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Book Title: Making Light of Tragedy|
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Reader ratings: 6.4
The author of the book: Jessica Grant
Edition: Porcupine's Quill
Date of issue: September 15th 2004
ISBN 13: 9780889842533
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 660 KB
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(Jessica read as part of my visiting author's series at the Writer's Voice/West Side YMCA, on November 18, 2004. This was my spoken intro)...
It would be too easy to sum up Jessica Grant’s “Making Light of Tragedy” by referencing its title. Yes, there are stories that use suicide bombing as a punch-line. Yes, characters laugh at the death of many thousands of people--even if they occurred long ago, and were only undertaken by the person a character is dressed as for a party at a Toronto club. Yes, there are stories where pitfalls that undermine characters are sources of humor.
It would be too easy. There is great sadness in this book unrelieved by laughter. There is also great humor in this book, added on to moments of pure joy--where characters find they have arrived at a point they’ve desired; and find themselves as surprised, and uplifted, as we are, with them all the way on their particular, and in some cases, seemingly directionless journeys.
And it is a tribute to Jessica Grant that when her characters arrive at their destinations, it seems as much of a surprise to the characters in many cases, as it may to us, and perhaps, even to the author. These stories emerge, whole, almost seeming to show up on the page as we read them, like a photo slowly revealing itself in the developer.
These stories are filled with cutting, precise wit, astonishing, original imagery--I particularly love some of the seeming throwaway lines, like “The sky on the other side of the ceiling threatened rain,” from “Tuan Vu”--and despite the idiosyncratic nature of many of Jessica Grant’s characters, true one-to-one human connection, over and over again, in situations where connection would seem unlikely, if not impossible. She manages a wonderful, delicate balancing act--making us laugh, and enjoy, while never letting us off the hook. It’s a superb work.
Nota: This was also an event that taught me one of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned.
Because the Y was not really in a position to adequately promote the reading series--or perhaps was not interested at the time--I used an e-mail list (in those pre-Facebook days!), and attendance could be great...or not so great. If an author had a local NYC following, that, combined with the folks who came to the series regularly because it became a quality place to hear an author, would insure a good turnout.
Jessica was reading at Princeton the next night as part of a Canadian Studies program event. Her Canadian publisher found out about my series, and contacted me. I loved the book, so said..."sure!" I did my due diligence, promoted the event...and one person other than me showed.
I was devastated. I really liked Jessica, really liked MLOT, and to have NO ONE turn up...I felt terrible. We went on--as the show must--and Jessica read a couple of stories with the three of us just sitting around a table. There may have been some wine.
I expressed my disappointment to her--in addition to of course thanking her profusely for showing up. When she returned to Canada she wrote:
Safely back in Calgary. Just wanted to thank you for making me feel so welcome and for your enthusiasm about the book. I know you were disappointed about the attendance -- but don't be, at least not on my account. Sometimes you meet one really great reader who gets what your writing's all about, and that reader is worth two hundred. You're that reader. So thank you."
I had never taken that view of a reading, and having her take the time to point this out radically changed how I approached the events I continued to host through early 2008. I read each book. I wrote a personalized introduction--which I'd always done. I let everyone I could know about the event. And then...I let it go. I realized if you do everything within your power to make something "work," and it doesn't...you have to be able to take the good from it, no matter what. Trite, but true, and it's saved me acres of ~agita~ ever since!
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Read information about the authorJessica Grant is a Canadian writer, whose debut novel Come, Thou Tortoise won the 2009 Winterset Award and the 2009 Books in Canada First Novel Award.
She lives in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Jessica Grant is a member of Newfoundland's Burning Rock Collective (members include Michael Winter and Lisa Moore). Her first collection of short stories, Making Light of Tragedy, includes a story that won both the Western Magazine Award for Fiction and the Journey Prize.
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