BOOK PERSON | Vol. 20
Ferrante troll and author Dina Del Bucchia appreciates raunchy medieval lit and poetry in abundance: "I am always there for poetry and it's always there for me."
Last month I bought roller skates, and a few times a week I meet a pal at an empty parking lot between our homes to skate. To me it’s the opposite of running, in which I can forget my brain entirely and be wholly absorbed into the rhythms of breathing and movement. Roller skating is intensely physical but so unfamiliar that I have to think about each motion and its effect.
Lately reading has felt more like roller skating and less like running; I find myself working harder at it than I’m used to. I read most of the lyrical, sublime, challenging Signs Preceding the End of the World, then took a break for Sisters by Daisy Johnson. Like her last novel, Everything Under, it felt like a dark fairy tale with too much staked on the inevitable twists. I’m still trying to decide if I enjoyed it or if it was too M. Night Shyamalan-y for me.
This week, though, I am decidedly thrilled to share the recommendations of the funny, clever Dina Del Bucchia. She has a page on her website dedicated to important otter facts, which demonstrates her commitment to public service, and she has written several witty, scathing, brilliant collections of poetry and stories (this one is my favourite). Her whole-hearted enthusiasm about the recent books she has read feels like a balm for my ambivalent heart.
Where are you from, and where do you live now?
I grew up in Fruitvale, BC, but now live in Vancouver's West End. The only neighbourhood besides UBC dorms I've lived in here.
Describe your literary tastes.
I like books that are funny and weird. I love beautiful books that surprise me. I like to be enthralled, and I'll read almost anything. Poetry, fiction, memoir, essays, novelty books, graphic novels, comics. I'd rather read fun-loving chick lit over a best-selling book of "serious politics" written by some dude who got a huge advance and is on every news show.
What is your favourite bookstore in the whole wide world?
The Paper Hound in downtown Vancouver is my heart.
How do you keep track of what you read?
Lately, Goodreads. It's just easy and all the information is already there. I can put in the ISBN and then it appears and I say, yes, I read this on this date. I don't want to be fussy about it. And it's not my favourite platform, but it works for simply cataloging my business.
What are the last five books you read?
It was poetry month so all those books are poetry books! A joy. I'm one of those people who has been reading far less during the pandemic, but I am always there for poetry and it's always there for me. Debut collections from Selina Boan (Undoing Hours), Rebecca Salazar (sulphurtongue) and Molly Cross-Blanchard (The Exhibitionist) and new books by two other poetry favourites, Tenille Campbell's Nedi Nezu (Good Medicine) and Leanne Dunic's One and Half of You. I loved them all, and every book was so exciting to me.
What book is next to your bed right now?
I cleared out my bedside books because I put a box of tissues there because it's allergy season! But I am coming out of poetry month with two unread books, Leah Horlick's Moldovan Hotel and Rob Taylor's Strangers. And I also have two short novels, Patricia Lockwood's No One is Talking About This, and Hiroko Oyamada's The Factory. This is my taste. I love everything Lockwood has written and saved the novel for when I have time to savour and enjoy. I've wanted to read Oyamada for a while and last trip to The Paper Hound it was there waiting for me on the display so I snapped it up. So they are more in the bed with me than next to it.
What's the best book you read last year?
The book I think about the most probably Sayaka Murata's Earthlings. Her mind! The way she writes is so surprising, and this book is creepy, weird, funny, and freaky, but also oddly I identified with the emotional core of the characters.
Did you ever read a book for school, or out of a sense of duty to the classic canon, and find it was unexpectedly good?
Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. I didn't know what to expect and it was a real surprise delight. Lots of men embarrassing themselves, and it made Arthur and Lancelot looked like real turds. I was surprised at how raunchy and funny it was. No one else has really gone to the Arthurian legend with that level of sass, and I think that is a huge mistake.
Do you have a favourite genre?
Short stories are my favourite. They're the least respected least read and I don't understand why. They are putting in the work! And it's so nice to sit with a story and finish reading it in one sitting and have time to mull it over. George Saunders’ Pastoralia really did it for me as a young writer, so yes, I am a part of that cliche of short story writers. Kelly Link, ZZ Packer, Lydia Davis, Amy Hempel, and more recently Carmen Maria Machado and Souvankham Thammavongsa wrote short story collections that all really made me want to write them, and read more of them.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I was a big reader as a child. I would go to the library on spring break and end up finishing the books I took out in a day and my parents would have to take me back. I grew up in a small town, and we were so lucky to live within walking distance of the library. One of the absolute best things about our house was library proximity. Big love Beaver Valley Public Library. I had so many favourites. But one that I obsess over to this day is Orlando the Marmalade Cat Keeps a Dog. A family of fancy English cats decides to get a pet and they get a huge standard poodle and guess what? Hilarity ensues. The cats have the best outfits and Kathleen Hale's illustrations are incredible. There's a whole series about Orlando but the books are out of print. Which is rude considering Jordan Peterson still gets to publish books. Last time I was in my beloved Paper Hound I asked Kim Koch to keep a look out for any that show up, as they have a lot of rare, cool stuff.
Which book do you give most often as a gift?
I've given Oliver Jeffers's Lost & Found to so many parent friends. Come on, that shit is cute. (Ed. note: It is indeed cute!)
Have you ever had an argument with someone else over a book?
I've spent the past few years arguing with everyone about Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. I felt disappointed when I read it and didn't enjoy it at all. But it was this life-changing book for so many and I didn't understand it. So I decided to become a troll I guess. It's mostly for my own amusement. It's a hugely popular book and this is my contrarian stance. It's a game now. Like, how I also hate Coffee Crisp. I have a few takes about things I dislike and they're very unimportant but I'm sticking to them.
What's the last book you devoured as fast as you could read it?
Eden Robinson's Return of the Trickster. The long-awaited final book in a trilogy? Get that book into me! I didn't do anything for two days except read it.
What book are you most excited to read next?
It doesn't come out until Fall 2021, but Casey Plett's new book of short stories is at the top of my anticipation list. A Dream of a Woman. Pre-order that!
Speed round: What book pairs best with…
… your COVID vaccine? Archie Comics Digest. Just let your brain rest! Enjoy the ride.
… a summer afternoon at the beach? Last year I read Canisia Lubrin's The Dyzgraphxst at the beach and it was an incredible reading experience.
… a big plate of salty french fries? Lisa Hanawalt's Hot Dog Taste Test, of course.
… a park blanket and a picnic? Any Samantha Irby essay collection.
… a really fancy hotel room, plus room service? Get that Mariah Carey biography and put it in a hotel robe.
Dina wants to know and so do I: what’s the last book you tossed aside?