"Edson’s vivid portrayal of the urban area, as well as the working class and underclass, creates a vision of Saint John that highlights the discrepancy between the pre-modern idyllic notion of life in Atlantic Canada and the more complicated reality of the region."

-The New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Eden Mills Writers' Festival

I will be reading from my new novel, A Place of Pretty Flowers, at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival, Sunday September 9, 2007.

To visit the EMWF Website, click here.

To see the other adult writers who will be reading at the festival, click here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Engaging the Word

A radio interview I did while promoting The Dirty Milkman...
Covered and Bound "Engaging the Word" (2006)

Dear Mr. Richler...

In 1999, out of frustration I wrote Mordecai Richler and asked if before he got published did he ever feel as though he was doing it all for nothing. This was his response:

Dear Mr. Edson,

I still think all my efforts may be for nothing, so you are off to a good start. Sorry I can't be more helpful.


Mordecai Richler

My Influences

The biggest influence on my writing is Ernest Hemingway. I think his simple style is the best way to do it.

Other writers who have influenced me, and who are my favourites:
Charles Bukowski
Roald Dahl
Frederick Forsyth
Alistair MacLeod
Jean Rhys
David Adams Richards

The Dirty Milkman reviewed in "The New Brunswick Reader"

(A few bits taken from the NB Reader, jan. 16, 2006...)

Reader - Books
As published on page 16 on January 21, 2006

Review by E.E. Cran
The Dirty Milkman
By Jerrod Edson
Oberon Press, 150 pages

The Grammar Architect
By Chris Eaton
Insomniac Press

Overall, this reviewer prefers novel set in Saint John
Both novels are by young New Brunswickers
At first sight, these two novels have much in common. Both are by New Brunswick writers in their early thirties - Jerrod Edson is from Saint John while Chris Eaton is from Sackville.

Each is its author's second book. Both are products of a chaotic world in which the main characters may or may not find something that matters, at least to themselves.The differences, however, in the way the authors deal with this world and its inhabitants are what make these books notable, if not always congenial to our old friend the general reader.

Although The Dirty Milkman has an off-putting name, do not be repulsed by it if you wish to read a good new novel.

Jerrod Edson's first novel The Making of Harry Cassaboom was promising; this one goes well beyond it and fulfills its promise.

Like its predecessor, it takes place in Saint John, which is described in almost too much loving detail. Its main characters - Charlie White, a writer turned milkman, and Prin, a young prostitute - have both given up on living a more than mediocre life devoid of much feeling.The plot shows them becoming more alive and aware of themselves, the world around them, and their true potential.This happens through their interplay with one another.While the novel's ending leaves their future open, the possibility for something better is definitely there; meanwhile there's the present moment to enjoy. Grey daylight may be coming, but the redness of dawn has not yet faded.

The Dirty Milkman is simply and beautifully written. Every page is an example of this. Although it takes place in Saint John's South End, and dirt and mess abound, the overall effect is love for that part of the city. Not only South Enders should read it, however. This book should have a long and distinguished future on a global scale.

E.E. Cran lives in Tignish, P.E.I.

The Dirty Milkman reviewed in "The PEI Guardian"

(A few bits from the PEI Guardian, jan.6th, 2006...)

The Guardian (Charlottetown)
Friday, January 6, 2006
Page: C3
Section: Entertainment
Byline: Elizabeth Cran

Maritime novelists release new books

Have you heard of Jerrod Edson? What about Chris Eaton? Chances are you will soon, if you haven't. That's because both of these young men are in the process of becoming well-known Canadian novelists.

Edson's fame may even eventually spread beyond the shores of this continent. Edson is from Saint John, N.B., and his second novel, The Dirty Milkman, (Oberon Press, Ottawa) has just appeared. Like his first, The Making of Harry Cossaboom, (DreamCatcher, Saint John) it's firmly rooted in working-class Saint John.

Nevertheless its theme - finding out what you really want to be and do - is universal. And its main characters, Charlie, a young writer who has stopped writing and become a milkman, and Prin, a 19-year-old prostitute who takes pride in her work, are not only complex and interesting, but attractive, especially Prin.

Not every reader will want to penetrate beyond the dirt, drinking and rough language to discover any of this. Those who do will find a short novel that's well worth the effort.

Some of this, of course, is due to the characters and the vivid descriptions. Some of the latter reflect the beauty of the world, of which Charlie, in particular, is very much aware.

