Thursday, September 30, 2010

Here Comes the Literary Bride. . .

Normally I'd run screaming from anything to do with the bridal industry, but the link to this blog post came through on an academic Virginia Woolf listserv that I subscribe to,and hey, if the professors are intrigued. . . The blogger and photographer - Carine's Bridal Atelier - covered the Spring 2011 Caroline Herrera Show which focused on bridal gowns inspired by famous women writers, artists, and singers.  The muses included Virginia Woolf,  Emily Dickinson, Edith Piaf, Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefe.  My favourites were the Karen Blixen dress (on the right - love the hat!) and the Jane Austen dress (on the left). You can view the whole show here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writers' Trust Awards Announced. . .

Well, there's room for Room on the Writers' Trust Fiction Shortlist that was announced today.  We're all still scratching our heads as to why it didn't make the Giller longlist. And how cool that both Winter siblings will be competing against each other for the prize. Here are the nominees for fiction:

Trevor Cole for Practical Jean
Emma Donoghue for Room
Michael Helm for Cities of Refuge
Kathleen Winter for Annabel
Michael Winter for The Death of Donna Whalen

Full details and the shortlists for the non-fiction prize and finalists for the Journey Prize can be found here.  

My Dog Tulip now on DVD. . .

I was hoping the animated movie of J.R. Ackerley's My Dog Tulip would open on a few movie screens in Canada, but the DVD is now already out.  This is a very funny book, the movie adheres very closely to the original and Christopher Plummer is perfect as the curmudgeonly Ackerley who, despite the many trials of Tulip, just can't help loving his dog.  I saw it about a year ago at the Toronto Film Festival and the book was one of my first NYRB Challenge titles. You can read my thoughts on the book and movie here.  I do like NYRB's new movie tie-in cover; it was one of the books we sold out of at Sunday's Word on the Street.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thanks Ken!

Tonight at Hart House, I joined many people in the library and publishing world to celebrate the life and times of Ken Setterington. Ken is retiring from TPL but not leaving the reading community. Ken is taking the smart route and actually joining the Freedom 55 Club that we all dream about. By all accounts he has many projects on his plate and will be as busy as ever. It was quite an emotional evening with so many people he loves and admires around him toasting his amazing accomplishments. I first sold to Ken over 17 years ago and he was as kind and gentle and as funny then as he is now...especially to a total greenhorn like me. Well here's to the next 55 Ken! God bless you. xosb

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New Biography of Roald Dahl. . .

I haven't yet read Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock, but browsing this weekend's book pages, I came across this review by Michael Dirda of the Washington Post. Dirda is my all-time favourite book critic, and so when he writes that Storyteller, "should be read immediately by anyone interested in Dahl, the ins and outs of modern publishing or the art of biography. I can't sing its praises enough", well, the book just shoots to the top of the pile. I can still vividly remember how my seven-year old self felt reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I was once cast as Veruca Salt in a production my local library in Beaconsfield was staging, but alas, my family moved to Toronto before rehearsals even started.  So much for my stage career. . .

Indigo Teen Read Awards

Last night, I attended Indigo's Teen Read Awards with my daughter and my niece. I have to say, it was THE most fun award show I have ever been to. Indigo really knows how to put on a party...the food was awesome...sliders, mini mac 'n' cheese, sushi, brownie lollipops were just some of the offerings. The D.J. was playing hit after hit and the dance floor was packed. Surprise musical guest was Emily Osment (BFF of Hannah Montana) and my 7 year old had a baby heart attack. The focus of the show was the awards and it amazing to see hundreds of teens whipped into a frenzy at the mere mention of Bitten or City of Glass. My niece said it was the best night she has had in her life.

Full list of winners:
Best Read: Catching Fire
Best Villan: Prophecy of the Sisters
Best Hero: Percy Jackson
Best New Writer: Fallen: Lauren Kate
Best Lip Lock: Breaking Dawn
Best Hottie: Mortal Instruments: City of Glass
Best Series: Vampire Academy: Spirit Bound
Best Book to Flick: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Best All Time Fave: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Best Canadian Read: Darkest Powers: The Reckoning

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Zombies Meet Star Trek

The Zombie craze continues. From the publisher of Pride and Predjudice and Zombies comes another gorefest in the series: Night of the Living Trekkies. To promote the release, Quirk has put out a truly gruesome trailer. The production values for this are incredible...not for the squeamish.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In Which I Live Out a Fantasy, Sort Of. . .

