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A GOOD DIAGNOSTIC ON LIFE

Jean Marc Ah-Sen is our Type Reader for June


To celebrate this month's in store display of Toronto independent press (and Type favourite) Book Thug, our June Type Reader is author Jean Marc Ah-Sen. Stop by our Queen Street location and pick up a copy of Ah-Sen's new novel Grand Menteur. 

What is the first book you remember loving?
I don’t know what it was called, but when I was a kid, I was obsessed with this book that explained the human body with leering automatons representing blood cells and antibodies and what not, helping its functions along: exercising, eating, getting sick. They looked like they were doing a terrible job, had been at it for donkey’s years. I remember when it explained sex, the automatons were driving a tank, and with waste production, they ran this intestinal factory in a slipshod way. I was terrified, but it was a good diagnostic on life. Everybody’s just barely hanging on, going through the motions, and we’re just a few layers from the filth.  
 
What is your favorite virtue in a book?
Probably iconoclasm, bonus if it derails the senses a bit. Not a virtue, but I’m partial to anything about subcultures, or which has a character assassination or two. Top marks if it’s designed by Zak Kyes. It’s a tie between those things.   
 
What do you appreciate most in a book character?
World-weariness, degradation, poor posture, a cavalier attitude towards the reader.
 
What character do you dislike the most?
James Bond has always annoyed me. Subtextually, a great stand-in for late capitalistic society, but otherwise it wears the adolescent male fantasy a little too liberally on its sleeve. He should be in a hospital bed reading about Gerard de Lairesse, crying himself to sleep every night. I’d read that.
 
If you were to write a non-fiction book about anything, what would it be about?
Likely an unauthorized biography of someone I know. Scores to settle.
 
Your favourite prose authors?
Keith Waterhouse, Terry Southern, Gillian Freeman, Barry Hines. Tad Friend and Graeme Wood’s writing can be quite good. Joe Orton is a playwright, but he ranks very highly. I started Chrissie Hynde’s Reckless, which so far is superb, but of course it would have to be.  
 
Your favourite poets?
John Betjeman, Sacheverell Sitwell, Shelley, Ivor Cutler, Phyllis King.
 
Has a design or art book ever had an impact on your life, and if so, what was the impact?
My friend Chris gave me and my wife a copy of Marshall McLuhan and Harley Parker’s Counterblast  as a wedding present. We all worked at a university newspaper, and the designs and types in that book somewhat informed Chris’ aesthetic sense. I married my editor, so it was quite a fitting memento.
 
Do you read on public transportation?
No, not if I can help it. Motion sickness. 
 
What book have you never read but have always meant to? 
I’ve never finished Gargantua and Pantagruel. I’ve been building myself up to it. I don’t quite hate the world enough yet to be ready.
 
What book do you pretend to have read, but in fact have not?
I’m up front about what I haven’t read. Good chances the person telling you about it hasn’t read it either.     
 
If you could force a single celebrity to read a specific book in its entirety, who would you chose, and what book would you make them read?
If he were alive, I’d love to have Norman Wisdom read to me from A Child’s History of England  every night. That would be a laugh.
 
What are you reading right now?
Jack London’s John Barleycorn, Momus’ Black Letts Diary 1979, and G.V. Desani’s All About H. Hatterr.