not to be missed.”

The Evening Standard

“[Foulds] has turned his keen attention to the present day, and the result is a book whose “thriller” label comes less from plot and more from the deepening unsettlement as Foulds turns the lights up on the derangements, both mundane and catastrophic, that drive both Henry and Kristin. As always with Foulds, though, the real star here is the writing, a delight at the smallest levels…An incisive and disquieting look at the consequences of fame.”

Kirkus

“Foulds once again brings his psychological acuity to bear on characters bound within claustrophobic lives that they long to escape…[a] lucid, richly detailed and tense novel.” 

Financial Times

Biblioasis publicist Casey Plett has won the 2019 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction!

 

This arrives on the heels of Casey’s big win at the Amazon First Novel Awards. We couldn’t be more thrilled! Congratulations to Casey and to her publisher, Arsenal Pulp Press.

Our Spring Fiction Launch Was a Great Success!

 

Dan kicked off the proceedings with a welcome to the crowd and to writers Elise Levine, Antanas Sileika, and Adam Foulds.

 

Adam Foulds introduced us to Henry Banks, one of the protagonists in his deftly-observed Dream Sequencea novel about celebrity obsession, self-obsession, and the pathology of destiny.

 

 

Elise Levine read from “Alice in the Field,” the final story in her lyrical, character-drive collection This Wicked Tongue.

 

Antanas Sileika’s cold-war spy thriller Provisionally Yours took us to a swanky party.

 

. . . And since no party, swanky or otherwise, is complete without cake . . .

 

 

Biblioasis publicist Casey Plett has won the Amazon Canada first novel prize!

 

Most days she’s here working her magic to get attention for other people’s books, but today we’re overjoyed to announce that Casey’s own book, Little Fish (Arsenal Pulp Press), has won Amazon Canada’s first novel award! We’re absolutely thrilled for you, Casey!!

Read all about it here and here.

“It had a greenish, demonish face on the cover. Readers, help!”: An Interview with Randy Boyagoda

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Hardy Boys book I lost when I was a boy, before I finished it! It had a greenish, demonish face on the cover. I’ve looked and looked and never found it. Readers, help!”

In today’s Shelf Awareness Pro,
Randy Boyagoda does a “Reading With . . . ” interview about

A hilarious and heartfelt satire about a Sri Lankan Catholic immigrant family—and faith, fanaticism, and pickleball.

Coverage forthcoming in THE NEW YORK TIMES and LIT HUB

Praised by Salman Rushdie
the Toronto Star
and the Catholic Register

Original Prin is many things at once: a richly funny campus novel, a painfully humorous portrait of a modern family, an examination of a whole spectrum of religious faith from shaky to fanatical, and finally, in a climax of pitch-black comedy, a thriller too. Boyagoda writes with real panache and drive. An unputdownable book.”
—Salman Rushdie

“University corruption, infidelity, Catholic theology, Middle Eastern politics: not many writers could convincingly keep so many balls in the air, and that Boyagoda does so in a truly funny novel is impressive enough. But perhaps even more striking is the depth of sensitivity and understanding that Boyagoda brings to the emotive issues of faith, immigration, and violence. By examining the messy intersections between religious fundamentalism, global capitalism, and liberal values through the gentle comic form of the campus novel, Boyagoda does more than offer clever satire—he humanizes these vast impersonal forces even as he imbues them with a moral complexity that frustrates easy political judgment.”
—The Walrus

 

Original Prin
(May 14, 2019)

“Boyagoda sets up a tightly paced novel in Original Prin that succeeds on a number of fronts. It’s a hilarious romp of a campus novel, poking fun at the market-driven ethos of the modern Canadian academy. It’s a touching look at the complicated sacrifices demanded of familial love. At heart, it’s a richly humorous novel that explores the struggle for spiritual believers in a fiercely secular world . . . capturing the rambunctious multi-faith, multicultural zeitgeist of the city, particularly in corners where cultures and faith overlap . . . Boyagoda has crafted a novel that’s fresh and utterly original.”
—Toronto Star

