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Archive for June, 2011

June 27th, 2011 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Favourite Bookstores: Damon Galgut

We at Literary Tourist have been asking various book lovers in our circle of acquaintance to burst forth with a paragraph or two on their favourite (ideally used) bookstores . Here’s word from award-winning South African playwright and novelist Damon Galgut:

Nigel Beale's Bookstore Photos

"Long street in Cape Town has been the home of second hand book stores since I moved here twenty five years ago, and I have spent many distracted hours moving from one to another. In just the past year or two, most of them have – alas – been forced to close down or move elsewhere, due to rising rents and declining clientele. Almost the only haunt left, though happily one of the finest, is Clarke’s. It’s not exclusively a second hand shop – their speciality is Africana – but  I usually gravitate towards the big table at the back, and the many shelves upstairs, where the used books reside. In the book chains that dominate the selling of new publications in SA, as well as the few independent stores that survive, you’re pretty sure of finding a predictable list: whatever’s just appeared in the UK or US, or the fare on offer from local publishers. These have their pleasures, of course, but they can’t compete with the rich pickings of second hand stuff – precisely because it can’t be predicted in advance. Lots of dross, of course; but in amongst the rubble there is an occasional gem. Nothing quite gets the salivary glands working with the same zeal that an unperused heap of titles can. If you’re a book-lover, and you’re visiting Cape Town, make a turn at Clarke’s. It’s unlikely you’ll regret it."

June 25th, 2011 • Posted in Literary Destinations

AUDIO: Top Ten Literary Destinations in Texas

Charles Lohrmann, Editor, Texas Highways magazine

 Charles Lohrmann is the editor of  Texas Highways, the official travel magazine of Texas. It "encourages recreational travel within Texas and tells the Texas story to readers around the world. Renowned for its photography, statewide events coverage, top weekend excursions, off-the-beaten path discoveries, and scenic destinations, Texas Highways helps readers discover the treasures of the Lone Star State." 

I met with Charles recently in Austin and asked him for his top ten literary destinations in Texas. Please listen here for his answer:

June 22nd, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Van Gogh’s exceptional capacity

From Andrew Motion’s Guardian review of Van Gogh The Complete Letters:

"Right up to the day he shot himself (27 July 1890 – he died of the wound two days later), and in spite of periods of catastrophic breakdown, Van Gogh retained an exceptional capacity for careful attention to the world, and for delight arising from that attention. We can see it bravely contending with despair in very late pictures such as Wheatfield with Crows, where even the darkening sky, the ominous birds, the track vanishing into the cornfield cannot entirely obliterate the joy of its intense colours."


June 20th, 2011 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio Interview with Book scholar George Parker on The Ryerson Press

George Parker, Canadian Book Scholar

This from the Loyalists Research Network website:

GEORGE L. PARKER was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and schooled in Lunenburg and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He attended Mount Allison University and Pennsylvania State University, and received his Ph. D. from the University of Toronto. He is Professor Emeritus of the Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, Ontario, where he taught from 1967 to 1997. He lives in Halifax. Professor Parker has contributed articles on Canadian authors and publishers to Canadian Literature, the Dalhousie Review, the Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, the Oxford Companion to Canadian History, The Canadian Encyclopedia, and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. He edited one volume and co-edited another in the four-volume anthology, THE EVOLUTION OF CANADIAN LITERATURE (1973) He is the author of THE BEGINNINGS OF THE BOOK TRADE IN CANADA (1985) and the editor of Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s THE CLOCKMAKER, SERIES ONE, TWO, AND THREE (1995). He contributed to all three volumes of the History of the Book in Canada (2004-2007), and has published several chapters of his history of Toronto publishing, 1900-1970, in English Studies in Canada and in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada,

I met recently with George Parker at his home in Halifax to talk about the history of the Methodist Book and Publishing Company and its general publishing division Briggs, which morphed into The Ryerson Press, "one of Canada’s most important book publishing firms during the 20th century."

June 20th, 2011 • Posted in Bookstores

Favourite Bookstores: Joe Dunthorne

Nigel Beale's Bookstore Photos

"In London, my favourite road for second hand books is Cecil Court. It’s right smack in the middle of busy, touristy, central London but, miraculously, it still retains the air of a quiet, Victorian thoroughfare, where well-read ladies and gentlemen go to get away from the riff-raff. There are too many great bookshops to name one, but it’s a fantastic place to lose a few hours. I bought my much loved first edition of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems there. There’s info about it here:"

Joe Dunthorne was born and brought up in Swansea. His debut novel, Submarine (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin) has been translated in to ten languages and made in to a film. His debut poetry pamphlet is published by Faber.

June 20th, 2011 • Posted in Bookstores

Favourite Bookstores: Andre Alexis

Like most book lovers, or book obsessives, it’s difficult for me to name my favourite bookstore. There are any number, and the reasons I love them are various and inconsistent. I like this bookstore because it’s stock is specific, limited. (The late Ballenford’s, for instance, with its books on architecture and engineering.) I like that bookstore because I can get lost in its warrens. (Foyles on Charing Cross Road, the way it used to be: impossible, every visit a fording of unexpected intellectual streams, your guide being a non-chalant and condescending clerk who was just then composing a poem of enduring value, you cunt from Porlock, you.) 

