Yr. humble correspondent, dissected

April 6, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

I’ve never been much of a self-promoter. I’ve always felt a bit dirty crowing about my (admittedly rather dubious) achievements, and remain suspicious of Norman Mailer–type advertisements for myself. People often ask why I don’t write more personal posts on the blog and my answer is that the activity of blogging is narcissistic enough without my going into boring details about my personal life. (Anyone who really wants to hear about the petty aggravations of my day or what I had for breakfast is more than welcome to follow me on Twitter.)

Still, the good folks over at Open Book: Toronto asked me to fill out their “Proust Questionnaire,” which was a personality survey popular with the French society of Proust’s time. According to Open Book, “The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent’s ‘true’ personality.”

Here’s a sample:

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Philip Roth, Flannery O’Connor, Mary Gaitskill, Haruki Murakami

Who are your favourite poets?
T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Anne Sexton, Ken Babstock

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Hazel Motes, Raskolnikov, John Self (None of whom is particularly heroic, but what are you going to do?)

Who are your heroes in real life?
Steve Earle, Martin Luther King, my brother.

Who is your favourite painter?
Jackson Pollack.

Who is your favourite musician?
Tom Waits.

What is your favourite food?
Nothing beats a hot dog from a roadside cart.

What is your favourite drink?
Lagavulin 16-year-old single malt scotch.

For the rest, hop on over to Open Book. Once you’ve read the whole thing, you’ll know more about me than you ever wanted to. And I swear that all of my answers are 100% true. Trust me.

Some shameless self-promotion

December 4, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

My review of Lawrence Hill’s 2009 Canada Reads winner, The Book of Negroes, is online at the Canadian Notes and Queries site, for anyone who’s interested. Here’s a taste:

When The Book of Negroes won the 2009 edition of Canada Reads, CBC Radio’s annual Survivor-like literary elimination contest, broadcaster Avi Lewis, who was championing the book, referred to author Lawrence Hill’s “titanic task” in taking on the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the eighteenth century and refracting it through the life of one woman, Aminata Diallo, an African girl who is kidnapped as a child and shipped to the Thirteen Colonies where she is sold into slavery. It is likely that Lewis didn’t intend the obvious pop cultural association that accrues to his particular choice of words in this instance, but in fact Hill’s book shares much in common with James Cameron’s Academy Award-winning film about the great twentieth-century nautical disaster. The Book of Negroes and Titanic both view historical events through a fictional lens, employing a panoramic background, and filtering their respective narratives through the personal journeys of specific, individual characters. But more importantly, both cleave to a populist sensibility, avoiding difficult moral questions in favour of stock figures and situations, and providing a fictional experience that, notwithstanding the tragic nature of their historical backdrops, is comfortably familiar to a mass audience.

Also, for anyone who’s interested, yr. humble correspondent is scheduled to appear on Mary Ito’s Fresh Air radio program on CBC Radio One tomorrow morning at 7:30 to talk about the year in books. Normally I wouldn’t be up at such a godforsaken hour on a Saturday morning, but they asked so nicely I couldn’t refuse.