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

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

Praise for Dear Evelyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fall 401 Tour

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

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

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

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




Paige Cooper’s Debut Gets Longlisted

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

Praise for Zolitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN THE MEDIA: Spring & Summer Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

Labour Daze

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


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

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

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

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

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

Fall books awaiting fame & fortune.

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

Ann Ireland May 19, 1953 – August 23, 2018

We are saddened by the news of Ann Ireland’s passing and wish to extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends. Below, a few words from Dan and John.

*             *             *

I’m deeply saddened. She was a wonderful writer, and all of us at Biblioasis were excited to finally work with her on Where’s Bob? We imagined it would be the first of many more books—and having had the privilege, we are sadder still. She was a generous, fiercely intelligent person. She made everyone around her better. She’ll be missed by so many.  —Daniel Wells, Publisher

*             *             *

Ann’s early death is tragic. Her last book, Where’s Bob?, a warmly comic excursion set in a Mexican tourist resort, gave no hint of her illness.

We had talked happily of the next book, which she’d said she was ‘circling’.

When I read the typescript of Where’s Bob? and wrote to her to accept it, I said that I’d wanted to publish her ever since her gorgeous first book A Certain Mr. Takahashi. She replied saying: “I’ve been wanting to work with you for years.” I’m deeply saddened that our future together will not come to pass. — John Metcalf, Editor



Playthings Plays The Big Time (And by “Time” we mean “New York Times”!)

Hey Biblio-fans! This is Casey Plett here this month as my trusty, hard-working, intelligent, and very-missed colleague Vanessa Stauffer has taken to the skies. Me, I’m getting by ok running publicity with a little help from my two best friends — V8 and Elvis, of course.

But besides that, some big news has come in since we have last approached you with a humble Wednesday blog: The New York Times has given a RAVE review to Alex Pheby’s Playthings and HOW THRILLED ARE WE? REALLY THRILLED.

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Of Pheby’s hallucinatory, fragmentary, and tragic fictional telling of 19th-Century German judge Daniel Paul Schreber, subject of one of the most famous psychotherapy cases in history, reviewer Catherine Lacey said Playthings was: “[A] skillfully rich novel . . . A close third-person voice situates “Playthings” in an eerie place between a lived account of insanity and a careful observation of a mind’s unraveling . . . [A]gile and wily.

She ended her review by saying: “In the fiction of Schreber’s madness, every person is, as he puts it, a “plaything of the Lower God.” In the reality that Schreber lived, the mentally ill were playthings of the “well,” children were playthings of adults, and minorities were playthings of the state. It is this economy of cruelty — not repressed homosexuality, as Freud suggested in an essay on Schreber’s memoir — that is the seed of Schreber’s suffering. Pheby illustrates this point with compassion and subtlety in “Playthings”; the book’s hybrid position between the historical and the fictional makes it all the more potent.

The book has also seen raves from Publisher’s Weekly (“intricate and intelligent…effectively transports readers into Schreber’s experience and tragedy.“), Kirkus (“A highly detailed, emotional plunge into the mind of a disturbed man…An intense, immersive reading experience that provides real insight into those afflicted with severe mental illness.”), and appeared on the Globe and Mail Spring Preview list.

We’re so excited the book’s gotten this attention and Canadians will be delighted to know Pheby is coming over here this September to promote the book! He’ll be hitting the Thin Air Winnipeg International Writers Festival  as well as the Biblioasis 401 Tour in Montreal, Toronto, and good old Windsor.

Productions Notes: August 17, 2018

The 2018 edition of Best Canadian Stories is well under way. And though I must confess I have not had a chance to read it yet, I am really looking forward to this one. Russell Smith’s selection has me quite intrigued with stories from a number of authors I admire including Lynn Coady, Kathy Page, Bill Gaston, and Liz Harmer (whose excellent debut novel The Amateurs I recently finished reading); and some authors whose work I am really looking forward to checking out: Tom Thor Buchanan, Michael LaPointe, and Stephen Marche.

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While I was away for a week in the sun in Oscoda, Michigan, a couple new books arrived at Biblioasis. And on my return a couple more did as well.

New Arrivals at the Press:
Catherine Leroux’s Madame Victoria,
Kathy Page’s Dear Evelyn,
C.P. Boyko’s The Children’s War,
and Mike Barnes’ Be With

Our most recent stock

It also looks like I was replaced by a new production manager in my absence. Hope the new guy is up to the challenge.

The Production Manager

All Hands On the Loading Dock:
An Interview with Kathy Page

The Biblioswains were busy this morn with boxes and boxes of books, among them Dear Evelyn, the latest from Kathy Page. This epic love story steams into a port near you on September 4. We sat down with Kathy to find out more about the book Kirkus Reviews calls “A searching, and touching, depiction of the places where married lives merge and the places they never do.”

For newer readers who may not be familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

My father was a great reader, and my mother had a very definite way with words; both encouraged me to develop an already over-active imagination, and as a child I read and wrote voraciously, without realizing that I was laying the foundations for something I might end up practicing as a profession. I studied literature as an undergraduate and afterwards began my first book in a continuing education class. Since then I’ve written mainly fiction: numerous short stories, eight novels, and been listed for the GGs, the Giller and the Orange Prize. As a writer, I’m drawn to complex characters, and to people in difficult predicaments or who have to make hard choices. I’m interested in transformation, and how it occurs. I like to explore questions of some kind.

