In addition to a much-appreciated provincial holiday on Monday, it’s been a quiet week at the press office. Here’s a quick look at what we’ve been up to (and what we’ve been listening to!) since last week.
THE HARD PART IS NOT MAKING A PLAYLIST 400 SONGS LONG
One of our favourite places to read about music and literature on the internet is Largehearted Boy, a blog operated by the steadfast David Gutowski for fourteen years and counting. In addition to Gutowski’s keen eye for music and books, what makes Largehearted Boy special is the sheer breadth of its content. The site features free and legal music downloads; daily music, literature, and popular culture news; book reviews; mixtapes created by authors related to their latest books; reading lists by musicians; soundtrack discussions by directors and composers; and “The Largehearted Boy Cross-Cultural Media Exchange Program,” where authors interview musicians (and vice-versa).
We’re proud to share two playlists by Biblioasis authors featured this week, who are joining the ranks of Anakana Schofield, Bret Easton Ellis, Garth Risk Hallberg, and Eimear McBride. Kathy Page created a playlist for Frankie Styne & the Silver Man, a novel Gutowski called “imaginative and crisply written… one of the creepiest novels I have ever read.” You can stream Kathy’s playlist on Spotify. A few days later, Page’s Biblioasis peer Kevin Hardcastle created a playlist for his debut collection Debris, which Gutowski called “gritty and visceral.” You can stream Kevin’s playlist on Spotify as well.
REVISITING A MONSTER
Speaking of Frankie Styne & the Silver Man, which was recently published for the first time in the US and Canada, author Kathy Page took to her blog this week to answer questions about the book’s origin. Kathy posted a short essay describing the origin of the novel and its recent revision — which was quite substantial. We recommend it especially to those interested in how authors view (and revise) works written at an earlier stage in their careers.
The most recent edition of Quill & Quire arrived in the office this week with a huge review of Ray Robertson’s Lives of the Poets (with Guitars). Adam Nayman was somewhat critical of the selective appeal of the book (it focuses mostly on roots, blues, and gospel), but he concluded on a high note. “The achievement of [Robertson’s] book is that it directs fans and novices alike toward the myriad joys offered up by its subjects,” he wrote, “while also prodding us to think and feel more deeply about the other poets with guitars — or boom boxes or turntables — who lie beyond these pages, in our own personal pantheons.”
OF SCHOFIELD’S PECULIAR DECENCY AND CANDOUR
With the UK release of Martin John, we’re experiencing a pleasant bit of déjà vu as publications overseas rave about the novel as passionately as their North American counterparts did. This week, The Spectator called Martin John “a grown-up tale of how blighted lives carry on … fizzl[ing] with surface humour.” The same day, Eileen Battersby, the famed Irish Times literary correspondent and author who John Banville described as “the finest fiction critic we have,” raved about the novel, calling it “a comic tour de force … many writers have brazenly wandered into the minefield of mental illness, but few with Schofield’s peculiar decency and candour in not only depicting Martin John’s scheming turmoil, but also the bewildered righteousness of those surrounding him.”
February is a momentous month in the literary world. For literary presses, it signals the end of an extensive production process for spring titles. Covers are being finalized, manuscripts are being proofread for the last time, and advanced reviews are trickling in. Before you start catching up on that stack of books on your bedside table, play catch up with us and find out what went on this week at Biblioasis.
The Ancient Roman month Februarius was named for the Latin term februum, which means purging or purification (via the purification ritual of Februus). Although we could use a Latin refresher, we’re celebrating Februus in full force with our February Blowout sale! Biblioasis the bookstore, located in front of Biblioasis the press, is holding a 40% off sale on the entire used stock for the whole month. We’ve been posting photos of the strange and wonderful books our customers have been digging up during the sale all month on our Instagram (@biblioasis). Here’s one of our customers with his copy of a 6 LP set of audio recordings from the Apollo 11 moon mission. He spotted this interesting piece of moon shot ephemera and Americana, attractively slip-cased with a book by Time-Life, high atop the stacks in Used Science on an earlier visit to the store and picked it up during the first week of the sale.
