October 2017: Bookends
A few titles to add to your 'to read' list this month.
October 3, 2017
Wolsak and Wynn Publishers
It shouldn’t be any surprise that West Edmonton Mall features prominently in a book about shopping experiences in Canada. After all, as Dobson writes, it’s “the alpha and omega of malls in Canada, and it feels like both a starting point and an ending place for this book.” But what is unexpected is the way Dobson writes about West Ed (or WEM, if you prefer); he introduces his conversation about it with a sequence of poems, Heather Spears’s “The dolphin in the West Edmonton Mall.” It’s just one of the many art forms he engages — among movies, fiction, graphic novels and visual art — in a thoughtful discussion of the shopping rituals we remember, eagerly embark on or avoid, whether at a mall in Toronto or at a Wal-Mart in Whitehorse. “I wanted to take shopping seriously, as a thing that many of us do often, but that we aren't really invited to think about,” Dobson says. “Lots of people love shopping; lots of people hate it. But most of us, I think, don't tend to contemplate it in too much depth. So I wondered: Can we think consciously about engaging in consumerism with all of the environmental and social consequences that shopping leads to?” The seriousness is balanced with humour and nostalgia such as with Dobson’s wry observation that West Ed’s Bourbon Street has been “shortened to BRBN Street in our post-truth, post-vowel-using era.” Part memoir, part travel narrative, part history and part cultural studies, it’s a book you can ponder while enjoying a Wetzel’s Pretzel in the foodcourt. See Dobson at Litfest on October 13. —Breanna Mroczek
Edmonton native McGrath is probably better known as a barnstorming musician than a writer; the first time I came across him, he opened for Daniel Johnston at a 2009 show at the Myer Horowitz Theatre. His music was raw, unapologetic, frenetic. And, well, his first book is raw, unapologetic, frenetic — a ride through dingy European clubs, bombed-out Eastern Europe, drinking, more drinking, filthy sleeping spaces. But, somehow, there’s a romanticism to it — it’s a love letter to German nightspots, Austrian paradoxes and Polish squalor. Tour, detox, then go and hit the road again. See McGrath at Litfest on October 12.—Steven
Lizzie Derksen, Matthew Stepanic, Bob Strong and Kristina Vyskocil
New local publisher Monto Books shines a spotlight on four young writers who lend their voices to four narrators representing the four quadrants of the city in this experimental project. The characters make their way through the city to the core, dealing with their personal issues along the way. The overall project offers a poignant perspective on the distance that separates us, even when traversing the same streets. — Adrianna Szenthe
This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.