> Zed Book Club / Foreverland

Photos: Foreverland; car (H. Armstrong Roberts / Stringer); Havrilesky ( )

> Bookshelf


"Ask Polly" advice columnist Heather Havrilesky dissects "till death do us part" and finds worth in the tedium of marriage. / BY Rosemary Counter / February 18th, 2022

American author Heather Havrilesky, a.k.a the “Ask Polly” advice columnist, had the internet abuzz in December with her viral New York Times piece “Why Marriage Requires Amnesia.” (Just a tidbit: “Surviving a marriage requires turning down the volume on your spouse so you can barely hear what they’re saying.”) But contrary to whatever you may have seen on Twitter, Havrilesky is very much in love with her husband of 15 years, the newly famous Bill. The proof’s in her new book Foreverland: On The Divine Tedium of Marriage, an homage to the ups, downs and ups of marriage. We called Havrilesky to ask why she’s saying what we’re all thinking, her favourite hate mail (so far) and why Bill’s loud sneezes maybe aren’t as bad as she thought.

Heather Havrilesky


Rosemary Counter: My husband sent me your New York Times piece and said, “If you ever wrote this, I’d have to divorce you!” But I think he only read the headline: “Do I hate my husband? Oh for sure, yes, definitely.”

Heather Havrilesky: Hah! I actually chose that headline, which was of course a little bit incendiary, because I knew it would get a response. Our culture is extremely moralistic about marriage and I’m saying a lot of stuff you’re not supposed to say. Of course I love my husband, and I wrote the line as a joke, but it’s true, too. I wrote this book to capture the natural ambivalence that comes with tying yourself to someone for your whole life.

RC: You write, “The assignment, after all, is to stay together till you die.” I’m trying to imagine any other situation where you win when you die.

HH: I’m really saying the experience of marriage is so much more interesting than that. Our society puts so much emphasis on stories about falling in love when really they’re all kinda the same. I found this out when writing that part of the book and really struggling to make it interesting. Watching someone fall in love is like watching them eat a really good submarine sandwich. Like, good for you, but I don’t need to watch it.

RC: Tell me about the moment when you go to your husband and say, “Hey babe, the book’s taking a new direction … towards the tedium of our marriage.”

HH: He’s not surprised by anything anymore. I promised him it was ultimately about how the hard times in a marriage are balanced with all the good stuff that makes it worth it. It surprises me that a marriage’s ups and downs aren’t more of a well-known fact we can talk about. I’m fascinated that, for all a person’s faults and annoying habits and weaknesses, we still choose them every day.

RC: That reminds me of your wonderfully awful engagement story. Tell it again to Zoomer?

HH: Oh, god. Sure. We were in Paris together and I had this feeling he was going to propose. But I felt sick the whole trip; I was queasy, possibly vertigo, I got a bee sting on my hand and really bad PMS. Everything was working against me, so I just said do not propose to me on this trip, and if he was going to propose, not to do it at a time when I looked or felt like shit. Seconds later, because he doesn’t remember anything I told him, he reaches into his pocket and whips out a little placeholder ring. I said, “What are you doing? I just said No.” He tried again on Christmas, and I knew he was going to because he kept asking me to go on a walk, and by the time I finally agreed, I was furious at him. Then he said, “As you know, we’ve known each other for a long time now.” My brain thought, who is this broken robot? I’m gonna marry this person? I’ve never disliked him more than I did in that moment.

RC: And yet, you said yes!  Which I guess is the whole point.


Heather Havrilesky
Heather Havrilesky says she wrote “Neverland” to “capture the natural ambivalence that comes with tying yourself to someone for your whole life.” Photo: Courtesy of Heather Havrilesky


HH: It is, yeah. I’m so fascinated by ambivalence, and I think lots of couples are feeling it like never before. As soon as the pandemic started, my first thought was it’s so good and I have someone and we’ll get through this together. At the same time, it’s like, how am I not going to bite this guy’s head off?

RC: I’m having this experience as I read the book thinking, hey, Bill’s not so bad! Loud sneezes? That’s not the worst. My husband can’t close a cupboard. Ever.

