Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ten Questions with Rebecca Rosenblum: OpenBook Toronto

In advance of the Women of the Short Story book tour, which kicks off in Windsor this Sunday, OpenBook Toronto has released an interview with Rebecca Rosenblum. Check it out! And if you're living in Windsor, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal, be sure to visit Thirsty often for news about the WOSS Tour. Four people+Toyota Echo+six stops=WOW.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Meagre Tarmac on the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

All of us here at Biblioasis are proud to announce that Clark Blaise was named among the five finalists for the Rogers Writers' Trust Prize For Fiction this morning for his wonderful collection The Meagre Tarmac. Finding ourselves in Toronto following Ray Robertson's glorious Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live launch, we headed to the Rogers' announcement at Ben McNally's and we nearly jumped for joy when the first words by the announcer turned out to be "exploring the places where tradition, innovation, culture and power meet with explosive force...." At that moment, no words could have sounded more beautiful.

Heartfelt thanks to the jurors for this: Rabindranath Maharaj, Emma Donoghue and Margaret Sweatman, and warm congratulations to the rest of the authors and their publishers:

Michael Christie. The Beggar's Garden (Harper Collins)
Patrick deWitt. The Sister's Brothers. (Anansi)
Esi Eduygan. Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen)
Dan Vyleta. The Quiet Twin. (Harper Collins)

for more information on the Award and the shortlist, please go here.

To see my shaky iPhone video of the first 16 seconds of the announcement, please click below. (I had to put my phone to clap, which ended that.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wage Slave's Glossary and the Wall Street Protests

Wall Street protesters, joined today by Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon, vowed to continue weeks of demonstrations after police squirted pepper spray at some participants and arrests mounted.

About 100 people camped out with mattresses and sleeping bags in Zuccotti Park as demonstrations against financial firms continued for an 11th day. Sarandon, 64, who appeared last year in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” toured an area that includes a makeshift kitchen and library with titles such as “The Wage Slave’s Glossary” and “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

"What makes life worth living?" Answer: Attending a Ray Robertson Launch

Just a quick reminder to join Ray Robertson tomorrow night at 7:00 pm at The Garrison (1197 Dundas St West Toronto) for the launch of Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live.

The Globe and Mail has called Ray Robertson "clever, word-drunk, and falling-down funny... Robertson is a moral writer and a bitingly intelligent one, a man who writes with penetrating insight of what needs to be written about: beauty, truth and goodness."

So if you're lucky enough to be in the area, or are wondering "What makes humans happy? And what makes a life worth living?" stop by The Garrison and find out tomorrow night.

Also, don't forget to check out Priscila Uppal's audio review of Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live on Radio Canada International's biblio-file program.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Waiting for Women: Joyland

So you didn't make Rebecca Rosenblum's fab launch, but you are still kind of interested in what the big deal is about The Big Dream. Well ... you're in luck. Over at Joyland they have just published a story from Rebecca's new collection, Waiting For Women. Go check it out, and then go and buy the book. There's plenty more where that came from.

Everybody Loves Ray Robertson

Or at least Priscila Uppal does: check out her audio review of Ray's Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live on Radio Canada International's biblio-file program.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ray Robertson launches WHY NOT? next Tuesday, September 27th, at the Garrison in Toronto

Just back from a wonderful, wonderful Rebecca Rosenblum launch last night, we continue next week with the launch of Ray Robertson's latest book, Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live, Tuesday, September 27th, at the Garrison in Toronto. Doors open at 7 PM. With special guest Lonesome Lefty providing the musical accompaniment, next Tuesday promises to be honky-tonk infused night highlighting many of the reasons Ray provides in Why Not? for not giving in to his own suicidal impulses: friendship, art, literature, work, humour, meaning, praise and, last but not least, intoxication. We've dubbed this "self-help for the socially hostile": so help yourself by coming down to help us celebrate another wonderful Ray Robertson book and his Weston Writers' Trust nomination, at what promises to be one of the more entertaining launch parties of the year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bruce Jay Friedman: New York Times Style

Yesterday an interview with Bruce Jay Friedman was featured in the New York Times Style Magazine. Here's the full text.

