I Read Canadian: Reviews of novels by Su Sokol, Nina Munteanu and Kate Kelly

Back in the aughts I reviewed (mainly) speculative fiction for print and online publications including the Peterborough Examiner, Strange Horizons, the Internet Review of Science Fiction and others. My feeling was that these publications provided higher quality exposure for authors than Amazon. Most of the reviews I wrote for The Examiner were reprinted in David Hartwell’s New York Review of Science Fiction and in this way I did my bit to raise the profile of Canadian speculative fiction south of the border. Authors I reviewed include Phyllis Gotlieb, Emily Pohl-Weary, Nalo Hopkinson, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Paula Johanson, Brett Savory, Mark Frutkin, Cory Doctorow, Karl Schroeder, Daniel A. Rabuzzi, Dave Nickle, Kate Story and others.

Below are links to more recent reviews of Canadian Fiction at The Ottawa Review of Books and Herizons Magazine. It’s nice to be back at Herizons. They published my short fiction decades ago, a literary story titled “The Secret Apartment” that I also illustrated, and a wonderful review of my first novel, Green Music, by Marguerite Andersen.

A Harsh and Private Beauty by Kate Kelly

This fascinating novel includes much in the way of insight into Capone’s Chicago and the ways in which young men may become involved in gangs when there is little else on the table. A fine book, hopping back and forth through time, showing us how even loving tightly knit families both coddle and thwart us, sometimes both at once.

Run J Run by Su Sokol

My review of Sokol’s literary sophomore novel appears in the print edition of Herizons Magazine. (Summer 2020, Vol. 34, No. 2)

So often in a profit-driven entertainment industry, whether film or literature, the impetus of the story is unravelment, but it’s clear Sokol wants to show us people who are doing their best, no matter what the odds.

A new review of Nina Munteanu’s latest science fiction novel, A Diary In The Age of Water will appear in Herizon’s summer issue. I’ll post more info about that soon.

CJRU Interview with Kate Gill

CJRU The Scope at Ryerson
All My Books: Interview with Ursula Pflug for Seeds (12-16-2020)

Here is the link to the edited version of my interview with Kate Gill at CJRU The Scope at Ryerson. Kate was a terrific interviewer, the time flew by. Thanks so much for having me, All My Books.

Inanna Fall Launch: Thursday November 19

Please join us at the Inanna Fall Launch on Thursday November 19th. I`ll be reading from Seeds, my third story collection. Seeds has received lovely reviews both at home and south of the border, including a starred review in PW.

I’ll be reading with Carol Rose GoldenEagle, Caro Soles, Laurie Ray Hill and Lisa de Nikolits. There will also be a live Q and A.

On Wednesday I was part of an event at WordUp Barrie, presenting with my colleague and dear friend Candas Jane Dorsey. Here is the YouTube VIDEO of our readings, the Q and A, and the wonderful Open Mic. What a delightful supportive community there is in Barrie. I read an excerpt from Judy, a pandemic story in Seeds. It`s one of my first published stories, appearing in the still-running This Magazine over thirty years ago.

And here is another recent Inanna video — I read from Judy here as well.

Enjoy the recordings!

Blog Post: Amchitka and the Birth of Greenpeace

My mom took a printmaking course at Three Schools of Art. The same night, my aunt M and I studied pottery with the brilliant Isolde who knew my grandmother and had a live/work studio in a basement in the Markham village. After class M and I would pick up Christiane at Three Schools and we’d go for tea and soup to one of the Hungarian restaurants on Bloor Street before heading home.

One of my mom’s prints hangs on the wall, here in Karen DuToit and Heinz Kornagel’s apartment on MacPherson. Everyone’s apartments and houses looked like this back then, although Karen and Heinz were better at making the sparseness beautiful than most. When did we stop living like this and start burying ourselves in stuff?

The ship in the print is named Greenpeace. It was the first Greenpeace expedition, to Amchitka, in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. My mother was inspired by the story and created the image in one of her first prints.

“In 1969 the U.S. conducted nuclear tests on the tiny island of Amchitka. Fearing the blast would result in an earthquake, thousands of protesters gathered at the U.S.-Canada border in order to stop the test. Their protests failed as the U.S. detonated its bomb and then announced plans for another test in 1971. As a result, a group of concerned Vancouver environmentalists formed the Don’t Make A Wave committee whose goal was to stop the second test.

“Despite two separate attempts, Greenpeace never made it to the test zone and was unable to stop the U.S. from completing its testing at Amchitka. However, Greenpeace succeeded in causing a flurry of public outcry in the international community. Five months after its voyage to Amchitka, the United States announced it was halting all nuclear tests in the Aleutian Islands. Amchitka was later declared a bird sanctuary.”

Photo by Karen DuToit

More on the Birth of Greenpeace

Des Lewis reviews Seeds and Other Stories

The Des Lewis Gestalt Real Time Reviews in the UK has been featuring Seeds and Other Stories. Des’s critical work is smart, insightful, poetic, intuitive. I enjoyed working with him when he edited the brilliant Nemonymous anthology series. His reviews are always multilayered, adding something unexpected to the mix.

