Saturday, October 30, 2010
Miracle Mile features two track athletes, one or two notches down from the ultra international elite, but still good enough to travel the world, make the Canadian team, to expect the perks and be fawned over.
What’s intriguing is the solitude MacLeod places the pair in, the final race they run, the context in which they compete. The title comes not from the Miracle Mile (run in 1954 at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver), but from the ultimate game of chicken they’d play in a railway tunnel underneath the Detroit River. Not only do you get deep into the psyches of the lifelong friends, but you can smell their desperation, the scorching heat and power of the locomotive, feel the scurrying rats in the darkened Windsor-bound tunnel, feel the palpable tension between them on the track.
And that’s one of MacLeod’s strengths — bringing into play all the senses while ratcheting up the tension.
Windsor figures prominently in several other stories: Adult Beginner I (a young women who narrowly escapes drowning as a child in an undertow finds herself, ironically, in a different, yet similar predicament); The Loop (about a young boy’s drugstore delivery route, stopping at various rest homes and places where ex-Chrysler workers have holed up to live out their days after a life of tightening minivan bolts), and Light Lifting’s best story, The Number Three (which serves as both a paean to the above-mentioned minivan, and to the bereft, catatonic father and husband who has to face a cathartic moment, which unfortunately has come to define him).
MacLeod’s prose is reminiscent of Annie Proulx’s: It carries much weight in its sparse, straightforward style. More please, and soon.
You can read the whole review here. And if you're in Toronto tonight, come down to IFOA and see the Giller finalists.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Brown Dwarf by K.D. Miller is a mystery and a love story told by Rae Brand, a successful mystery series writer herself, who has returned to the “scene of the crime” in Hamilton, where the crime is hers. “I didn’t exactly kill my best friend,”she writes in her adult diary. “But I destroyed her nonetheless. You don’t have to lay a finger on somebody to destroy them.” The novel is the gradual revealing of what happened in 1962 between Brenda Bray, the girl Rae Brand used to be, with the pink-stitched “Pleasingly Plump” labels in her clothes, and her disturbingly precocious friend, Jori Clements as they haunted the escarpment that summer in their Jori-obsessed pursuit of escaped serial child killer, ClarenceFrayne. Jori offers danger and excitement to brow-beaten Brenda and a strange kind of love that is too compelling to resist. Scenes of Brenda’s life with the mother she calls “Hurricane Annie”, who is one minute exploding with rage, the next offering Brenda extra syrup for her pancakes, and Brenda’s entanglement with Jori and her upwardly mobile parents—Professor Clements quizzing Brendaon her views on euthanasia while Mrs. Clements hands around lemonade—alternate with the adult Rae Brand, walking the straight line streets of Hamilton, searching for clues to unearth the truth she has buried. The story moves back and forth in time as memory does, accumulating details, unravelling the secret like an outworn garment that no longer warms or protects, the multiple strands of what really happened becoming available to be knit into a new and truer self.
A “brown dwarf” is a character in crime fiction, the villain who is far from the prime suspect, too dull to be noticed. Also, it is “an astronomical wannabe”, once on its way to becoming a star, but it doesn’t shine, “something in its makeup was lacking”. Rae Brand tracks the villain, thinking she knows who the brown dwarf is, but, as in the best mystery stories, there is more to be found.
K.D. Miller is a poet and essayist as well as a fiction writer who writes with a clear-eyed humanity and devilish wit. Her novel illuminates the brown dwarf parts of us all as Rae Brand comes to see Brenda for who she was, neither entirely guilty nor completely innocent, but “culpable”, and in seeing that finds the love in her that wanted to shine.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
In an age when prize-winners -- and Jonathan Franzen -- seem to have sucked up all of the literary glory, a talented new author and his somewhat distracted small press publisher attempt to spread the word about Combat Camera (...one of the finest Canadian novels I have ever read. - John Metcalf) only to be defeated by Jonathan Friggin' Franzen.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Though I have yet to find an online link to a press release, it was announced today that Terry Griggs's fabulous YA novel Nieve has made the shortlist for the OLA's Red Maple Award, as part of their Forest of Reading program. Over the next 5-6 months Grade sevens and eights across Ontario will be reading Nieve alongside the other nominated books, and voting on their favourite. The winner will be announced May 12, 2011 at the Festival of Trees in Toronto at the Harbourfront Centre.
