Monday, October 31, 2011

Post-IFOA, Pre-BookFest

Some authors are straggling home. Some are sticking around. And some are even headed to Windsor. Interested in BookFest? Dan talks about it to Ted Shaw of the Windsor Star here. I also wanted to post a few photos from the Jernigan/Hickey reading of last Thursday, a) because it was AWESOME, and b) because of the funny. Kudos to Waterloo for being a poetry hotspot. And in the middle of IFOA, no less!

If you're looking for your Jernigan fix and you're in Hamilton this Thursday, check out Bryan Prince at 7 PM. Also of note in Hammy-town: Ray Robertson reads with Marina Endicott and JonAmo Lawson at the Carnegie Gallery, 7 PM, TOMORROW.

Photos by John Cull.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Roald Dahl Day Roundup

Biblioasis poet & children's author David Hickey, with his lovely partner-in-crime Erica Leighton, dazzled children and parents alike yesterday at the Gladstone. The audience was small (literally!) but the enthusiasm big, and everyone had a great time.

For those Bibliofans out there who plan, like me, to be skulking around the docks of Toronto this weekend, you might want to check out the following events. Or if you're in Hamilton, Owen Sound, or Windsor, keep an eye out for Clark Blaise at one of IFOA's satellite events:

Hamilton Art Gallery, Oct. 27, 7 PM: Reading from the Writers' Trust Nominees
Best Western on the Bay, Owen Sound, Oct 30, 2 PM: Reading with Clark Blaise, Wayne Johnston, Madeleine Thien, and Meg Wolitzer.
Art Gallery of Windsor, Nov. 4, 8 PM: Reading with Clark Blaise, Brian Francis, Will Ferguson, and Sarita Mandanna.

And for the Torontonians ...

ROUND TABLE: Building Character
Friday, October 28, 8:00pm, 2011
Character: round or flat, protagonist and antagonist, sympathetic and the antihero; join a conversation with Anita Rau Badami, Clark Blaise, Madeleine Thien, and D.W. Wilson on the development of literary characters. Moderator: James Grainger.

READING: Coady, van der Pol, Wells, Wolitzer

Saturday, October 29, 4:00pm, 2011
Lynn Coady, Marieke van der Pol, Zachariah Wells, and Meg Wolitzer read from their latest works. Michael Lista hosts.

READING: Marx, McWatt, Wells, Wilson

Sunday, October 30, 12:00pm, 2011
Patricia Marx, Tessa McWatt, Zachariah Wells, and D.W. Wilson read from their latest works. Mark Medley hosts.

See you there! TKM.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

David Hickey, Roald Dahl & A Very Small Something

This Saturday Biblioasis joins Small Print Toronto to launch their latest children's title, David Hickey's and Alexander Griggs-Burr's wonderful tale of bubblegum and belonging, A Very Small Something. Part of the International Roald Dahl Day celebrations, David Hickey will be reading at the Gladstone Hotel at noon, as part of a day of festivities which includes a giant peach scavenger hunt, a bubble gum blowing contest, a film presentation of James and the Giant Peach and a writing contest. $10 for an All Dahl Pass.

In anticipation, David has put together this book trailer, which I must say is one of the best I've seen. It gives you a great sense of the story and Alexander's wonderful illustrations.

If you would like to listen to a full version of the story, please visit the book website, and click on the link.

for now, the trailer:

A Very Small Something from David Hickey on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hello, Vancouver

It seems every scribbler since Sophocles is descending on Vancouver today. We at the Bibliomanse are, well, we're still at the Bibliomanse, which is still in Emeryville, which is still very far from Vancouver ... but! We're pleased to say that Clark Blaise will be carrying the torch for Team Biblioasis at this year's 2011 Games. We're also excited to note that Anakana Schofield, who is publishing her first novel Malarky with us in spring of 2012, will participate in a panel discussion on Sunday. Take a look at the events below, and if you need a break from stalking Kate Beaton (which, um, is what I would be doing), then drop in and say hi.--TKM.


