A book list for the anti-hygge


By Julienne Isaacs

Okay, you got us: we haven’t actually reviewed “all you need to read” in our Fall edition—not by a long shot, considering publishers’ crowded launch lineups during the book business’ busiest time of year. But we can offer you a place to start, one stemming from a unique vantage point in Canadian publishing.

At The Winnipeg Review we won’t point you only in the direction of literary heavy-hitters. Our mandate is to review Canadian fiction with a special focus on small-press publishers and “to showcase interviews, excerpts, poems, and columns by writers with something to say,” to provide a platform for their urgent, timely messages. Bookselling has become tangled with the marketing of seasonal bric-à-brac, and “fall reads” lists position new titles as a sort of consolation prize for those coming in from the cold. But you won’t find much hygge in our digital pages: at The Winnipeg Review, we don’t intend to comfort, but to provoke.

In her feature “On Writing with Love,” Seyward Goodhand picks up the thread of Gwen Benaway’s essay in our spring issue on erasure and cultural appropriation in Canadian literature. “Many of us repeat the received statement that literature nurtures empathy,” Goodhand writes. “Innately relativistic—being generally about ‘putting yourself into someone else’s shoes’—empathy is the perfect moral transcendental of our pluralist society.”

But, she goes on to argue, to authentically write from another experience, writers need more than empathy: they need love. “Isn’t the unspoken reasoning behind the injunction to put yourself into someone else’s shoes often this: so you can see how alike we all really are?” asks Goodhand. “Love as [Simone] Weil describes it requires that we not jump too quickly to feelings like empathy, tarrying instead with the brutal reality that other persons may in fact be wholly different from ourselves.”

Elsewhere in our pages, an excerpt from Oisín Curran’s fantastical Blood Fable; an interview with Camilla Grudova about her startlingly unique debut collection The Doll’s Alphabet; and an excerpt from Darren Greer’s current novel in progress; and reviews of six novels no one would mis-classify as comforting, with many more to follow in the weeks to come.

We might be anti-hygge when it comes to this season’s new releases, but that isn’t to say there’s no pleasure to be found in reading them—quite the reverse; and we have no doubt you’ll enjoy our reviewers’ hot takes on what sets these novels apart from the rest on bookstores’ crowded shelves. But as always, if you don’t (and if you do), let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Happy reading!

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From the Editor's Desk

Isaacs Julienne

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