Wither Ambition?

Too few fiction writers write like they enjoy the process, like they’re having blast and are taking you along with them, like they have absolute command and are conducting you. So much of what I’ve read lately (published work, not my editing work) is stolid, plodding, boring.  It knows nothing of how sounds, images, rhythms work together to create something more than just plot-puppet A meeting plot-puppet B. It’s soggy white bread with the corners cut off.  Yet it’s published and marketed as great literature, stunning, original. It’s all over the cover. Welcome to sublurbia.

Where’s the ambition? Shrinking expectations? Even if there’s no play, where’s the depth, where’s that unique spark each of us has? ( We all have it, don’t we?)

What fiction has seemed masterly me in the past year?  Not much, but then I’ve read many friends’ books, nearly two dozen unpublished books, and too few on my must-read list. Michelle Butler Hallett was in command of her material in Double-Blind, and Lynn Coady’s stories in Hellgoing showed an easy, subtle control, but perhaps only my favourite fiction of the past year, Tamas Dobozy’s Seige 13, had that range I seek. Now I consider all three of these authors to be friends.  Would I have read these otherwise?  Don’t know.

Time to dive into what I want to read, shelves of urgently-purchased, waiting-for-the-right-moment titles, and what spurred this surly entry is a book I opened this morning, Gilbert Sorrentino’s The Moon in Its Flight. There’s mastery here. It doesn’t feel like a chore to pick it up.

(For the record, the book that impressed me most this past year is Kerry-Lee Powell’s poetry collection Inheritance. Is she a friend? Yes, and a good one. But more on that in a future entry.)

4 thoughts on “Wither Ambition?

  1. Always a fresh breath of literary air to read your Indistractabley focused comments.
    I look forward to reading Kerry Lee’s works and now, Gilbert Sorrentino’s The Moon in Its Flight. I will have to take the time store on the morrow and meet with the keeper of time itself.
    No doubt we will have a very short discussion on how to make the most of it. He will mention how there should be a “club” you could sign up for. It would involve a fee of course… But then it would offer you the latest and truly greatest offerings from, what are the most pertinent after all, local writers. I’ll argue how I need to be in touch with the “big picture” of international affairs. He will then explain with a bit if irritation at this point, how international affairs happen all over, including here and how we must choose and prioritize. Just maybe I’ll walk away with a sense of community and be willing to sign up for the delivery service. After all, I do go to the Far East Cinemas not know what is playing just like I will again this evening and know that I am truly alive.


  2. Agreed, Lee, that we don’t see enough fun or joy in the writing of books; when it’s not tired plots intersecting with each other, it’s the forgetfulness of what the entire spectrum of feelings can be like and the concentration on only a narrow part of the band, usually the misery part. So I’m looking forward to the reports from your personal reading front. Just remember: get a cab there.


  3. I found KLP’s chapbook a treasure, Lee, so am looking forward to reading _Inheritance_. Will you and she be attending Tom Hodd’s Freddy Beach reading at *odd sundays* on March 1st?

    I’ve provided recommendations to you before, but let me add. Poitras, Poitras, and Poitras puh-leeze. _The Right Fight_ (the rise to power of Bernard Lord, now head honcho at ON Power), illuminates the worst of NB politics; “The Shattered Legacy” (Max Aitken and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery) will keep you up all night: Beavie makes Rob Ford look like a You-Tube kitty cat.

    While the maps illustrations of _Imaginary Line_ (shenanigans along the Maine border) leave much to be desired, it’s as lively, as enlightening. As for Jacques’s latest, _Irving vs. Irving_, Nancy Bauer and I agree that it’s among the best books we’ve ever read.

    Diane Reid

    Reid n’ Write

    (506) 363-5994

    diane.reid@rogers.com or @dianereiddotca


    Writers in the Schools Program:



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