TCMG ARCs

An Interview with Cecil Foster

Happy New Year from all of us at Biblioasis! It’s been a whirlwind couple of months, beginning with Kathy Page’s Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize win for Dear Evelyn and continuing up to this very second as we prepare for the publication of our 2019 titles. We’re also doing some organizing around the Bibliomanse and steadfastly refusing to discard any books, whether they spark joy or not.

And speaking of organizing: we’re eagerly awaiting February 5 and the Canadian publication of our first 2019 title: Cecil Foster’s They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern CanadaFoster’s history documents the struggles, both individual and collective, of Black Canadians against the racist policies of their employers and their country. It was their actions, Foster argues, that laid the groundwork for the multicultural nation we know today. Incorporating the author’s own interviews with former porters and outlining the rarely-discussed institutional racism of early Canadian immigration and employment policies, They Call Me George is an indispensable read for the 21st century.

We sat down at our keyboards last month to ask Cecil a few questions about his new book.

A Biblioasis Interview with Cecil Foster, author of They Call Me George

For those who are coming to your work for the first time, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

Born in Barbados, I came to Canada in 1979, eventually became a leading business reporter especially on transportation, where I became fascinated by the narrative of how Canada was built by the railways, how confederation was a promise to link Canada sea-to-sea by railway, how Canada was held together by a thin ribbon of steel. But who manned those railways? Little was ever written about them, except maybe by Stephen Leacock about the smiling darkies, as he called them. As a Black man it was with pride that I dug deeper to discover the role of Black men—including West Indians—in the making of Canada, as well as the great odds they had to overcome to make Canada the much admired multicultural country it is today.

What drove you to write a book about the porters?

I was always trying to work the porters into my writing on the Black experience in Canada, in both fiction and non-fiction. Then came the opportunity to write a book on the untold stories of Canada as part as the federal government’s initiative to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary and I jumped at the chance when Biblioasis came calling.

You did an incredible amount of research for this book. Is there any one particular porter or story that has stuck with you?

At the back of my mind, and always present in my research, was my friend Billy Downey of Halifax. He was a genuinely pioneering Canadian, who worked on the railway and eventually ended up as a supervisor. When I spent a year in Halifax, every Saturday I would have lunch with Billy and two other friends, and I would hear all those wonderful stories of being Black and working on the ‘roads. I dedicate the book to Billy’s memory. Other than that, undoubtedly the other standout was Stanley Grizzle. Not only was he a leading activist but he had the good foresight to be a hoarder—whereby he kept everything, every piece of paper or clippings, which are now the rich treasure trove I found in the Canadian Archives.

Why is it that we haven’t heard much previously about the porters’ activism and what they did for this country?

We haven’t heard much because this story undermines the popular impressions of a) Canada and Black people, and b) how Canada became multicultural.

Many Canadians conveniently want to forget that Canada was a White Man’s country and helped pioneered worldwide apartheid and integration. Or they recall the stories of the Underground Railroad and African slaves escaping from the U.S. to freedom in Canada—but they do not linger on how Canada tried to repel Black immigration and often forced Black people to leave. When they look at Canada today, they cannot believe that this country once limited immigration from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to 350 annually and often did not even meet this quota.

The story of how Canada became multicultural is often told as a fight between English and French Canadians for domination. This book argues differently: it states that multiculturalism resulted from pressures by people of colour to make Canada non-white, to dismantle Canada as a White Man’s country, and to make it a place in which all types of people can find social justice.

These are not positions that are popular in the Canadian mainstream, let alone taught as official Canadian history and as part of the development of ideas and policies in Canada.

Did anything particularly surprise you in your research?

