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A Novelist's Eye: Lilian Nattel Online: Review: Little Failure

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a memoir about life as an immigrant child from the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, a subject that I’ve become very interested in because of this memoir. I rated this a four (though I am against ratings really) because the first part, about Shteyngart’s childhood, is fantastic. Had it stayed that way, I would be raving about it, had it not been that good, I wouldn’t bother adding it to my books.

The writing about his childhood is hilarious, biting, vivid. I was really struck (Read more…)

A Novelist's Eye: Lilian Nattel Online: Review: Tenth of December

Tenth of December by George Saunders My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant stories. My favourite was only two pages and in that compact space told the story of a father’s rage and pathos through the vehicle of an unusual scarecrow. A book I want to own.

View all my reviews

Filed under: Literary Tagged: short stories

A Novelist's Eye: Lilian Nattel Online: Review: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A book people seem to love or hate. I did laugh out loud. It’s a tall tale, not my favorite genre usually: the hundred year old man runs away from an old age home, has adventures, tells the story of his life, which is the story of the 20th century and his unlikely encounters with presidents and dictators. But I was thoroughly entertained and amused by both the front and back stories. It was a great romp. A sort of (Read more…)

A Novelist's Eye: Lilian Nattel Online: Archie and Thanks for the Books

I use Grammarly for proofreading because I want Veronica to love me. – Archie

We’ve been having an Archie issue in this house. Archie and his pals (my fave is Jughead) hide under pillows and on top of bathroom shelves. Now, I have nothing against those folks. When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to have comics, and so I spent hours reading them at my best friend’s house. And, periodically, my kids surprise me with science facts they’ve learned from Archie. (If you have a message you want to get across to girls, have Betty know it, Veronica (Read more…)

mark a rayner | scribblings, squibs & sundry monkey joys: Writers’ stimulants

I still think most of these would be whiskey, not coffee. (h/t to Mark Victor Young.) Alltop is a stiff drink of humor.

A Writer's Playground: Lilian Nattel Online: Postcard Story

After finishing Web of Angels, I did some writing exercises to get used to facing the blank page again so I could start something new. Recently, I re-read what I wrote then. This small piece of fiction surprised me, and I want to share it with you today.

Sunday

My life exists from Monday to Friday. On Saturday I acquire the necessities of life, thus supporting my existence. I shop in the morning, in the afternoon I cook, and in the evening I do laundry. But Sundays are an endless and meaningless day. There is nothing between me and (Read more…)

A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Joyce Carol Oates on 1st Draft

Getting the first draft finished is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor.

Filed under: Fun, Literary Tagged: Writing Life

A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: What I Learned from Figure Skating

The figure skaters at the World Championship competition, held this past week in London, Ontario, are the top skaters in the world. And they fall. They fall on their bums in front of a packed stadium, eyes upon them, and in front of TV cameras that represent the millions watching from home. They work all year–for years–for the 3 minute short program and 6 minute free skate. They are young, they defy gravity, and they fall.

At least as a writer I get the chance to revise. Being a writer is more like being a hockey player. There are good

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Alice Munro’s Brilliance

I am reading Alice Munro because she is brilliant. In the mid 1990s, I studied her stories for “weather,” ie the external details that make a story come alive. In the margins of a book of her short stories, I wrote “clothing,” “smell”, “rain.” Then I added weather to the next draft of The River Midnight and it suddenly popped into the third dimension.

