Tuesday, April 15, 2014

System Crashing Fidelity Upholder

In his thoughtful personal-reminiscence-cum-review for Underground Book Club, Michael Bryson praises Zachariah Wells's new essay collection Career Limiting Moves all the while clarifying certain misconceptions about its author: 
I have heard him called an asshole. I've heard him called right wing. I've heard him called a misogynist. In the book he notes he's been claimed and rejected by both the populists and the elites. In truth, he has always been what his letter to TDR in 2002 perhaps should have made clear: a jury of one. An iconoclast. One who rejects systems. One who seeks a genuine, unpredictable deep connection with the wildness that is existence and also, therefore, literature [...] He praises poems that press against the outer boundaries. He praises poems that pressure language until it reveals its limit. Then he asks it to go further.
For an example of Zach at his thought-provoking, counter-intuitive, and polemical best, we recommend checking out this week's #BITSblog post, in which he grapples with Goran Simić's From Sarajevo With Sorrow and the importance of journalistic fidelity when translating the poetry of witness. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kathy Page a "Best in New Small Press Books," Globe & Mail

This week we're happy to report that Kathy Page's Paradise & Elsewhere, pictured below in this wonderful display at Salt Spring Books, has had its first two reviews: a short-but-sweet feature in the "Best in New Small Press Books" in The Globe and Mail, and a lengthy write-up in The Winnipeg Review. Here's what our media pals had to say:

THE GLOBE AND MAIL
“The intensely familiar and the strikingly odd combine here to form a reading experience similar to that of fable. Indeed, though Paradise is set in modern times, here we cover similar ground as that of Greek myth or Grimm … but rest assured, these contemporary tales are as insightful as their older counterparts.”

THE WINNIPEG REVIEW
“All at once the stories in this collection are realistic, feminist, apocalyptic … [Kathy Page] has got it all, and she is unapologetic about delivering the goods …  this book is full of beautiful intelligent writing that is sharp, raw and to the point. And it just might make us all better human beings.”

Not bad, huh? Kathy's got events coming up all over the place over the next few months, so keep an eye out for her in Vancouver (April 29), Salt Spring (May 1), Windsor (May 26), and Toronto (May 27-28). Books should be in stores any minute now, if they aren't already ... and if you want to know where you can find Paradise & Elsewhere in a town near you, drop us a line any time.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Biblioasis in the LA Review of Books

We knew it was coming. We'd thought maybe last month, and then we knew for sure this month, and then we knew for-sure for sure when a very dear customer wrote to us from California:
After 10 more days of pacing and nail-chewing, and again thanks to our friends Leslie and Neil, yesterday we finally saw a copy of the press profile that's running in this month's LA Review of Books. They ran a three-page interview with Dan. Needless to say, we were thrilled, but we were ESPECIALLY thrilled with their opening paragraph, of which I've transcribed the opening sentences:

"As Detroit considers selling off major artworks to stay afloat, the literary scene just across the river in Windsor, Ontario is flourishing. It's there in 'South Detroit' that Biblioasis is publishing some of the best poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in the world."

Yep. In the WORLD. Three cheers for the LARB! It's print-only, so if you're eager to see a copy, drop one of us a line and we'll send you a scan.

Happy Friday, all—


Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Best of the Best Translated Book Awards




For those of you who aren't yet in the habit of checking in every Tuesday for weekly updates on the newly revamped BITSblog, we had a pretty cool feature this week. We teamed up with Chad Post from Open Letter and Three Percent to showcase single iconic or otherwise representative sentences from all 25 books longlisted for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award. The sentences were posted unattributed, with embedded links to the books from which they were culled, so that readers could judge the quality of the writing and perhaps be moved to seek out a title they otherwise would not have gravitated towards. To read the compiled sentences click here. And if that wasn't cool enough, we were very pleased to learn in the immediate wake of the post that The Best Translated Book Award had just won the LBF International Book Industry Excellence Award! 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Polyamorous Clicking Song

It's been a few weeks since we've done a "Blogging from the Bookshop" post here at Thirsty, and I was thinking I'd mix it up a bit today by talking about a couple new Spring books I've picked up in the shop in the last week and have really been enjoying. 



