The art of storytelling has lately seemed like a forgotten pastime. The same could be said of ’zine culture—it’s still around, but the cut-and-paste, Do-It-Yourself paper booklet, alt-culture boom of the ’80s and ’90s has slowed in momentum.
Emerging from these two threads is Invisible Publishing. Based in Halifax but also made up of Montreal ’zinesters, the young company is interested in the voices of new Canadian writers, following a mandate that’s intent on publishing writers who wouldn’t normally be picked up by the larger publishing houses—like the writers who come from the self-publishing and ’zine tradition.
Invisible’s latest effort is an anthology called The Art of Trespassing edited by writer and performance artist Anna Leventhal whose own fiction is included in the book, has been nominated for the Journey Prize and has also had her writing appear in Geist. For The Art of Trespassing Leventhal selected writers who playfully and sadly engage with the idea of place, infrastructure and crossing boundaries. The result is an anthology of young stories that have fresh takes on narrating the experiences shaping the lives of the 20- and 30-something crowd. The stories might ring a little closer to home than most you’d find on the bookstore shelf, but the writers, many of whom are based out of Montreal, aren’t names you would recognize. Well, maybe one name might strike as familiar: Stephen Guy, a local writer, story-teller and a second-year PhD student in the English Department, is one of the 13 authors included in this anthology.
Guy’s consciously offhandedly titled “To Some Lighthouse” is a short short story about a half-hearted sexual tryst that, with its awkwardness, fits snugly into what Guy describes as the anthology’s motif of “young people screwing up.”
“There’s a real Anglo-slacker Montreal vibe [in the anthology],” Guy said.
“It’s the classic Canadian thing; everyone flooded to Montreal for school then people fell in love with the city and stuck around.”
With The Art of Trespassing’s indie roots, it looks as though a lot of writers in the anthology perhaps combatted the Montreal slackerism and winter by becoming active artists in the ’zine community, self-publishing and making shit happen.
Small press and self-publishing is a little like trespassing: it’s good explorative fun and there are those out there who probably look down on it. “The thing I always liked about being a ’zinester is there’s no quality control. The editing will always be bad. It might not be original art—but then it might be,” Guy said.
Coming to town this Sunday, Leventhal and fellow anthology contributors Vince Tinguely, a performance poet and Jeff Miller, a classic punk rock ’zinester and the mind behind Ghost Pine Fanzine, will join Guy at Novel Idea for a reading and party to kick off The Art of Trespassing. Sponsoring the event is the Wolfe Island Story Cabal, a pseudo-secretive group of local storytellers who get together every week to ride the free ferry to Wolfe Island at sunset and read aloud stories, jokes and poetry.
The group was started in spring 2007 by Guy and his friends, mainly graduate students who spend most of their weeks reading Great Works of Literature and in response wanted to get together and share their own, more ordinary tales. The group also aims to make a community out of writers, dispelling the notion of the Great Writer or Poet scribbling and thinking their thoughts alone.
“Our mission is ‘Literature is by and for everybody.’ It’s not just what you see in the New Yorker or the Norton,” Guy said.
“I wish that people would think about writing. It doesn’t have to be this big monolithic thing. It can be part of your everyday life.”
The group felt their carefree, DIY approach to literature was in line with The Art of Trespassing and so the Invisible Publishing reading on Sunday will be followed by a Wolfe Island Story Cabal jaunt on the ferry at 6 p.m. with the visiting authors and anyone who wants to show up to share or listen to stories.
“The thing about the group is just how relaxed it is and how supportive everyone is. There’S no constructive criticism. It’s only cheerleading.”
“We chose the word ‘cabal’ because it’s silly. We’re dorks on a boat,” he said.
“At the same time, maybe it’s something insidious—but probably not.”
The launch/story cabal marks a sort of hope for a barely visible local and young lit scene and a starting point for writers to come out of the woodwork and start an indie community of their own. After all, this kind of attitude is prevalent and cool in most other arts, just look at Apple Crisp, Cameo Cinema and Modern Fuel’s contemporary art projects. “I don’t think we’ll do a good job of sexy-ing [literature] up, but hopefully it’ll be less pretentious,” Guy said.
“It’d be so amazing if people could see a way in.”
Invisible Publishing launches the anthology The Art of Trespassing this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Novel Idea, followed by a session of the Wolfe Island Story Cabal at 6 p.m. at the dock.
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