My last read of 2012 and it was written by friend and colleague Julie Wilson. A lovely end to a year of fine reading.
Also on the Globe and Mail’s top 100 books of 2012 list!
Seen Reading is a collection of microfictions written by Julie alongside literary voyeur spottings from her SeenReading.com heydays.
READER: Caucasian female, late 30s, with strawberry-blond hair, wearing brown skirt and lime-green blouse with sleeves rolled and buttoned at the elbow. Sunglasses sit in lap.
The Kite Runner
(Anchor Canada, 2004)
On the opposite page is “Ends” a short (short) story about a couple sitting at opposite ends of a couch and one of them noticing all the little age marks of the other before noticing her own flaws. When did this happen?
The book itself is a beautiful little object worth keeping on a coffee table or bookshelf. The paper and production quality is lovely and the contents are witty, quirky and worth savouring.
by Julie Wilson
Posted by Monique at 07:14 PM.
Book Reviews •
Craig Mod is one of the book+tech people who I follow because he thinks a lot about the future of books and storytelling and how digital reading is different and, more important, how we can better design for that experience.
40 minutes worth taking out of your day. Watch this instead of some crappy reality tv show.
Posted by Monique at 01:30 PM.
I joined author Annabel Lyon in a live chat today as part of the Vancouver Sun Book Club.
Annabel Lyon is the author of The Golden Mean and The Sweet Girl.
Annabel Lyon’s Books on Amazon
Here are a few highlights from the chat with Annabel Lyon on The Sweet Girl
On how The Golden Mean and The Sweet Girl work together
I was really drawn to Aristotle first and foremost, his intellect, and then I was stuck with the fact that he happened to be an ancient Greek - it was the philosophy that drew me first, the history second. But after I finished writing The Golden Mean, I knew my project was only half-finished. That was such a male book, but I wanted to look at the female world also.
Tips on writing dialogue
always, always, always read it aloud. That’s my first instruction to students. If it doesn’t sound natural aloud, it’s not going to read like natural dialogue. I also encourage students to make the dialogue do the work, and not rely on what are known as dialogue tags (she shouted menacingly, that kind of thing). Those are like stage directions, and for me they dilute the power of the line itself. And finally, in historical fiction, make sure your characters still sound like real people. I don’t think “Zounds, my liege, thou hast verily captured it” is nearly as good as “You got it,” even if you’re working with ancient characters.
In response to my question about routine in writing (whether for fiction, or in my case business writing)
Thanks for your question about routine, Monique. I’m not a big believer in the Romantic image of the writer—alone, suffering, pirate blouse in a garret somewhere, waiting for the muse. It’s a job, and I treat it like a job: dress professionally, go to the office, do your work. You wouldn’t procrastinate relentlessly if you were a lawyer or doctor or drywaller or barrista, and you shouldn’t let yourself do that as a writer, either. I like to compare creative writing to journalism, partly because my dad was a journalist, but partly also because there’s a huge overlap between the skill sets. A good non-fiction sentence and a good fiction sentence have a lot in common. A good opening to a short story and a good lede in a news story are playing on a lot of the same principles. And, similarly, I believe strongly that good creative writing can be taught, just as journalism can be taught. Inspiration, no, but craft, yes.
On factual references in the novel, in particular midwifery and stillbirths being buried with puppies
The puppies: yes, this was something I learned about on my trip to Greece. I was fortunate to travel with a university class from Carleton and U Winnipeg (I made friends with some academics, who let me tag along), and one of the things we got to do was learn about the work of Maria Liston, who teaches at Waterloo and also works at the American School in Athens. I joke that she could be the star of CSI: Ancient Athens, because her work focuses on things like bone remains. She can look at a bone and tell you what it is, how the person died, etc. She told us about her research into the remains of babies found in wells with puppies, and concluded that these were drops midwives used for babies who hadn’t survived. The puppies were one of those touches that was so bittersweet: awful, and yet you could imagine someone grieving the baby’s death and (in their belief system) wanting to send something cuddly with them, to keep them company. You can’t invent this stuff! And of course, as a fiction writer, you can’t pass it up either. I got her permission to use this.
