Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Why David Chariandy loves editing

The author of the award-winning novel Brother answers eight questions from eight fellow writers.
David Chariandy is the author of the novel Brother. (CBC)

David Chariandy's Brother takes us inside the lives of the mixed heritage sons of Trinidadian immigrants. Rooted in Chariandy's own experience growing up as a person of colour in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, the novel is a meditation on discrimination, agency, grief and the power of human relationships. Brother won the 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Brother is on the Canada Reads 2019 longlist. The final five books and the panellists defending them will be revealed on Jan. 31, 2019. The 2019 debates are happening on March 25-28, 2019 and will be hosted by Ali Hassan.

Below, Chariandy takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight questions from eight fellow writers.

1. Shani Mootoo asks, "What was the best surprise you had in the process of writing your latest published book?"

I think the best surprise was of finishing the book. I honestly didn't know if I could do it.

2. Lawrence Hill asks, "Why do funny novels get so little respect in Canada, and have you ever burned with desire to write something so damn funny that readers will fall right out of their chairs? Is that a laudable goal?" 

I think funniness is a very laudable goal. I think I do manage to be funny in my writing, sometimes deliberately. But I do think funniness is relative. What's funny to one person isn't necessarily funny to another.

3. Pasha Malla asks, "Flannery O'Connor: 'All novelists are fundamentally seekers and describers of the real, but the realism of each novelist will depend on his view of the ultimate reaches of reality.' Where do your 'reaches of reality' extend to?"

That's a cool but hard question, with "the real," "realism," and "reality," each evoking different concepts to me. I wonder if my own "reaches of reality" extend no further than the body itself in its sublime particularities of breath, voice and feeling. (I also wonder if I'm making any sense at all…)

4. Russell Smith asks, "What is the musical soundtrack to your latest book?"

Hey, that's an easy one for me! The brilliant DJ Agile actually created a mix tape for Brother, mashing up some old-school classics with real sonic wizardry. It's indubitably dope (to quote a character from my book). Check it out here

5. Karen Solie asks, "At what stage of composition do you show someone a work in progress?" 

Typically, it's after I've given the project a good shot on my own. I'm very receptive to feedback, but I like to establish firm parameters before asking for advice.

6. Mariko Tamaki asks, "How much of your writing process involves actual physical writing these days? Do you go write to the computer or do you work things out with pen and ink first?"

I almost always use a computer for drafting. But I shift to pen and paper when doing the all-important line edits. Once in a while I'll get an idea when I'm away from both, and I'll try to improvise. Lipstick, for instance.

7. Jen Sookfong Lee asks, "What's one thing you've written — scene, story or poem — that you hope your mother never reads?" 

My mother reads everything I publish; so, alas, I'm denied this very understandable hope. But I suspect she skips the sex scenes. Or maybe I just need to think she does.

8. Russell Wangersky asks, "Which do you like better? The heady rush of the first draft or the controlled precision of the edits and re-edits? Why?"

I think I like the edits and re-edits. Even if the plot excites me, I think the soul of a book is in the texture of its writing.


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