An Interview with Rob Taylor, Guest Editor of Best Canadian Poetry 2019

This year is the first year that the whole Best Canadian series is under Biblioasis’ roof! Best Canadian Poetry 2019 is the first book in the series (available now!), and Best Canadian Stories 2019 and Best Canadian Essays 2019 will be available later this month. Get your copy of Poetry now!

 

A Biblioasis Interview with Rob Taylor, guest editor of Best Canadian Poetry in English 2019

 

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

I’m a poet, short fiction writer and editor. I teach creative writing part-time at Simon Fraser University. and live in Port Moody, BC, with my wife and two children.

My recent collection, The News (Gaspereau Press, 2016), is a sequence of 36 poems, one per week during my wife’s pregnancy with our first child. The poems weave together the “news” of the pregnancy, the political news of the day, and quotes from literature (“the news that stays news”). I like to look for big ideas that are hidden away inside small things, especially the political inside the personal.

I also have a strong interest in sound in poetry—rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, repetition—and in humour (including, perhaps especially, humour in the face of difficulty).

 

You recently edited What the Poets Are Doing: Canadian Poets in Conversation. In what ways did that prepare you to edit Best Canadian Poetry? How are those two projects completely different?

The two were very different. With What the Poets Are Doing I was soliciting as-yet-unwritten material from poets and then editing it into its published form. With Best Canadian Poetry the material was already written and submitted (in a sense), and the editing work on the poems themselves had been completed by the various magazine editors. One was like planting trees and trusting they’d bear fruit, the other was like wandering around an orchard someone else tended and filling my basket with whatever caught my eye.

Though it followed a rather different process, What the Poets Are Doing prepared me for Best Canadian Poetry by establishing a spirit of collective generosity in which to work. Both books are a celebration of poetry as practiced in this country, and the compiling of each involved the work of a great number of talented and tireless writers and editors. My enthusiasm in being able to publish writing by such remarkable poets in What the Poets Are Doing, and their willingness to make something new and vibrant with me, fueled me to do the same in Best Canadian Poetry 2019.

 

In reading the gazillion lit mags you had to read to choose the fifty poems in this volume, what surprises did you encounter?

Every one of the fifty poems was a surprise! That was the only way they were ever going to stand out amidst the gazillion lit mags (in reality, a mere 82 magazines [~300 issues], and over 2,100 poems). Each of these poems contains something—an image, a scene, an idea, a joke, a line of dialogue, a structure, a voice—which grabs you and demands your attention.

More generally, I was surprised to find that no magazine (or handful of magazines) has a monopoly on these “surprises.” The poems that I was drawn to came from magazines across the country, small and large, online and print, upstart and well-established. It made me appreciate a series like Best Canadian Poetry all the more—nowhere else could even a fraction of these poems have been gathered in one place.

 

You’ve been editing your poetry blog, Roll of Nickels, for thirteen years now. Could you comment on any trends, movements, or big-picture changes you’ve seen in Canadian poetry during that time?

As I note in my introduction to Best Canadian Poetry 2019, the biggest change to the poetry published in Canada has been a move away from prioritising style and towards prioritising content. In Best Canadian Poetry 2008, the inaugural edition of this series, guest editor Stephanie Bolster observed that, “Quirky, noisy, dense, disjunctive poems seem to be on the increase” and that “there is almost no overtly political work.” One could say the opposite is now true. The poems of 2019 are easier to understand than those of 2007, and are more explicitly engaged with the questions of our political moment (and—oof—what a moment it is).

That said, the majority of poetry in this country is as idiosyncratic as the poets themselves, and removed from conversations of “trends” and “movements”—just singular poets working away at their singular desks. I very much believe it’s mostly the magazines that are changing: what gets published from year to year varies far more than what gets written.

One way magazines have been changing has been to open themselves to a wider range of voices. This has partly been spurred by new online magazines, founded and edited by younger and more diverse editorial teams, but editorial boards at our print magazines have been slowly diversifying as well, and special issues (or whole magazines) devoted to Indigenous, racialized, or LGBTQ+ writing are now rather commonplace. It’s no small thing.

 

If you could make a wish for the future of Canadian poetry, what would it be?

I don’t want anything different from the poems themselves. They need to be what they need to be, for both their poets and their readers. To ask poems to transform to my preferences (or any one person’s) would rob the art of one of its greatest powers: to speak directly to a particular you in a particular now. I can’t predict what you’d like or what you’d need (and you probably can’t either!), so I welcome everything, even if much of it doesn’t “do it” for me.

For the culture of the poetry world (and for poetry in our wider culture), my one request is to read the poems. Don’t talk about reading poems, don’t scan lists of award winners and best-sellers, don’t scroll briskly through bookstore shelves or Instagram feeds, don’t just see who “made it” onto the list of contributors to this year’s Best Canadian Poetry, don’t run around worrying about the future of Canadian poetry, just read the damn poems! They are all that really matters. Make a quiet space, here or there during your busy days, in which a poem can do its work. Make that a practice in your life. You will be rewarded for that devotion many times over.

 

What are you reading right now?

Poetry! I fell behind in my poetry reading when I was reading all that poetry for Best Canadian Poetry . . .

