Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with David Dowker and Christine Stewart

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David Dowker and Christine Stewart

In today's instalment of The WAR Series: Writers As Readers we get two fabulous authors for the price of one; David Dowker and Christine Stewart are the authors of Virtualis: Topologies of the Unreal (BookThug).

Virtualis is a poetic exploration of melancholia and (as you might guess from the lush jacket image) the baroque. From Medusa to the Sphinx, and from bees to snails, the collection brings a modern viewpoint and reaction to the works of master poets like Baudelaire and Rimbaud.

The WAR Series gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites. We chat with Christine and David about discovering Marian Engel's iconic novel Bear in a bathroom, indecent use of a goose and what is next on their reading lists.

The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
CS: The book that comes to mind is The King, the Mice, and the Cheese. It is a book of excess with great drawings by Eric Gurney, a cartoonist from Winnipeg.
DD: Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (abridged, I imagine) or one of the many books in the Tom Swift series (and I vaguely recall some series of large-format science books).

A book that made me cry:
CS: Carlos Lara reading aloud from Pablo Neruda’s España En El corazón.
DD: I can’t think of one. A book that made me extremely sad, though, but not for any reason found in the text as such, was Fledge: A Phenomenology of Spirit by Stacy Doris (1962-2012).

The first adult book I read:
CS: I don’t think there was a very clear demarcation between adult and children’s books in our house. I remember finding Marian Engel’s Bear in the bathroom. Not sure how old I was, but I remember feeling bad for the bear.
DD: The one that occurs to me is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, but I’m not sure that I trust the memory — some Edgar Allan Poe collection might be a likelier candidate.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
CS: François Rabelais’ The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel. In the Ridington Room in the Main Library at the University of British Columbia, circa1989, reading about Gargantua wiping his arse with a goose — laughed out loud.
DD: A Night of Serious Drinking by René Daumal or Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed.

The book I have re-read many times:
CS: Giambattista Vico’s New Science, Lyn Hejinian’s Language of Inquiry, Leslie Scalapino’s Crowd and not evening or light, Giorgio Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal, Christine Buci-Glucksmann’s Baroque Reason: The Aesthetics of Modernity.
DD: Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, although it’s been a while now. I remember browsing through it in the bookstore (a Coles, I think, in the Dufferin Mall) — this huge paperback with the huge sun on the cover. From the opening fragmented sentence (“to wound the autumnal city.”) to the scattered notebook entries and the dryad bit at the beginning glimpsed, I was immediately enthralled.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
CS: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.
DD: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:
CS: Sharon Venne’s essay “Treaties Made in Good Faith.”
Michael Yahgulanaas’s graphic novel, Red: a Haida Manga.
Susan Howe’s Singularities.
Judith Butler’s Bodies That Matter.
Christine Buci-Glucksmann’s chapter on Salome in Baroque Reason.
DD: Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander or, perhaps, John Ashbery’s translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations, although I must admit that I am still kind of partial to the Louise Varèse translation.

The best book I read in the past six months:
CS: Lisa Robertson’s Nilling, or Taiaiake Alfred’s Peace Power and Righteousness: an Indigenous Manifesto.
DD: Baroque Reason: The Aesthetics of Modernity by Christine Buci-Glucksmann (or, if one were to extend the time-frame slightly, Tiepolo Pink by Roberto Calasso or Idea of Prose by Giorgio Agamben).

The book I plan on reading next:
CS: Cultural Teachings by Sylvia McAdam (one of the co-founders of Idle No More).
DD: Most likely Dream of Glass by Jean Mark Gawron, possibly The Same River Twice by Ted Mooney, or maybe even Moby-Dick.

A possible title for my autobiography:
CS: An impossible book with no possible title.
DD: The Book I Wouldn’t Write.

David Dowker was born in Kingston, Ontario but has lived most of his life in Toronto. He was the editor of The Alterran Poetry Assemblage, and his first book, Machine Language, was published in 2010.

Christine Stewart lives on the North Saskatchewan River. She works at the University of Alberta and the Learning Centre in downtown Edmonton. Publications include from Taxonomy, Pessoa’s July: or the months of astonishments and The Trees of Periphery. The Humanist is forthcoming from Red Nettle Press.

For more information about Virtualis: Topologies of the Unreal please visit the BookThug website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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