Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Category: reviews

Love Will (Still) Burst Into a Thousand Shapes

“…The next section of the collection following the one focused on artists is “Our Terrible Good Luck,” an apt oxymoron that encompasses the devastation that populates these poems on topics not often associated that kind of horror: motherhood and children. Oh boy, was this part of the collection hard for me. They’re just shattering to read: domestic abuse, the death of children, gun violence, mass murderers, the dark sides of motherhood, the physicality and sometimes grotesqueness of child birth. For me, they were painful and difficult to read, despite their being beautifully written. When I say devastating, this is what I mean:

In the month before they find your son’s body

downstream, you wake imagining

his fist clutching the spent elastic

of his pyjama bottoms, the pair with sailboats riding them

He’s swimming past your room toward milk and Cheerios

his cowlick alive on his small head, swimming

toward cartoons and baseballs, toward his skateboard

paddling his feet like flippers. You’re surprised

by how light he is, how his lips shimmer like water

how his eyes glow green as algae

He amazes you again and again, how he breathes

through water. Every morning you almost drown

fighting the undertow, the wild summer runoff

coughing into air exhausted, but your son is happy

He’s learning the language of gills and fins

of minnows and fry. That’s what he says

when you try to pull him to safety; he says he’s a stuntman

riding the waterfall down its awful lengths

to the log jam at the bottom pool

He’s cool to the touch; his beauty has you by the throat

He’s translucent, you can see his heart under

his young boy’s ribs, beating

as it once beat under the stretched skin of your belly

blue as airlessness, primed for vertical dive

HOLY FUCK, Jane Eaton Hamilton. I don’t remember the last time I read a poem so fucking sad and heartbreaking.” -Casey Stepaniuk

Julie R Enszer

“[Weekend] is the best book I have read this year. Hamilton brings us four wonderful characters who live and grapple with lesbian/queer/women’s contemporary experiences. The sex is hot; the characters are wonderfully flawed, human, and relatable. This is the book to beat for the 2016 Lammy in Lesbian Fiction. Buy it. Read it. Love it.

My review at Curve: http://www.curvemag.com/Reviews/Weeke…”

 

And the hilarity ensued…

Oops, I seem to have left the straight white dudes out.

As artists, we invite commentary on our work. People often review themselves as much as the work they’re taking on, and this review personifies that.

Weekend. Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Posted on November 14, 2016 by John Sloan

Hamilton, Jane Eaton. Weekend. Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver. 2016. F;10/16

As fiction, for character and for plot this story is very good. There are a lot of interesting twists and turns, the people are three-dimensional and real, and all sorts of issues (money, illness, middle age, love, sex, parents and children, raising a baby…) are taken on directly and presented so we can experience them. But the queer thing, still I’m sorry not entirely in the centre of everyone’s concept of… usual I guess, is here archly and for me therefore aggressively presumed not only to be okay with everyone, but familiar. It’s as if we sat down to read something and discovered, lovely though it might be, that it presumed and celebrated Southern Baptist family life or the circumstances of world-class elite athletes as if everyone lived or at least understood in detail those kinds of a life.

It is also a little as if Ms. Hamilton is daring the world to react the way I am here. Okay, I’ll bite.

Two lesbian couples, one partner of each of which is an architect and has each built a building on an island in a lake in Ontario, have a weekend there and experience critical issues in their relationships. In one a baby has just been born (with very realistic and sympathetic appreciation of the immense ups and downs in that situation) and in the other marriage will be, and is, proposed (with a finely-tuned appreciation of power in a romantic relationship). All, it turns out, is not as it seems, and one of the relationships collapses apparently cruelly on the part of one of the partners, and the other veers off into physical illness.

Sex is rendered in vivid detail, reminding me in places of Book of Memories, where it was also homosexual. Arguments are wonderfully real and exposed as emotional events that bend and shape the logic of the antagonists. The external furniture including a huge dog, boats, the lake, weather, and the beautiful homes enhance the complexity and realism.

So what’s my problem? Well I think I’m there in respect of tolerance of sexual, political, and intellectual lives that aren’t mine. I have gay friends and we joke about our differences, and I also have quite close friends who are pretty committed to the radical right, and others to the radical left. But I’m not at the point of presuming because other ways of life than mine are okay, that mine is somehow not okay or to blame for past intolerance, or that I’m expected not to recognize that there is a difference.

