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Fiction Literary

I, Bartleby

by (author) Meredith Quartermain

Publisher
Constellation
Initial publish date
May 2015
Category
Literary
  • eBook

    ISBN
    9780889229198
    Publish Date
    May 2015
    List Price
    $14.95
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780889229181
    Publish Date
    Apr 2015
    List Price
    $14.95

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Description

In these quirkily imaginative short stories about writing and writers, the scrivener Quartermain (our “Bartleby”) goes her stubborn way haunted by Pauline Johnson, Malcolm Lowry, Robin Blaser, Daphne Marlatt, and a host of other literary forebears. Who is writing whom, these stories ask in their musing reflections – the writer or the written? The thinker or the alphabet? The calligrapher or the pictograms hidden in her Chinese written characters?

Intimate jealousies between writers, wagers of courage and ambition, and histories of the colours violet and yellow are some of the subjects in the first section, “Caravan.” Struggles of mothers, fathers, and sisters (and the figures drawn in the Chinese written characters that represent them) unfold as tales of love, death, and revenge in the group of stories in the second section, “Orientalisme.” In “Scriptorium,” the third section, we find out how Bartleby’s father, a Caucasian cook specializing in Chinese cuisine, got Bartleby into writing in the first place. In the fourth series of stories, “How to Write,” we learn how Bartleby loses her I while meeting Allen Ginsberg, Alice Toklas, and a real Chinese cook who works in a fictional house of Ethel Wilson, and how Malcolm Lowry’s life came to an end. The fifth and last section, “Moccasin Box,” investigates how a Sebaldesque Bartleby is silenced by Pauline Johnson.

Taking its cue from genre-bending writers like Robert Walser and Enrique Vila-Matas, I, Bartleby cunningly challenges boundaries between fiction and reality.

About the author

Meredith Quartermain is a poet and novelist living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her first book of poetry, Vancouver Walking, won a BC Book Award for poetry; Recipes from The Red Planet was a finalist for a BC Book Award for fiction; and Nightmarker was a finalist for a Vancouver Book Award. A novel called Rupert's Land was released by NeWest Press in Fall 2013. She has since published a collection of stories entitled I, Bartleby, in 2015, and a novel, U Girl, in 2016. She is also cofounder of Nomados Literary Publishers, who have brought out more than 45 chapbooks of innovative Canadian and US writing since 2002. From 2014 to 2016, she was Poetry Mentor in the SFU Writer's Studio Program, and she has enjoyed leading workshops at the Kootenay School of Writing, The Toronto New School of Writing and Naropa University. In Spring 2020, her latest collection of poems, Lullabies in the Real World, will be released as a part of the Crow Said Poetry Series.

Meredith Quartermain's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Nothing short of brilliance … I, Bartleby is an astonishingly sophisticated collection demonstrating a poetic spirit whose quality of writing is surpassed only by the breadth and depth of its reading. Quartermain, like all great poets, breaks language, cleansing the font of its impurities by burning off any threadbare cliché or tired usage …” —Canadian Literature

“Meredith Quartermain continues to extend her impressive exploration into poet’s prose and the ‘fictive certaintie’ of an alternate imaginary. What I love about these prose feints at their various subjects is that genre is impossible to pin down – prose poems? Essays? Fictions? Memoir? Like Borges, it’s impossible to tell and beside the point. What we encounter is unmistakably thinking – in, through, and at times it even seems by language, from which the authorial Bartlebys have excused themselves. This is masterful writing about writing and difference – with a difference – where we ‘swim among the constitution of words,’ place, and memory.”
– Stephen Collis

“…the kind of book some readers undoubtedly could find disorienting in its initial reluctance to provide those markers we most associate with ‘short stories.’ By the end, however, the book has made its own alternative, less commonplace strategies sufficiently recognizable that going back to the beginning and re-reading, especially given the book’s relative brevity (118 pages), can be a highly rewarding experience, as Quartermain’s achievement becomes more distinctly visible.”
– Full Stop

Other titles by Meredith Quartermain