Winnipeg Free Press weighs in on “This is All a Lie”

 

Good morning! This lovely review appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on the weekend. I am grateful. I am grateful the book was reviewed and that there are still newspapers who believe books are important. This comes on the heels of the announcement that The Winnipeg Review is now done. This beautiful, articulate and clever on-line review has called it quits. The quality of the writing was so consistently high, and the reviewers, editors, publisher so consistently underpaid, it could no longer continue. I was a proud occasional contributor — and listed as a ‘contributing editor.’ I am truly sorry to see it go. RIP Winnipeg Review.

Trofimuk’s lying trio truthfully terrific

Reviewed by: Dave Williamson
Posted: 11/4/2017

Edmontonian Thomas Trofimuk’s delightfully inventive and provocative new book toys with the traditional novel format while showing what a major role lying can play in everyday life.

The main storyline deals with a lover’s triangle, beautifully fleshing out the formula offered in the opening line of John Updike’s short story Problems: “During the night, A, though sleeping with B, dreams of C.”

Trofimuk’s novel features three fully realized characters: Ray, a married lawyer who has left the legal profession to indulge his love of trees and become an arborist; Tulah, Ray’s wife, a teacher who has a fascination with snow; and Nancy, a hot-blooded Russian woman.

Ray and Tulah’s marriage has reached a stage where it lacks passion; indeed, their lives consist mainly of working and looking after their two young daughters. While Ray seems content without intimacy at home, he craves it with someone new, and Nancy welcomes the chance to satisfy him. At the same time, both Tulah and Nancy take part in dalliances with other men, meaning all three must rely on lies to function.

Early in the novel, Ray leaves Nancy’s apartment, believing their affair may be over. She looks down from her 39th-floor balcony at Ray getting into his car, and she talks to him by phone, threatening to jump. He could drive away. “He places his hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel and squeezes. But callous is not who he is. Self-centred, shallow, unfaithful and lying, but not callous.” He stays at his car, talking her through many moods, but the novel’s playful narrator keeps switching to flashbacks and digressions, leaving Ray and Nancy on the phone for nearly five hours and most of the book.

At school, Tulah finds herself being challenged by a student’s mother for not teaching the biblical creation story in science class. Tulah’s stand, in the context of this novel, suggests that all religions are based on lies.

While this may reflect a sombre tone, Trofimuk offers much to laugh and smile about. In one scene, Ray follows Tulah into a department store’s lingerie section and notices a bin of umbrellas next to a table of panties. In the spirit of this odd juxtaposition, Ray and Tulah each takes an umbrella and they start a sword fight.

From the start, Trofimuk steps out from backstage like a post-modernist from the 1980s. He points out that he has reversed the sequence of Prologue, chapters, Epilogue, “A Note on the Font” and Acknowledgments. He has numbered the pages backwards, which makes sense to any avid reader who likes to know how many pages are left.

His “Note on the Font” explains that the text is set in the Garamond typeface, created by Claude Garamond in the 16th century. The story of Garamond becomes a funny historical subplot with a final twist that is — of course — precipitated by a lie.

And there are other humorous threads, like the tendency of the Vikings to be personally filthy.

Trofimuk, author of such other works as The 52nd Poem and Waiting for Columbus, times his diversions perfectly while still giving a completely absorbing story. Nancy, Tulah and Ray are all flawed, throbbingly real characters whom the reader would love to know and have over for dinner.

Ironically, This Is All a Lie comes off as marvellously authentic.

 

dia de los muertos

I am not a big fan of Halloween, nor is my wife. Never have been. The masks we wear every day are troublesome enough for me. We do, however, love the Mexican dia de los muertos. The Day of the Dead appeals to me because it is an honouring of our dead, a conversation with our dead in a fun, not so scary way. It “…focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey…” It’s a time to honour our dead, to remember, to converse with, to pause in the midst of life…and think — Hey, I remember that guy…or, Yes, my mom liked to drink orange juice with vodka.

