Eliza Robertson’ s first collection, Wallflowers, was shortlisted for the Canadian Authors Association Emerging Writer Award, the Danuta Gleed Short Story Prize, the East Anglia Book Award and selected as a New York Times Editor’s Choice. She shares five things she’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.


1. Astrology

I’ve consulted a reliable monthly horoscope ever since I was fifteen and found that Alyssa Milano, my favourite Charmed witch, read Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone. While I still read Susan Miller, my favourite online astrologer is Chani Nicholas – a wise, subversive, collage-crafting woman originally from my home province of British Columbia. Lots of people feel skeptical about astrology, but it’s made a resurgence into popular culture – especially in communities who feel marginalized by the patriarchal undertones of white Western science. I think astrology resonates with some folks because it’s been subordinated by those same power structures. For me, astrology’s opened this new language and field of understanding. There’s so much more I can articulate about myself, knowing I have the asteroid Vesta rising in my first house, and my sun at a wide conjunction with Saturn. My moon, sun and ascendant are all in fire signs, for example. Fire signs are known to be explosive in their energy, quick to temper, forthright (as well as creative and unflinchingly optimistic . . . which I can attest to.) The position of Saturn next to my sun, and Vesta in my first house, mitigates the fire in my chart. I’m a little more measured.


2. Shirley Jackson

If you’re rolling eyes at the above, I direct you now to this review of Ruth Franklin’s biography of Shirley Jackson. The article begins: ‘Here’s how not to be taken seriously as a woman writer: Use demons and ghosts and other gothic paraphernalia in your fiction. Describe yourself publicly as “a practicing amateur witch” and boast about the hexes you have placed on prominent publishers.’ The article demonstrates the special criticism reserved for female-identified writers. I don’t mean that women don’t succeed in publishing – but boy do we trash them for it. I keep thinking about this line from Jackson’s journal, written six months before she died: ‘I am the captain of my fate. Laughter is possible laughter is possible laughter is possible.’ I would like to tattoo this sentence onto my arm.


3. Bake Off

I’ve lived in the UK for four non-consecutive years and have always scoffed at Bake Off and the people who watched it. I don’t know if it’s proof of my assimilation or what, but I take it back. If there wasn’t so much fucking bunting, it could be radical. (‘If #Selasi isn’t star baker we riot.’) OK, ‘radical’ is the wrong word. The viewing public is still pretty white and middle class. And they mention the Queen too often. Maybe it’s more accurate to say GBBO provides a mirror through which we can observe society’s race and gender power imbalances . . . whether the angry people on Twitter realize they’re perpetuating those imbalances or not. Take Amanda Hopkins’s Great British outrage last year when Nadiya Hussain won. What gets me right now is the criticism of Candice, a talented baker the Internet hates because she’s assertive and wears lipstick.


4. Ghetto Kraviz

I have a committed, naive relationship to music. I listen to it constantly – while writing (can’t write without it), in transit, during dance classes, at my new job where I answer emails about wine – but my thumb is so far from the pulse it’s . . . I don’t know. Hovering unconvincingly in the air. I tend to discover artists years after they break onto the scene. Right now I can’t stop listening to Nina Kraviz. She released her first album in 2012, and I’ve no doubt I’m the last to hear it. She’s beautiful and talented, so of course infamous. I’m told there was a video with a bathtub. Whatever. I’ve had ‘Ghetto Kraviz’ on repeat the last three days. Like a lot of electronic music, the song has this driving beat that makes me bob doggedly as I work, or walk. But while some other songs on this album sprawl a bit more, the beat blowing open, jellyfish-like, rather than arrowing forward – ‘Ghetto Kraviz’ has this missile effect, a pushing ahead. I’m writing my PhD thesis on rhythm, so I think a lot about beats, the different quality of movement they entice – physically and also textually.


5. Mary Robison, Why Did I Ever

I came across this book searching for fragmented novels. I forget now if I was seeking validation on the novel I am presently finishing, or thinking ahead to future projects . . . but this book came up. I love the spiky sense of humour, the rhythm of what’s said and what’s elided. Here’s one of my favourite passages: ‘I end up at the Appletree – the grocery – in the dead of the night. I’m not going to last long shopping, though, because this song was bad enough when what’s-her-name sang it. And who are all these people at four a.m.? I’m making a new rule: No one is to touch me. Unless and until I feel different about things. Then I’ll call off the rule.’


Photograph © lostonpurpose

First Semester