Here’s another one of those guest posts I did for my blog tour. The experience was disappointing in terms of reach and sales. But I had put my heart into these posts, so I’m taking them back (*FTW*).
Globalized Culture: How Our Languages Are Changing.
One issue that came up when we were editing A Teenage Suicide was the language I used. It was something that had come up also when I was still in college, workshopping stories and chapters. I come from Montreal. I was born there. I was raised there and it is as “problematic” as it is interesting. (I would also argue it’s part of the city’s appeal)
I was born a francophone but grew up pretty much bilingually. Like most (young) people in this city, I speak two to three languages and try to pick up a little bit of everything as I meet people from around the world. That includes a bit of Spanish, Japanese and I even became friends with a Persian women who speaks Farsi. That means that my English (and French, it is true) is deeply “tainted” by the other languages I encountered all my life.
It’s a well-known fact that languages in Montreal have a specific flavour. Think of it as the difference when you hear someone from New-Orleans or Dublin speak. If they are doing it right, you should know exactly where they are (or aren’t) from. Montreal is just the same in both French and English: you can hear it.
If you look at the history of immigration to Montreal, the story is similar to that of the Eastern US. The first nations were there, settlers from Europe came in and took the best lands. Of course, we had French settlers first and the US had British and Dutch settlers, but once that seven-year war was done, Britain shipped as many Irish and Scotts to Canada as they did the Us. Then came the Italians, the Portuguese, the Jews, Germans and Poles. A lot of escaped slaves settled in Canada, including Montreal, the same way a lot of them settled in the Northern states. Of course, you add to that the wave of Haitian immigrants and the more recent ”global” waves of Asian, African and Latino immigrants, I think we have diversity pretty much nailed.
What that means is that Montreal is a breeding ground for mixing language and I believe it is a laboratory for the globalisation of languages. I have heard the term “Hybridity” in college quite a few times. When you mix so many heritages together, what comes out has the potential to become a new language entirely, a lot like what Creole is to French. If I hear two Haitians speaking in Creole, I will understand a lot of what they say, but not everything. It has become another language over time. This will also happen to English as the cultures of the world collide. Languages will continue to influence one another, expand their vocabulary, change their syntax and integrate regional slangs.
It is probably true that my English could “feel” strange but I don’t see it that way and I know most people in Montreal don’t see it that way either. As far as using “Montreal English” to write a novel, some people hate it, some people love it. The bottom line is that the way I write represent where I live and I certainly am not the first author to do so (I could cite David Fennario and Mordecai Richler as influences)
On my island, the important thing is not necessarily to speak or write “properly” in general grammar terms, but to be understood within a large diversity of accents and languages. For example, when I play in the park with my daughter, there are parents there who are Scottish, Irish, Québécois and British (the “original” four) but also more and more Latinos, French (from France, which is no longer the same as Québécois in terms of language), People from all regions of Europe, Algerians, Tunisians and of course, Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese and Torontonians…
We all pretty much speak French and English and somehow we all understand each other at the end of the day. I think that says something about the future of cultural relations in the world. Of course it is complex, but it is also interesting and if you have any respect for mankind, you know that the human brain is capable of figuring it all out if you train it a little, there’s plenty of hope for the future.
While it’s still true that most Irish are in the south-west, most Italians are in the East, most Haitians are in the North, the Jews are in Outremont (center) etc… the linguistic divide that used to exist in the city is no longer real and it’s incredibly interesting. In Montreal you can meet a girl named Laurie Murphy who dosen’t speak English and a girl named Sarah Deshaies who’s an Anglo journalist. The fringe festival even seriously considers putting a “Montreal Franglais” category next year. Language hybridity is a significant movement, and again, it is incredibly interesting.
I live this on a daily basis and it influences the way I write. Some of my sentences may seem odd to some readers but I didn’t want to take out this “flavor.” I didn’t want to make the novel generic so that more people could feel “comfortable” reading it. It wouldn’t have helped the story and it wouldn’t have felt truthful to me.
The bottom line is this, that whole “globalisation of cultures” thing ain’t going anywhere so you might as well get used to it right away.
Love it or don’t, it’s up to you but to be honest, I’m not gonna change the way I write in the end.
Thanks for reading,
So, it’s 2014 and so far. I had sex, a decent bagel, coffee and I played a fairy and sorceress card game with my daughter… I also finished editing notes on a side project, the whole family’s in the living room, writing, drawing, creating (while listening to Bjork).
