Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Good to hear writer Evan Munday read on a Tuesday

Tonight, I listened to a writer named Evan Munday read on a Tuesday.

Good. Now that I have the pun out of my system, I will say this in all seriousness -Toronto writer and cartoonist Evan Munday is an incredible pubilc reader. I'm already following his blog  - I don't like Mundays (particularly his year's-best-of-lists) - but to hear him read from his Dead Kids Detective Agency series tonight at Ottawa's ChiSeries was an asbolute joy. 

From doing asides about the Green Hornet character to describing undead kids trying to get the main character, October Schwartz, off a burning ship, he hit the comedic beats repeatedly. And it's a Young Adult series, which makes me guilty of having the sense of humour of a 12 year old.

Munday read from Loyalist to a Fault: The Dead Kids Detective Agency 3 to a crowd of over 40 audience members. His fellow scribes were the very talented Yves Meynard (who has published over 20 novels including Chrysanthe) and Linda Poitevin (the Grigori Legacy series).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Film Review of Adult World: rob mclennan called – He wants his stuff back!

I don’t know if rob mclennan, Ottawa poet, wordsmith and walking-event extraordinaire, has ever befriended Adult World screenwriter Andy Cochran or director Scott Coffey. Because when I saw Adult World, starring John Cusack as curmudgeonly middle-aged poet Rat Billings, I thought that rob might want to make a call to get his winter coat and hat and a few mannerisms back.

As it stands, Adult World is imperfect, mainlly because of the fleshless back stories of interesting minor characters, but it pitches woo nonetheless. Its charmsgreat acting, a moody and humorous soundtrack and a distinct pulse of tribute underlying the storyfar outweigh such flaws. There is something particular and pastichey in the plot that drew me in as well.

Emma Roberts portrays Amy, a struggling young poet, fresh out of Syracuse University. She must, at her parents’ tough-loving insistence, make her own living instead of procuring money from her dad to pay the entry fees for poetry contest after contest. So Amy lands a job at Adult World, where, if the punny title doesn’t tell you already, she learns about being a grown-up, and not just in the Jenna-Jameson-and-Ron-Jeremy milieu. She learns to be a mensch. Amy also attempts to enlist John Cusack’s Rat Billings, her literary idol, as a mentor.

So, it’s a coming-of-age story forgasp!a young woman. In a sense, Adult World is a female-focused version of Say Anything, one of Cusack’s all-time great seminal films about an introverted teen trying to woo his romantic interest (Disclaimer: Along with Heathers and Pump up the Volume, I include Say Anything among my all-time favourite high-school-focused films that made real-life high school endurable.). Thirty years ago, Cusack would have played the quirky, odd, naive character that Amy has adopted. I wonder if she was channelling his quirkiness and antics. I also wonder if Cusack picked up the script because he saw that this was, well, Say Anything with a heroine instead of hero.

The film looks and feels, in its overcast settings, straight-as-an-arrow story arc, and its soundtrack, like an 1980’s flick. Ustate New York is always cloudy, an emerging poet’s ideal grist mill. Dan Boeckner, who used to be with Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, did the entire soundtrack, which is funny and dark and ever-present.

Emma Roberts as Amy and John Cusack as Rat Billings
in a promo shot for Adult World.
Cusack's Billings had much success when he was younger. Now, he may or may not mentor Amy. Cusack is tall like Canadian poet, editor and publisher rob mclennan. Sure, there are differences in hair length and whatnot. But he acts like mclennan. He moves like mclennan. 

However, John Cusack’s character is certainly a grumpier version of mclennan. 
rob mclennan as himself.
mclennan’s free spirited breeziness, fun attitude and rapier wit have always been hallmarks. Like Rat, rob wields discerning (one might even go as far as to say snobby) eye for poetry, too. As for success at an early age, mclennan found poetic success in his twenties. He continues to do so, while illuminating and enriching what would otherwise certainly be a poorer Ottawa (and Can Lit) scene. Billing’s sparse apartment, with its one or two full bookcases, is not mclennan’s. This, my droogs, they got wrong. mclennan’s apartment, whether on Booth St. or Somerset St, was always piled high with books and comic books in every space you could see. And there was no space. There were books, and more books. And in such bookfull, cramped spaces, mclennan steered many an aspring poet toward finding ther voice, including founding the Peter F. Yacht Club and the resulting publication that still publishes today.

