Reading Bloor Street, sort of
Moosecall#1: Mating in the Bleak City/Romance in the Urban Wilderness: Stories from the Moosemeat Writing Club, no price/no date/ Printed in Toronto, Canada…
No, I don’t have an explanation for the run-on title of this 20 page chapbook. It doesn’t quite parse until you read the ten stories it contains, each of which are less than two pages long. I can’t explain, either, why a bunch of young writers living in downtown Toronto would call themselves the “Moosemeat Writing Club.” When one of the writers e-mailed the website a few days ago to ask if we reviewed chapbooks, I was intrigued, and agreed to make an exception because the writers were in the neighbourhood. I half suspected that the Moosemeat Writing Club was going to be a propaganda vehicle from the native friendship centre on Spadina just north of Bloor Street, and it occurred to me that I might be agreeing to read ideological bullying testimonies to how terrible Toronto is, and how much booze and how many drugs it showers on us all. Since I read the Toronto Star, so what?
What I got instead was a set of decently-written depictions of urban loneliness from what appears to be writers in their 20s and 30s who are trying to figure out how to be observant and cool and humane and sensitive at the same time. Most of their stories aren’t adequately articulated—limitation of the two page format, I suspect. Most of the male writers write about missed opportunities to get laid, and several of the female writers write about why getting laid isn’t quite enough. All very normal, in other words.
Some of the writers still think it’s more important to record who they are and don’t reveal near enough about where they are. Generally, I’d have preferred a lot more fine detail about Bloor West and the Annex, and fewer subtle distinctions about what’s bouncing around inside the authors’ skulls. But I was also interested and entertained by the stories because nearly all were skittering along the cusp of real curiosity. The Moosemeat Writers Club has a pretty sound dynamic.
One story genuinely interested me. It was the first, written by “Ed Brown”, who is clearly (also) the most confused writer in the group. He begins with a delicious anecdote about his parents marrying in Naples and leaving immediately for Halifax. Brown’s first five paragraphs contain a galvanizing first novel, and I hope to hell “Ed Brown” someday writes it. He’ll have to clear up a few questions—like why he’s calling himself “Ed Brown”—and he’ll have to get past his gratuitous lippiness, but he does provide the two stickiest images in the volume. (The second image is a description of one of Toronto’s several disappeared creeks, this one named Taddle Creek, which is apparently buried in a structural red-brick conduit under the streets of the east Annex, and which he’s apparently seen in person. If he wants to chronicle his adventures in Toronto’s sewer system, we’ll cheerfully publish them in www.dooneyscafe.com.)
The other thoroughly interesting anecdote/story is by a writer named Sylvia Prezezdziecki. It concerns a young woman who locks herself out of her own apartment without clothing. What’s interesting about the story is that she makes a credible doubling of the narrator’s inner confusion and the physical consequences it wreaks. She can’t quite bring the parallels together in a single page, but she can write elegant sentences and her brain is so filled with interesting confusions I hope she learns to track them in slightly longer forms that don’t degenerate into lyric poems.
I don’t know where you can buy this chapbook, but you can go to the club’s website at www.moosemeat.org. But maybe the chapbook isn’t the point. These are writers exercising their skills and learning their culture. In the world we have, that can take twenty years to figure out and refine, so no one should be very impatient with them. If one or two become serious writers, that’ll be a miracle. Right now, it’s enough that the ten of them are on our local streets, however temporarily and ditzily, trying to take an accurate measure of what it all is, and what it all means. Better that than trying to figure out how to live at WalMart or be the next Margaret Atwood.