MARTIN JOHN STILL ON TOP
Although it comes strong and often, we at the press don’t ever tire of Martin John news. Whether it’s the Giller shortlist, a positive review from the New Yorker, or one of December’s near daily best-of-2015 nods, 2015 was undoubtedly the Year of Martin John. That momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing in 2016. This week, Martin John was published in the UK (by our friends at & Other Stories) to tremendous reviews from The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, and The Sunday Business Post. CBC Books listed Anakana’s novel as one of twenty future Canadian classics, along with Giller-winner André Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs and Jeff Lemire’s Essex County—already a classic in our opinion. As if all of that wasn’t enough, The Vancouver Sun is currently featuring the novel for their Van Sun Book Club. Tracy Grimmett Sherlock, arts editor of the paper, put together an all-star group for the discussion: novelist Ian Weir; YA author Melanie Jackson; Julia Denholm, dean of Capilano University; Daphne Wood, director of Greater Victoria Public Library; Monique Sherrett, principal at Boxcar Marketing; Trevor Battye, a partner in Clever Media; and Bev Wake, senior executive producer of sports for Postmedia.
GOOD THINGS HAPPEN FOR BAD THINGS HAPPEN
As we mentioned in this post’s lede, February is the end of the production process for many spring releases. One of titles we’re most eager to let out of the Biblioasis stables is Haligonian Kris Bertin’s debut collection of short stories Bad Things Happen, edited by the inimitable Alexander MacLeod. The book arrived from the printers this week and we’ve begun shipping copies out to media outlets and booksellers in anticipation of its February 23rd publication date in Canada (and July 12th in the U.S.). The good folks at Quill & Quire were the first to review the collection, calling it “brash (in the best possible sense), intriguing, and consummate without being showy, these are terrific stories in a strong, diverse, and fascinating collection.” On top of that, The Toronto Star‘s Deborah Dundas chose Bertin as one of five up-and-coming writers to watch in 2016.
DEBRIS GETS ITS U.S. RELEASE
We’re proud to announce that Kevin Hardcastle’s debut short collection, Debris, which has garnered raves across the country & two best-of-2015 nods, was published in the U.S. on February 9th. The Winnipeg Free Press called the book “unflinching,” and “impressive for any writer, especially for a first collection… Hardcastle comes close to a masterpiece.” All you American-based fans: be sure to snag yourselves a copy. In the meantime, celebrate by reading “Montana Border” in The Walrus, an aptly themed tale of CAN-US border crossing and one of Debris‘ many gems.
THE WEEK IN REVIEWS
In addition to great reviews for Martin John and Bad Things Happen, raves rolled in for Kathy Page’s Frankie Styne and the Silver Man, Marius Kociejowski’s Zoroaster’s Children, and Ray Robertson’s upcoming book of essays Lives of the Poets (with Guitars). Frankie Styne and the Silver Man was lauded by both the Vancouver Sun and Toronto Star. The Sun‘s reviewer wrote that it “offers a terrific showcase of Page’s singular style (with its attractive high-low mixture of genres), quirky unexpected invention, and attention to the nuances of psychology. Mere words on a page, her creations linger in the mind long after the reading’s done.” Heather Birrell, writing for the Toronto Star, called it “a fantastic novel. Character driven, claustrophobic, and deeply weird, it has a haunting, discomfiting quality that lingers with a reader.” We can’t help but agree!
The folks at the Library Journal gave a coveted starred review to Zoroaster’s Children, writing that “poet and travel writer Kociejowski journeys widely and writes to ‘describe the world’ and make deeper inquiries into human nature … [Zoroaster’s Children is] highly recommended for its poetic presentation of experiences in different locations, this account is inspired by the past and a plethora of emotions.”
