The road: the Miette histories

The histories roar in you tonight. Listening to Van Morrison’s “Pagan Streams” in the dwindling light, as the mountains inflict their false sunset on the valley. The song ends and silence falls – a thick snow that gathers on your shoulders as you are in the darkness under the pines, remembering the histories of this place.

Because you have come to this enclave alone more than you have come with people. Because you have come with only your love for the high, thin places as companion, and it has always been enough. Listening to the Oilers on a shitty car radio as you drove highway 16 through the night – there is NoJack, Granada, and Obed Summit.

Being stopped by the black wolf who stood her ground in the middle of the Miette road. Arriving late – picking the key to your room off the door at 3 a.m. – taped to the glass in a white envelope – the clouds, low and socked into the valley, and you just being so happy to have arrived – breathing the mountains on faith.

Conversations with John on the deck in front of the restaurant – and him protecting your solitude as you were distracted by story, or grief, or loneliness. Editing two books in room 35 – obsessing and pounding Greek coffee – working through the night and drinking Chardonnay at 8 a.m.

Your daughter in her playpen, sound asleep under a brilliant aspen and you watching over her – watching as she finds her mountain legs, as she learns to “be” in mountains. A brilliant fall wedding with the perfect golden-yellow veins of larches cut through the pines – and your daughter in between the two sons, walking the road to the ceremony.

Harry’s last trip to the mountains and the way the animals came toward him – deer and sheep and birds seemed to be drawn to him – as if there was a profound peace in him only they could feel. Climbing Mt. Shuey and near the top, the shadow of the golden eagle across your face – and at the bottom, the hot springs with its thick, mineral-laden water.

George Santayana said – those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Even though you well-remember your history in this place, you’re okay with being condemned to repeat it.

THE ELEPHANT ON KARLŮV BRIDGE

The work on the Elephant book has been going great! Slow and steady. One problem at a time. Bum in the chair and writing, revising, editing, writing some more. In the last little while, it’s been a major restructuring — which means pulling one thread in the beginning and watching the entire tapestry shift. It has been work. But, my god, the result is stunning. A more cohesive story. Several emotional punches. The stakes raised.

So, the work continues. And I can see the end of this project. It is a beautiful book now, and I am cleaning.

Are you on the Sorbet list?

You can join the thousands who get a weekly sorbet by signing up on the “Contact” page of this website. You’ve made it this far, why not commit? The sorbet list is a completely private list that is never shared and comes out roughly once a week, usually at the end of the week.

Here’s a sample of a sorbet from a while back:

Missing

Imagine this, for a moment. Close your eyes and conjure a man who is a writer. A gangly man, unshaven for days at a time, thinning hair, prone to whisky. He is sitting out back in the garden beside the Siberian irises grappling with a problem. He is trying to describe what it is to miss someone, a lot. How it feels. How much it feels. Essentially, he is trying to quantify a feeling, which is futile and stupid. He started with a description of a man with very long arms who is stretching them out at 9 and 3 o’clock – trying to show how much he will miss his friend. His arms are like the unpredictable branches of an oak tree, or like an awkward and massive airplane, or like an auk. Not a Great Auk, because they’re extinct. Maybe a Lesser Auk. Except, he’s not sure Lesser Auks have big wingspans. He is only sure when they stretch their wings to fly they are so earnest it hurts. Auks get extra points for looking as if they shouldn’t be able to fly and then, surprise! Maybe this man grunts with exertion as he stretches, as he pushes missing to the tips of his fingers. He is determined to make the biggest stretch he has ever made. He imagines looking into her eyes and asking – Do you want to know how much I am going to miss you? She might watch him – with no small amount of suspicion and confusion – as he stretches out his arms. And when she does not say anything, he will say – This much.

