Historical fiction and books of social history featuring the lives of not really “ordinary” people, recommended by Lesley Krueger, author of the new novel Time Squared.
Most of the books I write are set at least partly in the past, so my reading often takes me back—back into social history and into novels and poems written or set historically. It can be research, but since these are also the type of books I love, work becomes a pleasure. (I try not to think about the pleasure being partly work.)
As a writer, I’m preoccupied with why things happen. How did we get where we find ourselves? We all know the answer sometimes lies in the moment. Impulse. But of course we often act out of long-term beliefs, traumas or societal expectations, whether we’re fulfilling them or fighting them. These eight books by Canadian authors have taken me deep into the question of "Why?"
I also love the way they let me eavesdrop on other lives, real and imagined, since eavesdropping is surely part of reading, too.
My desk is awash in receipts. Recently unfolded from the depths of my wallet, they keep sliding out of their designated piles. Four months since I updated my spreadsheet; I've really let things go! I circle the vital information, then enter it on my keyboard. The CD mechanism on the computer grinds, and from the tinny speakers comes a voice: Mona Gould, my grandmother, reading her poetry and telling stories from her life.
Mona is nowhere. She died in 1999 and was cremated, yet now a complex sequence of zeroes and ones brings her voice into my office this early September day. There are other sounds on the CD, the traffic on the highway outside her apartment in Barrie where the tapes were made, the clunk and whir of the original cassette machine, the banter with her friend John Ide, who had the foresight to capture her voice on tape.
A former broadcaster and poet, Mona was eighty-one years old when John undertook that recording session. Later, he transcribed the results for an art installation which allowed her to be heard again after many years of obscurity. Recently, he transferred them to CD, with plans to develop the work further.
This afternoon's combination of activities is no accident: doing my finances and listening to Mona' s voice. Only a spreadsheet could p …