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Get That Paper

The Association of English-Language Publishers of Quebec is having their holiday book fair this weekend at Le Café in the Monument National this weekend, and not only will my book be available for purchase (great stocking-stuffer, I tell you, just perfect), but I am also taking part in something called the Rapid-Fire Reading Series, wherein a bunch of authors will basically relay-read bits of their writing in short, controlled, two-minute bursts. It should be…fun?

AELAQ Book Fair:  Saturday Nov 25th, noon-6pm; Sunday Nov 26th, 11am-5pm (1182 St-Laurent, across the street from the SAT)
Rapid-Fire Reading, 2-3pm Sunday.

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Toronto launch!

Tuesday, September 5th I’ll be descending upon (or likely gasping awake in) Toronto for the English Canada launch of EATEN BACK TO LIFE. We’ll be at TYPE Books (883 Queen W.), where I will probably read something and then be in discussion / rancorously bickering with my pal and editor John Semley.

Also very excited to have the Grape Witches on board to make sure we all get good and drunk. I’ve been very excited about their efforts toward a sort of democratic de/remystification of wine in a city that is only of late waking up to the notion that wine can be weird and fun.

Thanks again to the good folks at Drawn & Quarterly for hosting the Mtl launch (as well as Oenopole, Ward et Assoc. and Boucherie Lawrence for greasing the gastronomic wheels), which went swimmingly, if I do say so myself.

Here’s to round two.

EBTL mtl booklaunch (1)

 

 

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Lancement (that’s French for “Launched”)

New book is out! At long last I’ll be launching Eaten Back To Life on Thursday, August 17th at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal, and Tuesday, September 5th at TYPE in Toronto (details tba). If you’re looking for a copy, please stop by D&Q, or order direct from Invisible Publishing. It’s been included on NOW Toronto’s 10 Must-Reads for Summer, so you should probably do that before the summer is spent. Who are you to resist? My children need wine!

"Turning pleasures into problems since 2008"

Writing on food, drink, and other hells of the flesh. 
Reach me at jonahdcampbell@gmail.com
instagram here.

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La Revanche, Peut-Être?

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What in the hell have I been up to?

A lot of time spent staring vacantly into the middle distance, admittedly, but also we turned a pig inside out back in January, which got me thinking again / more about different schools of butchery (which grossly could be lumped into primal cuts v. ‘following the natural lines’) and whether there is a productive line of analogy to be followed between historical anatomy in the ‘the body dissected for organs contains organs, the body dissected for humours contains humours’ way (who was that? Haraway? Daston and Galison? help me out, nerds) and butchery traditions, ie: do different schools of butchery produce different animal bodies? Have different historical anatomies produced different ‘natural lines’ for butchers to follow, or (more surprisingly, perhaps?) have these forms of craftwork proceeded apace but apart?

I also got terrible food poisoning in France, ate oysters fresh out of a loch on the North end of Islay, and drank a 47 year old white wine from the ultime thule of Portugal, made from hundred(s?) year old vines trained along the baking sand to be lashed by ocean winds, that tasted very much like a delicate tangle of matter and ghost. Or, as my friend James suggested, like orange peels and old bones.

Which brings me to this other thing, which is that this summer I am running the wine list at Bar Alexandraplatz in Mtl, and will be doing my best to sneak in interesting and out-of-left-field bottles amidst the easy sippers and too-easy rippers, so you should come by sometime if you live, or happen to be, in Montreal. This coming Wednesday especially. 

Also I’ve got a new book in the works with Invisible, that I am lashing into shape with John Semley as my editor, who is great and loves beef and hates Shrek and we accidentally ordered a bunch of cold wet calf brains and a cold soup(?) of fat, white, already-shucked oysters in their liquor in a literal clown’s bar as a celebration of having survived our shared, aforementioned terrible food poisoning. Due out in 2017.

More news as events warrant.

(oh, also I’m instagram now, @bitteringagent. It is pretty much what you would expect.)

