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Holding Still for as Long as Possible

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  621 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
What is it like to grow into adulthood with the war on terror as your defining political memory, with SARS and Hurricane Katrina as your backdrop? In this robust, elegantly plotted, and ultimately life-affirming novel, Zoe Whittall presents a dazzling portrait of a generation we've rarely seen in literature — the twenty-five-year olds who grew up on anti-anxiety meds, text ...more
ebook, 312 pages
Published May 29th 2011 by House of Anansi Press (first published September 15th 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,852)
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Oct 12, 2010 Jasmine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
I don't really pay much attention before I buy a book. I don't really know the process that gets me to pick one up. I do know some bits of it like if I put it on the pile I probably won't buy it till someone gives me crap about the pile being too high, and god knows when I'll read it. But if I'm walking along and I see something and I think, "God I really need that book" not only will I buy it but I'll probably start reading it right away (With the exception being if I think that 4 times in on

(ETA par. at end)

this is a self-consciously 20-something book in which life is lived mostly at night -- people work during the day but their workdays seem unimportant -- in a drifty sort of way, fueled by extravagant quantities of alcohol, constant personal interaction (conducted in person or through text messages) and very little sleep. the 20-somethingness is conveyed, i take, by the choppiness of the narrative, the characters' restless sexual lives, their promiscuity, their great reliance on
Feb 26, 2011 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, queer, canadian
OMG, where has this author been all my life? This book is epic! It's literally the only queer book I've ever read and enjoyed. I say this as a queer person; usually, the books that are written by and for our community do nothing for me, make me feel like my life is some sort of a cliche. This book is freaking great.

There's a long list of things I liked about this book. The narrative style isn't traditional or easy- there are three main characters, and they all take turns narrating- but Whittall
Jun 08, 2012 jess rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, ladyish, 2011
So you feel like you should like Michelle Tea because her characters are like, young and working class and queer so you feel like you have so much in common you just have to like her books, but in reality she irritates you and makes you feel alienated and her writing style feels simultaneously drug-addled and pretentious? (I FUCKING SAID IT. FINALLY. THAT FEELS GREAT) Then you should read Zoe Whittall.

Zoe's characters are queer people in their mid-twenties, floating around between parties, shit
This was a shallow, dull book, populated by superficial characters about whom I did not care. During the story's climax, I found it very easy to put this book down to do several hours of data entry, during which time I thought about the book exactly zero times.

The writing was occasionally very, very bad. My girlfriend and I had a good laugh over lines like this, "Even in Toronto, 1,791 km from New Orleans, people wore the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina on their faces like badly matched liqui
Jane Hamilton
Aug 12, 2016 Jane Hamilton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admire the heck out of Zoe Whittall's skill and this book was the second of hers I've read, after "Bottle Rocket Hearts." An author has to be very good indeed to make it through my herky-jerky reading over months, and Whittall is. Stylistically a pleasure, line by line, and so often my authorial self was nodding--yes, that, I've noticed but never thought to mention the bloat of lemons in a drink.

As for the story here, it's anchored by Josh, a paramedic. I found Josh compelling and his career
Jean Roberta
May 16, 2011 Jean Roberta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“YOU PROBABLY like to imagine your death the way it should be: You are old. By old, you mean ready to die. Resolved. You are in bed, with your mind intact and loved ones encircling you. Your regrets are few; your pain minimal. Your last words: golden.”

So opens a novel that is both timeless and contemporary, set in Toronto. If you suspect that this beginning does not foreshadow a serenely predictable death, you’d be right. This is a novel in which there’s always the possibility of violence and s
Sep 28, 2009 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, canadian
In her second novel, Zoe Whittall follows a group of twentysomethings struggling to cope with their complicated lives. Trapped somewhere between growing up and being grown-ups, these would-be adults hide behind excessive drinking and partying, and use text messages to relay their emotions.