I was surprised by how easily racist discourse was accepted as part of the national debate even into the 1960s, as can be found in Hansard, the official reports of Parliament, and in national newspapers and journals. And many of those who today talk about Canadian prime minister Laurier’s sunny ways and Laurier’s belief that the 20th century would belong to Canada might do a double-take when considering the racist and white supremacist context in which Laurier—and so many other prime ministers—were talking. On the other hand two prime ministers—John Diefenbaker and Pierre Elliott Trudeau—stand out as the makers of the new Canada, having refuted much that they inherited from prior Canadian leaders.

What are you reading right now?

I have Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black on my bookstand and hope I can get to it before my summer break.

 

 

 

 

DEAR EVELYN by Kathy Page wins 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize!

On Wednesday, November 7, 2018, it was announced that Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page has been awarded the 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

Prize jurists Ann Y.K. Choi, Mireille Silcoff, and Robert Wiersma said in their citation: “Kathy Page’s Dear Evelyn tells the tender and unsettling story of working-class Londoner Harry Miles and the ambitious Evelyn Hill who fall in love as the world around them goes to war. What initially begins as a familiar wartime love story morphs into a startling tale of time’s impact on love and family, as well as one’s complex search for personal meaning and truth. By integrating themes that are universally understood by readers and skillfully crafting endearing characters that surprise and delight, Page has created a poignant literary work of art. The result is a timeless page-turning masterpiece.”

“I couldn’t be happier for Kathy tonight,” said Dan Wells of Biblioasis, publisher of Dear Evelyn. “She’s long been one of our best writers and it means so much that the Writers’ Trust jury has acknowledged this wonderful, deeply personal look at how love can change us, then change us again.”

Born between the wars on a working-class London street, Harry Miles wins a scholarship and a chance to escape his station, but discovers instead that poetry is what offers him real direction. While searching for more of it he meets Evelyn Hill on the steps of Battersea Library. The two fall in love as the world prepares once again for war, but their capacity to care for each other over the ensuing decades becomes increasingly tested. Twisting and startling, harrowing and deeply tender, Dear Evelyn explores how two very different people come together to shape and reshape each other over a lifetime. It is a compelling and unconventional love story that will leave its mark on any reader who has ever loved.

Kathy Page is the author of ten previous books, two of which, Paradise & Elsewhere (2014) and The Two of Us (2016), were nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Other works include Alphabet, a Governor General’s Award finalist in 2005, and The Story of My Face, long-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and Frankie Styne and the Silver Man. Born in the UK, she moved to Salt Spring Island with her family in 2001, and now divides her time between writing and teaching at Vancouver Island University.

 

A Biblioasis Interview with Patrick Brode, author of Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder

We’re delighted by this week’s arrival of beloved local author Patrick Brode’s Dying for a Drink: How a Prohibition Preacher Got Away with Murder. Brode’s latest tells a story that’s familiar to many Windsorites and guaranteed to captivate anyone who’s interested in the history of the Prohibition era. We sat down with Pat to find out more about the true story behind this local lore.

For those who might not be familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer and a historian?

I have been writing legal history since the 1970s. My publications so far consist of biographies and studies of unique issues such as sexual “seduction” and its consequences in Canada. Many of my writings have been case studies, which have focused on specific cases. For example, I have written on the 1860 extradition trial of the escaped slave John Anderson, the 1895 murder trial of a black woman, Clara Ford in Toronto, and the prosecution of a serial killer of homosexuals in Windsor Ontario in 1947.

Babe Trumble’s murder is a well-known story in the Windsor region. What drew you to write about this particular case for a national—and international—audience?

What makes the murder of the saloonkeeper Babe Trumble by a Methodist clergyman so compelling was the way in which it so captured the opposing forces of the Prohibition era. That a religious figure would shoot down and kill a man who had the nerve to sell alcohol became the high water mark of religious zealotry in Canada. It became a turning point in which the public began to question the validity of morality by government force.

I was struck by the extent of Toronto media coverage of this case, and the ways in which Toronto was so at odds with the Border Cities region over the alcohol issue. Can you talk a little bit about that dynamic? 

