The Eagle & The Weasel

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Tag: Blatant self-promotion

Shaky newborn deer news

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Last Tuesday my collection of short stories Sweet Affliction won the QWF’s Concordia University First Book Prize at the QWF awards gala here in Montreal. It was a very surprising win–I was up against some pretty tough competition. Ian McGillis summarized the QWF awards night in a nice piece that touches upon the apparent arbitrariness of literary awards–as he says, “No two juries, and indeed no two readers, are exactly alike in the way they respond to a book. So it has always been and so, hopefully, shall it always be.”

A few people have asked me what I said in my acceptance speech. The truth is I’m a doink and didn’t write out a speech, but rather had some notes I tried, sort of successfully, to memorize, and have reconstructed here. I may have exaggerated on the side of articulateness. Only people who were there will truly know.

One thing I can’t remember is who I thanked; I know it was a lot of people, and I know it wasn’t enough people. So, here, now: Thanks and gratitude to The Quebec Writers’ Federation, the members of the jury (Licia Canton, Johanna Skibsrud, John Steffler), Natalie St. Pierre, Michelle Sterling, the team at Invisible Publishing, my writing group: Sean Michaels, Melissa Bull and Jeff Miller. Many many others.

Here’s, roughly, what I said.

Publishing your first book is a strange experience. A first book is kind of like a first relationship–it’s full of possiblities, and hope, and your best intentions. And giddiness. And mistakes. You learn a lot from it–you see yourself at your absolute best and your absolute worst. And it will always have a grip on a section of your heart, even when you can’t stand to be in the same room with it. So it’s an honour to be recognized for this shaky newborn-deer of a book, especially by the Quebec Writers’ Federation, who do so much for writers in this province. I also want to congratulate my fellow nominees Sean Michaels and Caroline Vu, who surely recognize some of what I said, and have their own feelings about the process too, which you should probably ask them about tonight.

It’s significant to me to get this award at an event called Great Women of Words. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman, writing. When I read the women being honoured tonight–Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, and Maya Angelou–when I read any woman, which is often–I think about what they had to get through to be able to tell their stories. What they had to sacrifice, what they had to give up. And I also think about what they’re not saying. What stories they can’t tell. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

We’re a community of writers and readers. We’re really good at imagining new worlds. Let’s imagine one where women don’t have to live in fear: of violence, of humiliation, of powerlessness and shame. And let’s not stop at imagining it. Let’s make it real.

Enlistment

Publishing your first book is a weird experience. You spend a year or two writing down what are quite possibly your most ridiculous, most perverted, least sound, least relatable thoughts, while convincing yourself that these thoughts are neither ridiculous nor perverted nor unsound nor unrelatable and are totally worth committing to paper. You get rejected, a lot. You are told this is good for your soul or your creative process but exactly how that works is less clear. You melt down, which even when it’s happening you recognize as being totally embarrassingly banal and clicheed. Finally you get the opposite of rejected. Whatever that is. Another year or two passes. You forget whatever it was you were trying to say in the first place in that ridiculous, perverted manuscript. You get a real job. Suddenly it’s your publication date, and it occurs to you that everyone you’re related to, everyone you’ve ever dated, slept with, unsuccessfully hit on, borrowed money from, avoided making eye contact with, lied to, been passive-aggressive with, forgotten about, and stolen french fries from can now access your most private, ridiculous, unsound, perverted thoughts in one easy-to-quote-from volume. Friends and acquaintances send you pictures of your book on vacation, by swimming pools and the ocean and majestic mountain ranges. Strangers from the internet want to meet you. Congratulations, you published a book.

Anyway, that happened, and now I’m pleased to say Sweet Affliction was shortlisted for the Quebec Writers’ Federation Concordia University First Book Prize. It’s nice to have an award that recognizes that process, and it’s nice to be nominated for it. I don’t know if it gets easier but I hope to find out.

Sweet Affliction (finally)

I’m very pleased to announce that my book of short stories, Sweet Affliction, is coming out in one month. I made a little page for it, where I’ll post pertinent information as it comes up.

As of April 15th you’ll be able to buy it at your local independent bookstore, or you can order it online.
If you’re in Montreal, I’m having a launch on April 16th, at Drawn&Quarterly, 211 Bernard Est. I’ll read from the book, and will be interviewed by writer and translator Melissa Bull. See you there?

