Monday, November 28, 2011

Learning to Celebrate Life: Ray Robertson makes Globe Top 100, reviewed in The Gazette

Well, the Globe's Best 100 book list came out on Friday, and we're proud to announce that both Ray Robertson's Why Not? and Clark Blaise's The Meagre Tarmac ranked among them. What else? Ian McGillis of the Montreal Gazette gave Ray's book a thoughtful going-over, comparing it to Sarah Bakewell's NBCC Award-winning How to Live, and describing the part Ray's book plays in the "mini revival" of "the humanist essay with practical application."

Here's a taste:

"The book as a whole is ... heartfelt, funny, rigorous, practical without ever being preachy. Robertson has the born essayist's way with an aphorism ('There's no age more conformist than youth'), and his catholic range is contagious: when he pulls in Lord Byron and Jimmie Rodgers as back-to-back sources, he not only evinces no strain, he makes you think of a romantic poet and a yodelling country singer as natural soul brothers. Two of the longest quotes in the book appear close together: One is from Baudelaire, the other a mock-news piece on teenage masturbation from the The Onion, and by the time we reach them, Robertson has us thinking of them as equally worthy sources of wisdom."

For the rest of the review, check out the Gazette online.

And hey! If you're anywhere near Burlington tomorrow, you should check Ray out as he reads for the Book and Author Series.
LaSalle Park Pavilion,
50 North Shore Blvd.,
9:30 AM.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What's blue and white and read all over?

The books section of this week's Western News, that's what. If you're in London-town and have a chance to pick up UWO's news mag, be sure to flip to their new "Read All Over" book supplement, as spearheaded by Jason Winders. The supp. features a lovely write-up of David Hickey, plus shout-outs to all those wonderful Western peers who helped make the video trailer for A Very Small Something.

If you haven't seen the trailer yet, it's now up on And if you're near the Children's Museum on Saturday Dec. 17th, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for David, who will be (among other things!) organizing a bubble gum scavenger hunt and a craft session for local kiddles.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Rosenblum: Short Story Specialist.

In advance of tonight's event at McNally Robinson, The Winnipeg Free Press interviewed Rebecca Rosenblum, calling her a "Short Story Specialist". What does Rebecca want you to know about The Big Dream?

That it exists? Um, that it’s a book about people who work, who have jobs and lives and fall in love and get sick and eat sandwiches and care about each other, but sometimes not enough or not in the right ways."

If you are in Winnipeg be sure to join Rebecca and Ray Robertson at McNally Robinson tonight at 7:00pm!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

After-Dinner Games for the After-Dinner Man

Hey, Toronto! Looking for something to take the edge off your shovel? The starch out of your shirtcollar? Come on out to Type Books, this Thursday, for a little Wage Slave Recreation. Details below.

What, pray tell, is the After-Dinner Man? Let us consult the Glossary. “In the early 17th century,” say our Authors, “a man who returned to his place of work after dinner was to be pitied; either the after-dinner man was overly devoted to labor, or else he had too much of it.” Sound familiar? Yes indeed: quoting once more from our text, “we are all after-dinner men and and women, now.” So to provide, as is their goal eternally, some small portion of pleasure to their loyal Readers as they depart from (or perhaps return to) their places of employ, Mssrs. Kingwell, Glenn, and Seth have decided to throw a PARTY. Yes, my friends, a small gathering, a respite from labour, and the chance to fĂȘte the Glossary with GAMES and MERRIMENT. We dearly hope you can join us.

WHAT: An After-Dinner Party for the After-Dinner Man: The Toronto Launch of The Wage Slave's Glossary
WHO: Hosted by Mark Kingwell and Seth
WHERE: Type Books, 883 Queen West
WHEN: Thursday Nov. 17, 6-8 PM
CONTACT: Tara Murphy, 519 968 2206,

Admission is free; however, because of the nature of the event, we ask that you RSVP to Tara at

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Laura Boudreau and Rebecca Rosenblum reviewed in the Toronto Star

Sarah Murdoch, at the Toronto Star, gave a quick shout out to Laura Boudreau's Suitable Precautions saying: "Suitable Precautions (Biblioasis; 182 pages; $19.95) is a debut collection of 13 stories by Laura Boudreau, a Toronto writer who lives in London, England. The writing is accomplished, she has a good ear for dialogue and there is a dark thread of unease winding through these urban and angsty stories. The press material trumpets that "We're Not in CanLit Any More" and it's true: No gazing thoughtfully at wheat fields sullies Boudreau's prose."

Look out for a forthcoming review of Suitable Precautions in Geist.

The Toronto Star
also wrote a short review of Rebecca Rosenblum's The Big Dream:
"What a fine idea to write a short-story collection situated in the petri dish where so many of us spend our days: the workplace. The Big Dream (Biblioasis; 196 pages; $19.95) is set at Dream Inc., a lifestyle-magazine publisher, and Rebecca Rosenblum's 13 stories deal with the backbiting, flirtation, rivalries, schemes and friendships that define every corporate culture. This is the Toronto writer's second collection, Her first, Once, in 2008, won the Metcalf-Rooke Award for Fiction, and was praised by reviewers."

