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October 24, 2012

On the Rosalind Prize

So thrilled to read about the advent of the  Rosalind Prize, Canada’s new literary prize for fiction by women. Which is not to say that Canada needs more literary prizes in general, but I think we need this one. Two years ago, I shared my thoughts on the Orange Prize, and I haven’t changed my mind. Oh, and you know my feelings on women and the Leacock Prize. Anyway, it turns out that the stats for women and Canadian literary prizes are as pathetic as all the others.

In a week during which the same old (justified) woes about women’s representation were aired again, and a venerable Canadian publisher faces peril, it is refreshing to see action for positive change and it’s really nice to be inspired.

October 2, 2012

On awards lists, malarky and various apes

The Giller shortlist was announced yesterday, the nominees for the Governor General’s Awards announced today. Writers Trust last week too, and in general, I’m not so grumpy anymore. I love that The Juliet Stories is getting props. I don’t love that Malarky still isn’t, but I’m confident that it’s a book that will hold its own. Its enthusiastic readers will do its propping for it. I look forward to reading some of the other nominees.

Last week I read the Giller longlisted My Life Among the Apes by Cary Fagan, which I enjoyed a lot. Also was pleased to interview Fagan on 49thShelf, and I hope you’ll check it out because I’m really proud of this one. I’ve also been inspired to create a list of books with monkeys on their cover–a most worthwhile endeavour, I think.

Check out also recent #Fest2Fest interviews with writers Andrew Larsen and Sarah Tsiang.

September 17, 2012

Funny September

For me, this time of year is a kind of bookish rapture. The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, Word on the Street Toronto, and the Victoria College Book Sale are what my Septembers are usually built upon, allowing me to bring home ample inspiration, sunshine memories, and new piles to add to my to-be-read stack. But this year is a bit funny, as my sister had the nerve to put her wedding right in the thick of it, and so now we’re going to be on other side of the country instead of at Word on the Street, and we gave Eden Mills a miss in order to save funds for that trip across the country. Which is all right actually, because my sister’s wedding is going to be wonderful, and I have so many books in my stack that I’m grateful to be put a timezone away from the Vic Book Sale, but it’s been overwhelming getting work done in time for before I go. So this is why you get to read about why I’m really tired, instead of reading about my brilliant time at Eden Mills. But I promise, I’ll be back to all three next year, and it will be a fine reminder to wish my lovely sister a happy anniversary.

June 11, 2012

The best literature this country has ever produced

From my letter to my Member of Parliament and Minister James Moore regarding the federal government’s cessation of funding to the Literary Press Group of Canada:

“Canadian presses are right now publishing some of the best literature this country has ever produced. If you aren’t already familiar with titles such as Darcie Hossack’s Mennonites Don’t Dance (Thistledown Press, also nominated for Commonwealth Writers Prize), Billeh Nickerson’s Impact: The Titanic Poems (Arsenal Pulp Press), Madeleine Sonik’s Afflictions and Departures (Anvil Press, also nominated for Charles Taylor Prize), Daniel Griffin’s Stopping for Strangers (Vehicule Press, shortlisted for Frank O’Connor and Danuta Gleed awards), Mad Hope by Heather Birrell (Coach House Press), Mnemonic: A Book of Trees by Theresa Kishkan (Goose Lane Editions), The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud (Gaspereau Press, winner of the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize), I’m a Registered Nurse… by Anne Perdue (Insomniac Press), and Monoceros by Suzette Mayr (Coach House Press, nominated for 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize), which are only some of the best books I’ve read lately, then I suggest you seek them out. And then you will understand my concern about the LPG funding cut, and about how much we all stand to lose as a result.”

The matter is urgent. If you support Canadian readers, Canadian books, and Canadian writers, please write your MP and tell her/him so.

February 21, 2012

Big Day: Welcome to The 49th Shelf!

Canadian Bookshelf launched in beta last June, and officially arrives today with a whole host of new features and a brand new name: The 49th Shelf. The selection of books on our front page this week is blowing my mind (including Madeline Sonik’s Afflictions & Departures, which I just finished yesterday and loved), our new I Love Books campaign is excellent, and you can find out more about what’s going on in our latest blog post (and we’re talking giveaway!). We’ve also got an interview with Maggie Helwig whose Girls Fall Down has just been selected for the One Book Toronto program (and which Stuart is currently reading and enjoying).