Getting back to Adult World, don’t get me started on Emma Roberts. I may not stop.  I have held a great fondness for her, both Roberts' looks and acting ability, ever since seeing her shred up the bloated film Scream 4 along with Neve Campbell, another of my screen darlings. (If I may be so bold and red-bloodied in revealing my predlilections for favourite actors).

I should also note that Amy’s possible love interest, her manager Alex, played by Evan Peters, steals some scenes. He’s funny, quirky and completely impossible not to crush on, whether he's talking art, or porn. Amy muses her way through a piece of erotica, and recalls seeing Alex at work. In a stunning turn of events, the viewer is treated to a shot of the manager up on a ladder, arms up, shirt riding up to reveal a treasure trail down his slim abs. What a singular and refreshing rarity to see this in a film after so many coming-of-age films objectifying women. And this objectification is sweet in its way.

If all this wasn’t enough, there is a superb drag queen character, Rubia, played by Armand Riesco, who is tough-as-nails, a great dancer, and a self-proclaimed diva. Her escapades with Amy include a bicycle chase scene (!) reminiscent of suburban characters also stalking John Cusack in Canadian author Peter Darbyshire’s debut novel Please.

So, this does beg the question... did the screenwriter find inspiration hanging out with rob mclennan and Peter Darbyshire?

And now back to the film and its flaws. Despite Billings' weird resemblance to someone I know, one never really gets to know Billings’ motivations—why he sneers at the young Amy, whether he truly wants to help or hinder her writing career, or why, or what has happened to make him how he is. (Ironically, real-life mclennan is a hootenanny to hang out with, unlike the cynical and somewhat vengeful Billings). One also doesn’t get to know much more about Rubia, save for an allusion to her tragic past.  

Still, Adult World is a satisfying, quiet film. It’s about growing and transforming. Amy must learn to listen, to observe, to notice the wider world around her, outside of her blinkered literary ambitions. As her world view expands, the viewer’s does somewhat as well. 

I suppose, likewise, that it is only fair to add that rob mclennan has been expanding readers' world views of poetry for over two decades. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Town & Train covered in Ottawa South News

There is some fantastic coverage of my novel Town & Train in this week's Ottawa South News. Reporter Erin McCracken asked some insightful questions, for which I thank her.

Local author's supernatural train takes readers on trip into deep, dark secrets

Growing up in a small town, the haunting sound of a late-night train whistle called to James Moran.

Little did he know then that the shrill blasts would continue calling to him over the next 25 years, long after he moved away from Cornwall and eventually settled in Ottawa.

Long having dreamed of becoming a writer, Moran was 17 when he began crafting his first novel, starring a supernatural version of those evening trains.

And the rest of the article is here if you want to read it...

Photo courtesy of Erin McCracken, Ottawa South News.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Successful July 28 Reading at Pittsburgh's Rickert & Beagle Books

Thank you, Chris Rickert of Rickert & Beagle Books, for hosting our July 28 reading. It was a pleasure to meet Kevin M. Hayes​ (officially) and Karen Yun-Lutz​ and a fine venue to read at. 

I read from my debut horror novel, Town & Train. My fine wife Anita Dolman read from her moving sci-fi story, "Pacific Standard", which appears in Triangulations: Lost Voices, an anthology out from Parsec Ink. In her story, she asks 'What would you do if you could hear what the dying thought?'

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Stellar Andrew Pyper interview

I absolutely enjoyed this interview that Piya Chattopadhyay conducted with Andrew Pyper​, Toronto author of The Damned (and six other supernatural/suspense novels) on TVOntario's The Agenda. It was a joy to see both the journalist and author at the top of their games. In particular, what Pyper said about horror fiction being less constrained than literary fiction, and just as valuable, was especially salient. This is exactly what Ray Bradbury was getting at in Bradbury's day. Kudos to Andrew for being so articulate. Read more about Andrew Pyper at his website - here.