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 The End of Me, by John Gould, of which Bill Gaston writes, "John Gould's skill with the short form is miraculous in the way of bonsai, the grand made to bloom within the small. And who knew death could be so wise, invigorating, playful—so richly alive?"
The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.
A collection of 56 sudden stories—funny, sad, absurd—about mortality.
Describe your ideal reader.
Likes to wonder more than assert, and to inhabit different points of view. Gets high on sentences, and on ideas as they incarnate in characters’ predicaments. Seriously laughs.
What authors/books is your work in conversation with?
What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?
There’s something astronomers call “dark matter,” which dominates the workings of the universe without our being able to apprehend it. Is death something like that? It continues to confound.
One of the little quotations in the front of your book, the one from Simone Weil, goes, “There is absolutely no other free act granted to us, only the destruction of the ‘I.’” What does that mean to you, and how does it illuminate what you’re trying to do in this book?
Hm, tough one. Is it cheating to reply with another quotation, one that doesn’t appear in the book? From a very different tradition, Dogen: “To study oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to be awakened by all things.”
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.
Being present at the death of loved ones is an experience that has informed this work, and has served as a kind of support. I feel gratitude when I contemplate those intimate moments in my life, as well as sorrow and dismay.
What are you reading right now or next?
I’m reading Fifteen Dogs, by André Alexis. Terrific. I’m excited to get to recent books from three writers who were students when I had the good fortune to teach in the writing department at the University of Victoria: Disfigured, by Amanda Leduc, Cult Life, by Kyeren Regehr, and The Birth Yard, by Mallory Tater.
The End of Me is an astonishing set of sudden stories about the experience of mortality. With an ear attuned to the uncanny and the ironic, John Gould catches his characters at moments of illumination as they encounter the mystery of their finite being. A marooned astronaut bonds with a bereft cat; kids pelt a funeral procession with plums; a young girl ponders the brief brutality of her last life, and braces herself for the next one.
Rife with invention, with fresh ideas and arresting voices, this collection of flash fiction shimmers with compassion and vitality.
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