Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Globe Top 100: Announcing Mr. Glover

It seems the arachnids have netted a few more late-season plaudits for Mr. Glover, whose remarkable Attack of the Copula Spiders and Other Essays on Writing was included in this year's Globe Top 100 list. (If you follow the link it's right at the bottom, split over pages four and five). 

This would be wonderful news in any case, yes, but the inclusion also also gave me the chance to revisit one of my favourite pull quotes from the year (courtesy of Mr. Charles Wilkins). Mr. Wilkins had been skeptical of Mr. Glover at first, a smidge apprehensive of his tone. And yet? 
"By the time I reached the penultimate chapter," he concludes, "I had decided that every literate person in the country should be reading Glover’s essays.”

Well. Whaddya think about that. Every literate person, he says. A quote like that makes my job easy ... and has the added advantage of being true. Congratulations to Doug. It's a well-deserved tip of the hat. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Other Word: Scott Esposito and Daniel Medin interview Stephen Henighan on Couto, Sebastian, Canadian translation, and more.

Stephen Henighan, Editor
Biblioasis International
Translation Series.
Earlier this week Scott Esposito and Daniel Medin featured Biblioasis's International Translation Series editor Stephen Henighan on their podcast "That Other Word," which they do periodically for the Center for the Art of Translation in San Francisco. They discuss what Henighan calls his “deeply-rooted rootlessness,” as well as "the Canadian relationship to English and translation, and the challenges of procuring and producing translations for the Canadian market ... Mia Couto’s “rural modernism,” his literary influences, and why the author travels well, despite being essentially “untranslatable” ... [and the] comical and haphazard story of how he came to learn Romanian, and describes the process of translating and trying to publish Mihail Sebastian’s The Accident." You can listen to the full podcast here, and you're of course formally invited to check out the International Translation Series website for a full list of titles. 

The Agenda with Steve Paiken: Mark Kingwell on Coarse Discourse and the Politics of Luck

Unruly Voices author Mark Kingwell has been chatting with TVO's Steve Paiken on The Agenda. The first segment aired Nov. 5th and is called "Coarse Discourse"; the second aired yesterday and is called "The Politics of Luck." They go handsomely together. Enjoy!

Nov. 5th: Mark Kingwell on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paiken ("Coarse Discourse")
Nov. 27th: Mark Kingwell on TVO's The Agenda with Steve Paiken ("The Politics of Luck")

Friday, November 23, 2012

Barbed 'n arrestin Laura Boudreau

This arrived in my inbox this morning courtesy of Laura Boudreau ... and Gizoogle.

Suitable Precautions 

When a biatch uncovers a fortune up in tha attic, her ass begins a pilgrimage dat takes her ta tha knife-edge between blessin n' curse. Two fatherless lil pimps think Mista Muthafuckin Crisander is not a god damn thang mo' than a creepy next door neighbour until they nearly bust a cap up in his thugged-out lil' pot-bellied pig, n' learn tha secretz of his thugged-out lil' past fo' realz. A lil' ho yammers bout grade six, jackin blunts, n' her sister’s no-chicken diet while bein photographed by a internizzle pornographer.

Da storiez of Suitable Precautions is fresh n' hustlin. Da charactas within em exude a bitta beauty fo' realz. And while they lives may be derailed, refronted, celebrated, and questioned, what tha fuck holdz em together is what tha fuck also bindz tha stories up in dis collection: dat is, a sense fo' tha strange, tenuous fragilitizzle of human bonds. Suitable Precautions be a incisive n' movin debut, n' Laura Boudreau a voice ta be remembered.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mark Kingwell on The Commentary

On Wednesday afternoons, most people tend to start feeling a little sluggish. A little run down. A little ready for yet another cup of coffee to stimulate their brains into action.

If you are looking for something to zap your mind into intellectual alertness this afternoon, and coffee isn't doing the trick, we recommend taking a listen to Mark Kingwell, discussing his latest book Unruly Voices with Joseph Planta on The Commentary.

Here's a link, just click, relax, listen, and learn.

