Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
K.D. Miller’s novel Brown Dwarf is a delicious secret. A slim volume, gorgeous to behold (and to hold! that cover. those thick pages. such an elegant typeface, perfect leading), it knows far more than it is telling. Rae Brand, a successful mystery novelist, turns to her own personal narrative in order to confront a pivotal event from her childhood. Though she’d been Brenda Bray then, lumpen outcast, daughter of a depressive, the character Rae Brand has been escaping ever since.
For the rest of it please go here.
More to come, including Black Alley launch photos. As well as, perhaps, some photos on what I did when my British vacation was interrupted by an Icelandic volcano.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
It has taken me 37 years to make my first trip to London, for next week's Book Fair. I wish that I could say, like Thoreau, that I was well-travelled in other ways, but it is, alas, not the case. University to bookshop to press, the last 12 years have been pretty tightly packed with other things. Throw in two boys seven and under, and my wife's business, which requires that she be available on an almost daily basis, and our opportunities to jetset about have been rather limited. Part of me regrets this -- who doesn't want to see oneself as a cosmoplitan world traveller? -- but part of me is quite happy to be an armchair traveller. And now the Gods -- being a bit of a megalomaniacal polytheist (& recent Battlestar Gallactica convert -- seem to be conspiring to give me a quick Continental Grand Tour, and I'm seeing much more of Europe than I expected to.
Without a word of a lie, on Wednesday morning, as we were passing Iceland, Alexis said to me: "You know, we should have planned a brief stopover in Amsterdam." Little did we know that at almost precisely that moment, a volcano had erupted, spewing ash capable of shutting down a jet engine. So perhaps it is her fault. I've always thought the dame had rather special abilities.
We were supposed to be in Amsterdam for an hour. We're into our third day. Much of this time has been spent trying to get our baggage, or arranging alternative modes of transport. We managed after several hours on the phone to rebook a flight with KLM, the Dutch Airline, who had the temerity to play Bjork records while we were on hold: as if Icelandic ash wasn't enough! Luckily we then went down to the central railway station, this still at before 6 am Amsterdam time, to get one of the last tickets on Sunday via train to London. A good thing too, as KLM has already cancelled our Sunday flight. So we'll be seeing Brussels and I assume France tomorrow via a train window, to arrive in London in the early evening.
We don't yet have our baggage, and there's a better than reasonable chance that we won't by the time we leave tomorrow morning. We've been lucky to get a decent hotel in the hearet of Amsterdam, at an exorbitant price, but there are travellers who have not had a bed for more than two days, and others who will be stranded longer than we will be.
Our main fear is that this ash cloud may not dissipate enough for us to leave on time next week. If the volcano keeps spewing ash, then there's a chance that things may stay shut down for quite some time. And the pressure on the airlines will be greater every day, as the accumulation of cancelled flights and backlog causes more and more problems. So we may very well cut our London trip short to try and find a way via train to the south in the hopes of finding a plane that can make Canada close to our original return.
Not all of it is bad, of course. We're making the best of things. Did a canal boat tour, had a wonderfully over-priced peasants' dinner in a restaurant dating from the 16th century, we're in a hotel from the 17th, hit a museum, the Red Light District, and we're planning on going to the Van Gogh museum and doing a trip to the countryside to see the tulip fields today. We're finally over our jetlag, which cost us much of yesterday. And we've learned a lot. For instance, you don't NEED to buy a beer to use the washroom in the bars around town, and if you shower enough, you can stretch the same set of clothes (almost) three days. The Dutch advertise their pornography channels using a Mozart soundtrack. Who knows what else we'll discover by the time we make it back to Canada?
I'll try and keep you all posted about the further European education of a provincial publisher.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I learned this eve that Corey Redekop has reviewed Brown Dwarf quite favourably in the current Quill & Quire, saying, in part:
Possibly basing her tale on the real-life exploits of novelist Anne Perry (fictionalized in Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures), Miller superbly captures the abject cruelty and loneliness of adolescence. Brenda’s alternating excitement and misery is rendered with haunting precision, sometimes recalling the youthful feverishness of Stephen King’s novella “The Body.
