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Professor Michael Helm interviewed and reviewed about his new novel

Professor Michael Helm interviewed and reviewed about his new novel

Michael Helm, assistant professor of English in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has published his third novel, Cities of Refuge. His is the author of The Projectionist, which was a Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist, and In the Place of Last Things, a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book.

The Globe & Mail reviewed Cities of Refuge April 23. Helm was also interviewed:

Q: Where did the idea for this book come from?

I know exactly where the last two books started, the sentence or image they stared with, but this one has been torn down and built back up again so many times I don't think there's any original lumber left in it. For a long time, I wanted to write about Toronto because it's the place I've lived the longest and I am interested in cities of this size ... open cities in this moment.

Q: What is this moment?

Well, the start of the 21st century, the open city, for the usual reasons people find a city interesting, the mix of histories and stories and languages, the surfaces of the place, the so-called erotics of public spaces. But also because I also think it's true that almost anything can count as character in fiction, in the way that landscape can be character in Thomas Hardy. And I think cities sort of work in fiction the way people do, that they have an outward part of themselves that is a promotion of a mythology and a much more interesting and richer interior. And I know the city, I think I know it pretty well and have enough intuitions about it as well. It's full of dramatic possibilities, I think.

The complete interview is available on the Globe's Web site.

The Toronto Star also published an interview with Helm on April 27:

“I don’t know how marketable or sexy it is, but I think of it as a book about different kinds of belief,” says Helm, who will read from the novel Wednesday at Harbourfront Centre on a program that also features Russell Smith and Erin Moure.

“I wanted a book that was pleasurable on every level and, for me as a reader, one of those levels is a book that slightly resists easy understanding. There’s always more than one thing happening at a time, on the level of character, tone or language. I find that very pleasurable when I read.”

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer.