Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Road Stories....

It's 6:30 in the morning, and we're all packed for AWP, ready to make the always anxious border crossing and five hour trek to Chicago, so it seems only fitting to leave you with a road story, provided courtesy of David Helwig (Whose Chekhov translation we will be doing (illustrated by Seth) this Spring), courtesy of Douglas Glover's online mag Numero Cinq (we'll be launching Doug's Attack of the Copula Spiders in Chicago).

You can read The Road here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Vacuuming the 49th Shelf

"If there was a way to vacuum and read simultaneously I would do it," writes Anakana Schofield yesterday on 49th Shelf. What books would you read while vacuuming if you could? What books would you stop vacuuming to read? Check out Anakana's recommendations about great Vancouver titles. And as if that weren't enough for the West Coasters out there: a magnificent Malarky launch is coming on April 1st to the People's Co-op Bookstore, 3-6 PM. Coming even sooner is Anakana's appearance at Incite on March 21st! The consensus? This book is even better than the cherry blossoms.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Copula Spiders Have Landed!

Hundreds upon hundreds of Copula Spiders have descended upon the bibliomanse this morning, arriving in their box-like pods courtesy of a surly man in a Fed-Ex truck.  Writers and Readers Should Beware! Interaction with this strange and terrifying creature will almost certainly result in a deeper and more nuanced understanding of story and novel structures and techniques, and the drama that is grammar; you will be confronted with the genius of Alice Munro, Mark Anthony Jarman, Cervantes, Leon Rooke and Thomas Bernhard (as well as a certain author by the name of Douglas Glover); you may become overwhelmed by the sense of having been deeply schooled.  Stay calm.  After-effects include learning to be both a better reader and writer.  The risk of becoming aware of your own inadequacies may be painful to some.

Though the Copula Spiders will not be exposed to the wider public until early April, those willing to risk early exposure are welcome to attend our AWP Pre-launch Party in Chicago March 2nd, or Douglas Glover's Center for Fiction workshop in New York March 14th.  If you cannot make these you can follow this link and we'll send you your very own Spider in the next post.

But don't say we didn't warn you....

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

#faster #shinier #prettier @authors: A Claire Tacon Guest Post

The CBC has announced that next year’s Canada Reads authors will be sent on a mall tour, part of a strategy to reach a younger demographic. Sporting bikinis and Lucite heels (regardless of gender), the writers will walk a food court catwalk and then stand next to voting boxes where mall patrons can pick their favourites. Shoppers not wanting to take a break between Dynamite and H&M, can text in their preferences. The writer with the most number of votes and facebook friends wins.

In her excoriating article in The Globe and Mail, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer discussed much of what made this year’s Canada Reads so abysmal. The competition, however, is only a symptom of the fact that cultural criticism is no longer considered sexy enough in its own right. Instead it needs to be tarted up with reality-TV-style competitions and propped up by social media campaigns. Beyond the tackiness, it’s dangerous. By conflating the ideas of criticism and celebrity, we’re recasting what it means to be a writer.


Do you have a book coming out? Do you want to? The first piece of advice you’ll be given is to develop a web presence. With reviews and criticism disappearing in traditional venues, publishers need their authors to flog books by whatever means available. Social media is cheap, requires no supervision and when someone does it well, it can sell books. But those successes are as few and far between as Mary Kay ladies driving pink Cadillacs.

Social media was not designed for considered commentary. It succeeds by disseminating the business of ordinary lives in ways previously reserved for celebrities. Our names show up in “newsfeeds”; we get tagged in photos; our friends are tallied. We toss out the crumbs of our daily lives, convinced there is a waiting crowd ready to receive them as pearls.

It’s also a fast medium—Twitter, Facebook and blogs are built for snappy, superficial updates. There’s no time for the contemplation that went into a Richler column, and certainly none of the pay.

What happens to the craft when writers need to be more concerned with selling themselves than with honing their art? Few writers can survive without day jobs; many also have families. There are only so many hours in a day and the hours spent feeding blogs, Twitter and Facebook often come at the expense of writing, reading, and observing.

Before In the Field came out, I took the advice; got a webpage up, started a blog. I’ve written one post. Partly it’s because any free time goes to writing, but partly it’s because I’m more comfortable nosing into other people’s business than displaying my own. It’s why I write fiction. After logging more than a quarter million hours with myself, I’m quite happy to step into someone else’s shoes. 

There’s also the issue of experience. At 32, with only one book out, I’m reminded of my grandmother’s reaction to the couple that sold the rights to a livestream of their mutual deflowering. “What’s exciting about two virgins having sex?”

I worry that with increased reliance on social media, and more call for sensation to sell books, we’re cutting out a key writing demographic—introverts. If you’re not a great publicist, if you don’t like the spotlight, does that mean you don’t get to be a writer?


So where does that leave us? In fact, I take my answer from social media’s literary success. Sites like Canadian Bookshelf (or the now defunct Book Ninja), online writing hubs like Joyland, the multitude of author-driven review sites, Sarah Selecky’s Twitter feed writing prompts, or placesforwriters’ aggregation of calls for submission are all examples of ways technology can serve the arts community. I wish I’d spent less time over the past six months worrying about establishing an online reputation and more time contributing to my in-the-flesh community.

We need to accept that, infuriating as it is, we’re never going to get those spaces for criticism back in traditional media. And if we’re going to infect non-readers with a love of literature, it’s not going to be from masquerading as pseudo-celebrities or voting other writers off the island. It’s going to be from being community-builders. From hosting and attending live readings. From smart, hip initiatives like the Poetry Vending machines and Project Bookmark. It’s going to be from talking to people (yes, even the ones who liked Twilight) about books. Every day. 

Irish Times Two

We've had another across-the-pond hit in the Irish Times, with Malarky getting prominent mention in their weekend edition. Here's some of what they had to say:

There’s a buzz building across the pond about Malarky, the debut novel of Irish-Canadian writer Anakana Schofield, which has been selected by US bookseller Barnes Noble as a summer BN Discover Great New Writers pick. Writers previously selected for this promotion include Colum McCann and Cormac McCarthy.

Fine company, Anakana! My word. Happy Tuesday!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Winnipeg Free Press reviews A Very Small Something

The Winnipeg Free Press offered up a short but sweet review of our most recent children's book A Very Small Something this weekend in their round-up of new kids/YA lit.

How would you feel if you lived beside a bubblegum factory but couldn't blow a bubble?
That's the problem that torments Olive, who lives in a bubble-mad town in A Very Small Something by David Hickey (Biblioasis, 32 pages, $9).
With the help of large and lavish artwork by Stratford, Ont., artist Alexander Griggs-Burr, London, Ont., author Hickey transports Olive to an enchanted forest where she swallows a magic pill that allows her to blow gigantic bubbles. ...
Perhaps more importantly I've read recent reports that AVSS is in regular heavy circulation in several Biblioasis author households, and ranks as one of the more popular titles on the bedside table.  Which means that you should probably consider picking up a copy for your young bubble-blower today.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Q&Q reviews Malarky

In the just-release March issue of Quill & Quire, Emily M. Keeler offers a solid review of Anakana Schofield's Malarky.  Launching next month, we expect to get copies into our hands here at the Bibliomanse at some point next week.  Here's a bit of the review:

Irish-Canadian literary critic Anakana Schofield¹s first novel is a tumultuous ride. Malarky asks questions without providing answers, chronicling the emotional, mental, and occasionally menial anxieties of Our Woman as she struggles with her own agency and desire. Set in contemporary Ireland, the book overflows with subtle and sometimes subversive allusions to James Joyce's Ulysses, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d¹Urbervilles, site-specific contemporary Irish art, and Catholic history. Yet Schofield's strong prose style and inventive approach to structure will likely reward readers unfamiliar with these cultural references.