Many of you in Windsor and beyond might be acquainted with Jason Guriel by now, our poetry criticism tour  - in which Zach Wells and Anita Lahey also took part - having recently swung through a city near you. I loved Guriel's new book of essays The Pigheaded Soul, in which panache, wit, and stylistic savvy make for poetry criticism as (who would have thought it?) page-turning entertainment. And Guriel is high on the entertainment factor, the following passage from the introduction to The Pigheaded Soul having been a point of irritation and contention for a surprising number of audience members at every stop of the What We Talk About When We Talk About Poetry mini-tour: 
The truly helpful poetry critics can't help themselves - and can't help but frustrate some (maybe even many) of the very readers they hope to serve. These are the readers who tend to want too much and, paradoxically, too little from poetry [...] By overburdening poems with so noble a purpose (making thoughtless readers think) we over ennoble their authors. To be sure, a person might acquire a fact or two from poems, but the best poetry is first and foremost what T.S. Eliot would call a 'superior amusement'.
Contrary to what some interpret as an attempt to reduce poetry to crass entertainment, Guriel's insistence that a poem must above all else entertain and engage a reader - and that its various edifying, enlightening, consoling properties can only truly be achieved first and foremost through said engagement - is also an operating aesthetic principle in his poetry, and one poets should pay heed to: it demystifies the chasm between intention and effect and makes the poet accountable to their audience. 

It's too bad Guriel's new book of poetry Satisfying Clicking Sound, which just arrived in bookstores this week, wasn't out yet for the tour, because it is one such 'superior amusement,' featuring dexterous, colloquial poems with tight conceits that engage the reader at the level of music and image and put Guriel's critical credos into practice. Here's an excerpt from "Harebrained" in which the speaker imagines getting "a hare transplant" and being taken over by the impulses and tendencies of a promiscuous rabbit: 
You don't know
why you feel
compelled to hurry
once you clear
the canopy
of the wood -
you only know
you should.
Like a scrap
of cloud you get
carried away
by the scruff,
but you have no
word for talon-
tipped things
that fly above,
enjoying bird's
eye views of
whatever is
the word for
fluff like you.
It's ignorance
not to think
this bliss.
There's a platitude in the poetry community that poetry oriented at a reader is poetry that is inherently dumbed-down and *gasp* accessible. In addition to resorting to the post-modern cliché that coherent communication is an inherently cheapened and vulgar enterprise, it also assumes that capital P poetry exists only for a specialized audience of doctoral candidates. Guriel shows you that poetry can be flashy and smart without being oblique and arcane. I'd recommend Guriel's Satisfying Click Sound to longtime lovers of poetry and newcomers alike. 

***


Switching gears from poetry to fiction, I'd also bring Montreal-based writer Jacob Wren's new novel Polyamorous Love Song to your attention. Wren is an interdisciplinary artist whose work engages with literature, art criticism, radical politics, cinema, and performance installations. His books are structurally innovative, but functionally, necessarily so. He writes about love triangles, secret societies, gallery curators turned con-artists, politics as reality tv, interpersonal relationships and romantic crisis as fodder for avant-garde art, and more. His style is much more indebted to and reminiscent of  the central European and Latin American authors you'd find on a New Directions or Archipelago roster than anything published in Canada. Which, I guess, is partly why I like his work so much: it's heartening to know someone in Canada is not only reading as widely as Wren, but also finding an authentic way to synthesize the material. For Wren, "reading is always an act of creating one's own personal literary canon and then trying to put it into play, put it into some sort of dialogue with the world."

