A Conversation With a Friend:
Conor O'Sullivan

Conor O'SullivanConor O’Sullivan became a member of the Friends of The Malahat at our Fall issue launch party in November, 2010. Malahat volunteer Afra Boissevain had the opportunity to re-connect with a former middle school classmate and catch up with one of our Friends.

How did you discover The Malahat Review, and why did you become a Friend of The Malahat

I discovered The Malahat Review through my mother.  My mom works for UVic as the development officer for the Faculty of Fine Arts so presumably she works with student poets.  The reason she introduced me to [The Malahat Review] is that I've been interested in poetry since my English 11 class with Mrs. Simpson.  I had preferred poetry from an earlier time and was sad that my perception of modern poetry was that it was pretentious and uninspired.  Mrs. Simpson said that I should give it another shot, and voila, here we are! Well, the timeline is a bit compressed but true in the essentials.  And if you wanted to know, I've since re-evaluated and changed my mind, or at least lessened the severity of my judgment.

Who is your all-time favourite writer and what is your favourite work by them? And, of course, why?

My favourite author is a gentleman named Steven Pinker, a psycholinguist. I’ve read three of his six or seven books now (How the Mind Works, The Language Instinct, and The Language of Thought) and all of them were outstanding. I choose him as my favourite because he's capable of conveying the material he's working with easily. I wouldn't describe his writing as “beautiful” because instead of beauty in his language I see keen intelligence. I guess clarity counts for a lot for me. My favourite non-non-fiction author—which is how the designation looks in my mind—is Mr. Lord of the Rings [J. R. R. Tolkein]. My favourite non-non-fiction book is The Outsider, though I can't say Camus is my favourite author since I've not read anything else of his. The Outsider just resonates with me in a way that no other books have. 

The last time we met you were constantly cartooning—often about our classmates and teachers.  Do you still draw caricatures and comic strips?

I still love drawing but I'm not forced to have a pencil in my hand for eight hours a day anymore so it happens much less. I started working up a few more serious comic strips but I've never come up with an idea that I was interested in enough to spend all the time required to make it into a full comic with multiple panels, colour, and writing. Instead my projects became one-shot deals and more tactile: spray painting and stencils, wood burning, mosaic, et cetera.

Are you at all involved with the arts scene (i.e., music, art, literature) on Vancouver Island other than with The Malahat? How do you find the scene? 

I'm not really involved in the arts scene personally so I can't say too much about it with confidence.  The music part of it seems to be doing pretty well, though. Or, at least what takes place in bars and battles of the bands.  I find myself a little bit alienated from the smaller, local music things because I don't feel like I fit in with the audience. For instance, I enjoy a top 40 song just as much as the average gentleman but at shows I could be looked down upon if that slipped out. I think everyone would be happier if we focused on what makes something great instead of what makes it different from the mainstream. It’s very possible I'm severely out of touch or misunderstanding, though.

What is your ideal way to spend time with a book?

I love reading in all situations, of course!  I spend the majority of my book-bound hours outside Starbucks, sitting on the sidewalk while I'm on break. But the ideal way? In the summer it’s easy: grab a book, head for the ocean. During the winter it’s a little harder: bundle up to the max and just stay in the back yard. Oh, and cigarettes! The best way to read is outside but the very best way to read is outside with a cigarette.