Literature is analysis after the event. Doris Lessing from The Golden Notebook.
To say that Doris Lessing had a huge impact on me as both a person and a writer is a monumental understatement.
I first read Lessing in 1970. For two years I had poured all of my energy into the American antiwar movement. At the time I read The Golden Notebook the New Left was exploding into fiery fragments. It was a time of bombs going off on campuses, of the Weatherman faction of SDS at the height of its insanity, of paranoia, of bone-grinding fear, of bleak nihilism. For two years I had not read fiction. I remembered the writers I used to love, felt a nostalgia for a lost time when an innocent sweetness had been possible, but in 1970, it was not possible to admire John Updike for his elegant prose. Then, suddenly, there was Lessing in all of her fury and intensity: WAKE UP, this is serious, this is BLOODY serious, this MEANS SOMETHING. Continue reading →
As the video opens, we are in a locker room. The men walking in know each other and exchange greetings as they strip down to their workout gear. This is an athletic group of guys with well-toned bodies; they range in age from their twenties up to one venerable gent who’s fairly long in the tooth. They enter the gym through a door clearly labeled “Herrar”—Men—and find, to our surprise if not to theirs, that a young girl is in charge of their class. Her striped sweatsuit makes it impossible to pinpoint her age, but she could be as young as twelve. She immediately begins directing them in a series of supple movements that would be more appropriate for girls her age than for this collection of mature males. They do their best to follow her.
When my younger daughter moved out on her own, she left a copy of her music library on our kitchen computer. For years I hadn’t listened seriously to anything recorded later than the 80s, but I wanted to know what mattered to her and to other kids her age—especially to girls—so I started listening to her music. I found some great artists who were brand new to me—Cat Power, Postal Service, Iron and Wine, Metric, Sufjan Stevens, Tegan and Sara, Portishead. I also found hours of electronica, much of it unlabeled. I dimly sensed a change blowing in the cultural wind, so I wandered onto the net in search of something I knew I wouldn’t be able to identify until I’d found it. I wanted to experience a connection with what was going on right now as intensely as I’d felt when I first heard Bob Dylan in 1963.
Because I was going to interview John K. Samson, the Artist in Residence at UBC’s Creative Writing Program, I spent several weeks playing his CDs in my car stereo and then finished off my immersion in his music by listening in bed with my eyes shut. Before that I wasn’t very familiar with his work. I knew him, of course, as the lead singer for the Weakerthans, and a tune or two of his had floated by me on CBC Radio 3. Several friends had praised his work, telling me that there was no one anywhere quite like him. The more I listened, the more I realized that I was encountering a powerfully accomplished artist who was, indeed, like no one else. If you give John’s songs your full attention, they wind themselves deep into your psyche in a way that tells you they plan to stick around for a while.
It’s taken me months to get there, but my novel, MOTET, is now finally available as an e-book! It’s the first of many yet to come. I plan, in the next few months, to convert all of the out-of-print books on my backlist into e-books and to make them available on popular e-reader platforms such as Kindle and Kobo. You can, of course, also read Kindle books on your iPad or even, if your eyes are sharp, on your smart phone.
The actual “publication” of an e-book is easy – just as Amazon tells you it is – and takes only a matter of minutes, but getting a book up to that point is an enormous task, much like republishing it. I had to start with published books – the physical objects. That meant that I had to cut them up, run the pages through a scanner, convert the scans to editable text, and proofread them. This process also gave me the opportunity to correct some errors and typos in the original texts, but it was certainly time-consuming.
Here’s my article in Ricepaper (Spring, 2012) on Sailor Moon, Cosplay, the Occupy Movement, and various other related and unrelated topics. I should add here a belated congratulations to Kodansha Comics for bringing Sailor Moon back to her fans after a long absence.
When our Creative Writing Program at UBC began offering a course in Graphic Fiction, I decided that it was about time for me to learn something about it. Several colleagues recommended that I begin by reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, and that was excellent advice. Then I read a dozen or so Canadian and American graphic novels—enough to become genuinely excited by sequential art. Japanese comics seemed to be on everybody’s mind, so I thought that I should take a quick look at them too. It’s three years later, and I’m still looking—still deeply immersed in the world of manga. Much of what I’ve been reading is shōjo—that is, comics written for girls. That has struck some of my friends and colleagues as a bit odd, so I want to take some time here to try to explain my fascination.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011, at 2 in the afternoon, my time — I am officially declaring my website launched! It’s been up on the net for a while, in various stages, but I’ve finally reached the point at which I’m ready to stop fiddling with it and want to invite people to come in and have a look.
The purpose of this site is twofold. To gather together information about me and my work so that if anyone is interested, this site is the right place to start. To create a meeting space for people who share interests with me — primarily clustered loosely around the idea of writing — to meet and exchange ideas.
Please come in and wander around. I hope you will find something here you like. The Lord willing and the crick don’t rise, I’ll be posting to my blog at least once a month, usually on Tuesdays. Best wishes to everyone — Keith