This is the second review of Brown Dwarf I've read in as many days which makes the connection between the book and Anne Perry's own youthful experiences, though I'd not made the connection on my own. Perhaps we should ask K.D. about that.
Girl Crazy is the title of Russell Smith's new novel, but in the Tuesday Essay over at the Globe & Mail, he also writes about another earlier and more pornographic work with another -- ahem -- press:
A few years ago, I set out to write a pornographic novel (I prefer that word to “erotica,” which I find cowardly). I wanted to try it first as an exercise, to get over my hesitation in writing sex, and to explore ways of using language that weren’t comical or clinical or crude. It was really tough. There are only so many body parts, so many acts, and so many words to describe them. I found myself being repetitive. My solution to the linguistic problem was just to try to be as specific and precise about physical acts as possible. I always want to document exactly which finger goes where.
I was hoping, too, in introducing more graphic sex into my fiction, to try to rub away, so to speak, a little more of that blurry line between the artistic and the pornographic. I have always hoped and believed that pornography would eventually become more literary and literature more pornographic. I think in my case the exercise has worked: in my new novel, Girl Crazy, I wrote a lot of sex scenes without really thinking of them as such. It’s not a sex novel, not a genre novel; it’s a serious novel. The sex scenes are just a part of the emotional narrative, just as the weather might be. They’re not meant primarily to arouse, although I won’t complain if they do. That’s a relief for a writer – it means I don’t have to worry if they have this physical effect or not. All I care about in this case is whether the reader cares or not what is going on.
I hope she does. Because I can’t imagine understanding the characters without understanding what they do in bed. In fact, I would say this about real people too.
For the rest of Russell's essay, please go here.
Monday, April 12, 2010
from a review in the Review of Contemporary Fiction, published by The Dalkey Archive:
Shocking and bizarre the book certainly is, but what makes it most interesting is the way in which violence, initially inspired by a vague personal sense of vengeance, begins to threaten the entire shakily-constructed social order. Various characters in the media, police, and government, each with his own self-promoting agenda, have a say in the novel, concocting their own theories to explain the chaos until a convincing conspiracy is created, at least in the minds of most, and the unknown herpetophile becomes a major political figure.
K.D. Miller will be launching her fourth book and first novel this Thursday, Wednesday, April 14th, at 7 pm, in the Reception room at St. Clement's Church in North Toronto (59 Briar Hill Ave., at the corner of Briar Hill and Duplex, one block west of Yonge, five blocks North of Eglinton). Refreshments will be served and books will be on sale. Please come out to support the launch of one of the highlights of our 2010 list.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
The above painting is the latest in a series on Canadian writers and editors by Alan Dayton, and is at least the second of a Metcalf-Rooke winning author. Other authors and editors in this series include John Metcalf and Terry Griggs.
Over at Banjaxed, A. J.'s blog, Andrew writes:
This is the latest strange development in a series of strange developments that have developed since November 23 of last year, when the manuscript I’d been tinkering with for far longer than anyone would consider healthy won the Metcalfe-Rooke Award. Strange days, indeed: who woulda thunk anyone would do a portrait of me? For purposes other than police identification?
For the rest of his piece, please go here.
Friday, April 09, 2010
Over at The New Quarterly's blog, The Literary Type, Rosalynn has posted a podcast of the reading from Patricia Young's recent tour. Worth a listen, on this second Friday of Poetry Month.
Photo, once again, by A. J. Somerset, of Combat Camera fame.
Headed to London for a quick trip on Wednesday to share a curry with house-bound David Hickey and listen to Patricia Young read as part of the Poetry London Series. A. J. Somerset was in attendance, and took some photographs at the pub after the event, including this one. He has been promoted to Biblioasis's official photographer, just so long as he promises to keep me out of his viewfinder.
A wonderful reading, great conversation and company, passable beer.
For the (brief) story behind this photograph, please go here.