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Archive for June, 2009

June 30th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

A 10-pack of Canadian literary trivia

From The Big Book of Canadian Trivia by Mark Kearney and Randy Ray (

1. The late Milton Acorn, a native of Charlottetown, and one of Canada’s most renowned poets, was also a skilled carpenter. 

2. Leslie McFarlane of Haileybury, Ontario, wrote the first 20 books in the famous Hardy Boys series under the pen name Franklin W. Dixon. They were among the best-selling boys’ books of their time, but McFarlane received no royalties. 

3. Anne of Green Gables, the story of the little red-haired orphan from Prince Edward Island, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1908 and is considered the best-selling Canadian book of all time. Though Lucy Maud Montgomery is best known for her Anne of Green Gables books, the prolific author also published some 450 poems and 500 short stories during her illustrious career. 

4. The First Ten Winners of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction are: 

1. 1936: Think of the Earth by Bertram Brooker.
2. 1937: The Dark Weaver by Laura G. Salverson.
3. 1938: Swiss Sonata by Gwethalyn Graham.
4. 1939: The Champlain Road by Franklin Davey McDowell.
5. 1940: Thirty Acres by Ringuet (Philippe Panneton).
6. 1941: Three Came to Ville Marie by Alan Sullivan.
7. 1942: Little Man by G. Herbert Sallans.
8. 1943: The Pied Piper of Dipper by Thomas Raddall.
9. 1944: Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham.
10. 1945: Two Solitudes by Hugh MacLennan.

5. The Fall of a Titan, which won a Governor General’s Award in 1954, was written by Igor Gouzenko, once a cipher clerk for the Soviet Embassy to Canada in Ottawa. He defected in 1945 with 109 documents that detailed Soviet espionage activities in the West, including plans by Joseph Stalin to steal nuclear secrets. It is thought that his defection and the subsequent exposure of these facts was one of the significant events that triggered the Cold War. Gouzenko often appeared on television promoting his books with a hood over his head. 

6. Canadian poet Robert W. Service once appeared in a film with John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich. The film, dated 1942, was The Spoilers. 

7. They Said It:  “Men who are attractive to most women are rarities, in this country at any rate. I think that it is because a man, to be attractive, must be free to give his whole time to it, and the Canadian male is so hounded by taxes and the rigours of our climate, that he is lucky to be alive, without being irresistible as well.”  Robertson Davies

8. Poet and children’s author Dennis Lee once co-wrote songs for the TV program Fraggle Rock. 

9. In the 1950s and 1960s the Coles bookstore chain was the first in Canada to sell the Hula Hoop, the Slinky, and the Mechano set.  Why?  Because one of the founders, Jack Cole, was more of a retailer than a book lover. 

10. Canadian authors Pierre Berton, Hugh Garner, Peter Newman and Mordecai Richler have all written for Maclean’s magazine.
June 30th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Michael Jackson a Poetry Lover?

ET online

Not sure if this is the work of some Jackson family-hired spin-doctor cum hagiographer, but here from Carolyn Kellog in the L.A. Times:

 "When news broke in early 2009 of Michael Jackson’s return to Los Angeles, it was not via reports of him being spotted dining at the Ivy or dancing at the hottest new Hollywood club but book-shopping in Santa Monica.
"He was a longtime and valued customer," a store representative of art and architecture bookstore Hennessey + Ingalls said Thursday. "We’ll miss him."
"If Jackson’s bookstore appearance surprised his pop fans, it was nothing new for booksellers. A few years ago, Doug Dutton, proprietor of then-popular Dutton’s Books in Brentwood, was at a dinner with people from Book Soup, Skylight and other area bookstores.

"Someone mentioned that Michael Jackson had been in their store," Dutton said by phone Thursday, "And everybody said he’d shopped in their store too…He loved the poetry section," Dave Dutton said as Dirk chimed in that Ralph Waldo Emerson was Jackson’s favorite. "I think you would find a great deal of the transcendental, all-accepting philosophy in his lyrics."

…I’ll play along for now with this account of how Emerson dealt with death, from Stephen Barnes (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

June 29th, 2009 • Posted in Literary Criticism

In Canada, comparing books with the best the language has produced is a ‘hopeless task’

So, speaking of Northrop Frye’s refusal to assess degrees of greatness, said George Woodcock in Canadian Literature1971 from The Rejection of Politics (1972). Quoting Frye: " If evaluation is one’s guiding principle, criticisms of Canadian literature would become only a debunking project…"  "But," says Woodcock, "if Frye’s critical conscience and  – I suspect – his personal kindness, debar him from debunking, they also debar him from the kind of idiotic inflation of the claims of Canadian writing which has so often marred what in this country passes for criticism. He does not seek greatness or futility in a work, for these, it seem to him, are irrelevant to the central task of finding what the writer has sought to do and discussing how well he has done it."

