Marlon James

Just typing his name into the subject line makes me feel like I’m reporting for a gossip site.

Just typing his name into the subject line makes me feel like I’m reporting for a gossip site.

In the last few weeks, I’ve read more about him than I have about myself. His book, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, is exploding. Reviews, profiles, interviews everywhere. There’s not enough gossip circulating but maybe that’ll come. His novel is enjoying a warm reception. Insert here the emoji of the party favour exploding.

I interviewed him last night when he swooped into town for a Vancouver Writers Fest event. He’s in San Francisco by now.

Sorry. Speaking of gossip, the one time I was getting close to something juicy about him, we were standing backstage and he made a joke about something-which-will-remain-off-record, then Leslie Hurtig, the Vancouver Writers Fest director, called my name and I had to step on stage. I never got a chance to circle back.

Circling back, Marlon James has been on my mind for weeks. He’s as smart and funny and electric and irreverent as you’d expect. He probably makes his friends sputter laughter in public when he texts them. He has a confidence that makes you trust his artistic decisions. He has a reason for every choice he makes. There’s no accident in Black Leopard, Red Wolf. The man researched the book for years.

Taller than I predicted. Maybe 6’1. He was wearing layers of black–pants with a white side-stripe, a knee-length tunic over that (he called it a dress), and a shirt over that. And a medallion. Black boots. His dreads were tied back. I suspect the whole look was on trend, like from NY fashion week, and not simply goth, as the untrained eye would label it.


I’ll try to find some more pics. Here’s one of us just chillin’ on the porch.

Google Alerts

You probably know by now that I don’t read about myself.

It’s not because I’m above what people think about me. Not gon’ lie. I actually care about that, to some extent. It’s not because I’m thin-skinned. Or because I’m busy writing. There’s no smug, clever, artistic reason.

The main reason lies in the procrastination family: deferral, emails to write, the addictive chain of The Office, buying conditioner, hijacked reward mechanism, wanting to enjoy the article with trail mix.

My agent, Denise, however, is really good at keeping up. Usually she’ll just tell me what’s going on. Sometimes she sends me Google alerts.

She even sends me the ones about other Ian Williamses gone awry. Behold.

Google Alerts
Ian Williams Daily update ⋅ February 4, 2019
NEWS
Driver caught with Normanton prostitute – and then it gets even worse for himDerbyshire Live Ian Williams pleaded guilty to both drink-driving and making payment for sexual services when he appeared at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ …Flag as irrelevant
Former 49ers believe they could’ve beaten Patriots in Super Bowl XLVINBCSports.comThe Patriots’ run defense was middle of the pack, and former 49ers defensive tackle Ian Williams said he thought San Francisco would have taken …Flag as irrelevant
Taunton 15:15 2m 2f 40y (Class 4)Grandnationalpro.comIan Williams‘ charge gave notice of better to come when just beaten on his chasing bow at Bangor then duly obliged at Wincanton where he was …Flag as irrelevant
Racing Daily with BetVictor – Feb 4TheGamblingTimes (press release) (blog)Ian Williams‘ 6-y-o didn’t find as much as expected on his chase debut at Bangor but did the job well last time. This is a big day for the Anthony …Flag as irrelevant

Bonnie Stern Book Club

In the photo, I am wearing a vintage seventies polyester shirt. And chest hair.

Now that that’s out of the way, Bonnie Stern brings together writers and readers over food inspired by the book. For Reproduction, we had a Caribbean-German fusion. Perfect, right? And there were little bagel appetizers–a detail from part 1 of the novel.

Yesterday, Toronto was in the middle of a winter storm but what a good group of avid readers turned up! What good conversations! As with these events, you always leave feeling like you wish you could have talked with so-and-so more but you just can’t be in multiple areas of the room.

Clones, that’s what we need.

A little thank you amid the bustle

I think I have the best team of people around me as a writer. If there was ever a Canlit roller derby, I’d want these three people skating on my team with their elbows out (tiny shorts optional).

My agent, Denise Bukowski, lives and breathes this business. She sends me everything I need to know about myself as it appears online.

Anne Collins at Random House is such an extraordinary, perceptive editor. In terms of business, I don’t need to see how the chicken nugget gets made because she’s made millions of them. Does that work metaphorically?

Scott Sellers, my publicist, has to be the best in the game. He’s booked TV, radio, print spots for Reproduction. In studios, he’ll stand to the side like a boss as if I’m an asset that needs safeguarding.

For the literalists

What you’re seeing here is a literal launch of Reproduction. The host, Aaron Rabinowitz, fashioned a cereal box into my book, hooked it up to a contraption, and launched it into the balcony.

In his words, It was for anyone who showed up expecting a literal launch.

CBC is playing a lot of Dolly Parton today

Here’s what I heard from host Raina Douris about Dolly Parton but you can’t tell anybody, okay?

Apparently, Dolly’s husband was spending a lot of time at the bank and Dolly discovered that it was because a new pretty bank teller was working there. Dolly was worried but she had to keep working, hard-working gal that she is.

So Dolly was playing a concert and afterwards this adorable young girl with red hair and bright eyes was waiting backstage for her to autograph something. Dolly melted.

What’s your name? she asked.

Jolene, the girl said.

Pretty name like that should be in a song. I’m gonna write a song.

And that’s how Dolly came to write the song, “Jolene,” using the girl’s name but sending a message to the pretty bank teller whom her husband was visiting. It’s one of her most covered songs. An absolute knock-out.

Only a Visitor

I tend to ambivalent about live music because I need the environment (volume, room temperature, personal-space protections) to be just right before I can enjoy it. That fussiness is probably the result of experiencing music as recordings in sanitized conditions through headphones or in my car. Most people get their music this way.

Yesterday I went with Tariq to hear Only a Visitor play live. Never heard of them. I had no idea what to expect. The five of them walked on stage in the dark then the lead singer, Robyn Jacob, pursed her lips and played a snaky hook. By 0:51 I was like a kid listening to his favourite Sesame Street song. Their music crosses jazz with art song with pop with children’s educational programming with a Canada Council grant.

And what a dope name for a Vancouver singer/songwriter, especially in our Truth and Reconciliation times: “Good night, everybody. I’m only a visitor.”