Mark Bourrie Challenges Us to Retire the Word “Explorer” from the Lexicon

 

The first English-language biography in nearly a century of Pierre-Esprit Radisson—pirate, cannibal, and co-founder of the Hudson’s Bay Company—is set to appear at a bookstore near you on April 2, 2019.

Radisson’s story complicates all of our settled ideas about the European conquest of North America. This “eager hustler with no known scruples” was the Forrest Gump of the seventeenth century. A Mohawk raiding party into present-day Indiana? Radisson was there. London’s Great Plague and Great Fire? There. A shipwreck on the reefs of Venezuela? There. The courts of Charles I and Louis XIV? He was there, too.

So how does a co-founder of the longest-lived corporation in North America, a “free man in a time when they were rare,” die penniless in London? Drawing directly from Radisson’s journals, Mark Bourrie paints a vivid picture of the class and national tensions that gripped the globe tightly even as colonial ownership of specific territories shifted with the seasons. Bush Runner brings Radisson to life: a man adopted as a teenager into a Mohawk family before his ocean-crossing adulthood, a peddler of goods and not of worldview, more trading partner than colonizer, “a brave man who must have been a tremendous dinner companion—as long as you weren’t on the menu.”

In spinning this true adventure yarn—complete with piracy, espionage, double-crosses, and the consumption of human flesh—Bourrie offers a fresh perspective on the world in which Radisson lived, the world in which his legacy both does and does not live on.

To get some insight into Radisson’s story and what it means for us in the twenty-first century, we sat down for an interview with Bush Runner author Mark Bourrie.

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 lawyer, a journalist and an author with a PhD in Canadian History. I usually write about very depressing things: politics, propaganda, law. My book on Stephen Harper’s media control was a great seller but a depressing thing to write, and, probably, to read. I suppose my next book will also be very serious and frightening.

What inspired you to write a book about Radisson?

About fifteen years ago, I looked Radisson up in an encyclopedia. I’m not sure why. I knew Radisson and his brother-in-law Groselliers had been fur traders in New France and had defected to the English. They had opened Hudson Bay to the fur trade. Everyone who stayed awake in high school knows that. But then I saw Radisson had lived among the Mohawks, had escaped through New Amsterdam (New York City), had lived among the Sioux. All that seemed interesting enough. But then I saw he was in London in 1665. That was the Great Plague. And stuck there during the Great Fire of 1666, when the whole city burned down. And had defected back to the French, been marooned with pirates in the Caribbean, and then double-betrayed the French. This was quite a life.

When I signed with Biblioasis to do the book, I thought it was a book we needed now, as a break from all the troubling modern political non-fiction. Radisson lived in a whole other universe. He lived a life that no one could live now. He had adventures, saw amazing things, and had a huge personality. He was also completely untrustworthy, and would eat you or your dog if he thought he needed to.

What was it like to work with Radisson’s newly-opened journals? Did you discover anything about his life or his era that particularly surprised you?

Many of Radisson’s writings were found a century ago, but new material was found recently by a member of his family who had special access to the royal archives at Windsor Castle. I have read a lot of autobiography from this period, and Radisson’s is special. First, he wrote most of it in English. Radisson had a genius for languages. The next thing that stood out—partly because I came across it early, and partly because it’s timely now and unusual for the time—was Radisson’s admiration for Indigenous people, especially the Mohawks who adopted him. Radisson saw them as equals and many of them as family. Third was the often-humorous brutal honesty about himself. Radisson admits to some very sleazy things, including cannibalism. That’s in a memoir meant only for King Charles II’s eyes. I wondered what kind of man who is looking to do business with a king of England admits to eating people? There are parts of his writing that are self-serving and sections that are, to be charitable, exaggerations. But he wrote about himself in a way that I’ve never seen in the literature of that time. I think I got to know him very well. It was like living with a bratty teenager.

What do you think 21st century readers can learn from Radisson’s experiences?

Take risks. Have fun. Keep yourself open to new opportunities. Be candid about yourself. Sue people if you must. Stay off social media. (Radisson never had a Twitter account). If you do all those things, someone might name a hotel chain after you for no apparent reason and strangers might write books about you..

What will readers really get from this book? A story that reads like a TV series or movie trilogy.

What are you reading right now?

I have decided to cleanse my palate of modern political writing and the books I have read on law and politics, and have gone back into my library to read first-rate writing. I am re-reading Dispatches by Michael Herr and just sent away for Disturber of the Peace, William Manchester’s biography of H.L. Mencken. I also want to re-read Olive Dickason’s The Law of Nations and the New World. Olive was a Metis scholar and a friend, and I would like to see if her ideas on law and colonization still hold up.

Raves for Mia Couto’s RAIN AND OTHER STORIES

 

Critics are loving Eric M B Becker’s English translation of Mia Couto’s Rain and Other Stories. The New York Times included Rain and Other Stories in a sneak-peek list of titles from around the world.

Published in the aftermath of Mozambique’s bloody civil war, Mia Couto’s third collection seeks out the places violence could not reach, the places where, the author writes, “every man is the same: pretending he’s here, dreaming of going away, and plotting his return.” Shifting masterfully between forms—creation tale to meditation, playful comedy to magical twist—these stories grapple with questions of what’s been lost and what can be reclaimed, what future exists for a country that broke the yoke of colonialism only to descend into internecine war, what is Mozambican and what is Mozambique. Following fishermen and fortune-tellers, widows and drunks, and one errant hippopotamus, this new translation of stories by the Man Booker-listed author of Confession of the Lioness rediscovers possibility and what it means to be reborn.

