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About the Author

Michael Redhill

Michael Redhill was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but has lived in Toronto most of his life. Educated in the United States and Canada, he took seven years to complete a three-year BA in acting, film, and finally, English. Since 1988, he has published five collections of poetry, had eight plays of varying lengths performed, and been a cultural critic and essayist. He has worked as an editor, a ghost-writer, an anthologist, a scriptwriter for film and television, and in leaner times, as a waiter, a house-painter, and a bookseller. Michael is a former publisher and one of the editors of Brick, a journal of things literary. His most recent books are Fidelity, a collection of short fiction, from Doubleday Canada, Martin Sloane, a novel from Doubleday Canada (nominated for the Giller Prize, 2001; the Trillium Prize, 2001; the Torgi Award, 2002; the City of Toronto Book Award, 2002; the Books in Canada/Amazon.com Best First Novel Prize, 2002; and winner of the Commonwealth Writersâ?? Prize for Best First Book, Canada/Caribbean, 2001); Light-Crossing, a collection of poetry from Torontoâ??s House of Anansi Press; and Building Jerusalem, a play from Playwrights Canada Press (winner of the 2001 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best New Play; recipient of a Chalmers Canadian Play Award, 2001; and nominated for a Governor Generalâ??s Literary Award, 2001). His new play, Goodness was published by Coach House Press in 2005 His latest novel, Consolation, was published by Doubleday Canada in 2006 and won the 2007 Toronto Book Award. It was also long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Books by this Author
Bellevue Square

My doppelganger problems began one afternoon in early April.
     I was alone in the store, shelving books and humming along to Radio 2. Mr. Ronan, one of my regulars, came in. I watched him from my perspective in Fiction as he chose an aisle and went down it.
     I have a bookshop called Bookshop. I do subtlety in other areas of my life. I’ve been here for two years now, but it’s sped by. I have about twenty regulars, and I’m on a first-name basis with them, but Mr. Ronan insists on calling me Mrs. Mason. His credit card discloses only his first initial, G. I have a running joke: every time I see the initial I take a stab at what it stands for. I run his card and take one guess. We both think it’s funny, but he’s also shy and I think it embarrasses him, which is one of the reasons I do it. I’m trying to bring him out of himself.
     He’s promised to tell me if I get it right one day. So far he hasn’t been Gordon or any of its short forms, soubriquets, or cog­nomens. Not Gary, Gabriel, Glenn, or Gene and neither Gerald nor Graham, my first two guesses, based on my feeling that he looked pretty Geraldish at times but also very Grahamish, too. He’s a late-middle-aged ex-academic or ex-accountant or some­one who spent his life at a desk, who once might have been a real fireplug, like Mickey Rooney, but who, at sixty-plus years, looks like a hound in a sweater. There is no woman in his life, to judge by the fine blond and red hairs that creep up the sides of his ears.
     I know he likes first editions and broadsides, as well as books about architecture and miniatures. I keep my eye out for him. And he’s a gazpacho enthusiast. You get all kinds. I always discover something new when Mr. Ronan comes in. For instance, you can make soup from watermelons. I did not know that.
     He came around a corner and stopped when he saw me. He was out of breath. “There you are,” he said. “When did you get here?”
     “To the Fiction section?”
     “You’re dressed differently now,” he said. “And your hair was shorter.”
     “My hair? What are you talking about?”
     “You were in the market. Fifteen minutes ago. I saw you.”
     “No. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t in any market.”
     “Huh,” he said. He had a disagreeable expression on his face, a look halfway between fear and anger. He smiled with his teeth. “You were wearing grey slacks and a black top with little gold lines on it. I said hello. You said hello. Your hair was up to here!” He chopped at the base of his skull. “So you have a twin, then.”
     “I have a sister, but she’s older than me and we look noth­ing alike.” I don’t mention that Paula is certain that G. Ronan’s name is Gavin. “And I’ve been here all morning.”
     “Nuh-uh,” he said. “No, I’m sure we . . .” He left the aisle. My back tingled and I had the instinct to move to a more open area of the store, where I could watch him. I went behind my cash desk and started to pencil prices into a stack of green-covered Penguin crime. I flipped up their covers and wrote 5.99 in each one, keeping my eye on my strangely nervous customer. Finally, he came out of the racks with The Conquest of Gaul and put it down on my desk.
     “Oh . . . Mr. Ronan? I wanted to tell you I found a pretty first edition of Miniature Rooms by Mrs. Thorne. Original blue boards, flat, clean inside. Do you want to see it?”
     “Yes,” he said, like it hurt to speak. I brought it out from the rare and first editions case. “It’s just uncanny, it really is,” he said.
     “This woman.”
     “Yes! She said hello back like she knew me. I swear to god she called me by name!”
     “But I don’t know your name. Right? Mr. G. Ronan? I think you dreamt this.”
     “But it just happened,” he said, like that explained some­thing to him. “And you knew my name.”
     “Mr. Ronan,” I said, “I am one hundred per cent—”
     I didn’t like the look in his eye. He began edging around the side of the desk, coming closer, and I backed away, but he lunged at me with a cry and grabbed me by the shoulders. Despite his size, I couldn’t hold him off and he backed me up, hard, against the first editions case. I heard the books behind me thud and tumble. “Take it off!” he shouted in my face. With one hand, he tried to yank my hair from my head. “Take off the wig!”
     “Get back!” I shrieked. I pushed against his forehead with my palm. “Get off me!”
     “Goddamn you, Mrs. Mason!” When a fistful of my hair wouldn’t tear off, he leapt up and stumbled backwards, his eyes locked on mine, but washed of rage. The blood had drained from his face. “Christ, that’s real!”
     “Yes! It’s real! See? Real hair attached to my own, personal head.”
     “Oh god.”
     “What is wrong with you?”
     He grovelled to the other side of the desk. “Oh my god. I’m so sorry. I must be having another attack.”
     “Another attack! Of what? Do you want me to call an ambulance?”
     “I’ll be okay. I’m really sorry. I don’t know what came over me, Jean. Forgive me.”
     That was the first time he had ever used my name. “You scared me. And you hurt me, you know?” I began to feel the pain seep through the shock of being battered. “Are you sure I can’t call a friend or someone?”
     “No. I’ll go home and lie down. I’m just so sorry.” He took his wallet out and put his trembling credit card down on the cash desk.
     I tapped it for him. We stood together in a dreadful silence until I said, “Gilbert.”
     “No,” he replied.

