Project Compass is a collective novel that my publishing house Monto Books published last month. It has 4 authors. Each author starts their main character at one corner of the city of Edmonton and works their way towards the center. I don’t know if a book like this has ever been written before and I’m pretty certain that a book like this has never been written about Edmonton. I think that this is such an important book for this city and I also firmly believe that any person in any city can appreciate this book. Each day this week I’m going to write a little something about each author of this novel. Today is East by Matthew Stepanic.
East, Matthew Stepanic
East follows Alex, a gay student who is trying to get over a break up. The main way he does this is by using a fictional hookup app called Meat and hops from sexual adventure to sexual adventure, trying to make himself (and others) feel better in the process. Oh, but it’s so much more than that.
The first thing that struck me about East was how nimble the writing was. It can quickly pivot from raunchy to serious and back again. Alex is sensitive and whip smart and he’s navigating a world that at first can seem sexually liberating, with any type of guy and anything he wants being just a couple clicks away on his phone, but the other side of things feels like nothing has progressed in the last thirty years. This book exists in and shares a world with politicians like Donald Trump and Jason Kenney who use gay and trans people (and specifically children in the case of Kenney) as targets and scapegoats to gain political points with scared and small-minded people. Instead of being on the fringes of the political process these two politicians and many who follow them are rewarded for their hatred and keep moving up the political ladder.
We started Project Compass in earnest the week after the election in the United States. I know there was a lot of darkness from the results of that elections looming large in all of us but especially people like Matthew and those he cares about and who care about him. I hope that writing East gave Matthew some catharsis from that darkness. I know that he’s written something that is really special and very important and can help us all understand each other a little better.
I’ve known Matthew Stepanic for a few years now. Each year I get to know him a little better than the one before. When I first met him he was starting his own literary magazine and since then he’s built Glass Buffalo into something fantastic. Glass Buffalo does so much work for emerging writers and that’s all because of Matthew. He volunteers and is on boards of numerous literary festivals in Edmonton and he has only recently started putting more of his own writing out there and I’m excited to see how far he can take it. I’m honored to be the publisher of his longest work to date. He’s an avid reader and cares about all that grammar stuff that drives me bananas so it’s always good to have him around to look through manuscripts. I hope that he considers me a friend and ally in this world and now that I’m his publisher as well I can be even more of a champion for all things Matthew Stepanic.
If you think that Matthew is a nice guy then maybe you should buy your own copy of Project Compass.
If you like the things I’m doing and like the people I’m publishing then maybe you should buy a copy of Project Compass.
You can find the book at any bookstore in Edmonton as well as online at Indigo or right here.