I recently finished Matthew Walsh’s These are not the potatoes of my youth, Karen Solie’s The Caiplie Caves, Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic and Emily Davidson’s Lift, and I’m about to start in on Shazia Hafiz Ramji’s Port of Being and Al Rempel’s Undiscovered Country.

Biblioasis Is Hiring!

Biblioasis is hiring an enthusiastic and organized full-time bookkeeper and office manager for its publishing company and bookshop. The successful candidate will be responsible for all bookkeeping at both organizations, as well as payroll, author royalties and payments, sales projections and financial reporting, helping to manage author contracts, and basic office administrative responsibilities. This position will require a close working relationship with the press publisher and managing editor, and the bookstore manager.

Key responsibilities:

1. Bookkeeping for both the press and bookstore
2. Payroll and source deductions for all employees
3. Working with the publisher to produce financial reports and projections, as well as cost analyses for titles
4. Managing author royalties and payments
5. Working with the accountant on year-end
6. Managing author contracts
7. Basic office administration
8. Other tasks as assigned

Requirements:

1. Degree or certificate in bookkeeping and/or accounting
2. Strong background in Microsoft office suite, especially Excel
3. Strong organizational skills
4. Ability to prioritize and meet deadlines
5. Knowledge of key bookkeeping software (Simply Accounting, Quickbooks…etc.)
6. Experience with Filemaker and Moneyworks an asset

Resumes can be sent to dwells@biblioasis.com, and will be accepted until Friday, November 29th, with interviews to follow over the following two weeks, in the hopes that the new hire can begin the position in January 2020.

An Interview with Pauline Holdstock, Author of Here I Am!


Buy Here I Am! now.

MyMum said sometimes refugees don’t eat anything for days and days. Sometimes weeks and months so I am really lucky. I think she exaggerates. But I think she is right about the lucky bit. Or maybe not.

Sometimes I forget that MyMum is dead. But that is probably better than remembering.

When Frankie’s mother dies, he tells his teacher, of course. But he can’t seem to get anyone at his school in southern England to listen to him. So the six-year-old comes up with a plan: go to France, find a police station, and ask the officers to ring his father. Thus a stowaway’s view of the sea opens Giller-nominated Pauline Holdstock’s eighth novel, narrated in turns by Frankie—who likes cheese, numbers, the sea when it’s pink and “smooth like counting,” and being alone when he feels bad—and a cast of characters that includes his worried Gran, his callous teacher, and his not-so-reliable father. Set in the summer of Annichka the Soviet space dog, Here I Am! is a mesmerizing story about the lucidity of children and the shortsightedness of adults.

 

A Biblioasis Interview with Pauline Holdstock, author of Here I Am!

 

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

I was born and raised in the UK and immigrated to Canada in my twenties.

I’m primarily a fiction writer—novels and short stories—though I also write essays and occasionally short shorts, my closest approach to poetry.

I’m drawn to subjects that offer a chance to explore the deepest shadows, but I’ve always steered clear of material too close to home. For that reason I’ve set my novels far afield, in time or in place. In Here I Am! I’ve decided to work closer to home, giving my protagonist, Frankie, a background not so far from my own very ordinary childhood in England, but subjecting him to a place of extremity.

 

Three of your books have had child protagonists. What is it that draws you to children’s points of view?

Possibly two influences at work there. The first is that, like most people, I’m always on the side of the underdog, consistently drawn to the plight of the most vulnerable and interested in having them find the wherewithal to overcome their situation.

The second is that I believe the quality we revere in children—that ability to experience life unreservedly, to the utmost—is a quality that once belonged to us all, before adulthood eroded it. Children have the power to reawaken that ability and also perhaps to reveal facets of ourselves long-hidden to us.

 

How is Frankie different from other child protagonists you’ve written?

The others have been marginal characters on the very fringes of society, dispossessed yet yearning to belong. Frankie belongs to the mainstream, yet is set apart by his exceptional abilities and his own singular response to the world.

He’s the only child protagonist of mine to tell his own story.

 

Your novel is quite humorous, but it deals with serious themes: death, loss, and grief, for example, and our tendency to dismiss what vulnerable people tell us. Talk a little bit about the value of humour when exploring serious topics.

Well I think no one is open to the bald message: Death is the pits and we’re all gonna die. That message doesn’t lead to compassion or empathy for ourselves or anyone else. But humour has the potential to take us closer to fellow feeling, to summon a little compassion for all of us sharing this predicament.

And humour’s a valuable tool when you’re working with unpleasant characters. It proved invaluable for the David and Goliath situations that cropped up throughout the book. Definitely the sharpest tool in the box…

 

What are you reading right now?

Three books currently at my bedside: Find You In the Dark by Canadian writer Nathan Ripley, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, and Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne, whose sense of the absurd is boundless.

An Interview with Taras Grescoe, Author of Possess the Air

Possess the Air: Love, Heroism, and the Battle for the Soul of Mussolini’s Rome by Taras Grescoe came out on October 15th!

Whoever you are, you are sure to be a severe critic of Fascism, and you must feel the servile shame. But even you are responsible for your inaction. Do not seek to justify yourself with the illusion that there is nothing to be done. That is not true. Every person of courage and honour is quietly working for a free Italy. Even if you do not want to join us, there are still TEN THINGS which you can do. You can, and therefore you must.