Schofield¹s formal experimentation is in perfect tandem with her thematic content.  ... Our Woman oscillates between trying to please the men in her life ­-- her withdrawn husband, tellingly referred to as Himself, and her adoring gay son, Jimmy ­-- and trying to discern how to achieve her own empowered pleasure. She becomes obsessed with sex as a path to such empowerment, and takes a young lover after discovering her husband¹s infidelity and the bodily joy Jimmy finds with other young men.

For the rest of the review, please pick up a copy of the current Q&Q.  Or better yet: pick up a copy of  Malarky.  It'll be available everywhere very, very soon.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tread Carefully: Suitable Precautions

Over at the Toronto Review of Books Sydney Hyatt offers a rave for Laura Boudreau's Suitable Precautions:

Laura Boudreau’s debut book release, Suitable Precautions, is a masterfully curated collection of short stories. Her style is unpredictable yet always elegantly delivered. She seems to delight in walking the line between the playful and sinister.

For the full review, please go here.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

No. 6

From Eric Ormsby's Time's Covenant (Biblioasis, 2007). First published in Daybreak at the Straits (Zoo, 2004). For the graphophiles in all of us.

Six Sonnets on Sex and Death,
No. 6.

His heartbeat hovered in two grimy paws.
He learned the sadness of quotidian
utensils, learned the glum obsidian
of office lobbies with their cattlelyas
and cycads, learned to wind the gauze
of hypochondria around his median;
learned the banks of exile quite Ovidian.

Only the Eberhard Faber pencils gave him pause:

cylindrical and golden as a happiness,
solar-yellow, tallow-fluted, saffron-bold.
O happiness remembered in distress!
O vaporous savour of some vanished gold!

Unwritten scripts lay tacit in their tips.
Erasers stiff as nipples rubbed his lips.


From Robyn Sarah's Pause for Breath (Biblioasis, 2009). I like to read this poem alongside Sonnet 116--would it be Valentine's Day without the Bard's only quotable poem on love?--so I've included a link below.

We write on Time
until our rhyme
runs out,
until the chalk itself
has dwindled to a nub
and less than that,
a smudge of powder
on a fingertip,
a powder shed
upon the ground.

Our frail agency
in the world, this:
our brave chalk line,
our mark on Time -
first firm, then skipping
like a vapour trail,
and soon enough rubbed out
by Time's felt brush
in Time's fell hand
(or by a celestial Thumb.)

What then can our intrepid cursive prove?
- Still, let us make our rhyme a rhyme of love.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 116

The statue (Chronos clipping the wings of Eros) is from the Rococo Garden in Veitschöchheim on Main, near Würzburg.

The Prayer of Paris to Aphrodite

Because this love business can be more than what I saw at Sobey's last night. This installment of Thirsty brought to you from Norm Sibum's Smoke and Lilacs (Carcanet, 2009). More throughout the day.

The Prayer of Paris to Aphrodite

Come, you with left knee bent, spare me this action.
Outraged husband - a Greek - charges at me:
Menelaus' spear is held high and ready.
And I'm chilled with fright
And have none of my wits.
Come you who come out of the sea,
Your smile burned on my breast, your savage smile is constant
In the roughed up places where love knows no quiet.
- What bliss by the hearths? What wisdom in affairs?
So much for every goddess but you.

Yes, come. I have my reasons, wild, irrepressible intent my excuse.
It's as clear to me as the cold light of stars on the coldest nights.
This shield is useless for my shame, my courage the courage of tender parts.

Hide me. Wrap me in a delivering cloud. In a wind of blinding dust,
Remove Paris from the field. Let men howl, lunge, eviscerate,
Leave one another for carrion. Just as we are in love, so we are in hate's arena:
Lost, quarrelsome, passionate, dead. Come, loveliest illusion, come you with left knee bent
Even as Hector heaps blame on the children of my children
And despises me for the woman you helped me to steal,

Commend your faithful to you, raise me with a squall,
Set me on Helen's bed. Watch over us. So that, from start o star, she and I
May step and leave no trace of our tortured passing,
For love combusts brighter than this Troy about to burn.