If there is an advantage to being an underappreciated novelist, it might be that when you get around to writing a memoir, the anecdotes of your life have not already been trotted out ad infinitum by book reviewers the world over. Such is the case with Bruce Jay Friedman, whose memoir, “Lucky Bruce,” will be published next month. On the strength of his early novels — “Stern” (1962), “A Mother’s Kisses” (1964) and “About Harry Towns” (1974) — Friedman was a literary star, frequently mentioned alongside Bernard Malamud and Philip Roth. He hung out at Elaine’s; edited for legendary Magazine Management pulp journals, where he hired Mario Puzo onto the staff of True Action; and, later, moonlighted as a screenwriter (“Stir Crazy,” “Splash”), rubbing shoulders with Warren Beatty and Richard Pryor. Yet Friedman has always remained somewhat under the radar. In “Lucky Bruce,” readers get fresh, amusing stories from Friedman’s life in letters — the time he provoked Norman Mailer into a fistfight by mussing his hair at a party, say, or was hired to write a script and introduced to his new secretary, a between-marriages Natalie Wood. The Moment caught up with Friedman, now 81, at one of his favorite Chinese restaurants in Manhattan, Chin Chin, to talk about his latest book.

The title “Lucky Bruce” suggests your success was perhaps accidental. Is that how you see it?

It’s meant as an homage to “Lucky Jim.” But in a funny way it was like invoking the displeasure of the gods, because after decades of being a robust guy, I had a knee replacement and here I am limping around. I should be out on a tennis court. My original title was “A Reasonably Good Life.” I should have hung in with that but I didn’t have enough nerve. But that’s what it’s been.

The book focuses largely on your writing life. Where’s the heavy emotional excavation found in so many memoirs these days?

Something about the fiction I was writing required that you just lay your insides out hot and smoking on the table. I didn’t feel I was going to get into that part of my life in this memoir. I stuck with the development of the writing. In my case, magically I came up with a story and sold it at a very young age to The New Yorker. I wrote a novel and that worked out well. I wrote a couple of them. I got interested in theater. Then I got interested in film. And I had some achievement in each of these areas, and of course I met everybody. So I thought maybe this story is worth telling.

Even when you tackle darker material, it often comes across as funny. Do you consider yourself a humorist?

I’m supposed to be a funny guy, but I’ve never written a joke. It’s sort of an attitude. Also, I think the most powerful effect comes when the emotion is beating up against the surface rather than thrown in your face. There’s an Evelyn Waugh novel, “A Handful of Dust,” and the most emotional moment in the book is when the boy falls off a horse and gets trampled and dies. But it’s buried in the middle of a paragraph. If Dickens or Tolstoy wrote a dying scene, they would record every tear.

The book also relates your Hollywood adventures. Early on, at least, you embraced the West Coast.

I loved the characters and the action and the tennis and the pretty girls. I felt very free there, maybe for the first time. What could be bad about it? Except for the writing, which is absurd. It’s the only literary form, if you want to call it literature, where it’s being attacked as you write it. No matter what you wrote, it would be sent back by the studio.

It’s said that writers co-exist uneasily, but you’ve had friendships with several literary lions, among them Mario Puzo and Joseph Heller.

Mario was the most quotable guy I ever met, and one of the dangers of writing a book like this is when you introduce him, he’s like a certain spice in a food — he can easily take over. I had such admiration for Heller’s writing, but he took a lot of work. He would smoke out your weak spots, and he knew how to get me. I had written this piece about cocaine. I was hardly a cokehead. Like everybody else, I tried it, I enjoyed it and then I stopped. But any place I showed up with a roomful of people, he’d say, “Well, he’s probably got a bagful of coke with him.” Or if some pretty girl came over: “Well, he gives her coke. Why else would she be there?”

