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The Chat with David Bergen

Trevor Corkum: Out of Mind is the companion book to your earlier novel The Matter with Morris. This latest offering takes us fifteen years into the future and is told from the perspective of Morris’s ex-wife Lucille. Why did you want to jump back into this story?

David Bergen: When I wrote The Matter with Morris, I had no intention of years later writing about Morris’s former wife, Lucille Black. But then, two years ago, I was casting about for a new story, and a new character (as novelists tend to do), and I thought of Lucille and where she might be. She didn’t have a lot of space in The Matter with Morris—Morris is greedy on the page—and so I leapt ahead and found Lucille in her late fifties and still grieving the loss of her son and trying to make sense of her own place in the world. Her voice is very different than Morris’s. More thoughtful, more reflective, thinking, sometimes overthinking. In the end I wanted to give her a say and let her tell her side of the story.

TC: Among many roles, Lucille is a therapist, constantly analyzing others and yet so deeply protective of her own vulnerability. She rarely lets others in. What was it like imagining her inner life and seeing Morris and the rest of the family from her perspective?

DB: Yes. Analytical. She analyzes others, why not herself? Which is incredibly difficult, simply because it is almost impossible to see the carbuncles on your own back that others so easily recognize. And yes, she doesn’t let others in, …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum With 2015 Giller Prize Finalist Rachel Cusk

Welcome to the final post of our 2015 Giller Prize spotlight. It was a pleasure interviewing Anakana Schofield, André Alexis, Heather O'Neill, and Samuel Archibald and now I'm pleased to present my chat with Rachel Cusk. Rachel is nominated for her book Outline (HarperCollins Canada), "a novel in ten conversations ... [that] follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during one oppressively hot summer in Athens."

From the New York Times review of Outline:

"By freeing the narrator of a body, the novel allows readers to accept a more complex portrait of a person — a self instead of a set of gender stereotypes. The result is a heartbreaking portrait of poise, sympathy, regret and rage, and with this book, Cusk suggests a powerful alternate route for the autobiographical novel."

Thank you again to Publishing@SFU for sponsoring this special Giller Prize installment of The Chat.

 

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THE CHAT, WITH RACHEL CUSK

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What did you immediately do when you found out you’d made it onto this year’s Giller shortlist?

I’m not sure I remember exactly what …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum With 2015 Giller Prize Finalist Samuel Archibald

Fresh off great interviews with Giller finalists Anakana Schofield, André Alexis, and Heather O'Neill, I'm pleased to turn the spotlight to Samuel Archibald, author of Arvida, a book of short stories that was originally published to great acclaim in French in 2011, then translated into English by Donald Winkler and published this year by Biblioasis. Arvida is actually a town in Quebec, and Archibald is from there. The Biblioasis team describe the book as follows:

"Samuel Archibald’s portrait of his hometown is filled with innocent children and wild beasts, attempted murder and ritual mutilation, haunted houses and road trips to nowhere, bad men and mysterious women. Gothic, fantastical, and incandescent, filled with stories of everyday wonder and terror, longing and love, Arvida explores the line which separates memory from story."

 

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THE CHAT, WITH SAMUEL ARCHIBALD

What did you immediately do when you found out you’d made it onto this year’s Giller shortlist?  

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I shouted and screamed like my favorite football team had just won the Superbowl on a H …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum With 2015 Giller Finalist Heather O'Neill

Last week I was thrilled to introduce readers to the new interview series I'm doing with 49th Shelf—The Chat—through a special focus on the 2015 Giller Prize finalists. The first two interviews in this series were with Anakana Schofield (Martin John) and André Alexis (Fifteen Dogs). This week I'll be interviewing Heather O'Neill (Daydreams of Angels), Samuel Archibald (Arvida), and Rachel Cusk (Outline).

From a review in the Toronto Star of Daydreams of Angels:

"O’Neill is a wondrous writer whose clean declarative sentences push the stories forward. The strength of this collection is not just the stories’ delectable absurdity but also their wisdom. O’Neill reflects on the identity of artists, who she says cannot fully live in our world, but must dwell in a place apart to nourish their imaginations."

