Monthly Archives: March 2008

Alison Pick, The Dream World

31mvqswgcfl_ss500_.jpgMy cousin Alison’s second book of poetry was released on March 18th. I love what she had to say about it here:

The Dream World was written over a five-year period during which my partner and I moved from the mainland to Newfoundland and back again. To change place is to stir up the concept of home, both real and imagined: homes inhabited, homes lost, homes we only ever longed for. Landscape is a door that opens onto desire, and many of these poems come from the struggle for belonging, in a particular location and in the physical world in general. This is my third book, and I was interested in exploring the frontiers of language, the place where words fall down in the face of the numinous, where both our feelings and what lies beyond human experience seem fundamentally unsayable. Finally, I was reading as widely as possible in the Humanities during the writing process, and I wanted to push the life of the mind up against poetry (which for me had previously been an intuitive and visceral enterprise). The Dream World is a collision of thought, feeling, and imagination, a world with borders wide enough–I hope–to encompass it all.       

Eager to read more? Here’s where you can buy it.

What I’m Reading Now

Anne Enright, The Gathering

I finished this while I was on holiday in Mexico, and it wasn’t what I expected. I thought it would be a heart-warming, rollicking, tragicomic family ensemble piece but instead it was much more interesting. Veronica Hegarty’s attempts to come to terms with her family’s history after the suicide of her brother, Liam, become a meditation on the relationship between memory, history, and story and the way we use all three to endure our lives.

Liam’s death challenges the stories that Veronica uses to prop up her life, and she needs to come up with a new acount of the past. The book we read is meant not only to describe but actually, in the fiction that she has written it herself, to be the path she takes to recover lost memories and discern the fictions she has told herself from the facts she must face. It recalled the process of therapy, in which a crisis has made an old narrative unusable, and the patient, by rendering an account to the counsellor, must come up with a new version of the past that can be taken into the future. The one who can survive the strongest, is the one who can come up with the best story.

The Historian’s Craft

A colleague of mine, Catherine Brekus, once said that writing history like putting together a puzzle, only half the pieces and the box lid with the picture on it are missing. I like that analogy, and I want to push it a little further. Unlike most puzzles, the pieces of the historical puzzle, the evidence, do not fit together in only one way. The same set of pieces will be put together in different ways by different historians, because depending on our own politics, interest, background, and questions we will see different patterns on each of the pieces, alone and in series. The puzzles we make will change as generations of historians come up with new questions and approaches. There are wrong ways to put the pieces together, jamming a tab into a slot where it doesn’t fit, but also multiple right ways. Of these right ways, some will give you a better, fuller picture of the whole.

Just make sure you find the piece that disappeared under the chesterfield.