What advice do you give young writers?

I picked up this line somewhere: I say, “Every word you write should be put on trial as if for its life.” I really do believe that.

One More Reason to Live: Why Not? Shortlisted for Canada's Largest Nonfiction Prize

It is with extreme pleasure and pride that we announce the shortlisting of Ray Robertson's Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live for the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Nonfiction Prize.

Previously the Writers' Trust Prize, the Trust received a generous endowment from the Hon. Hilary Weston in May of 2011, creating what is now the largest nonfiction prize in Canada, and one of the most valuable nonfiction prizes in the world.

The prize is awarded for literary excellence in the category of nonfiction, which includes, among other forms, works of personal or journalistic essays; memoirs; commentary; and criticism, both social and political; history; and biography.

The shortlist was announced in a press conference held at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning. The other nominees are: Grant Lawrence (Adventures in Solitude), Richard Gwyn (Nation Maker), Charlotte Gill (Eating Dirt), and Charles Foran (Mordecai).

All nominees receive a cash prize of $5,000.00. The winner will be announced at the a special gala on October 25, 2011.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reminder: Big Dream Launch in TO tomorrow night

Just a quick reminder, if you are lucky enough to be in the Toronto area tomorrow night, check out Rebecca Rosenblum’s launch of The Big Dream, taking place tomorrow night (Sept. 20th) at 7:00 PM at the Dora Keogh (141 Danforth Ave.). There will be an onstage interview conducted by Kerry Clare, and a short reading by Rebecca Rosenblum.

Margaret Atwood recently tweeted about The Big Dream, and how she is "looking forward: stories re: foundering publisher,sounds like Yikes! Real Life..."
These stories are funny, moving, frightening, surreal, fearless, generous and wise; a short story collection that should be on every short fiction fan’s reading list.

Books will be for sale by Ben McNally. For you Facebookers there's a Facebook launch page (

Also, check out Rebecca's recent interviews at The Danforth Review and the Faded Paper Project.

In the Field ... literally?

Yesterday Team Biblioasis showed up in force on the streets (and, yes, in the fields) of Eden Mills, Ontario. With record turnouts, surprise performances, and patented Leon Rooke perorations, this year's celebration was positively, well, splendiferous.

The poets flocked to Dionne Brand and Lorna Crozier--we broke ground with Amanda Jernigan, who was called up by Leon Rooke to read from her newly-minted collection--and of course we celebrated the publication of Claire Tacon's In the Field, winner of the Metcalf-Rooke award. The lunchtime reading culminated with an impromptu chorus, led by Mr. Rooke himself, of Claire, Amanda, and Alison Pick each reading simultaneously from their own books ... while the festival founder accompanied them with rowdy song.

Photo Credit Tony Saxon of the Guelph Mercury. (Also, there may be a video.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Amanda Jernigan lauches Groundwork tonight!

This is not so much an event notice -- unless you're reading this in Cobourg -- as an announcement: Amanda Jernigan's Groundwork is so hot off the presses that the skid they arrived on still sits in my driveway; it so fresh I haven't yet done a proper cover scan, so this photo of Amanda will have to fill in for now. But it has been around just long enough that we were able to get her copies of her book, which she'll have with her tonight at the P.O.W. reading series, run by the indefatigable James Pickersgill.

Northumberland Today published a short article about the reading, and Amanda's participation in it:

Joining Ward at tonight's reading will be Maritime poet Amanda Jernigan who is launching her own book, Groundwork, with the 3rdThursday Reading the start of a tour that will take her to Ottawa, Montreal and around the Maritimes, ending in St. John's Newfoundland. "The Cobourg reading will be my first for Groundwork. I'm excited to have this chance to share the poems with an audience after keeping them in my private world for so long." says Jernigan. "The book is made up of three poetic sequences, the first is set on and around an archaeological dig in modern day Tunisia; the second in and out of a kind of heterodox Garden of Eden. The third is in the world of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey -although they are deeply informed by myth, they are also deeply personal, in their ways." Having recently taught at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, Jernigan is currently working toward a doctoral degree in Hamilton.

