A Young Aline Irwin

I know this blog has long passed its usefulness where promoting a book is concerned. I've even written a whole other book and tried to promote it too, halfheartedly. I didn't know why it was so hard until I realized that this site for this book was never really about promotion at all.

 The Girls Who Saw Everything was partly about the world as it presented itself on the Internet — specifically how it presented itself to Aline Irwin on the internet. So I guess it's no surprise that I keep finding things on the internet that resonate with Aline and the other former members of the Lacuna Cabal MontrĂ©al Young Women's Book Club.

So I think I'm going to keep posting here. Just for the what of it. My novel-writing phase may have only been temporary, and a bit dilettantish, but I suspect the Lacuna Cabal blog is forever.

 Which brings me to the just discovered young Aline Irwin presenting himself as herself with great skill, on the internet:

The Kid Who Was Supposed to Read My Book

Yesterday, someone on twitter wrote:

Grade 11 student asking for a summary of @sean_dixon novel that I reviewed on Goodreads. Ah, no.

She included a link with her very nice review, one of my all time favourites:

How I loved this book. I happened to be in Montreal while I read this book which gave me a better understanding of the book's setting. I loved the idea of a pair of narrators who miss out on all the main action. I loved the references to all the other books and authors in the story (many of which I had read). I finished it on the train heading back home and cried and cried and cried. I wonder what the original play was like.

-and his reply:

hey Jennifer I was wondering if you could please please give me the full summery of this novel, The Girls Who Saw Everything? because I am an grade 11 student, and i have to do my main project for english on this novel, and its due in couple of days, and i dont have enough time to read this novel, in the time limit I have, so can you please please please be so nice to give me the full summery of this novel. can you please please email me on : [redacted] or can you please replay on here at this website? thanks in advenced.

So I decided to write to him:


Your teacher will never believe you wrote this. You should tell him/her that you fell behind and wrote to the author and he sent you this. The only reason why I'm doing this is because it mirrors an action that happens near the end of the book. 

But you should also read the book. It's pretty good. 




The Girls who saw Everything follows the adventures of various members of a Montreal young woman's book club - The Lacuna Cabal - as they conduct a six week reading of The Epic of Gilgamesh, showing how the events in this old story collide with the unfolding personal melodramas of their young lives.

The time is March 2003, during the lead-up to the Iraq War, an event that most of them are blissfully unaware of, except for one member - the cross-dressing outsider Aline Irwin - who has been following the blogs of Salam Pax out of Baghdad.

At the novel's heart however is the Quixotic girl who first proposed the book, Runner Coghill, and the mystery of her personal connection with the ancient tale. She has in her possession ten priceless cuneiform stones that look like they've come straight from an archeologica l dig in the Middle East.

We follow Runner's courageous attempt to use the tale of the Epic of Gilgamesh to set a kind of artistic order onto the chaos of a debilitating family tragedy and her own serious illness.

And from Runner to her ten-year old brother, Neil, who seeks after his sister's death to enact the events of the Epic on his own. Pursued across the world by the surviving members of the Lacuna Cabal, he embarks on a journey across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean and down the Red Sea, ending up sitting at a computer terminal in the office in a shipyard in Bahrain, conducting an exchange about life and death with the Baghdad Blogger Salam Pax.

The novel's engine is comic, and somewhat quixotic, and in fact the turning point is a haircut, but it's nestled within a unifying theme of 'reading lives.'

And he wrote back:

Hey thank you thank thank you so much!! this really helped, I was wondering if you could maybe help me out with one more thing? please!!! the actual project is to come up with an theme that you found in the novel, then create an Painting or an Comic Script that has : - 10 techniques ( and actual examples) to include. like if i do the comic script then i can have 2 or 3 techniques on the ittle page ( and techniques doesnt have to be similie, personification.... it can be anything like the color choosen for the painting or the title page..) please please please please help me out wiht this! this was the actual project, but i needed to know abt the book first. I kinda knew about the summery of the book before i messaged you, but I was just making sure that I got the plot right. But I really really need help with this, because i only have 1 more day left to finish this, and this is worth 25% of my mark and, if I dont do well on this project then, I FAIL this course. so can you please please please please help me!!!! ( and btw I am going to buy an coppy of this novel and read it in this summer).

