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

Archive for September, 2012

September 30th, 2012 • Posted in CITIES, Kingston, ON, Literary Destinations

Literary Destination: Kingston Ontario

I was pretty happy

when I first saw the spectacular accommodation that the Excalibur Learning Resource Centre had laid at our feet. What a marvelous base from which to explore Kingston and cover the Writers Festival. Many thanks to its generous proprietors.

I know Kingston pretty well; studied at Queen’s University some (cough) 25 years ago. Between Festival events I had a chance to visit my two favorite

Berry & Peterson on King
local used

The Wayfarer on Princess
bookstores; cop a tasty lunch

at Pan Chancho Cafe, and ride the ferry over to Wolfe Island, where you can feel the breeze off 45-odd

monster whirligig wind turbines. They spin enough energy to fire up the entire ‘Limestone’ city …although apparently it’s not used up here; sold to the States.

Wolfe Island is home to Grant Allen

Canada’s first crime writer, an annual crime writers festival, the whirligigs, a few cottages, a beer store

and this pretty little

lighthouse. The trip back afforded this panaramic view of the city

(most of the Festival events took place at the Holiday Inn to your right). No wonder this year’s event was a major sucess. Kingston is a killer destination (flawless programming didn’t hurt either).

September 30th, 2012 • Posted in Authors and Books

Audio: Naomi Wolf on fascism, and cuts to Library and Archives Canada

The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot is a book by Naomi Wolf  that warns of the dangers of fascism by outlining a blueprint for fascist groups (or governments) to undermine democracy and subvert freedom. Here is her list of required steps:

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create secret prisons where torture takes place
  3. Develop a paramilitary force not answerable to citizens
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens’ groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. Treat all political dissidents as traitors
  10. Suspend the rule of law

The book compares post 9/11 United States and George Bush’s anti-terrorist activities to 1930s Germany and the rise of the Nazis.

The End of America was adapted for the screen as a documentary by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern. It had its worldwide premiere in October  2008. You can see the film in its entirety on Youtube here.

I met with Naomi Wolf yesterday here at the Kingston Writers Festival to talk about her career as a cultural critic, about Canada’s Harper government and how its cuts to Library and Archives Canada fit into her thesis about fascism, and about her latest book Vagina. Please listen here:

September 28th, 2012 • Posted in CITIES, Kingston, ON, Literary Destinations

Kingston Writers Festival: Event pays tribute to local Poet

Just back from attending Kingston Writers Fest event paying tribute to Kingston poet and educator Tom Marshall. Overflow crowd heard noted Canadian poets, authors and editors reading from The Essential Tom Marshall, published by Porcupine’s Quill. David Helwig, one of its editors mentioned at the end of the event that there is a tree dedicated to Marshall growing in Kingston’s MacDonald Park at which Literary Tourists (!) might wish to invoke the man’s ghost.

Next stop, Naomi Wolf, and the Vagina.

September 25th, 2012 • Posted in On The Book

Come Celebrate Stan Bevington and Canadian Book Design, Monday, October 1

On Monday October 1, 2012, The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto (14 Elm Street) will host the Alcuin Society and winners of its 2011 Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. Winning entries for the 2011 competition will be on display in the LAMPS Room of the Club from 5:00 PM onwards. Dinner begins at 6.30pm

The evening will also honour Stan Bevington, C. M, D.F.A., recent winner of the Robert R. Reid medal for Lifetime Achievement in the Book Arts in Canada.

John Maxwell, Assistant Professor and Master of the Publishing Program, Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University will speak on The Coach House Press as a Digital Pioneer. John has, since the early 1990s, been studying the history and impact of digital technologies on the cultural sector (and particularly books and magazines).

Bevington founded The Coach House Press in 1965. Thanks to his leadership it evolved into one of the most innovative small publishing firms in Canada, if not the world. 

Cost:  $23.75 per person payable at the door. For reservations phone the Arts & Letters Club at 416-597-0223 Ext 2

September 24th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Tourism

Sleuthing out Cities

Holmes in Edinburgh you say? Whatever for? Elementary my dear fellow: Conan Doyle was born there.

As Chris Routledge tells us, crime fiction and its detectives are often closely connected to place:  Morse in Oxford; Holmes in London; Rebus in Edinburgh; Marlowe in Los Angeles; Warshawski in Chicago.  Following the Detectives, edited by Maxim Jakubowski – a well known editor, crime fiction aficionado, and former owner of the now defunct Murder One book shop on Charing Cross Road in London – exploits this connection. Its contributors, among them John Harvey, Charlie Resnick, J. Kingston Pierce, and Sarah Weinman, examine the scenes of crime novels set in 15 cities and six regions around the world. As Jakubowski puts it: the idea was to create a book that was neither travel guide, nor detailed reference book, but something of both.

Following the Detectives is nicely produced, with weighty paper, an embossed card cover, and lots of photos and illustrations and double-page maps.

Pick up a copy here.

September 24th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Tourism

What a Literary Tourist does when he’s in a Fish Market

What does a literary tourist do when visiting a fish market?  He thinks of a poem…

He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled and barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
–the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly–
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.

from Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘The Fish’.

September 24th, 2012 • Posted in Literary Tourism

More Graceful than Giotto’s Tower

Unidentified couple, 1858

“At Niagara there is the fall of waters alone. But that fall is more graceful than Giotto’s tower, more noble than the Apollo. The peaks of the Alps are not more astounding in their solitude. The valleys of the Blue Mountains in Jamaica are less green. The finished glaze of life in Paris is less invariable; and the full tide of trade around the Bank of England is not so inexorably powerful.”

             Anthony Trollope on Niagara Falls. ( North America, 1862)

September 23rd, 2012 • Posted in Bookstores

Spanish Book Porn

Courtesy of Libros Madrid, in Madrid.

September 23rd, 2012 • Posted in CITIES, Literary Destinations, Valencia, Spain

The Difference between Spanish and Canadian Libraries

The Biblioteca Valenciana lives

in a



which in itself

is worth visiting – there’s an impressive mix of modern and ancient here. It also has what appears to be a fairly active public exhibition program. Access to the collection is however, limited.

Compare this to Library and Archives Canada, and you find the reverse. Its main public building, though architecturally significant is in disrepair, and poorly suited to the storage and display of source documents. Its public exhibition program is non-existent. On the other hand, access to the collections is excellent.

The staff at both libraries is great, stuck as they are beneath managerial and political concerns that need to better understand and balance their priorities.

September 21st, 2012 • Posted in Literary Tourism

Audio: Ann Kirkland on Literary Tourism, Travel and Tours

Classical Pursuits is a cultural and educational travel company based in Toronto, Canada, specializing in small group literary travel and learning vacations. It provides adventures for the mind and travel for the soul – to places like Hemingway’s Paris, Joyce’s Dublin, Dante Alighieri’s Italy, and Flannery O’Connor’s Savannah and the Andalusia family farm in Georgia. It offers both scheduled small group tours and private educational group travel planning for existing groups.

Ann Kirkland is the president and founder of the company. I caught up with her at Toronto Pursuits,  an annual gathering where over 100 people from across Canada and the U.S. get together on the garden campus of the University of Toronto’s Victoria College to discuss great books. Please listen to our conversation here: