This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.
Today we're launching Devolution, by Kim Goldberg, who Sonnet L'Abbé calls "a climate-voyant, offering visions of time-warped ecologies and malignantly inverted processes of nature."
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
Devolution is a surreal and often absurd look at a world in collapse through poems and fables about ecopocalypse.
Describe your ideal reader.
A person who doesn’t know where the horse is headed, or whether the horse is even constrained by Newtonian physics, but is willing to hang on tight and find out.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with?
This book is in conversation with and inspired by fabulist writing and writers whose narratives are bounded only by imagination, and who recognize that the closer you look, the stranger the world becomes. Works such as Mrozek’s The Elephant, Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, the Strugatsky brothers’ Definitely Maybe, Ciardi’s The Reason for the Pelican, Edson’s The Tunnel, and Schwartz’s Lilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural.
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
Over the ten years I worked on this collection, the collapsing planet was mirrored by my own collapsing health. I discovered that the more dire my own circumstance and the world’s circumstance became, the more bizarre, absurd, and even ridiculous my narratives became. Dark circumstance did not usually translate to dark writing on the page but rather the opposite.
Why opt for surrealism and fabulism in your writing when the Modern Realist tradition is the celebrated model in Canadian literature?
Surrealism and fabulism spur imagination, conceptual thinking, and non-linear models of idea association (e.g., lateral leaps). We need more of all of the above at this time. Those are the processes that will generate solutions, new ways of being. Realist literature is more concerned with emotional engagement and, I would say, emotional manipulation—using narrative and image to construct and execute familiar triggers that will elicit a predictable emotional experience in the reader.
An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.
My mother Shirley Goldberg. Although she passed before this book was even completed, let alone published, she has always been my biggest champion. Her lifelong infinite appetite to see every film ever made, visit every country, sample every cuisine, read and teach every major work of literature from every culture and every epoch—to basically have a love affair with life—has made me who I am and lives on in me in everything I write.
What are you reading right now or next?
Sonnet L’Abbé’s Sonnet’s Shakespeare and Arthur Firstenberg’s The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life.
Devolution is Kim Goldberg's eighth book and her personal act of extinction rebellion. The poems and fables span the Anthropocene, speaking to ecological unraveling, social confusion, private pilgrimage, urbanization and wildness. Using absurdism, surrealism and satire, Goldberg offers up businessmen who loft away as crows, a town that reshapes itself each night, a journey through caves so narrow we must become centipedes to pass. Goldberg's canvas holds both the personal and the political at once, offering rich layers of meaning, but with a playfulness reminiscent of Calvino or Borges. Each imaginative narrative will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down.
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