These unsayable words, printed on leaflets that rained down on Mussolini’s headquarters in the heart of Rome at the height of the dictator’s power, drive the central drama of Possess the Air. This is the story of freedom fighters who defied Italy’s despot by opposing the rising tide of populism and xenophobia. Chief among them: poet and aviator Lauro de Bosis, firstborn of an Italian aristocrat and a New Englander, who transformed himself into a modern Icarus and amazed the world as he risked his life in the skies to bring Il Duce down. Taras Grescoe’s inspiring story of resistance, risk, and sacrifice paints a portrait of heroes in the fight against authoritarianism. This is an essential biography for our time.

Here is a Biblioasis interview with Taras Grescoe, author of Possess the Air.

   

 

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

I’m the son of writers. My parents started out as journalists, and became editors (they founded magazines in Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton) and authors. I grew up having every sentence I uttered analyzed, every story I told at the dinner table questioned and edited—for clarity, for logic, for good story-telling qualities. I loved to read, was curious about the world, and attended alternative schools where I was encouraged to write and research projects. In my teens and twenties, I resisted my apparent destiny—to be a writer—but around the age of 30, my background and training, perhaps my genes, kicked in. Since then, I’ve written seven books, and a whole lot of features for magazines and newspapers. I can’t stop myself. I alternate between turning my own experiences into stories—non-fiction narratives, for want of a better term in the English-speaking world—and, when I can’t get out into the world to have more experiences, looking for true stories that I think would make great books.

How did you first hear about Lauro de Bosis? What was your research process like?

Before Lauro, there was Rome. I visited it for the first time on assignment, following in the footsteps of Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday for a travel article for National Geographic Traveler. I had gone through a bad break-up in Montreal, it was February, and a week in Rome snapped me out of my heartbreak and torpor. Since then, I’ve been able to explore the city deeply, through repeat visits and obsessive reading.

I first encountered Lauro’s name while reading Iris Origo’s extraordinary memoir A Need to Testify. (Origo was an Anglo-American expat who bore witness to the rise of Fascism from her farm in a Tuscan valley.) Lauro’s courage and intelligence spoke to me, and when I learned he was a child of Rome, and his life was deeply entangled with the city’s history, I knew I’d found a story that would bring a lost city—Rome as it was before Mussolini and the Fascists remade it in their image—back to life.

The research involved on-the-ground visits to all the sites associated with the life of Lauro de Bosis—including the palazzo where he lived in Rome, now converted into the offices of an architectural firm. The book tells the parallel story of Gilbert and Mary Stewart Bagnani, a pair of Canadian archaeologists who witnessed the transformation of Rome under the Fascists, and I visited the places where they lived in Rome—including Gilbert’s childhood apartment, now the heavily-guarded German embassy. And I spent weeks in archives at Harvard, in New York, in Toronto and Peterborough poring over the letters and documents that helped me to tell their stories. The most remarkable of these institutions was the Archivio Centrale dello Stato in the Fascist-built Roman suburb of EUR, which houses the files of Mussolini’s political police, and where I found stories that shed light on what happened to Lauro after his successful attempt to bombard Mussolini’s palazzo in the center of Rome.

You called Possess the Air “an important story for our time” in light of our current political climate. Can you elaborate on that?

We’re living in a time when the strongman—the authoritarian, the autocrat, the dictator—is once again on the rise. Instead of radio and newsreels, the modern version of Mussolini is communicating through Twitter and cable-news networks. And people in the Western world once again seem willing to “voluntarily abandon free institutions”—which scholars agree is a crucial precondition of Fascism and authoritarianism. (I’m very much thinking of Trump and his disturbingly successful attacks on the free press, the judiciary, the rule of law, and all standards of decency, but also Bolsonaro in Brazil, Orbán in Hungary, and the figures of the xenophobic right on the rise in France, Italy, and Austria.) This is happening because the generation that remembers the sacrifices it took to defend these institutions—the generation that fought the Second World War, and oversaw the decades of peace and international cooperation that followed the war—is dying off.

When the Italian Fascists were seizing power through the use of violence, and Il Duce was giving that violence legitimacy by winking at the brutality invading everyday life, Lauro de Bosis chose to resist. He did it not in the name of Communism or Socialism, but in accordance with his own deep patriotism and love of liberty. His is the story of a principled individual took a courageous stand for liberty, reason, and peace at a time when his fellow citizens seemed all too willing to embrace irrationality and belligerent nationalism.

A National Post review for your previous book, Straphanger¸ called it “a book by somebody who loves cities for people who love them.” You’ve written about public transit, overfishing, and the underbelly of old China—all of your books have covered vastly different topics so far. How does Possess the Air fit into your body of work?

There is method to—or at least a rational explanation for—my apparent madness. I started out as a travelling writer, which I saw as a way of rubbing up against the world as a way of challenging and expanding my own worldview. After moving to Montreal from Vancouver, I explored my new home, Quebec, in Sacré Blues. For my second book, The End of Elsewhere, I put my belongings in storage and set out on a year-long voyage across Europe and Asia to look at the way mass tourism is changing the world. Three more polemical travelogues followed, in which I looked at issues that fascinated me: in The Devil’s Picnic, I explored the negative impact of prohibition; in Bottomfeeder, I looked at the devastating effect of human appetite and greed on our lakes, rivers, and oceans; in Straphanger, I made the case, through trips to 14 cities around the world, that our urban future is better

All of these books involved a lot of travel. When I became a father in my 40s, and decided to spend as much time as possible with my family in Montreal, I realized I could still travel—in time, and in my imagination. Shanghai Grand took me—and I hope my readers—to a lost world, the Treaty Port of Shanghai before the Communists took power in 1949. Possess the Air is a voyage to another lost world, the atmospheric Rome of the 1920s and 1930s, even as it was being transformed into the pretentious Third Rome of the Fascist imagination.