UPDATE: Mark Kingwell was also recently featured on Harper's Magazine's website as part of their "six questions" feature. You can find that interview here.

All the Voices Cry YES! Announcing Alice Petersen, Winner of the QWF First Fiction Prize

Winner of the Concordia University
First Book Prize

It was with great delight that we caught Alice Petersen's name floating around the twitterverse this morning, and it's with even greater delight that we announce her 2012 story collection (All the Voices Cry) was last night declared the winner of the QWF's First Book Prize. Congratulations to Alice! Twas well-earned, madam. To celebrate, here's a teeny tiny excerpt from one of my favourite stories in the collection. All the Voices Cry is also this month's featured book on the Biblioasis website, so should you desire, it can be yours for 30% off. Enjoy!

from All the Voices Cry

Winner of the QWF Concordia University First Book Prize

"Scottish Annie"

ON SATURDAYS AT FIVE Archie McLean visits the retirement home to take requests at the piano. Each week the seniors try to trip him. “Robins and Roses,” they’ll say, naming some old tune that they used to dance to on the wind-up. They can’t catch Archie out. Archie knows them all and he sings in that old-fashioned radio way, leaning back on the piano stool, nodding to the ladies. At the end, he opens the piano lid right up and plays an extra fast bumblebee song. I’m usually out in the garden when Archie gets back after the tea and scones, and then he leans over the hedge to tell me about it. 
“Well Ruby,” says Archie, “I think we wowed them today.” It always makes me laugh. You would think he was a whole orchestra the way he talks. Archie is a nice young man. Genteel, my mother would have said. We play Scrabble on Wednesday nights. He’s been my neighbour for nearly fifteen years now. Back in March, he celebrated his fiftieth birthday, and I made an eggless chocolate cake, because Archie doesn’t believe in exploiting the hens. He served me a slice and said, “so when’s your birthday, Ruby?” 
“Get away with you,” I said, “a lady doesn’t admit to her age until she’s in for a telegram from the Queen. All I’m saying is I’m not old enough to be your mother. Have some more cake.” 
Last week, when he had finished toting up the score for the word umbilical, Archie told me that he has to move, because his landlord wants to sell the house. I was very sorry to hear that. Archie has been a great friend to me. 
After mother died, three years ago next February, Archie got me started volunteering at the retirement home. He said it was better than hiding in the potting shed. At the time, I said that I wasn’t hiding and that I’d think about it. Now I take the seniors out on wee trips in the car. Archie is the piano man and I am the driving jukebox. They tell me where they want to go, and I take them, within four hours and within reason. Often they like to go back to where they were born, or where they’ve had picnics in the past. One afternoon I drove ninety-year-old Willy Callaghan to Oamaru. We idled outside a renovated villa on Vine Street while Mr. Callaghan wept for the loss of the corrugated iron sheets on the roof and the front room where he had been born. I said that a nice conservatory full of tomatoes was nothing to cry about. Still, I let him have a good old weep, and then we went for an ice cream and came home. It takes me a year to get through all the seniors, so some of the older ones don’t come more than once. 
When I arrived up at the home last week, Mrs. Webster was waiting for me in the foyer, all wrapped up warm for her outing. She always wears mohair cardies that her niece from up Ranfurly way knits for her. The light catches in the hairs. 
“You’re glowing, Mrs. Webster,” I said, and she was pleased. Mohair keeps your chest warm, but it’s not cheap, and it gets stringy. Better to mix it with a bit of wool. 
“Anyway,” I said, “where are we off to today?” Mrs. Web- ster wanted to go to the nursery at Blueskin Bay, to buy a miniature rose for her bedroom. She had a coupon from the paper. They do love coupons. So off we went, out through Pine Hill and over the motorway to the nursery. She got a wee apricot rose to match her curtains. I almost got one too, but then I thought it was silly to get over-excited about plants that don’t survive the winter. 
Mrs. Webster was sitting in the car looking at the rose bush on her lap. Then she looked at me quite shyly. 
“Do you think we could take the road along the coast, through Seacliff?” she asked. 
“Of course we can, Mrs. Webster,” I said. “My wish is your command.” So away we went, winding along above the sea, past the rabbit holes in the yellow clay banks and the twisted macrocarpa trees along the fence lines. 
“Seacliff always makes me sad,” I said, just to make conversation. It’s the kind of thing that people say when they drive through Seacliff. The paddocks there fall so steeply towards the sea that it’s hard to tell how a sheep might hold on in the wind, let alone a farmer on a bike. And you think you might hear some ghost from the asylum wailing away in the breeze. It was a grand old place, the asylum at Seacliff, majestic and crenellated. They had proper lunatics in those days.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Pronovost Day

