MAILLARD, Keith




Keith Maillard is one of B.C.’s most prolific novelists.

Born in Wheeling, West Virginia in 1942, he went to military high school and then wandered between 1960 and 1967 to the Florida Keys, New England, New York, Los Angeles, Alaska, Alberta and Nova Scotia. During his 20s and 30s he worked at a variety of 'nutty jobs' that include sign painter, house painter, folk singer, busboy, sales person, feather dyer, ghost writer of university papers and attendant in a madhouse. More importantly, Maillard studied and taught music, and wrote for The Free Press in Boston. From 1968 to 1970 he also wrote and produced a weekly public affairs radio show called The Underground News for Boston University Radio. He was an anti-war protester in Boston who felt 'burned out' after the National Guard opened fire and killed four protesters at Kent State. (“I was draft-exempt. I convinced my draft board I was crazy.”). He immigrated to Vancouver in 1970 because he had a friend at UBC. "It was early spring--in Boston everything was feet-deep in snow... my friend phoned and said 'the flowers are blooming' and something just clicked."

In Canada he lived for a brief period at Alert Bay and became a Canadian citizen in 1976. Maillard worked as a bass player, music arranger and songwriter for The Ferron Band and also once pursued a career as a freelance photographer. As well, he taught music (recorder for adults) for the Vancouver School Board. He published Two Strand River, an exploration of androgyny, in 1976. Since then he has produced a series of mainly coming-of-age novels emanating from the fictional town of Raysburg, West Virginia, based on his upbringing in Wheeling. Of his eighth novel called Gloria, Tom Sanborn wrote in the Vancouver Sun, “Gloria should be evaluated in the context of the best of English language fiction, bearing favourable comparison to the strongest work of Julian Barnes, Joyce Carol Oates, David Malouf, T.C. Boyle and William Trevor. In an earlier generation, perhaps only Thomas Wolfe mined the veins of American memory as deeply as Maillard, who hails from the American South, has done in his Raysburg novels.”

Maillard received the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for Motet, his story about a UBC classical music professor investigating rare Dutch manuscripts from the 16th century. Although the novel's obscure composer, van Dorestad, is fictional, the theoretical basis for the novel is derived from the work of German musicologist Edward E. Lowinsky, author of Secret Chromatic Art in the Netherlands Motet (Colombia University Press, 1946). "As a novelist," he says, "I was attracted to the secret chromaticism on the level of metaphor; the musicological stratum of this novel was inspired by the beauty, complexity and daring of Lowinsky's pioneering work." The title Motet refers to "an unaccompanied choral composition based on a Latin sacred text and designed to be performed in the Roman Catholic service, chiefly at Vespers." Paul Crane, a newly separated professor, uncovers 'the devil in music' within an obscure motet. A sex-'n'-drugs driven drummer simultaneously uncovers the spiritual depths of rock music. The drummer and the professor are in love with the same woman, Kathy, a former saxophone player. They all share the same house near the UBC Endowment Lands in Vancouver. The story contains desperate sex and murder for good measure.

In 1989, Keith Maillard was hired fulltime as an Associate Professor at UBC’s Creative Writing Department, where he first taught lyric songwriting. His only book of poetry, Dementia Americana (Ronsdale Press), won the Gerald Lampert Award for best first collection. He is currently Professor, Department of Theatre, Film and Creative Writing where he has worked with such writers as Zsuzsi Gartner, Joan Skogan, Rosalind MacPhee, Allan Wilson, Zoe Landale, Tammy Armstrong, Steve Galloway, Maureen Medved, Eden Robinson, Laisha Rosnau, Madeleine Thien and Lee Henderson. Maillard is married and has two daughters.

Formal Education:

West Virginia University,
Vancouver Community College School of Music.

