Red Letter Day is the 49th Shelf series where Canadian authors tell me about a dream day where all pleasures are possible, thanks to a combination of extraordinary talent and mad cash.
Here is the premise: It’s been a good year. Things are looking up. You’ve sold your book, some lucrative foreign rights, and won a few prizes. AND it’s your birthday. It’s time to treat yourself. For once, money is no object. It’s time to go live a little.
And so ...
GM: You walk (or fly!) to your favourite bookstore (KK: Type in Toronto) and browse the shelves for three books you’ve been meaning to buy. What are they?
KK: Disclaimer: I did just buy all these books but I didn’t buy them at Type. I will have to go there soon and make up for the egregious lie. The thing is I basically never “mean to buy” a book if I can help it. I just go and buy it. I have no restraint.
GM: Then you see a struggling student scanning the shelves of the Canadian Literature section. You decide to “pay it forward” and buy three must-read books by Canadian authors to leave anonymously at the counter for the student. What are they?
- The Book of Eve, by Constance Beresford-Howe
- Bear, by Marian Engel
- Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje
GM: You’re a little bushed from all that buying and being considerate. So you’re going to go home, flake out on the couch for a while, and do something to celebrate the birthday. What is it?
KK: Stare into space and let my mind wander. I have so little time these days for that and I crave that activity. Just thinking. That’s all—thinking, with no outcome.
GM: Now you’re going to fly ten friends into town and take them out for dinner somewhere special. Where are you going to go? Why?
KK: Ten friends? All at once? Are you kidding me? The only way that would work would be to take them to my house and order in.
I’d get take-out from Curry Twist and we’d either sit out back around the new outdoor fire pit or inside by the fire and basically we would laugh and laugh. Why? Because I don’t laugh nearly often enough and I love love love to laugh.
GM: At dinner, that good old question comes up: what would you be if you weren’t a writer?
KK: I would be a bitter academic or a Lacanian psychoanalyst by day and a clown by night.
GM: Then they ask you about your latest book. What do you say? How do you describe it in two sentences?
KK: I would say, “So far it’s about a woman with stigmata and a Canadian soldier in the American Civil War. It takes place in different epochs.”
GM: Finally, because you’re the sort of person who puts aside 10% of your income for charity, you decide to spend make a charitable donation. To whom?
KK: So, I get up from a raucous dinner party with my ten besties and go donate? Okay, I think I just call up MSF and raise my monthly donation. But I have to say, that’s a bit of a party downer. Hopefully someone is on hand to make a snide comment and get us laughing again.
GM: That night you head to bed a contented person. Only one thing remains: deciding which of your new books you’ll read first until you fall asleep.
KK: I would read a little from each.
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is the author of the Globe and Mail bestselling novel All The Broken Things. Her other work includes the novels Perfecting and The Nettle Spinner and the short fiction collection Way Up. Her short fiction has appeared in Granta Magazine, The Walrus, Storyville, Significant Objects, Riddlefence, The Letters Page, and Numéro Cinq. Kathryn has taught creative writing and mentored students through The New York Times Knowledge Network, The University of Toronto School for Continuing Studies and The University of Guelph’s MFA in Creative Writing. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Literature at the University of Toronto.
*See other authors' Red Letter Days, including Eliza Robertson, Jon Paul Fiorentino, and Stephanie Domet.
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