[I received a copy of this book from its publisher Random House of Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]
This is going to be a special post! I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to share some questions answered by Molly with you (thank you, Random House Canada!), so keep reading to find the Q&A section at the end of my review (spoiler: I loved the book!). 😉
Once I read Molly Peacock’s dedication — “To all those who imagine alternative lives” — I knew that I would enjoy her new book Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions.
Presented as 26 short stories, Peacock imagines the lives of each letter in the alphabet as if they were all alive. From “C, the Softie” to “E’s Encyclopedia of Emotions” and “R and her Great Egret,” these individual letters, under Peacock’s wing, have the capacity to feel real, actualized emotions and live full anthropomorphic lives.
Weaved throughout this unique and inventive concept is Peacock’s lyrical, poetic prose and deft commentary. One of my favourite lines from the book comes from “C, the Softie.” In the story, “c” learns that not all feelings can be translated into words, that “confusion is necessary before conclusion.” Peacock elaborates,
“Not everything charms into words instantly. Some things whinny inside you or skitter out as hooves of colour and later clang like horseshoes against a forge. Some things can’t be crammed into a concept. They just have to be cried.” (page 12)
This is just one of the many poignant statements Peacock makes in Alphabetique. As someone who isn’t always able to express their emotions so beautifully, these small details and observations added an extra element to the book for me to admire and love.
Not all of the stories are so serious though: “While Jiggle Juggles, J Makes Jam” is a pleasure to read out loud due to its abundant alliteration (a device that is used throughout this delightful book); “O’s Full Circle” is a sexy story about a letter learning to feel comfortable in her own body; “T’s Diary” reveals a self portrait that records much more than vanity. As a collection, these stories are wonderful reads for the dreamers and language lovers out there. They are smart, well-written, and have a lot of heart. Some read like poems while others are fairy tale-like. I would be surprised to find someone who doesn’t love it.
Verdict: An impressive collection of short stories that wowed me. The stories put a smile on my face with its intelligence and wittiness. Go ahead and read it – you won’t be disappointed.
Read if: You’re a dreamer, love fairy tales and short stories, and are ready to go on a whimsical, smart, alliterative journey. If you’ve ever wondered what each letter of the alphabet would be like if they were capable of thinking and feeling.
Now for the question and answer part!
Q: What’s the importance of noticing in our everyday lives? (I was especially excited to read Molly’s answer to this because from reading her book, it really seems like she picks up on all the little details of life! Her answer is just as beautiful and poetic as I’d imagined it would be.)
A: When you notice something, even if it’s only a button or an orange or the pattern in a sidewalk grate, it’s as if someone has handed you a rarity. Attention creates luxury because it stops time. For a suspended moment you are calmly energized by what you are seeing, hearing, and touching. It brings you back to your senses. Even the gravel beneath your feet becomes a marvel of a mosaic.
Q: What’s your motto?
A: Go with the Flaw.
Q: What words do you try to live by?
A: Only do what you can only do.
Q: Pencil or pen?
A: Pencil for poetry on blue lined pads. Computer for prose!
Q: Do you get jealous of other writers?
A: Sure, but then I remember Jean Rhys who said, “we’re all just drops in the ocean of literature.”
Q: What’s your practical advice for writers?
A: Schedule your writing. I mean that. Actually schedule the time you write. Then when your family and your job and Grandma and the wolf and your dentist demand your time, you can actually look at your calendar and say, I’m sorry, I can’t make it then. Can you do 2:15pm instead? If your time to write is actually designated in your ical, or written in your datebook, all those around you (including you yourself) will take it seriously. Your calendar is a monument to your time. Carve it—or be carved.
I also recently learned that Molly has an Alphabetique Advent Calendar for those of you who can’t wait to start getting into the countdown spirit! The calendar has already started, but you can subscribe to it here and see the archive as well!
Thanks again to Random House Canada for this wonderful opportunity!
Have you read Alphabetique? For those of you who have, did you have a favourite letter?