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Sunday, 28 September 2014

Recap: Jay Winston Ritchie launches Something You Were, Might Have Been, or Have Come to Represent

On Wednesday, September 10th, Librairie Drawn & Quarterly was pleased to welcome Montreal author Jay Winston Ritchie for the launch of his latest book of short stories from Insomniac PressSomething You Were, Might Have Been, or Have Come to Represent.

Hosting the evening was fellow local author and poet, Sarah Burgoyne, who introduced Blare Coughlin, the first reader.

Blare is an artist and writer living in Montreal, who read some of their recent poetry. “I write a lot about being sad and dying and stuff,” they pre-emptively explained, but the poems Blare selected for the reading actually ran a wider emotional gamut than their introduction suggested! An opening poem about being picked up by a deity en route to Brasserie Beaubien was followed by an angry poem, then a "non-angry" love poem to balance things out. Next came the foreshadowed sad poem, entitled "small ways." Wrapping up Blare's reading was a "long poem about hating Calgary" which elicited some chuckles from the audience, so evidently Blare wasn't the only person in the room with a distaste for the Albertan city! Blare also mentioned that they have ten free ebooks available online, but that you have to ask them on Facebook where to find these.

Next, Sarah took to the stage to say a few words about Jay. She mentioned his signature dry humour, "European soul-searches," and an ongoing search for personal identity. Further noteworthy facts: Jay was shortlisted for a Lit Pop Award in 2012, he is the Editor in Chief of The Void, and he hails from the (much-maligned by Blare) city of Calgary.

Jay's Metatron chapbook How to Appear Perfectly Indifferent While Crying on the Inside collected his poems, but Something You Were, Might Have Been, or Have Come to Represent is a departure from poetry and into the short story medium. In nine stories, nine young musicians search for their artistic voice while constantly being sidetracked by fame, drugs, potluck parties, call centre jobs, and other things.

Jay chose to read his "flower muncher story" - an allusion to the lotus eaters of Greek myth. The story's protagonist, a young electro-acoustics major named Jenna lies around her Montreal apartment listlessly after a break-up with Luke. As she whiles away her days in bed reading increasingly obscure manga and watching Madmen on Luke's Netflix account, a steady stream of love notes and flowers keep arriving for her roommate, whose life is so packed with dates that she is rarely at home. In an effort to avoid disappointing the flower delivery man, Jenna eventually pretends that the flowers are for herself. One day, on a whim, she eats a tulip petal, and "a new kind of sadness overtakes her" as she feels that she will never leave the apartment again. In the following days, Jenna begins to eat lillies, orchids, and oleander, as her ennui grows accordingly. No spoilers will be revealed here, so you'll have to read Jay's book for yourself to find out what happens next!

To conclude, here's a cute shot of Jay with some of the attendees who picked up a copy of his book. It was a great pleasure to have Jay, Blare and Sarah on stage, and we would like to thank them all for making the launch such a success.

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