All major Toronto newspapers sent reporters to Windsor to cover the early rum running events. Their coverage was inevitably sensational with accounts of running gun battles, and bloody confrontations between police and bootleggers along the shore of the Detroit River. It made for exciting copy, and the Toronto public loved it. Part of it was vicarious thrills. The Windsor area was often referred to as the “Essex Frontier” as if it was the Wild West. It was portrayed as a dangerous place where everyone carried a gun and was ready to use it.  The Toronto reading public was entertained by but safely removed from this mini-war going on 300 kilometers away.

The Windsor region has always been intertwined with that of our American neighbours across the river in Detroit. How was the Detroit region affected by the hullabaloo recounted in Dying For a Drink?

 Throughout this incident, the role of Detroit as the great magnet for Canadian booze is central. Both cities had nothing but disdain for the prevailing liquor laws and intended to defy those laws for their mutual benefit. The almost overnight growth of the cross-border smuggling trade was a business phenomenon that made millionaires out of cab drivers. But to prohibition true believers, such as the Reverend Spracklin, this was a defiance of morality which had the force of law. It had to be stopped.

Today, Windsor seems fondly proud of its rum-running past, almost part of our civic heritage. Has it always been that way?

 There was almost a romantic “Robin Hood” feel to the period. Ordinary people were rising up to resist a law that had little popular support. It is one of the few instances where so many people in a Canadian city openly broke the law. For that reason, the “Rumrunner era” continues to resonate. The descendants of bootleggers proudly display relicts of their family’s past and tours celebrate the persons and sites of the era.

The Prohibition era has an extensive mythology—you’re very careful to ground your work in facts and not legends. Are there any persistent myths you come across while working in that era’s history?

 That one of the many who broke the law was shot down and killed for his defiance shocked Windsor. It was a further measure of the times that in most of the rest of the Ontario the respectable classes thought he got what he deserved.

In many ways the incident has been embellished since 1920. It has been romanticized to suggest that the killing was the result of an ongoing feud. It has also been suggested that the Reverend Spracklin was a Canadian “Eliot Ness.” Neither view has any substance and detracts from the real facts that brought them together in a tragic, spontaneous clash.

What are you working on next?

 I’m working on a further legal history on the war crimes committed against Canadian servicemen at the end of World War II and the resulting courts martial.

 

 

In Memoriam: David Helwig, 1938-2018

We are saddened by the loss of David Helwig, who passed away October 16 at the age of 80. The author of 25 books of fiction, seventeen poetry collections, and four nonfiction books, David was a Member of the Order of Canada and former poet laureate of Prince Edward Island. David’s books with Biblioasis include Saltsea, About Love, and this year’s reissue of The Stand-In.

Full House
(for Will, Luke, Elli)

In a park of mighty trees
sun and mist nourish green
that is more than itself;
a bird calls sibling sibling

as the dangerous one
draws cards to a pair
and turns up three of a kind,
deals them into a world

where eyes, lips, fingers find
so much to be unknown,
the regular beat of sleep,
the belly’s soft remindings,

learnings of flesh and mind
in the sweeping soft salt tide;
three lives two handfuls long
sing daily counterpoint

where each house is a full house;
by the church the colour of flesh
in the park of hidden rivers
a bird cries thriving, thriving.

—David Helwig

A Biblioasis Interview with K.D. Miller, author of Late Breaking

Trade Paper $19.95
eBook $9.99

K.D. Miller’s Late Breaking, a collection of stories inspired by the work of Alex Colville, hit shelves last week, and early reports demonstrate that readers are as captivated as your humble Biblioblogger by this brilliant new book from the author of Rogers Writers’ Trust finalist All Saints. We sat down with K.D. to learn more about its inspiration, as well as its relationship to her other work.

In Ottawa? K.D. is the featured reader at The Short Reading Series on Sunday, October 14. Join us downtown at The Gallery Bar at The Lieutenant’s Pump on Elgin Street at 4 pm!

Biblioasis: For those not already familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing?