It's dawn at both the beginning of the narrative and its end, and I dare to say not even Homer with his "rosy-fingered dawn" has better conveyed this natural phenomenon and the feelings that often go with it.

Edson's simple, straightforward style, which looks easy but is really hard to achieve, is one of this book's most important features. It would be worth study, except it would be a shame to treat so good a book in that way.

It certainly belongs among the best novels of 2005.

The Dirty Milkman reviewed in Ottawa Xpress

December 15th, 2005 Year in Review - Books

Avoid the awards
by Matthew Firth

A best books of 2005 mantra

Hey you in the laundromat reading the GG winner, listen up: I'm tired of seeing all you cool cats with uncool books for the middle-aged middle class. Especially with a literary year like this. Put down the award winners, Oprah's choices and bestsellers and hunt down something more provocative to kill the long hours this winter. Something like ...

The Dirty Milkman, by Jerrod Edson (Oberon Press) This is Edson's (a recent Carleton U grad) second novel. Remarkable in its simplicity, rife with black humour, the story centres on Charlie White, a milkman infatuated with a prostitute. Set in Saint John, N.B., White is also a failed/struggling writer plagued by romantic memories of time spent in Poland. This is a rare example of Canadian working-class literature. It has booze, sex, nutty neighbours and callused hands - not quite Bukowski but ballsy stuff nonetheless.

The Dirty Milkman reviewed in "The Danforth Review"

Reviewed by Paul Duder

The back-cover blurbiage for Jerrod Edson’s second novel, The Dirty Milkman, promises a bracing stroll down the dank and gritty mean streets of Saint John, NB. (It also offers one of those tendentious McCanLit aperçus that “most Canadian writing has to do with the concerns of the middle class”, but let’s save that one for another time). And, certainly, in handing the narrative reins over to a teenaged hooker and a 30-some-odd failed writer/successful drinker, Edson has enlisted two of the more reliable and efficient signifiers of the demimonde.

But those of a sensitive constitution need not be put off, as not for Edson the back-alley gang rapes of Hubert Selby, say, nor the dead-end self-picklings of Bukowski. While those worthies offer the ennobling squalor of imposed circumstances, Milkman trades more in mild discomfiture as semi-sincere lifestyle choice; Edson serves up a light new wine for the fetid old bottles, and it has a lower alcohol content.

Charlie White published a well-received (though not well-purchased) novel while still in college, spent time in Poland working on a follow-up which didn’t materialize, and eventually slunk back homeward, to start what has grown into a five year stretch delivering milk in and around his native Saint John. (He’s “a milkman by trade, but not by choice”, the promo bumph tells us, as if there might otherwise be some ambiguity). He despairs over ever writing again, and drinks prodigiously, but otherwise is, all in all, a pretty chirpy soul, able, and inclined, to appreciate a well-turned ankle or a Saint John sunset. (For those who care about this sort of thing, Edson’s bio is not entirely dissimilar.)

Prin, who hooks up with Charlie--she calls him “Charles”--in the novel’s first scene, is 19, clear-headed, and wholly untraumatized by her career choice. Like Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places, she lives nicely, is savvy with her finances, and lays off the (other) vices. The feel-good capper is her pimp/best pal, much given to tortured musings on Prin’s inner beauty and unassailable dignity (just like, you know, pimps in real life).

One surmises that with “Prin”, and its Scarlet Letter overtones, Edson is seeking to confer an air of tragic grandeur, or some such; but, while her childhood was apparently no parade down Main Street, one hears of much worse on an average afternoon of Oprahs and Springers, so that any mantle of victimhood and moral absolution doesn’t lie comfortably on her shoulders.

Milkman unfolds on parallel tracks. The principal thread follows present-day Prin and Charlie as they stumble their way towards a sort of high school romance-manqué, the kind she never had and he likely can’t remember. Despite a greater than usual complement of barriers and misunderstandings, an endearing sense of normalcy prevails--picnics, haircuts, brunch--and, dammit, we pull for these crazy kids.

A second, retrospective track takes us through Charlie’s sojourn in Poland. From his current state, and his refusal to discuss it (despite frequent urgings from the unhappily-parochial Prin), we infer that Poland ended badly, and Edson’s managing of this creeping sense of disquiet is his most effective work. (Although, in the event, the pay-off is less than we’ve expected, and doesn’t seem enough to have so derailed him, or to have spurred the weird act of bibliocide by which he sacrificed his almost-finished second novel).

