If you spent any time in the small press scene in Canada, you've almost certainly come across Nathaniel G. Moore. A writer, reviewer, and publishing professional of many hats, Moore has spent nearly two decades working tirelessly as part of, and on behalf of, the CanLit community. It's that experience which he draws on for his newest book: an anthology of essays that looks back over the strange, ever-changing, sometimes vibrant, sometimes toxic, always fascinating world of Canadian literature and publishing.
The cheekily titled Honorarium is an unconventional ode to the backstage of the industry, engaging with writers and creators like Sheila Heti, Camilla Gibb, Jen Sookfong Lee, and Chuck Palahniuk. It's also seamlessly weaves in memoir element, sharing Moore's eminently relatable experience of escaping an anxious childhood through books and reading.
Today we're welcoming Nathaniel to Open Book to speak about Honorarium as part of our ongoing interview series spotlighting anthologies and essay collections. He tells us about going back through archives both published and unpublished to assemble the essays, his surprising preferences around the writing process (including construction noise!), and what he hopes readers will take away from this book that has been so many years in the making.
Tell us about the new book and how you became involved with it.
Nathaniel G. Moore:
I started writing short reviews and features on poets, publishers, and other factions in Canadian publishing in the late 1990s. After I finished my last novel Savage 1986-2011, an autobiographical novel if there ever was one, I thought, what would a nonfiction book about my life as a cultural worker look like? And thanks to Jim Johnstone and Aimee Parent, I and the world know how to pick the book out in a crowd. (It’s the black and white one with the weird inky handwriting I did with my own hand.)
How did you select the pieces for this book? What were you looking for when assembling it?
I culled material from The Danforth Review, Open Book: Toronto, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Broken Pencil, subterrain, and other magazines. I wanted to get a nice cross-section of work from different eras. There are also many essays that, for whatever reason, were rejected by magazines, or, never even submitted at all.
How do you view the pieces in the book as speaking to each other?
It’s a continuous conversation about the unpredictable, enjoyable, and challenging world of publishing in this giant hunk of a country we live in.
What do you need when you're writing and editing – in terms of space, food, rituals, writing instruments?
I take a vitamin stimulant that I have imported from Kaunas, Lithuania, which consists of root herb and a type of dirt which is supposed to help with memory. I don’t need this, because its hard to come by, but it certainly helps. I like a lot of noise, hammering, vacuuming, and demo of any kind, whether it’s ripping up a subfloor or cleaning out a decrepit chimney. Cilantro and lime salad is a must. Later in the evening it’s Dean Martin, while during the afternoon it’s all New Order, Califone, Bruce Springstein, and Dr. Dre / N.W.A.
What do you hope readers will take away from these pieces, after having read them all? Is there a question you set out to address or delve into through these works?
To become a small press and independent bookstore activist. To take the role of reader and community builder seriously. To laugh and cry at the wonders of creativity that surround us.
What are you working on next?
I have a book of poems called My Arms Are Too Short To Box With God which has a long poem about my experience of being sexually abused through my entire teenagedom in Leaside (central Toronto). This is coming out in the fall (2021) with Mansfield Press and I’m working on paintings for an upcoming art show and a new album with my band Proper Concern.
Nathaniel G. Moore was born in Toronto in 1974. He has lived and worked as a writer and book publicist in Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, and New Brunswick, where he now lives with his wife and daughter and runs moorehype, a boutique publicity operation. His books include Savage 1986-2011, winner of the 2014 ReLit Award for Best Novel, and most recently, the poetry collection Goodbye Horses. His writing has appeared in Toronto Life, This Magazine, The Berkeley Review, The Georgia Straight, The National Post, The Globe and Mail and Edit.