This is going to be a self-indulgent post so please forgive me, but I was just so darn EXCITED to walk by The Novel Idea Bookstore in downtown Kingston and see this in their store window:

It's hard to read from the photo, but it's the information for the Dewey Divas Book Lover's Lunch tomorrow.  Hey, it's the closest I'll ever get to being featured in a bookstore window so let me have my moment.

I do love visiting Kingston. It has lots of interesting boutiques and independent stores and still retains a lot of its historical charm. Plus there seems to be a café or tea shop on every corner.  I picked up a delicious European hot chocolate from The Mug & Truffle Chocolate Café (well, how could I resist going into an establishment with that name?) and settled down with my book by the water's edge, only to be distracted by the gorgeous full moon.

A Week of Book Festivals. . .

It's a busy week. 

Tomorrow Ann and I will be in Kingston doing a breakfast Dewey Diva talk to the librarians, followed by a Book Lover's Lunch as part of the Kingston Writer's Festival that starts today.  Our event at one of the city's finest restaurants, Chez Piggy,  is sold out (yea!) and we're really looking forward to sharing our favourite reads with enthusiastic bibliophiles and book club members - we had a great time doing this last year. And yes, we'd be lying if we didn't say we're also looking forward to the lunch!  (I've posted my fall picks on the right hand side of this blog - my talk will pull a selection from those books).

Then this Sunday is Word on the Street. I've been working the Toronto portion of this annual street fair for more years than I care to remember, but I'm really excited about our booth this year. My colleagues and I are pairing up with Ben McNally Books and offering a really different book selection from what people usually encounter at these events. We wanted to focus on great books that don't get a lot of media attention from those awesome smaller presses that you know I love to blog about and recommend and - after two caffeinated lattes -  that I will be hand selling like crazy.  NYRB Classic groupies, come on down!  We'll have a huge selection as well as international literature from Melville House and Other Press. We'll have graphic novels, health and cookbooks, and stuff for kids too.  And all the books will be 20% off.  Also, you'll get the chance to meet Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians, the dynamic duo behind Melville House and MobyLives, who were responsible for bringing Hans Fallada to the English book world's attention - they love Canada!   And Avner Mandelman will also be stopping by to sign copies of his novel The Debba, which was just long listed for this year's Giller Prize.

Do come by and say hello.  It's Booth #329, on the west side of Queen's Park Circle, right at Hoskins Ave.

There will also be some great authors appearing at the Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage (schedule is here) and our Remarkable Reads Tent (schedule is here). Fingers crossed for good weather.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


It's very hard to pick a favourite book of the season (maybe harder than picking a favourite kid as there are soooo many to choose from); BUT I am going out on a limb and choosing SPORK. This totally wonderful book is about a Spork...he's not a spoon and not a fork, so how does he fit in this multi-cutlery world? Coming from parents of different nationalities, Maclear is a self proclaimed Spork. She wrote this book for her new born who would be a Spork times two. Governor General Award winning illustrator, Isabelle Arsenault totally nails the pictures and they are not too sweet or heavy handed. The New York Times recently gave a sweet review of the book. Maria from Tinlids has also picked this book as one of her faves and has put a trailer for it on their website. Check it out...because deep down, aren't we really all Sporks?

Literary Adaptations And Other Films from TIFF. . .

I'm still coming down from the adrenaline rush that was this year's Toronto International Film Festival. I saw a lot of terrific films. Two in particular were adaptations of bestselling books and hopefully they will both get North American distribution because they definitely are worth seeing.

Sarah's Key, based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, stars Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia, an American journalist who starts to investigate the Paris apartment her in-laws have owned ever since August, 1942, just weeks after the French rounded up thousands of Jews into the Vel’ d’Hiv, where they lived in horrific conditions before being sent to the death camps. When Julia finds out that Sarah, one of the children who lived in the apartment, might have survived the Holocaust, she sets out on a quest to find her, uncovering painful secrets and revelations about the past, that cause her to make some tough decisions about her own life. It's a harrowing story and film but extremely well done and the acting was wonderful, especially by Mélusine Mayance, who plays the ten year old Sarah. Being the cynical book rep that I am, whenever I see an adaptation, I immediately think - will this sell the book? This has already been a worldwide success, but yes, if the movie comes out in North America, it will sell a ton of books; while it's fiction, it is certainly based on real events, and the director, Gilles Paquet-Brenner, who came out for a Q & A after the film, said he tried to stay very close to the novel's multiple and complex plotlines.  It was a very powerful film, not a dry eye in the audience afterwards; I loved it.

