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A Coast Lines conversation

A Q&A with Coast Lines featured author Michael Crummey

Campus and Community

By Janet Harron

The Adversary, Michael Crummey’s (BA’87) latest novel, was called “a beautifully written, immensely powerful and subtly ingenious novel,” by The Washington Post.

The acclaimed author’s first novel, River Thieves, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize; his second novel, The Wreckage, was a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

His third novel, Galore, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Canada and the Caribbean) and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award.

Sweetland, Mr. Crummey’s fourth novel, was also a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award; a feature film based on the novel is currently in theatres nationwide.

The Innocents was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award.

He is the author of seven books of poetry and the short fiction collection Flesh and Blood.

Mr. Crummey lives in St. John’s.

The Adversary is the current Coast Lines Book Club selection for July and August 2024.

JH: Where did your interest in writing come from/when did it begin?

Michael Crummey head shot
Michael Crummey is the Coast Lines featured author for July/August, along with Perry Chafe.
Photo: Submitted

MC: I can’t really speak to where the interest came from. It seemed to arrive out of the blue.

But I can pinpoint when pretty exactly.

I arrived at Memorial in 1982 with no idea what I might want to do with my life.

I took five general courses, hoping something might hit me. And we did all poetry in my first term of English Lit.

I didn’t know if poetry was fit to eat, to be honest. But for whatever reason, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

It felt like a vocation from the beginning. And I’ve been at it ever since.

JH: How has your education at Memorial University inform your perspective/world view?

MC: Well, besides offering me my lifelong vocation, I have to say that my time at Memorial was absolutely formative in other ways, as well.

I did a minor in sociology, I was only a couple credits shy of a double major, actually, and my way of looking at the world is still shaped by those courses on class and gender and race, on world politics, on economics.

I had vague, left-leaning tendencies when I arrived.

But I like to think those courses taught me how to think critically about the world, to see some of the things that shape our communities and our sense of ourselves.

JH: What takeaway do you hope stays with readers of The Adversary?

MC: I don’t know if I think too much about what a reader takes from a book.

The writing is always a very private, personal business, and once the book is out in the world it has to make its own way.

I’ve heard from people who tell me the experience of reading one of my books has stayed with them for years, and that’s a surreal and gratifying notion.

So, I hope that’s true for some readers of The Adversary.

JH: What is your Newfoundland and Labrador hidden gem?

MC: Well this one is fairly niche, but there is a swimming hole in Western Bay called the Overfalls.

We used to swim there as kids when we were visiting my grandmother. It’s hard to find.

There’s no sign for it and it sits at the bottom of a very steep trail off a tiny lane.

People stop me on the roads out there all the time, asking if I know where it is.

A beautiful swimming spot on those rare scorching summer days. Shaded by a circle of cliffs. Deep and clean and cold.

A small waterfall pouring in.

The words Coast Lines are in orange, against a pink background, with a landscape of abstract books underneath.

Coast Lines book club

Michael Crummey will appear with Perry Chafe at Coast Lines and Coffee on Sunday, July 28, at the Emera Innovation Exchange, Signal Hill Campus, in a discussion moderated by Angela Antle (BA’91, PhD candidate).

Register for this special event here.

Copies of The Adversary are available through Memorial University Bookstore.

Established in 2020, the Coast Lines Book Club encourages the university community and friends to connect through a common love of reading and interest in the Newfoundland and Labrador literary landscape.

All of the book club’s featured titles are either written by alumni and/or faculty or have a strong connection to Memorial University.

Visit the website for more information on Coast Lines and how to join.

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