Blood and Death: Talonbooks in the key of Halloween

Last year around this time we featured the cold, chilling fictions of Larry Tremblay to get you in the mood for All Hallows Eve, and the year before that we highlighted Talonbooks featuring characters in costume or disguise-. This year, we take a more lexical approach: it’s a gathering of Talonbooks that have the words “blood” and “death” in their titles. Happy Halloween!

• • •   BLOOD • • •

page as bone – ink as blood
Jónína Kirton

Death, desire, and divination are the threads running through page as bone – ink as blood, Jónína Kirton’s debut collection of poems and lyric prose. Delicate and dark, the pieces are like whispers in the night – a haunted, quiet telling of truths the mind has locked away but the body remembers. Loosely autobiographical, these are the weavings of a wagon-goddess who ventures into the double-world existence as a mixed-race woman. In her struggle for footing in this in-between space, she moves from the disco days of trance dance to contemplations in her dream kitchen as a mother and wife. Kirton tells her truth with gentleness and patience, splitting the world open one line at a time.

Where the Blood Mixes
Kevin Loring

Can a person survive their past; can a people survive their history? Irreverently funny and brutally honest, Where the Blood Mixes is a story about loss and redemption. Caught in a shadowy pool of alcoholic pain and guilt, Floyd is a man who has lost everyone he holds most dear. Now after more than two decades, his daughter Christine returns home to confront her father. Set during the salmon run, Where the Blood Mixes takes us to the bottom of the river, to the heart of a People.

Loring’s title was inspired by the mistranslation of the N’lakap’mux (Thompson) place name Kumsheen. For years, it was believed to mean “the place where the rivers meet” – the confluence of the muddy Fraser and the brilliant blue Thompson Rivers. A more accurate translation is: “the place inside the heart where the blood mixes.”

Mrs Blood
Audrey Thomas

Mrs. Blood was Audrey Thomas’s first novel – woman from the inside. “Women are at last beginning to talk about their bodies, not only among themselves, but also in print. When I began writing Mrs. Blood … this was not the case. So many women have come up to me and said, ‘Yes, I’ve been through that too – a messy miscarriage, a still birth, a bad abortion – but I never really talked about it – the pain, the fear, the futility of it all.’”

• • •   DEATH • • •

Death in Vancouver
Garry Thomas Morse
Short stories

Set in Vancouver, B.C., Death in Vancouver is a gathering of stories that superimposes aspects of literary classics on local urban space to express increasing dissonance and alienation in the groaning “necropolis” that is the contemporary global city. These stories culminate in the title novella, a restatement of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice in which a retired ballet dancer called Padam falls under the spell of a young man in the lounge of the Istoria (fictional double to the Sylvia Hotel). When a hotel renovation leads Padam to believe that cosmetic injections will resolve his unrequited passion, he finds himself suddenly face to face with an unslaked desire for historical vengeance in the beak of a First Nations bird monster.

Death of the Spider
Michèle Mailhot
Translated by Neil Bishop

Marie-Claire Blais introduces this unique novel in its preface: “Neil Bishop has … revived this novel, Death of the Spider, in the true light of its prophecy (be it but dreamed), in the bright light too of its modernism, for this novel is both a poetic indictment of our contemporary society and a forerunner of the feminist novel – while admirably avoiding the traps of theory and rigidity. The author draws us into our very depths, our own submissiveness, our own hereditary sheep-like docility, she shuts us in with her main character, staring at the spider on the ceiling, in that secret bedroom of rebellion where this nameless heroine has withdrawn to think about her fate which is also ours and where she and we are left, alone with the shameful images of our own condition, our own, often willing, bondage.”

The Death of René Lévesque
David Fennario

The Death of René Lévesque dramatizes the rise and fall of Canada’s most tragic public figure of the 20th century. Fennario’s deft and subtle characterization of the father of the Parti Québecois, his re-telling of the compromising political realities which formed both the movement and the party as Lévesque created it, and the gradual revelation of the fatal flaw which began to undermine both the man and his dream of a new republic, proceed here with a stately, devastating inevitability which recall the masterful tragedies of Euripides and Shakespeare. The Death of René Lévesque presents its audience with the powerful and cathartic stillbirth of a nation, stripped of both pity and fear, as only an Anglophone Québec separatist could possibly imagine it.

Truth or Death: The Quest for Immortality in the Western Narrative Tradition
Thierry Hentsch
Translated by Fred A. Reed
Literary Criticism

In Truth or Death, Thierry Hentsch follows the tradition of James Frazer, Carl Jung, and Joseph Campbell, retelling “the story of the West” that shapes our perception of the world. Yet “the story of the West” does not exist. Only a reading of its most seminal texts – from Ulysses to Hamlet, from the Torah to the Gospels, from Plato to Descartes – can bring it alive. His tale turns on a startling discovery: The Christian message of immortality is conditional. To overcome death – the touchstone of the human condition – the believer must accept the Truth of salvation. Western civilization, by replacing God with technoscience, offers the universal promise that salvation may now be gained on earth. Yet, as a condition, it would impose its own absolute morality on the world. Truth or Death: the Biblical injunction is ours as well.