Thursday, June 28, 2012

Malarky on Little Star and Largehearted Boy

Afternoon, folks, and happy Thursday before the Friday of the long weekend. Thought I'd point out the Malarky playlist that went up yesterday on Largehearted Boy ("Here are a combination of tracks that either I listened to repeatedly or are perkily redolent of aspects of the text," says AK of her selection). And this pretty twinkle, posted by the NYRB's Ann Kjellberg on her blog Little Star, should be mentioned too. "A miracle from Anakana Schofield"? Now that doesn't get less fun for being a whole week old--and "Move over, Molly Bloom" ain't bad at all. Here's a taste of AK's soundtrack. (Was tempted to go with the cattle ditty but sometimes DB is hard to resist.) Till soon!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Pluck of the Irish

Happy Friday, everybody. Business is winding down for the weekend here at the Bibliomanse, but before things unwind completely (unravel totally?)--well let's all just take a look at this lovely lucky thing from The National Post. It begins:

When Anakana Schofield was 24 years old, she got braces. 

That not enough of a hook? Check out the Post online for Mark Medley on achronological writing, the irresolution of despair, dignified poverty, and--erm--AK's introduction of oral surgery to reality TV. 

And oh yes. You may hear just a tich more about "one of the season's best reads," which was also called "quirky, raucous, and utterly unconventional" in the June issue of Reader's Digest

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Queen of the pun, the parse, the misplaced meaning"

So begins Salamander's review of Marsha Pomerantz's The Illustrated Edge. Check it out! Available for a short time online, and in print in issue 17.2. Thanks to Katherine Larson for her thoughtful work. And all you fans of Marsha, don't forget to take a gander at the Massachusetts Cultural Council website, where she's been honoured (honored?) with an artistic fellowship.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today in History (Just North of the Border)

"Two days before the shooting a chartered planeload of Southern Negroes swooped down upon the District of Columbia and attempted to see the Senator."

So begins the posthumously published Juneteenth, written by Ralph Ellison over a forty-year period and spanning at one point some 2000 manuscript pages. There's a hubbub over the border today about Juneteenth--not the book, alas, though the good folks at WDET did quote a few lines for us--but about the holiday, celebrated in 41 states, commemorating the moment that Union General Gordon Granger (along with 2000 federal troops) arrived in Galveston, Texas, to force the emancipation of its slaves. Standing on the balcony of Ashton Villa at a date 2.5 years after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Granger read aloud from General Order No. 3:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

A stirring piece of oratory if ever there was.

The book published as Juneteenth was to be the second volume of a trilogy. Ellison never saw it. It was compiled by John Callahan, his editor, and published five years after Ellison's death in 1994. Here's what the Boston Review had to say about it at the time:
The book is more than Ellison fans could expect, yet less than Ellison probably hoped--an ambivalent masterpiece. It celebrates the promise of interracial love even as it cannot square its black and white points-of-view. It flares with stylistic pyrotechnics--passages that matchInvisible Man for energy--even as its plot feels unfinished and its monologues too windy. Perhaps most strikingly, Juneteenth aims to speak to our current racial dilemmas even as it harkens to an age before "the inner city," "black power," and the "underclass." It is easy to see why Ellison could not wrap up his epic: the novel revolves in an intelligence too complex and too quick, ironically, to come to completion. As his Invisible Man might say, Ellison was trapped in a groove of history.
An ambivalent man for an ambivalent holiday, which of course is called Independence Day for African Americans, but also serves as a pointed reminder that emancipation is a process that spans generations. 

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas will soon be introducing a bill to declare Juneteenth a federally recognized day of observance in the United States.

On another note, it seems that the City of Detroit can't afford sufficient security to manage crowd control at upcoming fireworks displays, and has called upon nearby municipal districts to help staff the upcoming celebrations.

Oh, America! And here's another review of Juneteenth, dug waaayy out of the archives, from CNQ's own Alex Good. Happy nineteenth, everybody. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

On The Reasonable Ogre in the National Post (with apologies to Charlize Theron).

