I’m glad everyone has been enjoying this series of uninterviews. As someone who has devoted an embarrassing amount of hours to online chatting (hello former IRC users!), it’s nice to put those chatty skills to good use. I have more coming up in the pipeline too.
Recently Darcie edited another chat we did a few weeks ago and posted it to her site. Read it to find out how I deal with people asking me what my stories “mean”. Thanks, Darcie!
Of course, this evening after coming home from work and finding a copy of the latest Paris Review in my mailbox, I started reading the interview with Ann Beattie, a writer I’ve admired for a long time. She says it a little better than me:
It took me years and years to realize a very simple thing, which is that when you write fiction you’re raising questions, and a lot of people think you’re playing a little game with them and that actually you know the answers to the questions. They read your question. They don’t know how to answer correctly. And they think that if they could only meet you personally and look into your eyes, you could give them answers.
There was a reason why I named my first zine “melt the snow” back in high school. I’m sure part of it is genetic – both my parents grew up in hot climates. Then I moved to Montreal where winters are snowier and colder and longer than those in Toronto, and instead of hating every minute of it, I realized that it wasn’t so bad. Winter is good for hunkering down and writing lots of words and cooking many pots of soup. Walking through a snowstorm when you’re bundled up in a parka and listening to music? Lovely. But I’ve never graduated to the levels of those who make the most out of winter by skiing or snowboarding. I’ve tried a few times; I fell a lot.
A few weeks ago a copy of Lisa McGonigle’s Snowdrift came in the mail. It’s her memoir of trading a full scholarship to Oxford for the ski bum life in the Kootenays in British Columbia. While I was reading her descriptions of skiing and snowboarding, I got it. Even her descriptions of the injuries sustained on the hill sound purposeful or at least hilarious. That’s the thing about this book: it doesn’t matter what your feelings are about skiing or snow, Lisa’s voice carries the book through. It originated from a series of emails she sent to her friends, so it has a comfy, conversational tone to it. She also doesn’t just talk about BC – there are forays to New Zealand, Quebec, back to Ireland. And she covers hiking, running and baking too.
Snowdrift was published by Oolichan Books. Lisa is currently completing her PhD in New Zealand, but we coordinated our schedules to talk on Gchat about the book. It also happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, which is appropriate considering that she’s Irish. Our conversation focused on some of the quirks particular to publishing a memoir and, because I thought it was interesting, her current school work. Lisa’s an overall interesting person, and I think you get a sense of that through this exchange.
When we woke up this morning it was sunny and the roads were clear. The car had just gotten an oil change and we had coupons for $2.99 sausage McMuffin breakfasts. All of this combined made our decision for the day clear: it was time to hit the road.
We picked upstate New York. Customs officers always look so confused when we roll up to the booth and tell them our plans. “You’re going to Lake Placid for a drive?” the officer asked today. “And have lunch,” Andrew added helpfully.
Last night Andrew and I saw Mike Leigh’s latest film, Another Year, and when we emerged from the theatre I said, “Mike Leigh is one of my favourite filmmakers.” I said it emphatically. I really, really meant it. Andrew replied, “You’ve only seen two of his movies, Teri.” He was being reasonable – saying someone is a “favourite” when you’ve only scratched the surface of their work is a bit much, admittedly, but he’s used to these kinds of grand pronouncements from me. Being a fan is such a big part of my identity, and once I have an inkling of liking something, I like it a lot and I like it forever. (Recent examples: this; the fact that I’ve been stubbornly listening to the new R.E.M. album all week despite it being just, eh, okay.)
Cereal & Out of Sheer Rage
At the end of 2010 I reminded myself to read more books by Geoff Dyer. After writing that post, I suddenly started seeing his name everywhere (for example: here, here and here.) Was the universe telling me to get off my ass and read his books? Not quite. He has a new book coming out in March: I was being lured in by a well timed promotional blitz. Still, I wondered, what was I waiting for?