Monday, November 07, 2011

Bruce Jay Friedman: Jaunty and Energetic

Adding their voices to the numerous good reviews for Lucky Bruce, The Washington Independent Review of Books says that "Friedman's writing is jaunty and energetic, the journalist at play." See what else they have to say here.

Laura Wells over at
The East Hampton Star also reviewed Lucky Bruce, calling it "a true testament to decades of hard work, of perseverance ... in true Don Quixote fashion, Friedman is fascinated by everything going on around him."Check out the rest of Wells' review.

Keep an eye on NY1 tomorrow for an interview with Bruce Jay Friedman on
The New York Times Close Up that aired over the weekend.

Rebecca Rosenblum: Master of Minutia (and a Hard Right Hook?)

We are proud to report that Biblioboxer Rebecca Rosenblum slugged it out with Dani Couture last night at The Literary Death Match, Toronto. Live from the blow-by-blow: "Round 2: Rebecca Rosenblum (Maclean’s “CanLit Rookie of the Year”), and ReLit award-winner Dani Couture. Couture, suffering from bronchitis, led-off and had the packed crowd on the edge of their collective seats with her excerpt from her novel Alaoma. Rosenblum struck back with a fantastic selection from her book The Big Dream."

What did the judges say? Find out on the Death Match Site, and thanks to Julie Wilson & Todd Zuniga for all their organizing, refereeing, blood-mopping, etc.

The Big Dream has also been receiving the love (not war!) from our friends in the media. Check out Mark Paterson's review at The Rover, where he says: "Rosenblum is an entertaining master of minutia, she has a prodigious ability to take ordinary details and restyle or adorn them in just the slightest way, transforming the mundane into the eccentric. The stories in The Big Dream come alive with orange-juice stained pillows, Zellers jeans, and jam sandwiches ... The Big Dream thoroughly succeeds ... Rebecca Rosenblum is a gifted chronicler of our time."

Salty Ink also praises "Rosenblum as an original, dialogue-strong stylist among Canadian short story writers," and the site features an extensive Q&A on Rebecca's own rose-coloured view of the world, writing, music, what have you. Get the full scoop here.

Last but certainly not least: the National Post's review calls The Big Dream a "clever, penetrating collection" that showcases her "shrewd, razor-sharp, yet deeply compassionate" style. If you haven't checked out The Big Dream yet, it's available online and in better bookstores everywhere.

Amanda Jernigan & David Hickey at Type, Tonight!

Hello, Toronto. Missing IFOA? The hustle? The crush? The hospitality suite? Yep. Me too. Every day should be IFOA. And though we at the Bibliomanse don't have the budget for complimentary single malt, we can afford some pretty great poesy, and we're giving it to you as a post-IFOA present. Come hear Amanda Jernigan and David Hickey at Type (wonderful Type!) tonight at 6.

Want to know more about Open Air Bindery? Check out the review that just came out in the Western News, where they say that "Hickey’s poetry is not only light on its feet, but rich in substance." (Get it? Feet?)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Ray Robertson on Tapestry

Ray Robertson appeared on CBC's Tapestry today on a program on Reasons to Live to discuss Why Not?. It's an exceptional interview, which you can listen to here.

An article in the University of Toronto newspaper also sheds some light on Why Not?:

At most, you’ll find a kindred spirit in this book; at least, you’ll add a few shiny new quotations to your collection. A University of Toronto grad (and a former editor-in-chief of the newspaper), Robertson read his share of Kant and Hume. He found a large part of the heavily analytic philosophy program to be “not enough about what life is really about”, and turned his talents to writing. It came to be that “novels were a sort of philosophy co-op program” for him.

Why Not is, in a sense, a practical application of philosophy, but that’s not to say he made any sacrifices stylistically. Straightforward and never shy, the reader feels welcome and respected as Robertson plays the role of earnest life professor. He remains true to his literary tone in real life. “All the writers I like have voices. Language and the way they sound was always important to me,” Robertson said. “I think of myself as a sort of highbrow lowbrow. My needs are simple, but with that comes an honesty.”

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the fifteen reasons is the antithesis of life. “I didn’t realize until about three quarters of the way through the book there was going to be a chapter called Death. That kind of snuck up on me, but it seemed appropriate, because no matter how wonderful things are you’re still going to die.” It’s that sort of off-the-cuff realism that makes Why Not an entertaining and insightful read.

You can read the rest here.

Photo by Marty Gervais, taken this past weekend at Bookfest Windsor.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Day of the Dead at Dora Keogh

On this year's Dia de Muertos, Biblioasis and the Consulate General of Mexico are proud to launch the seventh volume of our International Translation Series: Love Poems, by Jaime Sabines. Regarded as one of the major poets of the twentieth century, with admirers known to overflow auditoriums and to whisper raptly along at his readings, Sabines attained a status in Mexico that few poets achieve in life. His Love Poems are now available for the first time as a collection in English. Join Irish-Canadian poet Colin Carberry as we celebrate his spectacular new translation.

