The Next Chapter

Christa Couture on a memoir that tours Europe in the footsteps of female artists

Singer-songwriter Christa Couture on Jessa Crispin's travelogue and memoir.
Musician Christa Couture (left) says she felt a deep sense of companionship after reading Jessa Crispin's travel memoir The Dead Ladies Project. (Jennifer Picard/Chuck Kuan)

Christa Couture is a singer-songwriter from Vancouver who recently moved to Toronto. She's just finished reading The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats and Ex-Countries by Bookslut founder Jessa Crispin.

It's a travelogue, it's a memoir, it's part literary criticism. Jessa is so smart, she's the founder of Bookslut, which is a really good source for good reads. In this book, she's also depressed. At the beginning of the book she's suicidal, so she leaves her home in Chicago and travels to Europe with a single suitcase. She starts to trace the footsteps of dead artists, writers and composers.

Each chapter is a new city, a new country, and in each chapter she connects the place to one or a few writers or composers who were either from that place or spent time making work in that place. All the while, she's trying to navigate this personal crisis, and struggling just with how to be in this world and how to be with someone else. There's a relationship current throughout. It's funny at times — there's a dark humour that I love, there's the reality of traveling with a single suitcase and the woes of not having laundry and missing trains and all that stuff that happens.

It's so candid, and it's raw. What I love about the book is that she's looking in these cities, she's looking to these writers and the work they made, and she's looking in herself. It ends not really with any resolution, but with a sort of resolve that I felt comforted by. I felt companionship in getting to travel with her through this. And then at the end just that sense of having to keep trying. And that the pursuit of art might be the reason to keep going.

Christa Couture's comments have been edited and condensed.