So far it’s a good representation of what my life has become in the past year. We are FAR from my hochelaga/factory years (man, 2005-2006 was almost ten years ago!) I can honestly say that I love my life very much. I’m madly in love with my spouse, my daughter is 4 and a half which means we’re DEFINITELY done with all the horrible crap that comes with young, young kids (diapers, puke, picking up food from the floor, having to teach her basic human decency, you don’t sleep nearly enough, the family’s always broke, the stress is high. It might sound horrible, but I did not enjoy being a dad THAT much when Kaelie was young but MAN am I having fun now!
We (well, Mary) has an arts studio where she (and I, sometimes) get to actually work (We used to have our “studio” at home in the freaking bedroom, it’s really not a good place to work : the cats destroy everything you do, you lose your shit all the time, the artworks get mixed up with the laundry, you go to sleep in plaster dust and the smell of glue or plastic…) So I’M WAAAY happy about that (plus it sounds really cool when you get to say “Oh! Yeah! I’d have to drop by the studio to get that.” Might be a little bit vain, I like it anyways.
I guess the low point of 2013 was my professional life. It’s stalling on some fronts, but slowly growing on other. I still have my warehouse job but I’m really not that committed to it. I had hoped to become a boss this year, I worked for it, I’d say I’ve proven my worth and I still didn’t get it. (they switched the “nature” of the job I wanted so that it was purely an administrative position now, which is not something I wanted.) So I’m stuck in the basement warehouse for now, but you know what, that’s good because I’ve accepted that I don’t really want to be a boss anyways, what I am, is an artist.
And 2013 has not been bad on that front either. I’ve become close friends with some of the nicest, most interesting people I’ve ever met (I’m talking about you Neda and Sterling). I’ve reunited with an old, lost friend I missed more than I imagined (that’s you, Kenny) and we have written some of the best, aggressive music I have even been involved with.
As far as writing goes, I’ve published my best work so far (A Teenage Suicide) and although sales aren’t there at all, I can safely say it was both emotionally challenging and satisfying to write. I’ve also published a poetry collection that is doing better than expected. I’ve learned how to do covers pretty well this last year and so, the cover for “Northern Gothic” has cost me a grand total of 3$ to produce, so even though I’ve only sold a few copies (ebooks) from it, it’s my first officially profitable book.
I’ve also published my first translation. The Factory Line is now available in French as “La Shop.”
As far as sales go, it’s been a slow year to start with, but I’ve had a stronger December than I expected. I’m learning a lot of things as I publish more and more works. My early works are getting some attention now which landed me twice in bestselling categories (if only for a day) for both Satire and Noir. As it happens, I write stuff that is hard to sell, but I’m satisfied emotionally and intellectually by it, so profits are really a secondary thing to me.
In other artistic news, I’ve started painting a few weeks ago. While my technique still requires some work, I’m getting the hang of it and most of all, I really, really enjoy it.
So that was 2013.
And now, moving on to 2014. I’m setting the bar pretty high for 2014.
1- This Spring I’ll publish my sixth book (fourth novel), “Grand Trunk and Shearer” and while I love A Teenage Suicide, Grand Trunk and Shearer will be my “Mystic River.” I like it that much.
2- I expect to translate A Teenage Suicide in French for this summer. The title will be “L’été d’un suicide” and I have one professor form L’Assomption Cegep (the town where most of the story takes part) who I met at Expozine, he said he wanted a copy of the french translation, saying that if he liked it, he might even teach it to his students. We’ll see where that goes.
3- I want to be at the MAC with my paintings. If not this year, I’m going to apply to the next Biennale de Montréal. I know, it’s probably arrogant to even thing about it, but it’s in the plans.
4 – I’ve found a better gym where I can train away from he douchebags and preppies that plagued the place where I was training. I’m not that social and I certainly don’t like these guys, so I’m happy about that. I also want to get back to martial arts and they teach Tai-Chi there as well so I’m really happy about that (and it fits with my work/family schedule which is UNBELIEVABLE).
5 – And, perhaps the biggest news, is that this year, I’ll begin my transition from novels fo films. I’ve been working on two separate projects, one of which would be plan A and the other one plan B, but the options are there.
I can’t go into details out of respect for the people involved (no confirmations have been set yet) but I’ve talked it over with Mary and we have plans for me to take an unpaid leave sometime in the next year to work on that. I enjoy writing novels, but the truth is that I’ve watched at least one movie every day for as long as I can remember and I want to get to that. So if Yahweh doesn’t hate me too much, I’ve planned out some camera workshops for the next year, see if I can do a few shorts in preparation for my larger projects.
You could say I have a big year in front of me, but man, I’ve had it so good lately, it would be insulting not to aim that high.
I love everyone of you in my life,