You might call me defensive, a closet homophobe, or a conservative grump. My right-wing friends find I’m a bit on the wet side, advocating drug safe-houses and comfortable with abortion and physician-assisted death. But I prefer not to participate in either side’s turning a blind eye to the other in a world where extremism exists and is likely not to go away.

LGBTQ people and their fans would be over the moon about this novel and if I were one I’m sure I would be too. The writing is pretty terrific. But as it is I guess I wish Ms. Hamilton had woven a little grey into her bright jazzy fabric to let the rest of us know she understands that we dull straights also exist and that we’re okay too. 7.0/8.8.

 

Book review: Agony and ecstasy apparent in new novel Weekend

Tom Sandburn’s review of WEEKEND in the Vancouver Sun. From June 2016.

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“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy tells his readers at the beginning of Anna Karenina.  Like most successful epigrams, this line is pungent, compelling and memorable. Also, like many such quips, it could work just as well turned inside out, as a declaration that all unhappy families have broad stroke elements in common.

While award-winning Vancouver poet, short story writer and novelist Jane Eaton Hamilton’s new book, Weekend is, by, the author’s own account, inspired by Raymond Carver’s grim 1981 meditation on love among the ruins “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” it can also be read as a reflection on Tolstoy’s formulation about happy and unhappy families. But however the erudite reader wants to compare it to earlier fiction, Weekend itself is a tour de force, an account of two same-sex couples in crisis, a tender meditation on the nature of love, desire, betrayal, mortality and reconciliation.

2016 Handout: Book cover of Weekend by Jane Eaton Hamilton. To go with review on Tracy Sherlock books pages. [PNG Merlin Archive]
Book cover of Weekend by Jane Eaton Hamilton

It also is notably successful in rendering the complex realities of sex, a challenge that defeats most writers who attempt it. Not many readers these days will be shocked or offended by the book’s sexual frankness, but some will wince at the way Hamilton breaks another taboo. Her enthusiastically sexual characters are in mid life (one is turning 50 as the weekend occurs) and come to their erotic experiences with all the baggage that status implies. In a culture that disdains the old, particularly older women, as sexless, these moments of powerful erotic realism are genuinely transgressive and wonderfully done.

While I describe the main characters as same sex-couples, the reality is somewhat more complex, as one of the characters is considering a gender transition. The fact that this character prefers the de-gendered singular pronouns “they” and “their” will take a bit of getting used to for some readers, but the calm, matter of fact way in which Hamilton portrays trans issues and the new verbal etiquette they imply is one of the book’s many strengths.

Unlike the gay novels of my youth, which tended to focus univocally on the coming out narrative, this book takes all that for granted and turns its attention to what happens after one has come out, won the right to marry and moved into what the public intellectual Stan Persky calls a “post gay” reality. Often enough, Hamilton suggests, this post liberation reality, while obviously a huge improvement on the fever swamps of homophobia and oppression that preceded it, is full of ordinary human heartbreak and betrayal, sorrow, tedium and flawed, triumphant love.

That recognition, and the lapidary prose Hamilton uses to embody and dramatize it make Weekend a remarkable, intricate and mature work of art. And Hamilton can reflect on these matters from the perspective of one of liberation’s veteran warriors. According to the University of Toronto’s Poetry Online, Hamilton “came out in 1982. She was a litigant in Canada’s same-sex marriage case from 2000-2003, and then maintained an website called queermarriage for the next several years to aid couples coming to B.C. from other countries with queer-friendly resources.”

Most of the novel’s action takes place over a weekend at two lake island homes in Ontario cottage country, giving the book a tight temporal and geographic focus, almost Aristotelian in its unity, a unity that is only partly diffused by the book’s coda, which takes the four lovers past the weekend, back to the city and on into new domestic and medical complications.

The couples are Elliot and Joe, two women who are celebrating the recent birth of their daughter Scout, and Ajax and Logan, who have come to the lake for Logan to propose marriage to Ajax. In the course of the weekend the couples are both disrupted, one by abandonment, one by a health crisis.

While in summary this may sound like the stuff of queer soap opera, in Hamilton’s deft, spare treatment, there is no melodrama. Sex is portrayed in a compelling, original fashion, and the trials and rigours of dealing with a new baby are portrayed with sensual detail and emotional depth. Hamilton’s rendering of her character’s heart crisis and of the years of impaired functioning, pain and body shame that preceded it benefits from the same sensual precision and closely observed detail that illuminate her sex scenes. All her characters are nuanced, complex and believable creations. This is the real world of imperfect adults, captured and rendered with compassion, wit and intelligence.

