Less than two weeks ’til Christmas, and some of you have already finished your holiday shopping, but some of you may still be struggling to think of that perfect gift. Besides a subscription to PRISM international what do you get that special reader, that special writer in your life? Well, books, obviously! But which ones?! Here are some wonderful gift ideas from the PRISM Editors.
Prose Editor Christopher Evans
I was fortunate enough to attend former Granta Editor-in-Chief John Freeman’s event at this year’s Vancouver Writer’s Fest, at which Freeman was launching his new literary journal, the cryptically-titled Freeman’s. Joining him were American writer Laura van den Berg and Brazilian writer Daniel Galera, who read the pieces they’d contributed to the inaugural issue, loosely based around the theme “Arrival.”
Both pieces nearly killed me dead, and either would be worth the price of the journal alone. Throw in work from Dave Eggers, Etger Keret, Anne Carson, Haruki Murakami, and more, and you’ve got the perfect gift for anyone who appreciates craft or character or narrative, or really any aspect of writing done well. Freeman kept referring to Freeman’s as “the magazine,” but, at nearly three hundred pages, it’s actually an attractive anthology that will look great on a bookshelf, but better still, tattered from being hauled everywhere and read constantly. Available through all the usual channels.
Poetry Editor Dominique Bernier-Cormier
If you’ve decided to give your loved ones something other than PRISM’s Winter Issue, then here’s a few suggestions, old and new:
For the people in your life who constantly tell you they just don’t have time to read: The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel. Hempel’s stories pack so much in so few pages. The first story in this collection is a page and a half. If someone tells you they don’t have time for that, take back that beautiful Amy Hempel book, put a bow on it, and give it to yourself instead. Those stories are little static shocks of human emotion. Also, there’s a perfect dog on the cover.
For the people who tell you they just don’t get poetry: Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty by Tony Hoagland, For Your Safety Please Hold On by our Poetry Judge Kayla Czaga, or Mr. West by Sarah Blake. Tony Hoagland’s poetry is some of the funniest I’ve ever read. It’s also fairly heartbreaking. This is for your friend who spends their holiday laugh-crying in front of the fireplace while pondering the slow implosion of the North American suburban home. One of Kayla Czaga’s poems starts with “I don’t get poetry either. Mostly I get cavities, / junk mail.” I’ve given this book as a gift a few times already, because it seems to hit close to home for a lot of young people, and because Kayla’s images cut through any reservations they may have about poetry, and about “getting it.” It speaks to its readers in a personal, clear, and contemporary way. I’ve only read one poem from Mr. West, but I’m pretty excited about reading the whole thing. Sarah Blake calls it an “unauthorized lyric biography of Kanye West.” Sign me up. This sounds like a book of poetry for the 21st century. Show your loved ones poetry isn’t always about tulips and thunderstorms.
Executive Editor, Circulation Jennifer Lori
One of the books on my holiday wish list this year is Karim Alrawi’s debut novel, The Book of Sands. The inaugural winner of the HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction, Karim has crafted a compelling narrative of Arab oppression and uprising. With a lyrical style that’s been compared to Salman Rushdie, Karim’s deft use of metaphor and magical realism lifts the reader from the horrors of the totalitarian regime, while presenting a raw, gritty story of love and human survival. This is one book I can’t wait to find under my tree.
Look out for a review of “Book of Sands” – COMING SOON!
Reviews Editor Anita Bedell
I’m about halfway through my shopping list, and so far all I’ve picked up are books. I even got my parents (who resent me just a little when I get them hooked on a good book because it prevents them from getting work done) a couple of great novels: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr for my mom, and Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda for my Dad. I got him hooked last year with Boyden’s Three Day Road.
For my oldest friend, I’m excited to gift the new Adrian Tomine graphic novel, Killing and Dying, published by Drawn & Quarterly. I really enjoyed Shortcomings, and how Tomine astutely addressed issues of race in an engaging, almost heartwarming way. In Killing and Dying, he explores familial relationships and loss. For my youngest friend (now 18 months old) who is already in love with all things ocean, I’m going to gift S is for Salmon: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet by Hannah Viano, published by Little Bigfoot. A lovely ABC hardcover of Viano’s regionally themed paper-cut art.
Executive Editor, Promotions Claire Matthews
Who doesn’t love a good book for the holidays? More sentimental than a gift card, more thoughtful than chocolates or socks. And if you’re anything like me, your holiday list includes a bunch of writers. We may complain about all the books we have because we can’t find space for them, but I think we all still love receiving a book as a gift. I already received a book that I’ve been dying to get my hands on: Air Carnation by Guadalupe Muro. Before the lovely Sierra Skye Gemma interviewed her and made me want to read the book even more, I’ve been after this book. Air Carnation blends non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and song; I love books that merge genres and explore the ways the genres intersect.
When I think about what to give some of my closest friends, Michael V. Smith’s My Body is Yours comes first to mind. This memoir is the essence of what memoirs should be: intimate, ruthless in its willingness to hold nothing back, and just a damn good story. My Body is Yours is funny and captivating, insightful and devastating. Smith explores the definition of masculinity and gender, both his own and society’s, while discovering his body–aspects of himself that I’d say he has always known, but has been reluctant to given himself permission to accept. This memoir feels genuine in its reveals and reflection: no gimmicks, no flash even if Smith loves pink and glitter. My Body is Yours is a perfect addition to anyone’s library, holidays or not.