We make a small shrine in our house, with some small thing to help us remember our dead. I might have a vodka and orange juice for my mom. My dad’s Shrine fez is there. A picture of a cat, long dead. A book of poems about a friend’s mom. A tap shoe for a young dancer gone too suddenly, too shockingly. A waitress who was always kind. You get the picture. So, for the next few days, I may pause at times in a sort of reverie. I may be a bit down, or lost, or turned inward.  dia de los muertos is why.

Traditionally: Nov. 1 is when you welcome the souls of children that have passed away, known as Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels). Nov. 2 is when the adult souls arrive.

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“This is All a Lie” is in the world now, finding its way. It has been four weeks on the bestseller lists in Edmonton. I am hearing from people about it. And last week, there was an beautiful Edmonton launch at Audrey’s books on Jasper Avenue. Now I am in a lull and I am turned toward the elephant book. I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing — writing the next book.

“This is All a Lie” in bookstores TODAY!!!!

 

Perhaps today you will go to your local bookstore and ask for the new novel from Thomas Trofimuk…

…A woman named Bernice will sell you the book. “It’s a nice cover,” she’ll say. You do not want to wait until you get home to open the book so you find a café. You sit down with your coffee. You might look at the author’s picture and the blurbs. It is a delightful author’s photo — he looks friendly and maybe even a little fun. You might think, huh, I would like to have a drink with that guy, or, I would like to sleep with that guy. But of course, this may not be his actual picture. The book is titled: This is All a Lie. The author’s photo could be a lie? You finally open the book to the first pages and start to read. But there’s something wrong. It starts on page 315 and the chapters seem to run backwards. The bookstore has sold you a defective copy of the book. Now you’re going to have to take the book back and get a replacement copy. But perhaps this is on purpose. You decide to keep reading…You’ve waited long enough for a new novel from Thomas Trofimuk. You’re going to press on, despite the defective book.

hanging out on the front porch with Bob and my thoughts…

Well, it’s 29 days until the launch date of “This is All a Lie.”  Publication is a letting go and it is always with melancholy and excitement and anxiousness. There are some wonderful blurbs from Rona Altrows, author of A Run on Hose, Anne Fleming, author of Pool-Hopping and Other Stories, and the delightful Laurie GreenwoodIndependent bookstore owner for over 30 years, book columnist for Global TV and CBC Radio (retired). You can read them here. These blurbs are such a lovely sending off. Sometimes novelists need others to tell them about their book. They need the book to be “read” and readers will say what the book is. Two of the blurbers have mentioned the humour. I thought it was a very dark little book and they found the lightness I’d hoped was there. I am grateful for this. So grateful.

It’s just after 8 p.m. and I am listening to The Road Home on CKUA.  This two hours of music and spoken word is a antidote to a mad man (the mad, egotistical king who makes everything about himself) at the helm of the USA and the threat of Serious Fucking War. It’s a balm. An enclave of sanity. Bob let me know he read one of my poems into the show…For this, I am grateful too. This one:

The sea

“Roar, lion of the heart,
and tear me open!”
–Rumi

Perhaps you have forgotten that this
is part of being together. The explosion
of pleasure given without expectation –
and pleasures accepted without expectation.

Rumi says lovers run like lightning and wind,
and the fearful ascetic runs on foot, along the surface.
Be lightning and wind with me. Be the random, ferocious
gust. This is not about duty, or obligation. It is
the messy shock of loving – and wanting

to be breathless, and holy, and lost. It is about being
human, and humane, and delightful, and disgusting. This
is about desire. Desire is what moves us forward. Have you
forgotten this? Hold fast to desire. Choose it over the
horrors of aging. Bathe in it. Surrender. It’s always
different – for each person it is different, and this is why
it is so damned fascinating. Wake up! You are alive and
vibrating in the flow of this wide river. This water may
move slower but it will always yearn for the sea.