Maillard's nine novels are:

Two Strand River (Press Porcepic 1976, reissued with a new afterword, Harper Collins Canada, 1996)
Alex Driving South (Dial Press 1980)
The Knife in My Hands (General Publishing 1981)
Cutting Through (General Publishing 1982)
Motet (Random House 1989, reissued, HarperCollins, 1997).
Light in the Company of Women (HarperCollins 1993)
Hazard Zones (HarperCollins 1995)
Gloria (HarperCollins, 1999; HarperFlamingo 2001)
The Clarinet Polka (Thomas Allen 2002, Thomas Dunne, U.S., 2003)
Difficulty at the Beginning
--Book 1. Running (Brindle & Glass, 2005)
--Book 2. Morgantown (Brindle & Glass, 2006)
--Book 3. Lyndon Johnson and the Majorettes (Brindle & Glass, 2006)
--Book 4. Looking Good (Brindle & Glass, 2006)


Poetry:

Dementia Americana (Ronsdale Press, 1995)

Awards:

Gloria – nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, 1999.
Hazard Zones – short-listed for the Commonwealth Literary Prize, Canadian and Caribbean section, 1996.
Dementia Americana – winner of the Gerald Lampert Award, 1995, given by the League of Canadian Poets for the best first book of poetry.
Light in the Company of Women – runner-up for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The B.C. Book Prizes, 1994.
Motet – winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, The B.C. Book Prizes, 1990.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2005]

The Clarinet Polka (Thomas Allen $32.95)
Info



Keith Maillard has taken aim at the ever homogenizing North America with his seventh installment in the Raysburg series, The Clarinet Polka (Thomas Allen $32.95).

World War II Poland; the Vietnam anti-war movement; Catholicism; Polish-American music. In this novel Maillard is a history teacher veiled behind his down-south talkin’ narrator, Jimmy Koprowski: “Our house was pretty much like everyone else’s… you’ve got to turn sideways to squeeze through to the kitchen where we eat dinner around the old beat-to-shit blue table, crammed in so tight we got our elbows in each other’s ears half the time.”

Jimmy Koprowski’s no rocket scientist, but we trust him. Right off the bat, Jimmy makes it clear that Raysburg, West Virginia is far from glamorous. “You’d come out of the church at night and look south toward Millwood and the sky’d be lit up blood red from the blast furnace… every damn thing would be covered with this fine red dust from the iron ore. My mom must have spent half her life sweeping that red dust off the front porch and the front steps.”

Apart from being Polish, Jimmy feels he’s ordinary kid, back from Vietnam with not much of a future. He works at a TV repair shop, drinks too much and argues with Old Bullet Head—his father.

Before things get better, they get worse. Jimmy gets mixed up with Constance Bradshaw—a married, half-crazy mother who pops too many pills and uses Jimmy as a distraction from her lonely, upper-class life.

Their weekly get-togethers typically end in Constance throwing a drunken fit.

“It’s so quick I just sit there and watch her go—this girl, completely bare-ass naked, running off into some farmer’s field, screaming her head off. It’s late in the season and the corn’s ready to harvest, and she’s crashing the stocks and knocking them over, and stumbling and falling down, and scrambling up and running and crashing into more stocks. Screaming the whole way—no words that I can make out, just this horrible wailing, loud, and I keep watching it like a movie, and I’m thinking, Christ, I wonder where the farmer is.”

During the routine insanity of the ‘Jim and Constance Show’, Jimmy meets his sister’s friend Janice Dluwiecki—a conservative sixteen year-old who wears knee-socks and pig tails.

“[Janice’s dad] was a strict old-fashioned papa straight from the old country, a real tyrant… On Sunday nights they read out loud to each other from the great works of Polish literature, and if they mispronounced anything, old Czeslaw was on them like a shot.”

Jimmy’s sister starts a polka band with Janice—much to the dismay of Mr. Dluwiecki—and Jimmy, by default, becomes the manager. Painfully aware of her age, Jimmy finally takes an interest in Janice.

