Author: Julie Wilson
Length: 189 pages
Genre: Short Stories; Literary Fiction
Publisher: Freehand Books / 2012
Cover Design: Natalie Olsen
Reason to Read: I found Seen Reading via the Twitter movement (which inspired Julie Wilson to write her microfictions in the first place).
Caucasian female, late 20s, with short brown hair, wearing dark jeans and grey shirt, #SeenReading Seen Reading, Julie Wilson (@fhbooks)
Toronto's known for its multicultural roots and its open-minded citizens—and now, thanks to the Seen Reading movement, we can add well-read (and also well-dressed) to the mix.
As a self-professed literary voyeur, Julie Wilson was fascinated by the bookish exhibitionism of her fellow commuters and those readers occupying park benches, mall food courts, bars, and other shared spaces in Toronto. How does the private act of reading transform in the public realm? As a reader dives into a fictional world and disengages with the city around her, she's also creating her own narrative in the minds of those around her. Who is this woman? Where's she heading? How does her chosen reading material reflect who she is, and how does that choice affect our reading of her?
From 2006–2011, Wilson catalogued more than 700 reader sightings across Toronto—each post included a brief description of the reader, the title of their book, a current page count (if possible), and an additional treat: Wilson took the time to breathe life into each reader with a microfiction imagining his or her backstory. What she created was a cyclical reading experience—one reader encouraged an act of writing in another, which then inspired a new reading experience. And trust me, book nerds everywhere will rejoice.
As Wilson's project gained traction—and caught the eye of other Toronto-based literary voyeurs—the Twitter hashtag #SeenReading was created, and a daily celebration of readers, literature, and personal narrative took root. And now, you can bring that energy home with 100 refined microfictions in Wilson's own Seen Reading collection.
Wilson's stories capture brief moments in the lives of these readers—sometimes, we're taken into a character's immediate experience as a stalled train or an unruly child distracts a reader from her book; other times, we're invited further back into a character's life and re-live a scene from his childhood, or discover a tragic event she lived through last year. Characters are named either He or She to preserve the quiet anonymity of the reader sighting, and to invite multiple readings of the same person. Our interpretations define ourselves as much as they define others, and Wilson encourages her readers to create their own reader backstories while enjoying the microfictions featured throughout Seen Reading.
Immediate favourites include:
- Six Spin, where a young boy becomes enamoured with, and inspired to be like, a punk girl at a fairground;
- Miss Popular, where a young girl knows the memories she creates now will become a welcome retreat from her adult life;
- Love Noted, where a woman finds a love note scribbled in the margins of her secondhand book, and imagines herself in the place this mysterious other woman;
- Irlsgay, where two girls learn Pig Latin and spend the afternoon discussing who they'd like to kiss…
Not to mention, Wilson's reader sightings include a fair bit of contemporary CanLit—so, readers will not only find an excellent microfiction collection to kick-start their summers, they'll also find a well-rounded reading list to carry them through the fall and winter months. It's a literary Win-Win, folks.
For short fiction fans, public transit readers, and Toronto aficionados, Seen Reading should be the next book on your docket. And, who knows, maybe you'll find yourself in these pages, too.
Ideal for: Microfiction and short story fans; Voyeurs who take their literary recommendations from fellow commuters; Readers based in Toronto or the GTA who love finding their city reflected in writing; Kids eager to join in the #SeenReading Movement on Twitter.