A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Haunted at Book City

I saw a copy of Haunted at the Beaches Book City in Toronto. Like any curious reader, I flipped to the short story “Guts.” I had a morbid fascination with what words could have caused crowds to faint, in particular the men.

“Guts” I discovered is about the foibles of masturbation, in particular the kind in which the male species engages. Halfway through the story it became clear to me why the men in the audience were affected. “Guts” unpacks all sorts of unwanted, nasty, mental images. It is the short of story urban legends are made of, a story where things get inappropriately stuck or sucked in graphic detail.

I stood while reading and when I felt a peculiar wobble in my knees and glanced ahead and saw the ominous words “corn and peanuts,” I shut the book. I prefer to be momentarily mortified rather than permanently haunted, thank you very much.

For background:
Here’s my first post on Haunted.

The Beauty of a List

There is something about a list that I am attracted to. I make a lot of lists, grocery lists, to do lists, books I want to read lists, movies I want to watch lists. Those are the banal lists that keep me going through the day, but the truly beautiful lists are the ones that draw me in, make me want to copy them down, make me laugh. Dave Letterman’s lists are an example but any top 10 list would do.

I’m not alone. There are all sorts of books of lists published: lists of quotations, trivia lists. Dictionaries are the ultimate lists.

Here’s the list I was drawn to yesterday:

Code blue: cardiac arrest
Code white: aggressive violent act
Code red: fire/smoke
Code yellow: missing patient
Code brown: hazardous spill
Code black: bomb threat
Code green: evacuation
Code orange: disaster/mass casuality
... code “can you guess where I was yesterday?”

Any other great lists out there?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Blogging BEC, The Good Stuff

Here are the fun things that happened at the show:

I met with GooglePrint. And I read today that Google has surpassed Time Warner Inc. as the media industry’s most valuable company. The market value of Google is $83.4-billion vs. Time Warner’s paltry $79.4-billion.

Michael Winter signed a copy of his novel The Big Why for me. There’s a paperback coming out soon and the cover looks awesome. I’m not a fan of the cloth cover. I really enjoyed Winter’s first book All This Happened, and The Big Why sounds promising. The first sentence is “I have been loved. I can say this. But back then, before it all went wrong, I did not know enough to consider the question.”

Do you have first sentences that draw you in, are your favourites? Covers and first sentence. That’s my hook.

I saw Joseph Boyden, who I played pool with last year but didn’t get a chance to speak to this year.

I got a copy of On Bullshit, which I love. It is oatmeal coloured with black type. Apparently there are 4 different colours. I’ve only ever seen the white and green one.

I saw Hayley Wickenheiser signing autographs at the show.

I went to dinner with friends and had an amazing pork tenderloin crusted with pine nuts and surrounded by apples. It was delicious, and James will tell you that I don’t like pork. It’s a thin slice between the pork I like and the pork I don’t.

I got to see the new logo for McClelland and Stewart. It is a chariot rider with a bow and arrow. The photo is of the M&S tattoo I have on my arm. Temporary tattoo, it wasn’t that kind of weekend. I’ll tell you the background story of the tattoo and logo later.

Aside from that I steered clear of the bargain-basement style hoarding of free books. Most people at the show are carting enormous book bags packed with titles they’ll never read and will likely abandon in their hotel. But there are also those who I admire, those who will be totally enthralled with your description of a book and will kindly tell you that they don’t want to take it now, but will watch for it. I prefer that approach, which leads me back to a previous post where I questioned why we do this show. According to everyone I asked, albeit it was a small but high-quality sampling, we do it because of the people. Buyers say they can’t do their job without the show. They need to make the personal, face-to-face contacts, and more important, they need to see what books we’re making a fuss about. Sometimes it isn’t clear that a title is huge until a book buyer is at the show, sees the blow-ups of the cover, the light boxes, everyone carrying around the advance copies. But mostly people just want to be around other book people, talking shop, networking and smoozing.

Blogging BEC, part 2

BookExpo Canada is finally over and I am now back at home. Fully reachable, back on the grid. There was no ring toss at our booth, but I did suggest a bean bag toss and feats of strength for next year.

Yesterday was a record clobbering day and this morning when I left my hotel at 7:30 it was already 33 C. The electricity strike didn’t seem to affect me, Hydro One does have people on strike, but the actual use of electricity, or lack of, did affected me. Yesterday the show closed and the exhibitors stayed to tear down the booths and pack up books. As soon as the fair was officially closed, the convention centre turned off the lights and the air conditioning. What you need to picture here is a bunch of publishing folks in their trade show outfits doing manual labour—actual lifting of boxes, not just the cushy standing around stuff—without air conditioning. When I returned to my hotel, I could barely strip my clothes off. My pants stuck to me in ways that are truly unmentionable.

