Mostly known for his work as a playwright, local writer, Matthew Heiti is releasing his first book taking place in his favourite location: his hometown of Sudbury.
The book is entitled “A City Still Breathing”.
“I had a lot of friends in high school who couldn’t wait to get out of here. When I left, it was always that I couldn’t wait to get back. Sometimes I wonder if I even have a choice. The idea of travel is unnatural. No matter where I am, I feel a magnetic pull to the h sulfury ills of Sudbury,” he said.
Set in a slightly fictionalized version of Sudbury, the story follows the strange journey of a body — naked, throat-cut and unidentified — originally found on the side of Highway 17, just outside of Sudbury, as it brings the reader from place to place in this Northern Ontario town early in the winter and through the lives of 11 different people.
Like much of Heiti’s works, “A City Still Breathing” is set in the past. The '80s to be precise. He said he finds the growth and decaying of cities fascinating; like the demolitions of buildings to make new ones.
“The '80s seemed like a real crux between decay and potential,” he said. “All of the futurism of the '80s felt old, even the music of the time tried to seem futuristic but came across as decayed, and I think that’s fascinating.”
Heiti started the journey of writing this book in his first year at the University of New Brunswick in 2008 with a short story he wrote, entitled “Snake Skin Boots,” and a few years later writing another which would become the beginning of “A City Still Breathing.”
“I had written this dark decaying version of Sudbury that was vaguely film noire and slightly futuristic in tone. That was 2008, and I didn’t think about returning to that world,” he said. “What I realized was that I had a series of episodes that I really wanted to keep writing about — these stories about my city.”
For Heiti, the idea of his book is more of a meditation on how society deals with death, as well as being a piece dedicated to his hometown. He said he has become comfortable with the idea of death and that, although people see it as something to grieve over, he sees it as a time of letting go.
“The real question is ‘did you do what you needed to do, did you make any impact at all during your life?’ When it’s time to let go you just need to let go. I think this is what the book’s about,” he said.
There will be a special book launch at The Townehouse on Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. where there will also be readings and performances by Poet Laureate Daniel Aubin, postcard fiction magnates The Flaneurs (Lara Bradley and Kristina Donato) with music by Marc Donato. The book will be available for sale.
Ryen Velduis is a freelance writer in Greater Sudbury.