I'll post more official information when we have it, but congratulations to Terry Griggs and her son/illustrator Alexander Griggs-Burr.
Friday, October 22, 2010
This launch occurred the day after the Eden Mills Writers Festival, and the day of the Giller Longlist announcement. MacLeod and Somerset read to 35-40 people at the at the London Public Library, what served as the first reading A.J. Somerset gave in support of Combat Camera. Writing in the London Free Press the next morning, Arts columnist James Reaney wrote that 353,000 missed literary excellence. Thank goodness we captured it for posterity. (Though these two should find a more professional film and sound guy: this recording does not do either justice. Apologies.)
Thursday, October 21, 2010
This was Alexander MacLeod's first public reading from Light Lifting. He'd held the book for the first time only thirteen hours before, in my hotel room in Guelph.
I've several other launch videos from this Fall -- including another from tonight's Nieve event in London -- I'll be posting in the coming days and weeks. So stay tuned.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Ray Smith's Century has just been released as an audio book from Iambik. It's a great list of international literature, and we're quite proud Ray's Century made the first launch. It deserves to be there and can be purchased in two formats for 4.99.
To purchase Century, and to listen to a preview, please go here.
The next Biblioasis title to be included in the list will be Terry Griggs's Thought You Were Dead. More, hopefully, will follow.
For the full list of Iambik titles, which includes Andrew Kaufmann's All My Friends Are Superheroes, Gordon Lish's Collected Fictions and Lydia Millet's Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, please go here.
Monday, October 18, 2010
You can read the whole interview here.
The next couple of weeks are packed with readings with our authors. Below is a list of upcoming events. Check it out to see if any of our authors will be in your city. For more details, visit our events calendar.
October 19, 2010
Alexander MacLeod at the University of New Brunswick
Alumni Memorial Building
October 20, 2010
Terry Griggs at the London Public Library
October 21st, 2010
A. J. Somerset at the Ottawa International Writers Fest
Oct. 22nd, 2010
Terence Young at the Vancouver International Writers Festival
Oct. 23, 2010
Mauricio Segura at the Vancouver International Writers Festival
Oct. 24, 2010
Alexander MacLeod at the International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront, Toronto
October 25, 2010
Alexander MacLeod and A. J. Somerset at the Drawn and Quarterly, Montreal
October 27, 2010
Alexander MacLeod and A. J. Somerset at Novel Ideas in Kingston
October 29, 2010
Alexander MacLeod at the International Festival of Authors, Harbourfront, Toronto
October 30, 2010
Alexander MacLeod at the IFOA - Giller shortlist reading
Harbourfront Centre for the Arts
Novemeber 2, 2010
Alexander MacLeod at the Travelling IFOA - Orillia
Novoember 3, 2010
A. J. Somerset at Pivot, Toronto
November 5, 2010
Alexander MacLeod at BookFest Windsor
November 6, 2010
Shane Neilson at BookFest Windsor
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Though it does not seem to be up yet at the Toronto Star's website, there is an excellent review of A.J. Somerset's Combat Camera in today's paper. Finding the Toronto Star anywhere around Emeryville Ontario is next to an impossible task, but due to my carefully cultivated network of informers -- including the author of Combat Camera himself -- I've managed to get my hands on the review, and will give you a quick tase of it here. Should the Star eventually post the whole thing online I'll make sure I post a link to that as well.