In my new novel the main character meets many minor characters who come and go, so there isn’t the time to develop them in the way of characters who remain throughout a novel. Hence I

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Looking Deeper

I was walking and saw a slight indentation in the sidewalk. It was the shape of an inverted V. I stood over it with my camera and took a series of pictures. As I bent closer, I noticed a crevice at the tip. Bending closer still, I crouched over it. With my nose practically inside what, from a distance, was a finger mark in cement, I saw treasure:

Writing is like that too. On intense examination, a crack opens into a cavern where there are treasures, which change everything. Structure, story line, the hero, the villain. And you know more

A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Literature Trumps Erotica

The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler is #8 in the top 100 books on amazon.ca, surpassing all three Shades of Grey. I’ve loved The Imposter Bride since it came out last year. It’s a finely written novel about the relationship between an enigmatic mother and her daughter. A holocaust survivor, Lily Azerov immigrates to Montreal for an arranged marriage. But despite a loving husband, she can’t adjust and not long after her baby’s birth, disappears. The girl’s life is shaped by a search for the truth about her mother, armed only with the cryptic diary left behind.

This novel (Read more…)

A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: The Process: 10 Years Ago

As you’ll know if you follow my blog, I sent off the first draft of a fun new book to my agent. He is a dear as well as smart, but not the fastest responder. So while waiting, I had in mind to return to embark (again) on another the first draft of a historical novel I began researching 10 years ago. I was younger then; so were my children:

Lilian and H in China

Filed under: Literary, Personal Tagged: researching historical fiction

A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Albert Nobbs

Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs and Janet McTeer as Hubert Page

via Gallery for Albert Nobbs

Throughout history, there have been women who have lived as men either because of gender identification and/or for safety and opportunity as soldiers, pirates and doctors, for example. (This includes James Barry, an 18th century surgeon who became the Inspector General for military hospitals.)

In this fine movie, Glenn Close plays Albert Nobbs, a timid, asexual person, a sad little man (or woman) who is a waiter in a posh restaurant in the 1890s. Albert encounters Hubert Page (Janet McTeer), who is bigger

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Bravery: the Writer

I want to tell you about a writer who looked old in his mid-30s. He walked with a cane. He was overweight, lethargic, pasty-faced and depressed. It was no wonder. He was a writer trying to write vividly, truthfully and with compassion under a totalitarian regime. He believed in the socialist dream, at least he had believed in it once, and his writing is also rich with psychological portraits of people who ambivalently struggle with the crash of ideals and disillusionment.

Vasily Grossman’s first short story, “In the Town of Berdichev”, was published in a Soviet literary magazine in 1934.

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Writer’s New Year Resolutions

1. Create more, worry less. (h/t Diane Shoemperlen)

2. The market isn’t Stalin. Have fun writing.

3. The market is Stalin. Be subversive.

[A]n invisible force was crushing him. He could feel its weight, its hypnotic power; it was forcing him to think as it wanted, to write as it dictated. This force was inside him; it could dissolve his will and cause his heart to stop beating…

From Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, quoted on page 73 of The Road: Stories, Journalism and Essays by Vasily Grossman, edited by Robert Chandler.

Vasily Grossman at the Eastern Front,

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Eugenides Advice on Writing

To follow literary fashion, to write for money, to censor your true feelings and thoughts or adopt ideas because they’re popular requires a writer to suppress the very promptings that got him or her writing in the first place. When you started writing, in high school or college, it wasn’t out of a wish to be published, or to be successful, or even to win a lovely award like the one you’re receiving tonight. It was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive. Remember?

via Jeffrey Eugenides's Advice to Young Writers : The New Yorker.

I wanted

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Sea Plane and Reading

WWII military supply plane

That is the interior of the sea plane that took me from Vancouver to Gabriola Island. As the only passenger, I got to sit in front.

I thought the ride would be scary. Instead it was a stroll through the sky. A magical row below the clouds and above the ground, where toy cars drove along toy roads. A rope trailed from the right wing, later used to secure the plane to the dock the way you’d tie up your rowbot.

Gabriola Island is a verdant haven for artists, musicians, writers and others off the coast

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: The Next Big Thing: What I’m Working On

Goddess Durga by Joydeep

Thanks to Lauren B. Davis for tagging me on this great questionnaire for writers. I have to confess that I’m participating in this more because I want to hear what other writers are doing than wanting to write about myself–but I will do my best to wrestle the questions to the ground.

