Michael Helm: Prairie Cool

One of my professors is finally getting some recognition. I say finally with a smirk, because his first book was shortlisted for the Giller, and his second is better than that. This man is the best part of York’s Creative Writing program. Within ten minutes of our first seminar, he’d recommended a half a dozen books, and by the end of that first semester, had taken to making long digressions from prepared remarks to tell amusing stories about famous writers. He’s an excellent writer, a wonderful storyteller and a great teacher. Introduced me to Roberto Bolano, Cormac McCarthy, and Wilco.

Here’s an excerpt of his new novel, courtesy of the Globe and Mail:


And here’s a few questions he was asked by the Post a few weeks ago.

Q: If you could spend the afternoon with either Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce or Virginia Woolf, which would you choose, why, and what would you do?
A: I’m not sure who I’d choose but I’d want to box.

Q: What book would you recommend to a reader who just finished your book?
A: Something funnier. Then something with real magnitude, like Bolano’s 2666, McCarthy’s Suttree, or that classic, Geromino the Dyslexic Horse.

Q: Finally, there are over 30 events at the Vancouver International Writers Festival geared to young readers. If you were responsible for a nationwide literary curriculum, which one book would be required reading for young people?
A: It depends on the age. Some of our celebrated so-called adult literary novels in Canada are actually young adult novels in disguise. By the time they’re in their teens, young readers should be enjoying any attempt to punch above their weight. But one book? Maybe Munro’s The Progress of Love.


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