It’s good news all around and so inspiring to see so much love and support for Canadian books. I’m so thrilled to be a part of it and hope you’ll be a part of it too.

January 31, 2012

New Featured Ad: Great Plains Publications

I’m pleased to welcome Great Plains Publications to our sidebar. I’d enjoyed reading Nerys Parry’s Man & Other Natural Disasters last month, and so was happy when they approached me about placing an ad on the site. My posts and reviews at Pickle Me This are never paid for and opinions expressed are ever my own, but it is definitely nice to be featuring an ad for a book whose goodness I can stand behind and can recommend wholeheartedly.

January 11, 2012

The Canadian Publisher as "important component of civilization"

Here’s what sprang to my mind when I heard about Random House’s takeover of McClelland & Stewart:

“I arrive in Toronto on the day that Coach House Press goes out of business. (Coach House’s recent revival could not be foreseen at the time.) More startling than Coach House’s death is the reaction to its demise. Where past politicians, even those ill-disposed towards the cultural sector, would have felt it expedient to play lip-service to Coach House’s achievements, Ontario Premier Mike Harris launched into an attack on the press’s ‘history of total government dependence.’ Though Harris’ characterization isn’t strictly accurate, I am struck by how many of the writers and commentators who respond to Harris argue from the same set of assumptions: they defend Coach House’s accounting and marketing strategies, arguing for the press as a viable business rather than an important component of a civilization… Canadian public debate has changed in ways that make it increasingly difficult to justify, or even imagine, the sense of collective endeavour that fuelled the writing community only a few years earlier.” –Stephen Henighan, “Between Postcolonialism and Globalization”

(As you can see, I got a lot out of Henighan’s book, which I picked up just after the death of Josef Skvorecky, whose work he addesses in the essay “Canadian Cultural Cringe” and which certainly provided a counterpoint to the Skvorecky obits. And then this Random House news yesterday afternoon. Seems Henighan’s ideas are very relevant at the moment.)

January 5, 2012

Books I'm looking forward to in 2012

I’ve posted my Winter/Spring 2012: Most Anticipated Books of the Season post for Canadian Bookshelf, which I think is impossible to read through without being overwhelmed with some serious book lust. I’m looking forward to so many of these books, which will certainly be enough to carry us through the winter to the spring. In addition to the Canadian picks, I’m longing for Arcadia by Lauren Groff, who is perhaps my favourite American author of the moment– I loved The Monsters of Templeton and Delicate Edible Birds. I’ve already pre-ordered a copy of the latest Penelope Lively, How It All Began— she is wonderful, as is everything she touches.  I know that Ali Smith’s There But For The came out last year, but I missed it, a mistake I will be fast to rectify. Can’t wait for Emily Perkins’ The Forrests, her latest book since Novel About My Wife. I’m also looking forward to finally reading Douglas Gibson’s Stories About Storytellers, about Gibson’s adventures in editing some of Canada’s greatest writers (which I’m particularly in the mood for after reading the terrific interview with Robert Gottlieb in The Paris Review Interviews Vol. 1). And then The New Republic by Lionel Shriver, which apparently is a reissue of a book from early in her career, and I will read it because Shriver is such a good writer, even if her novels themselves (save …Kevin) are not always altogether satisfying.

December 19, 2011

Blogging course makes the news

Much of this Fall was consumed by the adventure my first round of teaching The Art and Business of Blogging at through UofT’s School of Continuing Studies. An article on the course was included in The Toronto Sun‘s recent continuing education supplement, and is available for your reading here. And just a reminder that the course will be offered again in the spring!

August 8, 2011

Every little bit of the story is true

I’m sure I’m not the only person who is watching the riots unfolding in London, and thinking about Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English (but not the part about the pigeon). Also about the riots in Vancouver, and how books are the opposite of mob mentality. That these things are just as much about people being idiots (and how) as they are about a profound level of broadbased spiritual poverty and systemic discrimination– every little bit of the story is true. I think that it’s by reading fiction that I’ve learned to process events in the world with reactions that aren’t totally knee-jerk.

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