K.D. Miller: I have published seven books (including Late Breaking) –five collections of short stories, a novel and a collection of personal essays. My short story collections are linked – whether by theme or through recurring characters and situations. I like this form very much, as it gives me the freedom to revisit a personality or circumstance and see it from a very different angle. My novel, Brown Dwarf, had a similarly loose structure – the narrative point of view shifted back and forth from first to third, and the time frame from present to past. My collection of essays, Holy Writ, explored a favourite theme of mine – the link between creativity and spirituality. Right now I’m at work on a new book of essays that goes further in that direction. Recently I’ve started to publish single poems in literary journals, and my essay “The Death of Me” has been accepted for the summer issue of The New Quarterly as part of their Falling in Love With Poetry series. It describes how I came to poetry late in life and rather reluctantly, and includes four of my poems.

Though retired, I still write in the early morning, as I did for decades before leaving for work. I’m at my desk by 6 am at the very latest, and those couple of hours with my coffee and the view out my window are the best of the day.

B: Each story in Late Breaking is based on a painting of Alex Colville’s. Can you tell us a bit about what drew you to his work, and what inspired the idea of a book collection like this?

KDM: I had always liked the work of Alex Colville – his precise delineation, his almost-invisible brushwork, and above all the eerie, chill-down-the-spine effect of many of his paintings. (That black horse galloping toward the oncoming train captures perfectly what I’m talking about.) His paintings are extremely evocative. Many of his subjects either have their heads turned sharply away from the viewer or are looking the viewer disconcertingly straight in the eye. And you can take that kind of thing any way you like – as a challenge, as a cry for help, whatever. Even in his less disturbing paintings, nothing is entirely peaceful or at rest. You get the feeling that something memorable has just happened, or is just about to happen.

In 2014, the AGO mounted a major exhibit of Colville’s work, finding in it fascinating parallels with the Coen brothers’ films and the writing of Alice Munro. As I roamed from painting to painting, the phrase “the Colville stories” kept repeating in my mind like a mantra. I felt inspired – almost driven – to use those paintings as visual writing prompts. Their layers of possibility, their disturbing ambiguity left me convinced that I could pull stories out of them for the rest of my life. I actually felt blessed.

B: How does the collection relate (or not relate) to your last book All Saints?

KDM: All Saints is linked together by recurring characters who in one way or another find themselves inside a small, struggling urban church – the titular All Saints. When I started writing Late Breaking, I did not intend to have recurring characters. I had thought that the linkage would be one more of atmosphere, theme, imagery, etc. But then it occurred to me that the protagonist of one story simply must have been the long-time friend of the protagonist of another. And a minor character here was the neighbour or colleague of another minor character over there … And so on. The characters, in their way, let me in on a community that gradually formed under my hand.

There are other similarities too. Given my own interest in spirituality, it is not too surprising that one character in Late Breaking is an Anglican priest, and another the son of a United Church minister. Both books also deal with death as a significant theme – its mystery, and the way we do everything in our power to pretend it isn’t there waiting for us.

I think All Saints is a more closely-packed collection than Late Breaking. While I was writing the latter, I went further afield – both in terms of technique and setting. Fewer of the Late Breaking characters are dug out of myself, and more of them are people who, you might say, came to visit and let me get to know them.

In both cases, however, I became extremely fond of the community I greeted at my desk each morning, and missed them terribly once the books were finished.

B: The eponymous story “Late Breaking” juxtaposes both very funny CanLit satire with a heartbreaking story of loss, centered around a fiction writer named Jill Macklin. I’m wondering if you can tell us more about that character?

KDM: Well, I won’t pretend that there isn’t a big dollop of Jill in me and me in her. We’re about the same age, we both had day-jobs for many years that supported our fiction-writing on the side, and we both had the experience of being up for an award and nursing a broken heart at the same time.

