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Why Write, Part I

Feb 16, 2018

Unlike my other least favourite question – “What’s your novel about?” – this one, “Why write?”, is a question that writers ask themselves, usually plaintively. Both are unanswerable, at least politely, and yet we can’t resist taking stabs at responses. To the first, Michael Ondaatje is said to have replied that if he could tell us what his novel was about, he wouldn’t have had to write it. Or as a character says in J.M. Coetzee’s novel, The Schooldays of Jesus, “If your son were to explain his dance he would not be able to dance anymore. That is the paradox within which we dancers are trapped.” Philip Roth raises the question in the title of his 2017 book, Why Write? Collected Nonfiction 1960-2013. [Read More.]

 

Up From Freedom

I’m delighted to announce that my forthcoming novel, Up from Freedom, will be published by Doubleday Canada. The publication date is August 8, 2018. 

The novel takes place in the U.S. from 1848 to 1850 – from the end of the Mexican-American War to the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act – and follows the lives of two main characters: Virgil Moody, the son of a Georgia slaveowner, and Tamsey Lewis, a freed slave who thinks she has found safety for herself and her family in Indiana. Both discover that the tentacles of slavery reach deeper than their desire for freedom, or the bonds of love.

Brief excerpt from Up from Freedom

Virgil Moody waded a little ahead of the others as they scouted the Rio Grande east of Fort Paredes. The south and north banks were Mexico, but nobody owned the river. They’d heard General de Ampudia was moving the Mexican army north from Monterrey, intending to cross at Las Anacuitas, and General Taylor wanted to know how many they were and what condition they were in. So far they’d heard Ampudia had from six hundred to a thousand permanentes, with another two hundred infantry coming up to join them, no artillery that anyone knew of, maybe a couple of twelve-pounders. There weren’t more than a few hundred Americans at Fort Texas, militiamen like Moody and mostly untrained and badly provisioned volunteers. On patrol that night, splashing behind him, were Stockton Smith, Charlie Warburn, Walt Murdale, Willard Pickart and Jed Baker, with Lieutenant Endicot Millican, their excuse for a captain, bringing up the rear. None of them had any faith in Millican. They went along with him when it didn’t mean anything, but when he walked them down open roads or across fields, even in the dark, Moody knew that when the fighting started, they’d follow their own inclinations and to hell with Millican. Moody thought it was safer at the head of the line. He didn’t want any part of whatever went on behind him.

They happened upon the Mexican patrol at first light, a hundred yards north of the river in what the Texans claimed was the Republic of Texas. 

Read more…

 

Translation News

House of Anansi has contracted Wayne Grady to translate Yves Beauchemin’s controversial new novel, Les Empocheurs, for Spring 2018 publication. For more information, visit The News page.

More posts here on my Blog page.

 

 

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