The woman is silent because she is imagining herself in a library, sitting at a long wooden table that has four green-glassed bankers lamps, looking up the wingspan of an auk just to see how much she is loved. She will find out that an auk can fly not only through the air, but also under water. Lesser Auks, or Razorbills, she reads, are primarily black with a white underside. The male and female are identical in plumage, except males are usually larger than females. This an agile bird that is capable of both flight and diving, but is mostly aquatic and only comes to land in order to breed. Lesser Auks are monogamous, choosing one partner for life. They nest along coastal cliffs in enclosed or slightly exposed crevices and females lay one egg per year. The wing length of adult Lesser Auks ranges from 24.8 to 26.8 inches. When the bird stands up, it can be about 16 or 17 inches tall. Of course, he already knew this, she thinks. He probably saw it on one of those nature documentaries – not the Attenborough ones – the obscure ones he watches late into the night, while the complexities of the relationships between airplanes and wingspans and missing keep him from the easy sleeps. She has not watched these same documentaries, as she is too busy watching MTV reality shows and wondering, what happened to these people in their lives that they would choose to be on these shows? But she cannot stop watching, cannot turn her eyes away from the gaping expanse of reality, like watching a man with his awkward arms extended at the 9 and 3 position…and she thinks – I will miss him too.

On turning around and looking at the world

The novels that attract me most… are those that create an illusion of transperancy around a knot of human relationships as obscure, cruel and perverse as possible.” — Italo Calvino

This is the view behind me on a lot of mornings, especially in the fall and winter and I am guilty of not seeing. Seeing that colour at the horizon. Seeing the new day as one of possibility. Seeing that anything can happen. I think of Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese: “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

And I hear Mary Oliver shouting at me: “Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?”

And then: “Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides with perfect courtesy, to let you in! Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass! Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over the dark acorn of your heart! No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint that something is missing from your life! Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch? Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself continually? Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone? Well, there is time left – fields everywhere invite you into them. And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away from wherever you are, to look for your soul? Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!”

These demands. These questions. These ae the things that push me to create, to walk through this life with eyes wide open, senses stretched, breathing and alive.

I have asked myself, many times over the past few months, about whether or not the world needs a book about a bunch of broken people in Prague and an escaped elephant on a bridge. And the answer has always been, well, honestly, at first, it’s: I don’t know. But, it is quickly followed by: Hmmm, well, this is a book about humans. It shines a light on the human condition. It asks questions it can’t possibly answer about being human. It’s funny, and delightful, and sad, and tragic, and at times, beautiful. So yes. Yes!

Italo Calvino, one of my Italian muses, says: “Novelists tell that piece of truth hidden at the bottom of every lie. To a psychoanalyst it is not so important whether you tell the truth or a lie because lies are as interesting, eloquent, and revealing as any claimed truth. I feel suspicious about writers who claim to tell the whole truth about themselves, about life, or about the world.”


















a prayer for certain trees

I will not abandon certain trees – even when I can do nothing to affect their existence in the world. As if worry is a powerful thing, and not as useless as prayer. As if memory is a formidable thing. Still, I pray in my own way for some trees. Remember them, and fret about them – while tending hands-on to a tree in the yard. I will bring these other trees to mind, invite them to ride along. Maybe they will be entwined in the melody of some song I can’t stop humming. Perhaps, they are beads on a mala, rolled gently between thumb and forefinger inside a quiet breath.

There is an oak my mom planted in the yard of the house where I was raised. (Do you have any idea how slowly oak trees grow in the boreal forests of central Alberta?) I tried to take it with me when I sold the house. Wanted to. But an arborist said moving it would most likely kill it. So I gathered as many acorns as I could find, with the intent of planting them, but these bundles of possible life were lost in the move. I do not see this oak any more. But it was steadfast in the backyard and I did not have a favourite season for it. Except it always surprised me that it was still alive each spring.