 

Maybe this post should be called “On gratefulness…” Because I am grateful for other people — Gail and Geoff and Django for hosting us in Powell River, for sharing their ocean paradise. And for friends who offer up support around the new book…

September is my favourite month. The cooler nights…the skeins of geese, the wool sweaters, and a trip up to Miette Hot Springs in my beloved Rocky Mountains, with good friends.

62 days until “This is All a Lie” is in the world!!

Hello. Sixty-two days until This is All a Lie. I am so excited about this book, and apprehensive, and anxious, and excited again. It is the kind of meta-fiction that I love to read. In the past few weeks I have been in my characters, walking with them and hanging out with them. I love them. They are flawed and imperfect, and not particularly nice. Now I am hard and fast into the elephant book. Writing, researching, opening to the story — I still do not know how it ends. I am waiting for one of my characters to tell me what happens on the Charles Bridge.

It’s sprinkling rain now. Fine lines of water droplets on my window. Grey, uncaring cloud moving overhead. Bruce Cockburn playing. And now I will play “The Lamb” playlist and turn toward writing.

Talk soon

 

Eighty-five days until This is All a Lie launches!

I am sitting with a mug of white wine on the deck. It’s 30C, and thunder storms are coming. It’s humid, and the wind grows a little with each passing sip of wine. The clouds are a steady pale blue-grey wash. I can see the new elms are doing well. I am no longer worried about the elms.

Today there are just 85 days until the new book is born into the world. It has been born into me for substantially longer than that. I will be in the bath tonight, reading with a copy editor’s eyes, looking for inconsistencies. I will make a good cup of strong tea – the King Cole, and read carefully.

Eighty-five days doesn’t seem like a long time. Under three months and then these people I have grown to love will be out of my hands. They will be in the world. It’s a nervous thing, this sending a book into the world. I am anxious and excited for you to meet them.

Okay. Talk soon.

I know what you’re thinking…

A book that lovingly portrays the real, true, official and unflinchingly authentic story of Claude Garamond, the father of the Garamond font

Hello. How are you? I know. I know. You’re probably wondering — along with about a billion people across the planet (not including the Chinese. For some reason, I’m BIG in China — Huge) — what this new book, “This is All a Lie” is all about. Is it a normal sort of narrative? Is it something my wife would like, because you know, she only reads John Grisham? Is it something my wee grannie would enjoy, because you know, she’s not so big on the cussing? Well, sadly, there are no lawyers in the book. And there is a wee bit of cussing, but it’s appropriate cussing. It’s a novel about the dangers of losing intimacy — in all its forms. And, the book is written backwards, at least structurally. It’s self-conscious. It digresses wildly. And it spans hundreds of years of human history. You’re probably thinking — what the fuck kind of an idiot would write a book that runs backwards — a book that starts on page 341 and moves to page 1? A book that starts with an ‘epilogue’ and a ‘note on the font’ and ‘the acknowledgements’? A book that lovingly portrays the real, true, official and unflinchingly authentic story of Claude Garamond, the father of the Garamond font?!?! You’d think the author would have learned his lesson about pushing the edges of literature, about playing around with experimental points of view. But no. Oh no. He’s jumped right it to the “metafiction” pool with a highly accessible and brilliantly heartbreaking love story. Now, you’re probably salivating, pining to get your hands on a copy of this book. The thought of it keeps you up at night, because you’re the type of person who likes to be delighted, and “This is All a Lie” is delightful. Soon…It will be coming soon.

118 (ONE-hundred-AND-eighteen)!!

 

Yup. 118 days until “This is All a Lie.” It’s a fine “fall” book, a book to sit with in the diminished light, with a glass of something robust — like whisky, or thick red wine, or strong tea. Leave your white wine, or your beer, or coolers behind. Start a fire in the pit out back. Throw on some old clothes — maybe that ratty sweater your wife keeps threatening to chuck, and grab the new book by Thomas Trofimuk and your beverage of choice, and settle in to read. Maybe you’ll listen to music as you read — Aster Piazzolla’s Five Tangos with the Kronos Quartet would work — so would Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert. But first you must live through the summer, with all her temptations and delights. Don’t worry, the publisher is printing a good number of books. There will be plenty of books.

