And we've asked Mark a few questions as well. Below are his answers.
The Fiddlehead: Can you tell us a little bit about Knife Party at the Hotel Europa?
Mark Anthony Jarman: Knife Party at the Hotel Europa is made of connected stories, mostly in sunny Italy, though touching also on Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland and Canada. There are hotels and a knifing in the suburbs of Napoli and an obsession with Pliny the Elder’s death at the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. A woman’s hair catches on fire and the main character wants to become Pope while staying in Rome. There is some satire of spoiled tourists like me and the stories boast libations and the best food in the world and romance and death and sin and racism and pale statues that come to life to steal used restaurant grease. The usual CanLit tropes.
FH: How do you conceive stories? Where do they come from? What’s your process?
MAJ: I don’t always know or remember my process and each story or project is different. Sometimes it’s a tiny image, like a butterfly on a snowy peak, or a striking scene, or trying to digest or sketch an entire country. Giorgos Seferis said, “A lion is made up of the lambs he’s digested.” I like to jot things down, I feel naked without pen and paper on me, I collect, I eavesdrop, I cut out odd clippings from the newspaper, study photographs and read travel articles and travel books. I work bit by bit, almost montage. In one story I wanted to link a family I saw begging in Rome’s hot city streets with the butterfly and fast downhill skiing, so I repeated the motif of money, of haves and have-nots, of faces, of valleys and rivers and high peaks. I was hoping to use images that were almost Jungian in that they could suggest the literal and more than the literal. But always bit by bit assembling in search of the right echo or effect. Sometimes it’s just gut feelings and sometimes accident.
FH: What are you working on now?
MAJ: These days I am collecting details for a piece about stopping playing hockey (I can’t seem to stop); almost a companion piece to "A Nation Plays Chopsticks" from my collection My White Planet. That earlier piece was on why I play; the next will be why I quit, if I do get to that point, so a raucous swansong of sorts. And I was working on a Wild West novel until I switched to a book on Italy. I also have some uncollected stories and I’m working on a nonfiction book about Gaspé, a lovely assignment.
Knife Party at the Hotel Europa launches in Fredericton at the King Street Ale House on March 25 at 5-7pm.