I feel very lucky to be able to use my imagination and play with words on a daily basis, to craft stories, to work with others learning to do the same (I teach at Vancouver Island University), and, of course, to connect via those stories with readers: I’m fascinated by the writer/reader relationship. I’ve been based on Salt Spring Island in BC since 2001; before that I lived mainly in London (UK).

Dear Evelyn sweeps across history, from World War I to the present day. You mention in the acknowledgements how letters from your father to your mother were helpful, as well as other extensive researching activities—yet the novel is still so character-driven! How did the research impact the writing?

You’re absolutely right that the characters are what drive this book. But in order to understand them, write them, and know the story I had to find out a great deal. I often do a lot of research and enjoy finding out about things beyond my own experience. Sometimes the research will shape or change how I think about the book. Dear Evelyn was very much inspired by the love letters my father wrote to my mother during the Second World War, which I read when my parents were in their nineties and in a very different situation. Reading those letters at that point in time made me intensely curious as to how a marriage between two very different, very young people—one that had begun with such romance and drama—might transform itself over a long period of time. I couldn’t explore the detail of that without becoming familiar with the social history of the ―between-the-wars‖ period in the aftermath of the First Word War, when my characters had grown up, and then I found myself immersed in certain bits of WW2, and then in the postwar period, and the nineteen sixties and seventies… There was a lot of detail to take in, but, to answer your question (I hope): the research is in the service of the characters and the story; it is part of them and part of what makes them seem real. In the end, whatever I have learned becomes the context of their lives and desires and possibilities. Once I am immersed in the story, it stops being research. It’s just their reality.

Anyone who has read your previous work (I’m particularly thinking of Alphabet) will note a range in subject matter, to say the least. Despite this, are there themes or central concerns in your work that you hope readers take away?

I like to do something very different with each book, whether that’s in terms of the territory it explores or the way the material is approached. Previous novel protagonists include a man serving life for murdering his girlfriend (Alphabet), a young mum with a special needs baby (Frankie Styne and the Silver Man), a middle aged academic who suffered severe burns to her face in childhood (The Story of My Face) and a driven, ambitious paleontologist (The Find). My short fiction is also varied: sometimes realist (The Two of Us), sometimes experimental or fabulist (Paradise and Elsewhere). I think what ties it all together as a body of work is a strong interest in human connection, in relationships, especially difficult, imperfect relationships—the kind that a therapist perhaps might not recommend, but in which, it seems to me, many or even most of us are at one time or another passionately involved.

Dear Evelyn fits this pattern. It’s another new thing: a book focused on a single seventy-year relationship and also one that’s both historical and personal, so very much a first for me; it is also a continuation of my ongoing exploration of what it is we do with, and to, each other… I’m certainly not against positive change, but it seems to me that we sometimes forget that even difficult, seemingly dysfunctional relationships may be precious and sustaining—and sometimes we just don’t care about what is fair or reasonable.

Harry and Evelyn certainly spat and bicker, yet also undeniably love each other. And then there is the ending—without giving too much away, do you consider this a hopeful book?

It depends on how you think about what happens, and your beliefs about love and relationships. I hope readers will experience Harry and Evelyn’s story and then decide for themselves. But I will say that although my books often tackle difficult material, I think of myself, and of my work, as essentially optimistic.

The conflict between Harry and Evelyn is the book’s backbone, yet I always felt Evelyn’s tempestuous relationship with her parents lurking in the background, informing how she interacts with Harry. Am I off in that? Can you speak to that at all?

I’m glad that came over! Evelyn’s anger towards her alcoholic father, her horror at the manner of his death, and her struggles with a sometimes over-protective mother—as well as their poverty—are all behind how she behaves, what she wants and chooses, and what happens in her marriage. I’m glad the reader can see this, and so have a compassionate sense of how her sometimes outrageous behaviour is driven by half-buried fears. She of course does not see this; she grew up in an era when people did not readily think about why they felt and acted as they did, try to change it, or share their more difficult and complicated feelings with others. They did what they could, or what they were driven to, and that was pretty much the end of it… In a similar vein, at the beginning of the book Harry’s mother deals with post-natal depression—very successfully, as it happens, but without any professional intervention.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading and very much admiring the Melrose novels by British writer Edward St Aubyn, and am about half way through the series. Horrifying, funny and brilliantly written. Next up is Shyam Selvaduri’s The Hungry Ghosts.

Cats, Seagulls & Giveaways!

It’s August 1, which means 1) it’s Mercury-retrograde Leo season, and 2) indieNEXT nominations are due in less than a week, the convergence of which is best represented by the following image:

Thomas Cat meets Seagull.

If you’re following along at home, you know that Harriet Paige’s Man with a Seagull on his Head is the title we can’t stop talking about, and judging by the number of bookseller blurbs we’ve received, we’re not the only ones.

Booksellers! We still want your blurbs! Email Casey by Monday, August 6, and we’ll print your words in the finished book.

US Goodreads users! Wondering what all the fuss is about? Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win one of 50 advance reader copies!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Man with a Seagull on His Head by Harriet Paige

Man with a Seagull on His Head

by Harriet Paige

Giveaway ends August 28, 2018.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Everyone else! Would you like to see more pictures of my cats?