I, Bartleby Front Cover

Paperback / softback
ISBN: 9780889229181
Pages: 128
Pub. Date: April 27 2015
Dimensions: 8.5" x 5" x 0.75"
Rights: Available: WORLD
Categories
Fiction / FIC019000

  • DRAMA / Canadian
  • FICTION / Psychological
  • FICTION / Family Life / General
  • DRAMA / General
  • SOCIAL SCIENCE / Indigenous Studies
  • HISTORY / Canada / Pre-Confederation (to 1867)
  • POETRY / Canadian
  • POETRY / American / African American & Black
  • POETRY / Women Authors
  • FICTION / Literary

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I, Bartleby

By Meredith Quartermain

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.

“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

“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

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

“Nothing short of brilliance … I, Bartleby is an astonishingly sophisticated collection demonstrating a poetic spirit whose quality of writing is surpassed only by the breadth and depth of its reading. Quartermain, like all great poets, breaks language, cleansing the font of its impurities by burning off any threadbare cliché or tired usage …”
Canadian Literature

“...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

“…can be a highly rewarding experience, as Quartermain’s achievement becomes more distinctly visible.”
– Full Stop