Ryan Bigge, the author of the review, writes:
Throughout the novel, Somerset alternates between the immediate and blunt trauma inflicted upon civilians in war zones and the slower-acting but no less injurious actions of a culture lacking in modesty. ... Somerset is a confident, gifted writer .... able to seamlessly switch between dialogue and Zane's internal monologue as he darts between grim horror and grim comedy. He also avoids the arid claustrophobia endemic to novels where much of the action takes place within the main character's mind.
But the most satisfying aspects of this novel involve Somerset's refusal to make obvious the numerous parallels between photography and fiction ... Such observations offer an ongoing argument between the camera lens and keyboard, with the novel eventually revealing the strengths and limitations of both.
Friday, October 15, 2010
A.J. Somerset has been busy this week. On Saturday he authored an editorial on the new Canada Reads format over at the National Post titled Bound for Dullsville, which takes the CBC to task for its crowd-sourcing, populist gambit. I'm hoping you thousands of Thirsty Readers will go to the CBC Canada Reads voter booth and recommend A.J. Somerset's Combat Camera: I'm not at all a fan of the new CBC approach (not that the old one was particularly effective either), but at least it opens the door to letting books like A.J.'s (or Ray Robertson's Moody Food; or Grant Buday's Dragonflies; or K.D. Miller's Brown Dwarf; or Terry Griggs's Thought You Were Dead: go on, vote for your favourite!) some sliver of cahnce of getting added to the list of top 40. They all could easily be there.
On Tuesday A.J. Somerset appeared on the Enthusiasticast podcast to talk about Combat Camera, pornography, war photography and Thomas McGuane. And yesterday, Christine McNair at CKCU in Ottawa interviewed A.J. Somerset about his novel, which can be heard here.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Perhaps I shouldn’t have started my Giller shortlist reading with this book. It might not get any better.
For the full review, please go here.
1. Alexander MacLeod. Light Lifting
2. Terry Griggs. Nieve.
3. Marius Kociejowski. The Pigeon Wars of Damascus
4. Ray Smith. Century
5. A.J. Somerset. Combat Camera.
* this is the first time in 50 weeks Marty Gervais's Rumrunners did not crack the list. And the first time Ray Smith's Century has. I'm not sure what's causing that spike in interest, but I am quite thankful for it. Now if only the CBC had not set a 10 year limitation on its essential Canadian novels: perhaps we'd be able to to get that book the readership it really deserves.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
This is an edited version of a post I published on Thirsty yesterday, of which I’ve since had some reason to repent. As I said in that version, keeping my mouth shut has never been a great strength. But I also must admit that I took a couple of things out of context, and aimed my cannons (water, of course, abhorring actual violence) rather wobbly and not always in the right direction. For that I apologize. I stand by the fact that there are more interesting stories to tell than “small presses struggle to keep up” BS, which isn’t true for either of the small presses (& there really are only two) on this list, though for different reasons. But that doesn’t mean I was right in calling out those I did. My apologies. Dan
It has been, without a doubt, a very exciting couple of weeks. Also one of our busiest. It is our first experience of the vaunted Giller effect. And for Biblioasis, the effect was immediate and profound. We launched Light Lifting on the 19th of September. Alex hadn't held a copy of the book in his hands until 10:30 pm on the 18th. The book had only arrived from the printer 8-10 days before then. No one, largely, cared about this book. But on the 20th, all hell broke loose. We did half a dozen interviews in our hotel rooms, and when we arrived in Toronto the next day we had two reporters from national papers waiting. A profile and three reviews ran in big newspapers across the country that first weekend. There were more than half a dozen radio interviews. More of both followed the week after. For a first collection of short fiction. I'm fairly certain it's unprecedented. Munro, Gallant, MacLeod Sr., Adderson, any others: I'm pretty sure if we ask them they would tell us that their careers began ... differently. The immediate and sustained public response to Alexander's Light Lifting is exhibit one of the Giller effect. And it does not stop there.
