Skip to main content

Kurt Palka

In All Ages, Globe Books asks authors to dig deep for memorable books that span their lifetime, from childhood to what’s on their reading list right now.

Former journalist and filmmaker Kurt Palka has just published his seventh novel.

Previously, he had written Clara, a finalist for the Hammett Prize, and the bestselling The Piano Maker. His latest, The Hour of the Fox (McClelland & Stewart), spans Toronto to the East Coast to Paris in telling the story of Margaret Bradley, a senior law associate whose life is upended by the sudden death of a son. The way forward for a grieving mother becomes clearer when she rushes to support a friend whose son is questioned in connection with a violent crime.

Story continues below advertisement

These are the books that have made a mark on Palka the reader.

What did you read as a kid?

When I was maybe three or four, an aunt in Britain sent me a copy of Curious George and somehow that willful and irrepressible little monkey not only helped me learn to read, but he also taught me that a bit of wildness and defiance might lead to interesting things. I had that book for years and years, but somehow lost it during my most recent few moves.

What did you read in grade school?

In my senior high-school days in Europe, Kafka, Sartre and Dostoevsky were the stars.

To me the most interesting book was Sartre’s La Nausée, so bold and dangerous, stripped bare like a raw wire carrying current; like a writer’s workshop trying on ideas and discarding some and developing variations.

In the story the main character refuses to live an “ordinary” life and finally comes face to face with the hopelessness within. He does not know if he’ll be able to overcome it and carry on.

Story continues below advertisement

What did you read during college?

In my college years, or just a little thereafter, I discovered Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and that’s one truly influential book I still own.

To me, it’s an introduction not so much of Zen, but of baseline Existentialism to North American culture. Of the secret pleasure of accepting responsibility at least for oneself, and of taking the trouble to do something really well. In one scene the narrator describes a motorcycle mechanic using an adjustable wrench rather than a fixed one on a good bolt head and in the process rounding and wrecking the hex corners.

That book has never gone out of style; just the other day in a Toronto Starbucks I saw a young man reading it and sipping his coffee and never looking away from the page.

What have you read as an adult?

At some point I came across Jim Harrison’s beautiful story The Woman Lit by Fireflies. It is about a woman who has broken free of her controlling husband and walked away. Now she sits in the bush and spends the night remembering and wondering, and planning how to carry on.

Story continues below advertisement

What are you reading right now?

Right now I am re-reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. It is the post-apocalyptic story of a father and son walking through depopulated and ruined America toward the vague promise of the coast. It’s about “the frailty of everything revealed at last.” A book about love and courage if there ever was one.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter