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Feeling new with The New Quarterly

April 24, 2011

Spring is here and with it a feeling of new beginnings. I’m no longer in Toronto, but my story about people living in the battleground neighborhood of Parkdale is about to be published in The New Quarterly, an issue called Something About the Animal. Perhaps my most Stygian story to date, in the end it’s about surviving the long winter.

This story began as a networked narrative–two neighbors who do not know one another, and how they each cope with violence–but in the end I rewrote the piece so that their storylines were separate, passing briefly and treading the same themes, but never quite touching. This felt more authentic to me for exploring the lives of city dwellers.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “To have something to say is a question of sleepless nights and worry and endless ratiocination of subject—of endless trying to dig out the essential truth, the essential justice. As a first premise you have to develop a conscience and if on top of that you have talent so much the better. But if you have talent without the conscience, you are just one of many thousands of journalists.”

Based as it is on real-life crimes that occurred in Toronto, I’m still trying to decide if my story “A Talent for Sleep” falls into the former or the latter category…. But after five years of struggling to tell it, it’s time to put it to bed. My hat is off to editor Kim Jernigan and the editorial staff at TNQ for suggesting finishing scenes and polishing touches. Whatever this story is, it has certainly been made much better by their good work.

A sample of “A Talent for Sleep” is up now, but you can read the full story in print soon. Just look for #118 on newsstands.

For their online Who’s Reading What column, The New Quarterly ask contributors for recommendations. Mine include Stuart Ross, Natalee Caple, and Lynne Tillman, but I admit I also agree with many of the books touted by the other contributors in this issue.

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