The story focuses on three troubled young people: Billy, a former teen pop starlet who suffers from sever panic attacks; Josh, a paramedic whose ability to patch up injured patients parallels his inability to r
Nicki Hill
i liked it. maybe i really liked it, i can't decide. i loved how well whittall described anxiety and panic attacks, it felt like being understood while i was reading those parts. i also loved how there was a main character who was trans, but that was not the focus of his story. a part of it for sure, but almost (almost) incidental. just part of a group of people living their lives, it was refreshing.
This book was SO GOOD. I read it quickly, straight through, and found it utterly absorbing. The complexity of the relationships felt so real and palpable to me, and the use of the alternating narrators was not gimmicky, it made the book make sense in a deep way - it was really a portrait of a tiny corner of a queer community that I found really recognizable, rather than being a book about a single protagonist. There were a lot of potent, visual scenes, and conversations whose awkwardness felt fa ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Hayden rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am so very sick of the "centre of the universe", and although I found it trying that this book seems to demand a familiarity with Toronto geography, the rest of the book was all right (if you happen to know a little about Toronto's layout, it will likely increase your enjoyment of the book). There's a nicely-written trans* character whose experience isn't all about being trans* per se. One of the characters is treated terribly by the author (and depression/anxiety seem somewhat trivialized as ...more
Jan 10, 2016 Emma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So many 20-something feelings captured in one place! Excellent characterization. Strong writing style. A good sense of time and place -- I'm a sucker for setting.

When I got to Life 4, I had a moment of feeling like "shit, this is where we're going? Why? And why didn't I see it coming?" But it passed and, with the exception of how Billy's anxiety was handled, I liked the ending.
Nov 24, 2015 Dallas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-reads
I found this book by chance, when I was searching for Sally Mann's memoir, "Hold Still." I was intrigued by the cover and description and thought I'd give it a try. As I read it, the world of the characters took on an uncannily familiar quality for me. I soon realized that the "Parkdale gem" where some of the main characters live is just a few sidewalk squares down from the apartment where I spent the past year of my life. The characters, who are my age and live in the vividly described west end ...more
Jun 23, 2016 Ari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Transience of human relationship and fragility of human lives"

An interesting story of relationships being told from the perspectives of various characters. It's a story of longing, friendship, jealousy, loss and life. With one of the major character as a paramedic, it opens my eyes to the profession and their jargons. The transience of human relationship and fragility of human lives never stops to unnerve me. I was a bit confused by who is who in the book at one stage due to the rapid appearanc
Jul 14, 2010 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't judge this book by the trying-too-hard marketing copy about SARS and Katrina. The characters are excellently-written and I loved the story.
Kit A.
Apr 11, 2010 Kit A. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
beautiful & heart-breakingly relatable; such a fantastic read.
Aug 21, 2016 Louise rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, lgbt
This book and its characters really grew on me.
Rachel Pollock
Mar 24, 2016 Rachel Pollock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book almost as much as i hoped i would. In general, I love the way Zoe Whittall writes about the characters she chooses--i loved the people who populated her first novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, and i felt the same about this one, because they are always people i recognise as my friends. Not literally, but a literary representation thereof, and that's hard to find sometimes. Novels with genderqueer protagonists (or queer, trans, whatever words you want to use) are so often either mo ...more
Dec 07, 2015 Pamela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(view spoiler) ...more
Reading Zoe Whittall’s Toronto-set novel Holding Still For As Long As Possible is kind of like reading a wittier, more exciting version of my urban early-to-mid-twenties queer life in the 2000s. It was fun and nostalgic for me to jump back into this world, but it is uncanny to read a book featuring characters that are so much like you and the communities you’ve known. I mean, in a good and a bad way: these are white, bike-riding, middle-class background, artsy, educated, FAAB queers. Unfortunate ...more
Philip Gordon
Jul 15, 2014 Philip Gordon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
When I was perusing the fiction section at my local Chapters, this title grabbed my eye as an entry in the list of contemporary novels I've been meaning to check out. I pulled it from the shelf, flipped it open, and scanned a couple paragraphs to see if I could justify spending a chunk of my meager pay-cheque on purchasing it.

The section I read in the store was Billy's description of her thoughts during a panic attack. I was hooked, and brought the book home that day.

Reading from start to finish
Apr 01, 2013 CeCe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a member of, a monthly subscription that can easily be described as Netflix’s for books. Each week I tend to read whatever I have gotten in the mail and leave the stacks and stacks (or shelves and shelves) or my personal collection sadly unopened. However, on a recent trip to Puerto Plata with my best friend and sister-in-law, I decided to leave the rental books at home to avoid charges in case any were lost or stolen and dive into my own literary stash.

