Places Far From Ellesmere

a geofictionaire

places-far-from-ellesmereBlurring the boundaries between autobiography, fiction, and criticism, Places Far From Ellesmere explores the places we’ve been and aspire to, the ones we flee and those we can’t escape, both imagined and lived. Following the narrator from Edberg through Edmonton and Calgary to Ellesmere Island, the book interrogates how place shapes us and how we create place, taking Tolstoy’s most famous heroine along for the ride. A brief personal history of Canada’s third largest island, Alberta’s two biggest cities, and one of its many secrets, Places Far From Ellesmere maps the inevitability of narrative and probes the possibility of escaping those stories that we’re caught in the shadow of.

“Everywhere is here. Your frozen dreams from the time when you stepped neatly down this sidewalk, your itchy palms from longing to be touched, your un/read stories. Edberg is an Ellesmere, an island shrouded in the wet snow of summer, with muskoxen waiting for their coats to grow. A movie un/made, with the auctioneer and piemaker as heroes. A bar fight holding on until Saturday night when the bodies will roll and flail down the splintered stairs and fenders will duck from one another in an insubstantial moonlight.”

“Go north, Anna, go north. If there are westerns, why can there not be northerns? Northerns of the heart, harlequins in reverse, bodice rippers of paled faces and quick glances, able to withstand the scrutiny of relentless light or relentless dark. Anna has been punished too long. Take her with you to Ellesmere. You’re sure she’s never been there, no one else is likely to have carried a woman as difficult, as lengthy, as goddamned heavy as she is along.”

“Ellesmere will appear like a languid body below you, the island only waiting finally to float into a geografictione, like Anna waiting so long backstage on the yet-to-arrive, the interminably delayed train. No trains on Ellesmere. Stubborn muskox and inevitable glaciers. And other inevitabilities, mountains and rivers and the brief exquisite summer just three weeks long, never much above ten degrees, snow only gone long enough to come back again.”

“Anna has never been read so well, you will un/read her reading, this Anna as scarlet woman cast into the outer darkness of moral turpitude, of blame, a site of sin. Anna written as serially wrong: wrong to want to extricate herself from the unfortunate Karenin (his ears, his cracking knuckles), wrong to love passionately, wrong to want her child, her writer writing her into wrong-doing until she is un/done by that writing. This is the moral weight that Anna bears, that crushes her. Created by a man, read by men, revised by men; now, here on Ellesmere, you dare to set her free from the darkness of pages, her horrid shadow.”