“One of the best satirical writers today . . . immediately funny.”
—Micah Mattix, The American Conservative

“Timely . . . supremely funny . . . Original Prin deals with much that is purely human, centering on Prin’s desire to do the right thing and the very relatable hang-ups and weaknesses that constantly thwart him. Boyagoda’s novels are a reminder of what Catholic literature should be like.”
—The Catholic Register

“A winning combination of academic satire and sociopolitical commentary that leaves readers facing grim reality and acknowledging the irrationality of it all. Globally aware and witty, this is the opening title in a projected trilogy and a tale that offers a fascinating new perspective on journeys of faith and contemporary intellectual pursuits.”
—Booklist

“[Original Prin] skewers the corporatized university and modern world politics alike in this delicious satire . . . A lively complement to Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim, Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man, Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, and other academic sendups.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Princely Umbiligoda appears to have it all—a great job as the leading expert on the marine imagery in Canadian literature; a loving family consisting of a wife and four Disney-obsessed daughters; and a strong spiritual connection to his Catholic faith. But underneath there’s trouble. Trouble at home, trouble at work, trouble in the newspapers, and trouble with his prostate, troubles that lead to troubling doubts about God. And the disturbing reappearance of an old girlfriend. And a career change to . . . suicide bomber? Did I mention this is a comedy? Well, it is, a great comedy with a brisk pace and a delightfully hapless protagonist the likes of whom I’ve never met before. Original Prin left me eager to read many more of his exploits. Secondary Prin? Tertiary Prin? Bring ’em on.”
—James Crossley, Madison Books

“Boyagoda tempers the subject matter with deftly cunning and witty prose, pinning classical literary references alongside the mundane beauty of office supplies. If it’s possible to create a sympathetic character in a potential suicide bomber, Boyagoda has done it: Prin is a complex yet relatable man searching for, above all, a reason to live.”
—Morgan McComb, Raven Book Store

Original Prin is one of those books that defy classification. It’s very real, yet surreal. It’s funny—actually laugh-out-loud so—but sad.”
—Desi News

“A very entertaining read . . . Prin’s antics are alarming and funny, but the story’s themes of faith and self-deception resonate long after the last sentence.”
—CBC Books

Original Prin finds Boyagoda working explicitly in the tradition of comic Catholic writers such as Evelyn Waugh . . . It is fabulously rare, in our secular age, to find a novel that focuses so insistently and unironically on a character whose religion is not an ancillary aspect of his persona but absolutely central.”
—Quill & Quire

“Boyagoda gets it right.”
—Hamilton Review of Books

 

Poetry on May 21: Shane Neilson’s NEW BRUNSWICK arrives in Canada and Mike Barnes’s BRAILLE RAINBOW in the US

 

STIGMATIZED, SILENCED EXPERIENCE: Mike Barnes’s Braille Rainbow and Shane Neilson’s New Brunswick candidly explore disability, abuse, physical pain, and mental illness. Both poets’ speakers struggle to love, or even to recognize, themselves:

          the bitterest irony is the self

          imitating itself at every level

          until even emptiness fails to inhabit

writes Barnes; Neilson echoes,

          The fable

          of a man is told in two versions, one for ear

          and one for hand. We come from the same

          land but differ. Pain and love I do not understand.

Each may come closest to self-acceptance in his empathy with the downtrodden and forgotten—labourers, displaced nations, linguistic minorities, the homeless, the (in Barnes’s words) “shocked, drugged, poor.” Both speakers’ bodies vibrate in resonance with violences of the past:

          I do

          impressions of you, Father, with my fist

writes Neilson, and Barnes echoes,

          [you] blackened her memory with chars and twists

          I have longed to visit upon you with fists.

And yet both poets write of attending with great compassion at the bedsides of the ill and dying. Neilson, a physician, is helpless beside his mother’s deathbed:

          Voiceless, with a tube

          in her throat, my mother wrote:

          Will I live? . . .

          Wheeze makes onomatopoeia

          of witness. We. My answer a plural plea

          of a rural, unwritten No.