Photo Courtesy Dan Janisse,
The Windsor Star.
We're in a festive mood (an icy mood?) over here at the shop. Marcel Pronovost Day is making airwaves courtesy of the CBC and Councillor Percy Hatfield, who's our emissary from the Mayor's Office. There's a cake coming that looks like a Red Wings jersey (and while it never occurred to me to compare the taste of fondant to the taste of wool)—there's a spiffy little write-up in the Windsor Star courtesy of Jim Parker—and of course, we're preparing for a BIG PARTY tonight over at Walkerville Brewery. 

There's also good news for all you devoted-yet-perhaps-through-circumstances-skint hockey fans out there: lots of opportunites forthcoming to win a free copy of A Life in Hockey. Spent all your money on shinpads for the kids? Marcel's autobiography could be yours still. Just do any or all of the following:

1. Enter the Goodreads giveaway via the widget to the left.
2. Email with your name and telephone number. Include "Marcel Pronovost Giveaway" in the subject line.
3. Tune in to AM 800 for the next Spitfires game and listen for your chance to win. 

And, of course, you can turn up to the launch tonight, where you can enter to win $100 in free Biblioasis books. See you there! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

City of Windsor's Inaugural Marcel Pronovost Day

What's it like to win a Stanley Cup without playing a single regular-season NHL game? To play for the Red Wings alongside Gordie Howe, Red Kelly, Ted Lindsey, Terry Sawchuk? To have been on the ice for that last Leafs Cup Win in 1967? To have dedicated nearly seven decades to the ice, both in Windsor and across North America?
Tomorrow night, in honour of a spectacular career and his lifetime of dedication to the game of hockey, the City of Windsor will declare November 20th to be Marcel Pronovost Day. We'll be gathering at Walkerville Brewery around 7 to celebrate. At 7:30, Councillor Percy Hatfield will read the official proclamation; then Bob Duff will conduct a short interview with Marcel; and after that, Marcel will autograph books and memorabilia, talk to his fans, and we can all eat cake. (And possibly, just possibly, have a glass of that funny stuff they make in those big steel cylinders on the other side of the room.)
The event is kid-friendly, so by all means bring the family. For a review of the autobiography, grab ahold of the latest issue of Biz X Magazine (p. 55)—and don't forget to RSVP on Facebook today!

See? Three covers!
Biblioasis proudly presents
the inaugural
to celebrate the career of the 
HOCKEY HALL OF FAMER to call Windsor home.
525 Argyle Rd, Windsor
Tuesday November 20
7-9 PM
Books will be available for signing.

About Marcel Pronovost and A Life in Hockey
“Marcel was the most underrated defenceman ever to play in the league. When he hit you, you were hit. He was a tremendous skater and defensively, he was as good as anyone. He might have been overlooked by the press, but he was never overlooked by his teammates. Years later, I brought him back to Detroit as a coach. He is very knowledgeable and a very astute observer of the game.”Hall of Fame left-winger Ted Lindsay (Pronovost’s teammate from 1949-57 and 1964-65)
In the spring of 1950, Marcel Pronovost was called up from the minor leagues to play for the Detroit Red Wings during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The 18-year-old defenceman had never seen NHL ice time before, but his performance in the playoffs was so impressive that he took regular turns in the final series against the New York Rangers. That year, Marcel Provonost became the ninth player in history to win a Stanley Cup before playing a single regular-season NHL game.