If there’s something that links all my books, though, it is writing about place. I fall in love with a spot on the globe—more often than not, a city—and strive to find a way to explore that place, and bring it to life on the page.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading The Road to Oxiana, Robert Byron’s record of a voyage through Persia and Afghanistan in the 1930s. It’s an unjustly neglected masterpiece—Paul Fussell rightly calls it the Ulysess or Waste Land of modern travel writing—and the richest of texts imaginable. Discovering this prolific and intellectually challenging writer, whose pen was stilled when his ship was torpedoed in the Second World War when he was en route to Cairo, is an unexpected delight.

 

Possess the Air is available for purchase here.

Next Week at Biblioasis: We Welcome Benedek Totth, author of DEAD HEAT

The winner of Hungary’s Margó Award for Best First Book of Prose soon to be available in English:

DEAD HEAT

Written by Stephen King’s Hungarian translator, Dead Heat shocks and then stays with you. It’s like Lord of the Flies meets Friday Night Lights. 

Next week Benedek will be at the bookstore (1520 Wyandotte St E) on Friday, October 25 at 7 PM. Come on out for an unforgettable reading! 

Can’t make Friday? He will be in Ann Arbor at Literati Bookstore the night before! Here are the details.

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Born in Hungary in 1977, Benedek Totth studied American literature and now works as an editor and translator in Budapest. His translations into Hungarian include works by Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs. Dead Heat, his first novel, caused a sensation in Hungary, where it won the Margó Prize for best first novel of the year. It has been published in translation in France and Slovakia.

 

In a nameless Hungarian town, teenagers on a competitive swim team occupy their after-training hours with hard drinking and fast cars, hash cigarettes and marathons of Grand Theft Auto, the meaningless sex and late-night exploits of a world defined by self-gratification and all its attendant recklessness. Invisible to their parents and subject to the whims of an abusive coach, the crucible of competition pushes them again and again into dangerous choices. When a deadly accident leaves them second-guessing one another, they’re driven even deeper into violence.

Brilliantly translated into breakneck English by Ildikó Noémi Nagy, Dead Heat is a blistering debut and an unforgettable story about young men coming of age in an abandoned generation.

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“This is a satire of the bleakest strain: there is scarcely a page that does not offend. And yet the result is utterly enthralling…As savage, reckless, and abhorrent as the world Totth delivers is, what’s worse is how frighteningly real it all feels. Dead Heat is an undeniably uncomfortable novel, but so too is the truth it’s trying to get at.”—Quill and Quire, starred review

“Totth’s novel and its translation from the Hungarian by Nagy both excel… in conveying the banality and numbness as its narrator proceeds through this parade of horrors.The juxtaposition of transgressive behavior with competitive sports recalls nothing quite so much as Jim Carroll’s The Basketball Diaries. Like that book, the way in which this narrative is told makes for compelling reading even as the acts it describes can inspire shudders. Totth’s debut is a harrowing experience but also a frequently gripping one.”—Kirkus

“Let’s say it up front: reading Dead Heat, the Hungarian writer Benedek Totth’s first novel, is a shock . . . [like] the cry of love and desperation flung out by a generation that’s finished before it can begin, before it can even reach maturity.”—Yann Perreau, Les Inrockuptibles

A brilliant novel, but brilliant like a black diamond and cursed so that you don’t want to hold it, a tale that never lets you go, no matter how much repugnance you may feel.”—Encre Noire

Intense, brutal and relentless. As on a mad merry-go-round, you’re delighted not to be able to get off before it’s over. But watch out: the harsh form and subject matter will leave more modest readers shaken.”—TéléStar

 

Thanks for Celebrating Our Anniversary with Us!

 

To chance the ducks: to do something despite the risk of disaster.

 

This October, Biblioasis has been celebrating fifteen years in the publishing business–and what a fifteen years they’ve been! From a one-person operation, the press has grown to publish thirty books a year; this year Biblioasis books have been nominated for the Giller and finalists for the Governor General’s and Booker prizes, just to name a few of the press’s accolades.

We’re deeply grateful for the wonderful writers we publish and for the wonderful readers whose support allows us to keep doing what we do.

We’re grateful for the media who have brought our story wider attention.

And we’re grateful to the more than 225 supporters and friends who came out to help us celebrate in Windsor and Toronto last week, including our six fabulous featured readers:

K.D. Miller is the author of two previous short story collections (Give me Your Answer and Litany on a Time of Plague), a novel (Brown Dwarf), and an essay collection, Holy Writ. Her work All Saints was shortlisted for the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and longlisted for the 2014 Frank O’Connor Award. She read from her story collection Late Breaking, currently shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award in the English Fiction category. She lives and writes in Toronto.

