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Split Tooth Tanya Taga is just such a goddamn gem And I don't know what to even say about this book of hersI feel like I didn't understand half of this book because so much of it is written in lyrical poetry and I've never been one to digest poetry well But I also feel like my mind just sucked everything right up and I somehow naturally just get itI feel like I didn't enjoy reading this in the usual sense but at the same time I'm grateful for having done soThis book is powerful It's strange It's difficult It's magical It's sad and beautiful and jarring It's a book I think as many people as possible should read This book defies categorization being unlike anything I have ever read This is visceral storytelling It has been long listed for the Giller Prize The author Tanya Taga is an award winning Inuit throat singer If you are unfamiliar with her strange unworldly music I urge you to visit YouTube There are videos of her performing and most interestingly a video where she describes and demonstrates how she makes the various sounds in her music Here she paints word pictures ranging from the beautiful and rapturous to the disturbing and grotesue The book contains snippets about a child and young woman growing up in the Far North We learn something of their games abuse bullying smoking discarded cigarette butts liuor drugs solvent sniffing and love of animals Mainly it contains poetry visions dreams nightmares There is homages to Arctic wildlife nature including the cold and ice the Northern Lights as a rhapsody Good and Evil Spirits and dead ancestors permeate the spell cast by the writing This book may not be for everyone but reading it was an unforgettable experience Now also available in German EisfuchsWhile listening to the audiobook I was reminded of Björk and then I found out that Inuk throat singer Tanya Taga has actually worked with her on Medúlla and the Vespertine World Tour That said you can obviously expect something unconventional and genre defying when picking up Taga's debut as a writer and while Split Tooth was longlisted for the Giller Prize which is awarded to Canadian novels or short story collections you could also perceive this book as a fictionalized memoir or as a collage of different poetic text forms In mesmerizing lyrical and sometimes disturbing vignettes the author takes the perspective of a young indigenous girl who grows up in Nunavat in the 1970s as Taga did The book talks about violence abuse alcoholism drugs family and everyday life in the icy North of Canda but these typical themes for a coming of age story are merged with a shamanic awakening the girl experiences with the onset of puberty Nature myths and the spirit world become part of her and she becomes part of them Taga finds a myriad of poetic ways to express the physical and spiritual world that entails the girl and her surroundings It's interesting to note that she compiled parts of the book out of her dream journals and notebooks of observations she made Ultimately Taga's goal is also political This book is a representation of indigenous women and it is written in the most honest lyrical and beautiful way You can listen to me discussing the book in German here and here In case you're curious about Taga's award winning music check this out A Terrible Beauty Another reviewer mentioned this book should contain a trigger warning for sexual abuse I concur Should I put down my initial reactions to this book now I've just finished listening to it? Or should I take time to digest it a little so I can be sure not to say anything off colour? Most people seem to agree this book is brilliant I suppose it is It's raw It's brutal It speaks of the natural world in a beautiful way It also speaks of the natural world as seen from the point of view of a carnivore and an active predator and who likes to eat flesh still living or raw or as close to pulsing life as possible to get maximum energy from it It speaks of beauty and horror combined harshly and dispassionately We living in the southern parts of Canada can't begin to imagine the kinds of harsh and frigid cold the Inuit must face as part of their daily existence the punishing uality of it Kids are only let off school in the Great North when the weather hits minus 50 degrees Celsius or less that's 58 Fahrenheit Sexual abuse is so common that Taga's character speaks of being jealous when she sees her teacher touching other girls's private parts in the same way because one is led to understand this is part of a young girl's normal sexual development in those parts Many passages made me want to I don't know vomit? cry? lay down on the sidewalk trembling and foaming at the mouth? All told with this oh so gentle voice all part of everyday life This is a place where people can't spare empathy for each other much less for their animals When there's not enough food for their dogs they must be put down When the fox population become too numerous they starve