“If I’d had half a brain in my head, I would’ve known what was happening, right? But I’m the king of denial… About all I’d admit to is that I couldn’t think of anything in the whole world anywhere near as pretty as Janice Dluwiecki’s hipbones.”

Keith Maillard teaches writing at UBC. Just for the record, he isn’t Polish. 0-88762-100-7 (2003)

[Jeremy Twigg / Spring 2003 BCBW]


Gloria (HarperFlamingo $27)
Article



In his eighth novel, Gloria (HarperFlamingo $27), Maillard re-visits his Lucky Strike American youth to profile a neurotic intellectual who hides behind the façade of a clothes-horse debutante. Despite being chosen as Prom Queen and president of her exclusive sorority, and despite her straight-A average, Gloria Cotter struggles to hide her real self, “a queer, neurotic, terrified, hollow, poetry-reading priss -- the biggest misfit in the Delta Lambda.”
Daughter of a steel-mill executive and engaged to a handsome tennis player, Gloria becomes a reluctant expert at preening and learns the Mona Lisa smile to hide her insecurities. She’s a meticulous keeper of diaries, but she can’t bear to write down the thoughts of her conscience. “…you’ll never really fit in, not in your heart, because you’re irrevocably different from those girls. You’re a strange, dark Gypsy girl. No one knows you, and no one ever will.”
Gloria’s mother, Laney, hates her aging body and her life in the “crude, ugly, stupid town” of Raysburg, wishing she could go back to New York. She resents her daughter’s youth. Gloria’s father, Ted, a Lieutenant Commander in the second World War, works six-and-a-half days a week as vice-president of Raysburg Steel. His life would be perfect if only he had that bomb shelter built.
It’s a novel that delves into deep and commonplace American insecurities. Typically, as the steel company’s youngest vice-president, Gloria’s father worries about eating a hotdog at the Fourth of July lawn party.
“He had the familiar, thoroughly enjoyable tingle at the back of his neck that told him he’d had a bit too much to drink on an empty stomach and should eat something fast; what he wanted was a hotdog, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask for one. Right beside the hotdogs were big slabs of prime beef; they were coming off the grill perfectly cooked, dripping blood, and they were what you were supposed to eat if you were the senior vice-president of the Raysburg Steel Corporation.
“Ted could eat a steak – would even enjoy eating it – but ever since he’d been a kid, he’d always loved hotdogs. Damn, he could almost taste the relish. But if he ate a hotdog, the boys might think he was a dumb old farmer with no class. Or maybe not. Maybe they’d just think it was a funny, endearing quirk, just like he’d thought about Admiral Delrick and his fondness for licorice.”
Always the fraud amongst girls wearing girdles and their boyfriends’ fraternity pins, Gloria finds inspiration from Eliot, Roethke and Yeats. She finds herself the only girl invited to professor Bolton’s “notorious Thursday night bull sessions” at the Blue Cellar
tavern. Gloria’s carefully constructed world comes apart the summer after she graduates from college.
Gloria must face the reality of her father’s smoke-spewing mills and her nightmares of Billy Dougherty, her father’s old navy buddy. “Billy had never lost something of the perpetual boy – maybe it was his winsome, lop-sided grin or his habit of rubbing the back of his neck and looking off to one side as though he were about to say, ‘Aw, shucks, ma’am,’ in a Jimmy Stewart Voice…” Billy’s insistence on calling Gloria “princess” – a name only her father calls her – becomes disconcerting when Gloria catches him watching her.
“She pulled off her bathing cap, began to towel her hair, and caught Mr. Dougherty staring at her, his eyes fixed on the point where her bathing suit met the top of her thighs… When she’d first met him, he’d told her to call him Uncle Billy, but Gloria, who had been fourteen at the time, was not about to call any man who had suddenly appeared out of nowhere Uncle anything.”
0-99-990329-2 -- by Jeremy Twigg

[BCBW SUMMER 1999]


