Canadian author and York English and Humanities Professor Allan Weiss visited Canadian Writers in Person on Nov. 29 to talk about his new collection of stories, Making the Rounds (2016).
Over the course of his career, Weiss has published a variety of sci-fi and fantasy short stories, as well as realist stories like the ones included in Living Room (2001). He is also the editor of The Canadian Fantastic in Focus (2014), a critical collection of essays on Canadian sci-fi and fantasy.
Making the Rounds is a cycle of short stories in which Eliezer ben-Avraham, an old Jewish wizard, and his horse Melech, travel the world doing mitzvahs, as punishment for having pried too deeply into forbidden knowledge.
The writer talked about getting the idea for this book and writing the first story about a Jewish wizard when he was just 16 years old. He liked to read a lot of fantasy and at some point he thought “wouldn’t it be funny if there was a wizard who was an old Jewish man?”
Inspired by that thought, he penned the first story in the collection, about Eliezer, an old Jewish man who, as a punishment, has to wander the world helping those who call upon him. “I knew that one day I would use the events of my childhood and the voices I was familiar with in fiction. I took the material of my life and reshaped it into fiction. … This is the voice I am most familiar with. Eliezer speaks like my uncle,” the writer said.
Weiss started writing very early on. “I got into sci-fi and fantasy early on because it was so much more interesting than real life.” But, of course, reality does make its way into the stories.
The writer explained, “When I write sci-fi and fantasy, the characters come first and then I put them into a world that fits.” His characters, even in his fantasy stories, are inspired by the world he grew up in and by a cultural context with which he is familiar. The fantasy world of Making the Rounds is rooted in the Eastern European Yiddish cultural background.
On Jan. 17, 2017 André Alexis will visit York to talk about his book Fifteen Dogs.
Readings are free and open to any member of the public. For more information, contact Professor Leslie Sanders at email@example.com or Professor Gail Vanstone at firstname.lastname@example.org. All readings are held Tuesdays from 7 to 9pm in 206 Accolade West Building, Keele campus.