An ancient and gnarled Douglas fir in the elk pasture above the town of Banff, makes my list. There is a black-and-white picture of Marilyn Monroe sitting in this pasture that I have grown to love, and when travelling through Banff, it is our ritual to stop there and reflect. To have a swig of whisky from a dented pewter flask. To be grateful for breath in mountains. Or, to hold a baby daughter up to the quivering stars and shout “This is her!” and have a hundred midnight elk we did not know where there – turn their heads simultaneously. Perhaps the daughter doesn’t believe this story. Maybe she does. It is true nonetheless. The Douglas fir in the elk pasture is best in the off-season – spring or fall, when the possibility of being alone is high. But on a hot day in the middle of summer, the scent of her is intoxicating.

The stand of 700-year old Engelmann Spruce at the edge of the Columbia Icefields – stunted and ancient and sacredly resolute, always makes me smile with wonder. They persist with such a short growing season. And really, to call it a season is a terrible misnomer – it is a stingy window of growing. I have sat many a night in the Icefields camp around a fire and looked up toward the dream of the Engelmann Spruce. The Engelmanns are always best in the fall, when you have to bundle up to walk to the toe of the glacier to get a glimpse.

The Aspen at Miette Hot Springs whose shade kept watch over the daughter as she slept in her crib, while her parents drank wine and played backgammon. That tree watched her grow, collected a thousand child-hugs, watched her play, and hobble when her knee was damaged. We called it Mackenzie’s tree because she was connected to it. It grew as she grew. If you go to Miette Hot Springs and find this aspen outside motel unit #35, on its trunk, you will see a small plaque that reads: Mackenzie’s Tree. This is not a statement of ownership. It is a testimony to relationship. I do not know how it got there, but we were not shy about calling it Mackenzie’s tree. Now you know the story of this naming. In truth, we could have called the daughter the Aspen’s child, because she was. The Aspen is always stunning in the fall – with a breathtaking creamy golden-yellow colour.

There are the two Elms in the back yard that never seemed healthy. I put them to ground on a dull grey Saturday morning in July, while gulping a French Pinot Noir, and have watched for three years as they seemed to struggle. They were always late to come into leaf, and early to drop their leaves. They never seemed robust. This spring, they seem to be breathing easily in the sun. Perhaps I needn’t have worried. They’re fine. Do you know that colour of new elm leaves – pale green and bright green at the same time? The backyard elms are best in the spring, when they are filled with hope and energy, and that surreal green.

If all stories are reflections of the various stages of abandonment, I am part of no story. I exist as a non sequitur, outside of all stories, because I will not abandon certain trees – I carry them inside me, which is every bit as useless as a prayer, but still, a necessary thing. These trees are an essential part of me. I will, on some mornings, close my eyes and move from bead to bead on the mala, each stop a tree, each breath, a tree. I will perform the sacraments of memory, of imagining, of hope and worry. And I will believe, perhaps stupidly, that I have in this utterly intangible way, made a difference to certain trees.

A note and a sorbet

It’s April. I haven’t been here in a while. Below is a sorbet from a few weeks back. I’m still working on the elephant book, which has grown and evolved and is nearing completion. It’s almost at the point where my changes will no longer make it better.