Much of this is accomplished by Hamilton’s exemplary use of free indirect discourse, that challenging but supple device that allows a third person account to reflect the first person inner life of the character. This approach, pioneered by Jane Austen, is a powerful one, allowing layers of double perspective and irony to be rendered in careful, minimalist fashion.

This is a remarkable book. Little wonder that Hamilton has been recognized so often for her narrative skills- by the Guardian’s Best Book of the Year List, the BC Book Prizes, the VanCity Award, CBC Literary Awards and many other prizes. If you have not yet discovered this important Canadian voice, Weekend is your opportunity.

Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos65@telus.net.

 

 

Weekend at the Rumpus

Thrilled that WEEKEND appears in this great company in Anna March’s Reading MixTape #26 at the Rumpus!

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  1. Weekend by Jane Eaton Hamilton
  2. Transitory by Tobias Carroll
  3. The Lost Girls by Heather Young
  4. Arcade by Drew Smith
  5. The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs
  6. Every Kind of Wanting by Gina Frangello
  7. This Angel on My Chest by Leslie Pietrzyk
  8. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  9. Intimations by Alexandra Kleeman
  10. The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

The Rumpus

WEEKEND

#Weekend #eatonhamilton
More reader reviews!
really liked it
Jesus Christ, what a gorgeous prose!
And all the queerness! My god. The boi dykes, the kinksters, the dis-identifiers, the non-normatives, the sweet dreamers, the loose-talkers, the sweet lovers, the broken hearted. Gotta love ’em all. –Penny, Goodreads
JEH acrylic on paper 2015
sketch: Jane Eaton Hamilton
Modern romance! Exactly like something you may have read before, but also completely different. What Hamilton has done here is take the type of relationship story we have all read a million times and somehow re-invent it. Some of the elements seem a little forced (the island), but the story opens up into the world when the characters return to the city.
Funny, fierce, tender and revelatory.
–George Ilsley, Goodreads

Here are a couple more reader reviews of WEEKEND

funny, thought-provoking read

I am finding it difficult to fully express how profoundly I was affected by this novel. A powerful, sexy, haunting, funny, thought-provoking read. Beautifully written. I am unable to get these people, their lives, the lake they spent the weekend at….any of it…out of my mind. A novel that both took me to another place, but also brought new insight to my own life.

By Jane on Aug. 26 2016 on Amazon.ca
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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I feel like I know these people.
I loved the characters in this book. They drew me into the story so thoroughly, and they felt so real. When I was finished with the book, I wanted to go find them and friend them on Facebook so I could keep up with their stories.
July 21 2016
By Janice Erlbaum Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

WEEKEND on Amazon.ca

Format: Paperback

Jane Eaton Hamilton’s ‘Weekend’ is a searing, thought-provoking, funny, touching, steamy, and heart-wrenching look at one weekend in the life of two couples; a weekend that functions as an allegory for all in their lives that led them there, and all that will follow. Its depiction of love and sex in the queer context is uncommon, and uncommonly well written. Most writers struggle to show readers what life is like for their characters; Eaton Hamilton puts it all on display with what seems like ease and certainly with grace. The book offered me new ways of perceiving the world and new ways of wondering how my queer family and friends may experience life, and I am so grateful for that. The dialogue is constantly on fire (and the air, the summer air is so hot, and that heat just permeates the book so that I always wanted to read it by water); Eaton Hamilton seems always to find the right word and to know, intuitively, the cadence of a conversation. The strength of that dialogue was also my emotional undoing — I was so caught up that each secret or betrayal or kindness hit me with as much emotional force as it did the characters. Pick up a copy and get ready for a wonderful ride.


Time Out New York

The best and most erotic LGBT books to read this summer…

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“It’s “Reading Rainbow” time! There’s still plenty of summer left, and we think the latest and steamiest LGBT reads will go perfectly with your White Girl Rosé by NYC’s best public pools and beaches.”

