As you may’ve noticed, ‘weekly’ is a bit of a misnomer for this week’s roundup. The press enjoyed a restorative holiday break from December 23rd to January 4th, but we’re back in full-swing for the New Year and ready to get you caught up on everything we’ve been up to.
FROM THE MOUTHS OF THE CRITICS
These last few weeks have been some of the most exciting we’ve experienced in our eleven years as publishers of exceptional books. Upon arriving back at the office after the break, we were thrilled to begin the day with reviews of Martin John in two of the world’s most prestigious, storied venues: The New Yorker and The New York Times. This marks the first time a Biblioasis title has been reviewed in The New Yorker, whose critic called Martin John a “frenetic, risk-taking novel … deliberately cryptic and bleakly funny.” Hours before that review hit newsstands, The New York Times Sunday Edition featured the brilliant Irish novelist Eimear McBride’s thoughtful, glowing review of Martin John. Anakana’s novel was also listed as a favourite by the editors of The New York Times Books.
Kevin Hardcastle’s Debris received some well-deserved attention south of the border in anticipation of his debut’s US release on Feb. 9. Booklist’s reviewer wrote that “[Debris] has its own strong voice … smoothly connected by uncompromising settings and Hardcastle’s authentic, plainspoken country-noir voice, the 11 stories collected here will appeal to fans of gritty, back-country crime fiction, even those who typically shun short stories.”
Kerry-Lee Powell’s most recent collection of poetry, Inheritance, was recently reviewed in the prestigious Times Literary Supplement. “Kerry-Lee Powell’s poems are full of lively vignettes in which realism strikes lyrical sparks off harshness,” wrote reviewer Jan Montefiore. “[Her] language is colloquial, unshowy, her free-verse lines organized in compact quatrains or tercets, but there is a relish for sprees, extremities and oddities.” We truly couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
EXAMINING THE GUN CULTURE, LOCK, STOCK, & BARREL
Not long before, and after, a solemn US President Obama announced he would be taking executive action regarding gun control, The Toronto Star and CBC Ideas ran long-form stories on gun culture in a North American context. The Toronto Star’s Insight section featured a lengthy excerpt from A.J. Somerset’s Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun, as well as his take on the book’s reception in the US and Canada. He said the NRA, gun nuts, and gun lobbyists would like his book to disappear, so they can maintain the illusion that they speak for all gun owners. “They do not speak for me,” wrote Somerset. “I speak for myself.”
This week’s episode of Ideas was dedicated to issues discussed in Arms. A.J., bestselling author and activist Christopher Hedges, and Mohawk thinker Dr. Taiaiake Alfred spoke with host Paul Kennedy about the current state of gun culture in North America, the roots of its dysfunction, and ways in which it can be reformed. It was an excellent hour-long program on an issue that, sadly, just won’t seem to go away. You can listen to that episode here.
LOOSENING WINTER’S GRIP
Although this year’s has been a notably mild winter, the literary world has joined the wider world in eager anticipation of spring. Spring previews have emerged from Quill & Quire and CBC Books and we’re happy to report that a host of Biblioasis titles garnered mentions. Quill & Quire featured Worldly Goods, a powerful gathering of stories by Montreal-based Alice Petersen; Bad Things Happen, a collection of short fiction by Halifax’s Kris Bertin; The Party Wall, a fantastic novel by all-star Quebecois author Catherine Leroux (translated by the amazing Lazer Lederhendler); Let the Empire Down, a new collection of poetry by Pat Lowther Memorial Award winner Alexandra Oliver; and Lives of the Poets (with Guitars): Thirteen Outsiders Who Changed Modern Music, a fun grouping of musical bios by Mr. Ray Robertson of Toronto. Alexandra’s Let the Empire Down was also included among CBC Books’ Spring 2016 preview.
IDEAS, NOT MONEY
We know as well as anybody that authors and publishers have to eat too. While galas and grand-prizes are good fun, and an important part of the literary landscape to boot, the concept of the ReLit Awards is a refreshing departure from regular award protocol. As Amazon.com explains, “Canada’s ReLit Awards—founded to acknowledge the best new work released by independent publishers—may not come with a purse, but it brings a welcome, back-to-the-books focus to the craft.” We’ve got all fingers crossed for Kathy Page and Diane Schoemperlen, whose respective short fiction collections Paradise & Elsewhere and By the Book: Stories and Pictures made the 2015 shortlist. The ReLit Rings are given out this month!