Here are a few. These are reviews of individual stories within the collection:

AS IF LEAVES COULD HIDE INVISIBLE BEINGS

“I couldn’t stop seeing you if I wanted.” Now that I can, it’s not like I can put the ability back in its lock box…”

This story seems to have evolved, presumably since it was written, into the archetypal co-vivid dream, those forever shutting doors in a concertina of lockdowns, recurring gulps of hindsight’s realisation of what you know now is possible, fairies, new existence of your mother, England’s River Ouse, Ouse, just one letter short of where you live now in perfect sweet invisibility…with Mort. Whether it be man or bear out to see your unselfconscious nudity, who now cares? This story has matured, beyond measure, to mean what you never meant it to mean, and only these times of ours today can create such miracles of the work itself always having known ab initio what it meant. Now purely naked in its own autonomous meaning. Leaving somewhere, time and time again, thus it ‘leaves’ again whatever the covidually multi-souled lock box of Ouse or house it happens to have been. Arguably.

THE DREAMS OF TREES

I consider this to be a classic, publishable in future important literary anthologies—Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf (both of whom I have real-time reviewed) here blended with archetypal and unique Pflug. A woman in her thirties with all the symptoms of short-term memory loss usually associated with Alzheimer’s and with longer-term childhood memories of her father and journeys on a train in North Africa. Dreams of trains as well as trees. And passing lozenges of light on seatbacks. With chance or synchronous stumblings in books towards an inner truth. I “parse” such meaning in books with my reviews. Books have their own dreams, too.

MOTHER DOWN THE WELL

“We worked most of the morning and half the afternoon with a complicated assemblage of pulleys and rope, magnets, delicious snacks, and photographs of my brother and me when we were babies.”

From tablets of stone as part of our statue syndrome today, often, at least figuratively, posted out all over the world via the in-boxes of our souls, to a well where mother is deep within and whence she gave birth to this narrator and her brother. One tablet, albeit cracked, had words inducing the ‘hawling’ her back up to live among them, including among the narrator’s indigenous friends, whatever the name of their colour. I say ‘hawling’, because that is my word, but the “leverage” described in the above quote seems for the first time to define that word for me, and to help us understand bereavement’s coming of age as a well’s leverage of birth. A beverage beyond death’s thirst. And thus here, deep down, to feel its emotion. That and naming deers after famous artists, and skinning them as an oblique turning of a kind or blind eye. Humanity cannot truly exist without learning such oblique things from the instinctive truths of fiction. The art of believement.

UNSICHTBARKEIT

“…sharing space with brush strokes done hundreds of years ago.”

…as a sort of time travel, this story says. A series of paradoxical views of invisibility and others and self—mutually coded by intercommunication on the internet or indeed by fiction itself or sharing the same space in real life, like being driven by the same taxi driver who was part of “Even the Mirror” that I somehow in my older age now fail to grasp… A story of Pflug Venn diagram auras—as versions of this book’s earlier muses: animals, or even fish or whatever swimming in your wake…? Some even wearing your jacket!

“At first it was a coincidence. But the coincidence, after repeating itself so many times, like links in a chain, transmuted into pattern…”

This is the painting that figures in the story, View of Toledo by El Greco:

JUDY

“…when all those people started dying.”

A brief story, yet for one first published in 1983, an amazing premonition of today’s Covid pandemic itself and the Jungian co-vivid collective dreams attached to it. Just read it and see, the air conditioning/Legionnaire’s, the Tobacco Fiasco as an archetypal or symbolic contagion, the whale deaths as well as the human ones. Judy’s documenting of theories about it, visuals and ideas. Strangely infected, too, in this book by the previous story’s lack of social distance. There is a dog in “Judy” called Hamilton as well as a beach, both mentioned in contiguity on page 199, with ‘Hamilton Beach’ as the sub-heading at the top of this right-hand page, while ‘Judy’ is correctly the sub-heading at the top of both this stories other right hand pages!

THE MEANING OF YELLOW

“…captured and taken on a long ride through inexplicable weirdness—unmoored in space and time, coerced to explore…”

…as I am by this wonderful story, a story that is probably to go in my hall of all time favourite stories by any author! It feels like a very personal story, as we follow Jessica and the yellow notebooks or commonplace books she keeps losing in public places, notebooks, whether permanently lost or refound, seeming to connect piecemeal towards a premonitional gestalt of Jessica’s future. But it was the concept of the yellow couch and her grappling with it Laurel and Hardy Style on an apartment-block fire escape that really got me! You will always remember that this is where you heard of this particular Pflug story for the first time.

In the story I mention my mother’s painting, Cottingham School With Yellow Flag, but Des included this painting from her Black Chair series in his post instead, appropriately, as the story is about yellow-coloured seating.