His 2010 novel Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed is a personal favourite of mine which, as Chris Kraus puts it, "recasts the recent political past as dystopian sci-fi." Polyamorous Love Song only came in yesterday, but I read half of it in a sitting last night, and so far it's about the parasitic nature of the artist; the fraught enterprise of creativity; an art movement in which "the idea of making [a] film is gradually replaced by this new idea of living it out instead"; a shadowy terrorist group advocating for "the social liberation of those who wear mascot uniforms"; a man writing a book about Hitler having intercourse with a dog; a woman writing a book about orgies whose purpose is to spread a virus engineered to eradicate high-ranking members of the political right (when a woman from the left gets it and becomes terminally ill she is forced to reexamine the authenticity of her political beliefs); and a book that is possibly the instruction manual of a cult and also shares the same title as the book about orgies: A Dream for the Future and a Dream for Now. How this all synthesizes is difficult to describe, but it does, and it's blowing my mind. Wren's fiction depicts a world in which everything is mediated by the political, a thrilling and terrifying world in which conceptual art bleeds into an underground nexus of conspiracy and intrigue and where the lines between life and performance are dissolved: 
"If this was one of your projects, one of your films -" Silvia was really shouting now, trying to be heard over the music that was filling her head, trying to be heard over her own crying and anger, "if this was one of your projects then you'd really be paying attention. Then you'd know what the fuck I was talking about."
"What do you mean one of my projects?" Filmmaker A realized she couldn't help herself, she was getting angry, raising her voice too, as they stared each other down across the expanse of the warehouse balcony. 
"One of your projects." Silvia was crying so hard now she could barely make herself heard. "one of your fucking projects. One of your films."
"What are you talking about?" Filmmaker A was really yelling now, really getting upset, "This is the film ... What we're doing now, this is the film. Haven't you understood anything I've been saying ..." But then she caught herself and quieted down a bit too suddenly, nonetheless continuing to speak, almost to herself, though still loud enough for Silvia to hear, "This is the film." Silvia was crying but listening. "This is the film. And it's heartbreaking. And it's wonderful." 

Catherine Chandler at the Signal Gala, This Friday

It's day two of National Poetry Month here at Biblioasis, and we're pleased to say that very soon our own Catherine Chandler will be launching her new book (Glad and Sorry Seasons) along with a host of extremely talented Signal Editions authors. Taking place on Friday at the Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, 211 Bernard Ouest, Montreal, the Signal Gala is the perfect way to begin the month. Join Catherine along with Edward Carson, Jason Guriel, Jim Johnstone, and Richard Greene at one of the best indie bookshops going!

Catherine's poetry marries modern themes with traditional poetic forms, such as the sonnet, the kyrielle, the sonondilla, and the ballad stanza. We've included a little excerpt for you below (and we will, FYI, be continuing to post poems daily, or-close-to-daily, on Thirsty from now until the end of the month). She'll also be reading at The Yellow Door on April 10th.

(We're pretty sure spring feels a little more sprung now than it did when this next poem was written.)

Full Snow Moon
Catherine Chandler

The moon is full again. A latticed frost
clings to my window, while the crystal crust
of Lake Saint Louis glows as if embossed
with pearls this February night. It must
be twenty-five below. I search for words
of warmth the Guaraní alone must know
to trace their land of butterflies and birds
I made my own a mere four weeks ago.

She waxes and she wanes; she's counted on,
through human inconsistency and pride,
to reverence the rising sun each dawn
and keep her promise to the ocean tide.
But Luna's is a distant, lurid face,
her silent O no answer as to how
on earth I'll ever find the grit and grace
to muddle through to spring, one moon from now.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Alexandra Oliver Shortlisted for Pat Lowther Award

Dear Friends:

We're delighted to kick off National Poetry Month with happy news: this morning the League of Canadian Poets announced that Alexandra Oliver's Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. The Lowther is given annually to a book of poetry by a Canadian woman, and carries a $1,000 prize. It is presented each year at the League’s Annual General Meeting in May or June. Previous winners include Karen Solie and Dionne Brand.