labyrinth

Perhaps, in the fall, your wife convinces you to go to a corn maze, and while you are reluctant at first, she wears you down. You might say yes just as she was not expecting it, and she performs the smallest twitch of a Mona Lisa smile you have ever seen. It is infinitesimal. It is so small you would say it was insignificant. But you notice it because it is also sexy. It is insignificantly sexy. It reminds you that you used to have sex. You can’t recall the last time, but for sure, sometime in the past year – or two. Things have not been as good as expected between you and your wife lately – you’re in a dip, a low spot, a disconnected morass, a university of misunderstanding and resentment – but other than these minor irritants, things are fine. Flash forward three hours. You arrive at the corn field, pay your money to an evidently drunk little person with a foul mouth, and walk into the maze. Within 20 minutes, your wife is nowhere to be seen – she skips around a corner and vanishes – and then, you are alone in the middle of a pathway somewhere in the maze, surrounded by corn. Thousands of ears of corn, and they’re all listening. You might be wondering why it’s called an ear of corn. And what is it they expect to hear? They’re good listeners – silent except for a hush of wind that blows through the field moments before the lights go out. The sound of the generator, which had vanished somewhere in the back of your mind, stops, and its absence is noticeable. You are not immediately frightened. The first thing you notice is stars. You look up and the stars fill you – they are so thick, it’s as if they are falling, like snow and you eat them like snowflakes, and they are cool in your belly, like a sorbet, after a really good meal. After you have seen your fill of stars, you might start to worry about getting out. And where is your wife? Why isn’t she telling them to put the lights back on because her husband is still in there – for God’s Sake? There is no moon and the starlight, while impressive, does not light your way. You are in the dark, in an intricate maze, alone. The maze has become a labyrinth and you are the Minotaur. You search your pockets for your phone – but no, you left it in your jacket in the car. “Hello?” you offer to the darkness. Then a little louder – “Hello!?” Silence. You try walking blindly in the direction you’re facing – arms out like whiskers, but you run into a stand of corn, knock your glasses askew, scratch your face. You think you might be bleeding. There is something sticky on your fingers and smell of metal in the air. “Fuck you, corn,” you say, and then start to giggle because this is not the corn’s fault. It is your wife’s fault. She got you in here. She disappeared. And she is not rescuing you. But what if that sketchy little person was part of a gang of thieves and rapists, and your wife is tied up and the corner of a barn. You take out your Swiss army knife and open the blade. At best, it’s three inches. You can’t defend anything with a three-inch blade. You put the knife away. What if this is the end – the lights went out because everything has blown up, or been dissolved in a thousand nuclear explosions. Maybe, the president of the United States is a mad king, illiterate, thin-skinned and unwise – the worst kind of fool. He could have easily started something with an enemy who is equally unstable. And now, there’s no power anywhere. Everything is gone, except this cornfield. It’s the end of the world. You take a breath and exhale this idea. It resists so you take another, long, purposeful breath. Exhale, again. What if this is your wife’s way of telling you she is done with you, she’s home packing up her things – and she’s going to take all the Steely Dan vinyl even though she knows it’s not hers – she knows this but she’s taking them anyway? “Jesus Christ. Pull it together,” you tell yourself. Your marriage isn’t ending tonight. Love is bigger than resentment. And there are only a few strands of contempt between you. A few strands is nothing. This is some sort of innocent mix-up. A faulty wire. Or a generator that ran out of gas and in a few minutes the tank will have been filled, the lights will come on, and you will find your wife. You almost jump out of your skin when the dog gently puts your hand in its mouth. You find out later, it is a German Shepherd. You pet the dog and then, as it seems to want to pull you along the path, you let it lead you out of the labyrinth. The drunk midget – the inebriated little person, is not at the entrance. You’re in the country, beside a cornfield you can barely see and it’s a cool, fall evening. The air is wet and fresh and cool – it smells green. You don’t see a soul on the way to your car. You notice there are still twenty cars in the parking lot. Your phone rings. It’s your wife, Enid. “Where are you?” “I’m in the fucking maze,” she says. “The lights. They went out.” “I’m coming to get you,” you say. “Don’t move.” You pause. It’s as if the corn maze is a therapy session that offers clarity. If you make it out, you get clarity. If you make it out. If. You’ve always loved dogs. Enid, on the other hand, has never had time for dogs – doesn’t like them at all. You start the car. Drive home and begin by packing up your Steely Dan albums.

November things


This image!!! This image created by the amazing Kevin Sloan. You can see more of his work here: https://www.kevinsloanprints.com

There are days when I feel like this elephant, balancing on a teacup, which is stacked on a flimsy house of cards….