Admission is FREE. The event will be in English and Spanish.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

"Clark Blaise Maps the Indo-American Experience"

The following interview ran in The National Post this morning. Thanks to Jason Rehel. Keep your fingers crossed for Clark tonight at the Writers' Trust Gala, where the winner of this year's fiction prize will be announced.
* * *

Clark Blaise is a border-crosser.

In life, Blaise moved between Fargo, N.D., where he was born to Canadian parents, Montreal, Iowa City, Toronto, Calcutta, Delhi and San Francisco, among other cities. In his literary output, Blaise flits across even more divides, between generations and races, regional boundaries within nation states — even the boundary between corporeal solidity and spiritual boundlessness. So it’s no surprise that Margaret Atwood’s blurb on his latest book, The Meagre Tarmac (Biblioasis, $19.95), calls Blaise a “master border-crosser.”

“Borders themselves are very close to the short-story form,” Blaise says in an interview in Toronto during the recent International Festival of Authors. “They compress, they keep things within a tight structure. And I think maybe I am more comfortable in the short story form than the novel. In the short story, the boundaries are pretty well defined and you have to stay within them. And I enjoy that compression, where everything counts, every act has a consequence. And the consequences of any action in a short story are manifest, especially if you’re a sensitive reader.”

The Meagre Tarmac is a collection of 11 stories, some grouped, as the first three are, into mini-narratives — all concerning the sutures and broken seams of Indo-American families who’ve immigrated to the United States in the 1970s in search of prosperity amid burgeoning technological innovation in northern California. There’s the patriarch who, because of personal shame related to a sexual dalliance before his wife and son arrived in the U.S., is tearing apart his family 16 years later by insisting on a move back to India. It’s a story told arrestingly from the father’s, mother’s and most jarringly by a 13-year-old daughter, Pramila’s perspectives.

“It used to be called among Indian immigrants ‘12 and out.’ When your daughter reaches 12, if you don’t take her back to India, you’ve lost her,” Blaise says. “But those people who didn’t go back, their children are doing what North American children do; they break away from their family, they don’t want to go back and live with their parents and they don’t want to have their parents come to live with them. But that’s the way it is in India. That’s the overriding arc of this book — that they prospered here, but they can’t stay.”

Later in the book, another male household head recounts spending his $250,000 dot-com bonus saving an uncle back in Calcutta, losing his immediate family back in the U.S. in the process. We revisit him six years later in the very next story, wandering and lonely, after recognizing his own folly during a sojourn in Tuscany.

Finally, the collection closes with a successful executive who’s played the North American game successfully, accumulated vast wealth and a network of friends and acquaintances, even embracing the ephemera of American cultural life, only to give it all up while yearning for “Old Calcutta.”

“These people are missing one thing in life, and that is that India could prepare them for success in America, but it could not prepare them for happiness in America, personal satisfactions, sexual gratification, marriage,” Blaise says. “Those were all to be given by parents. Arranged, and maybe love would follow, maybe it wouldn’t. All the men are, in some way, failed as fathers, husbands, lovers. They are all looking for something.”

Blaise, 71, resides now in San Francisco with his wife, writer Bharati Mukherjee, a tenured faculty member at Berkeley. They’ve been married since 1964, and have two sons. Until the recent California budget crisis, Blaise was himself teaching at Berkeley as an adjunct professor in creative writing, after a distinguished academic career that included an eight-year stint as director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2009 for his contributions to writing and scholarship, and for founding Concordia University’s creative writing program in the late 1960s, Blaise is now widely considered to be one of the foremost practitioners of the short-story form. With The Meagre Tarmac, which is shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, due to be announced in Toronto Nov. 1, even he, while being quite modest about it, feels he’s reached a new level.

“In this book, I had in my life for the first time the experience of being a director. It was like having actors milling around the wings waiting for their cue to come on. Most of the times you have to methodically grind it out. ‘What would she say now? What would he do now?’ This time, they all came with a backstory.

“Of course, I also have 50 years experience with Indo-Americans and Indo-Canadians, struggling here, and not struggling, maybe even succeeding here,” he says. “And I’ve seen many happy families, but you know, as Tolstoy said, you don’t write about them.”

It’s in the interplay between events, deeds, thoughts and dialogue between family members being ripped apart by the stressors of immigration that Blaise tells a heartbreaking group of stories almost all concerned about loss, estrangement, heart ache and alienation. In the end, the master border-crosser doesn’t seek to make any political points about assimilation vs. ethno-diversity; his stories, affairs of the heart, especially as they cross thick, irreversible borders, prove to be far messier, and far more human in scope and interest.

“The dream of immigration, I suppose, is to find yourself at home in a new place. All of them [the characters in The Meagre Tarmac] find themselves successful in this new place, but it’s missing something,” he says. “They didn’t have the Archie and Veronica moments: making out in the back seat of a car, the songs, the movies, the sports. They didn’t have all the things that make North America North America.

“They didn’t have the trivia. And you can never catch up with the trivia. You can integrate the great ideas, but you can never integrate the trivia.”