 

Stéphane Larue was born in Longueuil in 1983. He received a master’s in comparative literature at L’Université de Montréal and has worked in the restaurant industry for the past fifteen years. He lives in Montréal. He read from The Dishwasher, his first book.

 

Pauline Holdstock, who read from Here I Am!, is an internationally published novelist, short fiction writer and essayist. Her novels have been shortlisted for a number of awards, among them the Best First Novel Award, the Scotia Bank Giller prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her historical novel Beyond Measure was the winner of the BC Book Prizes Ethel Wilson Award for Fiction. The Hunter and the Wild Girl, her most recent book before Here I Am!, won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. Pauline lives just outside Victoria on Vancouver Island.

 

Catherine Leroux, who read from Madame Victoria, was born in 1979 in the Northern suburbs of Montreal. After holding various jobs she became a journalist and devoted herself to writing. Her first novel, Marche en forêt, was published in 2011 by Éditions Alto, and her newest novel is Madame Victoria (Éditions Alto, 2015). The Party Wall, her English-language debut published with Biblioasis in 2016, was selected for Indies Introduce for Summer/Fall 2016, was shortlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, and won the 2016 Governor General’s Award for Translation.

 

Taras Grescoe, who read from Possess the Air, is the author of seven non-fiction books, including Sacré BluesThe End of ElsewhereThe Devil’s PicnicBottomfeederStraphanger, and Shanghai GrandBottomfeeder won the Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-fiction, and was a finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. He has contributed to the New York TimesThe GuardianThe New YorkerGourmet, and The Wall Street Journal. His books have been translated into half a dozen languages. He lives in Montreal.

 

Martha Wilson read from Nosy White Woman. Her fiction has appeared in Best Canadian Stories 2017 and in the New Quarterly. She was runner-up for the 2017 Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Prize and a finalist for the New South 2018 fiction prize. Her writing has also been in Real Simple, New York Times, Japan Times, Kansai Time Out, and International Herald-Tribune. She is American but for more than twenty years has made her home in Canada, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

 

Thank you, everyone, for fifteen glorious years. Here’s to the next fifteen!

Happy Canadian Pub Date to Here I Am! by Pauline Holdstock

Today is the Canadian pub date for Here I Am! by Pauline Holdstock!

If you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

You’ll love Here I Am! by Pauline Holdstock!

     

 

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Here I Am!

Sometimes I forget that MyMum is dead. But that is probably better than remembering.

When Frankie’s mother dies, the six-year-old comes up with a plan: go to France, find a police station, and ask the officers to ring his father—and so begins Giller-nominated Pauline Holdstock’s eighth novel. Narrated in turns by Frankie, who likes cheese, numbers, the sea when it’s pink and “smooth like counting,” and being alone when he feels bad, and a cast of characters that includes his Gran and his father, Here I Am! is a mesmerizing story about innocence lost and found.

I would describe it as a cozy weekend read. I curled up with it on a Saturday after I had just read a really long book, and I finished it on Sunday. It reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close—just like those books, it’s narrated by a lovable kid who sees the world his own way, and doesn’t let the fact that he’s a kid keep him from going on a unique quest.

Though Here I Am! isn’t based on a true story, author Pauline Holdstock was inspired by an actual case in the US where a kindergarten child had had to go home and spend the night with the dead body of her mother because her teacher didn’t believe her when she said her mother had died.

 

🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃 🚢 🏃

You can read an excerpt here.

 

 

Hat trick Tuesday! DREAM SEQUENCE by Adam Foulds and LATE BREAKING by KD Miller Nominated for 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize!

On Tuesday, September 3, 2019, it was announced that Dream Sequence by Adam Foulds and Late Breaking by K.D. Miller have been longlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Dream Sequence and Late Breaking are published by Biblioasis, an independent literary press based in Windsor, Ontario. Since 2004, Biblioasis has published contemporary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and literature in translation. Another Biblioasis book, Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019 just this morning.

In a statement, publisher Dan Wells said, “Well: it’s been a busy morning indeed around the Bibliomanse.  On the heels of Lucy Ellmann’s Booker shortlisting for Ducks, Newburyport comes two Giller nominations here in Canada: for Adam Fould’s Dream Sequence and K.D. Miller’s Late Breaking.  And if we were euphoric after Ducks, we’re positively moon-walking now. We’re so happy for all three authors. And it’s certainly not a bad way to kick off our 15th Anniversary year.”

Miller said, “This is such an affirmation. Always, in the back of a writer’s mind are the questions, ‘Will anyone want to read this? Will anyone enjoy and be moved by it?’ Getting the news about being long-listed for the Giller Prize was like hearing an enormous ‘Yes!’ to all that.  Thank you!”

Foulds said, “I am hugely honoured that Dream Sequence has been included on this longlist. It is a particular thrill as a new Canadian to receive this recognition from one of Canada’s most storied cultural institutions.”

 

ABOUT DREAM SEQUENCE

Henry Banks, star of the UK’s most popular television series, has higher aspirations, ones befitting of his talent: a serious film career, beginning with a role in a brilliant Spanish director’s next movie. To make the jump to the big screen, he’ll have to remake himself in more than one way. But as he runs his morning miles and scrutinizes his changing physique in the mirror, he doesn’t know that he’s not alone in his obsession—Kristin, an unstable American fan, has her own lofty ambitions. From the author of Man-Booker shortlisted The Quickening MazeDream Sequence is a moving depiction of psychological damage and the unsettling consequences of fame.

