Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Alisha Piercy

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The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Alisha Piercy

Irreverent, wonderfully weird and decidedly fresh, Alisha Piercy's Bunny and Shark (BookThug) is a novel that will pull readers with the certainty of a circling shark. The story follows the fate of Bunny, an ex-Playboy, well, bunny, who is pushed off a cliff into the ocean by her husband. If you're intrigued, you can even read an excerpt from Bunny and Shark here on Open Book: Toronto

Today Alisha joins us to take on the The WAR Series: Writers As Readers questionnaire, which gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Read on to hear from Alisha about discovering Patricia Highsmith in Chile, screaming with vindication and the Lisa Robertson line that stuck with her.

The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.

A book that made me cry:
Ann Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband.

The first adult book I read:
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. (Or maybe it was Trinity by Leon Uris.)

A book that made me laugh out loud:
While on a three months stay in Chile I discovered Patricia Highsmith in an eclectic personal library and read everything she ever wrote. Scouring the library, wishing, Oh please, Let there be one more, ….made me giddy.

The books I have re-read many times:
The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (Michael Ondaatje)
The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch)
The first half of Dracula (Bram Stoker). There is no book that charges my imagination, my fears, and the thrill of an otherworld more than the early chapters of Dracula. I’m sure I read the whole thing only once and so I can’t say what it is I like so much less about the second half.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
NW by Zadie Smith.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:
Anything by Anais Nin, but mainly Little Birds. She amplifies the sensual in her characters and ourselves, and the way you see your body and other people’s bodies, changes. I think every young person would do well to develop early on in their teens a heightened relationship to their inner erotic imagination.

I’d also support the revival of a corps of new young diarists.

For both magic and humbling, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice is a young spirit fighting against growing old. My young self should read this too.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:
What I find appealing about Nightwood by Djuna Barnes: the extreme, intelligent vocabulary, the density of thought, the atmospheric décor, because of how convincingly Barnes draws relationship between two unlikely people or between a person and a dog, or a person and a physical space. Her gardens have teeth, they are alive.

And The Notebook by Agota Kristof: for how complexity is conveyed in very few words, for her resistance to trophy-words, for creating meaning through the unexaggerated, and the dispassioned.

The best book I read in the past six months:
The Love Affairs of Nathanial P by Adelle Waldman (made me scream with vindication, I wanted to tattoo lines onto unnamed ex’s bodies; and also reminded me that I, too, can be a relationship-criminal) and Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. (I was overwhelmed by the presence and comfort of a book as my friend, and by that 19th-century feel of being drawn into the haunting of very important person’s narrative by a narrator of far lesser importance.)

The books I plan on reading next:
I’ve been told to brace myself for Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment. In the next years I’d like to read everything by Lydia Davis.

A possible title for my autobiography:
At an after-launch party for Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip Robertson signed my copy with what, late that night, felt portentous or that she’d seen straight into my soul, but turned out to be line from her book:
Elegantly dressed and rifle in hand

Alisha Piercy is a Montreal-based writer, artist, and painting conservator. Studies in literature,art conservation and print media influence her creative practice, which ranges from drawing installations to sculptural bookworks to the writing of novellas. Her work has been exhibited in various galleries in eastern Canada, with international projects in Iceland and Mexico. Her chapbook "You have hair like flags~" won the bpNichol Chapbook Poetry Award in 2010.

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