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A Novel
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Late summer, the August air already cooling, and some of the migrators are beginning south. Hear the faint booming high up against windows before sunrise, pell-mell flight into sky-mirrored bank towers. Good men and women collect them and carry their stunned forms around in paper bags, try to revive them. Lost art of husbandry. By the time the sun is up, the reflected heat from the day before is already building again in glass surfaces.

A man is standing by the lakeshore at the Hanlan’s Point ferry dock. Cicadas in the grass near the roadway, cars passing behind the hotel. The ferry rush hour is over already at 8:15, and the Hanlan’s Point ferry is the least frequent of them all, as it takes passengers to a buggy, unkempt part of the Toronto Islands. But it is the most peaceful ride, ending close to wilderness. The Duchess. He sees it departing for the city from its island dock, on the other side of the harbour. He stretches his arm out at eye level, like he once taught his daughters to do, and the ferry travels over the palm of his hand.

At the kiosk beside the gate he buys a Coffee Crisp, struggles with the wrapper. He hands it to a woman standing near him at the gate. “My fingers are useless,” he tells her.

She neatly tears the end of the package open. Such precision. Gives him the candy peeled like a fruit. “Arthritis?”

“No,” he says. “Lou Gehrig’s. Sometimes they work fine. But never in the mornings.”

She makes a kissing noise and shakes her head. “That’s awful.”

“I’m okay,” he says, holding a hand up, warding off pity. “It’s a beautiful morning, and I’m eating a chocolate bar beside a pretty girl. One day at a time.”

She smiles for him. “Good for you.”

The docks are two hundred and forty feet out from the lake’s original shoreline. Landfill pushed everything forward. Buildings erupted out of it like weeds. The city, walking on water.