For those of you new to Alexandra's work, you're in for a treat. Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway was a Canadian Poetry Book of the Year (National Post, 2013) and from first page to last stands as a testament to the sheer performative power of form. It's acerbic, witty, dramatic, moving, and sharp. Below is a sample of what the critics had to say. And if you've never had the pleasure of hearing Alexandra read, we highly recommend you check out some of her recent performances online: this is from our fall 2013 Toronto launch, and this is Alexandra's reading at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2011.

We hope you'll join us in offering your hearty congratulations to Alexandra, and to all the other nominees (Elizabeth Bachinsky, Anne Compton, Sadiqa de Meijer, Micheline Maylor, and Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang). The recognition is much-deserved. For ordering information, more about Tormentors, or a sample poem or two, please read on.

Peace and love,
Biblioasis.

Praise for Alexandra Oliver

“An incredible feat of vision and voice … technically, nothing is out of Oliver’s grasp. Her go-to iambic pentameter can swallow anything in its path. Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway should go a long way toward establishing Oliver as one of the country’s best stanza makers, with a fluidity and ambition aspiring to Dylan Thomas or Yeats  … When she succeeds, she succeeds entirely.”—Michael Lista, The National Post

"Alexandra Oliver has many arrows in her quiver—all of them sharpened to a fine point … This is an excellent and entertaining collection."—Timothy Steele

"It is sometimes argued that our disjunctive times need to be mirrored by disjunctive forms: only aesthetic disorder can respond to our experience. Such a simplicity is disproven by Alexandra Oliver’s Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway, in which disjunctions of many kinds (such as the one in her title) are brought to order by the poet’s refining passion and corrosive wit. Here are brilliantly contemporary poems in traditional forms, the work of a stunning new voice."—Charles Martin

"Alexandra Oliver is in full command of a saber wit and impeccable ear. With these she tackles nothing less than the unsettling hazards, absurd encounters, and oddball ironies of our modern predicament to make poems that bite and entertain … Oliver’s considerable formal skills are always employed to prod and direct poetry’s energies to keep pace with the contemporary world. Lucky the reader along for the ride."—Jeanne Marie Beaumont

For more about the Pat Lowther Award visit the LCP website.

About Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway
Visit Alexandra's page at Biblioasis.Trade Paper
Sept. 2013
978-1-927428-43-6
14.95 USD/17.95 CAD
64 pp

In Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway
, Alexandra Oliver zooms in on the inertias, anxieties, comedies, cruelties, and epiphanies of domestic life:

They all had names like Jennifer or Lynne
or Katherine; they all had bone-blonde hair,
that wet, flat cut with bangs. They pulled your chair
from underneath you, shoved their small fists in
your face. Too soon, you knew it would begin,
those minkish teeth like shrapnel in the air,
the Bacchic taunts, the Herculean dare,
their soccer cleats against your porcine shin,
that laugh, which sounded like a hundred birds
escaping from a gunshot through the reeds—
and now you have to face it all again:
the joyful freckled faces lost for words
in supermarkets, as those red hands squeeze
your own. It’s been so long! They say. Amen.

Oliver’s poems, which she describes as “text-based home movies,” unveil a cinematic vision of suburbia at once comical and poignant: framed to renew our curiosity in the mundane and pressing rhyme and metre to their utmost, Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway is a five-star performance from Canada’s new formalist sensation.

Visit Alexandra's website
Visit Biblioasis's website
Purchase a copy online

Monday, March 31, 2014

Kathy Page at Incite Vancouver


Just a quick note to remind you that Biblioasis author Kathy Page will be appearing with Doretta Lau and Eva Stachniak this Wednesday April 2nd at Incite Vancouver. It's the first official event for Paradise & Elsewhere (though she launches later in Vancouver on April 29th, in Salt Spring on May 1st, and in Toronto May 27-28th at the Eh-List). Incite's events are always great. If you're in Vancouver, check it out!

