Finding the Words


There’s a tidy pile of reasons to pick up Finding the Words, a new anthology of essays edited by Jared Bland. It’s a PEN Canada fundraising project, firstly. As noted in the concise, engaging introduction, the writers donated original work, illustrator Seth donated his cover design, and McClelland & Stewart and Random House contributed production and shipping costs.

The content is as engaging as it is accessible, like walking away from a number of interesting conversations. Favourites included Heather O’Neill relating family history in a piece so full of fascinating detail it reads like a good short story. Stacey May Fowles has a remarkably lucid piece on writer anxiety. Madeleine Thien sent me looking for my highlighter with this line, which now makes me wish people were more interested to find out the details of our current election: “Movements and ideologies do not spring from the air; we are building them all the time, persuading ourselves of their value, following their bright promises to utopia.” David Chariandy makes use of a Theodor Adorno quote: “It is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home.”

Subtitled Writers on Inspiration, Desire, War, Celebrity, Exile and Breaking the Rules, it might sound to some readers as though it’s a book for writers. Really, it’s a book for everyone. It may not be the best climate for it, but here’s hoping more publishers take chances on thoughtful collections like this one. As the saying goes, they’re an antidote to all sorts of things we didn’t even know we were suffering from.

One Response to “Finding the Words”

  1. Such a good book. And, such a difficult book to do well, from an editorial perspective.

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