The beautiful cover of Descant 165, chosen months ago by Editor-in-Chief Karen Mulhallen, turned out to be prescient on the eve of our launch party. But despite the deluge Tuesday night, we had a great turnout. Guests who didn’t quite make it before the heavens opened, arrived sopping wet regardless of umbrellas and mad dashes from cabs. But as drenched Descant Co-editor Paul Fowler pointed out, we’re not made of sugar.
Production Editor Ekraz Singh not only put together a gorgeous issue, but she pulled off a great party too. Hot nibblies, cold beer and a room full of lit-loving friends. As good luck would have it, the guest who bought the most raffle tickets won the big box-o-books from ChiZine Publications. There must have been 20 novels in there, each one weirder than the next which suited Darren just fine.
We had a surprise guest (I invited him on Twitter and he came, hence the surprise). Paul Carlucci braved the storm warnings and came in from Hamilton to celebrate with us. Last month Paul won the Danuta Gleed award for his first collection of short stories, The Secret Life of Fission (Oberon Press).
I was struck by the different styles of our four readers –Heather Babcock (“Of Being Underground and Moving Backwards”), Assia Messaoudi (“dear stranger”), Mary Corkery (“Conversation”) and Mark Kingwell (“Parties, Parties, More Parties”). Beneath Heather’s straightforward prose, lurks something sweaty and uncomfortable. Assia’s poetry-from-the-margins drew a number of nods and murmurs from her audience. Mary’s poems about her sister’s struggle with cancer were intimate and harrowing.
I think everyone clapped a little bit harder when it was announced that this was Assia’s first publication. Descant has published a lot of firsts who went on to award-winning acclaim, so we’ll keep our eye on this young woman.
Mark Kingwell, longtime contributing editor to Descant, told us a funny story and, I think, coined a phrase. Once upon a time he was in a bookstore in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He pulled out a slim volume from the shelves, Parties: Scenes from Contemporary New York Life, by Carl van Vechten, a patron of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and later the literary executor of Gertrude Stein. And, according to Mark, “a great narcissist.” Mark said he knew he’d found something interesting, but, in one of those later hard-to-explain moments, he put the book back on the shelf and walked out of the store without it. Despite the fact that it was only 98 cents. Ok, American. But still.
Then it set in: leaver’s remorse.
I know this feeling. It has a similar sinking feeling to buyer’s remorse, but where buyer’s remorse usually fills us with disappointment, frustration and anger, leaver’s remorse is tinged with sadness and longing. Probably because it begs the bigger existential questions.
It’s not like Mark could just slap his forehead and head back to the bookstore, fingers crossed the book was still there. He was back in Toronto before the full force of his leaver’s remorse set in (I’m leaving that rhyme there; it has rap potential). Instead, when he would hear that friends were traveling to New Hampshire, he’d ask them to look for the book.
He went so far as to draw a map of the inside of the bookstore and exactly where he’d last seen the volume. A map of where he’d been and what he didn’t bring back with him. A treasure map; a cartography of regret.
[If you were looking for a writing prompt today, look no further.]
You’ll have to read Mark Kingwell’s contribution to find out what happened (you had to know I was going to say that). Lucky launch goers bought their copies for $10 and a year’s subscription for $20. Look for Descant 165 at your local book and magazine stores. Or have it delivered to your door four times a year.
You won’t regret it. No matter what you’re made of.