 

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THE CHAT, WITH HEATHER O'NEILL

What did you immediately do when you found out you’d made it onto this year’s Giller shortlist?

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Immediately after, let’s see. I had to sit with my head between my knees for a bit. I had eaten a lot of birthday …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum With 2015 Giller Finalist André Alexis

Hello! Trevor Corkum here again with the second installment of our spotlight on the 2015 Giller Prize finalists: each of the five finalists has been gracious enough to answer five questions about their award-nominated books (Ed: also see our interviews with Anakana Schofield, Rachel Cusk, Heather O'Neill, and Samuel Archibald). 49th Shelf will be featuring one Giller interview per day up until October 20th, accompanied by the first few pages of each book and also a chance to win the entire shortlist (see up top).

Today we have André Alexis talking about his book, Fifteen Dogs (Coach House), which has also been nominated for the Writer's Trust fiction award as well as the Toronto Book Awards.

Fifteen Dogs has the most unlikely of premises: "A bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic." The Globe and Mail's Mark Medley calls it "A remarkable book. Insightful, wildly original and beautiful."

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THE CHAT, WITH ANDRE ALEXIS

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What did you immedia …

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The Chat: Trevor Corkum With 2015 Giller Finalist Anakana Schofield

Hello! I'm Trevor Corkum, and I'm pleased to join the 49th Shelf team to spearhead a new interview series, The Chat, which is generously sponsored by Publishing@SFU. To find out a little more about me, you can check out my website, but in a nutshell, I'm an author who's written fiction, essays, and creative non-fiction, and I have a new book forthcoming called The Electric Boy (Doubleday). 

I'm thrilled to be kicking off the series with a spotlight on the 2015 Giller Prize finalists: each of the five finalists has been gracious enough to answer five questions about their award-nominated books (Ed: also see our interviews with André Alexis, Rachel Cusk, Heather O'Neill, and Samuel Archibald). The Giller shortlist this year (and for that matter, the longlist) is being called one of the best in the 22-year history of the prize.

 

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49th Shelf will be featuring one Giller interview per day up until October 20th, accompanied by the first few pages of each book and also a chance to win the entire shortlist (see up top). We'll start with Anakana Schofield, author of Martin Johna book described by its publisher, Biblioasis, as "a darkly comic novel circuiting through the mind, motivations and preoccupations of a character many women have experienced but few have understo …

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Zeitgeist: 2015 Through a Bookish Lens

Every year has its preoccupations: cultural, political, and psychic. Here's a snapshot of what 2015 felt like (feels like!), as reflected in recent (and great) Canadian books.

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The Geist: Identity Crisis

Every year is strange, but 2015 was stranger. We lurched from angst about wars and injustices to Instagram and its marvelous filters. It was the year of the selfie – and its helpful new stick for optimal posing. The news informed us of refugees, mass drownings, Halloween candy rankings, and the current Chinese headwear fad. Who better to make sense of the state of humanity in 2015 than robots, teenagers, porn stars, and parrots?

 

Boo, by Neil Smith

Oliver Dalrymple, nicknamed "Boo" because of his pale complexion and staticky hair, is an outcast at his Illinois middle school—more interested in biology and chemistry than the friendship of other kids. But after a tragic accident, Boo wakes up to find himself in a very strange sort of heaven: a town populated only by 13-year-old Americans. Read more.

 

Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer

A goldfish named Ian i …

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Giller Shortlist Shines a Light on Smaller Publishers

From left to right: David Bergen, Alexander MacLeod, Sarah Selecky, Johanna Skibsrud, Kathleen Winter.

The Scotiabank Giller Award shortlist came out yesterday, and as happens every year, a megawatt media spotlight appeared immediately to catapult the finalists into the reading public’s consciousness. The finalists are:

The Giller effect is always thrilling, but there’s a heightened sense of surprise and discovery this year since the four of the five shortlisted books hail from smaller presses. Two are debut story collections (Light Lifting and This Cake is for the Party) and two more (The Sentimentalists and Annabel) are first novels.

Smaller presses are incredibly important to our literary culture in large part because of the role they play in finding new literary talent and helping emerging authors find an audience. We’ve included links to the Giller authors’ presses …

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