So began Pronovost’s 65-year career in pro hockey.  As a Red Wing he became a star defenceman in Detroit’s golden age, winning three more Stanley Cups between 1952 and 1955, and skating side-by-side with Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, and Terry Sawchuk (who became a lifelong friend). He played a pivotal role in the Toronto Maple Leafs' last Stanley Cup win in 1967. He earned recognition on the NHL's First and Second All-Star Teams. And he has continued to serve the game for decades, becoming one of the few NHLers to have success as a player, a coach, and as a scout.

Now, with Marcel Pronovost: A Life in Hockey, this legendary defenceman and Hockey Hall of Famer tells these and other stories for the first time. With over 125 photos and with on-the-ice recollections from the most exciting Original Six Era games ever played, A Life in Hockey is a hard-hitting memoir, and an insider’s take on playing, coaching, and scouting that spans seven decades, and surveys one of the longest hockey careers of all time. A must-have autobiography for Red Wings fans, Leafs fans, and hockey buffs everywhere.

Available with a Red Wings cover, a Leafs cover, and in a limited edition split Leafs/Wings signed hardcover edition. Paperbacks are $22.95; signed ltd. edition hardcovers are $39.95. 

A Grand Grand Opening

Garland was hung. Apple cider was mulled. Coats were collected for those in need. And Biblioasis officially opened.

Yes, the Biblioasis bookshop (located at 1520 Wyandotte St. E., in Walkerville, Windsor, for those who haven't had the opportunity to come visit yet) hosted our grand opening this past weekend in conjunction with the always successful Walkerville Holiday Walk-About.
We love local authors!

Things were, of course, a bit hectic around the store in the days leading up to Friday's launch, with books still arriving by the box, ready to be shelved before customers hit the store for the first time. I was hastily photoshopping signs for our displays of local books, sale books, Biblioasis press books, beautiful books and more, and we had a whole crew of helpers stringing holiday decorations to help with our festive mood.

Friday evening rolled around and we were ready to go, except, oops!
no coffee. I threw my coat on and strolled out past stilt-walkers and carolers down the road to Ten Thousand Villages to pick up a bag. Wyandotte Street was already filling up with Walkerville Holiday Walk-About Goers, heading store-to-store to stamp their cards for the chance to win 500 Walkerville dollars. Not a bad way to spend a beautiful Friday night.
"Just what we like! Tall shelves!"
(Seriously. They said that.)

By the time I returned with the coffee, the shop was abuzz with shoppers browsing shelves and displays, munching on cookies and sipping hot apple cider, and meeting and greeting with local Biblioasis authors like Marty Gervais and Sal Ala who stopped by to sign some books and talk with readers.

Biblioasis also had the pleasure of being the drop-off point for the Rotary Club of Windsor's coat collection drive to support those in need, and Windsorites generously donated many, many coats to keep folk warm in the city this winter.

aren't we festive?
The excitement continued on Saturday, when horse-drawn carriages brought shoppers through the streets of Walkerville, and even more people discovered our brand new bookshop. We weren't the only new business appearing in the area either; I had the chance to do a bit of a Walkerville wander myself and discovered a brand new coffee shop, as well as some existing businesses I hadn't had the chance to experience just yet. The Holiday Walk-About is a great way of encouraging shoppers to step outside their usual habits and try somewhere new, a perfect event for finding fresh, local and exciting places to shop, eat, exercise, and more.

Thanks to everyone who came by the store and for all the congratulations on our opening. We're excited to be in Walkerville as part of such a great local community. Now that we are open, feel free to stop by, have a browse, a chat and find the perfect books for everyone on your holiday list (or, you know, for yourself).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sometimes a Free Book is Just a Free Book.

Good afternoon, Biblioworld, and happy Monday. It's another big week here at headquarters, with the Windsor Youth Centre doing their What Is Home? fundraiser here tomorrow night, and (of course oh my!) the grand opening this Friday November 16th. Walkerville's going to be hustling and bustling (rustling? dustling) that weekend thanks to their two-day Walk Around street festival.

