Books·Magic 8 Q&A

David Bergen on Mennonite food and literary tattoos

The Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
David Bergen is the author of the novel Stranger. (David Bergen)

Stranger, Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author David Bergen's new novel, comes complete with a magical lake, a stolen child and a heroic quest. But the story of Íso, the Guatamalan heroine who embarks for the U.S. to find her lost baby girl with all the odds stacked against her, is no fairy tale.   

Below, David Bergen answers eight questions submitted by eight of his fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A. 

1. Jo Walton asks, "What's the thing you've written that has most affected other people? And how do you feel about that?"

"Affected" can run both ways, good and bad. I've been called various names, good and bad, and I prefer the good. 

2. C.C. Humphreys asks, "If you were to get a tattoo that symbolized your writing, what would it be?"

Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss tennis player, has a tattoo of the Samuel Beckett quote "Try again. Fail again. Fail better." on his left forearm. I might just go with "Fail Better." 

3. Dianne Warren asks, "How do you feel about the term 'CanLit'? What do you think it means?"

I've always had trouble with that term, perhaps because it sounds too much like "canned" lit.

4. Roo Borson asks, "What would you like to do in writing that you haven't yet tried?"

Crime writing in the manner of Patricia Highsmith. I love her.

5.  Kevin Major asks, "If you were to write a book with a chef as a major character, what would be the chef's best recipe?"

Plumamous, which is a Mennonite/Ukrainian dish that has various dried fruits swimming in a purple-tinted pottage.

6. Meg Rosoff asks, "Why are writers so odd?"

I'm not odd.

7. Nino Ricci asks, "Gore Vidal said, 'It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.' Discuss."

Ah, yes, Gore Vidal, the man with the poisonous pen. Nonsense, I say. Writers are not urine-tested athletes.

8. Katherine Govier asks, "What do you think and feel when the first finished copy of your book is placed in your hands? Are you critical, or enraptured?"

I'm all over the place. Terrified, because now comes the test. Ecstatic to have finished. Proud of every single word. Worried that it is rife with clichés, both thematically and grammatically. Apprehensive, because I can see the novel's faults. Infinitely resigned, in the sense that I must give up what I hold dearest at that moment. And absurdly happy. 

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