Oh the Humanity! Or, News for March at PQL

It’s maybe not much of a surprise that we’ve more reason than ever to think about humanity. The current Covid pandemic’s colour-coded response framework sees regional restrictions fluctuate every other week, and the slow progress of vaccination efforts emphasizes the vagaries of supply and demand. We hear tell of grandparents who have remained virtually housebound, unable to see their grandchildren for over a year because of Covid restrictions, but we also hear about people in lockdown zones headed to the next county over for a little non-essential shopping. We’re presented with stories of heroic citizens doing their utmost to help vulnerable populations access critical vaccines, but we’re also inundated with not-so-heroic people lying, ignoring public health advice and taking advantage of their privilege to access vaccines before their due. These stories are a reminder that “humanity” refers not just to humankind as a collective, but to the quality of being human—and of being humane.

two men reading the newspaper
The 24-hour news cycle is exhausting, not least because it emphasizes the highs and lows of humanity.

While Bruce McDougall’s latest story collection, Urban Disturbances, is not “pandemic fiction”—no mention of infectious diseases here, to our relief—it somehow manages to also be an incredibly apt read for our times, perhaps because it reminds us of all the varying ways in which humans exist and interact. Some of the characters within are kind, innocent and trusting; others are greedy, power-hungry and even reprehensible. Most fall somewhere in the middle—flawed, relatable and utterly, inescapably human.

Urban Disturbances by Bruce McDougall

One of the stories that has stuck with me is “One for the Money,” in which a jaded parliamentary correspondent walks a drunk, fur-coated woman to her home during a blizzard. It is almost painful to read his aversion to seeing “the image of himself being virtuous”, but so, too is it quietly devastating when the tipsy woman tries to pay him for his help. In a time when so much of life feels impersonal, hurried, transactional, it hit home.

Finely observed, satirical and even absurd, the book reminds us that humanity takes many forms, but I think to me it is also a reminder of the importance of humaneness, of general decency in tough times. We’re used to doing a fair amount of navel-gazing these days, but a little bit of literary remove can, I think, help us to consider with clarity a wider spectrum of the human condition.

If you want to read the book, you’re in luck! Copies are now available for purchase, in print and digital formats. We’re also running a book bundle giveaway—one lucky winner will receive a print copy of Bruce McDougall’s Urban Disturbances, along with his earlier collection of short fiction Every Minute Is a Suicide. And to spread a little extra joy, three lucky runners-up will receive digital book bundles for their reading pleasure.

For your chance to win:

1. log in to the form below using email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.
2. earn up to six entries by visiting Facebook and Instagram, tweeting on Twitter, learning more about Urban Disturbances, or signing up to our newsletter. (If you’re already a newsletter subscriber, an avid social media follower, or an avid social media avoider, the bonus entry method is for you!)
3. log out of the form to submit your entry

The winner will be contacted by email next week.

Book Bundle Giveaway: Bruce McDougall’s Short Stories

What’s happening this month…


Breaking Right, The Essential Elizabeth Brewster and Midland Covrs

With copies of Urban Disturbances now available, we’re moving on to the next titles on the list. Pre-press work for Breaking Right (stories by D.A. Lockhart), The Essential Elizabeth Brewster (poetry selected by Ingrid Ruthig), and Midland (a debut novel by Ross Breithaupt), will be starting up in the coming weeks. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, where we regularly post pictures of our various titles as they go through the production process.

In the world.

March 9th is apparently Panic Day, which sounds honestly unnecessary given, you know, the state of … everything.

Freedom of Information Day falls on March 16th. In all seriousness, it is obviously a pretty important day for those who prize accessing information—in a nutshell, book lovers!

And finally, March 21 is World Poetry Day. There seems to be a little extra appreciation for the art form these days, which is maybe no surprise considering its ability to express emotion in such powerful ways. Be sure to stock up on a few of our favourite poetry titles to celebrate.

From the porcupette’s corner…

various pottery vessels
Presenting a visual representation of my recent workdays.

It’s no surprise that February flew by—it is, after all, the shortest month! But it might also have been the general feeling of “miscellaneous-ness”. I wasn’t working toward a particularly big project or deadline per se, but there seemed to be so many loose ends to tidy up, from award and festival submissions to proofreading and typesetting. And let us not forget the ungodly amount of snow shovelling, either! A few of my bigger-ticket projects are still in the works, but perhaps clearing off some of the smaller detritus littering my to-do list will enable me to focus a little more. That’s the theory, anyway—wish me luck!


Today’s post was somewhat different, wasn’t it? Perhaps the weather is affecting my mood. But I hope you enjoyed reading and catching up, and I’d be pleased to hear your thoughts in the comments!



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2 Responses to Oh the Humanity! Or, News for March at PQL

  1. Mark Frutkin says:

    I always enjoy these posts. Thanks. I’m goingj to order the McDougall book. Sounds good.

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.