All aboard. The woman who helped him with the chocolate bar waits behind him – perhaps politely – as he gets on, but says nothing else to him. There are only six passengers, and except for him they disappear into the cramped cabin on one side of the ferry, or go up front with their bikes or their blades slung over their shoulders. He stays on the deck, holding tight to the aft lash-post, watching the city slide away.

The foghorn’s low animal bellow. The ship moves backwards through the murky water fouled with shoes and weeds and duckshit. This close to the skyline, an optical illusion: the dock recedes from the boat, but tiers of buildings ranging up behind the depot appear to push forward, looming over the buildings in front of them. The whole downtown clenching the water’s edge in its fist.

The lighthouse on Hanlan’s Point has been there since 1808. It marks the beginning of the harbour, and in the days of true shipping, if the weather in the lake had been rough, the lighthouse signalled the promise of home. He can’t see it from the rear of the ferry, but he can picture it in his mind: yellow brick; rough, round walls. A lonesome building made for one person, a human outpost sending news of safety in arcs of light. A good job, he thinks, to be the man with that message.

Five minutes into the crossing, he removes a little ball of tin foil from an inside pocket and unwraps four tiny blue pills. Sublingual Ativan, chemical name lorazepam, an artificial opiate. Four pills is twenty milligrams, at least twice the normal dose. He puts them under his tongue and they dissolve into a sweet slurry, speeding into his blood through the cells under his tongue, the epithelia in his cheeks, his throat, up the mainline to his brain, soothing and singing their mantra. You are loved. He’s taken this many before, and ridden the awesome settling of mind and soul all the way down into a sleep full of smiling women, bright fields, houses smelling of supper.

Marianne is still at home, in bed.

He can see the whole city now, a crystalline shape glowing on the shoreline where once had been nothing but forest and swamp. After that, the fires of local tribes, the creaking forts of the French, the garrisons and dirt roads and yellow-bricked churches of the English and the Scots. It’s only overwhelming if you try to take it all in at once, he thinks, if you try to see it whole. Otherwise, just a simple progression in time. Not that far away in the past at all, even – the mechanisms that make it seem to be are simple ones. Just a change in materials, a shift in fashion.

This joyous well-being holds him. He doesn’t mind that it’s chemical: everything is chemical. Happiness and desolation, fear of death, the little gaps between nerves where feeling leaps. He holds tight to the lash-post and shimmies around to the front of it, drinking the moist air in ecstatic gulps. The vague slopings of the deck are transmitted to his brain as an optical illusion: the city pitching up gently and subsiding, up and down, his senses marvellously lulled. Water moving under the boat. Sky, city, blue-black lake, city, sky. The peaceful sound of water lapping the hull. He lets the swells help him forward and up. More air against him now, his thin windbreaker flapping, his mouth full of wind, the sound of a long, deep breath –

Toronto, November 1997

Marianne held the phone to her ear and waited for her daughter’s voice. Outside the hotel window, the dark was coming earlier than it had the night before, a failing in the west. There was, at last, a slow exhale on the other end of the line: unhappy surrender.

“And you really wonder where Alison gets her drama gene?”

“She gets it from your father.”

“There’s a difference between passion and spectacle, Mum. This is spectacle.”

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Mount Morris

Once a year, when he came through town, Tom Lumsden stopped in on his ex-wife and she’d make him dinner and usually he’d stay the night. He looked forward to his visits, with their surfeit of the familiar, and it made him feel like the love that had brought them together still existed between them somehow. It was more than a memory, but less than a presence: a tune they could still hum.

When they’d lived together in Johnstown, in Pennsylvania, they owned the camera supply store there, and although the population was less than 25,000, the town had a campus of the U of Pittsburgh, and every fall a new crop of freshmen would move through. Some of them had cameras, or photographic needs, and they’d be a fresh influx of customers for the time they lived in the town. Frosh week was the best week for business, since a few fathers around with sons or daughters would punctuate their these-are-the-best-years-of-your-life speeches with a new camera. Then, at the end of the academic year, there’d be the graduates and their gifts. To some of these kids he’d sold two outfits in a four-year period. He liked thinking of himself as a family business, and he and Lillian were often on a first-name basis with their customers, even if they came in only once or twice a year.