Gloria (HarperFlamingo $27)
Article



In his eighth novel, Gloria (HarperFlamingo $27), Keith Maillard revisits his Lucky Strike American youth to profile a neurotic intellectual who hides behind the façade of a clothes-horse debutante. Despite being chosen as Prom Queen and president of her exclusive sorority, and despite her straightA average, Gloria Cotter struggles to hide her real self, “a queer, neurotic, terrified, hollow, poetry-reading priss—the biggest misfit in the Delta Lambda.” Daughter of a steel-mill executive and engaged to a handsome tennis player, Gloria becomes a reluctant expert at preening and learns the Mona Lisa smile to hide her insecurities. She’s a meticulous keeper of diaries, but she can’t bear to write down the thoughts of her conscience. “…you’ll never really fit in, not in your heart, because you’re irrevocably different from those girls. You’re a strange, dark Gypsy girl. No one knows you, and no one ever will.” Gloria’s mother, Laney, hates her aging body and her life in the “crude, ugly, stupid town” of Raysburg, wishing she could go back to New York. She resents her daughter’s youth. Gloria’s father, Ted, a Lieutenant Commander in the second World War, works six-and-a-half days a week as vice-president of Raysburg Steel. His life would be perfect if only he had that bomb shelter built.

Gloria is a novel that delves into deep and commonplace American insecurities. Typically, as the steel company’s youngest vice-president, Gloria’s father worries about eating a hotdog at the Fourth of July lawn party. “He had the familiar, thoroughly enjoyable tingle at the back of his
neck that told him he’d had a bit too much to drink on an empty stomach and should eat something fast; what he wanted was a hotdog, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask for one. Right beside the hotdogs were big slabs of prime beef; they were coming off the grill perfectly cooked, dripping blood, and they were what you were supposed to eat if you were the senior vice-president of the Raysburg Steel Corporation.”

Always the fraud amongst girls wearing girdles and their boyfriends’ fraternity pins, Gloria finds inspiration from Eliot, Roethke and Yeats. She finds herself the only girl invited to professor Bolton’s “notorious Thursday night bull sessions” at the Blue Cellar tavern. Gloria’s carefully constructed world comes apart the summer after she graduates from college. She must face the reality of her father’s smoke-spewing mills and her nightmares of Billy Dougherty, her father’s old navy buddy.

“Billy had never lost something of the perpetual boy—maybe it was his winsome, lop-sided grin or his habit of rubbing the back of his neck and looking off to one side as though he were about to say, ‘Aw, shucks, ma’am,’ in a Jimmy Stewart Voice…” Billy’s insistence on calling Gloria “princess”—a name only her father calls her—becomes especially disconcerting after Gloria catches him watching her. When she’d first met him, he’d told her to call him Uncle Billy, but Gloria, who had been fourteen at the time, was not about to call any man who had suddenly appeared out of nowhere Uncle anything.” The novel culminates in a harrowing, prolonged sexual encounter with Uncle Billy, who forcefully attempts to humiliate her. Gloria’s response is radical and cathartic. 0-99-990329-2

[BCBW AUTUMN 1999]


Keith Maillard Honoured in West Virginia
Press Release (2004)



CALGARY — December 28, 2004.

Vancouver author Keith Maillard was inducted into the Wheeling,West Virginia, Hall of Fame on November 28, 2004. Peter Holloway, chair of the Wheeling Hall of Fame Board’s Music & Fine Arts Committee, said, “By setting his fictional characters in the real local neighborhoods such as Wheeling Island, South Wheeling and Woodsdale, he celebrates our unique town and shares it with a worldwide audience.”

On acceptance of the award at the WesBanco Civic Center, Maillard said, “There is a magical quality about the first place you know. It is poignant, intense, compelling, and unforgettable.The first time I was aware of seeing anything as beautiful was when, at four or five, I looked out the sun porch window at the Ohio River. It has been forty years since I lived in Wheeling, but there is
something about the place that has kept me coming back here, not often enough in the flesh but quite often in the spirit.”

Following the Hall of Fame ceremony, Maillard participated on November 30 in the presentation of the new West Virginia Literary Map at Fairmont State College. Earlier in the month, Maillard was presented with the West Virginia Library Association Literary Merit Award. Maillard returned from his two-week, seven-town West Virginia tour on December 10 “feeling more refreshed and focused on my writing than ever. All the threads are coming together for me.” He is currently completing a four-volume novel chronicling the 1960s entitled Difficulty at the Beginning, to be published by Brindle & Glass in September 2005. His upcoming memoir, He was a Good Dancer, will be published by Thomas Allen & Son.

Keith Maillard was born and raised in Wheeling,WV. He emigrated to Canada in 1970 and became a Canadian citizen in 1976. He is the author of nine novels and one book of poetry. His novel Motet, which was set in Vancouver, won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize at the 1989 BC Book Awards; Hazard Zones was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize; Dementia Americana won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for Best First Book of Poetry; and Gloria was nominated for the 1999 Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Maillard lives in West Vancouver with his wife and two daughters and teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia.

-- Brindle & Glass

Polish American Historical Association Award
Press Release (2005)



SEATTLE – January 8, 2005. Vancouver author Keith Maillard has been awarded the Creative Arts Prize by The Polish American Historical Association for his novel, The Clarinet Polka. The award will be presented in Seattle, January 8, 2005 at the annual meeting of The Polish American Historical Association, an affiliated society of the American Historical Association.

The Clarinet Polka, published in Canada by Thomas Allen & Son in 2002, received wide acclaim, including starred reviews by industry journals Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, The American Library Journal and Booklist. Washington Post reviewer Zofia Smardz wrote that the novel contains “one of the few descriptions I’ve seen in an English-language book that comes close to doing justice to the Polish experience of the [Second World] war.”

The Clarinet Polka is the sixth successive Maillard book to receive or be nominated for a major literary award. Gloria was shortlisted for the 1999 Governor General’s Award for Fiction; Dementia Americana won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for Best First Book of Poetry; Hazard Zones was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize; Light in the Company of Women was runner-up for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize; and Motet won the Ethel Wilson prize at the 1989 BC Book Awards.

In November, 2004, Maillard received the West Virginia Library Association’s Literary Merit Award in addition to being inducted into the Wheeling, WV Hall of Fame.


Running (2005)
Info



Experience, even if it hurts

If you read enough Keith Maillard novels, you start to believe Raysburg, West Virginia really exists. This time around Maillard returns to his fictionalized hometown with Running (Brindle & Glass $14.95), first of his four-part Difficulty at the Beginning series that follows John Dupre from high school in the 1950s to the psychedelic underground of the late 1960s.

Dupre is a middle class kid, kept busy by a half-crazy Polish friend, a high-maintenance rich girlfriend, a painful determination to become a decent runner, a new-found penchant for booze and a secret yearning to be a girl. This whirlwind of themes is distinctly Maillardian: religion, music, philosophy, sexuality, class struggle and alcohol.

Dupre is hungry for experience, whatever the cost. “As a child, I’d wanted to know what it was like to be shocked, so with my hands dripping wet, I’d played with the light switches and electrical plugs—doing everything I’d been told I must not do. I got shocked.”

Dupre pushes himself by running track, then drinking too much. “If, on Monday morning, we were not bleary-eyed, drooping, weary—in short, totally demolished… we thought we hadn’t had a good time over the weekend.” Ever the extremist, he starves himself in his desire to be a girl, resolving to “match the weight-height charts for teenage girls.”

To create this series, which he says “exists independently of me, has gone on, and will continue to go on, however I write about it or whether I write about it,” Maillard has re-visited two previous novels, The Knife in My Hands and Cutting Through, revived unpublished manuscripts and added new writing. Part two of the quartet, Morgantown is scheduled for release next year. By Jeremy Twigg.

1-897142-06-4