It is the spring of 1963. The young Quebec author Marie-Claire Blais, bursting with energy and talent, has just won a coveted Guggenheim fellowship. She chooses Cambridge, Massachusetts, as the place where she will begin her writer’s apprenticeship with her mentor, Edmund Wilson.
American Notebooks is much more than a fascinating autobiographical account of the intellectual flowering of a great writer. An album of exquisitely drawn literary portraits of companions, intellectuals, writers, musicians, artists and social activists of the period—Edmund and Elena Wilson; Mary Meigs; Maud Maugan; Barbara Deming; Truman Capote; Jacques Hébert, her first Quebec publisher, then senator; and many others—it also introduces many of the real life personalities who have inspired her fictional characters.
About the authors
Marie-Claire Blais is a defining figure in Canada&146;s literary landscape, with over 30 books to her credit, including La Belle Bete (Mad Shadows), published when she was twenty, Une Saison dans la vie d'Emmanuel (A Season in the Life of Emmanuel), which is now taught regularly in university and college courses, and Soifs (These Festive Nights), which won the Governor General's Award in 1996.
Linda Gaboriau is a dramaturge and literary translator renowned for her translations of some 100 plays and novels by some of Quebec's most prominent writers, including many of the Quebec plays best known to English Canadian audiences. After studying French language and literature at McGill University, she freelanced as a journalist for the CBC and the Montreal Gazette. She has worked in Canadian and Québécois theatre and is founding director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre, where she directed numerous translation residencies and international exchange projects. Her third translation of a Wajdi Mouawad play Forests in 2010 won her a second Governor General's Literary Award for translation. Originally from Boston, Linda Gaboriau has been based in Montreal since 1963. David Homel is a writer, journalist, filmmaker, and translator. He is the author of five previous novels, including The Speaking Cure, which won the J.I. Segal Award of the Jewish Public Library, and the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Best Fiction from the Quebec Writer's Federation. He has also written two children's books, including Travels with my Family, which was co-authored with his wife, Canadian children's author Marie-Louise Gay. He has translated several French works, receiving two Governor General's Literary Awards for translation. Homel was born and raised in Chicago and currently resides in Montreal.Maureen Labonté is a dramaturge, translator and teacher. She has also coordinated a number of play-development programs in theatres and playwrights' centres across the country. In 2006, she was named head of program for the Banff playRites Colony at The Banff Centre. She was dramaturge at the Colony from 2003-2005. She was also literary manager in charge of play development at the Shaw Festival from 2002-2004. Previous to that, she worked at the National Theatre School of Canada (NTSC), first developing and running a pilot directing program and then coordinating the playwrighting program and playwrights' residency. She still teaches at NTSC. She has translated more than thirty Quebec plays into English. Recent translations include: The Bookshop by Marie-Josée Bastien, Everybody's WELLES pour tous by Patrice Dubois, Martin Labreque and The Tailor's Will by Michel Ouellette, Wigwam by Jean-Frédéric Messier and Bienvenue à (une ville dont vous êtes le touriste) by Olivier Choinière.
I picked this up by chance, not having it on any list to get to one day -- but ended up reading it bit by bit during lunch breaks and spare moments. It kept me interested over a long while, as I read each short essay and then pondered it until I found time for the next. It seemed to capture a certain era, a particular style of artistic life, that I felt close to while I spent time with this book. It was an interesting and unexpected effect, and I'm always pleased when I'm surprised by my reading.
– the indextrious reader