They married in ’88, when they were both twenty-five, and came out to live in Johnstown, where Tom had bought the camera store from George Lurie with an inheritance. Tom and Lillian had grown up in and near cities, but they adjusted quickly to life in a small town. Lurie’s (they kept the name) was the sponsor of a local bantam ballteam that couldn’t hit, catch, or run, but the stands would fill up with parents and townies and everyone would cheer these Lurie’s Johnstown Shutterbugs. Tom donated the group shots to the teams in the county and neighbouring towns that could fetch up a dozen or so twelve-year-olds and field a team, and over the few years that he and Lillian were together there, he took the team portraits for Altoona and Bedford, and all the little places in between, and that was how he found out he had some small aptitude for arranging groups and getting them to look in the same direction. So when he and Lillian split, he sold the shop and made the sideways move over into portraiture. All that time he’d been selling the raw material without knowing he’d had any touch of the artist himself.

They’d split over a difference that they always knew had been there: Lillian thought he would come around to having kids, and he figured that once she had a house and neighbours and a couple of dogs she’d think twice about cashing it all in for a chance with someone else. But they’d both been wrong. Tom said the reason he had his inheritance at twenty-five was because his dad had worked himself to death in his hardware store keeping a family of six clothed and fed, and he, Tom, wasn’t going to do that to himself. “This is a deal-breaker,” he’d put it to Lillian, and she had to admit that the deal was broke. She didn’t want the store, so he took what he needed out of it for his new career – a Rolleiflex, a backscreen, a tripod, two lamps, a backflash, and a tripwire–sold it, and gave her the money. He took the car and started visiting schools and junior sports teams throughout the state, and after a few years, spread out some into Ohio, as well as New York and New Jersey.

That was twelve years ago, and every year, he kept a date with Lillian, coming through Johnstown, then later Elmira, New York, and now Mount Morris, which was where Lillian’s mother lived. Neither he nor Lillian had remarried, although he’d had his relationships and he imagined she’d had hers as well, since she was a pretty woman, and smart, and looked thirty although she was thirty-eight. She told him in a letter (she wrote sometimes; he didn’t) that when she turned thirty-seven you’d think all of her was practically teenaged, except for if she was on a diving board in a bikini and you were standing in line behind her. Then you’d know. When he read that, he could hear her laugh that high, sudden laugh of hers.

Now that she was in Mount Morris, and had been there for the better part of five years, he was finding their visits more and more difficult. They were often nostalgic or sometimes even a little bitter. From Lillian’s point of view, there was hardly any sense in staying split up, since she’d never had kids and now it was almost too late. Their last two visits, he’d opted not to stay over, saying he had to be in some town a long drive away, when really it was her talking about them like that, as if the past was something that lay dormant and could be reactivated by mutual agreement. He knew that going back for these visits, with this kind of unresolved feeling between them, meant he was sort of using her. But this year he intended to settle everything for good.

* * * * *

He called her from Geneseo, a little town just a few miles to the north of hers, and said he’d be there in time for supper. The shoot in two of Geneseo’s high schools took up all of the morning and most of the afternoon. Making his living from school portraiture had turned out to be the most sensible decision for him: all he had to do was risk a couple hundred dollars in film, and four or five boxes of envelopes he’d had made up special, and the rest of it was counting money. It had even gotten to the point that he no longer engaged a printer back in Pennsylvania to make the packages of eight-by-tens and wallet photos. The technology had come so far that if a town was big enough to have a mini-mall with a one-hour photo, all he had to do was go there and give them the negs. And if, in any of the regular stops he made, there was more than one place to develop photos, he’d auction the job off. It was obviously the largest order of the year for any of these small-town shops.

