Emily Anglin: "I like compartments in my writing"

"Reading Emily Anglin's The Third Person is like watching the opening sequence of Hitchcock's Rear Window," writes Johanna Skibsrud. "As a character in one of the stories tells us, everyone has 'public, private and secret lives.' Anglin gives us access to all of these lives—offering a unique perspective that combines both the intimacy of the first person and the sweeping distance of the third."

Here Anglin offers up titles that provided structural inspiration. 

*****

I like compartments in my writing, whether thematic or formal. For that reason, I love the gothic mode in fiction, with its foregrounding of place and space as a way of telling separate, interconnected stories at the same time, and I also love the essay form, especially when it’s combined with other modes of writing to create layers and compartments of form, meaning, and feeling. 

*

Mad Shadows, by Marie-Claire Blais (trans. Lawrence Merloyd) 

The seminal Canadian gothic novel plunges deep below painted surfaces even as its images and voices float like watercolours. The interplay between the depravity of the book’s relationships and characters and Blais’ lucid tone make the book as arresting as it is dream-like. 

Book Cover Eros the Bittersweet

Eros the Bittersweet, by Anne Carson

Carson’s book of linked essays on love includes her discussion of the triangulation of desire. Offering the same perceptive angles and disorienting connections of Carson’s poetry, the book puts intellectual form around a set of experiences most of us know mostly through feeling. 

Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson

A psychological thriller and coming-of-age story that transcends both of these categories, this novel’s treatment of place, trauma, and personal and collective relationships to both creates an intricate, multilayered meditation on loss and survival. Robinson’s masterful hold on her reader through suspense and often breathtaking observation is underpinned by her luminous evocations of the landscapes and characters depicted. 

*

Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays from Everyday Life, by Erin Wunker

A crucial voice in contemporary Canadian Literature, Wunker offers a critical intersectional approach to “interrupting the patriarchal norms that pass as joys.” The cornerstone of the book’s character is embedded in its subtitle—“Essays from everyday life”: the book fuses the academic with the personal, and the experiential with the critical, to forge a timely and vital contribution. 

*

Men in the Off Hours, Anne Carson 

“Crossouts sustain me now,” Carson writes in the final piece of this collection, an essay on her mother’s death. Assembling images and vignettes evoking what’s lost or suppressed, like a blue cardigan hanging on the back of a chair, or the slow realization of silent desire, this mixed-genre book deploys Carson’s characteristic juxtapositions to create space for what’s crossed out, in writing and in life. 

The Polished Hoe, by Austin Clarke

Clarke’s deftly constructed mystery hinges on a confession offered by Mary, a character of many identities in a novel of many competing narratives. This story unfolds in a house whose rooms, like the novel, hold disturbing histories within a narrative that blurs boundaries between historical, systemic, and personal forms of violence.

*

About The Third Person: 

Two's company, three's a crowd—and sometimes it's more than that. In The Third Person, a collection of uncanny short stories by Emily Anglin, a sequence of tense professional and personal negotiations between two people is complicated when a third person arrives. Within these triangulated microworlds, disorienting gaps open up between words and reality: employees dissolve from job titles, neighbours overstep comfortable boundaries, voices distanced by space or time make their presence felt. Uneasiness builds among these separate but entangled lives. 

Anglin's darkly humorous stories contemplate situations in which characters refashion themselves to fit a new competitive milieu. The Third Person reveals how people can become complicit in these milieus, even desire them, often while being led into the loneliness they can instil.

May 24, 2018
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