I’d sort of given up on Jeanette Winterson. I had discovered her novel Sexing the Cherry in a small independent bookstore in Montreal, when I was doing my BA at McGill, and it was a revelation. I didn’t know you could write a book like that—neither, apparently, did the literary world (such as it was twenty years ago), which was busy endowing her with praise and accolades. I ended up writing my honours thesis on it: “Post-structuralist Feminist Theory in Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.”

I was a big fan. I loved Oranges Are Not the Only FruitThe PassionWritten on the Body, even Boating for Beginners; but after Art and Lies, Gut Symmetries her writing had become too academic for me, and I was a bit sick of post-modern theory. And then there were the stories of her legendary egotism and her attack of critics.

So I’m not sure why I bought her memoir three weeks ago, except that I was giving a reading at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington and wanted to support their business. I was attracted to the cover, but I also really loved the title: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

You get funny looks from your friends when you go around recommending a book called Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation. They can barely conceal their curiosity; or else they wonder silently about your domestic situation, tilting their heads and conveying concern with their eyebrows.

I’m a pretty empathetic reader and have warring opinions about most things, so tend not to have a very solid interior, but one that’s like the air after a tornado, still drifting with debris. And it’s true that, while reading this book by Rachel Cusk, even though I’m common-law married and have a five-year-old son, I did feel the call of the wild, the rev of a Honda Nighthawk, the tug of an old rebel thought: what if I was single again?

It was very interesting to finally sit down, October 16th, and watch the second presidential debate for the 2012 American election, because it’s what my characters, Connie Foster and her friend Mary-Beth, do at the beginning of my novel, Sweet Jesus, which was published in September and took the last seven years to complete.

In fact, that day, October 16th, is the day on which my novel begins. During the whole long process of writing the book—and no one picking it up knows how long I laboured to get it right, or how it morphed and evolved along the way—it was always a story taking place in the future; and now what we writers refer to as the “real time” of the story is finally here. That strange alchemy of creating a fictional reality has suddenly yielded its nugget of gold, and raised its gilded mirror to reflect the world in which it’s set. And it’s all coming at me via livestream over da inta-web (as Ninja from Die Antwoord says it—so hard to hear that word now in any other way, but with that South African rapper’s distinctive inflection).

Robertson Davies once described the serious book person (counting himself among them) as valuing “beauty and associations.” He went on to say that “we should not be sneered at because we like our heroes well dressed.”

It is therefore safe to assume, when we lesser mortals ponder what might define us as one of Mr. Davies’ “serious” book people, that we revel in more than just the journey our literary heroes take us on, or the wisdom they impart, or the heartstrings they tug. Perhaps just as important to us is the way our own collection of heroes, our personal libraries, appear in our lives. Whether piled beside the bed or neatly alpha’d by author or subject or title; as Anthony Powell would say our books furnish our rooms. And do so as much by the clothes they wear as by any diversion they may provide.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, Canada has a long, even storied history in space. From five decades of satellite successes, to the men and women who have ventured into orbit aboard the shuttle and spent weeks, sometimes months aboard the International Space Station, to the impressive Canadian contributions to the Mars Curiosity Rover now tooling around the surface of a different planet, so far away. We have much to be proud about. We have achieved more in space than most other nations, and are clearly punching above our weight class if you consider our relatively small population. But with the end of the shuttle program, and continuing questions about the future direction of NASA, not to mention its funding cuts, the question looms: What now? Where does Canada go from here?

I suspect that few Canadians know very much about our nation’s contribution to space science. Sure, the chests of many of us swell with pride when we see the famous “Canadarm” doing its thing in the space shuttle’s cargo bay. But beyond that? Well, beyond that lies a great Canadian story of innovation, discovery, and ingenuity in the early years of the space race.

While it may no longer be fashionable in some literary circles, I am a member in good standing of the “write what you know” school. There are pieces of me strewn about my three novels, though not in an autobiographical sense. I just find I write more easily and with more authority and conviction when I’m writing about things I’ve done, things I love, or things I’m curious about.

This week’s guest blogger is CS Richardson, author of the recently published The Emperor of Paris.

When it was announced that my second novel, The Emperor of Paris, had been placed on the longlist for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize,...

This week’s guest blogger is CS Richardson, author of the recently published The Emperor of Paris. 

I began a recent post with a vague declarative: I write. The only qualifier I added was the what. Novels, I said. I...

| | Image from Slovakian artist Matej Kren's art installation, Scanner

This week’s guest blogger is CS Richardson, author of the recently published The Emperor of Paris. 

I am a writer of novels: it is what I do.

What I don’t do is make much of a living at it. Thus, under society’s fussy...

He just hangs there, smiling. Enigmatic. Glowing. Upside down.

He’s The Hanged Man, the twelfth card in the tarot deck and one of my personal favourites. The card depicts a man hanging upside down by one foot from a tree shaped like...

It happens at weddings and cocktail parties. With a new hairdresser, on a plane. It happens all the time. Somebody—with genuine interest or a well-feigned approximation—asks, “So, what do you do?”

At which point I break into a cold sweat and mumble something...

This week’s guest blogger is Toronto-based novelist Grace O’Connell, author of the recently published Magnified World.

Captain Ahab had his white whale. The Kings and Queens of Narnia had their white stag. And I, I have my white squirrel. Or I...