Expect to see a lot more of Amanda's work around these parts -- and a lot more of Amanda at events across the country -- over the next several months.

Caroline Adderson Recommends Rebecca Rosenblum's ONCE

It's always nice when a backlist title comes up again on the radar. While checking out the Writer's Trust site, I noticed that Caroline Adderson has recommended Rebecca's first book with us, Once.

Speaking of generations, Rosenblum is a new voice, a writer just over thirty years old, destined to take up where our current mavens of short fiction leave off. How refreshing to read about young people who aren't entirely messed up, but funny and perceptive and deeply human.Once gives the middle-aged hope, as does Rosenblum's clean, singing prose. Don't believe what they say about illiterate youth, or about youth being wasted on the young. Rebecca Rosenblum has squeezed every bit of life out of her thirty-two years and put them in these delightful stories. - Caroline Adderson

Haven't read Once yet? Well, as it happens, we'll be launching her second collection, The Big Dream, this Tuesday at the Dora Keogh, 7 pm. I'll make sure we have copies of Once on hand: three years old this weekend, Once's pleasures remain well worth (re-)discovering.

For the rest of Caroline's choices, please go here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In the Field: An Interview with Claire Tacon

In anticipation of the official launch of Claire Tacon's Metcalf-Rooke Award winning In the Field this Sunday at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival, we thought we'd run this interview with Claire. If you're at Eden Mills please drop by the booth (we'll all be there) where you'll be able to pick up freshly printed copies (off of the truck today!) of Claire's novel (& six other fall '11 releases besides).

Here's the interview:

1. In the Field touches on a lot of what you might call ‘timely’ issues. Our population

is aging and one of your themes is geriatric care; interculturalism has been a

vital part of social policy over the past ten years, and your novel addresses mixed

marriage straight-on. You also explore the values differences that some say divide

urban from rural communities across North America. Did you have a sense for the

social relevance of your book as you were writing it? What drew you to these issues

in particular?

With the novel, I really wanted to ask what divides us and what connects us. I wasn’t so much consciously striving for social relevance as I was trying to explore which divisions are possible for us to bridge.

The urban/rural split is central to that question. Having grown up on a farm but gone to school in the city, it was a disconnect that I was aware of early on. My family didn’t work the land, but we regularly raised animals for our own consumption. Shoveling out the chicken coop or helping my brother skin rabbits were normal parts of my life, but they weren’t something I could bring up with my urban friends. Wolfville felt like a natural setting to highlight that divide because it’s a university town surrounded by a large agricultural industry. There’s a real gulf between town and gown.

Race or ethnicity isn’t set up in the novel as quite so clear a divide. Before writing the novel, I had a conversation with a friend about how interracial or interethnic families are rarely presented without that becoming the central issue of the book. There are a lot of great books in this genre, such as Gish Jen’s The Love Wife, but I think it’s problematic if we only see diverse families presented as an “issue.” While race complicates the Bascom family’s experience, it’s not the focus of the book or the main source of their discord.

That being said, I did want to explore how Ellie, a white woman married to a black man, has a different reaction to the same situation than her husband or sons. She assumes that because they are family, they will perceive and be perceived the same way, but the reality often differs.

Finally, in terms of aging and geriatric care, a number of my friends are starting to enter the so-called “sandwich generation.” By the end of the novel, Ellie is forced to ask herself whether it’s better to be a good mother or a good daughter. It’s a hard decision—we owe allegiances to both sides, but don’t always have the resources to fulfill both obligations.

2. In a recent interview you said that your first glimpse of a character is like ”hitting

it off with a friend of a friend at a cocktail party. On the one hand, it feels as if you’ve

known them all your life, but then you hit a point where you really need to sit them

down and ask them some questions.”

What were the questions you had to ask of your protagonist, Ellie Lucan?

