Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Practical Jean by Trevor Cole
A black comedy about a woman who decides to give her long-time friends a last moment of happiness - and then kill them. It's out of love though, she just can't bear to see them get old, sick and filled with regrets. A bizarre and oddly moving mediation on the tensions, slights and challenges of friendship.
Tales From An Uncertain Country by Jacques Ferron, translated by Betty Bednarski
The Proper Use of Stars by Dominique Fortier, translated by Sheila Fischman
The Beauty of the Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb
A novel set in contemporary Vietnam involving a young tour guide who takes American vets on "war tours" and a young woman searching for clues about her father's disappearance in the war.
A Man in Uniform by Kate Taylor
I loved Taylor's first novel Madame Proust and the Kosher Kitchen. In this new book, she returns to the same historical period (and a preoccupation of Proust) and weaves an historical novel around the complicated Dreyfus case that rocked France at the turn of the 20th century.
Sanctuary Line by Jane UrquhartOne of Canada's favourite novelists is back with a multi-generational tale that incorporates three very different love stories, lighthouse keepers, a woman soldier;s experience in Afghanistan and the long migratory flight of the Monarch butterfly.
The Frumkiss Family Business by Michael Wex
There's a lot of humour in Canlit this season which is freshing to see, and this comic family saga seems the perfect example. Any book that bills itself as Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks without the stodgy Germans or The Brothers Karamazov with only one brother, is worth a look. It's also set not far from my own Toronto neighbourhood and many of my colleagues are raving about it.
Bedtime Story by Robert J. Wiersma
A midlife crisis meets the supernatural, as a father with plenty of problems of his own, has to rescue his child who is quite literally lost in the pages of his favourite book. Sounds like Cornelia Funke for adults, but looks entertaining all the same.
Fauna by Alissa York
Set in Toronto's Rosedale Valley Ravine, this novel is set around a sanctuary to help heal the urban wildlife that no one cares about. And in turn, many broken humans are also encountered. Some of the characters like to quote from Watership Down which has already endeared them to me.
They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children by Romeo Dallaire
Dallaire is fully committed to eradicating the use of child soldiers worldwide and this book should be extremely powerful and moving.
Mordecai: The Life and Times by Charles Foran
The big literary biography of the season. With the film of Barney's Version also coming out this fall, look for a lovely Mordecai revival everywhere.
The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72 by Molly Peacock
Arrival City by Doug Saunders
A look at the huge migrations of people worldwide from rural to urban centers and the political, social and economical challenges they are causing for this century. I read Saunders regularly in the Globe and Mail and think this will be a very intelligent, thought-provoking book.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Here is the perfect summer read for bibliophiles.
Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer takes on the New York publishing world in this tale of Ian Minot, a struggling writer working as a barista by day, and writing short stories at night about "small people living small lives". He is about to lose his girlfriend - who is on the verge of getting her own collection of autobiographical stories about growing up in Romania published - to an egocentric phony whose own memoir has just hit the bestseller lists. Then one day Ian encounters "The Confident Man", a bitter ex-editor who haunts the coffee shop and who wants to get his revenge on the industry. He's written a novel about the theft of a precious manuscript of The Tale of Genji from a library that then went up in flames. He suggests to Ian that with a little re-working, the manuscript could be passed off as a memoir - as Ian's own story - and then he could sign a two-book deal that would allow his book of short stories to also be published. At the appropiate moment, Ian could come clean, but the publicity would ensure not only sales of the two books, but also shame the publishing executives and agent who bought into the scam. The only trouble is that while Ian dreams of fame and money, he's a bit oblivious to the ulterior motives behind the scheme, and soon realizes someone is after not only the manuscript but also his life. Librarians who know their Dewey Decimal system will have an insider's advantage to figuring out some of the mysteries that unfold, and of course this novel also skewers the recent self-righteous debates and hypocrisy over penning "the truth" in memoirs, directly recalling the controversy over James Frey's A Million Little Pieces.
