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Archive for November, 2010

November 30th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Christopher Hitchens Interviewed on Australian TV’s Lateline

1/2 Part One: On Dying

2/2 Part One

1/2 Part Two

2/2 Part Two

November 29th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Best Books of 2010


Hard not to like, and therefore recommend you read, the titles found on Quill and Quire’s 2010 Books of the Year list. This, largely because I like what they like; their justifications for Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting, Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil, and Michael Lista’s Bloom, the three titles I’ve read, are all dead right.

MacLeod has "an almost preternatural ability to put his readers into his scenes,"  says Q&Q. Listen here as I discuss precisely this with MacLeod

Beatrice and Virgil is "…a metafictional satire of the publishing industry, a parable about human cruelty and suffering, a meditation on the limits of representation, and a self-reflexive work of fiction that alludes to Beckett, Dante, and Orwell’s Animal Farm. Whether or not it lives up to expectations is for readers to decide, but it deserves to be read, debated, and grappled with." My sentiments exactly. I think this book will, over time, assume canonical status because of its moving examination of the atrocious manner in which humans treat animals.

And finally the ‘startlingly ambitious’ Bloom. This is a terrific book of poetry. Lista provides the fire power, the explosive material – all it requires is detonation by your mind, your imagination, your experience.

The genius of these poems lies in the calculated complexity of their component parts – the narrative, characters, literary references – the juxtaposing of so much rich material.  Densely packed potent triggers, and the careful layering of dangerous substances, guarantee a chain reaction. Read my review in the Globe here.

Michael will be reading from Bloom on Saturday December 11, at 8pm in Bar 56 of the Mercury Lounge, Ottawa.

November 27th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Free Audio Books

Free Audio BooksPopular Downloads

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M4B for iPod

The King James Bible 
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan 
Treasure Island  by  R. L. Stevenson
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Classic Short Stories Vol 1 by Various 
Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly
White Fang by Jack London
The Four Million by O. Henry   
American Indian Folklore and Fairy Tales  
Emma by Jane Austen  
The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
November 26th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Shiny Happy


November 26th, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Dianne Warren on her Governor General’s Literary Award winning novel Cool Water

"Dianne Warren is best known for her short stories and plays. One of her three published plays, Serpent in the Night Sky, was a GG finalist in 1992, and she has written several radio dramas for CBC. She has published three short story collections – one of which, Bad Luck Dog (1993), won three Saskatchewan Book Awards. Her stories can also be found in numerous anthologies, journals and magazines. A long-time resident of Saskatchewan, she brings to her writing an honest portrayal of people in rural communities, conveying their subtle complexities and deep attachments to family farmland. Dianne Warren was born in Ottawa, and is currently living in Regina."

So says the Canada Council. Here’s what Dianne has to say about her 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award winning novel Cool Water:

November 24th, 2010 • Posted in On The Book

Book of the Week: Golden Cockerel’s The Four Gospels



[GOLDEN COCKEREL PRESS]. The Four Gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ. According to the Authorized Version of the King James I, with Decorations by Eric Gill. (Waltham St. Lawrence), 1931

Quarto. 269 pp. One of 500 copies. Printed in Golden Cockerel type on Batchelor hand-made paper. With sixty-five illustrations from wood engravings by Eric Gill.

This work stands as the crowning achievement of the Golden Cockerel Press, as well as Gill’s finest work as a book artist. "In early illumination, one finds no frontier between decoration and illustration. The work of the artist surrounded the text, explained and ornamented it – sometimes in historiated initials; and as calligraphy is itself a kind of illustration to explain meaning, text and picture formed one thing … That is the balance that (Eric Gill) achieved (in The Four Gospels), greater than the even weight of engraving and type." (Colin Franklin, The Private Presses, p.142).

Bound in half-white pigskin and buckram covered boards by Sangorski & Sutcliffe.

Very faint toning to spine, else a very fine copy, free from the usual foxing to the boards. Bookplate. T.e.g. (Artist and the Book 122; Manet to Hockney 89; Gill 285, Chanticleer 78). (22341) $17,500  Bromer Booksellers.

Stay tuned for my conversation with Roderick Cave, author of The Golden Cockerel Press (British Library/Oak Knoll Press, 2002)

November 23rd, 2010 • Posted in Nigel Beale Photos



Fish in a supermarket in Le Mans.

November 23rd, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Great News for Poetry in Canada…

Audio Interview with Scott Griffin, Author. Owner Anansi PressPhoto by NB

Let’s hear it once again for Scott Griffin, founder of The Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, for putting his money where his mouth is.

Today he announced the launch of Poetry In Voice/Les voix de la poésie, a national (Canadian) bilingual poetry recitation contest combining the " dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theatre, with the study of great literature in the high school classroom."  A total of $10,000 in prizes and school stipends will be awarded in 2011.

