Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

An Interview with Iain Reid

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An acclaimed essayist and memoirist from Kingston, Iain Reid's latest book, The Truth About Luck is featured in our Open Book Explorer Kingston tour and landmarks. Recalling a short, but memorable ?staycation? with his grandmother, Reid takes us on short jaunts around the city and also into the complexly humorous nature of his relationship with her.

Another memoir of his, One Bird?s Choice won the CBC Bookie award for best nonfiction book. Ian's new project, a literary horror novel called I?m Thinking of Ending Things was recently sold to Simon & Schuster in a two-book deal. We appreciate him answering our Five Explorer Questions.

Open Book:

What did your grandmother think about you writing a book about your time together? Did you broach the topic with her first?

Iain Reid:

I didn't broach the idea with her first because it wasn't until after our trip that I decided to write about it. Once I'd finished a draft I told her about it. She was mostly surprised our small trip was something I wanted to write about. She continues to tell me she can't believe anyone would ever want to write a book about her.


As with any memoir, reconstructing events can be a daunting task. How did you go about piecing those smaller details (dialogue, habits, etc.) into a timeline? Did your grandmother prove to be helpful with this?


I actually had pages and pages of notes after our five days together. It was during our first drive that I realized Grandma might end up telling me stories about her life I'd never heard before. I made the decision to write as much down as I could. We had a lot of time on this trip to talk. As the trip progressed, it wasn't just the stories and memories she told, but some the other ideas we discussed, and thoughts, that I found just as interesting. I would periodically sneak away and write it all down. I spent the first few months of work on the book just going through all the notes and piecing together the narrative that was there. There's a lot to talk and think about after living for almost a century.


One of my favourite scenes is near the end, where you wake up one morning and come downstairs to find your grandmother on the floor, and from your vantage point, possibly dead. Instead, she?s doing morning exercises. You depict her as incredibly resilient throughout the book. To your mind, is this something common with that generation ? the ability to persevere?


Just to make it into your mid-nineties and still be living in your own home, buying groceries, cooking meals, working in your garden, there's an inherent resilience that comes with this kind of long life. I'm not sure my perception of that generation was changed at all. Part of what interested me was how different my life, for many reasons, has been compared to Grandma's.


The Truth About Luck references key moments in history, and of course Kingston is a city with a lot of history. But when history is connected to someone close to you, it takes on a different quality. Did you encounter moments where your grandmother?s experiences changed a particular view you had on a historical moment?


I don't think I can recall a specific story or experience from Grandma that changed my view of a historical moment. It did make me think more about history, and what she's lived through and seen. But it also made me more aware of the present and my own life. We talked a lot about time and how our perception and experience of time changes over a lifetime.


Has your grandmother read the book? Does she approve?


Yes, she's read the book. She loves reading, although, I think the idea of being the subject of an entire book makes her wince a little. But she's definitely been very generous and supportive. She came down to Toronto for the book launch. But now she's more interested in what I'm working on next.

Buy this book at House of Anansi, online at Amazon or at Chapters.Indigo.

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