One of my professors at UBC, Keith Maillard, spends a lot of time writing biographies for each character before starting any project. That was something I found really useful going into the second draft; I took about a month and wrote out Ellie and Richard’s lives from grade school to the present. Most of it got trashed, but it helped clarify their motivation and past experience going into the re-write. Since they’re fighting for most of the novel, asking each of them how they met and why they fell for each other was one of the central questions in that exercise.

3. Later in the same interview you said that by the time you’ve finished your first

draft, “the characters seem like family—I don’t always like them, but I always love

them.” It’s true that many characters in In the Field go on to make less-than-likeable

decisions. Which of your characters do you struggle to “like” the most?

Mordecai Richler is one of my favourite authors, partly because he manages to create deeply flawed characters that you still care about. I doubt many people would say they want Duddy Kravitz or Barney Panofsky as friends, but the books succeed because readers still understand them and care about them.

My protagonist Ellie and her husband Richard are certainly not at their best in the novel. At any other time in their life, they’d probably be as likable as anyone else, but we see them, particularly Ellie, at a time of crisis. I think that’s pretty human, to be self-centred or wrong-headed or even a bit of an asshole during a difficult time. The tension lies in how far you can go and still expect your loved ones to stand by you. While writing the book, I asked myself the same question—how far can I push these characters while keeping the audience on board?

4. First novels are always a rite of passage, and you’ve done significant rewrites of

In the Field since it was first conceived. Do you have plans for a second? What, if

anything, will you do differently?

Right now I’m working on a second novel. Like In the Field, it tackles family dynamics, but this time with parents of a special needs adult. The main difference is that I have a stronger idea of the narrative arc going into this writing process than I did the last one. In the Field started as an image—a woman driving down the road in the rain, her wipers not really working. As I wrote, I realized I knew that road and the plot spun off from there—where was she going? who was she meeting?, etc. It was a bit like being dropped off in an unknown location, mapping the terrain and then plotting the best route through. This time I’m at least packing a map and have a general idea of how to get from A to B.

5. What (other) work of fiction has meant the most to you as you were writing In the


I started writing the novel while I was doing my MFA at the University of British Columbia. During that time, I was turned on to so many different books and authors that it’s hard to pick just one. Books I prized most, but which I don’t presume to have emulated, are ones that maintain a sense of humour through the bleak moments. For that reason, Lorrie Moore’s short story People Like That Are the Only People Here… and Martin McDonagh’s play The Beauty Queen of Leenane have stuck with me for years.

6. Who is your ideal reader? Who would you like to reach the most with this story?

Honestly? Anyone who wants to start on page one and finish on page 278 and have an opinion about it.

One of the most moving book reviews I’ve ever heard was by a young woman in inner-city New York discussing Anne Frank’s diary. Her connection to the material went against a lot of current thinking about pairing books with readers who share a similar experience. I think that unpredictability of reader response is part of the beauty of literature.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Deep Time, Black Magic, Ugly Stuff

For all you poetry & knitting aficionados out there (and yes I know you're out there!) take a look at Zach Wells's new interview on The Puritan. Interviewer Jesse Eckerlin stumbled across Track & Trace at Zach's mother's craft stall, and the rest you can unravel at your leisure. For the full interview, check out mag. There's more to this text block than textiles ... I promise.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Wage Slave's Glossary on Marketplace

If you read the July issue of Harper's, where Mark Kingwell's introduction to the soon to be launched Wage Slave's Glossary appeared in excerpt, than you may well know that the follow-up to the Idler's Glossary was soon to hit bookshelves. With incredible foresight, we released The Idler's Glossary in October 2008, at the precise moment the world slipped into the worst recession since the Great Depression. We are releasing The Wage Slave's Glossary, at least according to the catalogue bumpf, as we strive to climb out of it. Truth be told, however, not much has changed since '08: on the BBC this evening a leading British economist predicted we're actually closer to entering a Great Depression than ever. One way or another, this glossary serves as useful function, as it continues its authors exploration of the various linkages between words and work, and how language continues to bind us in chains.