 "Poetry is not just for the elite — it is a language that should be spoken in the cafés, the streets and especially the classrooms of the nation." said Griffin.

The Trust is developing an online anthology of works from which contestants will make their selections. Contestants will receive extra points for performing poems in both languages.


November 22nd, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Review of Boxing the Compass – Director’s Cut

Order it here from Vehicule Press.

Please find my review of Richard Green’s 2010 GG Award winning collection of poetry Boxing the Compass here in Saturday’s Globe and Mail.

Here’s a slightly longer version:

Little ducks and tadpoles render large life lessons in Boxing the Compass. Ducks, because of how, unbothered,

They paddle crazily among remnants
Of winter, the mud and the rotted leaves,
Casually insisting on what comes next

…the same casual, unbothered insistence found in  Samuel Beckett’s The Unnameable, where ‘the essential is to go on squirming forever at the end of the line, as long as there are waters and banks…’ Richard Greene in this collection, tells us that, when emulating the duck, we are most likely to encounter tadpoles in our lives, sudden, as he describes them ‘uncatalogued species’ of pleasure.

Without tadpoles, life, at least the one cynically depicted here,  would surely be unbearable.  Grim isn’t the half of it. In ‘On Sherbourne Street’ for example, ‘the voice of being human is a siren blare or a drunk crying fuck something or other…’ Life is an ‘immense acreage of solitude’, a purposeless drifting apart; a journey that ends in a place ‘where  Demerol and Morphine separate the last of our consciousness from a body shrinking away to pain.’

Unlikely you’ll find any of these poems in a hallmark greeting card.

Characterized by powerful, arresting openings: 

Though maps rendered the unknown as nothing,
This place already made human by blood
Was made more so by uncertain good,


The theatre of agonies playing
Out in ritual hurt and holy dying,

sharp aphoristic jabs:

In the more inclusive choirs, pitch is optional

The nurses are professionally kind

Disaster is a kind of lottery

The poor are with you always when you walk

sonnet-like solutions:

Yet they live by their hope, curiously pledged
to some afterness that will reward and bless
them for gifts that nature leaves unacknowledged


but the heart
not ready to renounce its true estate,
saw the sky framed like a constitution
where the window gathered light.

pithy ironies

Teaching solitudes to the newly alone

Explaining writer’s exile to refugees.

 and a Thomas Hardy-like capacity to convey poignant, pointed feeling using extraordinarily few words:

 ‘on the arm of a last boyfriend before she lost all hope of marriage’

 ’Ninety pounds of her barely dent the bed’

 ‘…the mother who became her only spouse and widowed her three years before.’

 (all of these from ‘Palliative Care,’ the collection’s best poem)

the poetry found in the first three parts of Boxing the Compass warrants and is worthy of the honour it has received.

Part four however, is another matter. GG Judges Kim Goldberg, Kimmy Beach and Norm Sibum say this about it:

 “…the long, remarkable narrative poem Over the Border, a poem of chance meetings on American buses and trains. Richard Greene’s writing is restrained in the best sense, striking no indulgent or false notes. One has the impression of a nation in deep trouble as witnessed by a traveler of sympathy and concern.

Perhaps. But to me it reads more like prose gratuitously placed on the page simply to look like poetry. Narrative strongly evoking place, crisis, and poverty, yes, but, not poetry.  “Blank verse,” an ingenious ‘critick’ once said, “seems to be verse only to the eye.”  

There is, I think, too much of Aristotle’s historian in ‘Over the Border’; a singular description of what has been, burdened by too much truth; not as much pleasure as can be found in the book’s previous parts. This said, though it fails, for me, to produce as much emotion, as much imaginative action, as great poetry should, I will, nonetheless, hear it’s final three lines (quoted above), ‘years from now’. 

Regardless of how you may view it, this book, despite containing as many ‘words in the right order’,  as ‘right words in the right order’, despite its world of mud and rotted leaves,  is alive with small pleasures. It deserves the larger new audience its GG award will grant it.

November 21st, 2010 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Prof. Iain Stevenson on: 20th Century British Publishing Houses

Iain Stevenson has worked with Longman, Macmillan, Pinter, Leicester University Press, Wiley, and The Stationery Office.  In 1986 he founded the environmental publisher Belhaven Press. He created the award winning MA in Publishing Studies at City University London and was a Professor in the Department of Journalism and Publishing there between 1999 and 2006. He is active on the governing and advisory board of the Publishers Association.

Current research is centred upon the history of British publishing and the applications of new technology in publishing, especially e-books and alternatives to the printed monograph in academic and scholarly communication.
We met recently to talk about his excellent new book, Book Makers: British Publishing in the Twentieth Century, published by British Library.

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale.

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