A pregnancy test is taken at a wedding, a bad diagnosis leads a patient to a surprising outlook, and a civic holiday becomes a dystopian nightmare. By turns caustic, tender, and creepily hilarious, Sweet Affliction reveals the frailties, perversions, and resilience of Anna Leventhal’s cast of city-dwellers. Shiftless youths, a compulsive collector of cigarette butts, and a dying pet rat populate fifteen sharply-observed and darkly funny stories that suck at the marrow of modern life.

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Leventhal’s work grasps multiple and brazen connections between sisters, lovers, strangers, friends. These stories wander and please. They knife unexpectedly. Truth is lodged in all the cuts. These stories “know the things energy can do.”

Tamara Faith Berger, author of Maidenhead

Sweet Affliction is — no big deal or anything — one of the most successful, high-functioning, sometimes perfect collections of short stories I’ve read in recent memory.

Andrew Hood, author of The Cloaca

These stories stand Canadian literature on its head — amazing characters, totally original and unexpected situations, absolutely hilarious and heartfelt prose — Anna Leventhal is a one-of-a-kind talent.

Lee Henderson, author of The Man Game

Garbage and cake

I wrote a short story set on Moving Day, which here in Montreal is the day that replaces Canada day – apartment leases come up on July 1st, so once a year a giant citywide game of musical chairs goes on. Rental rates are exceptionally high in Montreal – we’re a city of tenants, not owners. So Moving Day is kind of a civic holiday, albeit an incredibly stressful one, with furniture and garbage instead of cake and fireworks.

The premise of the story is this: What if, on July 1st, if you didn’t own property, you had to move? It’s kind of a jam on institutionalized instability, but also flexibility and adaptation… ugh this makes it sound very dull. Anyway if you want to find out for yourself, my publisher Paper Pusher is offering free shipping on it right now.

They are the best! And getting mail is the best too!

A reading

Back to the world of things – like, actual things – I’ve been invited to read at Maisonneuve Magazine’s 10th anniversary party. I like this magazine a lot, and it’s pretty cool that I’ll be reading with people like Kathleen Winter, Jacob Wren, and Melissa Bull. I don’t know what I’m going to read yet – probably something from my collection of short stories, though if I’m feeling ballsy maybe I’ll pick something from the novel. The widdle baby novel. Nope, probably not. Anyway, come!

Moving Day & Other Stories

Moving Day & Other Stories

I’m proud to have three of my short stories published in a booklet by Paper Pusher micropress.  This guy loves paper and ink like you love Jay-Z and bonbons.  It’s a handsome little risograph print with my stories Moving Day, Last Man Standing, and Sweet Affliction.  Here’s the publisher’s description:

With incisive humour and caustic sympathy, in three short stories, Anna Leventhal gives us characters that live in a world strolling a few steps beside our own. Exploring class, ownership, and civic duty, Moving Day captures the totalitarian exercise of a mandatory, city-wide move and the effect of its bureaucratic mishaps. The shiftless narrator of Last Man Standing has his social bubble threatened by a dubious emergency, while a diagnosis in Sweet Affliction suggests a new stage in human evolution.

You can get it sent to your actual physical mailbox by a nice person in a hot uniform here.

Last Man Standing

This story first appeared in Maisonneuve last summer.   It was recorded in my kitchen, read by John Dunhill, Famous Actor and my apartment building’s caretaker.  I’d been wanting to collaborate with John for a long time.  He’s been in movies, mostly terrible, with Johnny Depp, Michael Caine, and Gerard Butler.  He played one of the elders of Sparta in 300.  He also plays a corpse convincingly, which is apparently hard to do.  He’s the kind of guy who tells you stories that sound like the most obvious kind of bullshitting, and then they turn out to be true. For instance, he changed one of his dogs’ names from Walter to Johnny, after his good buddy Johnny Depp. Yeah, okay. But then I watched Secret Window, and there he is with a screwdriver stuck in his head, being pushed over a cliff by America’s moody darling. (I would have posted a spoiler alert, but honestly this movie is so bad that I am probably doing you a favour if this prevents you from watching it.)

Some things about John that are probably true:

- Albert Camus once told him he was the quintessential “homme revolte”
– He has a white pitbull named Blanco.  This dog’s head is the size of a bowling ball.  Sometimes he sings “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” to the dog (this is definitely true, I’ve heard it).
– He knows the true story of Charlie Manson and Sharon Tate.
– He played Gogo in a production of Waiting for Godot directed by Samuel Beckett.

Anyway, I recorded him reading this story I wrote.

The drawing is by the wonderful Sarah Pupo (as is my header image).

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