Cynthia Flood’s Notes on The Animals in Their Elements
Recently an email enquiry came from a stranger who’d read, years ago, the title story. This reader was unexpectedly house-bound, recovering from severe illness, and had begun to look at birds from the apartment’s balcony.
Harry and his love of birds came to mind. . . . Could I send a copy?
Such an event is so pleasing to a writer, for it suggests that a book published decades ago is still vital.
Looking at the table of contents now, I remember the excitement of writing “A Young Girl-Typist Ran To Smolny,” once I’d thought of the footnotes. (I wasn’t aware that Borges had got there long before me!)
In “On The Point,” I was able to enter a loved landscape from an angle never perceived in childhood, while the lead character in “Beatrice” embodied many of my family’s values but in a wholly different context.
“Evelyn and Rosie” is a favourite. I loved those two women! The story, with its blend of individual voices and lives with Vancouver’s history, was perhaps a precursor of my first novel. I enjoyed choosing the right details, domestic and political. Some readers thought the two were real, historical figures, which pleased me.
“Imperatives” has had a curious public life, for many readers/listeners have assumed it to be a tale of sexual abuse. That is not how I see it, but, as I’ve learned, there’s no point arguing.
Back to Harry, one of many old people I’ve written about. His story arrived in the early 80s, when I walked through an old shabby house for sale on William Street in East Vancouver. Fading life, solitude, timidity, strangeness — the rooms spoke of these. Perhaps the realtor mentioned that the last owner had been an old man? This story too was a delight to write. The ending still pleases me.
So do the cover and overall design. Josie Cook’s fine painting, “Raine Through The Fire,” has always seemed just right for the book, and the Goudy Oldstyle typeface is elegant.