Carellin Brooks is the author of One Hundred Days of Rain. Mourning her recent disastrous breakup, its narrator must rebuild a life from the bottom up. As she wakes each day to encounter Vancouver's sky and city streets, the narrator notices that the rain, so apparently unchanging, is in fact kaleidoscopic. Her melancholic mood alike undergoes subtle variations that sometimes echo, sometimes contrast with her surroundings. Caught between the two poles of weather and mood, the narrator is not alone: whether riding the bus with her small child, searching for an apartment to rent, or merely calculating out the cost of meager lunches, the world forever intrudes, as both a comfort and a torment.
Lots of writers like to live in the now. Their characters drink green smoothies and go to Pilates. When I began writing my latest novel, One Hundred Days of Rain, I didn’t exactly strive for the opposite, but I did find some old skool language, to use the technical term, creeping in. I’m still not sure why: because rain feels so, well, 19-century in terms of its unavoidability? Because we haven’t entirely conquered weather? All I know is what I saw taking shape on my screen: characters wearing homburgs (a hat type my copy editor suggested, to my delight, was rather too obscure), British-sounding “tyres” instead of tires. Why’d I do it? I still don’t know. But I do know I’m in good company, as the list below makes clear.
And by the way, my characters drink the smoothies and go to the classes too. In case you were wondering.
The Age of Cities, by Brett Josef Grubisic
Grubisic’s lovely debut, a purportedly discovered manuscript by a 1950s small-town male librarian who still lives with his mother, uses the dialect of the time to create a letter-perfect repressed world…particularly apt since the topic is repressed homosexuality.
Novelists, by C.P. Boyko
Writers love to read books about themselves…the trouble is we aren’t that interesting. To counter this flaw, Boyko’s omniscient narrator occasionally casually address the reader—so nineteenth century, darling—while his charming characters putter about with bits of paper, oblivious anachronisms. Wait… is that us?
What Species of Creature: Animal Relations from the New World, by Sharon Kirsch
Kirsch’s fascinating narrative of the animals Europeans encountered when they arrived in North America weaves together a mesmerizing tapestry of original voices, animal point-of-view, puckish observation and fabulous flights of fancy prose. "They established a bounty," she writes of settlers’ attempts to decimate red fox populations, "a thought both wicked and sumptuous." Wicked and sumptuous—like this book.
The Winter Gardeners, by Dennis Denisoff
Long afternoons in the garden broken only by… completely composed trains of thought, lyrical flights of fancy, and partially veiled gay longing. What, again? If you really, really, must read the unholy union of an Agatha Christie country-house mystery and a turn of the 19th century aesthete’s diary, Denisoff’s your man.
An English Gentleman, by Sky Gilbert
This faux-academic whodunit doesn’t actually make too much use of old-tymey phrasing, except in the outrageously double-entendred letters purportedly exchanged between JM Barrie, he of Peter Pan fame, and his beloved adopted son. If you’re asking exactly how beloved, you’re already halfway there. The novel won the Relit Award in 2005.
Carellin Brooks’ latest novel, 100 Days of Rain, was published by BookThug in March. She has previously written Fresh Hell: Motherhood in Pieces, Wreck Beach, and Every Inch a Woman. She has edited two publications, Bad Jobs and Carnal Nation.
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