The Bull Calf Considers Isobel and Emile, a Novel of Loss and Longing

By Laura Cameron and Claudine Gélinas-Faucher
February 9 2012

The Bull Calf's Laura Cameron and Claudine Gélinas-Faucher chat about Alan Reed's Isobel and Emile, an atmospheric story of lost love, told in sparse iterative prose reminiscent of Canadian master-stylist Phyllis Webb.

Laura: For me, Isobel and Emile is the portrait of a mood – of desire, of longing, of coming to terms with lost love. The pleasure in this text is its haunted, anguish-ridden texture.

Claudine: The use of the present tense plays a great role in the creation of that texture. Instead of using the simple past to tell his story – a tense most often used to narrate actions – Reed uses the simple present, which not only emphasizes the immediacy of Isobel and Emile’s feelings but also provides a middle ground (a middle state, maybe?) between the characters’ thoughts about the past and their movement towards the future.

Laura: I like that – a middle ground. This novel is very much about being poised between two times. That said, there is some linear movement as their daily activities – getting on and off the streetcar, putting canned goods on shelves – carry the characters further away from the intensity of the past: their love story. But really, I think that this novel operates more like a book of poems, the little chapters constellated around a central feeling.

Read the full dialogue here.

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