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March 26th, 2015 • Posted in Authors and Books

Literary Tourist Hits Havana

Havana Bookstore

Another Havana Bookstore

Havana Bookseller

Havana Bookfair

Same Havana Bookfair

Havana Taxi

Havana U-drive Econo Taxi

Havana Hemingway Tour Guide
(Note to cultural tourism marketers and promoters: these wonderful people make (or break) the literary/cultural tourists´s day).

Havana Sweetie

My Havana honey

Havana Headache.

March 26th, 2015 • Posted in Authors and Books

Turning the Page at Esplanade

When Esplanade Books relaunches this spring, Véhicule Press’s fiction imprint will be publishing more authors under a wider mandate. For the past year, new Esplanade editor Dimitri Nasrallah and co-publisher Simon Dardick have been working to curate a list that aptly represents the imprint’s revitalized vision.  This new list represents a clean start for Esplanade’s second decade, balancing fearless debuts and internationally lauded authors as it straddles Canada’s two official languages.

From the release. Dateline – Montreal:

We’re honoured to be publishing the first collection of stories by Croatian writer Josip Novakovich since he was named finalist for the 2013 Man Booker International Prize and became a Canadian citizen. Heralded by the Kirkus Review as “the best American short-story writer of the decade”, Novakovich arrives at Esplanade with a formidable international reputation already in hand, but no Canadian publication record to match. Novakovich’s first Esplanade title, Ex-Yu, will appear this fall. A second collection is due in 2017.

Novakovich is in the good company of Québécois writer Éric Plamondon. Author of the 1984 Trilogy, which includes the novelsHungary-Hollywood ExpressMayonnaise, and Apple S, this contemporary Québécois classic offers a wildly experimental look back at the twentieth century through the lens of Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller, counter-culture author Richard Brautigan, and Apple mastermind Steve Jobs respectively. The translations are being undertaken by Esplanade editor Dimitri Nasrallah and will be published between 2016 and 2018.

Plamondon was first published by the innovative Quebec house Le Quartanier, with whom we’ve cultivated a productive working relationship that has also resulted in the acquisition of Genevieve Pettersen’s runaway bestseller, The Goddess of Fireflies, which has been all the rage in Quebec since it was first published last spring. Neil Smith, author of Boo! and Bang Crunch, is translating Firefliesfor publication in 2016. Both Pettersen’s and Plamondon’s novels represent a new pursuit for Esplanade: giving Quebec’s English writers the opportunity to translate the French-language novels to which they feel a deep kinship.

We’ll be kicking off the new Esplanade list with Toronto author Andy Sinclair’s first novel, Breathing Lessons, a deeply provocative and powerful exploration of what modern life can be like for gay men.  Canada Reads finalist Angie Abdou writes, “I’m not exaggerating when I say that Andy Sinclair is doing something no other Canadian writer has done, possibly something no other Canadian writer has dared to do,” while Giller Prize finalist Marina Endicott writes, “Sinclair’s ferocious and straightforward prose bares a broken, still-open heart searching for something better.”

Sinclair’s debut will be followed by Montreal writer Anita Anand’s first collection of stories, Swing in the House. Anand paints a devastating portrait of Canadian families in their most private moments. She pulls back the curtains to reveal the unspoken complexities within the modern home, from sibling rivalries to fracturing marriages, casual racism to damaged egos.

Our 2015 list rounds out with Sheila Fischman’s translation of Jacques Poulin’s brilliant novella, English Is Not a Magic Language.  Best known to English readers as the author of the classic Volkswagen Blues, which was a finalist for the 2005 edition of Canada Reads, Poulin is enjoying something of a revival lately, having had three of his last English translations published by the esteemed American house, Archipelago Books.


March 25th, 2015 • Posted in Authors and Books

King Lear and the Silver Tsunami

The famously tragic figure of King Lear paints a bleak picture of old age. Retired attorney Brendan Hare confesses in the article below that he was guilty of viewing old age and the elderly in a negative light — but he came to realize the folly of that thinking as he himself hit his “early late sixties.” In fact, he came to appreciate the fullness of life waiting to embrace those in their later years.

Hare is the author of the new book, From Working to Wisdom: The Adventures and Dreams of Older Americans, an inspiring compilation of 46 short oral histories revealing diverse personal experiences and delivering valuable life lessons to help enhance the readers’ later years.