Charlie spends a lot of time thinking about the craft of writing, and he would likely approve of Edson’s efforts here. Milkman’s narrative voice is frugal and unobtrusive; not terse, a la Hemingway--freighted, heavy--but just direct and unaccoutred, almost wholly free of writerly wankery, and so immensely easy to read.

Edson is palpably jazzed about nature’s beauty and healing power--he’s obviously been particularly moved by Krakow and Saint John--such that something of an eco-theme emerges that may not have been entirely volitional. Along with the doing-not-studying, streets-not-academe line that his characters purvey at all opportunities, this overlays the proceedings with a neo-Luddite, granola-munching patina that is unforced and (you’ll forgive me) organic.

For added levity, Edson throws up some icky slapstick business--the pernicious effects of Chinese food on the digestive tract, a priest whose love for the Virgin Mary is demonstrably over-enthusiastic--that seems half-realized, as if he’s embarrassed to peddle such obvious filler.

Milkman is small--150 pages--and small-bore: at bottom, we get a girl, a milkman, some sunsets and cheap wine, and a couple of people huddling together, bucking each other up; a temporally protracted, lower-caste Before Sunrise. At the end of the day, Charlie is, perhaps, nudged out of his funk through the simple expedient of unburdening himself to Prin of some unpleasantness from his past.

As redemptions go, this seems a little too easily won, too up-with-talk-therapy. Though, that said, when Edson shoehorns in a pessimistic, capitulative coda--one of those unresolved, “hey, life’s like that” non-endings that serve more to excuse the writer than instruct the reader--it clangs a bit.

But better (and easy) to focus on Milkman’s small pleasures, and what can you do anyway? Life’s like that.

Paul Duder is a lapsed Toronto lawyer who lives in a neighbourhood without milk delivery.

The Dirty Milkman (2005)

Back cover blurb:
Most Canadian writing has to do with the concerns of the middle class. Jerrod Edson isn’t like that at all. Charlie White is a milkman. He became a milkman after he failed to make it as a writer. He drinks too much and the world he lives in is harsh and ugly, sad and crude. By chance he meets a hooker named Prin. With her, he re-examines what he was and what he has become. With her there are brief moments of beauty and hope, which suggest that perhaps she’ll prove capable of redeeming him. Perhaps she will and perhaps she won’t—the question is never asked and never answered. Jerrod Edson writes with a raw energy that makes for uncomfortable reading, but the very roughness of his prose gives it clarity and the ring of truth. This is his second novel.

My Publisher

From Oberon Press:

During its long history Oberon has launched the careers of some of Canada’s best-known writers: writers like David Adams Richards, Wayne Johnston, W.P. Kinsella and Rohinton Mistry. We founded two influential anthologies—Best Canadian Stories and Coming Attractions—that continue today to support new and established story writers. We are one of the very few publishers with a continuing commitment to Canadian poetry. We have also published 38 works of French-Canadian fiction in translation, introducing many of Quebec’s best writers to the rest of Canada. In 1971 we created the national restaurant guide Where to Eat in Canada, now in its 37th edition after selling more than 150,000 copies.

By the end of this year, Oberon will have a total of 639 titles in print in 1169 editions, featuring the work of such writers as W.P. Kinsella, Raymond Souster, David Adams Richards, Marie-Claire Blais, Wayne Johnston, Leon Rooke, Frances Itani, Douglas Glover, Janice Kulyk Keefer, Elisabeth Harvor, John Metcalf, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Elizabeth Brewster, Hugh Hood, David Helwig, bpNichol, Audrey Thomas, George Bowering, Isabel Huggan, Bronwen Wallace, Norman Levine, Gary Geddes and Steven Heighton.

A number of our books have been made into such films as Field of Dreams, Dance Me Outside and Margaret’s Museum. Twenty-four titles have been reissued in mass-market format by Harper Collins as The Oberon Library. And over the years Oberon books have won almost every prize in the country, including the Governor General’s Award.

“The Oberon imprint is about as close to a brand name as there is in Canadian publishing”—Books in Canada

My first novel with Oberon, The Dirty Milkman, was published in 2005. My second Oberon novel, A Place of Pretty Flowers, will be published in November 2007.