That said, I want to emphasize that my own award-nomination experience was very different from Jill’s. The one she is up for – the Olympia Featherstone Award For Fiction – is purely a creature of the imagination, as is its rather crass competitor – the Biggar Prize. I wanted to put Jill smack in between two unrealities – a pedestal and a ditch, you might say – and give her a chance to find her way back to her true self.

One other thing that I hope the title story does is remind the reader that the elder heart can still break. It is as tender, brave and vulnerable as it ever was. Falling in love is as exhilarating for someone in their sixties as it is for someone in their twenties; and the failure of that love hurts them just as much, too.

In fact, if there is one thing I hope the collection Late Breaking can achieve, it is this understanding that our hearts stay young and open, right up until the end.

B: What are you reading right now?

KDM: Well, I just finished Philip Kerr’s Prussian Blue (I love murder mysteries!) and have just started May Sarton’s The House by the Sea – the journal she kept in the 1970s while living in a big old farm house on the coast of Maine. She is a marvelous diarist, and is just about my age at time of writing. Many years ago, I wrote two sentences which I have not been able to do anything with: “Old women belong by the sea. They have earned their place with the rocks and the foam.” May Sarton’s book is bringing those sentences back to me, like a mantra. Maybe it’s time to put them into an essay. Or a story. Or a poem.

 

Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page shortlisted for 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize

Trade Paper $19.95
eBook $9.99

Awards Season marches on and the Bibliomanse is abuzz over the news that Dear Evelyn, Kathy Page’s portrait of a lifelong marriage, has been shortlisted for the 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Our warmest congratulations to Kathy—and our gratitude to all the readers and reviewers who have welcomed this moving book into their worlds.

Praise for Dear Evelyn

“Kathy Page’s Dear Evelyn is a novel in the shape of a life . . . [true] to most human experiences of love . . . Page has laid bare the lives of her characters, making no claim to their significance to anyone but each other, and in doing so has demonstrated that the ordinary is infinitely precious.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Quietly hums with emotional charge. The war years, with Harry fighting in North Africa and Evelyn struggling with a young child at home, are especially vivid, but this watchful, empathetic chronicle retains sensitivity through the less obviously eventful decades of home-building and child-rearing . . . Page’s watchful and very British tale remains devoted to both and forgiving to the end. A searching, and touching, depiction of the places where married lives merge and the places where they never do.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“Page’s finely wrought story – by turns tender, acid, and poignant – reminds us that marriage is a condition as infinitely variable as the individuals who enter into it…gains dimension and complexity as additional details accumulate through Page’s deft use of flashbacks and prolepsis; her precise and graceful prose gives the emerging picture nuance and shading…Page’s touching novel makes the ordinary extraordinary.” —Quill & Quire (starred review)

“An ambitious, and highly literary, historical fiction outing…The writing is remarkable, masterfully weaving together the personal and the political. The backdrop of global conflict infuses the story with urgency, drama, and the exotic appeal of foreign travel, while the intimate manoeuverings of the characters oscillate between tenderness and profound despair.” —Toronto Star

“A smartly written portrait of a marriage that is true to life, has depth and detail, and is sometimes sweet and sometimes painful . . . the characters linger long afterwards and are likely to leave readers with either a tear in their eye or a lump in the throat.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“Page charts the emotional shifts that take place over the course of their marriage, from first flush of love to old age, with subtlety and sensitivity.” —Booklist

“Though a familiar tale, it’s sharply drawn and told with an alertness to cliché . . . [T]he concluding scenes, while sadly inevitable, are quietly devastating. ” —Daily Mail Online

“I know of no contemporary writer who deals so convincingly with love. Page consistently dramatizes the ways in which the feelings of intimate couples are puzzling mixtures of hope, lust, genuine caring, resentment, politics, and much else . . . ambitious and profoundly resonant.” —BC BookLook