On why I included The Sweet Girl in my Shoebox Project for Shelters package
Related to Golden Mean as a male world and The Sweet Girl as a female world, I’m participating in The Shoebox Project this year (final dropoff day is Monday!), where you put together a shoebox of gifts that are delivered to women in shelters. I felt that Pythias’ story was a good survival story, or at least showed how you need to keep your wits about you even when the world seems against you. So it’s included in my shoebox. http://www.shoeboxproject.com/
If you’re looking for a great gift this season for a reader then I highly recommend The Golden Mean and The Sweet Girl. A combo pack or singles.
Annabel Lyon’s website
Published by Random House
Do you know about the Canadian not-for-profit organization called The Shoebox Project? I’m going to participate this year. The idea is that you fill a shoebox with small gifts and non-essential items, which are then distributed to women in shelters during the holidays.
This is the first time The Shoebox Project has a Vancouver initiative. And, my friend Kate has written a good blog post on how to participate. The goal for Vancouver is 100 shoeboxes to share with the Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter and the Vancouver Rape Relief Centre.
I’m in apartment declutter mode so I certainly have a empty shoebox to fill. Plus, it doesn’t take much time, it’s fun to give during the holidays, and the dollar value is $50 so it doesn’t cost very much. If $50 sounds steep, why not buddy up then it’s only $25 for each of you.
Want more info? Check out Kate’s post above or the Shoebox Project’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheShoeboxProjectCanada
Since the shoebox needs to have new items, if you’re a local business and have appropriate items for the shoeboxes, then please consider donating items. It doesn’t have to be for all 100 boxes, see Kate’s post for details on that.
Here’s a list of what should go in the box (approximately $50 in value):
Body or hand lotions
Makeup: mascara, lipstick and nail polish. (Please no concealers or foundations)
Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
Chocolates, cookies, candies
Mitts, hat, scarf
Bus or subway tokens / phone card
Gift certificates (McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, Shoppers Drug Mart, Wal-Mart, Cineplex). Please include the receipt!
* And don’t wrap the box, it has to be opened and inspected.
My declutter mode has also sussed out some cool sparkles and other decorative items I can put inside the box for padding. Off to package up my shoebox gift.
Drop off location open until Monday, December 17th:
Vancouver: 2305 McLean Drive (Mon to Fri: 8AM to 6PM; Sat: 11AM to 6PM)
Posted by Monique at 05:39 PM.
Party Tricks •
The longlist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction has been announced. One hundred and forty-three books were nominated for the 2013 prize of $40,000 and from that list the longlist of ten books have been selected.
The longlist is as follows and full details are included on the attached news release:
A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape
A Season in Hell: My 130 Days in the Sahara with Al Qaeda
A Thousand Farewells: A Reporter’s Journey from Refugee Camp to the Arab Spring
Here We are Among the Living: A Memoir in Emails
Pinboy: A Memoir
Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age
Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile
Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy
The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen
Stephen R. Bown
Walls: Travels Along the Barricades
Marcello Di Cintio
The finalists for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction will be announced December 4, 2012. The $40,000 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction is presented by the BC Achievement Foundation and will take place in Vancouver in early 2013.
Previous winners of the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction include:
• Charlotte Gill for Eating Dirt (2012)
• John Vaillant for The Tiger (2011)
• Ian Brown for The Boy in the Moon (2010)
• Russell Wangersky for Burning Down the House (2009)
• Lorna Goodison for From Harvey River (2008)
• Noah Richler for This Is My Country, What’s Yours? (2007)
• Rebecca Godfrey for Under the Bridge (2006)
• Patrick Lane for There Is a Season (2005)
Posted by Monique at 10:22 AM.
Media outlets are reporting that two of the big six publishers have merged.
It’s interesting to see the coverage, in particular the Canadian opinions of the merger. What we have are two of the publishing industries biggest players forming one super publisher, Penguin Random House.
Realistically both were already owned by international media giants Bertelsmann (Random) and Pearson (Penguin). The new super publisher is “super” because it merges the publishing divisions and imprints across North America, Latin America, the UK, Australia & New Zealand, India, South Africa and operations in China and Spain. Wow.