Barnes, whose most recent previous book is a memoir of caring for his mother at the end of her life, could be writing the same scene in “Tangent: Lines by a Bed”:

          In. Out? Spirit bubble in your throat the whole

          globe’s turning. Hold it, floating, a moment longer.

In Barnes’s “Secure Ward,” it’s impossible to tell whether the speaker is the patient or the carer. Neilson’s speaker is the same:

          On a good day, sense rejects us.

          But then trajectory alters. Beds

          change to church, riverbank, hospital.

          These speakers both heal and are ill.

These books do not compete, but complement one another: if New Brunswick is a work of modernist erudition and collage, then Braille Rainbow is one of Buddhist acceptance and commitment to the here, the now. New Brunswick returns obsessively to the province of Neilson’s birth and practically exhausts its timeline, from 1534 to today. Braille Rainbow announces the futility of revisiting the past, seeking peace through a minute, scale-shifting attention to

          this place made only of

          particulars: one bed, one bureau, two scuffed

          chairs

allowing a tiny bug to become the

          dome

          of some microscopic faith.

Without knowing one another’s projects, Barnes and Neilson imitate one another at odd moments. Both call out to ancestors literal and figurative; both poets’ broken speakers allow themselves to imagine redemption.               But in the harshest cry, I’ve heard

          the right word, love . . .

          Think of care, love,

          do we use that word,

          do we use it enough?

And Barnes echoes,

          Hold hands when one or both of you

          is going into the dark, and hold hands when one

          of you doesn’t come back. Keep holding hands

          a little longer when an official- or kind-sounding voice

          tells you it’s time to go, because it

          isn’t quite. Not yet. Hold hands.

This spring, we at Biblioasis offer two painful, breaking poetic voices that despite themselves, somehow, hold one another’s hands.

Cecil Foster’s THEY CALL ME GEORGE is a hit in Canada. On May 21, it comes to the US.

Cecil Foster’s They Call Me George, about Black train porter activism and how it shaped unions and race relations in the US and Canada, hits U.S. shelves on May 21. The book’s US release coincides with the 125th anniversary of the landmark Pullman car porter strike, a turning point in US labour history.

They Call Me George was released in Canada earlier this year and quickly became a best-seller. The book has received plaudits from the Globe and Mail (“excavates a chapter of Canadian history that has been largely erased from the collective memory”) to the Caribbean Camera (“a riveting tour de force written by an award winning, master story-teller”)to the Winnipeg Free Press, who called the book “A bold book by a self-assured scholar who has rewritten our conventional history.”

Click through to check out Cecil Foster’s interview on TV Ontario’s The Agenda as well as his feature interview in the Toronto Star!

An Interview with Elise Levine, author of THIS WICKED TONGUE

 

Elise Levine’s book of wry, bittersweet, character-driven stories, This Wicked Tonguewill be available in US bookstores on June 25. It’ll be in Canadian bookstores on May 28. But we can’t wait! We want Elise Levine now!

To tide us over, Elise Levine kindly consented to answer a few of our questions.

 

A Biblioasis Interview with Elise Levine, author of This Wicked Tongue

For those who are coming to your work for the first time, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

This Wicked Tongue is my fourth book. My first is the story collection Driving Men Mad, and sandwiched between these two story collections I’ve had two novels published, Blue Field and Requests and Dedications. My fiction is highly compressed, employing charged, layered language and narratives that are propulsive and elliptical. Formally stylized, my work is, however, predominantly character-driven, excavating lives gripped by estrangement and imperilled by silence, and yet urged toward the need to transcend and engage.

I’ve always written about driven characters: obsessive risk-takers seeking to free themselves from tangled emotional legacies; marginalized, pressured characters. This Wicked Tongue examines the urge to break faith with expectations and rewrite the scripts of the past. The stories feature my most formally exploratory fiction to date, at times employing hybrid narrative techniques as well as fabulist elements and fairy-tale motifs. The stories also range from flash to near-novella-length. I’m currently working on The Takeaway, two linked novellas. They’re a mix of crime novel, flash prose, and prose poem. Yes, they’re pretty weird.

