About the Author

Aritha Van Herk

Aritha van Herk teaches Creative Writing, Canadian Literature and Contemporary Narrative. Her novels include Judith, The Tent Peg, No Fixed Address (nominated for the Governor General's Award for fiction), Places Far From Ellesmere (a geografictione) and Restlessness. Her critical works, A Frozen Tongue (ficto-criticism) and In Visible Ink (crypto-frictions) stretch the boundaries of the essay and interrogate questions of reading and writing as aspects of narrative subversion. With Mavericks: an Incorrigible History of Alberta (winner of the Grant MacEwan Author's Award) van Herk ventured into new territory, transforming history into a narratological spectacle. That book frames the new permanent exhibition that opened at the Glenbow Museum in 2007. van Herk is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and is active in Canada's literary and cultural life, writing articles and reviews as well as creative work. She has served on many juries, including the Governor General's Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. She is well known in the broader community of the city, the province, and the country as a writer and a public intellectual.

Books by this Author
In This Place

In This Place

Calgary 2004-2011
edition:Paperback
tagged : regional
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In Visible Ink

In Visible Ink

Crypto-Fictions
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Mavericks

Mavericks

An Incorrigible History Of Alberta
edition:Paperback
tagged :
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Stampede and the Westness of West
Excerpt

The dreaming

On the pages of winter, horses gallop through the darkness that is our heirloom, here on the grasslands bent and whispering under the hibernating season. Invisible, those ghost hooves raise the dust of summer, the sweetness of heat while thunderclouds stockpile the fervor of broil. A snowstorm tempts us to remember July, its sweltering grandstand thick with beer and cotton candy, blurred clamor of the announcer through a babel sound system, the cries of hucksters, the stripe of fireworks. Stampede coming. A certain anniversary that will arrive despite resistance or annoyance, despite the strange thrum of “until.” Not tomorrow, but always in the seventh month, the off-centre pivot of the year turning on its axis, saturnalia biding its time. Who counts the days to Stampede? Caterers, accountants, special events coordinators, straw bales, beer bottles, window painters. And who leaves town? The curled lip, the shoulder-shrug dismissing this déclassé debauch, this faux fiesta, with its ragbag history and bricolage of excess. The sniffy contempt: primitive. As if that were an insult. Some say you’re not a true Calgarian until you leave town to avoid the Stampede. Let’s admit it. Joy gets no respect. Popular jubilation and unfettered diversion are suspect, not to be trusted. Never indulge the instability of the mob, its desire to kick the traces, massing the streets in that social deformity known as fun. Am I trapped in a synthetic documentary? Do I breathe a brief trace of what Stampede might have been or what we will remember tomorrow? Am I artist or patron? Or just someone practising disguise? Is this the west then, legend or performance, the old west, the new west, the wild west, the faint west, the dusty west, the wicked west, the uncultivated west, the dishevelled west, the tempestuous west, the unkempt west, the turbulent west, the tousled west, the complaining west, the anarchic west, the restless west, windswept, rumpled and unironed and messy, its depiction as wildly unpredictable as its chaotic generation, a shambles and a jumble and a pandemonium of hope. Stampede or else.

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Prairie Gothic

Prairie Gothic

Photographs by George Webber
photographs by George Webber
text by Aritha Van Herk
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
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Bear

Bear

edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback Paperback
tagged : literary
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Excerpt

1
 
 
In the winter, she lived like a mole, buried deep in her office, digging among maps and manuscripts. She lived close to her work and shopped on the way between her apartment and the Institute, scurrying hastily through the tube of winter from refuge to refuge, wasting no time. She did not like cold air on her skin.
 
Her basement room at the Institute was close to the steam pipes and protectively lined with books, wooden filing cabinets and very old, brown, framed photographs of unlikely people: General Booth and somebody's Grandma Town, France from the air in 1915, groups of athletes and sappers; things people brought her because she would not throw them out, because it was her job to keep them.
 
