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About the Author

Linda Spalding

Linda Spalding is the author of the bestselling The Follow. She is editor of Brick magazine and lives in Toronto with her husband, Michael Ondaatje.

Books by this Author
A Reckoning

A Reckoning

A Novel
also available: Paperback
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The Follow

A True Story
tagged : women
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The Paper Wife

The Paper Wife

also available: Paperback
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Who Named the Knife

Murder. In such a place.

From above, from the highway, it looks like a planet must have fallen into it, the round bowl edges of this bay are so perfect. Below the surface of the water, amazing fish can be seen living their lives in the coral. This is a place where children play in the waves, where parents sit on the sand, where people float, looking down. A swimmer can pause, roll over, blink a few times, and look up at the hills that surround this blue water. The hills feel protective, a barrier between the world of invention and this place.

So it must have looked to Larry Hasker in the last minutes of his life. He had been casual with his captors. “So this is a robbery? I ­can’t believe it.” He got out of the car with his shirt unbuttoned, his rubber slippers moving over the rocks. Up at the cusp, above the parking lot, the terrain is rough. Even through the slippers, he must have felt the jolts of stone and brush and dirt. He had smoked a joint in the car. He was young, twenty years old, and almost relaxed. On a ridge within sight of the highway, he turned and looked down. It was past midnight in the month of June, 1978. The moon was high. It threw its reflected light on the ocean so that the water looked like metal heated over flame. Molten. He breathed in and reached down for himself, opened his fly. Looking at water and night. The stars were there too. And his captors.

There is no shame in dying with a shirt open or pants, dying in the act of emptying oneself. In such a place.

The girl who discovered the body was taking a walk before work, noticing the dusty smell of kiawe above the bay, the pungent smell of seaweed, the smell of a place where ocean and land meet. It was early in the morning, but when she saw a slipper lying in the brush, she was not surprised. Near any beach, such a forgotten slipper is not unusual, although this one ­wasn’t broken; its thong was intact. She saw the slipper and then she saw a human foot covered in flies. It was a Monday morning and nobody was there to hear, but she screamed.

So it begins with a body on the side of the road that leads from Hanauma Bay to the Kalanianaole Highway on the windward side of O’ahu — this story of murder, on the island where I lived. The body was lying twenty-­five feet from that highway among rocks, thorns, and brush. The shirt was untorn. There were no scratches, no bruises, no cuts on the flesh. There were just two wounds: one on the right side of his head and one on the outside surface of a leg.

What happens in such a place, on such a beach, is quickly forgotten in any season. What happens can so easily wash away. Even above the tide line, far above it, a third bullet can get lodged in the sand, can be plucked at by birds, can be sent down the slope by a vagrant wind. A body can be ignored until it is past recognition, until its bones and teeth must be studied; it can be eaten; it can merge with the elements; it can be nosed at by wandering dogs. But this is a beach for children and families, a place to be walked along and sat upon. And what is there left of Larry Hasker here? Blood. Piss. A fragment of rubber slipper. He’d stood in the brush above the sea with its luminous sheen. One of his slippers had fallen off. He’d turned, unzipped and zipped.
Then he’d been shot.

Once in an ankle. Once in the head.

Someone, it must have been, with lousy aim.

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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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