 

Schrödinger’s woman

My wife tells me it’s because when a woman wears heels they’re tilted forward, and the thing the woman in my riff below does with her foot, is to bend the foot the other way…it’s a salve. Okay. This is what my wife tells me, and I guess she ought to know — being a woman who has worn high heels.

Schrödinger’s woman

It’s raining and normally, you love the rain, would focus on the rain, write about the rain, show your love for the rain, but today the woman across the café is doing this thing with her foot – she lifts her toes so just the narrow spike of her heel is pricked into the floor – then places it down. These shoes are six-inch, flower-patterned high heels. You know they are six inches because you live with a woman who has a shoe fetish. The woman across the café seems to be deep in thought, as if she is focused on something important that resides on her laptop. Of course, the world resides on her laptop, on all laptops. So she could be working on her new novel, which is set in Japan and involves a husband and wife, and an unhappy cat who live near the Zenpuku-ji Buddhist Temple in the Yamada district. So far, nothing has happened between the husband and the wife and the unhappy cat, but the woman writes with the confidence that something will eventually happen. Or she could be working on a poem about the rain – how it is falling with a hesitant insecurity, as if it’s not sure about falling – about how wet it is, about how wet is makes the streets, about the heady scent that follows. You notice she is doing that thing with her foot again. It’s a tick – at least, you think it’s probably a tick – an unconscious sign that she’s thinking hard. You might wonder if she’s playing with your perception. Does she know you are watching her? Is she purposely presenting the image of a thoughtful person? Is she Schrödinger’s woman – a woman in a café who is consciously attractive and unconsciously alluring, simultaneously? Is she a woman who is aware she is being watched and at the same time, unaware, oblivious and indifferent? But she is not in a box with a decaying isotope and a vial of poison – she is alive and well, unconsciously doing that thing with her foot. She is just pretty woman working on a book about two people and an unhappy in the mountains of Japan, distracting you from the rain.

On making mistakes in the sorbets

Sometimes, when I cook the sorbets up, I am rushed, or distracted, or tired. And what results is a sorbet that might be pretty good, without all the mistakes. Yesterday was such a day. Three miscues in one small piece — two neglected words and one word that should not have been there. Sigh…So I am re-posting here as a sort of balm to my stupidity. Here is the corrected version of “the leaf”:

The leaf

Imagine this: In his journal, there are leaves – a collection of golden poplar leaves from the side of a mountain in the fall, pressed between the back pages. Today, after he finishes his glass of wine and pays, he leaves a leaf – one soft-yellow leaf on the brown wooden tabletop, a gift for the waitress. Because it’s Thursday. Or because it felt right. Or because flipping through his journal, the yellow surprised him. He does not know why he picked the leaves off the ground on the side of the mountain. Maybe to remember the cool, clear air of that morning, or the quiet spring in his legs, or the simple happiness of that moment. Perhaps it is just something he has always done.

The waitress might think the leaf is an accident – that it fell from her customer’s notebooks – he always has notebooks – and he didn’t notice. Maybe she will have no doubt of her customer’s intention – she will smile as she takes possession of it, as she picks it gently from the table. Perhaps she needed some sort of eloquent whimsy at that moment. Because last night as she visited her mother, now 94-years and in a home, she realized her mom had no idea who her daughter was – and the sadness of this realization sits heavy on her heart. The leaf was unrequired and strange and the waitress, whose name is Enid, saw its faded yellow as something akin to love, as something irrefutably kind. This leaf was a gift of beauty with no strings. As she tucks the leaf into her journal, she realizes this is exactly what she must do with her love. The leaf reminded her that so long as she kept telling her mother she was loved – that she loved her, nothing else mattered.