I suppose for the sake of the environment I should feel proud of my non-air-conditioning moments. Monday Ontario folks set a record for air conditioner use, driving electricity demand to 26,157 megawatts per hour at the peak, according to the Globe and Mail. Apparently if the use isn’t curbed, Hydro One may be forced to reduce demand by causing short blackouts. The greater concern is likely that the increased demand forces them to import expensive hydro from neighbouring provinces and sates.

So it was a triple threat kind of day Saturday: heat alert, smog alert, thunderstorm alert. The rest of the time it was just the smog and heat. Did you know that smog is SMoke and OxyGen? I did not know this.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Blogging BEC

I think my cheeks are frozen. And my feet are on fire.

Yesterday was the first day of BookExpo Canada. Today is the second day. Today it is 23 C and it is only 8:30. I think it is also 23 C in the Conference Hall. I walked here because I missed the shuttle. My stupid fault. I wanted breakfast from the grocery store instead of cold eggs from the hotel. So I walked. My grown-up clothes are black. All black. Did I mention it is 23 C. I think my core temperature is well above 23 C.

So what did I do yesterday? Mostly I smiled. That’s why my cheeks are frozen. I also wandered around to see what other publishers are doing for Fall. I talked to the fine folks at Princeton University Press, and I’m now wearing my “I’m full of bullshit” button. I also have an 8th edition printing of the book ON BULLSHIT. I love it and have given it out as birthday presents. It’s a little academic essay on bullshit and the difference between bullshit and lies. Liars apparently believe in some sort of truth whereas bullshitters believe they are telling a form of the truth. I’m also reading Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars. I’d rather think of myself as a bullshitter rather than a liar. But I’ll have to finish the book.

It’s 9 bells now, another day begins, another smile, another case of frozen cheeks. Wish me well.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Off the Grid in Toronto

I’m off the grid. No laptop, no cellphone, at large and unreachable. It is kind of fun, yet forces me to mooch laptop time and find quarters for the telephone. Totally old school.

This is the second time I’ve typed this post. I’m using a laptop that randomly hits the enter key, which means it randomly lost my first attempt at this post. Like the iPod Shuffle, life is random.

So the first time I typed this I wrote about Hanif, the friendly neighbourhood convenience store owner who is an endless source of information about the transit system. I also wrote about how every time I’m in Toronto someone is on strike. It’s the taxis this time. And it is rumoured the electric company might strike. All entertaining in an inconvenient way.

That’s all you get, I’m less enthusiastic the second time around, but damn it was a good original post.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

BookExpo Canada

I’m preparing to go to Toronto next week for BookExpo Canada (BEC). What is BEC? Well, it’s the Canadian version of BEA, BookExpo America. I know, clever name. Anyway, BEC is a book convention. Canadian publishers gather in the convention centre, they have booths, and booth parties, and in the booths are typically sales and marketing folks who talk to booksellers and media about the upcoming season and the fantastic books on the list.

Why do we do this? Some publishers offer discounts on book orders at the show, but in recent years the number of book orders taken at the show has dropped off. It’s not really the purpose of the show. Ok, so what is the purpose? Authors often attend and sign books for booksellers, who already love or know about the author. Signings for unheard of authors don’t draw a crowd so publishers have stopped inviting unknown authors. Unpublished authors sometimes come and try to meet the editors and pass off a manuscript, but generally the editors don’t come or don’t want to carry around manuscripts, which eventually get lost in the booth anyway. So why, why do we spend the money every year to participate in this event? I’m not sure, but I’m going to start asking people who might know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Googling Down Memory Lane—“These Perogies” my Untitled Story in The Manitoban

I was having a poke and stroll through the Google listings for my name the other day. I’m trying to figure out what keywords I want to use to optimize my site. And yes, that turned into a bit of vanity searching. What I discovered was a story I’d written for the Manitoban, the University of Manitoba Student Newspaper. Published in the literary supplement, January 21, 1998 was the following story:

“These perogies. These are the best perogies. Not like those store bought perogies. Those perogies look like they’ve been chewed on. Chewed on by rats. Look at how nice the corners of my perogies look. Smooth, fold edges - no rat edges here.”

I had mentioned that I had perogies for dinner last night. “My perogies,” she’d said. “Boughten,” I’d replied. Now her huge flower-printed frame was lumbering around the kitchen gathering and mashing, blending and mixing the perfect ingredients for her perogies. In Ukrainian, she reminded me that, “these perogies, these are the best perogies.”