“[Page] has flown largely under the radar of publishing journalism while also writing damned good books . . . Page is a magician at evoking a sense of past-ness, and her characterisation is extraordinarily skillful and tender: both Evelyn and her husband Harry can be extremely difficult, but the reader understands and feels for them both. Exceptional work.” —Elle Thinks

“A richly textured story that feels authentic to each period, without ever getting bogged down in too many details or historical facts . . . Relayed with compassion, and incisive writing.” —Gulf Islands Driftwood

Fall 401 Tour

We’re on the road again this week! Our Fall 401 Tour kicks off tonight at Drawn & Quarterly with readings by CP Boyko, Catherine Leroux, KD Miller, Alex Pheby, and special guests Randy Boyagoda and Lazer Lederhendler.

There will surely be magic in the night when Thursday’s event brings Boyko, Leroux, Miller, and Pheby to Toronto’s Monarch Tavern, where they’ll be joined by Daniel Wells himself.

But heaven’s waiting down the tracks, where Windsor and Biblioasis Bookshop will welcome our four intrepid travellers and their brilliant new books home at the end of the ride.

Although we’ve (mercifully) come to the end of this blog post, it’s alright, baby, it’s alright.

 

 

 

Paige Cooper’s Debut Gets Longlisted

We’re over the moon for our author Paige Cooper, whose collection of short fiction Zolitude has been longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Beloved by dogs everywhere, Zolitude is a stunning literary debut by a true Canadian original. But don’t take our word for it . . .

Praise for Zolitude

“I’m not sure I can praise this book highly enough . . .  Zolitude surprises first because of a unique use of and care with language, which is both kinetic, bold, unexpected, and yet also controlled and coldly precise when it needs to be. The approach re the environment and the modern condition is deeply *right*, too. Cooper’s Zolitude manages an interiority of character that’s honest and, again, pretty unique. These are flawed, interesting characters presented in sharp relief . . . and now words are kind of flailing me. Just buy this damn thing, okay? You’ll see what I mean. I’m just a huge fan of this writer now. I can’t imagine her doing anything other than going from strength to strength. This prose is just amazing.” —Jeff VanderMeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy

“[A] spikily surreal debut collection . . . vivid, complex . . . brilliant.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Each of Zolitude‘s fourteen stories explores intimacy as a basic need and the ways love can be articulated, perceived, and frustrated. The result is a collection that is often astonishing and occasionally crests the extraordinary.” —The Walrus

“Cooper finds moments of beauty (or maybe it is just truth) in such landscapes. The surreal, sometimes fantastical worlds of these stories are so wholly realized, stepping into them is a pleasing form of disorientation.”—The Globe and Mail

“Rarely have love stories seemed less cliché and predictable . . . tenderness and violence and doom are so densely layered as to deliver the affective impact of a novel . . . these stories are so well made, so viscerally moving, I often found the need to take a break between them to recover. “—Quill & Quire (starred review)

“Zolitude is Cooper’s first short story collection, but it reads like the work of a far more seasoned writer. Her stories are painful and wise, ugly and moving, and at their best, reveal uncomfortable truths about human connection and its limits . . . With each opening paragraph, she pitches us into a new atmosphere, full of gorgeous detail and emotional rawness, a world that feels too real to be a fantasy, or perhaps just fantastic enough to be real.” —Montreal Review of Books

“Standing apart from the pack of debut collections is never an easy thing, but Paige Cooper’s Zolitude demands attention . . . every sentence is razor-sharp, and you have no idea where the story is going until the moment it gets there.” —Montreal Gazette

“[A]cross fourteen stories Cooper builds strange, genre-defying, sci-fi- and fantasy-infused realities that are distinctly her own. Truly, they’re like nothing else you’ve read lately.”  —Toronto Star

“The badass ensemble of Zolitude‘s women characters don’t so much take the reader for a ride as they snatch the reader up and jerk them along an austere, dystopian road of twelve short stories. Written with unapologetic intelligence and complexity, this incredible collection refuses to ever give up—and you don’t want it to.” —All Lit Up Summer Book Club

