A little while back I heard about an author called Daemon Fairless, who had been a reporter for the CBC but moved on to work on a novel about male violence, called Mad Blood Stirring. After talking with a number of people about the book, and learning a bit more about it, I got the chance to interview Daemon and dig deep into the topics he covers in this fascinating debut work of non-fiction. That interview is up on Hazlitt now.
I’ve yammered at length on panels, on the radio, and at readings, about how readers’ inability to squarely look at violence as it truly is, as opposed to some hyper-realized version, or some opaque idea of it, is a real problem. It is especially apparent in how we absorb popular Canadian literature, as evidenced by when viewers had to sit through Canada Reads and see brilliant, important books like Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, and Omar El Akkad’s American War, get dismissed by baffled panelists as too “alienating.” (That is in here too).
Unfortunately, violence in literature and in life is not really what the average reader, or writer, believes it to be. It changed my outlook on everything when I read how Hemingway wrote physical violence (I discussed that at length in this WIR post for Open Book Ontario from 2015, along with my whole take on writing violence well), and the writers I admire all have found ways to write violent and despairing things while maintaining a beauty and artfulness in the craft of their writing. If you want to write about violent things, and deadly, catastrophic things, you have to write them properly. If you do, the weight of those words increases exponentially, and the impact will be real and lasting.
I was sent Fairless’ book, Mad Blood Stirring, by two different people at Penguin Random House, and I can see why they sent it over. We had a lot of shared experience with violence, though very different lives, and we both recognized each other as people who have just put their toe in the water, but at least have an idea how deep that water gets. As a result, we had a long, open talk about the book, and the ideas within.
So, check out this talk on Hazlitt if you like, by clicking this line, and, if any of it intrigues, you should pick up this book and dig in. I know there are a lot of “maleness” books out there these days, but I also know that we need the good ones to stem the tide of dipshit “public intellectuals” who are peddling their wares and doing their damage for ego and profit only. Further, books like this, and a few others out there, are a welcome reminder that we should look at an issue like male violence for what it is, equal parts horrifying, complicated, and important. In any case, we follow these threads and more in the interview, and I hope you’ll give it a look.
Thanks for reading. Cheers. KH