Adam Foulds is a poet and novelist from London, England, now resident in Toronto. He has been the recipient of a number of literary awards, including the Sunday Times Young Writer Of The Year, the Costa Poetry Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, the South Bank Show Prize for Literature, the E. M. Forster Award, the Encore Award, and the European Union Prize For Literature. His 2009 novel, The Quickening Maze, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2010. He was named as one of Granta Magazine’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013 and of the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets in 2014.

ABOUT LATE BREAKING

Inspired by the work of Alex Colville, the linked stories in K.D. Miller’s Late Breaking form a suite of portraits that evoke the paintings’ looming atmospheres and uncanny stillness while traveling deeply into their subjects’ vividly imagined lives. Throughout, the collection bears witness to the vulnerability of the elder heart, revealing that love, sex, and heartbreak are not only the domain of the young, and deftly rendering the conflicts that divide us and the ties that bind.

K.D. Miller is the author of two previous short story collections, Give Me Your Answerand Litany on a Time of Plague, and an essay collection, Holy Writ. Her work has twice been collected in The Journey Prize Anthology and Best Canadian Stories, and she has been nominated for a National magazine Award for Fiction. She lives and writes in Toronto.

PRAISE FOR DREAM SEQUENCE

“Dream Sequence succeeds as a narrative thanks to Foulds’s prose. He doesn’t waste a single word, is frequently very funny, insightful and surprising. And he does a marvelous job of making us wonder who loves Henry the most, Kristin or Henry—and which of these possibilities is the most alarming consequence of celebrity.”
New York Times Book Review

“The quality of the prose carries the book beyond conventions, as Mr. Foulds is able to conjure, with the unsettling immediacy of a person breathing against your neck, both Henry’s and Kristin’s private fixations and fantasies.”

The Wall Street Journal

“Adam Foulds is one of the best fiction writers working today. Dream Sequence possesses all the hallmarks of his previous books–emotional acuity, beautiful prose–and also a seductive plot and an ingenious structure. It’s a great novel. I read it practically in one sitting.”
—David Bezmozgis, author of the Giller-shortlisted The Free World

Dream Sequence notices everything . . . Description is intimate and visceral, scratching at the glossy surface of the lives of the characters and underpinning the ‘vacuum’ they move through, together but apart . . . This is a novel of screens, of echoes and constant counterpoint, driven by changes in light as much as its reflective plot where matters of ‘acting’ are paramount … [a] shimmering novel.”
Times Literary Supplement (TLS)

“[An] entertainingly skewering new novel about ambition and obsession.”
Toronto Star

“An outstanding and unyielding exploration of celebrity, fame, and all its attendant obsessions…Foulds’s novel is fun, smart, and tense, part psychological drama about media-driven obsession and part razor-sharp social critique.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“[Dream Sequence] is an exquisitely concocted, riveting account of artistic ambition and unrequited love verging on obsession . . . Foulds is proving himself to be a versatile writer of intelligence and charm.”
The Spectator

PRAISE FOR LATE BREAKING

“A deft, nuanced, and human collection of stories. K.D. Miller’s gaze catches both humour and darkness in a wide variety of relationships. A thoroughly captivating book.” —Rebecca Rosenblum

“An undercurrent of the surreal pulses through 10 linked stories…sensitive portrayals of the fragility of love and ubiquity of need. ”—Kirkus Reviews

“If K.D. Miller had produced nothing other than “The Last Trumpet,” the opening entry in this collection of linked stories, she would still have a place on any list of this year’s best fiction. Taking up themes of aging, loneliness, and regret, “The Last Trumpet” is one of the saddest, most affecting pieces of short fiction to appear in this country in recent memory. But that story is just the first blast in a collection that is consistently engaging and assured. The stories in Late Breaking—loosely tied together by recurring characters, a focus on aging and death, and the paintings of Alex Colville—are moving and beautifully written.” —Steven W. Beattie

“Compulsively readable. Like an Alex Colville painting . . . the longer you look, you realize there’s something darker going on underneath the surface. My favourite book so far this fall.” —CBC Ontario Morning

“Miller’s attentiveness . . . is touching . . . The stories themselves are rich with coherence, meaning, and suggestion, and part of what makes them so satisfying is the space they leave free for us to engage with them and find our own interpretation.” —Quill & Quire

“Each of the 10 stories is introduced by a haunting Colville image . . . These paintings, through mood and theme, serve as prompts for the stories, with characters often wandering in from one verbal canvas to another. Refreshingly, the stories feature people in their 60s experiencing big fat emotions that younger writers often deny them.” —Toronto Star

“These stories plumb the depths of sadness and despair but never lose sight of their obverse: the quiet resilience and dignity of the human spirit, which doesn’t fade with age.” —Hamilton Review of Books

Lucy Ellmann’s DUCKS, NEWBURYPORT Shortlisted for 2019 Booker Prize

#chancetheducks

On Tuesday, September 3, 2019, it was announced that Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann has been shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize!

