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 Julia Lin told us. She’s the Vancouver-based author of Miah, her debut short-story collection. She’ll be reading from it at 11:30 a.m. on September 29, in the fest’s Canada Writes Tent outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
Like most B.C. high school students, I had read Katherine Mansfield’s short story “Miss Brill” in English class. I found the story so compelling that I looked up The Collected Stories. The volume contained her published books of short fiction and a number of unfinished stories. (Mansfield’s promising literary career had been cut short in 1923, when she died of tuberculosis at the age of 34.)
Although I do not remember my reaction to most of the collection, I do recall the one story that stood out for me. The poignant ending of “The Doll’s House” moved me to tears. It was the first time that literature had been able to elicit such a reaction from me.
I didn’t know and would have cared little for Mansfield’s importance as a modernist writer at the time. All I knew was admiration for the power that she wielded and the beauty of the story. That was many years ago, but I still gauge the talent of a literary writer by the ability to move me to tears or laughter. For me, that is true art.