Over on American Public Radio's Marketplace, glossary-compiler Joshua Glenn gave a short interview about the book and its genesis, and some of the more interesting concepts it explores. Here's a taste of it:

KAI RYSSDAL: This next three-and-a-half minutes of the broadcast are for all you "clockless workers," grinding away in the countless "cube farms" out there.

If you need a translation, I direct you to a new book called "The Wage Slave's Glossary." It's a new collection of terms about work and the workplace. Joshua Glenn's one of the co-authors. Welcome to the program.

JOSHUA GLENN: Thank you.

RYSSDAL: Why write this book? I mean, we've got dictionaries all over the place.

GLENN: Our previous book was "The Idler's Glossary," and that was a collection of terms that were celebrating a certain style of life: the idler's way of life, where you don't let work define who you are and what you do. And this one is looking at the other side of that coin, which is the fact that so many of us work at jobs where we don't have very much control over how we do it or when we do it or what we're doing, even.

RYSSDAL: Run me through some of the definitions, some of your favorite key phrases in this dictionary, would you?

GLENN: I'm very interested in all these words that come from the workplace that people use to describe themselves. For example, the word "downtime." It was a mid-century term that meant time when a machine is out of action or unavailable for use. And today, of course, this means that human beings who aren't working are compared to machines that being serviced, or robots that are being recharged. And the worst thing of all, is that many of us now use "downtime" to describe our own weekends and vacations.

We look at a lot of corporate jargon, of course, things like the "clockless worker," "loyalty time," "flexibilization" -- these kind of sinister euphemisms for bad things that corporations like to do. "Clockless worker" being somebody's who's willing to ignore what the clock says and just keep working; "loyalty time" being another word for unpaid overtime. Even the word "boss" actually comes from Dutch plantations; a work boss was somebody who was in charge of, the overseer of the slaves on the plantation. So the fact that we've now come to use that in a completely, almost admiring way -- it's no longer a pejorative -- says a lot about how much we've forgotten about how work has developed over the years.

For the full interview, please go here. You can also listen to it at the same link. For a short excerpt from the glossary, please go here.

Tne Quarterly Conversation Reviews The Accident

Over at The Quarterly Conversation, David Auerbach offers an in-depth and thoughtful consideration of the latest title in the Biblioasis International Translation Series, Mihail Sebastian's The Accident:

The Accident arrives as something of an appendix to the massiveJournal of Mihail Sebastian (1907-1945), a record of his life as a Romanian Jewish writer from 1935 to 1944. Though Sebastian is known in Romania for his plays and, to a lesser extent, his novels, to my knowledge nothing of his appeared in English until his Journal was published in 2000, chronicling the horrors and fears of life in Romania during World War II. The Accident is his first translated work of fiction.

Next to the immediacy of the Journal, The Accident initially disappoints. The novel begins promisingly with an evocative scene in which the intense, quixotic Nora falls while exiting a tram and is helped up by the downtrodden intellectual Paul. They tentatively embark on a rushed affair driven by Nora’s fixation on Paul, which frightens and liberates them. But the novel then loses its way in a flashback chronicling Paul’s earlier involvement with Ann, a dreary artist. Ann clearly represents the faux-bohemian life that has ensnared Paul, but both she and Paul remain too diffuse for this section to take hold as a picture of the limits of Paul’s life. Paul’s criticism of Ann’s paintings telegraphs the problem with their entire milieu: “There’s something gesticulating in your paintings. They’re too hearty, too talkative, too familiar at the first glance.” Ann replies: “I am talkative, I am frivolous.”