Booker Judge Joanna MacGregor said,  “Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport offers a radical literary form and voice. Dense to look at, challengingly epic, the novel is built around one Ohio housewife’s monologue, flowing with dazzling lightness and speed. The detritus and maddening complexity of domesticity unfold in one breath, over a thousand pages. Shards of film plot and song collide with climate change anxiety; the terrors of parenting, healthcare and shopping lists wrestle with fake news and gun culture. The narrator reverberates with humour, wordplay and political rage. The writing resonates like a dissonant yet recognisable American symphony for massive forces, with riffs and themes folding back, proliferating, and gradually cohering. Its one long sentence occasionally breaks to simply describe a mountain lioness and her cubs: a meditation on nurture that will be wrapped into the violence of the ending. Lucy Ellmann has written a genre-defying novel, a torrent on modern life, as well as a hymn to loss and grief. Her creativity and sheer obduracy make demands on the reader. But Ellmann’s daring is exhilarating ― as are the wit, humanity and survival of her unforgettable narrator.”

In a statement, Ellmann said, “In my book I suggest you should never tell people you’re happy, in case they wreck it for you. That’s why I’m having trouble writing this statement about getting put on the Booker shortlist. The fact is I’m euphoric.”

Biblioasis publisher and founder Dan Wells said, “We, too, are euphoric.  Ducks, Newburyport is a brilliant book, one of the most important we’ve been a part of as publishers.  It’s a book for our times, full of rage and sorrow and wonder, a revolution in book form, and now, because of the Booker jury’s endorsement, many more Canadian readers will discover it than might otherwise have been the case.  It’s very gratifying.

“A few months ago, we came across the nineteenth century phrase, “to chance the ducks”: it means, essentially, to do something regardless of the risks or potential for disaster.  Which pretty much describes what independent publishers around the world — with a special nod to our British counterparts, Galley Beggar Press, who first alerted us to Lucy’s magisterial novel — do every day.  It’s gratifying that with Ducks in particular the risk looks to be rewarded.  We’re all very grateful. To chance the ducks, indeed.”

Ducks, Newburyport will be published in the United States and Canada on September 10 by Windsor, Ont.-based press Biblioasis. Biblioasis titles have won the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Rogers Fiction Prize, two Governor General’s Literary Awards and Trillium Book Awards, as well as seen ten nominations for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Referred to by the Globe and Mail as “the first truly great Canadian press of the 21st Century,” Biblioasis celebrates its fifteenth year publishing fine books this October.

The news comes on the heels of an extraordinary burst of critical praise for the novel, with the Los Angeles Review of Books writing it “could possibly turn out to be the most important novel of the decade … Read Ducks, Newburyport. This is a novel for the idea of America today.”

The Irish Times called it “Breathlessly brilliant … an extraordinary achievement of wit and imagination … this isn’t just one of the outstanding books of 2019, it’s one of the outstanding books of the century, so far.”

Baking a multitude of tartes tatin for local restaurants, an Ohio housewife contemplates her four kids, husband, cats and chickens. Also, America’s ignoble past, and her own regrets. She is surrounded by dead lakes, fake facts, Open Carry maniacs, and oodles of online advice about survivalism, veil toss duties, and how to be more like Jane Fonda. But what do you do when you keep stepping on your son’s toy tractors, your life depends on stolen land and broken treaties, and nobody helps you when you get a flat tire on the interstate, not even the Abominable Snowman? When are you allowed to start swearing? With a torrent of consciousness and an intoxicating coziness, Ducks, Newburyport lays out a whole world for you to tramp around in, by turns frightening and funny. A heart-rending indictment of America’s barbarity, and a lament for the way we are blundering into environmental disaster, this book is both heresy—and a revolution in the novel.

One of the premier literary awards in the English-speaking world, the Booker carries a prize purse of £50,000 and has recognized outstanding fiction since 1969. Chair of the 2019 judges, Peter Florence, said of the list’s authors: “Imagine our world, familiar from news cycle disaster and grievance, with wild humour, deep insight and a keen humanity. These writers offer joy and hope.”

Awarded annually to the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK or Ireland; this year’s panel is Afua Hirsch, Liz Calder, Xiaolu Guo and Joanna MacGregor, chaired by Peter Florence. Last year’s winner was Milkman by Anna Burns. Previous winners include Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie.

Lucy Ellmann’s first novel, Sweet Desserts, won the Guardian Fiction Prize. It was followed by Varying Degrees of Hopelessness, Man or Mango? A LamentDot in the UniverseDoctors & Nurses, and Mimi. Her short stories have appeared in magazines, newspapers and anthologies, and she has written for the New York TimesWashington PostGuardianIndependentTimes Literary SupplementTelegraphNew Statesman, Bookforum and The Baffler, among others. Though American by birth, she lives in Scotland.

