This year, the Word on the Street festival returns with a new moniker—Word Vancouver—and a hugely varied schedule that runs at venues around town from September 25 to 29. As part of the runup, we asked some of the writers on the bill to tell us about the reading experiences that shaped them. Which book left deep impressions early on? Which one overhauled the way they see and think about the world, and set them on a path to a literary life?
Here’s what Cynthia Flood told us. She’s the author of the bold new short-story collection Red Girl Rat Boy. She’ll be reading from it at 11 a.m on September 29, in the fest’s Canada Writes Tent outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
In childhood and youth I wrote, but years passed without much evidence to show that someday I’d be a fiction writer. In my 30s, that changed. Visiting the old VPL main branch (the site now adorned by Victoria’s Secret), I glanced at Doris Lessing’s A Proper Marriage. Read a bit. Read more. Sat down. Read read read.
A tap on my arm. “We’re closing now. Why not check the book out?”
Lessing’s five-novel sequence Children of Violence (Volume 2 is APM) features characters who are emotionally political. Intense and passionate, they ride the wild horses of ideology, sectarianism, sex, betrayal, class, race, brief success and long-term failure. For me, newly a feminist and socialist, reading these books was like entering a huge new brilliant room.
Not all my fiction concerns politics, but most contains some element of rebellion, refusal. If the stories live, my gratitude’s owed to Lessing.