M.A.: What is the state of the novel?

B.: That’s like asking me the state of the sun. I could tell you if I was an astronomer, but I am not an astronomer. Better to check an almanac.

M.A.: With the publication of your most recent book, Valves; and secret openings, you made headlines with your cavalier use of punctuation—

B.: That’s right.

M.A.: Tell us about that.

B.: It was a very bad time in my life. I went to India. I was horrified. “These people,” I thought, “are very poor.” And I am so rich, I remembered. It made me realise that even though I hadn’t won a major award in the preceding four years, I was still very much a man at the top of my game. I had all of my teeth. I started reading the Upanishads. I thought, “Damned if these people don’t know a thing or two about punctuation!” On the way home it hit me. “I’m a clever guy,” I thought. I wrote the first chapter of the book on the plane, propped up between a fat man with eczema and a woman who couldn’t stop scratching her leg.

M.A.: That explains page twenty-six.

B.: (laughs) Well, this is fiction, remember. And nothing is at all based on reality. But yes.


What do you miss most?



Being empty is a pleasure.

What else?

Tree. Sky. Light.

How can you speak?

You catch my thoughts in the ether, I catch yours.

Are you dead?


What do you remember last?

Being held. Wine.


Drowning in it.

Perhaps you are dead.

Yes. Perhaps.

Perhaps we all are.

I think this, sometimes.

What is your name?

Chirp twice alarm, one squeak food. In name brackets, of course. The parenthesis for names.


There’s the man from before, and there’s the man again. He’s at the door. He’s at the door with his pen and he smiles, briefly.

My mother is here.

My mother is here.

My mother is here.

The tall WHITE man stands. He stands behind. His coat is WHITE. His hair is WHITE. His moustache is WHITE and it curls over his mouth.

The woman has pinned a needle into my chest. They’ve opened my gown. They make a plastic tube stick out from the needle. The woman takes a syringe and pushes liquid in. The liquid is pressed out from the syringe and goes into the tube.

The WHITE man talks.

My mother talks.

The WHITE man talks.

My mother talks.

My mother talks.

My mother talks.

My hand opens and closes. I reach for the plastic tube that held the syringe. The woman brushes me off and pulls the tube away.

My mother grabs my hand. She talks. “No, DYLAN, xxe xs xox xoxe.”

My mother has hot breath.

My mother is here.

The man with the pen is in the door. He is at the door and he holds a pen. He is at the door, in the lip writing something, and he doesn’t look up.

The woman pushes another syringe into the tube. She puts the syringe away. The tube is soft and I squeeze it. I am on the bed.

My mother is here.

The man at the door doesn’t look up.

Something hurts.

I don’t feel right.

Something hurts and I cry.

Something hurts and I cry.

Something hurts and I cry.

My mother is here. She talks.

The woman is here. She talks.

The WHITE man is here. He talks.

The man with the pen stands in the doorway. He writes. He doesn’t look up.

My mother is here. She talks.

Something hurts and I cry.

My mother is here. She talks.

Something hurts and I cry.

My mother is here. She talks.

My mother is here. She talks.

I fall asleep.

I tried reading Fortress of Solitude again, after finishing Coming through Slaughter. It was a poor choice. The experience is like stepping off a treadmill your first time after a long time, walking with odd-step, awkward-gait. After the bouncing jazz, Fortress of Solitude is just too slow. It’s good, and I liked it the first time, but the second time the lack of agency is painful. It feels too, too much. It’s not overtly literary, but it is at the same time, with its speed.

And I can

I can deal with slow. Some slow has to do with intensity. Building up the moment. Obsessing on the little, relevant details. The background building to a crescendo in your head. Sergio-Leone-slow. But Fortress of Solitude feels like old concrete painted in a yellow-brown-wash. It’s almost too nostalgic. What appealed to me at first was the nostalgia. When I first read it, I remembered my early days in a brownstone, wearing second-hand clothes. How true it is!, I thought. Now it’s too much.

What the book is is a segment of Sesame Street from an early episode. Children in a city-park, caught with their coats on, slightly off sound-quality, the children’s voices doing odd things at the edges of the spectrum, mixed with the old equipment. A black kid missing a couple teeth reciting a nursery rhyme, over and over, while, in the foreground, mixed girls in pony-tails jump rope.

It’s good, it’s good, and if you want to read that, read that.