PRAISE FOR DUCKS, NEWBURYPORT

“Breathlessly brilliant … an extraordinary achievement of wit and imagination … this isn’t just one of the outstanding books of 2019, it’s one of the outstanding books of the century, so far.”—The Irish Times

Ulysses has nothing on this … Once you get going, you’ll be too absorbed to stop.”Cosmopolitan

“Could possibly turn out to be the most important novel of the decade … Read Ducks, Newburyport. This is a novel for the idea of America today.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

“It’s a book that quite restores our faith in the possibility of literary ‘greatness’ while questioning what forms such ‘greatness’ can or should take. It is certainly, in its humane range and weight, a Great American Novel. Is it any good? Oh my word, yes. Reading it at this point in times seems like an act of human solidarity, a commitment to the world of truth and reason.”—Literary Review

“A wildly ambitious and righteously angry portrait of contemporary America.”—The Observer

“[Readers] will recognise Ellmann’s dauntless cataloguing of desires, her refusal to be anything but self-directed … It’s a book about a mother’s love, but also about loss and grief, and anxiety dreams about Donald Trump, and despair about mass shootings … It is also a catalogue of life’s many injuries and mishaps … and of the simple joys and consolations of memory and imagination. [A] triumph.”—The Guardian

“A remarkable portrait of a woman in contemporary America contemplating her own life and society’s storm clouds … brilliant.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A jaw-dropping miracle.”Library Journal (starred review)

“Mesmerizing, witty, maximalist…a bravura and caring inquiry into Earth’s glory, human creativity and catastrophic recklessness, and the transcendence of love.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Resplendent in ambition, humour and humanity … dizzying … a lifetime of memories hoarded and pored over, like the family heirlooms the narrator and her husband have inherited along with all the joy and desolation contained within them … In Ducks, Newburyport Ellmann has created a wisecracking, melancholy Mrs Dalloway for the internet age.”—Financial Times

For more information about Ducks, Newburyport, please see the attached press kit. For a review copy or to schedule an interview with the author, call 519-915-3930, or write to Chloe Moore at cmoore@biblioasis.com.

ABOUT BIBLIOASIS

Biblioasis is a literary press based in Windsor, Ontario. Since 2004 we have published the best in contemporary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and literature in translation.

Happy U.S. Publication Date, MOSTARGHIA!

 

U.S. Readers: The Wait Is Over!

Donald Winkler’s English translation of Maya Ombasic’s Mostarghia, a moving memoir of refugee experience and filial love, is available today in U.S. bookstores.

 

AN OPENCANADA SUMMER READ 2019

In the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina lies Mostar, a medieval town on the banks of the emerald Neretva, which flows from the “valley of sugared trees” through sunny hills to reach the Adriatic Sea. This idyllic locale is the scene of Maya Ombasic’s childhood—until civil war breaks out in Yugoslavia and the bombs begin to fall. Her family is exiled to Switzerland, and after a brief return, they leave again for Canada. While Maya adapts to their new home, her father never does, refusing even to learn the language of his new country.

A portmanteau of Mostar and nostalgia, Mostarghia evokes Ombasic’s yearning for a place that no longer exists: the city before the civil war, when its many ethnicities interacted in a spirit of civility and in harmony. It refers as well to Andrei Tarkovsky’s classic film Nostalghia, the viewing of which illuminated the author’s often explosive relationship with her father, a larger-than-life figure who was both influence and psychological burden: he inspired her interest, and eventual career, in philosophy, and she was his translator, his support, his obsession. Along with this portrait of a man described by turns as passionate, endearing, maddening, and suffocating, Ombasic deftly constructs a moving personal account of what it means to be a refugee and how a generation learns to thrive despite the struggles of its predecessors.

 

Praise for Mostarghia

“Fascinating and timely…anybody who wants to think deeply about what happens when people are forced to leave their homelands will want to pick this book up.” —Book Riot

“Intimate, a filial cri de cœur…The book is run through with dark humour, and some of the most fatalistic scenes are also wryly funny…The condition of nostalgia is both dissociative and cleaving, and it is this tension that Ombasic most adeptly conveys.” —Montreal Review of Books

“Strikes a great balance between the ebb and flow between unemotional observations that provide context for the lasting divides in the Balkans, and a humanization of the victims of conflict….[Ombasic writes] with a tender care that evokes a sadness mixed with levity, anger mixed with love.” —The Walleye

“After her father dies, Ombasic seeks to resolve all that was unresolved between them in life. Her memoir ripples with the tension of these two great hearts each trying to shoulder an outsized burden… Subtly and with lyricism, Ombasic unpacks her father’s role in her history alongside the role of their hometown, Mostar, not to mention the Balkans, religion, communism, war, displacement, and nostalgia.” Foreword Reviews (starred review)

“With great candor, Ombasic shares how her experience as a refugee differed from her father’s…Through beautiful prose and impressive attention to detail, Ombasic paints a loving yet honest portrait of her father in all his complexity.” —OpenCanada

“An overwhelming homage, clear-eyed and drenched in tenderness, Mostarghia is driven by Maya Ombasić’s strong, sensitive voice, which allows us to glimpse the reverse side of the shadow of exile. Magnificent.” –Le Devoir (Montreal)

“In an unadorned style, which contains emotion by restricting itself to facts, the author recounts her years during the war, then her exile in Switzerland, then Canada. The book’s strength stems in large part from its ability to show the concrete daily consequences of a war from which the family suffers without participating in it directly, to showcase the absurdity of the issues–ethnic, religious, territorial–from which children and parents feel themselves estranged.” –Le Monde (Paris) 

“The book, its title inspired by Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Nostalghia, is a daughter’s love song to her father and the tale of her salvation, her refusal to be defeated by depression in order to move on.” –l’Humanité (Paris)