This was a rollicking read, punctuated by some clever literary puns (if a little overdone) as Langer effortlessly substitutes writers' names with nouns that can be associated with them. So stylish eyeglasses become "franzens"; trains are "highsmiths" and curly hair is an "atwood". Would-be writers and fans of the literary mysteries of John Dunning will enjoy this one.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I knew when I started this challenge that I would definitely get around to reading Memoirs of an Anti-Semite: A Novel in Five Stories by Gregor Von Rezzori, translated in part by Joachim Neugroschel. Not only is it one of those books that has been recommended to me many times, but I also wanted the chance to delve further into some of the key works of Eastern European literature. It is a masterfully written dissection of the years leading up to the Second World War (with one epilogue) that portrays the anger, hatred, and despair of that interwar period. The novel consists of five episodes in the narrator's life. He's quite a loner - a man who wants to be an artist but lacks the ambition and discipline. He also gets easily sidetracked by his apathy, and his many jealousies involving both men with more talent, and the women he embarks on affairs with; several of them are Jewish. This is not a portrait of a Nazi in the making, but an unsympathetic and unsentimental depiction of a man very much defined by society's prejudices and his family's own sense of loss after the break-up of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. As a child, he is repeatedly told by his father that character is "troth" (also the title of one of the most powerful sections of the novel), which means loyalty - to a country, a region, or an ideal. This becomes one of the key conflicts in the novel. What can one do or believe in when not only historical, but cultural boundaries and ways of life are undefined, constantly shifting and changing? Rezzori writes very powerfully and balances a violent tension with the occasional scene of almost absurdist humour. But most of these sections uncomfortably jolt the reader with a shocking conclusion or observation. An excellent novel.
The Lord Chandos Letter and Other Writings, translated by Joel Rotenberg, have a slightly sinister, ethereal feel to them. The characters seem to inhabit dual worlds simultaneously - the real one, and a dream-like one conjured up by an extraordinary and ongoing emotional awareness of not only nature, but the intensity of people's fears, desires and regrets. Death both fascinates and paralyzes, as shown in two haunting stories set among soldiers - "Cavalry Story" and "Military Story". And this culminates in his most famous story "The Letter", in which the narrator laments his inability to articulate these "coded messages" or sensations that he receives:
A watering can, a harrow left in a field, a dog in the sun, a shabby churchyard, a cripple, a small farmhouse - any of these can become the vessel of my revelation. Any of these things and the thousand similar ones past which the eye ordinarily glides with natural indifference can at any moment - which I am completely unable to elicit - suddenly take on for me a sublime and moving aura which words seem too weak to describe.It's a slightly creepy collection and makes a good companion to Theophile Gautier's My Fantoms which was an earlier challenge read.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
McCarthy also talks about his new novel C which will be out in early September. It also immerses itself with the experimentation and effects with early communication technology in the first part of the twentieth century. He set the novel on purpose between 1898, when Marconi was experimenting with radio and 1922 when the BBC was founded (and some key modernist works published - Ulysess, The Waste Land).
Friday, July 23, 2010
Then there's the awesome P.D. James. Look for lots of media coverage of her 90th birthday next month and she seems to be as busy as ever. There's a great interview with her in The Telegraph here. In celebration, we're repackaging some of her backlist - I love the new covers and it makes me want to hide away in a cottage for a week and do nothing but read all her books again.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
There's a really good interview with David Mitchell in Vanity Fair, talking about his fantasic new novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. You can read it here. I saw him speak at the Toronto Reference Library last week and he just charmed the entire audience with his intellect, wit and humility. He's just so darned nice! His latest work is an imaginative, historical novel set in 18th century Japan and following several members of the Dutch East India company as they clash with each other and with the Japanese, in this very closed society. Jacob is a young man serving five years as a clerk in the trading post of Dejima, a small island at the foot of Nagasaki which is the furthest that any Westerner can penetrate into the country. He becomes intrigued by a young Japanese midwife named Orito and blames himself when she's taken against her will to a secretive and isolated nunnery where sinister things are happening. The latter half of the novel details attempts to rescue Orito as the community of Dejima is forced to react to results of power struggles conducted thousands of miles away.
Monday, July 19, 2010
How do you market a book written in a foreign language by an author who’s now dead, that was originally published 60 years ago, and has been overlooked by mainstream publishing ever since?
Speaking from experience, literature in translation is the hardest category for me to sell - and I represent so many imprints that publish it regularly. Which is exciting for me as I get to be introduced to so many great writers, but it certainly presents its challenges. The reading public is a funny old beast. They'll read a book in translation that wins a big literary prize (i.e Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses) or suddenly captures the zetigeist and the bestseller lists (i.e. Steig Larsson) and as a rep, you think you can capitalize on that because Petterson's next novel is coming out and surely people will want to read that? Or there's tons of great Scandinavian crime on your lists and Larsson fans will flock to that once the trilogy is read. And yes, there is some interest but never in the numbers you anticipate or think those books deserve. Alas. Still, we soldier on and hope that someday readers will catch on in huge numbers to how enriching reading international literature can be. (And if you love to travel, trust me, there's no greater ice-breaker than talking about writers to the locals). In the meantime, we're very grateful for presses that do put some creative energy behind marketing their books. Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone has been a huge fave of mine and I'm thrilled all the hard work is paying off.