Before the longlist announcement, there were only 500-600 orders in the chute. Though I was very disappointed by this -- I printed 3000 copies of Light Lifting, almost unheard of for a first book of short fiction, whether published by a small press or a multinational; when I told Marc Cote this at Eden Mills he rather politely and gently questioned my sanity -- it's not actually a bad initial order for a first book of stories. Approximately half of these were set to go to Chapters, in regional and their largest format stores. Despite my consistent hectoring, and my sales manager's undoubted pressure, we were not going to get any more in there. This was further complicated by the fact that Indigo orders came in very late this year: if I remember correctly, in the case of Light Lifting, only a day or two before launch. There's not much we can do about that, alas. They have their systems in place. And though that can be a great thing when everything is steady and predictable, it's not such a good thing when the unexpected happens. As it did on September 20th, and once again on October 5th.
Everyone I talked to about this -- other publishers and publishing professionals, sales people, some booksellers -- said that the Longlist, though nice, does not mean much in terms of sales. Despite that, it resulted in hundreds of additional orders, including bump ups from Indigo and amazon -- though only after harassment -- and further orders from independents -- though in some cases only after pleading phone calls from the press publisher. On the morning of the shortlist we may have had 1100 copies or so in bookstores. That was all we could convince booksellers to take.
Only a few people expected us to make the shortlist. I certainly didn't. I didn't go to Toronto for the announcement, though I wanted to do so. But it would have resulted in disappointment, or it would have meant that I would not have been in
Three days later, our three thousand copy print run is completely gone. We have over 2400 copies in (or on their way to) stores and at wholesalers at the moment. Minus whatever we have sold over the last couple of weeks: BookNet Canada says XXX, but our primary market has always existed outside of these places. That may change now with this book. We are, I would say, in pretty good shape. By the end of next week 4000 more copies will be making their way to the warehouse, to fill the more than 2000 additional orders now waiting. We've set up dozens of interviews, are in the process of following up on more than hundreds of review copies, setting up additional events. The only thing that slipped off my radar this week -- and I only think about it now as I write this -- is the damn Globe & Mail ad I meant to put in. But it can wait until next. I would say, largely, we seem to be on top of things.
Unless, of course, you read the articles and
Below is a list, by no means exhaustive, of some stories I’d personally like to see covered this Giller season. If there are any others out there, please add them to this thread in the comments.
- The Small Press argument. Almost everyone from the Globe to Q&Q have painted the four independent presses (by which we largely mean non-Bertelsman) with the same brush, when there is considerable difference in size and approach between us. Anansi and Thomas Allen are not small presses. Anansi has made it clear many times they don’t like to be tarred with that particular brush, and I think this is probably fair. To both of us. There’s such profound differences between the nominated presses, that an article focusing on this might not only be interesting, it would very likely prove illuminating.
- Gaspereau Press: the real story here is not whether or not they can keep up. The real story is what happens when commercial demand meets artisanal craftsmanship. Perhaps more than with any other publisher this year, what we have here is a clash of opposing values. I, for one, would find an article on this fascinating.
- Who is actually having trouble keeping up? I’m not sure anyone is, but since it seems to be an area of concern, a little proper digging please.
- Something happened here. The jury has said that they did not consciously set out to put together an independent list, that they never looked at who published what. I’m inclined to believe them. Is this a blip, a jury-related aberration? Or might this be the first sign that the internationalization of the jury process has opened up what has up-to-now been a relatively closed playing field? Compare and contrast to the Roger’s Trust Fiction Prize, and what the Governor General’s Award does next week. What does that tell us?
- What will this Giller recognition for independent publishing in Canada mean for the industry as a whole? For independent publishers? Anything?
- There’s been plenty of talk about what we’re going to have trouble doing. I’m guessing we must also be doing a few things right. Discuss.
- What might this Giller finalist selection mean for the short story in Canada? Depends who wins, I guess. Has its time come?
- Totally self-serving storyline: Biblioasis has one book on this shortlist but two authors, having published Kathleen Winter's first book of fiction in 2008. What the hell is a Biblioasis anyway? And where the hell is Emeryville? I just peeked through my closed blinds, and there are no cameramen stationed outside my window. Perhaps they can't find me?