“Refreshingly smart and offbeat storytelling befitting our curious times . . . Cooper’s rich language, clever narrative structures, and uncommon storylines make Zolitude a fine addition to the speculative genre.” —Chicago Review of Books

Zolitude is one of those books that you won’t want to stop talking to people about, and I haven’t. Ask anyone I know. A collection of love stories – flawed, sad, and intensely engaging – Paige Cooper’s debut is devoid of cliché and predictability. I never knew where I would end up in any of the stories. It’s magical. It’s twisted. It’s unbelievable. Go read it!” —All Lit Up

“A timely exploration of love and humanity…urgent and energetic.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“Cooper proves that she can do just about anything. She’s as comfortable telling a story from the perspective of a hip young record-label employee . . . whose hand is blown off by a mail bomb (‘Ryan & Irene, Irene & Ryan’) as she is telling the story of a mounted police officer who lives on the edge of loss and violence (‘The Emperor’) . . . Readers willing to give themselves over to some mystery will be rewarded.” —Kirkus

“A keen eye for the quirks of human behavior.” —Publishers Weekly

“When I read a Cooper story, “Vazova on Love” for example, I feel I have been transported into a strange country, a puzzling one, sensuous and potentially hostile, and I know she will reveal something to me if I stay very focused.” —André Forget

“Paige Cooper’s finely-crafted debut collection . . . crackles and spits with intelligence. Cooper has honed a style that lends itself to unusual, crystalline landscapes . . . Even worlds that are familiar are made strange in [her] lucid imagination.” —The Arkansas International

“As strange and wonderful as the characters in these pages are, they are grounded in real emotion and experience, longing and loneliness.” —Open Book

“Paige Cooper’s stories screw down into the earth, holding fire in their gaps. Her characters turn zero sum games into bloodsport. Zolitude will not leave you alone.” —Sasha Frere-Jones

“The stories in Zolitude are dense, rich, and wildly intelligent . . . wrapped in perfectly wrought and unusual images.” —Geography of Reading

Zolitude is the literary equivalent of a non-stop action film. These stories are tough and visceral and fraught. Cooper’s characters – sometimes reckless, sometimes tender, always fierce – are breathtakingly fresh and wonderfully complicated. When you finish this book – about how the world marks us and how we mark ourselves – the word ‘culpability’ will have new meanings. These are worlds that are keenly observed and then forged into the kind of wild and uncompromising stories the times demand.” —Aislinn Hunter, author of Stay and The World Before Us 

“Cooper’s stories feature far-flung worlds, magnified consciousness. This is mesmerizing work.”—Tamara Faith Berger, author of Maidenhead

IN THE MEDIA: Spring & Summer Highlights

The majority of the Bibliofolk are wearing plaid today, so it’s either definitely autumn or we’re starting a ‘90s tribute band featuring one bagpiper and my lapsed grade seven trombone skills. Either way, let’s carry on with last week’s round-up of spring/summer media highlights.

The two most recent titles from the Biblioasis International Translation Series both found eager audiences. A Vanity Fair Hot Type book for April, Ondjaki’s Transparent City garnered, among other reviews, a rave from the Times Literary Supplement. Reviewer Alev Adil writes: “Vibrant…Ondjaki is experimentally bold, and his prose shifts through a kaledioscope of registers, from the poetic to the political, the erotic to the absurd . . . Stephen Henighan‘s thoughtful translation has an energetic lyricism and is alive to the echoes and vestiges of the African languages that imbue Ondjaki’s text . . . The novel begins and ends with a raging inferno, and yet it is as full of hope, appetite and libidinal energy as it is of grief and mourning.” We’re looking forward to October and Ondjaki’s appearance at the Vancouver Writers Festival—not to mention his upcoming appearance on CBC’s Writers and Company.