Quebec / United States
Canada / United States
Host: John Burns
Friday, October 21, 2011 - 10:00am - 11:30am
Studio 1398
$17 / $8.50 for student groups (Buy Tickets Online)

Canada is populated largely by immigrants, all with stories that carry shadows of what they’ve left behind, and how they’ve been welcomed to their new land. In his new novel, Peter Behrens transports the O’Briens introduced in his award-winning first novel from Ireland to Canada. Clark Blaise’s collection of short fiction tackles the struggle between tradition and modernity faced by Indian immigrants to America. And Ling Zhang, whose last novel became the highest-grossing film in Chinese history, gives voice to Chinese immigrants to Canada’s West Coast in her multi-generational saga. Join three compelling storytellers whose fiction embraces the possibility of success in a new land, where roots are shallow and cultural identity and personal identity are often at odds.


Canada / United States
Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 10:30am
Studio 1398
$17 (Buy Tickets Online)

When a writer releases a volume called Collected Stories, 1955–2010, you know that this is a writer with “legs,” who has certainly stood the test of time. When an author who has published 20 books of fiction and non-fiction releases his first collection of short stories in nearly 20 years (The Meagre Tarmac), you also know that you’re looking at great talent.Rudy Wiebe and Clark Blaise, now both in their 70s, sit down together this morning to talk about their lives as writers, the craft of the short story, the “Canadian experience” and anything else that leaps into their fertile, inquisitive and sharp minds.


Sunday, October 23, 2011 - 4:00pm
Waterfront Theatre
$17 (Buy Tickets Online)

Vancouver’s 125th Birthday Party continues and this time we are celebrating our city’s literature and the republication of 10 lost Vancouver literary gems, ranging from the classic oral history of Daphne Marlatt and Carole Itter's Opening Doors to Vancouver's most notorious unsolved murder mystery in Edward Starkins' Who Killed Janet Smith? Come armed with your “Best of VanLit” lists as host Michael Turner talks with Vancouver literary devotees Anakana Scofield, Stephen Osbourne, Dan Francis and Jean Barman about what makes our city’s literature great and what titles you must have on your shelf.

A reception at The Dockside Lounge at the Granville Island Hotel to follow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Claire Tacon Launch at the Dora Keogh Tomorrow (Thursday, October 13th) Eve

Attention all Toronto-area Biblioasis-o-philes: we'll be in Toronto tomorrow evening to launch Claire Tacon's Metcalf-Rooke winning In the Field at the Dora Keogh (141 Danforth Ave). Start time: 7 pm. Attendance mandatory, without a note from the doctor. And no, attending Dani Couture's launch of Algoma at the Gladstone tonight is not a valid excuse: if we were in Toronto, we'd be going to both as well. (We'll catch her here in Windsor in the next few weeks.) It's book launch season, folks: suck it up.

Looking forward to seeing (most of) you there,

Dan & Tara

PS: Please pass along to all non-Biblioasis connected folk: they are welcome as well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The New York Times (Daily) reviews Lucky Bruce. Again.

In what is certainly a first for a press-published book, The New York Times has reviewed Bruce Jay Friedman's literary memoir Lucky Bruce for a second time in three days. If Sunday's New York Times Book Review review was very positive, Dwight Garner's New York Times Daily review, out today, is even more so. If, as James Baldwin said to him, "You're not a writer until you have a shelf," then Friedman is a hell of a writer indeed, and Lucky Bruce is a wonderful addition to that ever-expanding shelf.

Garner writes:

Funny novels, like funny movies, rarely gain traction with prize committees. “People assume that it’s the gloomy buggers that are the serious ones,” Martin Amis has said, “but in fact, anyone who has ever been anywhere in fiction is funny.” A great comic actor, if he or she sticks around long enough, might win not an actual Oscar but a consolation prize: a lifetime achievement award. The National Book Awards need something similar for America’s comic writers. Among the first I’d nominate is Bruce Jay Friedman, whose prose, over the past five decades, has mostly been a pure pleasure machine.

There’s a bit of Larry David in Mr. Friedman, whose best novels include “Stern” (1962) and “A Mother’s Kisses” (1964), and whose vinegar-and-oil short work can be found in “The Collected Short Fiction of Bruce Jay Friedman” (1995). There’s a bit of Joseph Heller and Nora Ephron and Peter De Vries and Calvin Trillin and early Philip Roth in him too.

