Anna Leventhal: Don’t Call Her ‘Quirky’


“I think ‘quirky’ is a term that’s used to dismiss work, in particular by women, that’s challenging or hard to categorize”

– Anna Leventhal, Montreal Gazette


In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Anna Leventhal discusses her short story collection Sweet Affliction, and why she definitively does not want to be called quirky:

“Quirky’ makes your work seem safe and a bit narcissistic. It implies weird for weird’s sake, a kind of toothless and uncritical weird…. I don’t know, it just sounds like something you call the female protagonist of a sitcom written exclusively by men, who’s kind of dizzy and has a lot of failed art projects made out of pipe cleaners around her house, who can never seem to get it together, but always looks cute and charming while she’s flailing around. ‘What a quirky gal!’ ”


Equal parts tender and darkly funny, some of Sweet Affliction’s stories, like “Moving Day”, in which everyone is forced by civic law to move on July 1st, use elements of the surreal and the satirical to expose the very real anxieties that are an everyday part of city living. Leventhal’s Montreal is populated by an impressive range of narrative voices; from a teenage lesbian to a brain tumour patient and beyond.

It’s also refreshing that Leventhal manages to paint a recognizable portrait of the city without idealizing it, explaining:

“Montreal’s a hard place to write sometimes, because it wants to romanticize itself.”


To hear Anna read and take part in the discussion, come to “Shame: A Fictional Exploration”“Shame: A Fictional Exploration” on Day 3 of Off the Page at 5605 Ave du Gaspe, #106 at 2:30 pm.



Bydlowska on The Next Chapter: Escaping Herself



In a recent interview with The Next Chapter on CBC Radio One, Jowita Bydlowska discusses the inspiration for her first novel, Guy: escaping herself. She started writing the novel during the editing stage of Drunk Mom, and found the idea of spending time in the mind of a misogynistic womanizer liberating after spending so much time writing about herself.

To see Jowita read, come join the “Shame: A Fictional Exploration” discussion on Saturday, November 5th at 2:30 pm as part of the Off the Page festival at 5605 Ave du Gaspé, #106.

Jowita Bydlowska’s interview can be found here.




Chloe Caldwell on Shame

“When men create characters based on themselves, they are innovative; when women do it, they’re shaming their families.”

– Chloe Caldwell, Catapult

Read Chloe Caldwell’s piece here.


In a recent article for Catapult’s online magazine, Chloe Caldwell voices her frustration about the inequality of assumed shame for writers, especially when their stories and characters take inspiration from their own lives.

She points out that male writers notorious for writing about their personal lives and mishaps have their work labeled “muscular”, full of “debauchery”, and “something that will help people”. But instead of being interested in the content or style of her own work, many people seem more preoccupied with the repercussions it has had on her personal relationships.

For Caldwell, it’s not so much the question of why women are shamed more than men that’s the mystery:”Emma Cline told Tin House: ‘I believe that partly we ask women these questions because we see women in relation to those around them, as daughters or partners or mothers, and not as autonomous artists.’ What she is saying is that asking me what my family thinks is a way of reminding me of my duties as a woman.” Rather, she seems to be starting a conversation about how we can change this perception going forward.

To join in on the conversation of female writers and shame, check out the panel “Shame: A Fictional Exploration” on Day 3 of Off the Page, November 5th at 2:30 pm at 5605 Ave du Gaspe, 106. Authors Jowita Bydlowska, Anna Leventhal, and Fawn Parker will be reading from their work and discussing the concept and implications of shame.






Jowita Bydlowska’s GUY

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 12.10.46 PM.png

“It was both fascinating and disturbing to read Jowita Bydlowska’s debut novel, Guy, during the same week news broke of Donald Trump’s 2005 comments describing how he likes to treat (or rather, sexually assault) women. As the recorded revelation sparked a widespread discussion about what men really say about women behind closed doors, and while Trump defenders misguidedly tried to justify his vile remarks as nothing more than “locker room talk,” I was spending time inside the head of Bydlowska’s eponymous and misogynist lead character.” – Globe and Mail, October 2016

After the success of her addiction memoir, Drunk Mom (Doubleday Canada, 2013), Bydlowska’s debut novel, Guy (Wolsak and Wynn, 2016), is a departure in topic but not in style. The pared down prose is just as biting, the subject matter is dark yet humorous, and the antagonistic protagonist distressingly real.

The story is told from the perspective of a misogynist named Guy who has a dog named Dog. Guy and Dog stroll the waterfront outside his beach house while he rates the women around him on a scale of 1 to 10 and treats (or mistreats) them accordingly. But it isn’t beautiful women Guy enjoys singling out as conquests; it’s ‘plain girls’, the ones who will worship him long after he’s finished with them.

There’s something uncomfortable about reading Guy. But then again, that seems to be the point Bydlowska is making; you should be uncomfortable. The normalization of “locker room talk” is uncomfortable. The societal truths she so deftly reveals are uncomfortable. The novel sweeps you along in Guy’s fitness-obsessed, appearance-fixated life until the twist ending.

Jowita will be reading at “Shame: A Fictional Exploration” as part of the Off the Page Festival on November 5th, 2016 at 2:30 p.m. at 5605 Ave du Gaspe, #106. For event info, click here.




Those who attended March 2016’s Off the Page panel “A Queer is a Queer is a Queer” were lucky enough to witness a dynamic discussion between some of the most interesting voices in literature today, among them former Concordia student Zoe Whittall, a novelist and poet now based in Toronto. Her reading from her first book, Bottle Rocket Hearts, was especially poignant for many of the audience members, as its story grapples with issues still very much relevant today, told against the backdrop of Montreal during the 1995 referendum.

Zoe’s latest book, The Best Kind of People, from House of Anansi Press, is a 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist. It explores the aftermath of rape allegations leveled against the father, a prep school teacher revered for tackling a school shooter a decade prior. The family’s ostracism from their upper middle class suburban community,  and the powerlessness each member experiences as they locate themselves as individuals, propels a narrative that is both poetic and timeless. While Whittall has been working on the novel for the past six years, the topic of rape culture has been steadily gaining attention in that time, making the timing of the book extremely relevant.

Whittall will be returning to the Off the Page Festival this fall on November 3rd, 2016.