Art Critic and Writer David Balzer believes everything needs to be made just a little bit strange.

Contrivances, by David Balzer. (Cover art: Janet Werner)

Art critic David Balzer is the author of Contrivances, a debut short story collection available through ECW's digital imprint Joyland.

The collection features a talk-show host and her talking hand, a women’s activity group that writes to prisoners, and a poncho-making nudist. The stories take inspiration from Old Hollywood, Gothic novels, art-world gossip, and "maybe a Lifetime movie or two."

Read an excerpt here.

I met last week with Balzer (@davidkbalzer) in the basement of Type Books to record a podcast I truly hope you enjoy. Balzer is an informed and eloquent speaker with a strong opinion on the nature and function of prose. He's also quite forthcoming about where he sees his place within contemporary fiction, as well as how and why he chose to write the entire collection from the perspective of women.

In this podcast (duration: 20:15), we discuss :

  • how Balzer's career as an art critic informs his prose—"You're hoping for something to be good and looking for why it means something and how it works."
  • how our culture reads acts of analysis as "acts of destruction and dissection rather than acts of curiosity and often enthusiasm and optimism."
  • the distinction between camp and melodrama—"Everything needs to be made just a little bit strange."
  • how writing satisfies his impulse to confront a personal "flaw" in which he sees life as art—"People are just people; we're just here."
  • where cinema and prose intersect, and part ways—"In prose, you can get a more accurate sense of how people ask questions . . . It becomes about the impression of precision. Our minds do that same thing, the impression of precision as we reconsider and reconsider . . . even though there's so much specificity in the psyche, the Ego, there's so much else."
David Balzer, author of Contrivances. (Photo credit: Jim Verburg)

David Balzer was born a fraternal twin to a Mennonite family in north Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He studied English literature at the University of Manitoba and, then, at McGill University in Montreal, where he received his MA.

He currently resides in Toronto, where he makes a living as a critic, editor and teacher.

He is a two-time National Magazine Award–winner and a co-founder of the Toronto Alliance of Art Critics. Contrivances is his book first book.

He is currently working on a novel.

June 20, 2012
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