Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Revenge in the City

High-rises, a terrazzo and The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn

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The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn by Sea Dixon

Ugh. I just stepped out the door of my building to the missing sidewalk. Earlier in the week, I watched as temporary fencing made its way down my block on Dundas West, and I hoped for the best. The worst part of it all is that in the process of demolishing the sidewalk, my original 1930s terrazzo out front of Zoots got totally damaged.

I just put down Sean Dixon’s new book, The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn, and could not help to feel like Nancy, one of the main characters, who always sees a battle between the delicate old structures of the city — some of which are unearthed like strange dinosaur bones in the excavation holes made for new high-rises — and the progression of the new, the concrete that is starting to consume the architectural history of Toronto. The terrazzo quickly became a parable of this. I had lovingly taken care of it, along with some of its tiny flaws, for having endured the city’s hardships since the '30s. I polished it, swept away the city debris and, on occasion, simply looked down at it in admiration. Now, with chunks falling off the front and two giant fissures running into to the star motif at its center, I almost felt like crying — or seeking revenge. Well, not really, not like Nancy, who even after her death in a subway accident continued with her disjointed plans to get the man, or at least the Yorks, who planned giant developments from their office in the Mies building — well at least did until... wait I don’t want to ruin the book if you haven’t read it.

As I look down at my damaged storefront, I sort of do feel a city a bit divided. I think of the Trump Tower being erected, the new Shangri-La, the immense development happening and little old me trying to save a tiny bit of history in my city. I think of all the challenges there are to preserving and creating culture here in Toronto and can’t help but feel a little defeated. I feel like taking the chunks of terrazzo falling off my façade and heading out to Guildwood Park to create an inukshuk in their honor or going and living in a drainpipe off the Humber for a few months to see if I can resolve to have a laugh again in this wild and essentially wonderful place called Toronto.


I just spent the afternoon hanging out on Kensington Street, smack dab in the middle of the setting of Dixon’s book, and delighted in all of the references to the characters and colorful establishments that make up the market. I tried to imagine a Toronto without Kensington and couldn’t even begin to fathom it. I walked by the Last Temptation and saw the upscale boutique that it transformed into in the book. I tried to imagine condo blocks and fancy street posts. Fake cobblestone roads. It was pretty surreal and uncomfortable for me to imagine that.

I think for everyone, Kensington Market has such a huge place in the narrative of the city — I know for me it weaves in through my teenage years, coming up from Windsor and Detroit to see bands, hanging out with the Goofs, popping into Courage My Love or the original Pineapple Room, sitting on the corner of Baldwin and Augusta having coffee. It is where I began my retail businesses. For the last 11 years I have woven my bicycle through the chaotic streets for fruit, mole and tortillas, old dresses and haircuts. I suppose it means a lot to me. The Market takes on a character of its own in Dixon’s book — it lives and breathes as a giant living organism wherein the main characters live through a mystery, a murder and a drama. I myself wonder how many of those narratives run through the Market right now as I unpack my groceries I have purchased in Kensington to make fish tacos.

Dixon has done an amazing job of making me think about Toronto and my particular feelings about living in this city. Lately, it has been a bit frustrating, a little tougher. Perhaps it is because I have more at stake now, I am not sure, but I feel kindred with the ghost of Nancy sitting atop a crane seeking revenge. I wonder if I call Rob Ford if he will come down and feel sad with me about the old store façade? I mean, at least in Dixon’s book friends become enemies and enemies become friends, right? I feel the piece of broken terrazzo in my hand and a heavy heart. I’m not sure. But I am glad that Dixon has put some of the complexities residing here in Toronto into words for me to read; I feel kindred to the words written in his book. They lift me up higher than the highest high-rise.

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Melanie Janisse is a native of Windsor, Ontario where she retains memories of old docks jutting out into the Detroit River and the smell of hops. Melanie began her education by leaving home early and wandering around the abandoned houses of inner city Detroit, and then the intense forests of the Canadian West Coast. Formally she holds degrees form Concordia University in Communications and Literature and from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Photography. Melanie has resided in Toronto for the past nine years, keeping active as a visual artist, poet, designer and shop owner. Her work has appeared in Luft Gallery, Common Ground Gallery, Artcite Gallery, Dojo Magazine, Pontiac Quarterly, The Scream Literary Festival, The Southernmost Review, The Northernmost Review and The Windsor Review. Her first poetry book, Orioles in the Oranges (Guernica Editions), tells the tale of on old Metis legend, allowing it to dovetail with Detroit's gritty modernity in an unforgettable series of prose poems. Melanie is happy to be a part of Open Book: Toronto ruminating about books and book-like things around Toronto.

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