Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for May, 2012

May 31st, 2012 • Posted in Bookstores

Video: Hard to Find Books, Auckland N.Z.

May 30th, 2012 • Posted in Bookstores, CITIES, Houston, Texas

“Not even when I’m dead”

Dropped in on Quarter Price Books in Houston this evening and had a good talk with owner Larry Turk.  It’s clear from the stylish, handwritten notes that accompany many of the books in the store that Larry pays close attention to what he buys. Seemed like every book in the place had some interesting story attached to it.

Another fun store feature was the filing protocol: left-brain books to the left, right-brain to the right! There was also a decent selection of reasonably priced older books on a small bookshelf to the right of the entrance way, and some glassed-in gems near the cash register, including a signed Allen Ginsberg, and two ‘scarce’ ( Larry wont use the word ‘rare’.  Overused, and abused he says) signed books related to Mt. McKinley.

Larry told several stories about clients who regularly buy books from him who aren’t, you might say, in the habit of parting with them. For example, one regular was approached to see if he wanted to sell his copy of the deluxe “Saddle Blanket” edition of The King Ranch (designed by Carl Herzog) back to Larry (who’d sold it to him several years ago) for $900. Someone in the store was willing to pay North of $3000 for it; was he interested? “No Larry,” came the answer, ” not even when I’m dead.”


May 29th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Tourism

Video: Literary Tourist’s New Destination Marketing Program

May 27th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Audio: Brian Busby on Literary Montreal

I met recently with literary historian Brian Busby to talk about ‘Literary Montreal’, poet John Glassco, plaques and the Writers’ Chapel of St James the Apostle Anglican Church. Please listen to our conversation here:

May 27th, 2012 • Posted in Authors and Books

Good Publishing Houses are Agnostic about how they find Readers

Stephen Page defends Faber’s ‘legacy’ and define’s the role of today’s successful publisher:

“Media businesses are not technology businesses, but they can be particularly affected by technology shifts. I run a so-called legacy publishing house, Faber & Faber. Most of our business is based on licensing copyrights from writers and pursuing every avenue to find readers and create value for those writers. We are agnostic about how we do this. For our first 80 years, we could only do it through print formats (books); now we can do it through books, ebooks, online learning (through our Academy courses), digital publishing (such as the Waste Land app) and the web. Technology shifts have tended to result in greater opportunity, not less.”

May 25th, 2012 • Posted in Authors and Books

Experience Texas in August: attend ‘the last booksale’

This is Pulitzer Prize/Academy Award–winning author Larry McMurtry‘s cat. He hangs out at one of the Booked Up stores in Archer City, Tex., the one at which you have to pay for your books. Booked Up is planning to sell off some 350,000 books in a sale modeled after one in 1971 where McMurtry bought enough books to set up his first store in Georgetown. While he plans to keep his personal library of 28,000 books he’ll be amalgamating his four stores into this one:

in August. Here’s the announcement










May 24th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Tourism

Check out this Geoff Sawers-designed Literary Map of Britain & Northern Ireland

Order yours here. There’s also one for the United States!

May 24th, 2012 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio: William Toye on Canadian Book Design

What William Toye apparently wanted most in the world after graduating from the University of Toronto in 1948,  was a job in Canadian book publishing. This, Robert Fulford tells us in a recent National Post profile, was an outlandish career move since Canadian publishing barely existed at the time. We had few publishers and they produced few books. They did little more than import American and British books, selling Bibles, dictionaries and schoolbooks to keep themselves afloat. But Toye was insistent. Says Fulford: 

“When he applied for a job at the Canadian branch of Oxford University Press, he was told they had nothing for him but a place in the warehouse. He said that would be fine. Over the next six decades Canadian publishing steadily expanded and Toye found many ways to deploy the talents he developed. At age 84, still editing, he recently produced yet another in the long list of valuable books he’s given us, The Concise Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, Second Edition.”