"To read a fairy tale," writes Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer as a special to the National Post, "is to enter a collective dream space. The stories have lost and accrued material. One must suspend a sense of authority at all — of narrative positioning, of who and why a story might have survived ... They entrance us with their superficiality."

With Snow White and the Huntsman grossing something like $56.2 million on its opening weekend (June 3rd), and with the film presently standing as the second-highest grossing movie at the foreign box office (surpassed only by Madacascar 3), Kathryn's point is hard to argue. Even the subverted fairy tale--once the exclusive terrain of pungently political fiction writers like Angela Carter--is now being co-opted by the mainstream. "Strongly influenced by a lot of smart, feminist thinking," says New York magazine of Snow White. (Because the heroine spends the film running from, instead of sleeping through, her stepmother's vanity-driven genocide campaign?) And here's the LA Times: "[the film is] an absolute wonder to watch and creates a warrior princess for the ages. But what this revisionist fairy tale does not give us is a passionate love - its kisses are as chaste as the snow is white."

It seems that the 2012 theatre-going public wants something like An Affair to Remember plus Xena. It's easy to dish up. Especially because--as Maria Tatar writes in The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen, and as Kuitenbrouwer cites in the Post--"fairy tales are invested above all in surfaces, in everything that glitters, dazzles and shines." In that respect there's no genre better suited to the silver screen. 

"Still," Tatar continues, "[fairy tales] give us the psychological depth, even when the characters are described only in terms of surfaces. … As the stereotypical plots of fairy tales churn with melodramatic fervor, they also sparkle with surface beauty. The result is something I will call ignition power — the ability to inspire our powers of imagination so that we begin to see scenes described by nothing more than words on the page.”

The point of all this, of course, being that Kuitenbrouwer thinks Mike Barnes's The Reasonable Ogre has ignition power and then some. "We do not live in reasonable times," she says, and Barnes "[uses] the comfort of the old stories — their cliché and predictability — to discuss ... climate change, war, economic ruin and moral laziness. The 12 stories that comprise this collection are marvellous in the truest sense. They are strange and dark, unpleasant and open-hearted, by which I mean my deepest compliments."

Check out the whole review in this weekend's Saturday Post, or online here. Beyond being a thoughtful look at Mike's work it's a nice intro to the nature of the modern fairy tale,  and features doffs of the cap to A. S. Byatt, Sara Maitland, Italo Calvino, Kate Bernheimer, Angela Carter, and Oscar Wilde. 

In other words? Dwarves, schwarves. Mike, you're in the company of giants. 

Friday, June 08, 2012

The NYC Scoop, Clear Skies, Some Money for Poetry (?!), and The Great & Mighty Gazette

For those of you who aren't quite sure, Book Expo America--where Dan and I have been for the past week--is the biggest North American trade show in the biz, and perhaps the only way you can get thousands of publishers, publicists, literary agents, distributors, media representatives, librarians, booksellers, "power readers," bloggers, and authors to trudge in a herd twice daily through the meat packing district of New York. We met Lemony Snicket. We snuck inside the annual New Directions party, held in their 8th Avenue offices, where we gawped at their filing cabinets ("Pound, E. Correspondence A-L"), ogled their decor (on the wall in the main hallway, a scrip in the hand of W.C. Williams, next to a Henry Miller painting), and were altogether very warmly welcomed by people and objets d'art alike. On the fair floor a growing collection of willy warmers hooked the eyes of more than a few passersby, and we talked up your Bibliotitles till our throats were sore. Altogether a resounding success! And a success made even sweeter by coming home to this little gem by David Hickey:

What are those little colour panels, you may ask? Little mini-Mondrians? Not exactly. Read more about  clear sky charts--"equal parts Atari and abstract art"--on David's blog

Ahem. In other (woefully overdue) poetry news, we have a lovely & thoughtful new GoodReport on mythic maps, plus the grounds and airy overgrounds, in Amanda Jernigan's Groundwork. And Marsha Pomerantz, whose Illustrated Edge is now just a little over a year old, was just recently selected as the recipient of a prestigious fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Congratulations to Marsha and happy birthday to the Edge!