HH: Other people have said that too, actually. One woman said the book helped her rethink the small little annoyances that she paid way too much attention to. For me, it’s the yelling sneezes. And you know, the other day Bill sneezed and I honestly barely even heard it.

RC: Poor Bill, who the internet says looks like Don Draper, and has quite a group of growing online fans.

HH: He really does. A whole pile of ladies just waiting in the wings for him to leave me. He got a compliment for every bad comment I got, I think. I actually added a particularly funny one to my Instagram bio: “Poor old lady who wrote an entire novel about how much she hates her husband.” I just love it. Ironically, writing this book helped me see what’s so great about Bill. I actually feel much closer to him than before and I’m full of gratitude.

RC: What are you two lovebirds doing on Valentine’s Day?

HH: I ordered some flowers and chocolates, because I’m really picky about both, so I didn’t want him to mess up and I prefer to shop for myself anyhow. He was relieved, actually. He made a romantic dinner reservation for two, but then we ended up inviting two friends who we haven’t seen in a long time to come with us. Bill has this great up-for-anything attitude, so he was totally cool about it. As you might tell from my book, I’m not big on Valentine’s Day. You gotta find romance in the little stuff every day.



Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’ Continues to Break Worldwide RecordsThe book also seems to have put a dent in the popularity of members of the Royal Family — including the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Prince Harry’s Memoir Breaks U.K. Sales Record On First Day of ReleaseThe publisher of the new memoir, 'Spare", says it had sold 400,000 copies so far across hardback, e-book and audio formats.

Barack Obama’s Favourite Books of 2022The former U.S. president’s 13 titles include Canadians Emily St. John Mandel and Kate Beaton, as well as tomes from Michelle Obama, George Saunders and Jennifer Egan

Here are the 5 Books on Bill Gates’ Holiday Reading ListThe billionaire philanthropist is giving hundreds of copies to little libraries around the world

Sheila Heti and Eli Baxter Among 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award WinnersToronto writer Sheila Heti took home the fiction award for 'Pure Colour,' a novel the GG peer assessment committee called "a work of genius."

Suzette Mayr Wins $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for ‘The Sleeping Car Porter’The 2022 Giller Prize jury called Mayr's novel "alive and immediate — and eerily contemporary."

Writers’ Trust of Canada Awards: Authors Nicholas Herring, Dan Werb Nab Top PrizesThe Writers' Trust of Canada awards amounted to a combined monetary prize value of $270,000.

Bob Dylan Releases ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song,’ a Book of Essays Dissecting 66 Influential SongsIn his new book, Bob Dylan offers up both critique and historical insight into various musical recordings of the last century by a variety of popular artists.

Prince Harry’s Memoir ‘Spare’ Will Be Published in January 2023The long-awaited memoir will tell with "raw unflinching honesty" Prince Harry's journey from "trauma to healing", his publisher said on Thursday.

Sri Lankan Author Shehan Karunatilaka Wins 2022 Booker PrizeKarunatilaka won the prestigious prize on Monday for his second novel ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’, about a dead war photographer on a mission in the afterlife.

Canadian Council for the Arts Reveals Governor General’s Literary Awards FinalistsThe finalists for the Governor General's Literary Awards spotlight books in both the English and French language, as well as translated works.

New Penguin Random House Award Named After Michelle Obama Will Honour High School WritersMichelle Obama Award for Memoir will provide a $10,000 college scholarship to a graduating public school senior based on their autobiographical submission.

French Author Annie Ernaux, 82, Becomes First French Woman to Win Nobel Prize for LiteratureThe author said, of winning, that "I was very surprised ... I never thought it would be on my landscape as a writer."

Hilary Mantel, Award-Winning British Author of ‘Wolf Hall’ Trilogy, Dies at 70Wolf Hall, published in 2009, and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, released three years later, both won the Booker Prize, an unprecedented win for two books in the same trilogy and making Mantel the first woman to win the award twice.

Prince William “Cannot Forgive” Prince Harry, According to ‘The New Royals’ Author Katie NichollPrince William “just cannot forgive his brother,” according to Katie Nicholl, author of 'The New Royals: Queen Elizabeth’s Legacy and the Future of the Crown.'

