Hair Hat Reviews

Pickle Me This has posted links on her site to several more Hair Hat reviews–all as part of Canada Reads: Independently.
The first is a reprint: Buried in Print originally reviewed Hair Hat when it came out a few years ago. This is easily one of my favourite reviews of the book, ever, and it’s lovely of her to reprint it now.
The second is a passionate review is by a literary blogger (at who absolutely despises the hair hat man–or, more precisely, the conceit of the hair hat man. What I find most fascinating about his review is that he actually seems to like the stories themselves. I remember that when Hair Hat was first published, it received a few reviews in this vein, which I found difficult and personally painful to take, though the positive reviews were more numerous, and besides, I’d known in advance what to expect: there’s no way to please everyone, and pleasing everyone isn’t the goal of book-writing. It was a bit of trend: a handful of reviewers did not understand why the hair hat man was a necessary component of the stories, and saw him as a gimmick of some sort. It’s a fair opinion. But he was never a gimmick to me. The stories revolved around him, arrived out of his existence, and seemed to me entirely inseparable from him. He was a puzzle, a curiosity, and I came to accept his presence in my imagination as a gift, even if sometimes the gift felt like a bit of a curse, too–why did he have to wear his hair in such a ridiculous style? Was I supposed to take him seriously? I couldn’t seem to get at him directly, so I kept angling at him through the eyes of these other characters. The stories felt necessary. I couldn’t help writing them how they were written. I suppose that to be one of the secrets about writing: not everything is in the author’s control. I could have removed him afterward, I suppose, but I can’t imagine doing it.
It’s been a number of years since I wrote these stories, and I’m pleased to report that I can read that review with distance and curiosity. I urge you to read it, too. It’s fascinating.
And I really like what Kerry Clare, of Pickle Me This, had to say about the hair hat man: “I love that he exists in your book as someone who makes people uncomfortable, and he does the same thing to your readers.”
That aspect of his existence had never occurred to me before: that something of his power is his persistence and ridiculousness and the way he makes different people feel differently. So it’s okay to despise him. You can even tell me and I won’t hit you. Or cry.
Great success here, this afternoon: I’ve managed to cook an extremely mediocre feast of Indian food, which is not the fault of the Indian food, but of my distracted cooking … blogging while cooking while supervising hungry children is a recipe for slightly burnt nan bread with slightly undercooked yellow split peas in rice. (There’s also dahl, and spinach with mustard seeds, and turnips with coriander). And the turnips are way too spicy for the kids to eat, though I suspect Kevin and I will love them.

My Morning


  1. August

    I do like the stories themselves. I found myself marveling at your sentences. But I do my best not to think of the author as a person when I write the reviews so that I can write how I feel about a book as honestly as possible. I’m not always successful. I am glad that you aren’t taking it personally.

    I also thought I should say that I’m much happier when a book moves me to a strong reaction, either positive or negative (cursing in a review is a good sign that it’s done that), than to leave me indifferent. Only things I can respect are worth that much of my attention.

    I did enjoy reading about how you came to the hair hat man.

  2. Carrie Snyder

    August, I agree–indifference is the worst possible response from a reader. Thanks for your thoughts, and for reading the book, and engaging with it.


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