The greater import of The Accident reveals itself only against the background of Sebastian’s Journal, which described in some detail his writing of the novel. But the greater context is crucial as well. The Journal was not published until 1996 (it was translated into in English in 2000), when its portrayal of Romanian complicity in the Holocaust caused controversy. Over 300,000 Romanian Jews died during World War II, a large percentage by death squads set up by Romania’s own aggressively anti-Semitic government. Sebastian was fortunate to live in Bucharest, which was spared the worst of Romania’s policies, but he witnessed the virulent anti-Semitism and deportations and heard firsthand accounts of the government’s massacres carried out on the orders of Prime Minister Ion Antonescu. Sebastian sensitively, painfully chronicled details of the Holocaust as it was happening that many would not know until after the war. Sebastian survived the war, only to be killed in an auto accident in 1945.

To read the full review, please go here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Big Dream: The Launch

On Tuesday September 20th we'll be launching our first title of the Fall publishing season: Rebecca Rosenblum's new collection of stories, The Big Dream. We're very excited. Rebecca's first book, Once (2008), remains in the top handful of books we've published here, and The Big Dream is, in every way, a worthy successor. If Once was, as Steven Beattie said, " the most exciting first book of short stories by a Canadian writer since Munro's Dance of the Happy Shades," then this may well prove to be 2010's Lives of Girls and Women. The Big Dream offers a suite of linked stories about a group of disparate workers -- from the cafeteria and telemarketing staff to the researchers and CEOs -- employed by a foundering publishing company, and chronicles its character's lives mainly between the hours of nine-to-five. These stories are, as one would expect, beautifully told, with a sharp, pitch-perfect ear for dialogue: funny, moving, frightening, surreal, fearless, generous and wise. If this is indeed the Year of the Short Story (YOSS), than The Big Dream should help firm up Biblioasis's reputation as the Press for the Short Story, and it should be a collection on every short fiction fan's reading list.

The Toronto launch will take place next Tuesday, September 20th, at the Dora Keogh (141 Danforth Ave.) at 7 PM. There will be an onstage interview conducted by Kerry Clare, and a short reading by Rebecca Rosenblum. Books will be for sale by Ben McNally. For you Facebookers there's a Facebook launch page (

If you can't catch Rebecca in Toronto this Tuesday, fear not: she'll be all over the country in 2011-12, including stops in Windsor, London, Hamilton, Toronto (again), Ottawa, Montreal, Peterborough, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax, Wolfville, Fredericton (and likely many more places before she's through. For further information you can always check the press website calendar here.

Friday, September 09, 2011

One Question Interview: Salvatore Ala

Over at Alex Boyd's blog, he has conducted a one question interview with Biblioasis poet Salvatore Ala:

While your poems in Lost Luggage certainly have intellectual ideas in them, they’re grounded in some very organic imagery: fish, dragonflies, almonds, rain barrels, pine, fog and snow, crabapple wine. Considering your title, is it fair to say your book is at least partly about how we’ve left something important behind in modern, everyday life?

When I look back at poems I didn’t include in the final manuscript, this sense of having “left something important behind in modern, everyday life” is even more apparent. I was trying to strike a metaphorical balance, but as you know these ruminations are subtle. The past is very much part of the present in this collection, though I would add that some poems which do not appear on the surface to be part of the motif of having "left something important behind…” are in fact also about lost origins. Working from the etymology of words is for me a way of seeing what’s not there, and is very often the source of the imagery in a poem. “Ala,” “Church Demolition,” and “Roman Coins” are very much poems about lost or uncertain origins. I was also able to question value and judge hypocrisy with the strongest evidence being in the roots of the words themselves.

For the rest of Ala's response, please go here.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Michael Bryson Reviews The Meagre Tarmac

Over at his blog Michael Bryson has offered up a rave review of Clark Blaise's The Meagre Tarmac, nominated Tuesday for a Giller Award. Here's how it starts:

Masterpiece. That's a big word. In 20 years of writing book reviews I don't think I've ever used it, but I'm throwing the dart at Clark Blaise's new short story collection, The Meagre Tarmac(Biblioasis, 2011).

Primarily a short story writer, Blaise has often explored the period of this upbringing and his multiple identities and senses of self. He has also been an administrator of writing programs and a notable essayist and non-fiction author. He is currently the President of the Society for the Study of the Short Story.