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of a literary bent

Notes Preliminary to Actually Thinking About an Anti-Colonial Food Writing.

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Last fall I spent almost a month in Turkey, and I have yet to write a thing about it. It has crossed my mind many times in the interim, the peculiarity of this lapse, and I am still not sure how best to account for my reticence.

As one should imagine it is not for the lack of material – my entire time there was one of almost uninterrupted culinary richness, from tart, thick-skinned yogurt to sweaty chambers of steamed hamburgers on Taksim square, incredible lamb cağ kebabı to incredibly tripey kokorec, ayran every day, tea every hour, spicy pickled turnip juice, lamb omelette, eating stuffed mussels on the street corner and oranges from my friend Elif’s backyard, one hundred feet from the saltiest sea that has ever had me, mint and freshly hulled pinto beans, olives, mint, olives, mint, more yogurt, cucumbers, repeat. Listening to Bolt Thrower and Goathorn in a bathroom-sized metal bar in Beyoğlu. Watching Bergman on a laptop, drunk in a cave hotel in Cappadocia. Seeking, but being too ill-prepared to know where to look for, some trace of James Baldwin’s life in Istanbul, four decades ago.

And yet, none of this has made its way to the (figurative) page. On one level this should be unsurprising because I have been writing very little of late. But in part, it is because I don’t know that I know how to tell these stories – or, to tell them responsibly – to relate the experiences without succumbing to the sly, earnest, dishonourable exoticism of so much cultural tourism.

It brings to mind, in a sort of roundabout way, the furor that was generated a few years back by Adam Gollner’s unfortunately-titled Globe & Mail article, “Why You Should Eat in Parc-Ex, Montreal’s Ungentrified Food Paradise,” and the response published by Maisonneuve, “Orientalism, Gentrification and Irony in Parc-Ex.” I don’t mean to rekindle the the whole thing here here, but what struck me about Gollner’s piece, and what seemed to be lost in the ensuing discussion, is how easy it is to slip into a discourse of exoticization when writing about food from / in “other” cultures – at least when one is attempting to write with some literary sensibility and attention to context.

Notions of wildness, of pre-, para-, or contra-modernity, noble suffering or uninhibited celebration, even of authenticity all have their place in the elaborate discursive architectures of colonialism and Orientalism, and in their contemporary iterations. One may think of these as literary technologies – narrative, discursive technologies – for fixing Otherness in a fictional alterity (or fixing alterity as a fictional Otherness?) for our consumption. Now, we may debate the ‘real’ impact of such symbolic violence, and the extent to which Western cultural analysis itself reproduces the silencing and dispossession of the “Other” in whose defense it presumes to speak, when it presents Orientalism as a totalizing discourse, but for the moment I want to keep things a little more reined in.

It suffices as a reminder of how accessible and salient are such colonial tropes for (esp. white) authors writing within a Western literary tradition – perhaps all the more so for food writing, which is at best always balanced precariously between fluff, formal blandness, and something that occasionally pretends to a some creative engagement, and so is especially susceptible to hackneyed sentiment and cliché. Yet all the while dealing with something quite intimate and fundamental to survival and pleasure both (as much as mostly I like to use food mostly as a vehicle for jokes and self-loathing). The question we are forced to ask is how not to fall into this when such tropes are so ready to hand for the making sense, and indeed the structuring of, our encounters with difference?

There is of course a risk in using these terms – colonialism, Orientalism – too freely, thus blunting their critical edge and the specificity of the histories and relationships which subtend them. The relationship between Canada and Turkey is not a colonial one, Istanbul is not Urla is not Göreme, let alone Erzurum, Antep, etc., colonialism and Orientalism cannot be reduced to one another. Nevertheless, colonial and orientalist tropes remain, I would argue, major structuring elements for the Western imaginary and its encounters with the “East” (or various Easts). They are ubiquitous, perhaps not inevitable, but will not be evaded without some imagination and force of will.

And at the moment I am not sure I possess that imagination, or that honesty. But it’s something to work on. In the meantime, here are some pictures of food.

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