I know you’ll forgive me if my replies are a bit, let’s say, idiosyncratic.

What is your working title of your book? I can’t tell you yet because it’s too far from complete. I usually file my work under the names of the protagonist(s).

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

This is a beautiful, heart-breaking, and ultimately redemptive novel about an Ojibway (Anishnabeg) man’s journey from childhood in the bush to his undoing in residential school, experiences in the Native hockey league and in an NHL farm team, his subsequent alcoholism and recovery.

It is a narrative as familiar as the Cultural Revolution stories among Chinese writers or holocaust stories among Jewish writers, ie an individual exploration of a collective trauma. They are all important, even if not all equally literary. This one is so skilled and honest. I want to say brilliant because it shines: Wagamese’s narrative is one

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: More on Walmart

I dashed off yesterday’s post in haste and want to add a few thoughts. I’m not in favour of an economic model in which cheap prices depress wages (and working conditions), which require cheap prices, reinforcing the cycle. But what I am heartened by is that a subject which only the Canadian publishers, as yet, have been brave enough to fly–dissociative identity disorder and child exploitation, not far-flung, but of the homegrown variety–has been taken up and embraced by ordinary people in ordinary places. And here and now, Walmart is ordinary and ubiquitous. That Walmart featured Web of Angels,

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Bestsellers – in praise of Walmart

Web of Angels is back on the bestseller list! And no small thanks go to…Walmart, which chose this literary novel about a mom with dissociative identity disorder as its featured book for July. In an opportunity to do good and right, Walmart hit it: literature meets mainstream right there.

Bestsellers – Canadian Fiction, August 4, 2012 – The Globe and Mail.

Filed under: Fun, Literary, Personal Tagged: Canadian Literature, Walmart books

A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: ‘Small Damages,’ by Beth Kephart

“Dreamlike” is one word for Beth Kephart’s latest novel, “Small Damages,” in which an American teenager is exiled to Spain after she gets pregnant. Her percolating story emerges through Kep­hart’s lilting prose in that same hazy way you’d meander through the narrow white streets of Seville in the noontime sun or confront the hot, dry winds, redolent of foreign smells and flavors, on a ranch in the Spanish countryside. The reader is lost and found and lost and found again.

via ‘Small Damages,’ by Beth Kephart – NYTimes.com.

I couldn’t be more pleased or agree more completely with every

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Light and Lively Reading?

My new project, which I’m now about 8,000 words into, is something different from anything I’ve done before. It’s a light (and I hope smart) novel. I won’t say anything more about it for now, but I need some book recommendations. I’ve been reading serious literary fiction and my non-fiction has consisted of an immersion in the Stalin era, except for the current book I’m reading, a memoir about a family’s history with depression. It’s time for a change.

I have a craving for some light and lively fiction. By that I don’t necessarily mean genre: I don’t want to

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Simply Reading: Web of Angels | Bookstack

“That must be a heckuva book,” the elderly man said. He stood before me, hand in hand with his lady friend, as they walked the boardwalk on an afternoon constitutional.

“It definitely is,” I answered, emerging from my reverie.

“I bet it’s a love story,” he said with a smile.

“Well, not exactly – not a conventional love story.” I held the book up so he could see the title. “It’s called Web of Angels and the author is Canadian

via Simply Reading: Web of Angels | Bookstack.

Oh, do read the rest by the inimitable Becca at the

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A Novelist's Mind: Lilian Nattel Online: Saving The Children | Tales from the Reading Room

Inside our minds great forces rage and collide and strange convoluted processes are developed in order to avoid internal obstacles and keep the status quo. Former versions of ourselves wander through the inner labyrinth, exerting terrific pressure on our decision making and often dictating reactions in illogical ways. We have this charming, quaint idea that we’re in control of ourselves, but it only takes a little stress, conflict or fear to make a mockery of that. It’s a jungle in there.

Lilian Nattel’s latest novel, Web of Angels, goes further than any novel I think I’ve ever read in dramatising

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