The Book That Changed Your Life: Lori McNulty

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      The Word Vancouver festival is gearing up for its 2017 edition with a huge and inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 19 to 24.

      We asked a group of these acclaimed writers to tell us about their most memorable reading experiences. Which books shaped their imaginations early on? Which ones taught them the power of the written word?

      Here’s what Vancouver’s Lori McNulty told us. Among McNulty’s most recent works is her much-praised debut short-story collection Life on Mars. She’ll be talking about the book at 12:05 p.m. on September 24, on the Suspension Bridge stage outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      A friend gave me The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy just as I was beginning my studies at McGill University. It languished, unread, amid a growing collection of breathtaking books: A Fine Balance, Things Fall Apart, Midnight’s Children.

      Then one morning I cracked the cover.  

      Set in Kerala, India, during the late 1960s, the book explores the devastating results of a love affair between Ammu, from an upper-class, Syrian-Christian family, and Velutha, an Untouchable carpenter and communist. 

      There was the heartbreaking daring of Roy’s language. “And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”

      There was the haunting undercurrent of postcolonial history. Roy’s indictment of India’s caste system, of oppressive rule and religion, is set against small, exquisitely drawn moments of love, indignity, and suffering. 

      “Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Suddenly, they become the bleached bones of a story.”

      I knew then that literature was capable of shape-shifting, that it could grow fangs and feet.

      Since reading the book, I have twice visited India. And when I look into the eyes of the locals—a Garhwali girl climbing a hill path, a vegetable vendor selling eggplants and potatoes in Ahmedabad—I think of all that is forbidden and beautiful in the world.  

      Great books make you want to write. And so I began to.

      Adam and Kev Photography