I bought this book for
Em Milling
Jun 22, 2013 Em Milling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my GAHD. The last 50 pages killed me, right in the heart, with a big scary knife. This book is great, and has definitely become one of my favourites. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started it, but it definitely had everything you want in a book.

The characters were so well developed, I felt like I was living their lives. All of them. Although Amy didn't have as much focus as Billy or Josh, it did seem towards the end that her narrative role was crucial in the overall scheme. Thi
Shonna Froebel
Set in Toronto in late 2005 and early 2006, this book speaks from three voices. Josh is an EMS worker, a transsexual man, and a shy man. Amy is Josh's partner of 5 years, a budding filmmaker, and a confident woman. Billy is recovering from the fame of her teens, prone to panic attacks, and coming out of a seven year relationship. All these characters are in their mid-twenties. Amy and Josh's relationship is coming down from its high, and they are both unsure of whether they want it to continue o ...more
George Ilsley
Mar 10, 2011 George Ilsley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I loved the writing and most of this book. Being a rabid ex-smoker though I was really turned off by the fact that EVERY character smoked. Reminded me of reading Timothy Findley's Spadework, where all the action is paced based on smoker's tics, lighting cigarettes, inhaling, and so on, where it really felt the author was projecting his addictions on to the characters. Even when I was a smoker and was in my 20's and lived in Toronto, lots of my friends were non-smokers. Unfortunately one of the m ...more
Jul 15, 2013 Miss rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
you've heard about people going to and fro on the idea of the category of new adult? i don't know if zoe whittall would classify it this way but holding still for as long as possible is the kind of book i want to see published under that genre. twenty-somethings wandering about! reading this felt like reading ya did when i was a preteen, like my life wasn't entirely like the characters but i could recognize them, they were somewhere i would be soon. it'd be nice to have a genre that could do tha ...more
Meghan Crowley
Jun 14, 2014 Meghan Crowley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Reading the first sentence, "You probably like to imagine your death the way it should be: You are old," I expected tragedy. The book is fast-paced and the characters are all living in various states of sleep-deprivation, anxiety, over-partying, and so on. It was a quick read as I was seeking the expected dreadful outcome of these twenty-somethings who fail to live happily and healthily. The novel was not as predictable as I might have supposed, though. It was compelling.
Teena in Toronto
I came across this book in my quest to read more books by Canadian authors. As a bonus, it takes place in Toronto.

It's an interesting story of Josh, Amy and Billy, each with their own demons and how they deal with them. Josh and Amy break up but are determined to remain friends. Billy and Maria have just broken up and are trying to remain friends. Tensions are added when Billy and Josh get together.

This story "happened" in my 'hood. They live and hang out not far from where I live which made it
Oct 09, 2012 Ocean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book was emotionally resonant, well-plotted and relatable. i can't think of another queer fiction book that has had me as spellbound as the last 40 or so pages of this. i kind of wish i'd read this a few years ago, when the main themes--having a partner who's of a different class than you & the problems it causes, working a really intense job whose intensity feeds you while also exhausting you--were very relevant to my life. but i still enjoyed this book a lot. i didn't feel like i real ...more
This novel was a bit difficult to get into and overall I didn't really relate to any of the characters as a whole, but rather saw bits of myself and people I knew throughout. I felt anxious the entire time I was reading it, possibly because so much of the book written in hasty snippets from the point of view of a paramedic and it just kind of sets you on that path. Perhaps it's also because the characters always seem like they're balancing precariously on the egde of something, and you're waitin ...more
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Zoe Whittall has written two novels, Holding Still for as Long as Possible (House of Anansi, 09/10) now out in paperback and optioned for film. Her first novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, was named one of the Best Books of 2007 by The Globe and Mail and Quill & Quire magazine. Now Magazine awarded her the title of Best Emerging Author of 2007. She has published three books of poetry, Precordial Thu ...more
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“That's creativity in a nutshell. A messy tug-of-war with imagination to erase that feeling that nothing really matters anyway.” 14 likes
“I am having a quarter-life crisis," I announced to my mother.

"My generation never had those, we just had babies and thought about killing them from time to time.”
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