In other words, Frye refused to do what John Metcalf has done. Both approaches are worthwhile. One is far less harmful to the critic. If forced to choose, I’d go with the debunkers.
June 29th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Putting Music into Political Categories

Milan Kundera on Theodor Adorno’s readiness to interpret music in terms of political categories:

"What irritates me in Adorno is his short-circuit method that, with a fearsome facility, links works of art to political (sociological) causes, consequences, or meanings; extremely nuanced ideas (Adorno’s musicological knowledge is admirable) thereby lead to extremely impoverished conclusions; in fact, given that an era’s political tendencies are always reducible to just two opposing tendencies, a work of art necessarily ends up being classified as either progressive or reactionary; and since reaction is evil, the inquisition can start the trial proceedings."  (Testaments Betrayed, 91, as quoted in Uncommon Readers by Christopher Knight).
June 29th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

My Favorite Leonard Cohen Song

By a long shot. Ironically it is one of the very few without lyrics. Favorite note? At 4:21. And now, give it up for Tacoma Trailer:

June 29th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Better than a Famous Kind of Raincoat?


June 29th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

For the aspiring artist…

I attended Rick Taylor’s excellent Write by the Lake Workshop several years ago. His wife is now offering something similar for artists. email for more info.

June 28th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

More McGimpsey…


‘Dave Schultz’s cruel beating of Dale Rolfe,’
Kenny tells Susan ‘opened up my eyes
to hockey’s beauty and what it means
to be Canadian.’ A behind-the-net
pounding, you retain the right to bleed,
puddle yourself into the dread tropes
of Southern Ontario: stubby ales,
Syl Apps, and sitting on a train ride
with a wispy Methodist minister
who can predict the dismal lengths of winter

                  from Susan #43, in David McGimpsey’s Sitcom

At the fear of puddling myself:  of breaking Sitcom‘s satirical spell, a little serious commentary here: The Americans have ruined the game of hockey; sanitizing it; gutting it of emotion and spirit, the kind of which puts fire in the hearts and bellies of fans. Okay, perhaps the Broad Street Bullies were a bit much, but this fightless, emotionless, dry-cleansed shit they call playoff hockey these days makes one yearn for when players really cared about the game and their team mates, and their fans. Now, for the most part, they’re just pretty businessmen.

June 28th, 2009 • Posted in Authors and Books

Like a ‘guy whose greatest moment was killing a pimp in Grand Theft Auto’

Wedding the form of Shakespeare and Browning with touchstones of popular TV culture to reflect upon love and work, marriage and career; life: David McGimpsey read last week in Ottawa from his latest collection of kitch poetry, Sitcom. His delivery consummated this high-low – Hawaii-5-O as a rigid sonnet – relationship, lending irony and humour to words which on their own condemn how we, of his generation, wasted so many hours watching so much shit. An affair to a tired marriage, McGimpsey’s juxtaposings convert banal mythology into inspired commentary. The device is amusing, heightened to hilarity at times, when witnessed in performance.

 A  highlight:

 …The future
will be particularly bright for those
who’ve invested in medicated socks.
Cigarettes will make a spectacular
post-cancer comeback and Phillip Morris
will produce a smoke which will last longer
than it takes Neptune to circle the sun,
or however long it takes Sting to have sex…

from Summerland, in David McGimpsey’s Sitcom

June 28th, 2009 • Posted in On Book Collecting

Wish list: Golden Cockerel’s Poems and Sonnets of Wm. Shakespeare

The Poems and Sonnets of William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare, William. Jones, Gwyn (edited by).

Book description courtesy of Ocean Books  (Half Moon Bay, CA, U.S.A.)

London: The Golden Cockerel Press. 1st Golden Cockerel Hardcover Edition. Limited Edition; 162/470., 1960. Hardcover. Book Condition: Fine. No Jacket. 1st Edition. Tall 4to (8′ x 12 1/2′).This Cockerel Edition limited to 470 numbered copies, this copy being #162. It is Near Fine+ in dark red polished buckram boards, gilt cockerel stamped at front cover, gilt lettering and small cockerel at spine, deckle edges all around, rag paper content with watermark of cockerel over letters "G" "C" and "P" (Golden Cockerel Press) on last (of 2) blank page. There are no prior owner names labels or inscriptions. No DJ, as issued. The book, while 98% present, does show some minimal signs of wear: one very tiny (less than 1/8 in.), almost invisible, dent to bottom edge, one small (less than 1/4 in.) superficial scratch at front cover, small (less than 1 in.) superficial scratch at rear cover, bottom front corner has minor bump (no grazing), other 3 are quite sharp-cornered. Taken together, these are minor blemishes when compared with the entirety of the book’s overall condition, which is quite elegant. Each chapter begins with a lovely black-and-white block illustration on a page water-marked with the publisher’s cockerel. Sensitively edited by Gwyn Jones, this edition differs from its precursor (and very early) editions in five particulars, all designed to improve its overall modern usage and readability. This is a very rare copy, in quite sound and presentable, if not Gift, condition, of a limited-print run.