The media reports, likely from the merger press releases, are spinning this as a fight against the dominance of Amazon. The idea being that a larger entity can play ball better with the dominant retail vendor. Even though Random House is quite advanced in terms of their digital publishing and data savvy, and Penguin is advanced in terms of innovative digital publishing and brand recognition, we still have two publishers (now one) against a data and technology machine. I’m not sure what people are expecting can be leveraged here. Nor why they think that their publishing buddy, if they are successful in playing better with Amazon are somehow going to open the door for smaller publishers.
My take is good for Penguin and Random House. I hope they don’t spin their wheels trying to consolidate operations and create efficiencies that likely don’t exist.
My concern would be for authors and agents and the diminishing diversity of established publishers because I do still believe publishers have a lot of valuable industry knowledge not yet earned by innovative publishing startups. We’ll see how merged these operations and imprints become but I suspect there will be reductions.
My advice to all publishers is to look closely at the skills Amazon has developed since the late 90s and catch up as quickly as possible. Look at your direct to consumer marketing, look at your brand experience, look at your website usability, look at your purchase funnels, go mobile, get your head around the data, stop looking at what other publishers are doing and look at the leaders in b2c retailer/ecommerce, assess your products, find your audience, find the budgets, hire the right staff and doggedly seek the winners. (I know you think you’re doing that, but if you step way back and take a look at you vs. them, you’ll see the difference.)
As Joe Wikert says, ‘Instead of just merging I’d rather see one of the big six stand up like this small publisher and say “we’ve walked on eggshells for far too long…it’s time for us to get serious about building that direct channel and not worry about how our existing channel partners will react.”’ (TOC.OReilly.com)
Dennis Johnson of Melville House has a good review of the media reports on the Penguin Random House merger.
Posted by Monique at 09:21 AM.
Book Publisher •
Today is the first O’Reilly Mini Tools of Change Conference in Canada. Here’s the schedule.
First up was Corey Pressman of Exprima Media, which produces cool interactive experiences on mobile. Mostly apps at this stage. His presentation was titled “The Journey to Contentopia.” and it was an overview of where we’ve come in terms of the first hand-held tools of cavemen to the hand-held tools of today.
A Couple of Take-Aways
- Make “app-y” experiences.
- Content producers can be everyone, i.e., Exprima worked with coffee producers who had training videos, eco info, and instructional info on how to sip and taste. The app is available and iPads were distributed to the coffee co-ops in the growing countries who use the content to help training, inform or educate their farmers and other vendors.
- If you get the app-y experience, users start thinking, “how can I produce content for that?”
Corey Pressman studied anthropology so he had a number of metaphors and parallels to share.
Humans have neurological needs that require containers for our thoughts. We moved from hand-held cave tools and using those tools to tell stories in cave paintings. We had the scribe era where we hand-crafted manuscripts. And then the printing press arrived and brought about this punctuation in the equilibrium of the crafting of printed works. The printing press brought about an abundance of printed material that was only possible through manufacturing—not hand-crafting.
When things go off the rails, it’s because we have abundance. In times of abundance, business opportunities abound. We get the birth of publishing.
To Publish (v) To make public.
This means we need businesses that help distribute printed works to the public.
We have another punctuation in the equilibrium of book production, and that is digital transfer. Digitization creates abundance. Abundance means that our neurological need in the container of an iPad app or ebook, is no longer a book. As Tylor Sherman talked about in his TOC workshop on HTML5 yesterday, content must be differentiated from the container.
As Corey Pressman mentions, in The Order of Books by Roger Chartier, authors don’t write books (meaning that “book” is a mechanical process), authors write content (meaning there is a separation between content and container).
If we understand that we’ve been through this process before, then it changes our perspective of how we design and develop containers for our neurological needs.
- The book can’t bind the reality of it all.
- The ipad can’t bind the reality of it all either.
- These are containers.
HTML is what go us to where we are today in publishing. Circa 1990, content got untethered from container with the birth of the internet as we know it today. This was a pivotal moment. In anthropology, we have this with the introduction and overlap of species. And those “hopeful monsters”, the new species, survive or die away, but the ones remaining are the ones who are adaptive. They become the species of the future.
