Bookmarks spotlights the personalities and published books of faculty, staff and alumni.
Author Angie Abdou, MA’92 (English), whose new book Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom is a ‘Western Reads’ selection this year, has also written novels The Bone Cage and In Case I Go. She offers her writing, reading and recommendations this week.
What book do we find you reading tonight?
Ali Bryan’s The Figgs. She is a writer from Calgary, a funny one. I do a monthly column for Daybreak Alberta where I recommend books with Alberta authors, publishers, or settings. So I do read a lot of Alberta-focused literature.
How you decide what to read? Reviews, word of mouth, maybe occasionally judge a book by its cover?
I used to try to “keep up” with Canadian literature because I liked to have read books of friends and fellow panelists and whomever I happened to run into at events. I liked to feel I had a good sense of what writers were doing here at home. But there are so many books; that goal has become increasingly impossible. I’m trying to read more internationally now, mostly on recommendations, and to give up on the idea of “keeping up.”
Name one book you wish you had written. And why.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. I rarely re-read books but I’ve read it and Miriam Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows over and over again. I like both for their unique and energetic style, the powerful emotion, the deep humanity, and the humour. I also like the sparseness of style – the way both get at something big in few words.
Name one book you could never finish. And why.
I always finish books. It’s an affliction. I can’t help it.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
For fun, I like domestic thrillers: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding, Our Little Secret by Roz Nay – that kind of thing. They’re scattered about my house.
Any genres you avoid? And why.
Not really. If someone tells me a book is great, I’ll read it regardless of genre.
If you could require every university president to read one book, what would it be? And why.
I don’t believe in required reading, for anyone. I only realized that in busting my mind trying to come up with an answer to this question. I don’t have one. But read Iain Reid’s Foe, just for fun – it’s the book everyone’s loving this year.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
All I care about at a dinner party is, are they kind and fun and open-minded and engaging and funny? Do I want to spend time with them? If I start giving you a list, it’ll be a list of my favourite writer friends – and I’ll be bound to leave someone out and hurt a friend’s feelings. So I will stick to not-alive: Paul Quarrington (author of many books including one of my favourite hockey books, King Leary), Richard Wagamese (author of another favourite hockey book – Indian Horse), and one writer I never got to know but wish I had – Timothy Findley.
How do you explain what your latest book is about to them?
Home Ice is a year-in-the-life of a busy sport family, but, really, I use hockey as a vehicle to talk about contemporary existence (parenting, marriage, goals, desires, aging, happiness). I include research about best practices in youth sport but also tell a deeply personal story, in hopes that an honest and (I hope) compelling narrative will get the research into the hands of every-day families. After five fictional books, I wanted to try my hand at creative non-fiction because I found myself drawn more to that genre –as a reader – for the kind of honesty I found there
What is the best line you have ever written?
Oh, I could never answer this. I’m starting (as I approach 50) to think my real joy is in the actual writing itself. I don’t give much thought to my books once they’re on the shelf. I move onto the next. I do, I admit, like it when someone, introducing me at a public-speaking event, pulls out a favourite line of one of my books and I think, “Hey that’s pretty good! I wrote that?” I never remember the line as my own when I hear it.
Who would you want to write your life story?
Trevor Cole comes to mind first because he’s good at non-fiction – he has such a structured, meticulous quality to his work. I know he would take the job seriously. Miriam Toews also floats across my mind as a dream author because her voice and humour resonate with me as true to my experience of life as I live it. I suppose she has that impact on a lot of readers, which accounts for her popularity. I would like my life story to be funny. Trevor does funny well, too.