He’d even come to enjoy the continuity of returning to schools, seeing how some of the kids he’d photographed the previous years were growing up. He had boxes full of headshots, and he sometimes recognized the faces as they grew older a year at a time. (The samples that he gave to parents were stamped PROOF ONLY to make it impossible to keep them as wallet snaps.) In Geneseo, he remembered at least a dozen of the kids in the two schools and remarked to himself how much they had changed. Some had grown taller, some fatter, while others had obviously found sports and their little stick-like bodies had thickened with muscle. Still others just seemed older: their faces spoke of home lives that had seen no improvement in the intervening time. It surprised him how much those tired and dour faces upset him, as if by returning to their hometowns each year, he was doing nothing less than recording the inevitability of their declining fortunes. He worried that some of his photos could one day be used in newspapers to record bad tidings – these smiling photos, which always seemed faded and misused once transmitted through newsprint, sometimes made him feel that his work had the potential to be the unhappy ending of someone else’s story.

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Martin Sloane

It was a lie that brought Martin Sloane to a picture house on O'Connell Street one night in the fall of 1936. (This was how I began, finding my way into his story, trying its doors.) He was eight, and it was the first time he'd ever gone anywhere by himself. It was a twenty-minute walk from his house and by the time he reached O'Connell, night had fallen and the wide boulevards were blazing with electric light. The hotel-lined street was busy with horse-taxis, news-hawks, chestnut carts; its caf‚ storefronts full of customers. Martin imagined that back at home the windows of his house were glowing orange with safe nighttime light.

He walked toward the cinema, the heavy coins in his pockets enough for the movie and a bag of steamed nuts. No one noticed him: although only a child, he was simply a part of what he walked through. A city dweller. Head up, cap clenched in one hand, he went down the middle of the thoroughfare, on the grassy strip that separated the two avenues. At that moment he thought his happiness complete, thought that it must have been like the happiness of being older, the way he imagined anyone might have felt, walking to the Grand Central Cinema at six o'clock at night to see the early show of The Informer.

In this he was in league with his father, who the previous week had walked over the river, in the middle of the workday, to see the picture. He'd come home red-faced with excitement.

You Irish with your bogeymen, Martin's mother had said.

They must see it, said his father.

Not these children, Colin. She is too impressionable, and he is too young.

The papers had argued back and forth over the film's merits, some saying it was scandalous and a temptation, others that it told a sore truth. It was the story of an Irishman, the drunkard Gypo Nolan, who'd sold out his friends to the British. Now it was as if the Mail and the Herald were arguing in the Sloane kitchen over dinner and it soon became a forbidden topic of conversation. But his father had certain conversational gifts. He convinced Martin's mother that her objections were about picture houses in general.

No, Colin, she said, it is about this film.

You mean to say, said his father, that you don't object in principle to the viewing of motion pictures?
If they are wholesome, then no.

I don't believe it, Martin's father said, staring at her in disbelief. I thought for certain you were against the pictures in general.

Not at all, said Martin's mother, happy for common ground. Send him to see O'Shaughnessy's Boy, down at the Grand Central. It has that nice Mr. Beery in it.

And so, the following Sunday night, Martin's father gave him directions to the Grand Central Cinema, at the bottom of O'Connell beside the river, and there, Martin paid his half-shilling. And, following his father's instructions, he went in to the parlour beside the one showing O'Shaughnessy's Boy where people were gathering for the six-o'clock showing of The Informer.

When the lights went down, rain began to fall in the street. Martin sat in the darkness, the voices of the actors intermingled with the quiet pattering hiss outside the thin cinema walls, and he was transported by it all, by his illicit visit to the movie hall, by the sensuality of Gypo Nolan's drunken sin. The movie ended in heartbreak, the big man trying to outrun his fate, and when Martin went outside, the city had been transformed into mirrors of light. In the Liffey, the centre of town shone upside down in a cold radiance. He could see the buildings in the slickened car windows, on the street, against glistening rainjackets passing along the sidewalks, as if the whole place had sunk under the sea.

Martin's father was waiting in the car with the motor running in front of the cinema. He waved through his window, swiping it with his forearm so he could see out. In the car, his father handed him a towel. So? he asked.

It was good, Martin said.

His father pulled out into the slow-moving traffic. The horses drove down through the streets with their heads lowered. Were you frightened?

No. But I think we shouldn't have lied.

I suppose we could leave the country now, said his father, and he laughed to himself. This was one of the things Martin did not understand about adults, this laugh he sometimes heard. Let's not call it a lie, though, his father said. Let's call it a secret.