Hello. It’s been a busy, busy last little while. What’s up with you?  I have been working the Elephant book and now, have started work on a new project that is decidedly different for me — a bit of a Speculative/Science Fiction story. But is it? I mean, all stories are speculative. All stories are mysteries. Still human beings in trouble. Or human beings being bad. Human beings having weird, or bad, or amazing things happen to them — and then what? I don’t know where this new story is going to lead but I am looking forward to finding out. Word by word, paragraph by paragraph, page by page…

Below is a random picture of Elk Island National Park.

I like instructions…

What follows, are instructions for starting again, after you’ve finished your novel and you find yourself adrift on a Thursday afternoon. It’s a step-by-step on what to do next. Obviously, we’re not all writing novels, but maybe you’ve fallen in love with a novelist, or a novelist has fallen in love with you, and you want to understand what’s going on in her mind, or his mind. There might be clues here. This list of instructions was also a Sorbet. What does that mean? you might ask. Well, a sorbet is a piece of writing that goes out to a select, and private list of subscribers, from Thomas Trofimuk, once a week (subscribe on this website at the “CONTACT” page).Instructions for starting again

  1. Buy scotch. You’re going to need it after you have written – when you are emptied out and one, perfect straw-coloured pour of scotch is an excellent salve. A good day of writing, or bad, scotch is a fine salve.
  2. Begin when you find the image, the line, the snippet of a conversation that will carry you through months and months of writing ahead.
  3. Your only tools are curiosity and intelligence – one of which you have in abundance, the other, perhaps just enough. Don’t get hung up on how you show the story, because it’s all fair game – 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person. Present tense. Past. Forward through time. Backward through time. Rhyming couplets. Magic realism. Just look for the truth of the story, regardless of the facts, and don’t worry about how you get there. It’ll sort itself out.
  4. There’s a mountain called Mt. Elise in your new story, and you don’t know why it’s called that. You might start to imagine this mountain and how it got its name. You might imagine a woman named Elise, who lived in England in 1758 and never saw, in person, the mountain named after her. Long before some white guy from England named it after his sister, the Cree people called this mountain: Miskiwan. You start to imagine the shape of its peak, how it masses up against the sky. You might even begin to chart a path to its summit. This mountain will be a character in your book. She will breathe and have moods. She will be delightful and she will be dangerous. She is already alive.
  5. You are about to become lost. Let this happen.
  6. Each morning the old man walks a little farther, moves a little higher on the mountain, arrives back at his cabin a little later. As if he’s training for something. As if he knows exactly what he’s doing.
  7. Don’t think you know what you’re doing because you don’t. But know the arc of the story, even if you don’t know its ending.
  8. An idea of something deeper might be enough to get you through.
  9. Walther Fasting believes he is irrelevant, insignificant, inconsequential – and this belief brings an intense freedom.
  10. Avoid, at all costs, stringing “I” words together – like, “is irrelevant, insignificant, inconsequential.”
  11. Perhaps, start with a snippet of a conversation – a line that sparks.
  12. Find a way to care about your character – but not too much – even before you know him – or her. Find something to care about, even if it’s illogical, or nonsensical, or absurd.
  13. He wants to climb this mountain and he is too old to climb mountains. He knows he is too old, and still, he wants to climb it. It is a quiet want. He does not, will not, talk about it. It just sits there in his gut, waiting and watching.
  14. Look for the honour of your character. There is honour in everyone. Make sure you’re open to seeing it – and when you find it, receive it with grace and humility. Ask: How will your character’s honour manifest?
  15. Don’t get hung up on an image – remember the woman in the flowered dress and Hunter rubber boots standing outside a Starbucks. You fell in love with her before she could tell you her story. She started to whisper it to you one night in bed but you looked up at her and told her you loved her – like an idiot – and she was quiet after that. Don’t do that again.
  16. Can you see it? An old man walks each morning under the tall pines at the base of the mountain. Why? It’s cool in the green-black forest bottom and he wears a thick sweater even on the hottest days. How does he walk? Is it a sure and steady pace? Does he stop every now and then to look around? Is he really just pausing for a looksee, or is he catching his breath?
  17. Don’t be the stone thrown into the middle of a still lake – be the deer, lost in a nest of tawny grass, watching the ripples.
  18. It is difficult to begin again. Admit that. Tell yourself that as you fall asleep. To say, okay, the past is behind me, and what now? – is an act of courage. Do not overthink it. Forget everything you think you know about writing stories. Discard all your notions. Just focus on listening and observing and noticing. Perhaps, start with an image and move outward from there.
  19. Writing is an act of hope. You’re in the business of hope.