But it's not enough that people might be coming into the shop to buy our books: no no. No no no.  This month the Bibliomanse is giving them away. As of tomorrow another GoodReads affair begins. Click the gadget to win your very own copy of Psychology and Other Stories. Fiction may be psychology and psychology may be fiction (thanks for that, Jim Bird), but this giveaway is real enough ... Enter to win your free copy today!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Post-office, Pre-view

Sometimes I swear that small presses must be keeping Canada Post busier than holiday cards and packages from doting grandmothers alike.

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to sit on a panel about poetry reviewing in Canada, and my initial reaction was to consider my recent experience with reviewing: not writing reviews, or even necessarily reading all that many reviews; instead, I've been at the other side of the review process, stuffing many, many envelopes with books to send out for review by various publications.

Lots of shelf space. Perfect for stacking with many more envelopes.
And with the great reviews we've been getting recently, from publications across Canada and around the world such as The National Post, Landfall, and Quill & Quire, just to name drop a few, all that stuffing, stamping, sticking and licking seems to be paying off.

The last few copies waiting for the courier.
It's one of the things I didn't think I'd become an expert on, but has certainly been useful, working in publishing: the art of mailing. How to fold press releases most efficiently, how to use the mail merge function in Microsoft Word, why it's better to save your tongue and just tape up the envelopes, and, on a related note, how to use a tape gun correctly (a skill I have still yet to perfect, judging by the tangles in which I frequently find myself).

Plus, there's the human aspect of mailing, the going to the post office (or chatting with the courier when they turn up at the store). Even in my brief time at the Emeryville location, I spent a great deal of time counting envelopes and chatting with the very friendly staff at the Emeryville post office, who probably wanted to run away at the sight of us carrying in several large boxes full of mail to go out at once.

Despite the click/send/receive speed of emails and attachments, I've probably sent more physical, brown paper envelope with stamps and post marks mail in the last few months than I have in my entire life. I've seen people start internet groups for letter mailing just to receive something physical in their (non-virtual) mailboxes. There's some cultural cache in receiving letter-mail (as long as it's not just a bill or a flyer). Even getting (what are usually rejection) letters by mail from literary journals is exciting. The ripping open of your SASE, and the few seconds of anticipation before you see the result, the signature from the editor, and promptly file the thing away with the rest of them. Here's hoping that the reviewers who receive these copies feel as excited tearing into the envelopes. And that they find the contents substantially more enjoyable.

In other, somewhat related news, another much-anticipated arrival has been our new sidewalk sign. While it didn't arrive in the mail (a little large for the post box, don't you think?), I'd been waiting almost as anxiously for it as I had been waiting for the awning. Another big design project. More fears of giant pixels and accidental low-resolution file transfers. Luckily, again, all was well, and tada, our new sign is beautiful and ready to go outside for our grand opening (November 16th)! Make sure you come by in person to see it, plus experience all the excitement of the opening.

art by Seth
That's all for now.
 Time to stuff some envelopes.


Friday, November 02, 2012

Walking Walkerville

Sunny autumn day. Breezy, cool, but not bitter. Perfect weather for a stroll in Walkerville.

Lucky for me, our Marcel Pronovost launch is approaching (November 20th, Walkerville Brewery, in case you were wondering), and that means we need to promote. I grabbed a stack of posters and headed out the door onto Wyandotte Street to stop by a few local businesses.

When I started working for Biblioasis, I knew the press was moving back to Windsor and that the bookstore would be opening in Walkerville. For my first two months of work, however, I made the trek out to our old Emeryville location. Perhaps I'd never woken up quite so early before, or perhaps I'd never had to drive east at 7:30am, but I was daily surprised by how unpleasant driving in morning traffic toward the blinding sunrise really is.

Remember this?

Needless to say, I was excited for the move and the extra half hour in bed, although my excitement couldn't compare to Chris and Tara's (especially Tara's), as they'd been hearing the plans and dreaming about the day for months.