I also saw the adaptation of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood and boy, were the Murakami fans out in full force for the screening.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Giller Longlist Announced. . .

Wow - this is one of the most interesting Giller longlists in recent years. Lots of expected heavy hitters missing - Emma Donoghue, Alissa York, Camilla Gibb to name a few. I'm thrilled to see Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists on the list though, as well as Avner Mandelman's The Debba.  And it's nice to see the smaller presses get some recognition. Let the debates begin.

Here's the list in full:

The Matter With Morris by David Bergen
Player One by Douglas Coupland
Cities of Refuge by Michael Helm
Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod 
The Debba by Avner Mandelman
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
This Cake is For the Party by Sarah Selecky
The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud
Lemon by Cordelia Strube
Curiosity by Joan Thomas
Sanctuary Line by Jane Urquhart
Cool Water by Dianne Warren
Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Film Fest: On Chesil Beach. . .

Still, Edward was troubled by the call of the beach, and if he had known how to propose it, or justify it, he might have suggested going out straight away. He had read aloud to Florence from a guidebook that said that thousands of years of pounding storms had sifted and graded the size of pebbles along the eighteen miles of each, with the bigger stones at the eastern end. The legend was that local fishermen landing at night knew exactly where they were by the grade of the shingle. Florence had suggested they might see for themselves by comparing handfuls gathered a mile apart. Trudging along the beach would have been better than sitting here.
- On Chesil Beach

England has no shortage of landscapes evoked by its literature, and after reading Ian McEwan's novella about a young, sexually ignorant couple on their honeymoon in 1962,  Chesil Beach leaped onto my list of places to one day visit. It's the site of crucial scenes not only in the book, but also in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's terrific 1949 film The Small Back Room.  Set during WWII, David Farrar plays Sammy Rice, a bomb disposal expert who is struggling with his own personal demons: an injury that still causes him much pain, the resulting temptation to turn to alcohol (there's a surreal but fascinating scene featuring a whisky bottle that becomes almost larger than life), and how his insecurities are affecting his  girlfriend Susan (a much more sophisticated, though no less complicated relationship than Edward and Florence's). A key scene is set right on Chesil Beach when Sammy is called to diffuse a German bomb that has fallen on the beach. The suspense is gripping.  Every time he moves, the pebbles start to shift alarmingly; the bomb could be triggered at any moment.

The movie also showcases the beauty of the surrounding area, and this very unique strip of land that is a World Heritage site.  Just don't take any souvenirs home, as McEwan found out the hard way. And we can look forward to a movie adaptation of On Chesil Beach; McEwan is working on the screenplay.

Harry goes to Uni

The Guardian Newspaper has reported that Durham University will be teaching a course on Harry Potter. What fun! I would totally take that course. My daughter and I recently visted the Harry Potter Exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre. I have to tell you, I was pretty impressed. My daughter was sorted into Gryffindor (phew!) and there were people there from as far as way as the Yukon. It did not disappoint. It was pretty exciting to see many of the props and costumes from the film. The highlight was Hermoine's dress she wore to the Yule Ball...boy is she tiny.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is the New Oprah Book Club Selection

All the rumours that have been buzzing around the internet over the past few weeks about the identity of the next Oprah book club selection were confirmed earlier today when it was announced that Oprah's next pick is Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

Check out the reviews and interview links below for the great buzz the book has been getting-even before the big announcement!

“Franzen has an uncanny knack for capturing the torturously self-justifying rhetoric and trendy slang of educated Gen Xers rebelling against their suburban childhoods by seeking “authenticity” in the grungy core of the American city. The details of time and place and attitude are so sharp as to induce frequent wincing.” Toronto Star interview, review

“Freedom is filled with vividly rendered characters.” National Post interview, review

Franzen’s coup is that he has figured out how to be both entertaining, sharp-witted and accessible while maintaining a sense of higher purpose. I “thoroughly enjoyed this intellectual soap opera of love, sex, liberal guilt and flawed parenting (viz. Philip Larkin), and got sucked into the travails of the Berglunds and their constellation.” The Globe and Mail interview, review.