One of the first advanced reviews for Ray Robertson’s spring 2016 title, Lives of the Poets (with Guitars), came in from Kirkus Reviews. The reviewer wrote that “[Robertson] brings a good ear and plenty of critical insight to essays aimed at helping readers discover new favorites or hear more familiar music from a fresh perspective … [A] solid … fresh collection.” We can’t wait to see what the rest of the critical world has to say about this tremendously fun book.
If you’ve been wondering about the unusual quiet on the press front this week, wonder no more: our Publisher, Daniel Wells, and Director of Marketing and Publicity, Grant Munroe, spent the week at the American Booksellers Association’s 11th annual Winter Institute in beautiful Denver, CO. Here’s a small update and some photos from the event:
BOOKS, BOOKSELLERS, AND BOOK TOTES
After a five day trip to Denver, Colorado for the American Booksellers Association’s 11th Winter Institute—a cozy and very fun gathering of approximately six hundred of the best booksellers across North America—Dan and Grant are back at the press office. The pair brought author Ray Robertson along with them to promote his new book Lives of the Poets (with Guitars), a fun & irreverent book of essays that explores the lives and music of outsider artists from Sister Rosetta Tharpe to the Ramones.
Speaking of the best booksellers from across North America, Dan and Grant ran into Stephanie from Page & Palette Bookstore in Fairhope, Alabama, who’s not just a huge fan of our books—but also of our totes.
Three of our authors are involved in readings and events across Canada this month. If you’re in Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal, be sure to check out some of these:
K.D. Miller, author of the genius All Saints (which was up for the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and Frank O’Connor Award), will be reading in Halifax on Tuesday, February 2nd as part of the 22nd annual Saint Mary’s Reading Series.
Kevin Hardcastle, whose debut short story collection Debris was released this year to great acclaim, will be reading at Ben McNally books in Toronto on February 25th alongside Patrick Warner and Kate Cayley. The event is free and will feature snacks, if literature isn’t enticing enough for you!
Zachariah Wells, poet, author, and essayist, will be on a bit of a tour supporting Sum, his newest book of poetry. He’ll be in Montreal on February 20th as part of the Atwater Reading Series; Ottawa on February 23rd as part of the Tree Reading Series at Black Squirrel Books; Toronto on February 24th as part of Pivot Readings at the Steady.
Although it’s been a frigid and blustery week in Windsor, we’ve had the kindness of (anonymous) strangers and the excitement of the impending publishing season to keep us warm at the press. Here’s the best of the news this week from Biblioasis:
GOT US LIFTED, FEELIN’ SO GIFTED
All of us at the press were pleasantly surprised to begin the week with a gift-wrapped, beautiful watercolour painting of the storefront, which our bookstore clerk Bob found tucked between a few books in our window display. The third in a series that includes local entertainment staples Phog Lounge and Milk Coffee Bar, the painting was clandestinely dropped off by the anonymous Windsor Gift Project group:
— Windsor Gift Project (@windsorgiftpro) January 16, 2016
We couldn’t be more grateful to the group or proud to be associated with such important local institutions. As soon as we find a cool frame, it will be hanging in the store. You can check out Windsor Gift Project on Instagram @windsorgiftpro.
CHARLOTTE RAMPLING GETS THE NOD FOR 45 YEARS
It’s on! Actress Charlotte Rampling snagged a nomination for 45 Years, which was adapted from the title story of a book we published in 2015: David Constantine’s collection In Another Country. Based on most early commentary (especially from Dan Kois of Slate.com), her chances are pretty great.
THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE, BUT THERE’S A RISK IN IT
Speaking of 45 Years: After receiving a wonderful reception from North American critics last year — including a “best collection of the year” nod from Kirkus Reviews — 45 Years has attracted new interest in the brilliant David Constantine’s work. We suspect that this excellent, hour-long interview with Eleanor Wachtel on CBC’s Writers & Company is just the start. The interview sees Wachtel and Constantine delving deep into the topics of memory, art, and closure, and David speaks extensively on In Another Country and his upcoming novel for Biblioasis, The Life Writer.