With the printing press, the 1st books were made to look like illuminated manuscripts. As we say in geek, we lacked interaction protocols for the new platform. Over time we developed metadata for those “new” manuscripts. We added page numbers, spaces between the words, footnotes, set pictures and added front and backmatter.
In anthropology, this transition period is also a beginning, it’s an incanabula period (incanabula means cradle, early days). We are still in the early days of epub and apps. We are mimicking the old creations.
- Page curl on ipad
- iBooks sets thumbnail images of book covers on a wooden looking shelf
- Digital backgrounds are made to look like paper
Now it’s time to grow up.
We have to intentionally design: don’t just make it look like something else.
User-centered interaction design will save the world (of content) anyway. We need to think about what people are doing with these devices, not what they did with the old containers.
Curated content: comprehensiveness vs. essence, noise vs. sound
Posted by Monique at 11:41 AM.
October 19 & 20
Centre for Digital Media, 685 Great Northern Way
$150 for Both Days (Workshop + Conference) or $75 for Single Day
What’s Mini TOC?
Come out to Vancouver’s first mini-TOC. O’Reilly’s Tools of Change conference is an annual event held in New York every year. Just like TEDx, mini-TOC is a way to bring the same type of stellar programming from the main event to the local stage. This is the first time the event has been held in Vancouver!
Who’s It For?
Smart, engaged, bookish and techy people are going to gather on October 19 and 20 for a series of workshop events on the Friday and a full conference day on the Saturday. If you’re a publisher, author, marketer, designer, programmer or interested in the convergence of books and technology, then this conference is for you.
October 19, 9:30 am to 5 pm: Friday Workshops
- Start time is 9:30-10 am for registration, coffee and networking.
- Then at 10 am, there are two tracks to choose from, either Tech: HTML5/Mobile or eBook Publishing.
- Lunch from 1-2 pm.
- The tracks continue on in the afternoon.
When registering, make sure to pick either the Tech or eBook track. I was a bit confused by the registration process. So to clarify, if you’re keen on both days, look for the ticket types that are $150, then select either the Tech or Ebook one. If you’re interested only in the workshop day or only in the conference day, then those are the $75 ticket types, and again if you’re choosing the Friday workshop, make sure to select your preference for the Tech or Ebook track.
October 20, 9 am to 5 pm: Conference Day
- Start time is 9 am for registration and coffee. The conference gets underway at 9:30 with some introductory remarks and the Keynote from Corey Pressman of Exprima Media, “From Caves to Clouds: The Journey to Contentopia”
Corey Pressman taught Anthropology for 12 years before leaving teaching to start Exprima Media, a software company dedicated to creating robust and engaging educational experiences for the web and native mobile platforms. Exprima Media is currently working with publishers such as W.W. Norton, John Wiley & Sons, and McGraw Hill to build the future of educational interactive media. Also, under Corey’s direction, Exprima Media is participating in the ‘global mobile’ revolution, developing educational mobile applications for use in less economically developed nations.
I’m super excited for the next presenter, Igor Falestski of Mobify.com, who will be talking about designing for multiple screens. Meaning, how do publishers plan for and design for iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Android devices, desktop and whatever other devices are out there.
Great presentations follow on academic publishing and mobile apps, digital publishing models, challenges with discoverability in online marketplaces, book design, legal conundrums and the advantages and disadvantages of digital reading.
To check out the full schedule:
Registration for mini-TOC Vancouver
* There is a 50% early bird discount that ends Friday.
Ticket prices right now are the discounted price: $75 for one day or $150 for both
Don’t Forget Ignite
And, stick around after 5 pm on Saturday for the reception and IGNITE presentations. In case you’re unfamiliar with Ignite, it’s a style of presentation that is flash fire and timed. The format is 20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each. It’s a real performance!
Posted by Monique at 10:55 AM.
If you’re looking for that blockbuster summer read, it’s here! The latest in the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny arrived in stores on August 28.