“A superb confrontation of the family construct and the illusion of liberty. Written with a heavy hand and edited with a light one, it is correctly being called the year's required North American fiction.” Vancouver Sun

“[Franzen] has composed a symphonic account of the pursuit of purpose and the turmoil of change. His locomotive sentences are vehicles of hysterically withering observations and exact imagery, sermons that articulate complex concepts with mirthful clarity. These fully formed characters inhabit amplified worlds that adroitly parody and illuminate our own.” Georgia Straight

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Best of the Canadian Backlist

Over the summer, The ACP (Association of Canadian Publishers) put together this amazing catalogue of the best of the Canadian kids backlist over the past two years. Click here to see the full PDF; or if you would like a hard copy; please e-mail me at!

A Novel Bookstore and a Novel Bookstore. . .

I love a little bookish serendipity.

I've just been in Calgary selling the spring list and doing our first Dewey book talk of the fall season. At the end of one of  appointments, I was chatting to my buyer about books we'd recently read and I mentioned that I'd just finished A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé, translated by Alison Anderson (a lovely story about two bibliophiles who decide to open The Good Novel, a bookstore in Paris that will only stock, well, good novels of course, and how they deal with the resulting backlash).  "Have you heard about the new literary bookstore that has just opened in Calgary?" my buyer asks me. Of course I go scurrying off to investigate.

Shelf Life Books is indeed a new downtown independent bookstore (at the corner of 4th Street SW and 13th Avenue) and while they are still putting the finishing touches to some of the fixtures and they aren't fully stocked yet, I was still pretty darn impressed with what I saw. In this interview, the owner JoAnn McCaig describes her store as, "a bookstore for the unusually bookish."  I love that phrase - the unusually bookish. Already they have a killer poetry section, shelves devoted to local writers and a strong focus on Canadian literature, the classics and small presses. There was Hans Fallada -  face out.  A shelf or two down, they had copies of Daniel Kehlmann's Fame (a very funny take on technology and the pitfalls of being famous;  it's just been published and is one of my fall Dewey picks). They are the first Canadian bookstore I've been in so far that is stocking Open Letter Books  (a wonderful press devoted to literature in translation - they used to be only available in Canada through subscription - I had one - but happily are now distributed by the Literary Press Group). I immediately bought two of their books - Bragi Ólafsson's The Ambassador, translated by Lytton Smith, which I started on the plane home, trying not to chortle too loudly, and Andreas Maier's Klausen, translated by Kenneth J. Northcott.

It's so wonderful to hear about an independent bookstore opening rather than closing and I wish Shelf Life Books the best of luck. If you are in Calgary, do stop by and give them your support. Chat with the friendly staff about books. I'll certainly be back in the spring.

We're Thrilled. . .

. . . that in celebration of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, the CBC has chosen this blog as one of their top 10 blogs worth reading. Thank you so much! Given the excellent company of the other blogs listed, we're very honoured.  You can see the full list here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

KCP's Citizen Kid Webcast on SLJ

I have just registered for Kids Can's webcast they are doing with SLJ on September 28th 3-4pm EST. The Citizen Kid series, if you are not familiar with it, is awesome. Books like One Hen and The Good Garden are fabulous reads and really bring home,in a very palatable way, key issues around social justice and citizenship. Two of the authors from the series (Valerie Wyatt and Katie Smith Milway) will be on hand to discuss their books while School Librarian Melissa Swenson, will offer ideas on on librarians can use the series in their classrooms and libraries. Click here if you want to register.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TD National Reading Summit II: Save the Date

January 20-21, 2011 has been set as the date for the second of the three summits. The summit will be held in Montreal. The group is still looking for more voluteers. To get more details, and to see a report on the conference click this link.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

King Colin. . .

It was a big thrill after yesterday's TIFF screening of Colin Firth's new film The King's Speechwhen the director Tom Hooper, Firth and Geoffrey Rush came out to do a Q & A for the audience (which gave the film a deserved standing ovation).   The film focuses on the relationship between George VI and his Australian speech therapist, played by Rush, who is trying to cure him of a lifelong stammer.  The script was wonderful, the acting absolutely fantastic (both Firth and Rush deserve Oscar nods) and there's a great supporting cast including Helena Bonham-Carter, Claire Bloom and Derek Jacobi. 

