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Desire in Seven Voices

by Lorna Crozier, ed.

The concept of Desire in Seven Voices is a compelling one: Governor General’s Award-winning poet Lorna Crozier has brought together seven well-known Canadian women writers of vastly different ages and backgrounds, and asked them to write about the nature of desire. The result is a small, elegant collection of highly personal essays, the CanLit equivalent of voyeurism.

For the majority of the seven writers – Dionne Brand, Bonnie Burnard, Evelyn Lau, Shani Mootoo, Susan Musgrave, Carol Shields, and Crozier herself – the challenge of writing about desire brought them to write about their own sexuality in intimate detail. Lau’s piece explores her attraction to father figures, much older men whose physical attractiveness is not an issue; Mootoo writes about discovering her lesbianism while growing up in Trinidad; and in Musgrave’s piece, called “Junkie Libido,” the writer frankly discusses her attraction to the thrill of the illicit and extreme. Crozier, with her poet’s sensibility, writes about the subject more elliptically, delving deep into the emergence of desire in the young girl she once was, and celebrating it in the context of mature domesticity. Burnard’s piece is among the most interesting, discussing why desire is a subject too intimate to address, and bemoaning our culture of clinical exploration and media-induced fouling of the mystery of longing. Brand writes about how both writing and reading are acts of desire and exploration: “the discovery of beauty as miraculous.”

The collection concludes with a short story by Carol Shields entitled “Eros,” about a woman’s mature and awakened state, measured against the naive virginal bride she once was. While a satisfying and appropriate choice, the story (described by Crozier in her introduction as a “fictionalized essay”) disappoints; after the previous six intensely personal ruminations, the reader comes to crave a non-fictionalized revelation.