A Bulky Stack

Antarctic Navigation - Elizabeth Arthur Carnival: A Novel - Rawi Hage Washington Black - Esi Edugyan

Mostly, these days, I'm preoccupied by reading selections from the CanLit prizelists,


I've just finished Rawi Hage's Beirut Hellfire Society (longlisted for the Giller, shortlisted for the Writers' Trust and Governor General's): the story of Pavlov, who has inherited his father's responsibility for the dead.


The Hellfire Society attends to the bodies of those who have been abandoned, witnesses their burning and, on occasion, carrying out the wishes of those who have passed him instructions. Set in Beirut and in the surrounding mountains, this is a grim story but not a bleak one.


Hage's other novels, Carnival and DeNiro's Game and Cockroach, all consider lives on the margins, lives that might be overlooked, and he inhabits his characters with tremendous sensitivity and grace. These are not comfortable stories to read, but these are parts of the world in which life is not comfortable: essential, challenging stories.


Now I'm reading in a flurry: Paige Cooper's stories in Zolitude (longlisted for the Giller and shortlisted for the Goveror General's), Sheila Heti's Motherhood (shortlisted for the Giller), and Esi Edugyan's Washington Black (nominated for everything, or so it seems). 


Short stories, a strange hybrid of fiction/memoir, and a historical novel by the author of Half-Blood Blues: this is quite a demanding mix but an interesting one. 


Last, but not least, Elizabeth Arthur's Antarctic Navigation has been on my shelves, unread, since 1994, but it is just wonderful: slow and dense and snowy: I am lost in it, in the best way. 


With October in mind, I've also read the first few pages of Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone and Charles Palliser's The Quincunx, but these are getting the short end of the proverbial reading stick for now.