Inspired by the life of legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, it’s probably no surprise that Oscar by Mauricio Segura has gotten so much air time. Featured as Jael Richardson’s book pick on CBC’s q, Oscar was the subject of Segura’s CBC The Next Chapter riff. Segura also appeared on CBC Montreal’s All in a Weekend and Our Montreal, and wrote this excellent playlist for Largehearted Boy.

Speaking of musical books: Years, Months, and Days, Amanda Jernigan’s transfiguration of Mennonite hymns into lyric poems. A quiet book, it’s been quietly gathering its readership and inspiring elegant reviews, including this one for Image Journal: “The poems are tiny, seeds only, bare of flourish, each containing the germ of an idea so large the mind can hardly hold it… if you seek to tune those numbered days of yours to what is most frightfully vital, you might carry this book in your satchel awhile. It’s tiny enough to conceal in a large pocket, but it thunders, and its seeds carry fields.” You can listen to Amanda read from her exquisite collection in this post at All Lit Up.

After praise-filled reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, Alex Pheby’s Playthings generated the season’s most emphatic publicity-department high five when it earned a rave review in the New York Times. Reviewer Catherine Lacey writes: “”[A] skillfully rich novel . . . A close third-person voice situates “Playthings” in an eerie place between a lived account of insanity and a careful observation of a mind’s unraveling . . . [A]gile and wily.” Reader, my palm is still stinging. It was a good high-five.

Labour Daze

It’s been a busy summer here at the Bibliomanse—not least of all because we’re still settling in to our new digs. It turns out it’s a lot of work to build and stock a warehouse with fifteen years’ worth of books.

 

But now that the Humidex remains at 40 in Windsor summer’s over, let’s take a spin through some media highlights from our spring and summer titles.

1979, Ray Robertson’s novel about coming of age in small-town Ontario, was the talk of multiple towns. Ray was interviewed in Metro and Chatham Daily News, as well as CBC London’s Afternoon Drive. In Winnipeg Free Press, Kathryne Cardwell praised the Robertson’s skilfully constructed characters: “As Robertson traces Tom’s coming of age, he explores themes of innocence lost, wisdom gained and learning to forgive … [Robertson’s] talent as a writer shows in his clear prose and ability to create unique and believable characters.”

The Pre-War House, the debut collection of short fiction by Alison Moore, Booker-shortlisted author of The Lighthouse, garnered rave reviews from seemingly everyone who picked it up, including Kirkus (“A masterful collection”), Booklist (“Moore is the real deal”), Minneapolis Star Tribune (“I envy Moore’s talent”), Winnipeg Free Press (“Delightfully creepy and gut-wrenching”), and Arkansas International (“Moore’s writing is surprising and exact”).

After being featured on CBC’s “21 Works of Canadian Nonfiction to Watch For in the First Half of 2018,” Rachel Lebowitz’s The Year of No Summer, lovingly described around the office as “Maggie Nelson does the Apocalypse,” was praised by Kirkus, Toronto Star, and Midwest Book Review, among other venues. Neil Surkan’s lyrical and deeply thoughtful engagement with the text for Literary Review of Canada is one we’re still talking about: “In the footsteps of Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Daphne Marlatt, and Anne Carson . . . these essays cling to you long after you’ve read them, like lingering grains of wet, black sand.”

Zolitude, Paige Cooper’s debut collection of short fiction, was included in multiple CBC lists and received reviews . . . basically everywhere, from  Quill and Quire , The Walrus and Montreal Review of Books, to Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, to Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal—but I would be remiss not to mention that we also may have loudly exclaimed about a series of tweets by none other than Jeff VanderMeer, who wrote: “I’m not sure I can praise this book highly enough. It’s sui generis, managing to be both intellectually rigorous and also emotionally resonant. Cooper’s Zolitude manages an interiority of character that’s honest and, again, pretty unique. These are flawed, interesting characters presented in sharp relief . . . Just buy this damn thing, okay?”

Fall books awaiting fame & fortune.

We’ll be back next week with recaps of more spring/summer titles!