I’m no Shakespearean. Until recently, I’d only read King Lear once. This happened in college, in the late 1960s, very early one morning, hours before I was to submit an essay entitled—if I recall correctly—“King Lear and the Tragedy of Time.” There I sat, hunched over The Collected Works, squinting at its endless microscopic print, staving off sleep with cigarettes, battering the keys of my wobbly Underwood. By dawn I’d produced a few pages of what I suspect was nonsense, but which somehow sufficed for a passing mark. After that, I declared myself an economics major, quit smoking, graduated, and ran off to law school.

Then, for forty-odd years, I busied myself with family and career, and never gave the old King more than a passing thought. His story, I believed, had nothing to do with mine. If pressed, I might have said, Sure, I know that one: There’s this eighty-year-old guy, see, and he’s senile, and one day his daughters abandon him, and so he wanders around the countryside for a bit, and then he dies.

One of the great pains of aging comes when you discover how much time you wasted being wrong. One of its greatest pleasures may follow this, when you see there’s still time to change.

Of course I was wrong about Lear. More than this, I was wrong about old age. And these mistakes were rooted in the same ugly prejudice: I’m ashamed to confess that, for much of my life, I was an incorrigible ageist.

I began to realize this about two and a half years ago when, freshly retired, having entered what I defensively called my “early late sixties,” I dug up a copy of Lear and gave it another go. I was surprised to find that, as the curtain lifts, the hero is not feeble, not already half-lost to senility. Rather he is strong, blustering, full of passion and self-assurance. It’s the cruelty he suffers that speeds his decline. Two of his daughters shut him from their homes and condescend to him remorselessly. They call him an old fool and a superannuated baby, and tell him the time has come for him to “be rul’d and led” by others. Lear experiences all this as a trauma. He exclaims, “grief hath craz’d my wits,” and begins to doubt his sanity, wondering aloud, who “can tell me who I am?” Before long, he seems to adopt his daughters’ view, calling himself “wretched,” nothing more than a “poor, infirm, weak, and despis’d old man.”

Amid its spectacular poetry and profound truth, King Lear offers something more basic: a rough metaphor for how society often mistreats the elderly. As I write this, ten thousand Americans are retiring each day. None of them, one prays, will suffer the type of extravagant cruelty inflicted by Lear’s daughters. The evils most commonly faced by seniors are subtler and more diffuse, but pernicious nonetheless. They comprise systematic neglect, segregation, isolation, and bigotry, and might be conveniently grouped under the banner of “ageism.”

Ageism stands as one of the last widely acceptable social prejudices, and is rampant even among the otherwise conscientious. When you watch for it, you find it everywhere: entertainment, government, advertising, commerce. Have a look at the birthday cards on offer at your neighborhood pharmacy. They supply a catalogue of ugly stereotypes about the old. Scanning them, you’d think no one has anything to look forward to past fifty but a painful, pathetic, protracted shriveling of body and mind.

Ageism is harmful because, like other forms of prejudice, it prevents people from being treated fairly. It affronts their humanity and attempts to diminish them, to disregard their character, to reduce the vast complexity of each person to a thing, a cheap, ready-made, less-than-human “type.” As Lear illustrates, the consequences of such prejudice can prove devastating. It may “craze the wits,” and trick us into believing that we are, merely because of our age, wretched and despised. Studies have suggested that age discrimination may cause seniors to suffer higher rates of physical and mental illness. One study reported that seniors who viewed old age in negative terms faced life expectancies that were, on average, seven and a half years shorter than their peers.

My generation can proudly reflect on the many ways in which, together, we helped to shape youth culture, sex, music, politics, and civil rights. Much of this owes to the extraordinary demographic coincidence of our births: there are, quite simply, a lot of us. And in our numbers there is great power and energy. The buzz phrases used to label our cohort reflect this: We came into the world in a “baby boom”; we’ll depart it in a “silver tsunami.” Surely it is our responsibility to harness our collective might once more, and to rally against ageism with the same fervor we exercised in our youth. Stamping out age discrimination would stand as a worthy final achievement—one more generational contribution to what George Eliot called the “growing good of the world.”