Now they were driving up Berkeley Street. His father's favourite sweet shop was here, and as they drove past it they could see the windows were fogged and there were people inside. We could both use a cup of chocolate, his father said. To warm up.

Donnellan's was popular with everyone, and Martin's father kept his face averted from the other customers. He ordered two mugs of chocolate and a fruit bun for them to share, and when he came away from the register, a table was open in the window. They sat, and his father asked Martin to tell him the whole story of the film.

But you've seen it, Martin said. You already know how it goes.

I have seen it, said his father. But I want you to tell it me, the way you remember it.

Martin thought back to the beginning of the story and began telling it, and as he told it, it was as if he were seeing the film all over again, except that the Grand Central was in his mind, his mind was the cinema. He told of Gypo Nolan's betrayal of his old friend, turning him in to the British for twenty pounds. The shock of watching the betrayer spend the money on drinks, and fish and chips. The way he teetered back and forth between remorse and pride. Then the trial, the lies Gypo told to cover himself, endangering even a neighbour, and afterwards, the mad run from justice. How it had electrified Martin to watch it, even the horror of Gypo, dying in the church at the feet of his victim's mother. Frankie, your mother forgives me! Certainly, in the end, Gypo had regretted his actions, but regret is not enough for the people around you, Martin had thought, people have to see that crime is paid for. In this way, life was not like religion, in which, as far as he understood, sorrow in your heart came first.

That was it, his father said when Martin was finished. He nodded and fingered his chin. That was very good. Now, tell me what it was about.

About? Martin thought for a moment, not sure of what to say. It was about not lying.

Stop worrying about that, said his father. If I say something's okay, it's okay. Now what was it about?
Martin chewed on a piece of candied peel, rolled the bittersweet scrap around in his mouth. It was about being kind to others, he said.

It was, a little. Something else, though.

He could come up with nothing. He felt his face begin to burn and he tried to think what Theresa, who was quicker of mind than he was, would have said. He knew she would be thinking of what their father might have wanted to hear, and after another moment, Martin said: It was about you shouldn't drink when you're flush.

No, Martin. His father looked disappointed. He tipped back the end of his chocolate and picked his hat off the table. He left a coin.

The two of them walked back to the car in silence, and Martin searched his mind for the hidden meaning of the film, but he was so distracted by the anxiety of disappointing his father that he couldn't think. Finally, driving up past the canal, his father spoke quietly.

Would you say it was about having a home?

A home, said Martin, agreeing gratefully.

Gypo doesn't merely turn in a friend, Martin. He gives up the only thing he belongs to, thinking he will go to America with his blood money. But instead, he remains, and he is lost in the only place he has ever belonged. That is as good as dying.

But he does die.

Yes, said his father, mercifully, he dies.

They turned down to where they lived. For his whole life he had passed these houses, walked over the stones in these streets. Every night, the lights in the distance would appear between these same houses, slanting down alleys. He had never known any other place than this. His father had always said that every star had its place in the sky, every person theirs on Earth. Except you could not take a star out of the sky. People, though, he'd said. People vanish from the places they should be, people go to darkness all the time. Outrunning their fates.

And that had been Gypo Nolan's lot.

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Saving Houdini

Saving Houdini

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The Griffin Poetry Prize 2009 Anthology

The Griffin Poetry Prize 2009 Anthology

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Twitch Force

Twitch Force

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Lost Classics


A book that we love haunts us forever; it will haunt us, even when we can no longer find it on the shelf or beside the bed where we must have left it. After all, it is the act of reading, for many of us, that forged our first link to the world. And so lost books — books that have gone missing through neglect or been forgotten in changing tastes or worst of all, gone up in a puff of rumour — gnaw at us. Being lovers of books, we've pulled a scent of these absences behind us our whole reading lives, telling people about books that exist only on our own shelves, or even just in our own memory. This is what was on our minds one rainy afternoon in Toronto, as we sat around a dining-room table where the four of us, every few months, make manifest a sporadic but long-lived magazine called Brick: A Literary Journal.

By 1998, when we conceived of the "Lost Classics" issue, Brick had become a neighbourhood, full of essays and interviews that in turn became an international conversation: writers caught weeding, caught chatting over fences, full of chagrin and sometimes surprised to recognize each other after a season's quiet. So it felt natural to begin by asking some of our long-time contributors to tell us the story of a book loved and lost, books that had been overlooked or under-read, that had been stolen and never retrieved, or that were long out of print. We wanted personal stories and they began to pour in.
"Back in 1983, the novel received a fair amount of well-deserved attention..." John Irving wrote of The Headmaster's Papers, with a note of premonitory despair. Margaret Atwood described a Swedish novel, a tattered paperback found in a second-hand bookstore. "On the back of my copy are various encomiums, from the Observer, the Guardian, the Sunday Telegraph, the Glasgow Herald — 'a masterpiece,' 'the most remarkable book of the year,' and so forth. Still, as far as I know, Doctor Glas has long been out of print, at least in its English version."

Helen Garner recalled meeting the author of a beloved childhood book, unknown by anyone she knew but that she remembered vividly. "A real Australian person had written it!" she noted triumphantly. "We corresponded. I asked if she had a spare copy. She said she had only one left, but would lend it to me if I promised to return it. In due course it arrived. I hardly dared to open it. But when I did, out of its battered pages flowed in streams, uncorrupted, the same scary joy it had brought me as a child, before everything in my life had happened."

Before everything had happened. Before even the beloved book was entirely lost. The "Lost Classics" issue, as we called it, struck a chord that kept sounding long after publication. Essays continued to pour in on longed-for books of poetry, children's stories, travel diaries, novels. Why not a book of lost classics? More stories. More lost love.
Some of the newer essays describe a child's love affair with literature that is the beginning of a writerly discipline. The young reader discovers a place to enter another world and uses it as escape. Or, refuses to come out. As Robert Creeley says, "When young, I longed for someone who would talk to me and, often as not, that person was found in a book." If childhood stories are where we learn about plot, rhythm and narrative, they also teach us morals, while explaining the darker side of human nature. We read them when we are most susceptible and over the years they continue to inhabit and sustain us.

The essays we have selected for this collection are such memories of reading: they are that dialogue with the mind of an absent other, that conversation both silent and shared, that moment when a reader seems to have found the perfect mate. But loving is a unique torment if the beloved isn't known to friends, family, the unwilling listener who must be convinced. Many versions of lostness are investigated here. There is the book that disappears from the house during a divorce, and a lost manuscript that becomes a cult classic. There is the writer who commits suicide after finishing his work, and a reader who exhumes it from the remainder bin. There are the missing libraries of India and a book that survived in spite of the odds. The essays we've chosen come from all over the world and the books are of every kind. But lost books are like dying languages: the fewer the people who remember them, the greater the risk that they will disappear for good. When, for whatever reason, a book that means much is lost, there is the need to write a eulogy, an explanation, a defence.
Perhaps this anthology maps the inner lives of its contributors. Perhaps we are set in our ways through the books that we've loved. The book mentioned to a young Harry Mathews at a grown-up cocktail party, for example, infected his imagination so seriously, that many years later, he tracked it down. And stole it. The primer called I Want to Go to School, published by the People's Publishing House of China, set Anchee Min in the direction of her writing life. One book enumerates a system of imaginary knowledge. Another causes a journey. There are lost survival manuals and lost warnings.

Like the magazine itself, our anthology is a conversation. Michael Helm remembers a book of poetry by Philip Levine, while Levine remembers another book of poetry. Eden Robinson writes about awakening to science fiction as a teenager in Kitamaat Village. Others write of Shangri-La and Islandia. Rudy Wiebe describes the strange foretelling of his sister's death. Russell Banks discovers a lost companion to Graham Greene's Journey Without Maps, and Cassandra Pybus writes of a lost partner to Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. Caryl Phillips conjures Orson Welles; W. S. Merwin digs up an archeological classic; and Nancy Huston recalls a knell unheard. And, reminding us of the whole enterprise of writing in the first place, Laird Hunt quotes Borges on "a certain class of objects, very rare, that are brought into being by hope." A perfect description of this anthology about books we have loved and lost and loved again. —The Editors, Brick: A Literary Journal

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