If you are currently reading the Booker short-listed novel C by Tom McCarthy, which explores the early scientific experiments with radio, this movie will be of particular interest. In the 1930s, Hitler and Mussolini were using radio broadcasts to great effect; it was the key way to get your message to the masses and the film explores the very private struggle of this man who so desperately wanted to do his duty - made more imperative by his brother's abdication - amidst the fears of being publicly humiliated.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Canadian Comix

Drawn & Quarterly is one of the world's best graphic novel publishers and they are based right here in Canada. Canadian Art magazine has recently profiled the company and Canadian Comix in general. Art Spiegelman defined graphic novels best when he said they are comic books that need a bookmark. Check out the full article here! We really are in the Golden Age of Graphic Novels.

Friday Film Fest: Train of Thought. . .

Every librarian I've talked to in the last year has told me that DVD circulation is way, way up. I'm not surprised - or dismayed -  by this; after all, I'm a film buff too. But I do think that books and films can complement each other wonderfully - after all, the former is often the inspiration for the latter.  And so I thought it would be fun, every so often on a Friday, to recommend an interesting pairing for the weekend.  I'm not going to plug the obvious - the book with its own film adaptation - unless there's a particularly good reason for it, but instead I'll try to suggest book and movie combos that evoke similar themes or share a sense of place or historical period.  I promise that they'll all be films well worth seeing and I'd love to hear about your own recommendations.

In honour of the Toronto Film Festival which is currently underway, I thought I'd launch this with a bit of a mini-fest of my own.  I have an incurable train fetish. It's my favourite mode of transport and train stations, especially those in Europe, are so much sexier than any airport can ever dream of.  So when the Guardian recently posted a list of the ten best railway journeys in literature, I was immediately inspired to come up with a list of my ten favourite films featuring a train.  And here it is. Happy viewing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Guide to Bradbury's Short Stories. . .

Each week at his Listen to the Echoes blog, Sam Weller, who is not only Ray Bradbury's biographer, but teaches a university course entirely devoted to the writer, will offer his choice of  favourite Bradbury short stories.  As he writes: 

These stories will embody all the trademarks of vintage Bradbury: the lyrical language; the fantastic, original, and memorable ideas; and endings that sometimes surprise, sometimes sadden, always instruct and entertain. This list will be entirely subjective. These are my favorites. They will reflect a wide range, from weird tales to social science fiction to quiet and contemplative tales of contemporary literature. These tales are pure and classic Bradbury—our modern mythologist.
A great introduction to this prolific writer's work. I'm certainly following along - what's one story a week?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Noble Nobel Challenge. . .

Here's an interesting challenge that kicks off in the 100th issue of Bookslut, the literary review of the well-know blog.  Two American authors, Ben Greenman and Pauls Toutonghi, are reading their way through at least one work by every Nobel Prize winner and writing each other letters about the experience.  In their first correspondence they discuss Imre Kertész's Union Jack and Samuel Beckett's short story "The Lost Ones".  While I hope they won't just be actively seeking the authors' shortest works to read, I think it's a cool challenge.  You can read the first installment here, and the rest of the issue is also well worth checking out.

California here I come...

Last week I had the fortune of visiting two of our publishers in San Francisco. First up was Chronicle Books. Their new(ish) office is absolutely amazing. Four floors of unbridled creativity in a very cool location. Chronicle does not publish jusr regular books and their office is a reflection of that. The top floor, is totally devoted to common space, whether it is a cafe, board room or a spot to do lunch time yoga. Every year they have Volunteer Day which means the staff get a day off to volunteer at their favourite charity...what a super cool idea!
After that hopped on the BART (their subway) to go to Lonely Planet. Their office is in Oakland.

Gary and Marc (pictured to the left) gave me a tour that included root beer floats. I have always been a fan of the LP travel guides and have used them for 20 years. I used their guide on this trip to pick my hotel: The Berkeley City Club. It is in Berkeley right beside the university and close to the BART.

It is an historic hotel designed by Julia Morgen, the architect that designed the Hearst Castle at San Simeon. While it is not what you would expect from a big chain hotel (no a/c or TV's), the architecture is amazing and there are even secret gardens! I wish I had brought my swim suit, as the pool is stunning. My room had a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Until next time...

Booker Shortlist Announced. . .

Darn it all, David Mitchell didn't make the shortlist.  This has ruined my day.  However, I am happy to see Tom McCarthy, Damon Galgut and Emma Donaghue make the cut; I've read all three books and were impressed.

Here's the list:

Room by Emma Donoghue
In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
C by Tom McCarthy