And as we fight against ageism in society, we must also guard against it in ourselves. On this front, Lear is also instructive. It reminds us that old age need not be, as the King believes at the start of the drama, a long “crawl toward death.” Instead, it can be an adventure, an opportunity to enlarge our empathy and wisdom. As Lear draws nearer to death, he grows larger in spirit. “The great rage” that marred his mature years recedes, and he turns “brave” and “jovial,” wishing only to “live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies.” Lear is famously difficult, bleak, brutal, and sad. In spite of this—perhaps because of the tremendous intensity of language and character on display—it is never depressing, never foreclosed to hope. Near the end of the play, another old man, the Duke of Gloucester, having been betrayed, assaulted, blinded, and cast out, breaks down and wishes to die. His devoted son sees him wallowing on the ground and speaks a simple phrase, one I hope to never forget, no matter what circumstances old age might impose: snap out of it, he says, “Thy life is a miracle.”


Brendan Hare is a retired attorney and the author of From Working to Wisdom: The Adventures and Dreams of Older Americans, available at Amazon. For more info, visit


March 16th, 2015 • Posted in Authors and Books

This video changed my life immeasurably for the better

Watching this short video, and reading its accompanying text, changed my life in a profound way recently. Please watch it. Read the text. Re-watch the video. Re-read the text. Here´s the full version:

February 10th, 2015 • Posted in Authors and Books

Why privacy matters – Glenn Greenwald

January 26th, 2015 • Posted in Authors and Books

Ted Hughes on Hedgehogs

In the Letters of Ted Hughes (selected and edited by Christopher Reid) you´ll find a letter from Hughes to Edna Wholey in which he says he hears “a commotion in the hedge, and after a while, out trundled a hedgehog, merry as you like, and obviously out for a good time. I thought he might make a jolly companion for an evening so I brought him in. After a while I noticed he had disappeared and later heard a noise just like the sobbing of a little child, but very faint, and it continued for long enough. I traced it to a pile of boxes, and there was my comrade, with his nose pressed in a pool of tears, and his face all wet, and snivelling and snuffling his heart out. I could have kissed him for compassion. I don’t know why I’m so sympathetic towards hedgehogs.”

October 30th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Oscar Wilde and Jian Ghomeshi

There are some interesting parallels between the circumstances surrounding the trials of Oscar Wilde and the situation that Jian Ghomeshi now finds himself in. 

Oscar, after learning that a defamatory card had been delivered to his club by the Marquis of Queensberry (father to one of Wilde’s lovers, Lord Alfred Douglas), decided to sue. On the card were the words ‘Oscar Wilde  posing  (as a) Sodomite’ (there is some uncertainty about the exact wording). Nonetheless, Oscar sued for libel. Queensberry subsequently rounded up a number of young men who were known to sell their favours, to testify against Oscar, contesting his claim that he was not a sodomite. In fact, they had been paid generously by Wilde to engage in homosexual acts. 

The result was that Oscar lost his case. He had to pay court costs, and, if I recall correctly, had to declare bankruptcy, due to the fact that Queensberry called in some debts. Anyhow, because of the evidence presented in the first trial, Oscar was prosecuted by the Crown on charges of gross indecency.  This is where the phrase ‘The love that dare not speak its name’ gained currency. It is from the poem “Two Loves” by Lord Alfred Douglas, published in 1894 and was commonly interpreted as a euphemism for homosexuality. By Wilde’s definition “ [..] it repeatedly exists between an older and a younger man, when the older man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him.” No matter. The jury found him guilty as charged and he was sentenced to two years hard labour. He came out a broken man, living out the rest of his tragically short life in France,  in poverty and in poor health. He died in a seedy Parisian hotel from a form of encephalitis. 

In today’s scandal the CBC is playing Queensberry to Ghomeshi’s Wilde. Suing the CBC is a doomed cause. Apparently members of a union (as Ghomeshi is) cannot sue their employers, and these same employers have the right to fire anyone whose private lives might diminish or besmirch their ‘brand’ or reputation. Meanwhile, witnesses are now coming forth to tell their BDSM sex stories to CBC audiences, complete with allegations of having been beaten by Ghomeshi, and corroborating the Toronto Star stories of Ghomeshi having had non-consensual, violent sex with multiple partners. 

