Barbara Gowdy, the nightmarish and wonderful

I met Barbara Gowdy today! Well, kind of. I sat in a room with her while University of Toronto professors asked her questions. I was in the third row though, so I count that as a meeting… Maybe? In any case, she’s an absolutely amazing Canadian writer, definitely at the top of my list of favourites.

I first discovered her work in my second year at U of T while taking a short story class, there we read “We So Seldom Look On Love,” a story about a necrophile who works at a morgue and has sex with dead bodies. I know, I know, it sounds way creepy and kind of gross, but wow is it an amazing story. If anyone has the talent to make the most odd and obscure things sound completely normal, it’s Barbara Gowdy.

At the Q&A session today, Gowdy read excerpts from and talked about three of her novels; The White Bone, Falling Angels, and We So Seldom Look On Love (a collection of short stories).

I read The White Bone the summer after I took the short story class and it was nothing like I’ve read before. The story is about elephants and in a way is told from the perspective of elephants. During the lecture, Gowdy spoke about her love and compassion for animals and especially elephants who she deemed one of the smartest creatures on this planet. She also spoke about a trip to Africa where she was on the other side of a river and a herd of elephants was coming toward her. Since humans hunt elephants so much and have caused them to become endangered, wild elephants tend to attack any human in their path if they think they could be a threat. Gowdy said the elephants didn’t touch her, but instead walked past her.

I haven’t read Falling Angels, but I plan to once I finish school in three weeks (then I can read anything I want and not things I need to read for class).

“I’m unconscious as a writer,” said Gowdy when speaking about how she writes. She says she “does what she does” and forgets how she did it. When called a nightmarish and wonderful writer, she said, “I never thought of myself as odd and strange. This is just how I see the world.”

She’s a refreshing writer, pick up one of her books or short stories. You won’t regret it. I promise!

Check out my article for The Medium about the event at UTM (University of Toronto Mississauga)


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