This interview stacks up well among the 25 years worth of interviews Wachtel has conducted with writers as diverse as Jonathan Franzen, Alice Munro, Hilary Mantel, J.M. Coetzee, Zadie Smith, W.G. Sebald, Toni Morrison, and Seamus Heaney on Writers & Company, the best of which we’re proud to be gathering and publishing in Spring 2016. The good folks at 49th Shelf listed The Best of Writer’s & Company as one of their most anticipated non-fiction books of 2016.
FROM THE MOUTHS OF THE CRITICS
This week, Geist released their Winter 2015 issue, which featured a rave review of Martin John. The review ended with a poignant comment that’s been echoed by more than a few critics lately: “Martin John is the best novel I have read in years: long after reading it I feel that I am still reading it, being read by it.” Pick up the latest issue of Geist to read the full piece.
Russell Smith’s acclaimed story collection, Confidence, which we published last spring, got a smart review in the latest issue of PRISM International . “Smith’s Toronto is a city under siege,” writes reviewer Adrick Brock. “In so many of the stories, one group of people (or animals, in the case of ‘Raccoons’) is invading another.” In his view, Smith’s is a vital, aggressive book that “draws from the city’s stark contrasts: the glitzy restaurants and fabulous people coexist with the grime and violence that gentrification is attempting to scrub away.” These reflect the growing pains, Brock argues, that have attended “Toronto’s identity shift into a hip global metropolis.” Good read!
GAPING LIKE A DOPE IN THE WARMTH OF THE SUN
We’re waiting with bated breath for the April (CAN) / May (US) release of Alexandra Oliver’s new collection of poetry, Let The Empire Down, especially since her last collection, Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway, earned her the Pat Lowther Memorial Award and the National Post‘s Canadian Poetry Book of the Year. You can read a poem, called “Mihiz,” from Alexandra’s new collection on Partisan, one of the best online spots for poetry and cultural criticism in Canada.
As you may’ve noticed, ‘weekly’ is a bit of a misnomer for this week’s roundup. The press enjoyed a restorative holiday break from December 23rd to January 4th, but we’re back in full-swing for the New Year and ready to get you caught up on everything we’ve been up to.
FROM THE MOUTHS OF THE CRITICS
These last few weeks have been some of the most exciting we’ve experienced in our eleven years as publishers of exceptional books. Upon arriving back at the office after the break, we were thrilled to begin the day with reviews of Martin John in two of the world’s most prestigious, storied venues: The New Yorker and The New York Times. This marks the first time a Biblioasis title has been reviewed in The New Yorker, whose critic called Martin John a “frenetic, risk-taking novel … deliberately cryptic and bleakly funny.” Hours before that review hit newsstands, The New York Times Sunday Edition featured the brilliant Irish novelist Eimear McBride’s thoughtful, glowing review of Martin John. Anakana’s novel was also listed as a favourite by the editors of The New York Times Books.
Kevin Hardcastle’s Debris received some well-deserved attention south of the border in anticipation of his debut’s US release on Feb. 9. Booklist’s reviewer wrote that “[Debris] has its own strong voice … smoothly connected by uncompromising settings and Hardcastle’s authentic, plainspoken country-noir voice, the 11 stories collected here will appeal to fans of gritty, back-country crime fiction, even those who typically shun short stories.”
Kerry-Lee Powell’s most recent collection of poetry, Inheritance, was recently reviewed in the prestigious Times Literary Supplement. “Kerry-Lee Powell’s poems are full of lively vignettes in which realism strikes lyrical sparks off harshness,” wrote reviewer Jan Montefiore. “[Her] language is colloquial, unshowy, her free-verse lines organized in compact quatrains or tercets, but there is a relish for sprees, extremities and oddities.” We truly couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
EXAMINING THE GUN CULTURE, LOCK, STOCK, & BARREL
Not long before, and after, a solemn US President Obama announced he would be taking executive action regarding gun control, The Toronto Star and CBC Ideas ran long-form stories on gun culture in a North American context. The Toronto Star’s Insight section featured a lengthy excerpt from A.J. Somerset’s Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun, as well as his take on the book’s reception in the US and Canada. He said the NRA, gun nuts, and gun lobbyists would like his book to disappear, so they can maintain the illusion that they speak for all gun owners. “They do not speak for me,” wrote Somerset. “I speak for myself.”