A couple boxes left but we're getting there.
After the initial haul, and some extensive (and not quite complete) unpacking, we're now pretty settled in the new offices. And despite the fact that while working at the back of the store we could be in any neighbourhood, I've really come to appreciate our Walkerville surroundings.

Not only does the community bring in lots of curious foot traffic (and this is still two weeks before our grand opening!), it's just a nice feeling to be in the midst of so many varied and wonderful independent businesses.

Stepping out the front door, we're surrounded by restaurants, pubs, vintage stores, antique shops, salons, yoga studios, etc., etc., and the support these businesses give to each other is fantastic. So many shops were willing to take our posters that I ran out of my first batch in only fifteen minutes.

Good afternoon Walkerville.

Books moving from boxes to shelves. See the end result, November 16th!
I'm so glad to work in this neighbourhood, where you can grab spinach pies next door for lunch, or a last-minute gift for a friend down the road after work. Local musicians stop in with their flyers. There's all sorts of activity in the buildings next door as new businesses start moving in. I can bike to work on a nice day (although this past week hasn't exactly provided many opportunities) and meet up with someone for dinner around the corner afterwards.

Walkerville, thanks for being awesome. We're happy to be your new neighbour.

Come visit during our grand opening, November 16th (full details TBA). This is also the date of the Walkerville Holiday Walk (how convenient!) where you can explore the businesses of Walkerville, win prizes, and get a start on your holiday shopping while buying local! What more can you want?

See you then.

Hint, hint. Come to our grand opening!

Manitoba Steps Up; Petersen Dives Under

See that guy? Right there? He's wondering
when his Spring 2013 catalogue will arrive.
Greetings and salutations, my friends. Three new morsels for the BiblioBlog: first, a delightful explication of Craig Boyko's Psychology and Other Stories from The Winnipeg Review; second, Manitoba's Canadian Materials has assessed Mike Barnes's The Reasonable Ogre, and its contribution to YA & teen lit; and third, Alice Petersen's native land has coughed up its first review (in The Landfall). 
So what exactly do they all say? For starters: "All the Voices Cry announces itself early on as something of a gift ... The authorial voice, far from being elusive, is sharply, poetically present."
"The Reasonable Ogre … is intellectually engaging and filled with haunting pieces of art that beautifully complement each story." 
"Bokyo’s insights and criticisms into psychology as a profession are biting, but never disrespectful … This shows Boyko’s control over subtlety and his talent as a writer of nuance. Psychology and Other Stories tickled my cynicism just right."
Anybody else have a cynical bone? Tee hee.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Ups and Downs of the Uncanny Valley: An Interview with Mark Kingwell

For those of you who would like a preview of what you might get at our "All Saints and Fast Zombies" night with Mark Kingwell at Type Books this evening, I'm posting a little interview. On the title of Unruly Voices, the importance of the humanities, urban architecture, and more. See you tonight on Queen! For more information, visit our page on landoflastnight' 
U of T Prof and Harper's Contributing Editor
Mark Kingwell.

