Kathleen Winter has written dramatic and documentary scripts for Sesame Street and CBC Television. Her first collection of short stories, boYs, was the winner of both the Winterset Award and the 2006 Metcalfe-Rooke Award. Her novel Annabel was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the 2010 Governer General's Awards, the 2011 Orange Prize, and won the Atlantic Fiction Prize. A long-time resident of St. John's, Newfoundland, she now lives in Montreal.
Here are six books that have made me laugh out loud on buses, in the metro, and in public waiting rooms. They are books that have rendered me helpless with teary-eyed mirth; books that have made me snort among strangers:
The Fearsome Particles by Trevor Cole: I found this book so immaculately written, the language so crystalline, that for me it hummed with intelligence and became a sanctuary from the world’s inane moments as I read. I admired Cole’s ability to repeatedly plant in the story a seemingly innocuous seed which grows underground and bursts on the scene later with huge tragicomic implications. There is a wonderful complicity with the reader and I love that feeling of being included in the narrator's beleaguered confidence.
The Orange Fish by Carol Shields: I read this one in an interminable line-up to renew my driver’s license, and I tried most unsuccessfully, over the couple of hours, to suppress my desperate laughter. I had come across the book by some accident and brought it along because it fit in my pocket – I wasn’t a big Shields fan and the book’s wicked hilarity surprised me since I considered her novels a bit humourless.
The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland: What’s not to love about the premise: middle-aged loser Roger and goth girl Bethany suffer a collision of worlds when Bethany finds Roger’s journal at Staples, where they both work. Somehow, in Coupland’s hands, darkness plus desperation equal healing belly laughs.
Eleanor Rigby also by Coupland: I can’t read all Coupland’s work and some of it feels like pure wanking, but I loved this treatise on loneliness and it released a lot of my own solitude and made me feel connected to something, which is what I want out of a book.
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews: I resisted buying this book for a long time because the title didn't sound funny at all. It sounded unwieldy and boring. But when I finally started reading this story of Nomi Nickel's pilgrimage through small-town Mennonite hell, I knew I was in the hands of a writer who would carry me on mercurial wings through heartbreak and irony, with plenty of antisocial snorting.
Bird Eat Bird by Katrina Best: I’m reading this one now: it won the 2011 Commonwealth Prize First Book Canada & Caribbean section, and it’s one of those books that makes me start out guffawing and wiping tears of laughter on the metro but then by the time I’m a bit farther into it I’m falling into a different layer, Alice-like, where things get more profound.
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