The Beautiful Mystery
Buy on Amazon
More details at Raincoast Books
No outsiders are ever admitted to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, hidden deep in the wilderness of Quebec, where two dozen cloistered monks live in peace and prayer. They grow vegetables, they tend chickens, they make chocolate. And they sing. Ironically, for a community that has taken a vow of silence, the monks have become world-famous for their glorious voices, raised in ancient chants whose effect on both singer and listener is so profound it is known as “the beautiful mystery.”
But when the renowned choir director is murdered, the lock on the monastery’s massive wooden door is drawn back to admit Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. There they discover disquiet beneath the silence, discord in the apparent harmony. One of the brothers, in this life of prayer and contemplation, has been contemplating murder. As the peace of the monastery crumbles, Gamache is forced to confront some of his own demons, as well as those roaming the remote corridors. Before finding the killer, before restoring peace, the Chief must first consider the divine, the human, and the cracks in between.
Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache delivers again and again. Traditional mystery fans will like the whodunit plot, but those who have a literary bend like me will appreciate the well-written dialogue and excellent story arch.
Indeed, it is a page turner, but Louise Penny’s prowess is in delivering fallible heroes in a way that still makes us cheer. I’m speaking of course of Inspector Gamache, but also of Lieutenant Jean-Guy Beauvoir, who is suffering from an addiction to painkillers.
The evil twist, beyond the murder at hand, is the psychological foul play used by the police force’s headman who has it out for Gamache and his team. I won’t tell you any more about what happens here because it is all too irksome.
For a book set in a monastery with an ancient secret to hide, this novel sure is illuminating. I 100% am in love with Louise Penny’s Inspector, the village of Three Pines and this awesome series.
If you haven’t read Louise Penny, I really liked A Trick of Light, which seems like a natural place to start before getting into The Beautiful Mystery—this is book 8 in the series. There is so much revealed in book 8 that I wouldn’t want you to start here. If you have the time and aren’t itching to read The Beautiful Mystery right this minute (which you should actually), then read the full series. It does not disappoint.
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny is also available as an audio book
Listen to an audio clip
And if you’re in Vancouver, Louise Penny is at the Vancouver International Writers Festival on Oct 20.
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle
One of the magical things about a Guy Delisle book is the fly-on-the-wall perspective of countries that are inaccessible (or relatively so) to Westerners.
His previous graphic travelogues were about Burma, Pyongyang and Shenzen. I loved both Pyongyang and Shenzen, but Pyongyang has a special status as it was my first Guy Delisle encounter.
I’m not sure if having been to Jerusalem aids in the enjoyment and depth of Delisle’s account of the Holy City but I’d still recommend it to anyone curious about Israel or the Middle East in general as I think there’s a tone that runs through the region that is incomprehensible to most outsiders.
The book opens with the introduction of Delisle’s children. His parner Nadège is working with Médecins Sans Frontières and the family is on their way to Jerusalem for the year. Guy hopes to work, as he’s done on other trips, while minding the children. (Good luck with that!)
The opening scene portrays a seemingly Russian Jew with concentration-camp numbers on his arm distracting Guy’s collicky child. They don’t share a language but Guy makes a ton of assumptions, and checks himself, all within a few frames, which really sets the stage for what’s to come. Jerusalem is a land of mixed emotions, assumptions, perceptions and deceptions.
Throughout the travelogue, we get treated to the differng points of view Delisle encounters: Israeli, Palestinian, Christian, and Muslim, as well as those of Médecins Sans Frontières staff, Nadège, their cleaners and childcare providers, tour guides and reporters he meets along the way.
Delisle doesn’t claim to understand each of these perspectives and he has a certain skepticism or cynicism whenever strong binary positions are presented, but it’s a real treat to see Jerusalem from his vantage point of a year-long adventure vs a few days or weeks as a tourist. Delisle is in the region long enough to have some of his initial ignorance disappate and he has time to see the underside of the official messages or points of view in the press.
Although Delisle doesn’t offer a completely neutral account, he’s not judgmental either. Jerusalem is subjective observation but from a rather level head.
Posted by Monique at 02:45 PM.
