Saturday, January 07, 2012

On Reviews, the Unread Book and the Landless Giraffes

"How was the show? Oh, the audient loved it."

Perhaps I am because my little dog knows me, and sometimes the writer feels that a book is because a reader knows it and, even more so,  a book is because a reviewer reviews it and it becomes part of the discourse. Of course, the reception of a book, its traction, whether momentary or long-lasting is part of the meaning of a book, is, ultimately, part of the discourse itself. Language exists apart from use. Apart from words, sentences, speech and books, but it also is made of these things. A giraffe without land or air may be a beautiful thing, but it isn't a giraffe in the usual sense.

I still believe in the unread book. Its mystery. Its potential. What might be behind its hidden doors. Or the secret book, the book known to few. And in truth, some books have an ideal audience which is small, or specialized. If its only her dog, if it's only this single one dog that truly knows Gertrude Stein--and Gertrude Stein knows how it knows her-- it knows her in a way that no others do and Stein has a unique dog-derived self-knowledge as a result of this. Though Stein is also known by many. And she herself knew how she was known by many. But that's another kind of knowing.

All of this by way talking about reviews. I'm always very grateful for reviews. Of course, I'd like more people to encounter my books, to enter into a dog/Stein relationship of their own with them quite independent of me and my own authorStein/dogreader relationship. And reviews facilitate this, they facilitate more readers finding out about the book, and begin a dialogue between them and the book. Or a trialogue. Between the book, the reviewer, and the potential reader(s).

And reviews and their writers often reflect new ways for me to see the book, or at least, to see how others might approach the book. What they notice, what they think about, how it fits into their notion of reading, books, literature, the world. Sometimes the reviews tell me more about how a specific reader has read the book. Of course, I don't always agree, but then again, I don't always agree with my dog.

Should I write here here about how, though I've published, over the last sixteen years, 10 books plus another 4 for kids, and appeared in hundreds of journals and magazines, that I've never had a review in either of the national newspapers nor in the Writer and Porcupine-specific journal? Do I care? Should they? Am I happy with the howling pack of those who know me or learn about my writing through other (less national)(under)dogs?

I am happy with them. I've had good dogs.

I do, though, have a sense of wanting to be part of that other conversation, too. I guess some part of me thinks that it might introduce more readers to my work, which I would like. Some will get something from this exposure, some won't. I do have misgivings about 'the marketplace' sensibility, but outside of the very satisfying networks, the temporary autonomous zones of specialized readers and webs of those who know such work as mine, it still is the primary way readers find books.

There is also, I have to be honest, though I dislike this in myself, a sense of there being a party that I'm not invited to. A sense of validation. Really, it feels all Cinderella-not-being-invited-to-the-ball and I don't like that. Really its only the insecure part of me that wishes for this, not, I don't believe, my core. And I'm certainly not willing to magic myself into some ball gown and coach that isn't mine. I'm good staying in the Coach House with the other mice.

My absolute core belief as a writer is that I must write the books that I must write whether there are dogs around or not, whether the book is unread or not.  The book itself is dog enough for me.

But I delight in an exchange of ideas, of discussions about the book, in a careful consideration of the work. And so, I'm most grateful for this nice little review by Michael Roberson in Canadian Literature of The Porcupinity of the Stars among other books (as well as those by Don Kerr, Tammy Armstrong, and Jon Paul Fiorentino.)

So, thanks Michael. I appreciate your thoughtful engagement with the book. And thanks to other readers and/or reviewers of the book in the past. I'd also like to thank those who bought the book but didn't read it, but would rather just imagine --with fear, trepidation, wonder, and disgust--what might be behind its deer-coloured sports-sock-infused front gate. And finally, I like to thank those who have never heard of the book--all these on this planet and all those lifeforms extant in other places of the present, past, and all possible universes. You help make my book mysterious, unknown, a sanctum for initiates and cognoscenti. You make special dogs of those who have dog-eared The Porcupinity of the Stars.


Chelsea said...

Hi There~ Are you perhaps a Gertrude Stein fan? If so, come over to Gertie’s page at! There is always a there there. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude.

Karl Henning said...

I read this aloud to our budgerigars, one of whom wept.