and attack the children so they must be exterminated and Taga describes taking satisfaction from the popping sounds as they hit their targets while shooting at them as part of a fatherdaughter bonding experience There is no mystery about sex and certainly no such thing as modesty about it Not in a world where parents and uncles and family friends regularly get blind drunk and children get high with whatever substance they can get their hands on and I suppose one is naturally drawn to warm places But Taga recounts all this with a clear gentle girlish I want to say pure voice and in between snatches of storypoetry there is the throat singing she is famous for which is sometimes sublime and often disconcerting and frankly disturbing much like this book as a whole That being said if there ever was a book one should experience as an audiobook for the full effect then this would be it Inextricably melding the sordid with the sublime there is the world of spirit and mythology Ancient stories of humans transforming into sea creatures who then take their vengeance on men for wrongs done to them Representing man's endless struggle with cold and starvation and the unforgiving sea There are astral voyages out of body experiences she recounts as simply as if she were describing going to the store to buy a pint of milk; she lets her spirit roam to escape the horror of the violently drunk adults in the room who are a regular feature of every young person's life The Northern Lights are ever present and eventually they impregnate her in a kind of psychedelic journey which yields actual babies though whether they are fully human is never made clear She tells all these stories in the first person as if this has all been part of her personal experience but you eventually figure out that she has weaved together the story of her people perhaps of her generation It is part memoir part myth part history part fantasy part fiction and part non fiction too I'm not a prude I'm certainly not religious and I've never been a Christian but this book made me feel like a Puritan at times Taga managed to shock me with the raw sexuality and sheer savagery she described This book took on a nightmarish uality for me The kind of nightmares which both seduce and repel you You desperately want to wake up for them to stop but then again you want to follow those strange creatures around that structure to see where they might take you though your heart is pounding and you're absolutely certain you're about to die because you know they're leading you to something truly horrific and from which you won't possibly be able to escape Taga's mind the culture she was describing seemed like it was from a completely different universe and perhaps the throat singing made it seem so certainly it made the whole thing take on a different dimension I thought I knew something about the Great North and its people before had some kind of notion at least but no And now here is an opportunity to hear a creative smart multi talented deep thinking woman one with a gentle and kind voice no less and she terrified me with the raw brutality of her poetry I suppose that's what she set out to do Shake us Southerners out of our complacency and our comfort zone She managed that extremely well Never did I feel so much like the other Or so damn white And have to wonder is that really such a bad thing? And why must I be apologizing? And must I? All uestions which are big taboos if one is presumably liberal and loves all humanity eually But when confronted with so much otherness can one really not ask oneself those uestions? I will not say I loved this book I did not Nor did I like it The same way I do not love the nightmares that visit me every night My nightmares are filled with symbolism and strange creatures and memories that are sometimes my own and sometimes not too But nightmares much like Tanya Taga are trying to convey important messages to us and like it or not we must listen Some of us might be enchanted by what she has to say some of us will not be All the same I'm glad I listened to this book It felt like an important thing to do and it certainly had a terrible beauty I'm just thankful my nightmares can't possibly be worse than they are already or this book would have proved traumatic in a truly lasting way This novel was filled to the brim with beautiful imagery and poetic prose but in trying to present everything as beautifully as Tanya Taga did all sense of a narrative was lost When I finally closed this book I realized I had been transfixed by these 180 pages and ended up not understanding a single thing that happened This novel was magical in the way a magician plucking a rose out of thin air is The rose is exciting and beautiful but once the trick is done and you’re left holding the flower all that’s left is confusion “Split Tooth” was the thorniest of roses Truth be told I don't care for about half of the Indigenous fiction or poetry that gets taken up by CanLit It's often overly