Homosexuality at the time of Oscar’s trial (despite being practiced discreetly by many, including Queensberry’s eldest son) was as shocking as violent non-consensual sex is today. There is however one important difference between the cases. Unlike homosexuality, violence against women will never be accepted by societyIn fact it is an insult to Oscar Wilde to equate what he did, to what Ghomeshi has done. Nonetheless, if the comparison between these two situations is to hold, then, once Ghomeshi’s suit against the CBC has been thrown out, the Crown will press charges against him for assault, and other related illegal activities. 


October 23rd, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Where the Mind is Without Fear

In light of yesterday’s tragic events in Ottawa, and in tribute to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, this poem:


 Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

- Rabindranath Tagore

October 22nd, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Five Things You May Not Know About Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

New York, New York — October, 2014 – Marymount Manhattan College (MMC), a private liberal arts college on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, is pleased to welcome author Tina Santi Flaherty on Sunday, October 26 at 2:00 p.m. Celebrating the commemorative edition of her book, What Jackie Taught Us, Mrs. Flaherty, a neighbor of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, will discuss “Five Things You May Not Know About Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.”

Here’s the press release:
Described as a “must read” by the Miami Herald, and raved about by critics and fans, What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis offers readers insight into the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as well as her lessons about how to live with grace, style, and strength.

Marymount Manhattan College has a rich tradition of cultivating female leaders in business, politics, and the arts. These include Geraldine Anne Ferraro ’56, the first female vice presidential candidate from a major political party; Adele DeCruz ’73, an art conservationist instrumental in developing cutting-edge lasers; and Rachel Lloyd ’02, founder of GEMS, an organization that supports women involved with human trafficking. In the spirit of applauding women in history, MMC is proud to host Tina Santi Flaherty for her book talk about an American icon. “We are thrilled to be welcoming an award-winning author to our campus during homecoming weekend,” explained MMC President, Judson R. Shaver, Ph.D. “Our entire college community, friends throughout NYC, and book lovers alike, are all eager to discover more about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and meet author Tina Santi Flaherty.

**This event is FREE and open to the public. Reservations are required. T reserve contact Caitlin Kirklin at 212-517-0471 or 
October 20th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Beautiful new presentation of Dylan Thomas’s poetry

Dylan Thomas: Selected Poems book

2014 marks the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth. In celebration of this, The Folio Society has issued a new selection of his poems, notable, I’d say, not for the poetry which is well known, but for its deft presentation.

Black and white it is. And appropriately so, as these contrasting colours, if they may be called such, feature large in Thomas’s poetry. Most memorably, ” Bible-black”, but also “crow-black”, “tar-black”, “bat-black”. 

Pull the volume from its slipcase and the first thing you see on the front board is a striking black and white photograph of Dylan lighting a cigarette. The image is strongly reminiscent of one I recall seeing of John Lennon, another bard of sorts, another rock star – for Dylan was as popular as a rock star, something unheard of at the time for a poet. In fact, it is after him that Bob Dylan chose to name himself. 

The photograph’s whites beautifully capture the sheen of Dylan’s Lord Fauntleroy curls, the shine of his silk scarf, the flame of his match, the texture of his sweater. 

Opening the book you see the poet at work, in his own hand, text scattered across the end papers, complete with scratch outs and replacement words. Across from the title page, there’s a contact sheet, on glossy paper, that features six images of Dylan in various poses. Similar evocative photos of family and place illustrate and demark the collections from which these poems have been selected. 

The title page displays its text in a san serif font, upper and lower case, set beneath Thomas’s distinctive signature, complete with its little twirl on the “D”. Each poem in the book receives a bold san serif title, coupled with serifed text. 

The pages of the book provide ample ‘thumbage’ space, lending the type a stark, beautiful legibility against bright white paper. The book has an informative introduction by Owen Sheers, one of Wales’s leading authors, and a helpful, lengthy notes section at the back. 

Here’s how Sheers concludes his introduction:

Because, whatever his faults and excesses, he is a poet who we need to have in our lives. A reminder of the nature of the human condition, stripped bare of intellectual masking. A reminder of the natural world given voice with suitable drama and strange wonder. And a reminder that poetry has its roots in music, and always will.

While Thomas’s poems are well known, those chosen here are judiciously selected, and beautifully presented. 

Order your copy here.