In the literary world, there is perhaps nothing more exciting than a debut book from an up-and-coming author.
The anticipation, the sheer joy in the written word, the belief you’re witnessing the start of a long, successful career—what’s not to be jazzed about?
Beautiful Beautiful, the first novel from Richmond-based Brandon Reid, follows 12-year-old Derik as he travels to Bella Bella for his grandfather’s funeral, discovering his family history, his cultural heritage, and his relationship to his father (and his identity) along the way. Narrated by Derik’s spiritual guardian but told from constantly shifting perspectives, this coming-of-age story is full of humour, tough conversations, and heart. Here, Reid shares his favourite book to gift, the book he wishes he wrote, and the one that left him in awe.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Brandon Reid. My debut novel, Beautiful Beautiful, will be released November 18 by Nightwood Editions. I live in Richmond, working as a TTOC [teacher training on-call]. I’m of Heiltsuk and English ancestry. I enjoy cooking, watching standup comedy, and listening to everything from jazz to post-punk.
What’s something you want everyone to know about you?
I work as a teacher, so it’d be nice to see my book displayed in libraries as a source on Indigenous culture, trauma, and spirituality. Besides that, I like wielding a microphone, so if anyone wants to give me five minutes on the spot, I’d give standup a go.
What’s one book that changed the way you think?
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce turned me onto lyricism and aesthetics in literature. I didn’t understand the majority of what I read, yet I found pure joy in the musicality of his words. Subject matters less to me than how language is used.
What are you currently reading?
Light in August by William Faulkner. I’m inspired by his mosaic of perspectives to convey truth; I relate to the half-worlds of Joe Christmas; I appreciate the mastery of dialogue to accurately depict oral storytelling. The book is beyond the sum of its parts.
What’s your favourite book to give as a gift?
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, as it’s insightful, practical, and sincere. I haven’t heard an ill comment toward it. Kimmerer does an excellent job applying Indigenous knowledge to remedy issues with Western farming. Fascinating book.
How would you describe your book tastes?
Avant-garde. I’m aware how pretentious that is, but I’m excited by authors who portray their worlds in innovative, exciting ways. It’s not what you’re writing about that interests me, but how you depict it.
What’s one book you can’t wait to read?
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. I relate to an unorthodox teacher who means well, but ultimately misses the mark and becomes embroiled in drama. I’m having trouble finding a copy, so I’ll probably have to order it online, unfortunately.
What’s one book you thought you’d love but didn’t?
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I rushed through. I try to read underappreciated books—ones the authors claimed were their personal favourites—so I read Tender is the Night first. I couldn’t overcome the feeling I was reading an inferior, juvenile piece with The Great Gatsby.
Favourite book store in Vancouver?
I appreciate any independent bookstore for the sense of discovery they offer. It’s essential to promote small businesses that make our economy go round. My personal favourite would be Village Books & Coffee House in Steveston, where I grew up.
Favourite local author?
William Gibson. Neuromancer—as I’m sure anyone who’s read it will agree with—is the epitome of cool, sleek, futurist sci-fi. Really inspiring to have him as a Vancouverite.
Controversial: are you someone who has to finish every book you start, or can you abandon ones that aren’t working for you?
I make an effort to finish books I’ve started, but I’ll absolutely abandon them, usually within the first few pages, if I’m not inspired. There are too many books to read! I’m not wasting my time being bored.
What’s one book you wish you wrote?
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. I know I boast of being abstract and all, but this book inspired me to write a traditional story, use timeless themes for allegory, set up twists through foreshadowing, and utilize the nuances of structure. It’s a well layered, satisfying read.
Where’s your favourite place in Vancouver to read?
On the SkyTrain, travelling through the air, travelling through the worlds of words.