7:30pm on Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Admission is free
Alice MacKay room, Central Library

The Writers

Doretta Lau is a journalist who covers arts and culture for Artforum InternationalSouth China Morning PostThe Wall Street Journal Asia, and LEAP. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Day OneEventGrain MagazinePrairie FirePRISM InternationalRicepapersub-TERRAIN, and Zen Monster. In 2013, she was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust of Canada / McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. She splits her time between Vancouver and Hong Kong, where she is at work on a novel and a screenplay.
The stories of How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun? present an updated and whimsical new take on what it means to be Canadian. Lau’s stories feature the children and grandchildren of immigrants, transnational adoptees and multiracial adults who came of age in the 1990s—all struggling to find a place in the Western world and using the only language they know to express their hopes, fears and expectations.
Kathy Page is the author of seven novels, including Alphabet, a Governor General's Award finalist in 2005, and The Story of My Face, longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2002, as well as many short stories, previously collected in As In Music. She recently co-edited In the Flesh, a collection of personal essays about the human body, and has written for television and radio. Born in the UK, Kathy has lived on Salt Spring Island since 2001.
Paradise and Elsewhere
In the beginning there was a garden. Or was it an island? A bargain? Certainly there was sex. In these mythical, magical stories Kathy Page parts company from traditional wisdom to blaze a new trail through the wild, lush, half-fantastic and half-real terrain of origin stories.
Eva Stachniak was born in Wrocław, Poland. Her debut novel, Necessary Lies, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2000. Her first novel based on the life of Catherine the Great, The Winter Palace, has been a bestseller in Canada, Poland and Germany. Stachniak lives in Toronto, where she is at work on her next novel.
In Empress of the Night, Catherine the Great takes center stage as she relives her astonishing ascension to the throne, her rule over an empire, and the sacrifices that made her the most feared and commanding woman of her time. Gorgeously written with vivid detail and lyrical prose, Stachniak’s novel is an intensely intimate portrayal of a woman in charge of her fortunes, who must navigate the sorrows, triumphs, and hopes of both her soul and a nation.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Hello, all, and happy Monday. This weekend the Rover ran a review of Andrew Steinmetz's This Great Escape (appropriately timed, since only a week ago veterans were celebrated the 70th anniversary of the historical break out of Stalag III). "Steinmetz’s fragments are gripping, moving and funny," observes Kit Jenkins, and on the whole he describes Andrew's biography of Michael Paryla as "a stellar book. This Great Escape is a must-read." For the full review—or heck, just for a good time—visit the Rover.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Biblioasis Nominated for Two Libris Awards

Dear Friends,

We're delighted to announce that yesterday the Retail Council of Canada twice recognized Biblioasis in yesterday's nominations for the Libris Awards, which honour outstanding achievement in the Canadian books industry. 

The Libris Awards, presented annually, are the premier book industry awards in Canada, and all are nominated and voted on by members of the bookselling community. For the first time in our history, as we approach our tenth anniversary in Fall 2014, Biblioasis has been longlisted for Small Press Publisher of the Year; we're also thrilled to see Biblioasis fiction editor John Metcalf in consideration for Editor of the Year. (The latter is especially appreciated, as Mr. Metcalf is the only editor from a small press to receive a nomination.)

The longlists will be voted on by book industry members, and shortlists will be released in April. The winners will be announced at the Libris Awards Gala taking place on June 2, 2014. For more information, or for the complete longlist, please consult the Retail Councilwebsite. (If you're interested in attending the Gala you may also reserve tickets here.)

Last but not least, a note from us to you, whether you be readers, booksellers, media professionals, authors, friends, or family. We thank you from the bottoms of our hearts for the support you've shown us as we've grown; we look forward very much to working with you in 2014 and beyond.