The stories in This Wicked Tongue vary widely in their settings, from medieval England to a future dystopian landscape to various places in contemporary North America. Do you have a favourite place and time for setting stories? How do you know what place and time each story belongs in?

I’m really interested in how our environments shape and even at times seem to mirror us. It’s as if we somehow mysteriously find our truest or maybe falsest (who’s to say?) selves in places that speak to our psychological needs during pressured times in our lives.

I don’t have a favourite setting that I fall back on, but for This Wicked Tongue I gravitated to settings that amplify the characters’ sense of literal or psychological leave-taking or return, critical experiences which provide a linking motif for the collection as a whole.

When I first get the idea for a story, character and setting are usually among the first elements that occur to me, seemingly out of the blue. As I develop the story, I increasingly realize why the setting is integral to the character—that it, how much it helps to reveal the character. Over many (so many!) drafts I try to sharpen this dynamic between setting and character, in hopes of translating this to the reader.

Some characters recur in more than one story. What draws you back to a character? Is Martin, for example (who appears in one story as a preteen boy and another as a grown man facing his mother’s mortality and his husband’s desire for children), likely to crop up in future story collections or possibly in a novel of his own?

I return to characters when I feel there’s unfinished business—when there’s another entire but related facet of their story to explore. The ideas keep coming, and I can’t stuff them all in one story without it collapsing under the weight of details and emotional unfoldings, and “infoldings”, as I think of them—the interior layers hidden within.

Martin, oh Martin! He really needed the space of two relatively long stories. So much going on with that guy. But I’m sure he won’t reappear. Some of the beauty of short stories compared to novels is how the brevity serves poignancy as we hover at the edge of possibility, doom or gloom. In Martin’s case, it seemed best to leave him at twin poised moments between who he is, who he might become.

How does This Wicked Tongue explore gender concerns?

I think all the stories in This Wicked Tongue are implicitly and in some cases explicitly concerned with gender. The characters grapple with and chafe against the constraints of received notions of how to be in the world, in particular the circumscribing conventions regarding masculinity and woman- or girlhood. It’s a significant—though not the only—factor in how some of the characters live out impaired ways of being that inflict and self-inflict emotional damage. Or how some of the characters seek ways to break faith with expectation, envisioning and risking new lives and worlds in which they might suffer more, or heal.

You often show your characters’ least flattering thoughts, impulses, and actions. Can you talk about why exploring characters’ less likable sides is important to you?

Yes! Making bad choices, and by extension being one’s own best villain, seems to have powered much of narrative in the Western tradition, from ancient Greek tragedy on down. Make a bad choice, be less than who you might have been, but learn who you really are, beyond the self-delusions. Or don’t learn—this can provide an equally illuminating experience for the audience.

I’m equal opportunity when it comes to the gender of my characters and their capacity to be stupid, manipulative, well-intentioned but ineffective, blind, cruel. And also, sentimental, clear-eyed, smart, loving, compassionate, visionary, ethical, goofy, wry. I believe bad-assery in whatever shape or form knows no bounds nor should it.

I’m also very interested in the various literary traditions and tropes of women as monsters, which I interpret broadly as humans who refuse to conform to gendered expectations, from the Sirens on up through mermaids and femmes fatales to contemporary mean girls — feminized figures with voices (and who enact corresponding deeds) socially deemed either terrifically unpleasant or so captivating they lure the unsuspecting to their deaths. So much anxiety seems to still revolve around what are perceived as contesting voices.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading a linked story collection by Gabino Iglesias called Coyote Songs. It’s been described as barrio noir and horror, and features stories about la frontera, life along the Mexico-US border.

I’m not a great multi-tasker, so I tend to read only one book at a time and concentrate on it — so I’ll mention some books I’ve read recently, and loved. A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley. Jen George’s The Babysitter At Rest. Something for Everyone by Lisa Moore. Han Kang’s The White Book. Zolitude by Paige Cooper. Jenny Xie’s Eye Level. Sabrina Orah Mark’s Wild Milk. Also Last Days by Brian Evenson. And Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead.

Happy Independent Bookstore Day!