“A Tango for Mendolera Galbo”…and more

Hello,
I’ve been thinking about the writing game in the last little while — about everything it involves. About looking at the world with curiosity, always. About the ideas ruminating in my head. While I still have my eye on promoting “This is All a Lie” and hope there will be some opportunities to do that in the next months, I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am putting my head down and writing. And, I am lifting my head up and looking around, watching, listening, and being silent in the world. Being observant, kind, compassionate — and writing. These are my jobs. Not promoting. Not worrying about things out of my control. Not worrying about people loving my writing, or not loving my writing. Just writing. Just reflecting what I see and feel and think, through stories, and characters.  (Honestly, for a few days there, I was agitated by what people thought about my writing and I do not like that person who was agitated.) I am playing my clarinet in a small New York club, sitting in the back row, playing my clarinet — and  working on the finishing movements of the new novel: “The Elephant on the Charles Bridge.” It gets better each day. And making notes about two new novels (working titles): “Big Mountain” and “A Tango for Mendolera Galbo”.

Here’s my advice to myself: Take a breath, Trofimuk…now exhale, and do your fucking job.

What follows is a sorbet, a weekly offering of a raw piece of writing — a poem, a riff, a fragment of an idea, which can be delivered to your electronic device once a week, (Thursday or Friday). Sign up on this website under the “CONTACT” tab:

April does what (she) likes

Apparently, April has decided she wants to behave like February. She storms into the room and glares at you. She pounds across the floor to the fridge and pulls out a frozen bottle of vodka, pours a portion of the slow liquid into a coffee cup and drinks it in one gulp. She frowns at you. It’s a cold scowl that lets you know you should probably sleep on the couch. So you do. You do not know why April is so angry, and frigid, and hostile. She’s always been unpredictable, but never this cold. If you were religious, you might try to explain it by telling yourself you’ve done something to offend God. But you are not superstitious. You spark up the fireplace and keep it going all night. Your sleep is fitful and you dream about small purple flowers by the railway tracks off Mendelson Avenue, and tulips poking through black dirt, and losing your car keys. In the morning, the small patch of grass that had been uncovered by a never-say-never sun is re-covered by snow. Your dream of crocuses and tulips is just a dream. Your car keys are where you left them, on the mantle beside the statue of Buddha. You decide you will wait for April to come downstairs. You make a pot of coffee, feed the cat and play Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert on the stereo. Snowflakes twirl past the window and you wonder if the snow will amount to anything substantial. You’ve already hung the shovels in the garage.

You know April has her moods but you love her regardless. You love her for her moments of light and warmth. Like rain after snow. Like a thousand shades of green after just brown, just grey, just white. You remember making love with April, leaned against the brick wall of some building on campus, the warmth of the sun on your face, the heat radiating from the bricks. She lifted her skirt and it was pure joy. You closed your eyes and drifted inside all that she offered. That’s the April you remember, and love.

Upstairs, you are surprised to find the bedroom door is unlocked. The cat will not cross the threshold. It sniffs, and backs away. April is sleeping. She has tossed the bed sheets onto the floor and she’s curled herself around a pillow. She’s grinding her teeth and moaning low. Her lips have a blue tinge.

The window in the bedroom is wide open and you can hear the chickadees and sparrows in the back yard.