Last but not least, since it wouldn't be a 2012 blog post without me saying something about Malarky, I'd like to point your virtual eyes towards what's running in this weekend's Montreal Gazette. You know you're in good hands when a review begins "It's a post-Celtic Tiger Ireland," and finishes with with a hellzapoppin paragraph like this: 
Toeing the delicate line between tragedy and comedy – the former inherent in the bare facts of Our Woman’s life, the latter in her irrepressible voice – Schofield starts at a pitch of inspiration most novels are lucky to reach at any point and remarkably sustains that level all the way through. The spirit of Joyce’s Molly Bloom hovers around the edges of Malarky, so if you’ve always found the last pages of Ulysses to be the highlight of that difficult masterpiece, you might just find Molly’s modern-day descendant in Our Woman. Others will be reminded of another Irish classic, lately fallen into unjust neglect: Edna O’Brien’s 1960 novel The Country Girls. But here’s one Irish country girl who has grown up and seen and done things O’Brien’s could never have envisioned.
Thanks to Ian McGillis for that. Happy weekend, everybody. This brings the trade show season to a close until the fall. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ange Friesen at the Toronto Review of Books interviewed Rebecca Rosenblum yesterday. Topics included how Rebecca writes, Libraries and short film.

"TRB: What kind of reader are you?

RR: Hmm, method-wise? I still read on paper whenever possible. I’m not against electronic reading–I’ve read hundreds of books on-screen as part of various jobs–but I prefer a book when the option is presented. When paper books become expensive and hard-to-find, I’ll get an e-reader too, and probably like it–until then, not.
If you meant genre, I read mainly fiction, poetry, a little bit of narrative non-fiction and criticism. The occasional how-to book. I’m basically obsessed with Canadian short stories and try to be current on new collections. I don’t always succeed, but the effort largely assures that I’m never current on what’s going on in other genres or other countries. I do try to read widely–I’m reading a British anthology right now–but there are too many books! Ack!

TRB: How does your reading life influence your writing life?

RR: I read for pleasure, first and foremost, but also to see how everybody else does it. Even if I’m not consciously noting lessons (I never do that), I feel like I can absorb good writing osmotically–the more good stories I read, the more I’m able to write them.

Very occasionally, I read for research, which I actually often dislike–I find the style of informational non-fiction very dry a lot of the time. But I’m just not an expert in most subjects, so I have to research–gotta get it right!"

Find the rest of the interview on the Toronto Review of Books website.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Sunrise in the Eyes of the Snowman shortlisted for the CAA Poetry Award

We are proud to announce that Goran Simic's Sunrise in the Eyes of the Snowman was shortlisted for the CAA Poetry Award. The prize recognizes excellence in Poetry for collections “honouring writing that achieves excellence without sacrificing popular appeal.” The finalist will be announced on July 28th 2012.
Congratulations to Goran and all the shortlisted poets and authors!

Visit the Canadian Authors Association website to see the full shorlist.

This Weekend in Reviews

The LA Review of Books reviewed Attack of the Copula Spiders this weekend saying "For the budding writer, Attack of the Copula Spiders offers an excellent primer on the basics; the practiced writer will glean so much more from Glover’s wonderful literary experience."

The Big Dream was featured on The Quarterly Conversation today: "The prose in these 13 stories," says Jeff Bursey, " contains rueful truths...swift portraits...and depths of feeling"

Alice Petersen's All the Voices Cry was reviewed on, the conclusion: "All the Voices Cry has to be counted one of the most assured short story debuts in recent years."

Last week Petersen was author of the "Old Book, New Author" column in the
National Post: Alice's take on Russell Hoban's post apocalyptic world.