I did not understand his new set of instructions and did not write him back.

Later ps: Jacob McArthur Mooney tells me I should still help this kid, writing, "I don't even understand the project he's being asked to do, exactly. But I feel you should make him a diorama and mail it to him."

He was joking, of course. 

I won't send the kid a diorama but perhaps he could compose variations on these bookplates (actually drawn by Evan Munday.) That might do the trick, if he can find them here, as long as he doesn't just copy them like some kind of zombie internet automaton. 

Later pps: Assuming he copies the below and hands them in, he should probably look up the terms 'bookplate' and 'ex libris', familiarize himself with the Latin expression on the bookplates (hint: the 'v' is really a 'u') and also hope his teacher doesn't already have a set. 

Okay, so there's more:
hey i m sorry if u didn't understand the project, i managed to photo copy the project instructions. I uploaded the file so u can see, and I am sorry I couldn't upload the comment there because i couldn't upload a file! 
please did is part of the message after u read the uploaded file:  

 I just want to let you know that I already did one portfolio on the novel Frankenstein. And I cant do the music because I did music for that novel!! and also since you are a author I was wondering if u could help me do the poem. And also don't worry I won't copy word for word from the project you help me with! please please please please please help me I really really neeed it right now!! I have lots of other things for my other classes as well, and if I dont do well on this project then my mark will go down by a lot, and my favorite uncle just died today as well, so I can't focus on anythings at all! :( so please help me!! 

Yeah. That's what I said. He's treating me like his life teacher, telling me that the dog hate the homework. He also attached the assignment and a stab at the theme of the book:

KID! The theme of the novel is not 'Sometimes death is the only option'. That is not the theme. It's about as far from the theme as you could possibly get. 

 As for the rest of it, it's all here. It amazes me that you think I would give you anything else. All you have to do is use your powers—the same powers you use to seek help from half of the internet including the author of the fucking book! All you have to do is use those powers to interpret the exercise you've been given in a way that makes you able to do it!


Later still. Now the grand poobahs of Metafilter have chimed in, after somebody posted it there and sent me the link. From this I learn that by interacting with a Grade 11 student, I have exposed myself as unprofessional, an idiot and a 'piece of shit'.

But thank you, Grobstein, for defending my honour. And Bwithh is right: my synopsis doesn't make any sense. I think it was one I took a stab at that was rejected by the publisher.

And finally, to the kid: You should have a look at zylocomotion's post to the metafilter thread at 6:51 p.m. He's really on to something. Because in my opinion, this isn't a post about the perils of school. It's about the perils of skimming.


Final postscript: The Globe and Mail picks up the story, ending it with a nice compliment for the kid. For the record, I agree.

Scissors Don't Lie

Raven and brown and red and golden 
Four hundred loads of fresh-cut hair 
From the girls who live along the coast 
Four hundred trucks to the ocean there 

The ocean’s as black as the east 
From oil as black as a tree 
And a bald girl along for the ride looking north 
Who’s given her hair for the health of the sea.

We here declare that the shorn Romy Childerhose will look with great satisfaction this coming November, when she finds that the story of how a bully once chopped off the hair of a misfit, like her, a kid who recalled the act with terror for the rest of his life, has cost this man the Presidency.

Mitt Romney wasn't just a kid who wanted to conform. He was the kid who wanted to enact the conformity, enforce the conformity. He wanted to be a leader for conformity, of conformity, about conformity. And you know what? He still does.

Scissors don't lie.

And John Lauber, with his non-conformist, swept-down, bleached blonde hair that his sister says he wore for the rest of his life despite the act of the boy pictured at right—is now and will forever be an honorary member of the Lacuna Cabal.


Jennifer H. & Danielle D.
Former Members
Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Womens' Book Club