Essay in Humber Literary Review #6

I’m happy to say that the latest issue of Humber Literary Review (#6) is out, and I have an essay included. This is their first themed issue, and it’s about mental health. Because I’m a psychotherapist who is deeply reflective about the way in which we choose to see the world, I saw this as a golden opportunity to submit a pertinent perspective; my essay, On Madness Within Imagination, confronts a cultural blindspot – the depiction of madness in fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is available at the following Toronto bookstores:

Another Story (on Roncesvalles)
Book City on the Danforth
Book City on Queen
Book City on St Clair
Book City in the Village
Presse Internationale on Bloor
Presse Internationale in the Beaches
Type Books (on Queen)

It is available elsewhere, of course, but I have no clue where. You can also purchase a subscription from HLR.

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Author Profile in the December Issue of Quill & Quire Magazine

My year-of-years continues with blessings – I was profiled in the December issue of Quill & Quire, the major trade publication for publishers and booksellers in Canada. Although the feature isn’t likely to be posted online, I’m attaching a photo below taken from my smartphone. The December issue is still on newstands if you are interested in picking up a copy.

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The Importance of Self Care

I was reading this article in the National Post, about a psychiatrist whose trained specialty is analyzing and working with violent sexual predators, who recently experienced a breakdown as a result of what is believed to be symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He has worked on cases involving Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton, and most recently Russell Williams: all of them so-called sexual sadists, all of them convicted murderers.

To put this into context for those reading from outside Canada, each of these convicted – by virtue of the severity and depravity of their crimes – is a poster boy for reinstating capital punishment (which, for the record, I do not support). They have individually terrorized regions of the country when they were active. It’s important to understand all of this due to the nature of being a mental health professional – someone trained to see people as people no matter who they might be or what they might have done – working with people of this description.

The article describes how Dr. John Bradford simply lost his ability to keep the burden of content (and ostensibly the affect of said content) from seeping into his consciousness, whereas before he was able to separate the explicitly graphic information he worked with from getting to him. What stood out in the article for me was the following:

What he wouldn’t realize until he went into therapy was that the videos from his many cases had been gradually taking their toll and they rushed back to haunt him on that long drive home.”

 

In particular, the phrase “until he went into therapy”, which implies that he wasn’t seeing a therapist until this point. Assuming this conjunction isn’t sloppiness on behalf of the writer, I find it appalling that Dr. Bradford could have such a role and somehow not be mandated by his employer (or his governing professional society) to be in some form of regular personal therapy. It boggles my mind, actually.

We live in an odd time when the general public are being told (rightfully) the importance of mental health and not allowing toxic environments to fester within them and yet someone tasked with watching videos of killers’ victims doesn’t walk into a therapist’s office until he is exhibiting signs of PTSD and is forced to take a month off work?

Let me be clear: to my knowledge there is no explicit mandate for said procedure. I am not implying that Dr. Bradford was in any way professionally negligent. I am however suggesting that the past and current culture of psychiatry, with its “detached” experts, should reconsider its standards for those tasked with a specialty like Dr. Bradford. Self care goes both ways: it allows patients/clients/non-professionals to seek help and understanding for their issues; it also allows professionals an opportunity to explore how their work impacts their lives.

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SARS Essay in Torontoist

Torontoist just posted an essay I wrote about this being the 10th anniversary of the SARS breakout in Toronto (which went on to kill 44 people and cost the country $2 billion), and the fact that nothing is being done to commemorate it. That is to say that commemorations are not necessarily celebrations, but can be sober remembrances of mistakes made in our past.

Read it here.

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Big News

I’ve been sitting on something pretty big for the last while. Rather than tell you in my own words, I will use one of the rare opportunities in my life where a press release does the talking:

 

 

Wolsak & Wynn senior editor Paul Vermeersch has acquired North American rights to Matt Cahill’s debut novel, Someone Else and You (working title). The story is about a man whose life changes irrevocably when he volunteers to take part in a secret society’s time-travel experiment. Kelvin Kong of The Rights Factory arranged the deal.

