Tag Archives: good female writers

Holy Literary Quartet

An announcement:

I have found a writer who is, as of this writing, infallible. She is sufficiently infallible that The Holy Literary Trinity has now been up graded to a quartet.

This newest deity is Sara Baume.








Baume is a master at writing sentences that make me stop and re-read them–sentences that make my insides feel all warm and happy.

Samples from the beginning of each book:

  • I’m on my way to purchase a box-load of incandescent bulbs because I can’t bear the dimness of the energy savers, how they hesitate at first and then build to a parasitic humming so soft it hoaxes me into thinking some part of my inner ear has cracked, or some vital vessel of my frontal lobe. (Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither)
  • The white strata are bunching into clouds. The bunches are competing with each other to imitate animals. A sheep, a platypus, a sheep, a tortoise. A sheep, a sheep, a sheep. (A Line Made by Walking)

She doesn’t lose control throughout the books. Right to the end of both, I had to stop to admire the writing style. There are no flat characters. There is nothing to suggest that the book has been edited for common consumers.

There is only good writing.

Ms. Baume, allow me to add this reminder that your new status doesn’t demand infinite infallibility. I permit my divine beings one literary catastrophe each, so don’t feel you’re under too much pressure. I am a compassionate devotee.

Continuing the Quest

Living in the barbaric suburbs makes it difficult to find books.  Yes, there’s always the internet, but sometimes one just needs an actual bookstore: it’s a pilgrimage thing.  (No, Chapters doesn’t count as “an actual bookstore”.)  One of my favourite pilgrimages begins at ABC (the closest to Bloor/Yonge subway), moves on to Glad Day and ends at Eliot’s (the closest to Wellesley station–it’s all about geography).

The proprietors of these stores either know me or are familiar with me.  The first shop and the last get assailed with a “do you have this” list, and are able to brush off my frustration if my demands are not met.  Glad Day gets held to a different standard, and I insist they give me suggestions.

The people at Glad Day must be quite subtle in their eye-rolling, etc: I never notice it.  They do their very best to recommend something–anything–that might appease my literary persnicketiness.    My last trip there bagged three books: L’Asphyxie, Therese and Isabelle, and What We All Long For.  I love the first, enjoyed the second, and was bored by the third.  This is unfortunate because I really wanted to say I liked that book.  Dionne Brand is a good poet, but she is not a good novelist.  Neither the characters nor the plot developed: it just took 300 pages to tell the reader everything.  (That said, I did reread the occasional line that demonstrated her poetic abilities: “Anyone walking by would see a girl thin and sickled against a maple, resounding its stillness and winter quiescence” (Brand, 250). )

The quest for adept female writers continues.