Register Saturday | September 24 | 2022

The Spring 2022 Book Room

Swollening

While the speakers of Swollening (Arsenal Pulp Press) confront pain, childhood and desire, they also dare to pose a question that many are afraid to ask: is vomiting actually an erotic act? Jason Purcell’s debut poetry collection offers a fresh vision of sensuality and aging. These poems defy heteronormative, able-bodied eroticism and point toward new visions of intimacy. In “Elimination Diet,” for instance, bodies are in distress: “Whatever converts to sugar in the body / flakes the skin to grey” and as a result, language malfunctions. Divided into three parts, the collection presents the idiosyncrasies of queer life, warping time so that it looks back to childhood, to a chronically ill present, and to a future of worsening climate crisis. Purcell’s blend of desire and medicinal prose is arousing and arresting, calling into question why we see romance and illness as separate spheres in the first place. The collection is full of wordplay that irks and enthralls. One speaker coyly recounts: “I tongue my / own holes. Dislodge a tooth with a filling in it and grind it out to see its / cavern, pushing against the walls of / enamel with my thumb.” Swollening calls to attention the heterogeneity of life, its tender intimacies, and its creative potential.—Katia Lo Innes

Time Zone J 

After retiring from the scene in the early aughts, alt-comics legend Julie Doucet is back. In her autobiographical work Time Zone J (Drawn & Quarterly), the artist combs through her old diaries, recollecting memories from her youth which she had almost come to think of as dreams. She reads about the time she had a long-distance romance with a French soldier. The two had become pen pals after the man sent her a letter responding to Dirty Plotte, Doucet’s comic series about her day-to-day life, fantasies and angsts, which she’d been distributing by mail in the late eighties. After months of back and forth, the artist planned a short trip to France to visit him. Doucet’s retelling of this visit with “the hussar” is regularly interrupted by her reflections on her relationship with comics, art and the zine scene. Her familiar and disorienting self-portraits fill the pages from all angles, making for a delightful invitation back into the psyche of a beloved artist. —Charlotte Genest

Good Girl

The protagonist of Anna Fitzpatrick’s debut novel is still figuring things out. Lucy is working as a bookseller by day and having kinky, submissive sex by night. She wants, quite desperately, to be a good feminist and also get spanked with a fly swatter; she reads interviews with Silvia Federici yet dates men with bad politics; she thinks marriage is a patriarchal institution but cries happy tears when her friends get engaged. Good Girl (Flying Books) pokes fun at the contradictions of life as a contemporary twenty-something, only to sincerely engage with the timeless questions that come with growing up: What do I want? Are they the right things? And what if the right things aren’t enough? This is a clever and truly funny exploration of desire, shame, power and becoming. The sex scenes are good, too, which never hurts.Madi Haslam

Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service

Tajja Isen isn’t looking for easy answers. She unpacks hypocrisy wherever she sees it: in the racist history of cartoons, the flaws inherent to legal reasoning, or the kinds of “mess” white people are allowed to get away with on screen, on the page and in life. Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service (Doubleday Canada) brings the lies people tell themselves about solutions to racism into focus. Isen dissects subjects ranging from “diversity” to literary criticism itself. (Always calling minoritized authors’ work ‘visceral’ and ‘raw,’ for example, sends the wrong message and often misses the point.) She blends cultural criticism, theory and memoir to reimagine how things should be. But she’s also clear that it’s not her job, or any of our individual jobs, to ‘fix’ what’s systemically broken. Sharp and meticulously researched, this book will make you laugh, think and probably question at least one thing you thought you knew.—Sarah Ratchford

After Realism: 24 Stories for the 21st Century

“Each of the pieces in After Realism pulls the curtain of reality back to reveal something stunning and bizarre,” writes editor André Forget in the introduction to this compelling new anthology. After Realism: 24 Stories for the 21st Century (Véhicule Press) brings together short stories from a generation of millennial writers who are breathing new life into the form. In Paola Ferrante’s “Underside of a Wing,” an albatross becomes an unexpected symbol of mental health struggles. In Tom Thor Buchanan’s “Jamaica,” a narrator’s reflections on his relationship with his ­estranged father take a surprising turn. And in Casey Plett’s “Portland, Oregon,” cat lovers’ dreams come true when a feline is able to communicate with humans. With contributions from some of the country’s most exciting literary voices (including Paige Cooper, Carleigh Baker and Fawn Parker), this is a CanLit collection for readers who tend to cringe or yawn when they hear the term ­CanLit.—Swidda Rassy