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Tuesday January 13, 2015 in Books
In these quirkily imaginative short stories about writing and writers, the scrivener Quartermain (our “Bartleby”) goes her stubborn way haunted by Pauline Johnson, Malcolm Lowry, Robin Blaser, Daphne Marlatt, and a host of other literary forebears. Who is writing whom, these stories ask in their musing reflections – the writer or the written? The thinker or the alphabet? The calligrapher or the pictograms hidden in her Chinese written characters?
Intimate jealousies between writers, wagers of courage and ambition, and histories of the colours violet and yellow are some of the subjects in the first section, “Caravan.” Struggles of mothers, fathers, and sisters (and the figures drawn in the Chinese written characters that represent them) unfold as tales of love, death, and revenge in the group of stories in the second section, “Orientalisme.” In “Scriptorium,” the third section, we find out how Bartleby’s father, a Caucasian cook specializing in Chinese cuisine, got Bartleby into writing in the first place. In the fourth series of stories, “How to Write,” we learn how Bartleby loses her I while meeting Allen Ginsberg, Alice Toklas, and a real Chinese cook who works in a fictional house of Ethel Wilson, and how Malcolm Lowry’s life came to an end. The fifth and last section, “Moccasin Box,” investigates how a Sebaldesque Bartleby is silenced by Pauline Johnson.
Taking its cue from genre-bending writers like Robert Walser and Enrique Vila-Matas, I, Bartleby cunningly challenges boundaries between fiction and reality.
Read the first story from this book on Meta-Talon.
ISBN 13: 9780889229181 | ISBN 10:
5 W x 8.5 H inches | 128 pages
$14.95 CAN / $14.95 US
Backlist | Fiction
QUOTES OF NOTE
“Like Proust, Quartermain works in the space between moments, between what is happening and the faint mnemonic triggers that exist in momentary webs of memory and thought. … The stories read very much at the speed and flow of thought, and the author’s approach is every bit as smart and imaginative as Barth or Barthelme, although nothing feels like a game … She’s getting at something important about us, about the torments surrounding banalities, and memories, and childhood, and writing. … Above all, it’s Meredith Quartermain’s dexterity in channelling lives and landscapes to explore the symptoms of our post-millennial malaise that make I, Bartleby both wickedly smart and fun to read.”
– Malahat Review
“…the kind of book some readers undoubtedly could find disorienting in its initial reluctance to provide those markers we most associate with ‘short stories.’ By the end, however, the book has made its own alternative, less commonplace strategies sufficiently recognizable that going back to the beginning and re-reading, especially given the book’s relative brevity (118 pages), can be a highly rewarding experience, as Quartermain’s achievement becomes more distinctly visible.”
– Full Stop
“I, Bartleby is Meredith Quartermain’s gift to the careful reader who lives to be awestruck. Not long into this intertextual and intercultural opus, you understand that you’ll be reading it not just in the future, but in the future after the future; the ineluctable pleasure of it expects your return. As the author says, ‘I’ve opened a box I can’t close’ – and so it is that I feel about I, Bartleby: the text is open, the words are out, and Meredith Quartermain’s work explodes all notions of containment.”
– Wayde Compton
“Short stories? Prose poems? Feuilletons? These evocative meditations are imaginative flânerie, each one opening a portal to a world of personal nuance, archival investigation, the mysteries of marking, writing, and interpreting, and the cost these exact … Each is a portal to the foreignness and oddness of the everyday, the paths walked … With rich and quirky metaphors evoked by passing encounters, with her proud gendered sensibility while facing culture, with vivid details of the real and the imagined looping excitingly together – Quartermain has created a writerly book of great panache.”
– Rachel Blau DuPlessis
“In I, Bartleby, Meredith Quartermain chips away the deadwood of dry syntax exposing the raw and revealing the new. Each line is a branching event budding fresh images and ideas. An exciting read.”
– Grant Buday
“Meredith Quartermain continues to extend her impressive exploration into poet’s prose and the ‘fictive certaintie’ of an alternate imaginary. What I love about these prose feints at their various subjects is that genre is impossible to pin down – prose poems? Essays? Fictions? Memoir? Like Borges, it’s impossible to tell and beside the point. What we encounter is unmistakably thinking – in, through, and at times it even seems by language, from which the authorial Bartlebys have excused themselves. This is masterful writing about writing and difference – with a difference – where we ‘swim among the constitution of words,’ place, and memory.”
– Stephen Collis
About the ContributorsMeredith Quartermain
Meredith Quartermain is celebrated across Canada for her depictions of places and their historical hauntings. Vancouver Walking (NeWest, 2005) won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Nightmarker (NeWest, 2008) was a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award, and Recipes from the Red Planet (BookThug, 2010), her book of flash fiction, was a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.