Monday, January 07, 2008

No Sacrifice Too Great

Sunday's Toronto Star carried a farewell by Philip Marchand, who is changing beats at the Star, from book reviewer to film critic. He'll be missed. The best book reviewer in the country for nearly 20 years, you could count on Marchand to give you an honest appraisal of the books he was reviewing. "Be just to a book, by all means," Marchand writes, "is the credo of a book reviewer, but more important, be just to the reader." Too few seem capable of doing this, or understanding it when they see it.

One of Marchand's last pieces of book criticism, it would seem, appears in the current issue of CNQ. His 'The Problem with Alice Munro' is worth a gander, and has already generated some interesting reader response. Marchand would have it, I'm certain, no other way.

Marchand's entire farewell can be found here:

Here Come the Moonbathers

Poet Laureate John Steffler has published Patricia Young's poem Melt, from her upcoming Spring Biblioasis collection Here Come the Moonbathers -- her first poetry collection in over 8 years -- as the poem of the week of the Poet Laureate website. The website can be found here:

And here is Patricia's poem:


by Patricia Young

“We can’t even describe what we’re seeing.”
Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar conference.

One morning they appear in nameless droves.
Fabulous creatures flicking their silver fins and ancient jewels.

A long lost mythology? Weird migration?
They lurched onto the tundra like bawling infants,

announced themselves with the subtlety of a brass band.
Wave upon wave, antlers vibrating, tails ablaze.

Who? we asked. Who are you?
One day they weren’t there and the next

they were traveling toward us
with the speed of a birchwood forest.

We gathered to mourn those passing
swiftly into memory, the polar bear and arctic seal.

Time cracked.
The century was thinner than ice.

We had 1200 words for reindeer but not one
for hornet, robin, elk, salmon, barn owl.

Try to understand: we had never seen a barn.
Never stepped into such a cavernous space.


We have never stepped into a cavernous space.
Try to understand: we have never seen a barn.

Hornet, robin, elk, salmon, barn owl.
We have 1200 words for reindeer but not one

for a century thinner than ice.
Time cracks.

Swiftly into memory: the polar bear and arctic seal.
We gather to mourn those passing

with the speed of a birchwood forest,
the new ones travelling toward us.

One day they aren’t here and the next
we ask, Who? Who are you?

Wave upon wave, antlers vibrating, tails ablaze.
They announce themselves with the subtlety of a brass band,

lurch onto the tundra like bawling infants.
A long lost mythology? Weird migration?

Fabulous creatures flicking their silver fins and ancient jewels
appear one morning in nameless droves.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Prose for Puck Heads

Lorna Jackson's Cold-cocked was reviewed in the Globe this morn. It's part of a much longer review of 4-5 hockey books, so I'll just cut and paste what Steve Galloway said of Cold-cocked. This is the 3rd piece on Lorna's book in 8 days.: each of 'em said it's a book you should damn well read. So, if I haven't convinced you yet, perhaps Mr. Galloway will.

The review...

I am currently getting my lunch handed to me in a writers' hockey pool. If all my players were to double their point production, I'd still be a long way from contention. It's humiliating. And, in the interests of full disclosure, one of those who is metaphorically pantsing me is Lorna Jackson. I will exact revenge. But not here. Jackson's memoir, Cold-cocked: On Hockey, is fantastic. The only book of the five in which the writing is more than a delivery mechanism, Cold-cocked is sardonic, heartfelt, angry and passionate about hockey, life, the points where they intersect and the points where they don't.

In one of my favourite passages, Jackson offers what some of the secondary characters in the book would do during a day with Todd Bertuzzi, vilified for a vicious on-ice attack on Steve Moore. From Carla Funk: "I'd take him to a watercolour lesson ... go to a poetry reading ... bake bread. But then I'd want to see some of that aggression, so I would get him to butcher some chickens, too."

From FUKT (the hockey pool code name of writer Bill Gaston): "I have a garage that really needs cleaning out, plus I'd want to see how many sandwiches he could eat. During his break, I'd get him to see if he could throw my old couch up on a neighbour I don't like's roof."

The notion of Bertuzzi painting a happy little green tree next to a frisky lake or eating a dozen ham sandwiches is both funny and sad. Could it be that these players are human beings, sort of? Though we all know this objectively to be true, we're generally more comfortable either deifying them or reducing them to racehorses. But in the same breath, let's face it, if you need to kick a little ass, it'd be nice to have a guy like Bertuzzi doing your bidding.

In other moments, Cold-cocked is deadly serious, pressing and urgent about a game that Jackson, unlike most authors of hockey books, pays her own money to watch. She's an outsider, like us, and her book should serve as a reminder that it is the fans, not the players or the media or the league itself, that own this game and will determine its fate.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


An interesting post was sent to me today by a fellow publisher I thought I should share. It's a post by what appears to be a prominent-though-incognito New York editor in discussion with other editors about editing and marketing, and what authors can expect of a publisher (as well as what publishers may expect of authors). It's for writers they deem mid-list -- those with print-runs in the 7500-15000 range (imagine, if you will, the sound of one Canadian publisher choking). Still, interesting and worth reading.

I couldn't link directly to this post, but go here:

and scroll down to the post of November 6th, 2004.

Oh yes: happy new year.