You can read their series here. You'll notice two Canadian items of interest. One of the posts describes using subway ads on the Toronto Transit system. And under the post about t-shirts, those librarians librarians from Ontario or who have been following the Dewey Divas for a number of years, will recognize a familiar face.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Isn't this pillow beautiful? (instructions in Cables Untangled). Though why I'm fantasizing about knitting projects in this heat, I have no idea. But oooh, I have recently become a little obsessed with cables and have fallen in love with this pillow. Check back in six months. . .
Thursday, July 15, 2010
- Dragon Seer by Janet McNaughton (HarperCollins)
- Home Free by Sharon Jennings (Second Story Press)
- The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade (HarperCollins)
- A Thousand Years of Pirates by William Gilkerson (Tundra)
- Watching Jimmy by Nancy Hartry (Tundra)
PRIX TD DE LITTÉRATURE CANADIENNE POUR L’ENFANCE ET LA JEUNESSE ($25,000)
- Comme toi! by Geneviève Côté (Éditions Scholastic)
- Le Géranium by Mélanie Tellier (Éditions Marchand de feuilles)
- Monsieur Leloup by Philippe Béha (Éditions Fides)
- Rêver à l'envers, c'est encore rêver by Guy Marchamps (Soulières éditeur)
- Venus d'ailleurs by Angèle Delaunois (Éditions Hurtubise)
- The Delicious Bug by Janet Perlman (Kids Can Press)
- Me and You by Geneviève Côté (Kids Can Press)
- Our Corner Grocery Store written by Joanne Schwartz & illustrated by Laura Beingessner (Tundra Books)
- Timmerman Was Here written by Colleen Sydor & illustrated by Nicolas Debon (Tundra Books)
- You're Mean, Lily Jean written by Frieda Wishinsky & illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Scholastic Canada)
NORMA FLECK AWARD FOR CANADIAN CHILDREN’S NON-FICTION ($10,000)
- Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road written by Priscilla Galloway with Dawn Hunter (Annick Press)
- Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors by Charis Cotter (Annick Press)
- Follow That Map! A First Book of Mapping Skills by Scot Ritchie (Kids Can Press)
- A Thousand Years of Pirates by William Gilkerson (Tundra Books)
- Whispers from the Ghettos by Kathy Kacer and Sharon E. McKay (Puffin Canada)
GEOFFREY BILSON AWARD FOR HISTORICAL FICTION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE ($5,000)
- Bitter, Sweet by Laura Best (Nimbus Publishing)
- Crusade by John Wilson (Key Porter Books)
- Haunted by Barbara Haworth-Attard (HarperTrophyCanada)
- Vanishing Girl (The Boy Sherlock Holmes, Book 3) by Shane Peacock (Tundra Books)
- Watching Jimmy by Nancy Hartry (Tundra Books)
For the full press release and more about these awards click here.
One of my Fall 2010 Dewey Picks is Kenneth Oppel's new book for teens Half Brother. I will blog about it in more detail in a few weeks, but for now I'll just say- put your holds on this one now! It had me crying on the first page and again on the last page (and several times in between if I'm being honest). It is one of those books with an entertaining story and big themes that lingers in your mind long after you have finished it. Half Brother asks some hard questions about the treatment of animals used in research projects- more specifically, what becomes of them after the project is over?
I think it is an ideal book for a teen book club, so if you run one at your library, or just have a group of kids in your branch who love Ken Oppel's books, here is your chance to get your hands on this book before publication.
The HarperCollins Canada marketing team is sending copies of the galley of Half Brother on tour across Canada. These special galleys have room inside for you to fill in comments, photos, or anything else that would reveal where the galley has been in its travels. When you are finished reading the book, we ask that you pass it along to another reader and have them do the same. The tenth person to read the book will send it back to HarperCollins in exchange for a free book! (instructions inside the galley).
THERE IS ONLY ONE TOURING GALLEY LEFT! And best of all- I've got the OK to offer it up to a library here in Canada.
So, the first person to send me an e-mail message (firstname.lastname@example.org) with their name, library address, and phone number will receive the final touring galley. Starting now...
To update: Thanks to those who sent me an e-mail, but the touring galley has now been spoken for!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Neil Young will be out on the road touring Canada and the U.S. this summer and DC Comics has just released Neil Young's Greendale, a graphic novel based on Young's album of the same name. It's written by Joshua Dysart with illustrations by Cliff Chiang and is a political coming-of-age story set in 2003. I think this would also very much appeal to teenagers 14 and up (content issues: a bit of sex and some swearing). I have a couple of galleys to spare, so if you are a Neil Young fan, send me an e-mail at email@example.com with "Greendale" in the subject line, and I'll pull three lucky names out of all the entries. This is open to Canadian residents only and I'll take e-mails until noon EST, on Friday, July 16th.
UPDATED: This contest is now closed and the winners have been notified. Thanks to everyone for entering.