The eleven short stories in The Meagre Tarmac continue Blaise's interest in the social construction of identity. This time, however, his characters are not exploring the two solitudes of North America's English/French divide. The characters in this book are nearly all Indo-American. The two solitudes on display here are the East and West. Also, cultural tradition versus liberal capitalism.

Post-Obama, are we post-racial? Blaise's book argues emphatically, no. But it's a no that is dense with complication.

In an earlier age, this book would be a lightening rod for an "appropriation of voice" debate. How can this white dude write from within the perspective of the Indo-American population? And he does it over and over, in precise detail, and so well!

Clearly, the author has experience of Indo-American culture through his in-laws, but (more importantly) he has brought to it a lifetime of experience, a lifetime of thinking through precise cultural differences, a lifetime of mastering the short story.

And it is a mastery, here, that ought to be celebrated. And read. And studied.

We, of course, couldn't agree more. For the whole review, well worth reading, please go here. (And sorry about the mustard colour highlighting: can't seem to steal from Bryson's blog without it. )

The Serial Name-Dropper

The Brooklyn Rail has just published an advanced review of our forthcoming Bruce Jay Friedman memoir Lucky Bruce. Here's a taste:

Not to get gushy, but if you’re a writer, or want to be a writer, or just like to hang out around writers and pretend you’re a writer, then you’ll gobble up Bruce Jay Friedman’s literary memoir, Lucky Bruce.

I met Friedman at this year’s Hunter College Writers’ Conference. At 80, he’s still tall and handsome, and he was full of chatter about stuff that hadn’t even made it into the book: the record 22 pieces he’s had published in Esquire over the years (“now they won’t even return my phone calls”). An encounter a few nights before with angry revelers (“I was on crutches with this knee replacement; they almost crushed us”) who’d been denied entry into Elaine’s, the legendary Upper East Side restaurant where he and best pals Joseph Heller and Mario Puzo tested out their best stories for more than 40 years. He was almost apologetic about writing a memoir, a genre he obviously considers low-hanging fruit. However, Lucky Bruceis no ordinary self-story; it’s a delightful addition to the catalogue of the last Mark Twain leviathans—writers like Mario Puzo, Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, and Kurt Vonnegut.

For the full review please go here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Meagre Tarmac Makes Giller Longlist

Today the longlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize was announced, and we're delighted to report that Clark Blaise's The Meagre Tarmac is on it. He's in good company: also represented are Michael Ondaatje, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Lynn Coady, David Bezmozgis. According to the bumpf it was a "record-breaking year," with a total of 143 book submissions. Here's a bit of blurbing from the Giller Prize website (and a citation that, for my two cents, applies darn well to Clark Blaise):

This year’s jury is made up of: award-winning Canadian writer and 2009 Giller finalist Annabel Lyon; American author, memoirist and Guggenheim fellowHoward Norman; and acclaimed UK playwright and prize-winning novelist Andrew O’Hagan.

“Each title on our longlist dignifies world literature, not only Canadian literature. That said, the Canadian fiction we have unanimously chosen exhibits an astonishing range of dramatic incident, subject, narrative strategy and memorable characters. What connects these wonderful books is an excellence of craft. Many of these novels and collections have intensely cinematic qualities; others, decidedly influenced by l9th century classics. All have the deepest levels of engagement with the art of storytelling and bring life to the page with vivid immediacy. Our list is a celebration of eclectic and fearless writing. ”

The shortlisted finalists will be revealed at a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday, October 4th. CBC is the proud broadcast partner of The Scotiabank Giller Prize. Broadcast details will be disclosed at a later date. The Scotiabank Giller Prize awards $50,000 annually to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English and $5,000 to each of the finalists. The Scotiabank Giller Prize is named in honour of the late literary journalist Doris Giller and was founded in 1994 by her husband Toronto business man Jack Rabinovitch.