The bedroom window is wide open and it’s snowing harder now.

The window is opened wide and April is shivering on the bed.

 

…completely beyond my capacities of temperament or skill…

Hello. Haven’t written here in a while. Too busy with the new book: “The Elephant on the Charles Bridge.” That new book is with three readers. And I am continuing to tinker, and to think about the story, and what serves the story, and what moves the story. If some piece of the novel is beautiful writing but does not 1) reveal character, or 2) advance the plot, then it gets cut. Five main characters in this book. And as many ancillary, and it weighs in at 90K words. Actually, now that I’ve written this out, it sounds insane, impossible, and well beyond my grasp. I have just now, pushed my chair back and stared at the screen. What have I done??? I’ve written five beings into the Prague night, and surrounded them with histories and her-stories, and it-stories. They are all so flawed and agitated and anxious and depressed…they have become my friends. Still, it seems like an impossible book. But, as Calvino said: “…most of the books I have written and those I intend to write originate from the thought that it will be impossible for me to write a book of that kind: when I have convinced myself that such a book is completely beyond my capacities of temperament or skill, I sit down and start writing it.”

Below is the riff that goes with the above picture….

The tall pines of board room #2144

Imagine this. You are in a meeting and the people around the table start to talk about the process of a process that will be used to develop a process. You want to sigh heavily and roll your eyes, but instead, you begin to draw small stick pine trees in your notebook. You draw a half-dozen trees and decide you like the feel of them – they’re all different, no two the same. You draw a dozen more, and then you are lost. You’re walking in a pine forest and the stranded sound of chickadees comes from far back. Whisky Jacks play coy – watch from the edge of your path for signs of food. A chipmunk protests. The air is suddenly fresh and cool-edged and sweet. You might notice your legs feel strong and your pack is not too heavy. Maybe you’ve wrapped a couple onion sandwiches in wax paper, and rolled a bottle of red in a T-towel. You probably slipped a poetry book, “The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy” into your pack, along with a knife and a puck of brie. You know for a fact you have a nice cigar, a Liga Privada Number 9, tucked into one of the side pockets. All these things are for later, when you’ve worked hard enough on the mountain to deserve the contents of your pack. You will not go back to the meeting, which has devolved into a conversation about the naming conventions of document files. You will stay in the pines. A manager named Gerta McConnel who is sitting at the head of the table will ask you a question, because she suspects you are elsewhere. You will look at her and say yes. You will say yes with an even, clear conviction, even though you do not know what her question was, and she will be pleased.

“This is All a Lie” news

Hello,
While the new book (tentatively called “The Elephant on the Charles Bridge”) is coming along nicely, great things are happening with This is All a Lie.

1) This beautiful review appeared in PRISM International, written by the brilliant Peter Takach  here.

2) The book appeared on the National Post’s best books of 2017 list here.

3) A starred review in Quill and Quire, which says “…This Is All A Lie is a powerful, dazzling accomplishment”

Here’s a bit of process.  I have started to fool around with a character who is a writer and thinks she may have run out of things to say. I worry about this sometimes. The writing is fine but have I said everything I needed, wanted to say? Especially in the quasai-poem-riff format…I wonder if I’m done. I am still intensely intrigued by the characters in my books. They haunt my subconscious, and even my unconscious, and I welcome them. Anyway, I am considering taking a rest and stepping away from the weekly sorbet offerings…and instead, focus harder on the novels…read…walk in the woods…look at mountains….listen to birds. Maybe this feeling of emptiness will pass. I don’t know.

Imagine this: The writer, whose name is Sidsie Howards, thinks she’s run out of things to say – not write, say. She can still write a storm, a kiss, a particular walk, the frisson of a scent. Or if it’s a bit of dialogue you’re after, she can pound out a conversation that says precisely what it doesn’t. She’s not worried about her writing – it’s having something to say…

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.