Quite apart from the outstanding work he has produced as editor, the multi-talented Toye has also written and designed some beautiful, memorable books of his own, and it is these, among others, we talked about when we met last month.  Please listen here:

May 23rd, 2012 • Posted in Authors and Books

This Year’s Griffin Poetry Prize will Polarize Opinion

I interviewed poet Phil Hall for The Biblio File recently after his collection of poetry Killdeer won Canada’s Governor General’s Award.

During our conversation he said somthing that is particularly pertinent in light of what’s coming up. His collection is in competition for the Griffin Poetry Prize with Ken Babstock‘s Methodist Hatchet and  Forge  by Jan Zwicky. His poetry is subtle, honest, populist, more accessible than not, and conversational, essay-like in style. It’s also musical and lyrical. Beautiful you might say. The other collections are not this. They are more challenging, difficult…some might say, infuriating.

Regardless of who wins, the result will, I hope, cause a shit-storm of controversy and get poetry-lovers talking directly about what they think is good, what they think is bad, and why; what has value, what doesn’t; what deserves to survive, what should never have been published in the first place.  There is very little honest opinion exchanged in the Canadian poetic community. This year’s Griffin decision, more than most, will polarize opinion. If it doesn’t spark debate, then nothing will.

Here’s what Phil had to say:

“Not being clever is a big point with me. Formalists lead with their intelligence. Innovators of language in poetry lead with their intelligence. ‘I’m smart’ is what a lot of poems say. Increasingly there’s a movement to bring philosophy into poetry. I find a lot of this pretentious and unkind to the audience…and I really think that the best kinds of poetry come out of a kind of stupidity.  Like you don’t know what your doing but you try it anyway, and you’re hoping to get lucky, like a folk artist…

I find that my audiences appreciate me coming to them with my doubt and my awkwardness.  It’s a gift to them to put them at ease. To say I’m not putting on the dog here for you folks. I’m not going to talk down to you. But I’m not going to act like I’ve got something special you can’t have. “

May 23rd, 2012 • Posted in CITIES, London, England

Bard Bonanza coming up in London

London will be a busy little city this year what with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations taking place, and the Olympics.  It’ll also be a go-to destination for Literary Tourists, that’s because of The World Shakespeare Festival. It kicks off April 23. 

Here’s what TheatreBreaks has to say about the affair:

This year as we remember the world’s greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, 400 years after his death. Here in the UK The World Shakespeare Festival, in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, celebrates by welcoming artists from all over the globe performing their own unique takes on Shakespeare. Performances will take place at Shakespeare’s Globe, the Roundhouse in Camden and five of them in the West End – the heart of London’s Theatreland.

“First up and bound to be the most sought after ticket in London this Fall is Richard III & Twelfth Night running in rep at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Ave between 2nd November 2012 and 3rd February 2013. Performed as it would have been in the 1600s, an all-male cast is led by award winning actor Mark Rylance who plays the scheming and murderous Duke of York in Richard III along with the role of Olivia in Twelfthe Night – a play of unrequitted love and vengeful comedy. There’s also the added bonus of international actor, social commentator and comedian, Stephen Fry, as pompous steward Malvolio.

Our next recommendation is a seat at The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park which is an ideal setting to watch A Midsummer Night’s Dream with romance, comedy & fairy magic. Speaking from past experience, you really will believe in fairies as dusk falls and the actors emerge from the trees. It is an experience not to be missed by any visitor to London during the summer. Performances are Monday to Saturday from 2nd July to 5th September 2012.

Another production not to be missed in London is director Iqbal Khan’s Indian themed Much Ado About Nothing which is at the Novello Theatre, St Martin’s Lane from 22nd September to 27th Ocotber 2012. It stars award winning British actress, screenwriter and comedienne Meera Syal as the argumentative Beatrice playing opposite Paul Bhattacharjee’s Benedick. This is a play full of suppressed love, wicked sarcasm and treacherous deceit.

Our final recommendation is Timon of Athens at the Olivier Theatre on the South Bank performing for a very limited run between 5th August and 9th September 2012. Simon Russell Beale takes the title role in this modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s strange fable of conspicuous consumption, debt and ruin, written in collaboration with Thomas Middleton”