dennis bock interviewed by J.C. Polanyi at 7 pm, Friday (October 26), Studio Theatre (235 Queen's Quay West), and reading with Richard Ford and Hal niedzviecki at 8 pm Saturday (October 27), Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). $18. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNN
it seems only natural. you're an award-winning author penning a novel on Hiroshima. You take a trip to Japan as research, right? Interview some people. Scribble some notes. Expense the thing to your publishers.Of course. But not if you're Dennis Bock.
"I didn't want to get too close. I would have been overwhelmed if I had gone there," says Bock about the genesis of his novel The Ash Garden, a look at the effects of the atomic bomb on one of the scientists who developed it and on a permanently scarred survivor.
"I needed distance," he says from his home in Guelph, Ontario, where he moved last August to get distance from the Toronto literary scene and inflated real estate prices.
"If I had spoken to people there, survivors, I might have begun to doubt my own abilities to recount the brutality and horror."
What's the 30-something Bock, who debuted in 1997 with his award-winning story collection, Olympia, doing examining brutality and horror anyway?
"The war has always fascinated me," he admits. "I grew up listening to stories my parents experienced in wartime Germany. I also wanted to write about something I had no first-hand knowledge of. And the bomb is such a beautiful, horrifying metaphor for the best and worst of humanity. Scientifically, it was a huge step forward, while morally it was a step backward."
Already translated into half a dozen languages -- including, Bock's pleased to note, Japanese -- the book is written in a quiet, seemingly artless style.
"I've never been excited by subjectless or verbless sentences. People were doing a lot of that in the early 90s, and I didn't get it," says Bock, careful not to name names.
And dare we compare Hiroshima's August 6 to September 11?
"People have been blindsiding one another for centuries," he says. "There will never be anything as significant as the bomb -- it was the first time a weapon of mass destruction was used. You can't compare that to an airplane going into a tower."
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the ash garden by Dennis Bock (HarperFlamingoCanada), 281 pages, $34. Rating: NNNN