Friday, February 17, 2012

Reading for Work

Much of the reading I've done so far this year has been work-related. I read an edited anthology of essays on West Coast writing in order to review the book (Making Waves: Reading BC and Pacific Northwest Literature) for an academic journal. I'll link to the review later when it appears in the journal, but the link will probably be limited access.

I also reread Timothy Taylor's Story House and Kathleen Winter's Annabel for my Canadian Urban Fiction class. Annabel might seem an unlikely candidate for that, set in rural Labrador as much of it is, but the city of St. John's, Newfoundland is an important site for the protagonist's reconciliation of his intersex gender identity and I find the play between rural, wilderness, and urban fascinating -- as, indeed, do my students. I was also interested in juxtaposing the two texts because they are on opposite outer edges of the Canadian geography (and, perhaps, of other Canadian affiliations as well). Like Annabel, Story House moves from urban to wilderness, although the context of those moves is significantly different. At any rate, the students seem to find potential in the comparison and our discussions have been lively and productive.
An added pleasure to this go-round's reading of both novels has been that, in response to my Tweeting #amreading, I got Tweets from both authors, very generous Tweets in which both offered to respond to student queries, and opened up the possibility of further discussion. Thanks to both of you, should you happen to read this.

I also read Daphne Marlatt's The Given as part of the coursework for the Canadian Fiction class -- a bit of a stretch as Marlatt's playing between poetry and prose here, between fiction and memoir. And she's so much more elliptical than my students are used to. They always surprise me by what they claim, at first, to find difficult, given how sophisticated I know they are in their deciphering of visual texts, films, etc. But I was really pleased to see how well the two students who presented on the excerpt from this book did with making sense of its rich, allusion-thick, pleasures.
And for myself, I'm pleased to finally have been prodded, through teaching the excerpt, to read the whole text. I've worked quite a bit with the two novels (Anahistoric and Taken) that The Given complements, and found the addition of an older woman's perspective to the exploration of a mother-daughter relationship (and that relationship's influence on the daughter's lesbian relationships, feminist poetics, and politics) quite satisfying.

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