Yours sincerely,

Dan, Tara, Chris, Kate, and Jesse,
Biblioasis.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Beat the Weather with Readings From Anakana Schofield

The official day of Spring has passed and here at the Bibliomanse we're ready to dust the salt off our boots and trade them in for running shoes. If only we could. We are taunted with warmth that quickly turns to cold, snowy days and cabin fever has set in with a vengeance. The only cure I can see is to head to Ireland for some literary festivals that will help thaw our bones.

Award winning Anakana Schofield, author of Malarky, will be appearing at the Cúirt International Festival of Literature on April 11th and the Cork World Book Festival on April 22nd. Can't make it to Ireland? Head to the West coast and join Anakana at Okanagan College on March 27th. She will be reading at the Salmon Arm campus at noon and at the Vernon campus at 7:30 pm. See the poster below for more details.

What's better to beat the chill than 100 proof literature?


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cynthia Flood in LRC; Sonia Tilson in Ninnau

Two reviews in the past week that are hard to come by online: one, a piece in the Welsh-American newspaper Ninnau & Y Drych, for Sonia Tilson's The Monkey Puzzle Tree, and another for Cynthia Flood's Red Girl Rat Boy in The Literary Review of Canada. Here's what Bob Roser had to say about Sonia's book: "I read several [passages] to my wife Cindy, who was very struck by the language ... The writing is flawless and I found myself drawn in from the beginning by the storytelling." It was also nice to get a more academic treatment of RGRB, with Joel Deshaye of Canadian Literature commenting on Cynthia's use of the politics of mythology (plus an entertaining digression on Rob Ford). Here's his conclusion:
Like metaphors, myths are nearly everywhere. Red Girl Rat Boy tells us
that metaphor and myth are not separate from the so-called real world, but
that they help to define its politics. And while critics may treat the words and
actions of politicians with skepticism, Flood treats most of her characters nonjudgementally—a gesture of respect for them and for her readers.
Happy Thursday, everyone. If you're in Toronto don't forget to check out our poetry panel tonight at Ben McNally books; apparently last night in Montreal was a blast.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About Poetry: A Preview

"What is obvious to the music nerds in one scene of High Fidelity—that latter-day Stevie Wonder is laughable—isn't always so obvious to readers when faced with the wobbly wonders of the poetry world. The subculture simply hasn't evolved, as pop music has, a collective taste that can be counted on to parse the truly cool from the humorously bland. Only a few scattered critics stubbornly insist on holding court, which is to say putting their own careers on trial with every opinion they hand down. Is this foolishness?"
 When We Talk About (say it)
"I believe a review should offer some indication of what it was like to be at the author's mercy for however many pages the experience lasted. But more often than I expected, I found myself trying to extract a confession. What did the reviewer really feel about the book? Would he or she recommend it if asked? If our contributor remained coy, we were left with a noncommittal description of poems that "evoke," "provoke," "reflect," or "interlace" this with that—to what effect we were left to guess—the kind of report that gives credit neither to the book's author nor its potential readers; prose as boring to read as it must have been to write."
Poetry (anyway)
"While I’ve been decried as snarky by a few who’d prefer us all to sing Kumbaya and save the sniping for privates convos, and while I’ve had everything from my psychological well-being to my motives to my manly bits questioned, my actual motivation comes from nothing so much as a yen for a good scrum. I’m with Angela Carter, who said that a day without an argument is like an egg without salt. (I prefer pepper, myself.)"

Roll Call: 

Montreal
March 19 at 7:30 p.m. at The Word Bookstore, 469 Milton St.

Toronto
March 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay St.

Hamilton
March 21 at 6:30 p.m. at McMaster University, Council Chambers, Gilmour Hall, Room 111

Windsor
March 22 at 4:30 p.m. at Biblioasis, 1520 Wyandotte St. East

Bring tha ruckus.