Book Reviews •
The Chaperon by Laura Moriarty reminded me a little bit of The Paris Wife. The book opens in 1922 during a summer in Wichita when not much is happening for Ms Cora Carlisle. Both her sons are grown and moved away, her husband’s successful law practice keeps him busy and Cora is idling away her time. What seems like an adventure is presented to her: chaperon 15-year-old Louise Brooks to New York City for her dance audition.
Cora, of course, has her own private reason for making the trip, and it’s not just boredom. We quickly find out that Cora was orphaned in New York and was sent out on an orphan train to be adopted by willing parents, who have since died. Her plan is to accompany Louise and seek out her birth parents. The orphanage has already refused to provide that information by mail, but Cora is optimistic.
The part of the story that reminds me of The Paris Wife is the insights into the 1920s. It was a time of transition where skirt lengths (above the ankle) were still shocking and girls were coached that no man would want to marry an unwrapped piece of candy. At the same time homosexuality, the bob haircut, jazz and other shocking disregards for convention (like black and white people sitting side by side in the same theatre) were part of daily life in a bustling metropolis like NYC.
Cora takes all the shocks in stride, in particular the difficulties posed by Louise’s free-spirit attitude, and really finds her own place in the world. She goes by to Wichita with quite a backbone.
The Chaperon by Laura Moriarty
Published by Riverhead Books (Penguin Canada)
Available in hardcover on amazon.ca
Word on the Street is coming to select cities across Canada on Sunday, September 30. WOTS is a festival of writing and reading, which is free to the public.
If you’re in Vancouver, here’s what’s on tap for this year’s festival:
From race horses to politics, to stories of the hippie days, suffragettes to road trips, squeezeboxes to love letters, and much more, Vancouver’s The Word On The Street is back for its 18th year with three days (Sept. 28-30) of reading and writing excitement!
The main festival day is Sunday, Sept. 30 where word lovers will find author readings, writing and publishing exhibits, musical entertainment, roving performers, children’s activities, workshops, panels, books and magazines, and more in and around Library Square and CBC Plaza, Homer and Hamilton Streets between Robson and Georgia.
Friday night programming (Sept. 28) will take place at Banyen Books and Historic Joy Kogawa House, and Saturday programming (Sept. 29) takes place at Carnegie Centre (Main and Hastings).
Highlights include readings by (among approximately 100 authors!) Annabel Lyon, WP Kinsella, Yasuko Thanh, Billie Livingston, Arthur Black, George Bowering, Brian Calvert & Chris Cannon (the Canada Party), Anakana Schofield, Kevin Chong, and George Murray (direct from Newfoundland!). Readers for children include Robert Heidbreder, Sylvia Olsen, Susin Nielsen, and Caroline Adderson.
David C. Jones will be the host of the Mainstage entertainment on the 30th featuring accordions, ukuleles, drumming, a poetry slam, and more.
And my favourite: Word Under the Street is happening again in the downstairs area of the library.
Word Under the Street features local alternative comic book artists and illustrated zine producers. This year there will be sessions with comic book artists such as Gord Hill and Sam Bradd, plus panels and workshops such as a “love letter” workshop with Ricepaper Magazine and a memoir writing workshop with Naomi Beth Waken.
If you’re near Carnegie Centre, WOTS has a chapbook-making workshop, a session on “how to do your best live reading” with Hal Wake, and ab open mic poetry night.
Did I mention it’s all FREE? More details are here http://www.thewordonthestreet.ca/vancouver.
The Word On The Street takes place in Vancouver, Toronto, Kitchener, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, and Halifax.
One more time ...
What: The Word On The Street Vancouver
When: Sept. 28-30, 2012
Where: Sept. 28—Banyen Books and Historic Joy Kogawa House (times tba)/ Sept. 29—Carnegie Centre (10 am to 9 pm)/ Sept. 30—in and around Library Square and CBC Plaza, Homer and Hamilton Streets between Robson and Georgia (11 am to 5 pm).
Posted by Monique at 09:15 AM.
Richard Ford is a writer who I’ve admired for decades. And, who wouldn’t be an admirer of this cliffhanger of an opener?
“First, I’ll tell you about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.”