Time Out NY

Best LGBT Books of 2016

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The Vore’s Best LGBT books of 2016

“Which modern authors can compete with James Baldwin, Edmund White & Patricia Highsmith in the LGBT genre?” The Vore

Pride: the must-reads for 2016

Jane and Susan Safyan June 2016

Pride 8 Must-Read LBGT Books Summer 2016

“Jade Colbert rounds-up the best from Canadian independent publishers.”

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Don’t know if this is exactly a *good* review or not, but it’s the Globe, so what the heck? Happy to be here with Myrna Kostash and Susan Perly.

Globe and Mail review

The WEEKEND Curve

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Julie R Enszer generously reviews WEEKEND for Curve Magazine:

‘Weekend’ By Jane Eaton Hamilton

“Stunningly beautiful.”

“This is a book I have been waiting to read. It is a book I enjoyed every single minute of reading. It is a book I want to share with everyone. I commend Weekend. This is a story of how we live our queer lesbian lives now. Do not miss it.”

“The book to beat for the 2016 Lammy…”

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“This is the best book I have read this year. Hamilton brings us four wonderful characters who live and grapple with lesbian/queer/women’s contemporary experiences. The sex is hot; the characters are wonderfully flawed, human, and relatable. This is the book to beat for the 2016 Lammy in Lesbian Fiction. Buy it. Read it. Love it.” –Julie R Enszer, Goodreads

Small Press Books to Read in June 2016

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Book Riot guides you to 9 new titles for June…

WEEKEND: Vancouver Sun Review

Jane and Susan Safyan June 2016

Me with WEEKEND’s editor, Susan Safyan, at the launch this week.

Today WEEKEND was generously reviewed in the Vancouver Sun by Tom Sandborn.

“…a tour de force…

Often enough, Hamilton suggests, this post liberation reality, while obviously a huge improvement on the fever swamps of homophobia and oppression that preceded it, is full of ordinary human heartbreak and betrayal, sorrow, tedium and flawed, triumphant love.

That recognition, and the lapidary prose Hamilton uses to embody and dramatize it make Weekend a remarkable, intricate and mature work of art.”

Vancouver Sun

First Review of WEEKEND: Publishers Weekly

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“Hamilton’s writing is propulsive. The story moves at an effortless pace as it explores a multitude of sexualities and identities, as well as the difficulties and even explosive outcomes of navigating them while remaining faithful to and honest with one’s partner or partners.” —Publishers Weekly

The most excellent writer Karrie Higgins reviewed my book on Goodreads!

Love will Burst

It’s so great to have your work celebrated. Thanks, Karrie Higgins!

Goodreads

The Rain Ascends by Joy Kogawa

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This haunting, elegiac novel by famed novelist Joy Kogawa, author of “Obasan,” pulls us into the world and the heart of a middle-aged woman learning that her beloved but aged father, an Anglican priest, has been a pedophile with 300 male victims. What is the capacity of one human heart? Can a lifetime of her father’s familial tenderness and community good deeds co-exist with his malicious, malignant sexuality?

“The Rain Ascends” is the story of the torment of one woman’s soul told in rendering, poetic language.

Joy Kogawa and I are friends. I briefly knew her father and had his Encyclopedia Brittanicas, 1904 edition, on my shelves for many years. We shared a long-lasting writing group during the years she was writing “The Rain Ascends.” Notwithstanding that, and the historical importance of her masterwork “Obasan,” I’ve always believed “The Rain Ascends” is Kogawa’s most brilliant work.

Today, after attending a “Shut Up and Write” session at Historic Joy Kogawa House on the weekend, I picked the novel up 20 years after first reading it to find it easily measured up to my original stunned appreciation.

Until last weekend, I’d been to Kogawa House only once before, but, unable to tolerate the fact that Joy’s dad had lived and likely abused children there, I left quickly; this visit I stayed and wrote about the feelings that arose in me as someone well acquainted with the harms of child rape.

Notes:

I understand Joy Kogawa has revised “The Rain Ascends” since the edition was published.

Joy Kogawa has since spoken to the press and her community about her father’s pedophilia. The Anglican Church, this year, offered an apology to the victims of his many crimes.

Historic Joy Kogawa House

LWBITS review

Love will Burst

Always a celebratory day for me when one of my books gets a great review. Here’s Julie R. Enszer writing for Lambda Literary, reviewing ‘Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes’ and Judith Barrington’s ‘The Conversation.’

Lambda Literary

Thanks, Lambda Literary and Julie R Enszer.

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