Literate Lunches

Dead Animals I Have Known

Novelist Alissa York reflects on the totemic power of the animal carcass

Through a series of selected readings and related visuals, award-winning author Alissa York reflects on the totemic power of the animal carcass in her own work, and in the Gardiner Museum’s Animal Stories exhibition.

York was four years old when her father let her hold the mummified cat and kittens he’d found while demolishing the front porch. For some unknown reason, instead of becoming food for the worms, the animals’ bodies had dried like flowers; the mother weighed a pittance, the kittens even less. For writers, seminal experiences such as this have a way of taking root and growing into recurring themes.

York’s debut book, Any Given Power, is a collection of stories positively littered with furred and feathered bodies. Mercy, her first novel, features a butcher with an artistic bent, as well as a tract of muskeg that functions as a vast preservation ground for countless species. Her second novel, Effigy, revolves around a gifted amateur taxidermist married to an obsessive hunter, and Fauna, her most recent book, sets the urban wildlife of modern-day Toronto against two backwoods childhoods—one lived in sympathy with nature, the other lived in fear of the wild.


Tickets are $25 and include a bag lunch from a La Carte Kitchen. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.


Alissa York’s internationally acclaimed novels include Mercy, Effigy, (short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize) and, most recently, Fauna (short-listed for the Toronto Book Award). She is also the author of the short fiction collection, Any Given Power, stories from which have won the Journey Prize and the Bronwen Wallace Award. Her essays and articles have appeared in such periodicals as The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire, Eighteen Bridges and Canadian House and Home. York has lived all over Canada and now makes her home in Toronto with her husband, artist Clive Holden