I once met a woman after the tragic death of her husband and she said that she forgave the killer because her choice was to either let that event be the defining moment of her life or to continue living. I still don’t fully understand, but I think it’s what Ford is slowly unwinding in this epic story about how 15-year-old Dell Parson’s life is derailed by the bank robbery his parents commit.
Unlike in The Sportswriter, the first novel I read of Ford’s, each moment isn’t imbued with significance. Some things just happen and other things happen with meaning. The writing is more mature, but it’s also a slower pace so I’m not sure whether I liked Canada or whether I liked finishing Canada.
The novel is divided into three parts, and I found the first the most interesting as it sets up the bank robbery and immediate capture of Dell’s parents (it wasn’t exactly well thought out). The setting is Great Falls, Montana in the 1950s and Dell’s dad is a military man, then car salesman, then used car salesman, then ... a bit of an everything man. Each failure takes him closer and closer to committing a crime to get money, in the hopes that the cash can be used to pay people off.
The second part describes Dell’s family falling apart. Both parents are arrested. His twin sister runs away, and Dell is left to trust a family friend who is falling through on Dell’s mother’s plans to have both kids squirrelled away in Canada. Dell is left across the border in Canada with a mysterious American who’s running a bar/hotel and organizing hunting trips, among other things. But his shady past rears its ugly head and becomes just another in a series of unfortunate events that Dell has to extract himself from in order to survive on his own.
The third section reunites Dell with his long-lost twin sister Berner. She’s also in a dark place, and it’s interesting as a reader to think about twins, separated, and how they’ve lived their lives. In particular whether you let your parents’ robbery be the defining moment of your life or not. For Dell, I’d say it’s a significant moment but not the defining moment. He is more detached from the world than damaged by it, whereas Berner, who thought she was so grownup and above it all, is actually trapped by it.
Canada is a different type of Richard Ford so if you’re unfamiliar with his other works, then this one might seem like a masterpiece. For me, I couldn’t help but reflect on the writing I knew vs. the writing I had in front of me. Stylistically it’s wonderful, just not what I was expecting. There is a culmination of strength to this novel, which mirrors Dell’s growth from adolescences to adulthood. The novel is impressive but not one of my favourites.
Canada by Richard Ford
published by HarperCollins
Available on Amazon.ca
Posted by Monique at 08:17 AM.
Attention writers: The Telegraph-Journal, New Brunswick’s provincial daily newspaper ( http://www.telegraphjournal.com ) recently launched a new short fiction prize.
The Salon Fiction Prize, which opened July 7, is for a work of short fiction in English between 1500-3000 words. The winning piece will be published in an issue of the Telegraph-Journal’s art and culture section “Salon”, and the winning author will receive a prize of $1,000.
The trio of judges are from Atlantic Canadian universities: Thomas Hodd (University of Moncton); Alexander MacLeod (Saint Mary’s University); and Sue Goyette (Dalhousie University).
The contest is open to all residents of Canada. All entries must be unpublished material and not under consideration in any other contest of competition. Entries will not be returned, so keep a copy.
- Deadline: Entries must be received by Oct. 1, 2012.
- Entries must include a contact email and telephone number where the author may be contacted.
Posted by Monique at 10:35 AM.
Book Of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale was recommended to me by my friend Rachael. I was keen to read it because when I worked at Raincoast we had distributed some of Shannon Hale’s previous titles.
The story opens with Dashti becoming a maid to Lady Saren and promptly being locked up in a tower with her for seven years. Saren’s father, in a rage, has bricked her up into the tower because she has refused to marry an evil lord from a neighbouring realm. Instead she is in love with Tegas, a more gentle lord, and another neighbour.
This love is rather tenuous though and Lady Saren insists that Dashti speak to Tegas when he sneaks into the tower and knocks at their locked door. Of course, Dashti complies, falls in love with Tegas, has to fight for her safety when evil Lord Khasar later shows up at the door, fends for herself and Lady Saren when they manage to escape and then sets them up, under a disguise, in Tegas’ own household.
Dashti is a heroine in the classic sense and a terrier in a modern sense.
Hale’s tale is pulled from a long-forgotten Grimm’s tale, but she adds her own twists and interpretations. Overall it’s a great teen read, and good for adults looking for light fantasy and easy, compelling reading.