But I can’t take it now. It’s something about the speed. About the overwhelming nostalgia. About knowing the course of the story, the fates of the characters. What I remember most about the first time was waiting for the characters to explode. I thought something big, something big-big, was going to happen, spurred on by Slow and the cover’s bright, bold style. I thought the book was going to erupt like a Marvel comic, for reasons you’d understand if you read it. But it kept at that pace, and made small gain, small gain, small gain. I’ve been wanting to re-read it for years, but now that I’ve picked it up, it’s easy to put down.

I think was confused when I first read it, and I didn’t understand as much as I do now. About my own taste. About the state of the book. About the importance of agency, and the need to not stress symbols and squeeze truths. I’m re-reading Neuromancer now. I think it’s a much better fit.


Because of the romance. Because of the language and history. Because you hear, stuck on the streetcar, that things there just work. Because it’s not Toronto.


Because of the Atlantic, the wild, rocky shores. Because of the trees and the green. Because of the accents and openness. Because it’s not Toronto.


Because it’s remote. Because you’re curled up and reminded EVERY DAY where you live, an unbroken expanse of untamed– you look around and are dwarfed by what you see. Made little by the scale. Ego tamed and worrying about real– when the weather is bad, you worry, when you’re caught out and alone at night you worry too. Because it’s not Toronto.


Counting 20, 20, 20, in my head every hour on the hour, thinking – what’s the magic number, André, what’s it going to – folding pages in and out of paperclips; stapling.

The Subway. The black end of the line… the tunnel at the very end of the tiled-walk down the track. The yawning darkness. spitting out cool breeze. sounds of small tools being dropped. The misunderstood man in the corner, with his newspaper, mocked unknown by three scandal-seeking girls doing their best impressions of women. The beatific grin, the examined crowds, the track rumble like THUNDER, the cracks in the ceiling, and everyone herded-like, standing still in cattle-thoughts, looking dumbly up at the sound and then around. The pure white light, the rails of the viaduct, like a motion-reel movie picture, a blank blue-white screen. Everyone looking and watching the rails and the light. Pulled into the tunnel, divorced from time; returned and the rails, and divorced again.

Bud Bolden, Bud Bolden, Bud Bolden. Coming through Slaughter. Said in my head like a magic spell. Bud Bolden, Bud Bolden, Bud Bolden.

The finest jazz novel ever written.

snapping a man’s head back—like magic, through his shades, staring out the window, this one’s for you, lady, walking partner; when lisa was—when the man came and watched, and watched, and watched—even as I and my eyes, the man had no shame. this one’s for you, lisa and lady: one head snapped-back, at least.

There are good fugues and bad fugues. Bad fugues: your head like a worn, thin sieve, pressed from above with a thousand different, bursting at the seams with different, unrelated, loud-shouting things. Good fugues lift you up. You can see the whole thing. The world is bright and you’re carried up, up, up, and out. Outside but sharing the same pulse, and your words hit certain right tones, perfect notes, in your head.


This is one of those things you keep meaning to make, you keep meaning to make, and then when you do you forget everything you were going to make after it.

Sorry it’s been so long between comics, I’ve been a little busy. Between now and then I started three jobs (quit one), moved, got married, wrote a short novel, and went to the bathroom approximately 758 times.

I finished that something long, it took me about a month. It’s about one hundred pages. Not long long, but not short either, and it’s certainly the longest thing I’ve ever written. You hear about other books when you mention yours, and sometimes other opening lines. “I should have forbade her” is the worst one I’ve heard.

I don’t know what to think of what I’ve written. In my head it congeals and boils down, and it’s hard to find it in an exact place. I’ll know in a month, when I read it again. I’ll know when I can fit it in my head in a way that suggests it wasn’t written by me. Things I have trouble with even then, I’ll know from you. The ones who I ask and who want to, I mean.


I should have forbade her, but in truth she would have done it anyway; eye-ing me, as she did, with full-born malice as she dipped her knife into that most-redundant of combinations: peanut-butter and buttered oil.

I should have forbade her when I saw those first few signs, when she first (in moments of pure jubilation) expressed her desire to kiss. But now I am greeted with the foulest of sights: for it has developed that she has no qualms about putting her lips (the very same which she will still-pucker for her beloved!) on those stringy and desiccated vermin which have surreptitiously found their way into our household (the cats).

I should have forbade her, but perhaps that was impossible, for by all accounts she was asleep. O’! would that I could have stopped her! Would that I could have ended her maddening pursuit of my pillow, side of the bed, and sheets!