The Attic red figure vase, shown above, is thought to be by the Painter of Louvre (410-400 B.C.E.), and depicts the presentation of Aeneas to Paris by Aphrodite. Aeneas was to act as Paris's squire in the pinching of a certain you-know-who.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Attack! Eighteen Days and Counting

Afternoon, everyone! Attack of the Copula Spiders is still crawling across the interwebs, with the Bernhard essay showing some leg this weekend on A Piece of Monologue, ReadySteadyBook, and Scott Esposito's Conversational Reading. Interested in Doug Glover's thoughts on competition and vitality? Check out "The Future is Red in Tooth and Claw," new today on Global Brief. As for this Party? This little reception we're having? Well, Chris and I have been spinning invitations for weeks now, and we hope that you'll join us at AWP. It should be T-E-R-R-I-F-I-C. It should be R-A-D-I-A-N-T. It should be S-O-M-E P-I-G of a party!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Discovering Anakana Schofield's Malarky

Though it will not yet be published for more than a month in Canada -- and nearly a month later in the U.S. -- we've had some great news in the past week about Anakana Schofield's first novel Malarky in the US, which we thought we would share with Thirsty readers.  The book has been picked as one of a handful of fiction and nonfiction selections for Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Program for the summer of 2012.  Not only does this mean that it will receive great exposure through B&N stores and online, but it is also eligible for the $10,000 B&N Discover Great New Writers Award.

More details will follow as they become available.

If this is the first you've heard of Malarky, trust me when I say that it will not be the last.  It's a black and madly comic novel about a wife and mother come face-to-face with the mad agony of longing.  Set in rural Ireland, it spans the globe and grapples with the question (among many others: it continues to surprise me the range of subject this novel can contain without becoming overwhelmed by it): can we love something so much that we kill it?

It comes garlanded with some exceptional early praise.  My favourite may be this one, from Lynn Coady:

This is the story of Anakana Schofield's teapot-wielding 'Our Woman': fretful mother, disgruntled farmwife, and—surprisingly late in life—sexual outlaw/anthropologist. Everything about this primly raunchy, uproarious novel is unexpected—each draught poured from the teapot marks another moment of pure literary audacity.

Or how about this one, from Annabel Lyon:

Malarky spins and glitters like a coin flipped in the air—now searingly tragic, now blackly funny. The language is joyful and exuberant, the characters thoughtful and deeply felt. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

For more information about Anakana Schofield and Malarky please check out the page on Biblioasis's website here.   You can also follow the link to Anakana's blog over on the author sidebar.  We'll be launching a Malarky website in the coming weeks as well.  Further details on launches and other promotion to follow.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

A Book Bench, Bernhard, and the Irony Switch

For those of you who have been following Douglas Glover online, either through, the five-times-lovely numéro cinq, or through general twitterbuzz, you'll know that his essay on Thomas Bernhard has been catching eyes around the world. First there was The Brooklyn Rail, which ran it last week; then there was Andrew Gallix, columnist for The Guardian, who posted an excerpt on his blog; and today, the New Yorker's Book Bench column posted an excerpt in its "Loose Leafs" online feature. Keep tweeting, world! And remember that Doug will be signing copies of Attack of the Copula Spiders this year at AWP Chicago, both at the Vermont College of Fine Arts booth (Mar. 1, 2-3:30), and at the Copula Spiders Pre-Party (Mar. 2nd, 7 PM, Dining Room 4).

And finally (as we flick the lights on this post?), the Book Bench pull quote: “Every great novel possesses a mysterious flickering quality, the on/off light of irony, that conceals and reveals its moment of fidelity.” Thanks, Book Bench!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

February Book of the Month: Claire Tacon's In the Field

Claire Tacon's In the Field was the winner of the most recent Metcalf-Rooke Award (&, yes, for those of you who submitted to the current one, we're still wading through manuscripts: expect an announcement in the next  two weeks) and takes as one of its themes the idea that you can't go home again.  Ellie Lucan tries to do so, imagining she's escaping from career disappointment and a troublesome time in her marriage, but discovers when she returns home that many more problems and complications await, which challenge and change her views about many things, the most important one being herself.

