Can you solve this mystery about a book?
October 3, 2021 6:39 AM   Subscribe

Is there a book called Ellen's Eyes by a writer named David Scott?

Each week in the NY Times Book Review, they interview a writer about the books that have influenced her life. I often find great suggestions when I read it. This week they interview a novelist named Miriam Toews, and ask her "What's your favorite book no one else has heard of?"

Her answer is Ellen's Eyes by David Scott.

She talks at length about it, calling it "a beautiful, mournful and strange book ... [with] no margins or paragraph breaks." She talks about how she used to chat with the author at ballgames, and how she recently heard that he died.

Intrigued, I went to Amazon, searched for the book and found ... nothing.
Then I googled and found ... links to the NY Times interview with Miriam Toews. That's it. The only reference to Ellen's Eyes by David Scott seem to be in that interview. (I've also searched goodreads and ebay.)

Maybe Toews got the title or author's wrong? (Doesn't the Times fact check?) Did Scott privately publish this book and give copies just to friends? I can't even figure out which David Scott she's referring to. It's a common name.

If she's lying or confabulating, she's doing it at great length. The longest part of the interview is her memories of David Scott.

This is tipping over into an obsession for me. I thought about contacting Miriam Toews, but she doesn't seem to have any sort of social media presence.

Here's the interview: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/30/books/review/miriam-toews-by-the-book-interview.html
posted by grumblebee to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: Miriam Toews writes about her Mennonite upbringing. Perhaps David Scott was a member of that community who never got published but passed his manuscript around within that closed world.
posted by Balthamos at 6:50 AM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: The way she describes it in the interview, it sounded like it could have easily just been an unpublished manuscript. I wonder if it was this David Scott, since she talks about him living in the woods outside Winnipeg.
posted by pinochiette at 7:41 AM on October 3, 2021 [7 favorites]


Best answer: If it is the person pinochiette mentioned, his memorial was held at “The Neighborhood Bookstore and Cafe” in Winnipeg. They seem to have closed for good in 2018, but their Facebook page is still fairly active. The writeup mentioned some of his art and writing were on display at the memorial. You could try contacting their Facebook page or the owner, Bill Fugler, to see if they have any information on that book.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 8:51 AM on October 3, 2021 [2 favorites]


Best answer: Based on the image on the NYT article, I think this is her twitter. Does not look like she's active there. I checked Worldcat for this book--if it's in a library they'll have it--and did not find it. Same with a search at Library and Archives Canada.
posted by jessamyn at 10:03 AM on October 3, 2021 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thanks, all. I'm gaining confidence (based on discussion here and elsewhere) that it was never published in any sort of mainstream way. It's odd that the Times didn't mention this, but it seems like the most parsimonious explanation.
posted by grumblebee at 11:45 AM on October 3, 2021


Best answer: If you go down a few rabbit holes starting with the blogspot link found in the obituary pinochiette posted, you eventually find this Blogspot profile which links to several blogs maintained by Scott.

From there you'll find links to two blogs, each containing a good number of his stories plus more with poetry (1 & 2), paintings, and two full novels: On The River Eg and On The River Eg II.

Though, unfortunately, no "Ellen's Eyes" as that I could find. But there is enough of his writing there to keep you busy for a good few days, if you are interested in him.

Per the blogspot profile:
I write short stories, poems and fantasy novels. I publish on the blog because that's where the eyes are and print publishers send me rejection letters and insane, unsolicited and unwanted editorial advice. I suppose someone who gets a hundred thousand hits a year could make money by advertising but the stuff I write is not going to do that so I am ridiculously happy just getting it out to those who enjoy reading it.
It looks like he goes by "D.W.E. Scott" and also DWEScott for email & such, so further searches on those names may be fruitful. He had a Facebook page under "David Scott" and that may have links to other items of interest.
posted by flug at 6:19 PM on October 3, 2021 [6 favorites]


Also, there is indeed a book called Ellen's Eye (singular), though it is by an author named Patty Duncan and I doubt it could be a match for the book Miriam Toews mentioned.

And there is a romance novel "Ellen's Eyes" - again pretty clearly not a match.
posted by flug at 8:11 PM on October 3, 2021


Best answer: I can help you with some information about David Scott - he was my uncle. Funny to see his name just before (Canadian) Thanksgiving, since I remember him most clearly at family holiday dinners, trying every year to convince my parents to add apples to the mashed turnips.

Questionable taste in turnips aside, the David Scott that Toews mentioned is indeed the same one whose obit pinochiette found, whose memorial was held at the since-closed Neighbourhood in Winnipeg, and whose blogs flug tracked down. I was able to get a bit more detail from family about the story and Ellen's Eyes.

David was good friends with another Winnipeg writer, Kevin Marc Fournier. In the late 90's-early 2000s, Fournier wrote Ellen's Eyes as a gift for a friend of his. He gave David a copy to critique. David was very impressed, and gave Toews a copy of the book to get her opinion on it. There must have been some misunderstanding about who had written the book; I don't believe Toews ever met Fournier and she would have connected the book much more strongly with David.

Ellen's Eyes was never published, but I understand that Fournier adapted some of the material for The Green-Eyed Queen of Suicide City, which was published in 2012. Hopefully this helps clear up a bit of the mystery for you.
posted by pocams at 10:46 AM on October 4, 2021 [45 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks so much, pocams. That's really helpful. Sounds like your uncle as an interesting and talented man!
posted by grumblebee at 9:17 AM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: For anyone interested, I got contacted by someone who got word of this--specifically pocam's answer--to Toews. Here's her reply:

"What?! Oh my god, I had no idea! It's true, I've never met David Fournier, and I had always assumed, for whatever reason, that it was David Scott who had written it! Good grief! That's it, I'm never going to attempt to write 'facts' again. I'm definitely gonna put apples in my mashes turnips this Thanksgiving, and I hope David Marc Fournier is not angry with me or if he is, I hope he forgives me! I had no idea!!"
posted by grumblebee at 10:21 AM on October 8, 2021 [10 favorites]


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