Vanity Fair writes, “[Couto] has been creating his own utterly original take on African life for decades now, rich and lyrical works immersed in the soil and mind-set of rural Mozambique…These literary fragments are dreamy but hopeful responses to Mozambique’s violent past, magical tales that find solace in the wisdom of rivers and trees, fishermen and fortune tellers, children and blind men. An assortment of transcendent sketches, fables, and creation tales, Couto’s stories are rooted yet timeless, both whimsical and deeply spiritual—essential qualities of the work of the masterful Mozambican author.”

The Winnipeg Free Press found Rain “Magnificent…The wonder of the collection, indeed its grip on the reader, is that such seemingly disparate tales come together to ultimately present how the land is remade…Nearly each sentence is astonishing in this riveting, challenging collection.”

In a starred review, Library Journal calls Rain “Stellar…offers fable-like gems capturing lives hurt and heroic, damaging and enduring…At a low point, Blind Estrelinho “remained on the side of the road, like a balled-up handkerchief soaked with sadness,” and such language stuns throughout. A woman deserted by her husband, a problem child rushing to rescue her father—these are some of Couto’s poignant stories. VERDICT: Highly recommended.”

Kirkus Reviews reports that Rain “Convey[s] a sense of profound loss flecked with a measure of optimism about life after the bloodshed is over. An impressionistic flash-fiction trek through the wreckage of war,” while Words Without Borders says Rain “encompasses everything from unlikely confessionals to dreamlike forays outside of realism; it’s a concise and wide-ranging demonstration of Couto’s authorial range.”

Booklist raves, “Wide ranging in theme, mood, and genre…[Couto’s] descriptions of landscapes and people have the power and mystery of the best style of folklore. The strength of his characters, whether he’s portraying an old math professor exploring love, a cross-dressing neighbor, or a businessman creating a happy communal space as a gift to God‚ is most apparent in how with few words their varied lives become relatable. Becker’s translation conveys Couto’s precise use of language to capture the innately elusive nature of human experience.” Shelf Awareness praises Rain‘s “stunning imagery,” which “draws power from unexpected comparisons…Playful and poignant, Rain and Other Stories cements Couto’s reputation as one of the finest writers in the Portuguese language, and proves Becker’s talent as a discerning and perceptive translator.” 

Foreword Reviews muses, “Even the nothingness of linguistic voids are used to their best advantage. When an ideal word or phrase fails to exist in the English language, this void becomes a laboratory where words are cajoled into serving functions not normally within their job descriptions. The blind man, upon suffering the loss of the companion who did so much more than merely tend to him, experiences an overwhelming sensation of being ‘dis-tended to’…Were the phrase ‘all that remained was absence’ to be embedded in any other collection, it might signify grief or hopelessness, but in Mia Couto’s Rain, translated from Portuguese by Eric M. B. Becker, it promises the opposite.”

Arkansas International describes how “A Chekhovian subtly is achieved, even when their realism turns to the magical…What’s most successful about this collection are the ways in which Couto repeatedly asks unanswerable questions, piquing reader curiosity… answers manifest through subtext, and the effect is both chilling and tragic. In this collection, Mia Couto, via Eric M. B. Becker’s aesthetically rich translation, packs an emotional resonance in each story—despite brevity, many only reaching five pages—that lingers with readers long after putting the book down.”

Blogger Joseph Shreiber notes that “The roots and spirits of these tales seem to run deep into the very bedrock of the earth. They are uniquely Mozambican and yet timeless…[Couto] has an uncanny ability to create miniature worlds peopled with wonderful characters, images and happenings…simply enchanting.”

If we weren’t already in love with Rain and Other Stories, these reviews would have us running to our nearest bookstore to scoop up a copy!

 

We’re HIRING! Full-time internship!

Biblioasis is Looking for a Full-Time Intern!

Have you ever wanted to learn more about publishing but assumed you would have to go to Toronto or New York or London to do so? Have you turned down unpaid internships because you can’t afford to work for free?  Do you want the opportunity to learn about publishing at one of the best independent publishing houses in the country?

Biblioasis, through the assistance of the OBPO (Ontario Book Publishers Organization) and Ontario Creates, is offering a 12 week full-time paid publishing internship as an introduction to independent publishing in Canada.  The successful candidate will learn about key aspects of the publishing process, from production and bibliodata management to publicity and marketing, including copy-writing, author tour management, social media and review protocols.

No past experience in publishing or the book industry is required. The successful candidate will have a love for books and reading, the ability to work both independently and on a team, and a keen mind open to new tasks and experiences.

The position pays a flat stipend of $6,000 over a 12-week period. Full-time hours in the Biblioasis offices in Windsor will be required.

Applicants who self-identify as being from a diverse background – including but not limited to ancestry, culture, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, language, physical and intellectual ability, race, religion (creed), sex, sexual orientation and socio-economic status – are encouraged to apply.

If you’re interested in applying, please submit your resume and cover letter to Vanessa Stauffer at vstauffer@biblioasis.com by March 18.

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.