As the inaugural Biblioasis Book of the Month pick, orders of In the Field through the Biblioasis website will receive a 30% discount from the $19.95 list price (that's $13.97).  You can find In the Field's page on the website here.  (Out of solidarity for the other Metcalf-Rooke books, we have also applied the same discount to previous winners.  These include Patricia Young's Airstream; Kathleen Winter's boYs; Rebecca Rosenblum's Once; Amy Jones's What Boys Like; and A. J. Somerset's Combat Camera. )

In an excellent interview in the latest issue of The New Quarterly new TNQ editor Pamela Mulloy speaks with Claire about her novel.  Here's a little taste:

CT: The Swiss Air plane crash comes up twice in the book: I think that's a good metaphor for Ellie's unravelling.  Planes don't usually go down unless there's a whole series of problems.  Pilots are trained to deal with almost anything -- engine failures, pressure drops, broken landing equipment, and combinations of problems.  Crashing a plane takes either a catastrophic event or a long chain of smaller problems.  

It's the same in life; we're able to deal with crises as long as they're staggered and not too severe.  It's when we get two or three things thrown our way in quick succession that we get overwhelmed.  No matter how happy you are in a given moment, with the right set of circumstances, you could be at a breaking point.  That's what happens for Ellie.  

In the end, she has to decide whether it's better to be a good daughter or a good mother.  For most of the novel, she's either avoided decisions or let others make them for her.  The book's ending is quiet, but it leaves her forced to choose for herself, to be an active participant in her own life.  

In addition to being a novelist, Claire is an accomplished short story writer, and three of her stories have also just appeared in the Oberon's Coming Attractions volume, selected by Mark Anthony Jarman.

Claire Tacon will be embarking over April-May on a near two dozen city tour which will take her through much of Ontario, to select cities on the prairies, and through to British Columbia.  Stay tuned for more details.  And stay tuned for more about Claire and her book over the course of February on Thirsty: perhaps we'll even convince her to take the reins for a post or two....

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Introducing Mike Barnes's The Reasonable Ogre

One of the titles I'm most excited about this Spring is Mike Barnes's new collection The Reasonable Ogre: Tales for the Sick and Well.  Officially this is his third collection of short stories, following Aquarium and Contrary Angel.  But this is different for a range of reasons.  First, Mike has turned his pen to fables with this one, and has collected together  thirteen fables about the hard bargains, small plenties, luscious dregs and strange detours which make life worth living.  In many ways these fables serve as a fictional follow-up to his memoir The Lily Pond as much as anything else he has written.  It is also fabulously illustrated with more than sixty full page and vignette illustrations by Segbingway.  We're in the proofing stage now, and the book will not launch until late April, but it is such a wonderfully unique book I thought it would be worth giving Thirsty readers a bit of an advanced notice.

If you would like a sneak peak of some of what you'll get when we launch The Reasonable Ogre in a few months' time you can check out the new website we've launched to promote the book at www.reasonable  There you can see a selection of Segbingway's illustrations, read a sample from the title fable, or listen to Mike read the entirety of the same fable, and samples from a few others.

We'll keep you posted about Toronto and Southern-Ontario launches forthcoming in April/May.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Pangborn Defence

There are times, as a publisher (as I am sure is also the case with writers and their books) when I begin to worry that the books we are publishing have little life beyond the short window of buzz (& some, despite our best efforts, don't even manage buzz, but are effectively (or at least seemingly) stillborn) we're able to build around them at publication.