If I had to choose one, however, I guess it would be the FNAC in the Centre Pompidoux, in Paris. When I first visited the FNAC, it was a good bookstore – still is, actually – but it was more than that. It was a bookstore in a city that overwhelmed me. Unlike Shakespeare and Company, a store I like fine but more as a cultural lieu than as a bookstore, the FNAC was a good working bookshop. I could buy books in French – a translation of Avveroës’ commentary on Aristotle, in paperback, say. I could buy books in English (I bought John Fowles’ The Magus there and read it in Chania) or German or Spanish. I could buy Bandes dessinées, international newspapers, Positif or Cahiers du cinéma. I felt, when I was in the FNAC for the first time, that I was in an essentially French – and so essentially European – place. I felt as if I had entered a place where my love for books, culture, and art was in somehow validated.
In choosing the FNAC, I’m not so much choosing a bookstore-as-bookstore, of course. I’m choosing a version of my naive and innocent (and slightly ridiculous) self, a self that died decades ago, one I miss.


ANDRÉ ALEXIS was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His debut novel, Childhood, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and won the in Canada First Novel Award and the Trillium Book Award. He is also the author of several acclaimed works of fiction, including the story collections Despair and Other Stories of Ottawa and Asylum. Alexis is the host and creator of CBC Radio’s Skylarkin’. He lives in Toronto.

June 16th, 2011 • Posted in Bookstores

Bookstore Critter Photo of the Week: Larry McMurtry’s cat


Larry McMurtry’s cat at Booked Up, Archer City, Texas

June 14th, 2011 • Posted in On The Book

“Let us show our children what is beautiful, and they will no longer tolerate ugliness. And let us start with their a b c’s.”


A breakfast meeting with George and Michelle Walker prompted me to cart along my copy of "Wrongfount 6", a cloth-bound tribute by a selection of  printer friends, to the life of famed Canadian typographer Carl Dair. Most contributions contain quotes from Dair, including this one printed and signed by Roy Gurney of the Quaker Press:

 I think that the general insensitivity of the eye is a very real problem in our society. We tolerate ugliness all around us – in our houses, our furnishings, our cars, our outdoor signs and billboards. Ugliness is the norm; that which is beautiful is conspicuous, and being conspicuous, people are not too sure that they want it.

If the child can be taught discrimination in the form and proportions of his a b c’s, if he can attune his eye to subtlety of line as his ear is to (sic) attuned to music, we can develop a public of discriminating taste, a society in which the orderly and the beautiful becomes the accepted thing.

Let us show our children what is beautiful, and they will no longer tolerate ugliness. And let us start with their a b c’s."

June 12th, 2011 • Posted in On Book Collecting

West Sweeps Second National Book Collecting Contest

This from the Press Release:

The Bibliographical Society of Canada (BSC) the W.A. Deacon Literary Foundation (DLF) and the Alcuin Society are pleased to announce the winners of the Canada’s Second National Book Collecting Contest for young Canadian’s under 30 years of age.

Justin Hanisch  27 (Edmonton, AB)
The History of Fish

Gregory Robert Freeman 26 (Surrey, BC)
The Tudors & Stuarts

Kieran Charles Ryan Fox 27 (Vancouver, BC)
Superlative Works from the Subcontinent


Nice to see Abe Books getting behind this contest, and the National Post and CBC Books.

Stay tuned for the winning essays, because, according to the Bibliographical Society’s website:

The contest requires participants to write a 1,500 to 2,000-word essay on their collection, including where appropriate, the description of the books: binding, cover decoration, illustrations, and bibliographical features such as format, printing, and publication data. Example collections include children’s books, illustrated books, artists books, flip books, Arthurian legend, Generation X, eighteenth and nineteenth-century literature, serial fiction, graphic novels, a single author, cookbooks, modern authors, travel, experimental poetry, little magazines, etc.


June 12th, 2011 • Posted in On The Book

Whose afraid of e-books?


I attended a talk yesterday on the future of the book by Canadian book artist George Walker . One thing that struck me from what he said was that the  surging popularity of today’s e-book presents an exciting opportunity for producers of the printed book. As mass produced paperbacks waddle off to extinction, the contrast between books read for their content, and books people want to possess will become sharper than ever. e-books, as George pointed out, will serve as ads for the printed version. Those who love the book will in all likelihood want to possess, not just rent the rights to read it.

Which leads to what famed designer Michael Johnson (very cool website) said introducing the 2009 British Book Design & Production Awards:

"Although, sales of downloaded digital books are still relatively small, they are growing fast in key markets such as the US, Japan, South Korea and the UK. Publishers will be increasingly challenged by the digital medium therefore, and printers too will need to start thinking about how e-books can be integrated into their product portfolio as part of a multi-media offering. Of course necessity is the mother of invention too. Book printers will also need to look at how they can enhance their traditional product in the face of competition from its electronic rival. One way of course is to entice the reader with the prospect of a tactile and engaging volume that they can hold in the palm of their hand, and that grips their attention with the sheer style of its look and feel. In short, to do what our finalists tonight have done, which is to produce truly beautiful books."