Looking for Geoff Dyer’s bibliography is the closest you come to getting a work out in a bookstore. The Ongoing Moment, about photography, is in art criticism. But Beautiful is in music history, in the tiny, dusty section of books about jazz. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi is a novel. I’ve seen Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It classified as “travel adventure”. Out of Sheer Rage, which is kind-of-but-not-really about D.H. Lawrence could be literary criticism, but is more memoir. I guess this is why he tends to be described as “genre defying”.
I’m over at the CBC Books blog talking about music that has influenced my writing, along with a bunch of other writers I like a lot. It’s a short piece, but there’s something very satisfying about getting the chance to talk about my love for Eric’s Trip in a public forum. They were were instrumental in helping me realize that I didn’t have to be some kind of ultra-professional sleek artist to create things that people might respond to, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
As much as I’ve become lazy with music as I’ve gotten older, it’s still so important to me – I never leave the house without earphones, I still make endless playlists (even if they’re different configurations of the same old songs I’ve been listening to forever), I know that the best way to cure a bad mood is to play a song really loudly and sing along. And I love writing about music, about memories associated with songs and records; it’s one of my favourite things. I should do it more often.
My dear friend Soraya was celebrating her birthday in Toronto this weekend, so Andrew and I seized the opportunity to see her and her boyfriend, Chris, and drove from Montreal for a quick Friday – Sunday visit . When we pulled into my parents’ driveway late on Friday night, it felt like spring, and smelled like it too – moist and loamy and dark green. Saturday it rained non-stop and melted all the leftover snow banks. When I woke up on Sunday morning, however, I looked out the window and everything was white. By the time we made it back to Montreal, a winter storm warning was in effect, and then this Monday morning a huge storm raged outside. All within 36 hours.
But the trip to Toronto was wonderful, even if it was too short. We hid from the rain in Chris’ cozy apartment and while the guys caught up on photography talk, Soraya and I caught up on feelings. We ate warm bowls of pasta at an Italian restaurant and had the fudgiest Nutella cake for desert. On Sunday Andrew and I managed to have brunch with my mother and then squeeze in a date with Samantha and Jason at a cute café near Trinity Bellwoods park. We drank warm pots of tea, I ate an amazing chocolate chip cookie, and we launched right into always inspiring conversations about writing and making things. It may have been a quick weekend, but it was so good for the soul.
Before leaving my parents’ house, I found this picture of me as a 3 day old baby, chubby, blotchy and red-faced. I have a freakish amount of hair and I’m looking up at my mom, slightly puzzled about the world I’ve been thrust into. More than thirty years later, I recognize that look; I still feel it from time to time, but hopefully less so than I did back then.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Greece these days. I will admit: I miss it. The nice thing is that we were good at bringing back souvenirs – thoughtful, lasting ones – and seeing them strewn about our home in Montreal puts me in a good (although sometimes wistful) mood.
(Posters hanging up at the Spyros Vassiliou Atelier, which also doubles as a museum for his life.)
We visited the Spyros Vassiliou Atelier one afternoon early into our stay, and fell in love with Vassiliou’s bold, striking style. Vassiliou, who died in 1985, was a painter/printmaker who liked to paint modern Athens in all of its ugly, beautiful sprawl, often weaving in religious icon imagery which is also so prevalent in Greek art. We told ourselves we would buy one of his prints and returned a few months later to select the one we wanted. (Actually, we wanted one so badly that we had to make three return trips. The first two didn’t work out because the studio was closed and in typical Greek fashion, we had no way of knowing until we showed up and saw the sign taped to the door.)
(Our home reflected in the glass of the framed print.)
We liked this print for its vivid sea blue and the small ferry boat in the corner. It reminds me of one of my favourite things about flying into Greece – there’s this point where you’re close enough to landing that you can start making out details below and one of the first things I always notice are the ships. They look so small compared to the huge, blue sea surrounding them. The print is now hanging up in our staircase. Continue reading