What makes a second book different from a debut? MFA alumni publishing second books continue to share their insights about the gifts of sophomore efforts. Here's Grace O'Connell—author of the newly released novel, Be Ready for the Lightning—on one of her favourites:
"If I can only recommend one sophomore book, it's got to be Open by Lisa Moore. I first read Moore's second book (and second story collection) in university, and it did exactly what its title claims—it opened me up to a completely different reading and writing reality. Here were stories that were raw and funny, moody and strange, sexy and sad—all at once. Moore was young, and Canadian, and just doing it, and that meant everything to me. There were no apologies in Open. Even the cover was different, frank, unsettling.
Open taught me about writing without me even noticing I was learning. It did it just by being so damn beautiful. Every sentence is so specific, so unique to that story, a combination of words that couldn't appear anywhere else. Every sentence is a little world, and the pleasure of that, as a reader, felt almost painfully good, like a deep tissue massage. The moments in those stories are pure imagination. In "Natural Parents", a baby boy wakes up to cry in the night, and his mother pictures the entire world sucked into his mouth:
…The telephones poles, grimy snowbanks, loose pennies, Christmas presents, the Atlantic, asteroids. Then it is reversed. Peter tilted his head back and the world, ragged and inconsolable, came back out.
And while the images and stories are beautiful, specific, and unique, the language is simple, clear—there's no padding, no paragraphs that require wading through. The stories in Open hide behind absolutely nothing. It's a masterclass in writing fiction, but that wouldn't sink in for me until many re-readings on. The first time, it was just the best sucker punch possible."
Be Ready for the Lightning is published by Random House Canada: A suspenseful, poignant and provocative tale about violence, sibling love, friendship, heroism—all told through the lens of a young woman trapped in a hijacked bus.
Join Grace for her launch from 6–8pm on Tuesday, June 6, at La Palette (492 Queen Street West, Toronto). Books for sale courtesy of Type.