For a long time I’ve wanted to narrate one of my own books and now the deed is done. In the fall of 2017, in a studio across the Ottawa River in Aylmer, I spent eight sessions or so in front of a microphone reading my second novel Garbo Laughs. We had great fun doing it, the director Wendy Robbins, the technician Marc Parizeau, and I, the croaky reader, who relied on quantities of herbal tea with lemon and honey to lubricate my pipes. The result is now available to be downloaded from either Kobo.com or Audible.ca.
Garbo Laughs, the audio book, is one of many being made available by Penguin Random House Canada’s new audio program. The many include several more of mine. My story collection Small Change read by Kate Greenhouse, my most recent novel His Whole Life read by Susan Coyne, and my first novel, A Student of Weather, read by my daughter, the Toronto actor and light of my life, Sochi Fried.
Isabel Costello from the Literary Sofa, one of the best fiction blogs in the UK, included His Whole Life in her roundup of the best Spring 2017 titles. Now she has gilded the lily by featuring the novel with a review, several photos, and a posting by me. For the full treatment click here.
Available now as a beautiful chapbook published by Maureen Scott Harris is the Page Lecture I gave at Queen’s University in 2015. “The Original Title” is a talk about editing and being edited and bears directly on my novel Late Nights on Air. Here is the first paragraph:
I was in my study gathering up the piles of pages all around me after finishing Late Nights on Air. The title of the book had changed as I worked on it, and the subject. The subject, therefore the title. (It was The End of Shyness for a long time, then Dido in Yellowknife for a while, and then Late Nights on Air after a friend told me everyone would call the book Dildo in Yellowknife.) But I was still attached to the initial subject and the initial title.
To purchase the chapbook you can write to Maureen Scott Harris at 19 Biggar Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M6H 2N5. Or reach her by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
His Whole Life made the Top 10 Books of 2015 in NOW Toronto Magazine, with this citation: “Hay’s expertly realized novel, set during the 1955 Quebec referendum, is a poignant portrait of a complex family dealing with loss and regret, riffing on a 10 year-old boy’s question: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” For the full list click here.
CBC Books has drawn up a list of twelve books to banish winter blues and included His Whole Life as one of the twelve. For the full list click here.
As part of a week-long series of radio essays called “Art in a Cold Climate” on BBC 3, I was one of five writers from five different northern countries given the task ‘to select and reflect on a work of art which in some way captures the essence of their nation.’ A tall order, but I couldn’t resist. I chose a work by David Milne, long a favourite painter of mine and of my mother’s, herself a painter. To follow the series and hear the essays on the BBC, which are part of its Northern Lights season throughout December, you can click here.
A four N review by Susan G. Cole of His Whole Life in Toronto’s NOW Magazine calls the novel “superb,” “a poignant portrait of a complex family dealing with loss and regret.” Well, to be accurate, she says, “nevertheless superb,” because she takes exception to one of the elements in the story. Fair enough. The full review is here.
It was a great pleasure to have His Whole Life on the shortlist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, 2015.
The jury’s citation reads: Set on the cusp of personal and national change, His Whole Life is a resonant and penetrating novel that explores the complex evolution of love and affection through a rich array of relationships. At this story’s centre are a mother and son so richly realized their delights, pleasures, and aches become the reader’s. Elizabeth Hay deftly – in elegant and luminous prose – explores how life can betray us or bring us to the surface, and all the subtle ways that one human being can fail, or serve, another.
The jurors were Aislin Hunter, Shani Mootoo, and Richard Wagamese.