"Don't throw it out," people said. "Lug it all down to the Historical Institute. They might want it. He might have been more of a somebody than we thought, even if he did drink." So she had retrieved from their generosity a Christmas card from the trenches with a celluloid boot on it, a parchment poem to Chingacousy Township graced with a wreath of human hair, a signed photograph of the founder of a seed company long ago absorbed by a competitor. Trivia which she used to remind herself that long ago the outside world had existed, that there was more to today than yesterday with its yellowing paper and browning ink and maps that tended to shatter when they were unfolded.
 
Yet, when the weather turned and the sun filtered into even her basement windows, when the sunbeams were laden with spring dust and the old tin ashtrays began to stink of a winter of nicotine and contemplation, the flaws in her plodding private world were made public, even to her, for although she loved old shabby things, things that had already been loved and suffered, objects with a past, when she saw that her arms were slug- pale and her fingerprints grained with old, old ink, that the detritus with which she bedizened her bulletin boards was curled and valueless, when she found that her eyes would no longer focus in the light, she was always ashamed, for the image of the Good Life long ago stamped on her soul was quite different from this, and she suffered in contrast.
 
This year, however, she was due to escape the shaming moment of realization. The mole would not be forced to admit that it had been intended for an antelope. The Director found her among her files and rolled maps and, standing solemnly under a row of family portraits donated to the Institute on the grounds that it would be impious to hang them, as was then fashionable, in the bathroom, announced that the Cary estate had at last been settled in favour of the Institute.
 
He looked at her, she looked at him: it had happened. For once, instead of Sunday school attendance certificates, old emigration documents, envelopes of unidentified farmers' Sunday photographs and withered love letters, something of real value had been left them.
 
"You'd better get packing, Lou," he said, "and go up and do a job on it. The change will do you good."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Writing the Terrain

Writing the Terrain

Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets
contributions by Karen Solie; Rosalee van Stelten; Joseph Pivato; Charles Noble; Stacie Wolfer; William Latta; Christopher Wiseman; Cyril Dabydeen; Yvonne Trainer; Robert Boates; Monty Reid; John O. Thompson; Alexa DeWiel; Tom Howe; Leslie Greentree; John O. Barton; Tammy Armstrong; Doug Beardsley; Laurence Hutchman; Murdoch Burnett; Stephen Scobie; Aleksei Kazuk; Colleen Thibadeau; Colin Morton; Sid Marty; Greg Simison; Nancy Holmes; Vivian Hansen; Walter Hildebrandt; P.K. Page; Richard Woollatt; Gail Ghai; Kim Maltman; Joan Shillington; Ian Adam; Wilfred Watson; Michael Cullen; Robert Hilles; Erin Michie; Deborah Miller; Jan Boydol; Robert Kroetsch; Miriam Waddington; Jon Whyte; Leonard Cohen; r. rickey; Tim Bowling; Ivan Sundal; Phyllis Webb; Weyman Chan; Bruce Hunter; Ryan Fitzpatrick; D.C. Reid; Cecelia Frey; Sally Ito; Bonnie Bishop; Robert Stamp; Deborah Godin; Margaret Avison; Joan Crate; Rajinderpal Pal; Miriam Mandel; James M. Moir; Anne Swannell; Tim Lilburn; Pauline Johnson; Lorne Daniel; James Wreford Watson; Erín Moure; Ruth Roach Pierson; Stephan Stephansson; Aritha Van Herk; Fiona Lam; Jan Zwicky; James M. Thurgood; Roberta Rees; E.D. Blodgett; Gordon Burles; Eva Tihanyi; Carol Ann Sokoloff; Jim Green; Dennis Cooley; Christine Wiesenthal; Vanna Tessier; Douglas Barbour; Richard Hornsey; Ken Rivard; George Bowering; Aislinn Hunter; Anne Campbell; Tom Wayman; Peter Stevens; Anna Mioduchowska; David McFadden; Gary Geddes; Rita Wong; Barry McKinnon; Tom Henihan; Michael Henry; Alice Major; Allan Serafino; Gerald Hill; Jason Dewinetz & Sheri-D Wilson
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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