This week’s episode of Ideas was dedicated to issues discussed in Arms. A.J., bestselling author and activist Christopher Hedges, and Mohawk thinker Dr. Taiaiake Alfred spoke with host Paul Kennedy about the current state of gun culture in North America, the roots of its dysfunction, and ways in which it can be reformed. It was an excellent hour-long program on an issue that, sadly, just won’t seem to go away. You can listen to that episode here.
LOOSENING WINTER’S GRIP
Although this year’s has been a notably mild winter, the literary world has joined the wider world in eager anticipation of spring. Spring previews have emerged from Quill & Quire and CBC Books and we’re happy to report that a host of Biblioasis titles garnered mentions. Quill & Quire featured Worldly Goods, a powerful gathering of stories by Montreal-based Alice Petersen; Bad Things Happen, a collection of short fiction by Halifax’s Kris Bertin; The Party Wall, a fantastic novel by all-star Quebecois author Catherine Leroux (translated by the amazing Lazer Lederhendler); Let the Empire Down, a new collection of poetry by Pat Lowther Memorial Award winner Alexandra Oliver; and Lives of the Poets (with Guitars): Thirteen Outsiders Who Changed Modern Music, a fun grouping of musical bios by Mr. Ray Robertson of Toronto. Alexandra’s Let the Empire Down was also included among CBC Books’ Spring 2016 preview.
IDEAS, NOT MONEY
We know as well as anybody that authors and publishers have to eat too. While galas and grand-prizes are good fun, and an important part of the literary landscape to boot, the concept of the ReLit Awards is a refreshing departure from regular award protocol. As Amazon.com explains, “Canada’s ReLit Awards—founded to acknowledge the best new work released by independent publishers—may not come with a purse, but it brings a welcome, back-to-the-books focus to the craft.” We’ve got all fingers crossed for Kathy Page and Diane Schoemperlen, whose respective short fiction collections Paradise & Elsewhere and By the Book: Stories and Pictures made the 2015 shortlist. The ReLit Rings are given out this month!
We’re working hard on our Winter titles here at the press, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have time to stop and smell the roses. Take a look at the highlight’s from this week:
If you’re a listener of Metro Morning, you probably heard Seth, our esteemed illustrator, chatting with Matt Galloway about his Christmas Ghost Stories, a new series of illustrated classics that we’ll be publishing each holiday season. The first two are in stores now across Canada. Next year we’ll be publishing three to four more — on both sides of the border. If you missed the interview, click here to read about the cool history of this forgotten tradition. Big thanks to Robert Earl Stewart, our bookstore manager and unofficial in-house photographer, for the photo that CBC ran.
A TWIST ON THE BEST-OF LIST
This week, the folks at CBC Books, who already posted their extensive best-of list, published a different take on the format. Instead of listing books she enjoyed this year, Jane van Koeverden of CBC Books asked eight of Canada’s best-known authors—including our own Anakana Schofield—to choose one book (or, in Anakana’s case, a few books) they loved most. We were delighted to see that Nino Ricci chose Martin John and Andrew Pyper chose Arvida by Samuel Archibald (trans. by Donald Winkler). Many other great books were highlighted, so the list is definitely worth a read.
HIT SO HARD THAT HIS MOLARS SANG
“Montana Border,” a short story by our author and friend Kevin Hardcastle, was included among The Walrus‘s year-end recap. You can read the story—and you really should read the story—here. It’s also one of the stand-outs of Kevin’s debut collection, Debris.
DUFF HITS THE HAT-TRICK
In addition to rave reviews from Windsor Life and the Drive, Duff hit the local media hat-trick this week with a another excellent piece by Dalson Chen in the Windsor Star. Chen does a great job highlighting the contentious nature of the book and what separates it from other books about hockey greats: “[Duff] based a lot of it on talking to people who played with and against [his chosen 50].”