Mr. Friedman, also a playwright and screenwriter, called one of his plays “a tense comedy,” and that phrase describes his best fiction. It’s a bundle of neuroses. The Friedman book I hold most dear is “The Lonely Guy’s Book of Life” (1978), which was made into a mediocre Steve Martin and Charles Grodin movie. At times when I’ve felt like one of its sad-sack antiheroes — luckless, friendless, dumped, alone — that book has been high comic nourishment. It makes low-level depression and ineptitude seem stylish and ironic, almost a supreme way of being in the world.

Mr. Friedman returns now with “Lucky Bruce: A Literary Memoir,” a buoyant book. He is 81, but his prose, in terms of its vigor, is still in its 30s. “Lucky Bruce” is about a kid from the Bronx who finds early literary fame; fritters away some of his prime years, dabbling in movies and theater; makes and loses a load of money; eats very well; has close and funny friends; sleeps with more than his allotment of beautiful women; and, agreeably for his readers, has a way with anecdotes.

The author is big and gregarious; he seems like the kind of guy who might, out of the blue, decide to give you noogies. That’s what he essentially did to Norman Mailer, at a party at Mailer’s town house in the late 1960s. In return he was head-butted by Mailer, whose wife, Beverly, yelled, “Kill the bastard, Norman.” The pair took it outside. Mr. Friedman got in a few belly punches and won the fight, but Mailer bit him in the neck. Mr. Friedman ended up at Lenox Hill Hospital, on the receiving end of a tetanus shot.

There are a lot of stories like that one in “Lucky Bruce.” Mr. Friedman warned his friend Mario Puzo not to call his book “The Godfather.” (“Sounds domestic.”) He accidentally shushed Edmund Wilson at the theater. Al Pacino said to him admiringly, “Some men can wear a hat.” James Baldwin said to him, “You’re not a writer until you have a shelf.” Kurt Vonnegut asked, “Can you teach me how to hang out?” Philip Roth once called out to him, “Remember, Saul Bellow am de daddy of us all.” (Mr. Friedman thought to himself, “I did not feel he was my daddy.”)

Mr. Friedman criticizes himself for name-dropping in “Lucky Bruce,” but he needn’t worry: the stories are good ones. And he never strays far from his own shapely life story.

He decided to be a writer because he thought it might help him with women, and his early role model was J. D. Salinger. Mr. Friedman sold one of the first stories he wrote to The New Yorker. A letter he received from the magazine read, “All of us here are delighted with your story and we would like to publish it in the magazine.” Mr. Friedman’s response was, he writes, “All of us here in the Bronx are delighted that all of you there at The New Yorker are pleased with my story.”

By the time he was in his late 20s, Mr. Friedman had three sons, an unhappy marriage, a house on Long Island and a job editing low-brow men’s adventure magazines. He wrote his first novel, “Stern,” on subways and commuter trains.

“I recall writing the book in a heat,” he says, “as if I was being chased down an alley.”

The book sold only 6,000 copies, but its editor, Robert Gottlieb, assured Mr. Friedman that they were “the right copies.” The author later wondered, “Would it have been so awful to sell a few hundred thousand of the ‘wrong’ copies?”

Literary fame came; so did the smell of money, coming from the film business. Mr. Friedman wrote the screenplays for “Splash” and “Stir Crazy.” One of his short stories, adapted by Neil Simon, became the Elaine May film “The Heartbreak Kid.” He had cameos in three Woody Allen films and palled around with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood and Richard Pryor.

Pryor asked Mr. Friedman if he wanted to get high. The author responded by explaining why, as he put it, “there were no (or very few) Jewish junkies.” The three reasons: “Jews need eight hours of sleep”; “They must have fresh orange juice in the morning”; “They have to read the entire N.Y. Times.”

In his best work, Mr. Friedman has always bounced his comedy off dark human action and emotion, and those things are here too. He worries that he was not a good father to his sons.

“I’d always felt shabby,” he writes, “about not doing a good enough job in looking after my father before his death.” He berates himself for career missteps.

“I’m a great fan of comeback stories,” Mr. Friedman writes in “Lucky Bruce.” His book is a pretty good comeback story of its own.