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.