 

 

So yes. This. Huge news.

It’s been a very long road, and while it is not yet over (not by many miles more) I’m grateful for the opportunity to have something of mine released into the public. One less writer polishing his stones, wondering whether to keep bothering.

This would not have been possible without representation from The Rights Factory, specifically my agent (extraordinaire) Kelvin Kong. I look forward to working with everyone at Wolsak & Wynn, particularly my editor, Paul Vermeersch.

Onward and upward. Hugely excited.

 

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Kensington Market Essay in BlogTO

For those who don’t live in Toronto, there’s been a lot of discussion about my neighbourhood, Kensington Market, in the news. Much of it is about preservation vs development. I offered to write an op/ed for BlogTO and they published it today. I’m quite pleased that they kept the essay intact (you never know what an editor’s going to do sometimes). You can read it here.

It feels good to work on my non-fiction chops, and even better when something gets published.

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Robertson Davies: Elitist

I was once accused by the chaplain of Massey College of being a gnostic. He was very angry with me indeed. But part of being gnostic was using your head if you wanted to achieve salvation or even a tolerable life. That is something that the Christian church tends rather to discourage. Salvation is free for everyone. The greatest idiot and yahoo can be saved, the doctrine goes, because Christ loves him as much as he loves Albert Einstein. I don’t think that is true. I think that civilization—life—has a different place for the intelligent people who try to pull us a little further out of the primal ooze than it has for the boobs who just trot along behind, dragging on the wheels. This sort of opinion has won me the reputation of being an elitist. Behold an elitist.

This is from a wonderful interview with the multifaceted author, Robertson Davies, for the Paris Review. His responses are well-considered, done as they were before everyone felt pressured to distill themselves into soundbites. He provides a wonderful perspective on fiction writing, the role of the writer, what his own background lends to his writer’s toolkit, as well as an assortment of miscellany (including a very interesting reflection on the differences between Freudian and Jungian psychology, no less). He was a true character.

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On Self-Censorship As A Canadian Preoccupation

There are always going to be thin-skinned readers, but writers who self-censor for fear of offending said readers suck more. #canada

This was going to be a missive sent over Twitter. Then I thought, what if someone replies to me, calling me out? What if someone says:

@m_cahill Care to name names, or are you AFRAID OF OFFENDING SOMEONE? #jerk

Allow me to elaborate (and do it in an environment I can totally control without distorting my message due to a 140-character limit).

Two articles in the last week were sources of outrage among certain parts of the online world, particularly on Twitter, where it’s particularly easy to express outrage*. The first was Ian Brown’s essay on men gazing at women in the Globe & Mail. It elicited a lot of criticism, from feminists who were offended by the objectification of women to people who simply construed Brown’s perspective as creepy in a Lolita sorta way.

My partner and I began talking about some of the anger we saw in our respective Internet social circles. I felt a lot of it was overblown. Predictable, actually (sadly). And yet I agreed with Ingrid, who reminded me that there is something to be said about “the gaze” which women historically have been on the other end of. In other words, it was a complex issue. All said, something I found admirable in Brown’s piece (and his writing in general**) was his forthrightness. Unlike so many writers there was no effort made to allay the concerns of the entire reading public that he wasn’t trying to offend anyone.

Continue reading

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No Such Thing As a One-Ended String

I am beginning a small bout of learning, if that is possible, into what is called “string theory” (there is a nice article here, which summarizes the basics at the bottom). I’m learning about it, because there is so much controversy directed at it. On the one hand, it is a contender for The Theory Which Explains Everything (Ultimately). Yet, there is (after over 40 years of theorizing) no documentable proof of its existence. This would be a question of trivia were this theory not so heavily influential – and invested into – within academia (particularly in America’s most elite universities), where there is growing concern that this theory has become a self-propelling conceptual vehicle which is capable of using unanswered questions of its existence to justify its existence.

I once chatted up someone who revealed himself to be a retired physics professor, and the subject of string theory came up. He smirked and said dryly, “String theory is a cult, waiting for its Jonestown.”

How could I not take that as a cue to learn more?

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