Literary expeditions


By Julienne Isaacs

Resolutions often follow hot on the heels of holiday excess. Here at The Winnipeg Review, we’d rather not champion Marie Kondo-esque appeals to minimalism—at least, that is, when it comes to reading.

In defiance of diet culture, this issue is all about indulging in all that’s new in Canadian literary fiction. Most of us are still catching up with output from the fall publishing season, including a few high-profile prizewinners. With these titles fresh in our minds there’s no better moment for Steven Beattie’s feature article “Eyes on the Prize,” a dissection of literary prize culture in Canada, in which Beattie asks why Scotiabank Giller Prize juries often “focus more on moral probity and thematic seriousness than literary innovation or technique.”

In his review of Devon Code’s “remarkable” Involuntary Bliss, André Forget offers similar observations: “More experimentally daring writing is allowed in Canada, but only so long as it doesn’t take up time and space that could be more productively spent learning about Serious Issues.”

“When the claim gets made that literary prizes are beneficial for books, that is true to a very limited extent,” writes Beattie. “But they also have the effect of casting a whole raft of other, equally worthy, titles into the wilderness.”

Fortunately, The Winnipeg Review specializes in that wilderness, and our expeditions uncover a smorgasbord of talent across the literary landscape.

Trevor Corkum finds himself in conversation with Nora Gold about the inner lives of obsessed lovers—as well as diversity in Canadian publishing. “If we look at who is writing the books published in Canada today, the rich diversity of Canadian writers is undeniable, and this diversity is the direct result of increased equity,” claims Gold.

jia qing wilson-yang says Kai Cheng Tom’s Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars “embraces the anger, the alienation and the brilliance of the struggles of racialized trans women—throwing them back at the world at large with fists, stilettos and glitter.”

Noah Cain explores an “abundance of strange” in Shari Kasman’s Everything Life Has to Offer. Jonathan Valelly reviews the latest from Danila Botha, For All The Men (and Some of The Women) I’ve Known, which follows a series of “hip, mostly middle-class, presumably white, straight downtowners trying to find love.”

Don’t stop with Valelly’s review—chase it with a taste of the original in an exclusive excerpt, which begins: “When I was twelve, my cousin Evie ran away and joined the circus…”

In the belly of a dystopian future, Montreal-based Karoline Georges’ Under the Stone is “a well-crafted and imaginative book that is as densely packed as the claustrophobic living quarters from which the story emanates,” writes David McGregor.

Grand Prix Littéraire Archambault prizewinner Brothers, by David Clerson, is “strong and well-executed through a collision of fantasy with haphazard symbolism,” according to Dan Twerdochlib.

YA author Shane Peacock lists his ideal Victorian dinner guests to Anita Daher (Dickens and Mary Shelley, among others). And Jeff Bursey travels to Moscow in a detailed look at Rosa Liksom’s Compartment No. 6.

Last but definitely not least, Matthew Walsh’s disturbing new story, “Crystal Angel,” may take away your appetite altogether—or just whet it for more:

In the kitchen, there were two fold-away tables and a regular kitchen table, a water cooler and a yellow fridge. I looked inside; it was filled with food that had names on it. Shellie. Crystal Angel. I sat at the table with the new rubber boots I’d had to buy. A few people came in and out for cigarettes or to drive away, but no one said hello. On the wall were some drawings of My Little Pony. Some were part-cat, part-pony.

Over the last months of winter, watch out for new reviews of books exploring an even wider array of themes. We publish fresh reviews on Monday mornings, so keep an eye out. And don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments—you may or may not sit on a prize jury, but your vote counts with us.

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From the Editor's Desk

Julienne Isaacs

Julienne Isaacs is a Winnipeg freelance journalist and an associate editor at the Winnipeg Review.