“The Ups and Downs of the Uncanny Valley”: An Interview with Mark Kingwell.
1.      Tell us about the title of your book. To what does Unruly Voices refer?
The phrase has a layered meaning for me. One of the core essays is about the erosion of civility as a feature of public discourse, and as a virtue of political life. This goes back to my earliest interests in political theory, especially the virtues (or otherwise) of citizens. So that’s one kind of unruly voice, the one that disrupts politics for self-serving ends. But there is another, positive sense of the phrase that alludes to the mix of voices and tones that make up a single human consciousness—the unruly voices of personhood. The modern idea is that we gather these together, smooth them out, and call the result an ‘inner voice’ or some such. But the insights that dominate the later essays are about the impossibility of doing this, the enduring unruliness of the voices that are the texture of consciousness. So, finally, there is the sense that the collection itself is a matter of unruly voices, the different tones and pitches of the various essays, which range from popular to fairly scholarly, even as they all revolve around the basic question: Is democracy possible?
2.      You mention the range of tone in these essays, which deserves a question in itself. Not many writers can shift from strict philosophy to dramatic monologues in the voice of President Obama! What else did you hope to achieve by bringing these different modes of writing together?
Well, I wanted to highlight a range of approaches and styles of writing, all of them linked by themes—and by the fact of their authorship by this allegedly singular consciousness I am, or ‘have’, or ‘experience’. It happens that I routinely contribute to a variety of publications that expect different styles, so that is directly reflected here. All of the essays date from the period between 2008 and 2012, so obviously the dominant politics facts they are preoccupied with include Obama’s first term, the 2008 economic collapse, the Arab Spring, and the Occupy Wall Street movement. I don’t see them adding up to a single political theory so much as illustrating various facets of what it means to dwell critically on the world of democratic politics.
3.      Throughout Unruly Voices you emphasize the value of literature and the humanities to North American democracy, and you often will teach works of literature in philosophy classes. In your opinion what does literature bring to philosophy that straight-up philosophical writing doesn’t? And do you think literature is more relevant to democratic theory than to other lines of philosophical inquiry?
The emphasis on human imagination, once central to democratic theory, has been lost in recent years, and part of my purpose here is to try and bring it back. The cultivation of consciousness that is unique to the experience of literature is a necessary part of the ‘sympathy’ (as Adam Smith called it) that alone makes society possible. We have to see the other as an entity with the same mysterious qualities of desire and reason as we sense in ourselves. Literature is not the only way to accomplish this, but it remains the best—not least because, as Northrop Frye said, argument actually convinces few people, while narrative and imagination often do. And further, without imagination and vision, argument has no point or direction. To use the title of one of my previous books, we have to engage with the very idea of a world we want.
4.      In “Retouching the Void” you discuss an interview you conducted with Michael Arad, architect of the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. At this time you’d already published one book on consciousness and the city (Concrete Reveries), which focused especially on New York and Shanghai. What was it like to revisit your thoughts on public space with Arad? Did the idea of the memorial shift your thoughts on New York as a transglobal city?
I always love going back to New York since the days I lived there and drafted those parts of Concrete Reveries. And Arad is a passionate New Yorker as well as a talented architect. His task was almost impossible: to memorialize the most significant national, political disaster in recent American history. I don’t think he entirely succeeded, but the attempt is, like all the best architecture, an occasion for thought.
5.      You’ve been writing what we could call moral philosophy for a long time, and you’ve always had an interest in how we as people can create better lives, governments, and societies for ourselves. This is your seventeenth book. How has your approach to writing moral philosophy changed since you published your first book in 1994?
I think I’m less ambitious, in the sense that I no longer retain the full version of what might be called the Philosopher’s Fallacy, namely that argument and theory can save the day when it comes to ethics and politics. I believe more firmly than ever in the centrality of language, however—my version of Heidegger’s claim that “language speaks us”—and these essays from what I guess must be my ‘middle period’ reflect that instability. I’ve been writing more and more in a kaleidoscopic fashion, I think, using both argument and other discursive means to illuminate one facet after another of a basic idea, or problem. Here, of course, that idea is democracy.
6.      Do you feel your interest in popular culture separates your work from that of others working in the field of democratic theory or ethical philosophy? Why or why not?
Well, it does separate it as a matter of fact—most political theorists don’t think about zombies or sports or movies as much as I tend to do. But culture is culture, and the idea that there is ‘official’ culture on one side and ‘popular’ culture on the other is a relic of another historical moment. I follow people like Barthes and Bourdieu, Veblen and Galbraith, in thinking that you can’t understand politics without considering how people actually spend their time, what they consume, and what they care about.
7.      If you had to pick one thing for a reader to take away from Unruly Voices, what would it be?
A sense of possibility, even as the ground seems to be shifting beneath our feet. I finish with an essay that considers the idea of the uncanny, and surely we live in uncanny times, where meanings distort and double, revenants roam, and the repressed always returns. Unruly Voices is my attempt at providing a partial guide to the ups and downs of the uncanny valley that is 21st-century democratic politics.