NOW MAGAZINE CHIPS IN WITH THEIR TOP 10
NOW Magazine published their list of the top 10 books of 2015 earlier this week. Clocking in at numbers 6 and 9, respectively, were Anakana Shofield’s Martin John and Russell Smith’s Confidence. Editor Susan G. Cole called Smith “the writer whose craft made the biggest leap this year” and lauded Martin John as a “formally daring story of a pathetic sexual abuser [and] a triumph of tone.” Check out the rest of the list here.
Zoroaster’s Children made the Taylor longlist, the best-of mentions kept rolling in, and great discussions on art and culture abounded. Here’s a roundup of last week’s goings-on at Biblioasis:
ZOROASTER’S CHILDREN MAKES TAYLOR PRIZE LONGLIST
You might recall reading about our brilliant-but-often-overlooked author Marius Kociejowski a few weeks ago. His new collection of travel essays, Zoroaster’s Children, had just gotten a rave review in Maclean’s— but we were worried thatmight be the end of major publicity for his book. Not so! We are excited to announce that Zoroaster’s Children has made the RBC Taylor Prize longlist. Each year, the Taylor Prize is awarded to a non-fiction book that “best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception.” We’d say Marius fits the bill! The shortlist will be announced on Jan 12th, and we’ve got all our fingers crossed.
BOOKS IN THE BLOOD
Biblioasis and our publisher Dan Wells, an alumnus of Western’s graduate program in History, were the focus of an excellent and detailed article in the Western News. The piece details the perseverance, fantastic effort, and happy accidents that allow Biblioasis, or any independent press, to exist in a world of online shopping and e-readers. If you’re interested in learning about the press’ present and history, the origins of our logo, or just seeing some beautiful shots of the shop, give it a read!
GREATEST HITS AND YEAR-END LISTS
Death, taxes, and the inclusion of Anakana Schofield’s Martin John on ‘best of’ lists seem the new normal this holiday season. This week, three of Canada’s major news outlets published (or in the National Post‘s case, finished publishing) their ‘best of’ lists for 2015 and Biblioasis books found their way into all three! The National Post placed Martin John third among this year’s top 99 books, a list which featured a wonderful illustration of Anakana by the very talented Chloe Cushman. Martin John, Confidence, & Arvida made the Globe 100, the Globe & Mail‘s unnumbered offering of this year’s best lit. CBC Books published their similarly gargantuan Best of 2015 list, which featured Martin John and the Governor General’s award-winning My Shoes Are Killing Me among the likes of David Suzuki and famed Young Adult author Gordon Korman (a favourite of our excellent bookseller, Bob Stewart).
SUPER SECRET FESTIVAL OF LIT
The good folks over at All Lit Up are rolling out a new sort of advent calendar-inspired feature. Each day they highlight several books under a specific genre: they’ve done First Nations voices, LGBT voices, etc. On Monday, they featured short stories — and guess which author showed up on their list? Our very own Kevin Hardcastle. “We see many books every season by debut authors but rarely do they come with endorsements like Debris,” wrote the editors. “With this much high praise, we knew it had to be good. And it was. Like any reader with a newly discovered literary treasure, we’re going to tell everyone we know until they listen.” Check out the full list. Big thanks to ALU!
CULTURE TALKS, WINDSORITES LISTEN
Last Thursday, the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport made Windsor the final stop on their “Culture Talks” tour through the province. Officials have spent the past little while meeting with the public — including many workers in Ontario’s culture industry — to get feedback on the government’s 10 year strategic plan for the arts. In our city, Biblioasis publisher Daniel Wells was called on to chat with TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey about the importance of art to our community, not just as a cultural practice, but as a significant economic driver. Attendance was great and discussions abounded!
The Biblioasis Holiday Party is tomorrow evening at 7pm! The combination launch-party/reading/schmoozer is sure to be the most joyful (not to mention joyously literary) night of the holiday season.