cloying or tragedy porn or written with a white audience in mind or sometimes it's just not my cup of tea Split Tooth though is none of these Split Tooth is a brutal unflinching magical beautiful grounded beauty of a book It belongs on the shelves of anyone who likes Chrystos or Eden Robinson or other authors who know how to paraphrasing the book here put their fingers in the membrane between the bone and fur It's not an easy read It cracks open your clavicle and digs right at your heart But in the process old wounds that never fully healed get a new chance at honest renewal I seriously doubt this will end up being hyped or embraced by the CanLit establishment but it's better than that It stands on its own It's a masterpiece From the internationally acclaimed Inuit throat singer who has dazzled and enthralled the world with music it had never heard before a fierce tender heartbreaking story unlike anything you've ever readFact can be as strange as fiction It can also be as dark as violent as rapturous In the end there may be no difference between themA girl grows up in Nunavut in the 1970s She knows joy and friendship and parents' love She knows boredom and listlessness and bullying She knows the tedium of the everyday world and the raw amoral power of the ice and sky the seductive energy of the animal world She knows the ravages of alcohol and violence at the hands of those she should be able to trust She sees the spirits that surround her and the immense power that dwarfs all of us When she becomes pregnant she must navigate all thisVeering back and forth between the grittiest features of a small arctic town the electrifying proximity of the world of animals and ravishing world of myth Tanya Taga explores a world where the distinctions between good and evil animal and human victim and transgressor real and imagined lose their meaning but the guiding power of love remainsHaunting brooding exhilarating and tender all at once Taga moves effortlessly between fiction and memoir myth and reality poetry and prose and conjures a world and a heroine readers will never forget This audiobook was fantastic Honestly when I read the physical book I wasn't exactly too crazy about it but listening to this audiobook and Tanya herself reading her work and throat singing was just such a moving experience I definitely recommend this to anyone and everyone In Split Tooth Tanya Taga blasts through boundaries between the natural and the supernatural reality and fantasy the present and the past and humans and other animals Split Tooth alternates between prose and poetry and Taga’s language is spare and lovely Taga tells a liminal yet linear story of a teen Inuk girl in a small village in far north Nunavut where both adults and teens seek escape in alcohol and substance abuse ”It’s a Bring Your Own Solvents party and I want to let the colours shine We take turns sharing the bags not caring if we drool into them My favourite is the rubber cement and it makes me sad when I have to give it away Then I stop caring which one I have and there is only the High” But the life’s rigors and brutality are sometimes made bearable by family and closeness ”A black eye on Saturday Maybe six Maybe she deserved it Turn your head the other way if the shoplifter is too thin Heartfelt greetings Whispered secrets We are the walls We shuffle down the aisles and take stock of the community We congregate I make out with the butcher in the freezer I’m growing breasts and I’m proud of them The town is small but it is warm Someone is found frozen by Cape Cockburn Someone committed suicide Someone is pregnant” Tanya Taga’s Split Tooth lies far outside my literary experience It’s arresting fascinating and deeply disturbing ”Beat me I deserve it Blacken my eyes so they reflect what I see from the inside Break my ribs Kick me Kill me End this I am not brave enough to do it myself All I have is numb Cleanse me Wash the blood off I am still working I survive still I am stronger now Worship me I am boundless I stood up I am worthy Start again” 4 stars Did 90% of this on audio and there was no possible way I could bring myself to endure the remainder Taga’s breathy incantatory audio narration works so powerfully for the incantational pieces here and there and the throat singing was to die for but she never ever varies that tone and it drove me up the effing wall listening to the most prosaic details of these stories told to me as if they were shamanic prayers I am done

  • Kindle Edition
  • 202 pages
  • Split Tooth
  • Tanya Tagaq
  • English
  • 21 July 2014

About the Author: Tanya Tagaq

TANYA TAGA is an improvisational performer avant garde composer and experimental recording artist who won the 2014 Polaris Music Prize for her album Animism a work that disrupted the music world in Canada and beyond with its powerfully original vision Taga contorts elements of punk metal and electronica into a complex and contemporary sound that begins in breath a communal and fundamental