Five Finalists Announced for Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionThe winner — to be announced on November 2 — will take home the annual $60,000 prize.

Peter Straub, Bestselling American Horror Writer, Dies at 79Friend and co-author Stephen King has said the author's 1979 book, "Ghost Story," is his favourite horror novel.

Rawi Hage, Billy-Ray Belcourt and Sheila Heti Make the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize Long ListThe jury read 138 books to choose 14 titles for the long list, one of which will win the $100,000 prize, one of the richest in Canadian literature

Salman Rushdie, Novelist Who Drew Death Threats, Is Stabbed at New York LectureThe Indian-born novelist who was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was attacked before giving a talk on artistic freedom.

Raymond Briggs, Creator of Beloved Children’s Tale ‘The Snowman’, Dies at 88First published in 1978, the pencil crayon-illustrated wordless picture book sold more than 5.5 million copies around the world while a television adaption became a Christmas favourite in Britain and was nominated for an Oscar.

Canadian Author Emily St. John Mandel Makes Barack Obama’s 2022 Summer Reading ListObama's list includes everything from fiction to books on politics, cultural exploration and basketball.

Canadian Author Rebecca Eckler to Launch RE:books Publishing House Focused on Female Authors and Fun ReadsThe former National Post columnist says her tagline is ‘What’s read is good, and what’s good is read.’”

Brian Thomas Isaac’s “All the Quiet Places” wins $5,000 Indigenous Voices AwardThe B.C. author, a retired bricklayer, drew on his childhood growing up on the Okanagan Indian reserve for his coming-of-age story set in 1956

Canadian-American Author Ruth Ozeki Wins Women’s Book Prize for “The Book of Form and Emptiness”The UK judges said her fourth novel, inspired in part by the Vancouver Public Library, contained "sparkling writing, warmth, intelligence, humour and poignancy."

The Bill Gates Summer Reading List Includes a Sci-Fi Novel On Gender Inequality Suggested by His DaughterBill Gates' summer reading list includes fiction and non-fiction titles that cover gender equality, political polarization and climate change.

American novelist Joshua Cohen wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “The Netanyahus”The 2022 Pulitzer prizes include this satirical look at identity politics, focused on the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a crucial time in the Jewish state’s history

Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro Among Canadian Authors Recognized in Commemorative Reading List Marking Queen’s Platinum JubileeThe authors are among six Canadian scribes included on the The Big Jubilee Read list.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."

New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.

Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.

Prince Harry’s Memoir is Set to Rock the MonarchyFriends say the California-based royal got a million-pound book deal to write "an intimate take on his feeling about the family."

European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."

Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.

Man Who Tricked Authors Into Handing Over Unpublished Manuscripts Arrested by FBI in New YorkFilippo Bernardini, an employee of a well known publication house, has been arrested for stealing hundreds of unpublished manuscripts.

Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.

Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro

“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.

Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories

Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel

South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 

Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Toronto International Festival of AuthorsDirector Roland Gulliver lands in Toronto to open his second, much-expanded virtual festival with more than 200 events

Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature for Depicting the Impact of Colonialism and Refugee StoriesGurnah, 72, is only the second writer from sub-Saharan Africa to win one of the world's most prestigious literary awards

Miriam Toews Garners Third Giller Prize Nomination for “Fight Night” after Shortlist AnnouncedSophomore efforts from novelists Omar El Akkad and Jordan Tannahill join debut books from Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia and Angélique Lalonde

Tina Brown’s New Book, ‘The Palace Papers’, Covers the Royal Family’s Reinvention After Diana’s Tragic DeathTina Brown's sequel to her 2007 release 'The Diana Chronicles' is set to hit shelves April 12, 2022. 

Audible.ca Releases Andrew Pyper’s Exclusive Audiobook “Oracle” For New Plus Catalogue LaunchThe thriller about a psychic FBI detective is one of 12,000 titles now available for free to members

Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen to Release Book Based On Their “Renegades” PodcastThe new book will feature a collection of candid, intimate and entertaining conversations

Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


Sign Up for the Weekly Book Club Newsletter