So I always find it gratifying when there's a google alert for an older book and it's not merely another eBay bookseller listing a review copy of the title for pennies on the dollar.  Such was the case this weekend, when what might be the most intelligent review we've received for Norm Sibum's 2008 The Pangborn Defence was brought to our attention.  It leaves reason to hope many of our older books are still finding their way in the world, one reader at a time.

Here a taste of the review, from

...what I find different in this book is its worldliness — not in the sense of that boring old divide between the sacred and the secular, so much as in its responsivity to the world. Sibum seems to have provided his own answer to the question, “What does it take to get poets to shake their fists at power?” His answer seems to be: The Bush Administration.
Well, not that alone. Reality TV; the rise of capitalist globalization; but also, one senses, the creeping on of the years, the visible collapse one witness less in one’s own life than in the lives of one’s friends and enemies, as their hair grays and their marriages collapse and their bad habits continue on into the shadow years.
There is disgust and rage in these pages, but a salutary one: The influence of Pound on Sibum’s work was apparent to me in The November Propertius mainly for his juxtaposition of the ancient and mythical with the quotidian world of waitresses and drunk pals, as well as in his treatment of language; here, though, he has gone further, he has made his work overtly, unapologetically political.
With The Cantos, that move was in many ways disastrous, but I dare to think it is less so with The Pangborn Defence. Happily, though Sibum has brought his poet’s tatty shoes to the streetcorner and mounted a soapbox, we find to our relief that he has come out not in praise of the Mussolinis of our day, but rather to condemn them; and the weary, unhopeful tendency here gives way, just often enough, to rage that that feels pent up, that one gets at least this much: one is not alone, in one’s own horror and disgust at how the century began.
Worldliness, a salutary disgust and rage (along with various beauties): Gord gets it absolutely right.

Read the full review here.  

Light Lifting Love

Two more UK reviews of Light Lifting this weekend, one from Rob at Robaroundbooks, and the other an extended review/interview from The Scotsman. Nice bits in there on Canada as an urbanized country. And, as a teaser, here's the conclusion:

"Serious work takes serious time. Like his father, Alexander MacLeod is a perfectionist. His father’s reputation stems from just 13 short stories and one novel; his son’s first collection contains only seven stories, one of which was written as long as 17 years ago. They are not prolific, these MacLeods. But – trust me – when they do get around to producing a book, you really ought to have a look at it."

Friday, February 03, 2012

Cynthia Flood's Blue Clouds

Cynthia Flood has a new story over at Douglas Glover's online magazine Numero Cinq.

“Blue Clouds” deals up predatory males, mothers and daughters, betrayed and doubly betrayed women (an ancient story told with freshness and aplomb with just a hint of perverse eroticism), against an ironic backdrop of political engagement — even more ironic because it’s all told through the eyes of the cleaning help. Cynthia Flood writes like a telegram — terse, elliptical — but creates fictional worlds dense with character, drama and a sudden crimping of emotion. 

Read 'Blue Clouds' here.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A Scrupulous Fidelity: Attack of the Copula Spiders

The first book we will be launching this Spring is Douglas Glover's critical book Attack of the Copula Spiders.  It's a fabulous collection of essays on reading and writing: the essays on writing are among the best and most useful I've read.  If you want to learn how to write a short story, or the difference between writing a short story and a novel, or various tips and tricks to invigorate your prose, then Glover's Spiders is the book for you.

One of the main points Glover makes in this collection is that one must first learn to read well before one can write well, and to that end Spiders gathers some of Glover's best recent writing on writers and their work, including essays and reviews on Alice Munro, Leon Rooke, Mark Anthony Jarman and several others.  One of these other essays, on Thomas Bernhard's The Loser -- a book which has been on my bedside table since I picked it up at Type Books last Fall -- was published yesterday as a web exclusive in The Brooklyn Rail, and can be read here.  

Though Attack of the Copula Spiders officially pubs in April, we will be pre-launching it at AWP on Friday March 2nd in Chicago (7:00-8:15, The Hilton Hotel, Room 4).  If you're attending AWP please make plans to stop by.