Her glasses kept slipping off her nose from the sweat caused by sudden activity. Imagine, my grandmother, who sits for hours engulfed by the lazy boy, enraptured in her soap operas, had abandoned Young and the Restless, which she calls Young and the Rest of Us, not at a commercial break, but in the middle of an affair, where at any moment a secret could be told. All of this, just to make me perogies. To remind me that, these perogies, these are the best perogies. Not store bought, not my mother’s, who had to learn from her, and not mine who weren’t learned from anyone but made in a machine, sealed in plastic and microwaved for convenience sake - not to mention chewed on by rats.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Marketers and High-Tech Tools

As if there aren’t enough things messing with my brain, the CBC reported this morning that marketers are trying high-tech tools to push the brain’s “buy button.” Now that’s invasive marketing.

Full story CBC.

And why do marketers need high-tech tools? Perhaps they are not as creative as Tod Maffin. Darren Barefoot is reporting that bloggers and podcasters can get a 30% discount from the CBC Online Store. Now that is pushing my buy button.

Visit Darrenbarefoot.com for the coupon code.

Alice Munro Was in My Car

Alice Munro has been in the back of my car for a couple of months now, and today she finally left.

Ok, it wasn’t actually Alice Munro, it was a huge banner for Alice Munro’s book Runaway. I kind of liked having Alice rolling around in the back of my car, but it certainly pissed off James. I don’t think he’s a fan, but then again, she was always getting in his way. “When is this leaving?” he’d say, not so much with a question mark, more with an exclamation.

My problem was only partly procrastination. I was going to take her to the library, but then I thought, the paperback is coming out and wouldn’t it be great to give Alice to a bookstore.

So Alice has return to her natural habitat, and now my car, and my heart, are empty without her.

Friday, June 10, 2005

You’ve got to have guts to listen to Chuck Palahniuk’s “Guts”

So far 67 attendees at Chuck Palahniuk’s book readings have fainted. They all did not attend the same reading, there’s no chicken salad food poisoning or stuffy room syndrome that can account for the dropping of audience members. And it’s not just the ladies.

Portland, Oregon: 2 men faint
Borders: 2 faint, man and woman
Seattle: 2 more men faint
San Francisco: 3 more people faint
Berkeley: 3 more [apparently the words “corn and peanuts” were particularly horrifying.]
Beverly Hills library, Los Angeles: woman’s husband faints, in the men’s bathroom another man faints and cracks his head on the sink
Columbia University: 2 students fall victim to Palahniuk’s prose
Leeds and Cambridge, Britain: more fainters ...

67 people so far have fainted at readings of Chuck Palahniuk’s short story “Guts.”

Palahniuk says in a Telegraph article:

My goal was to write a new form of horror story, something based on the ordinary world, without supernatural monsters or magic. Guts, and the book that contained it, would be a trapdoor down into some place dark. A place only you could go, alone. Only books have that power.

Apparently carrots, candles, swimming pools, microwave popcorn and bowling balls are also involved, but as far as we know, not as faint-inducing as corn and peanuts.

The story is included in Palahniuk’s new novel Haunted. I suggest reading it with a medical attendant standing by.



Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mobilivre-Bookmobile Project

On June 11th (4pm-10pm), Seamrippers craft collective will be hosting the MOBILIVRE-BOOKMOBILE Project at their space: the pink door at 436 West Pender, Vancouver. (Also the closing day for Seamrippers’ Mini Book Show.)

Mobilivre-Bookmobile Info, http://www.mobilivre.org

Project Mobilivre-Bookmobile explores the tradition of the travelling library; you know, the book van that used to come down all the rural routes? If you don’t, this is the coolest bookmobile I’ve ever seen.

The Bookmobile is a vintage 1959 Airstream.

[UPDATE: I’m having trouble with the root for this image. Have a look at the mobilivre.org site.]

The MOBILIVRE-BOOKMOBILE project is based primarily in Montreal, Canada and Philadelphia, USA. This is the fifth year of the touring exhibition of artist books, zines and independent publications.

The BOOKMOBILE visits a variety of venues in Canada and the US including community centres, schools, libraries, festivals, artist-run centres, and galleries.

Also Seamrippers is its own damn cool place.
436 West Pender, 604.689.SEAM (7326)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

OS X: Life is Different

James and I entered the world of OS X this weekend. Life is different.

I’m not good at the initial discovery stage, in technology anyway. I like someone who knows what they are doing to show me around, then I’m happy to go off exploring. My first impressions of OS X is that it is not intuitive in the ways I expect it to be and sometimes it is dumb.

Things I don’t like but know I’ll get used to:
I dislike that the sleep, restart, shut down has moved from the right-hand side to the Apple menu.
I dislike that I have no idea what application are running, where do you see that now? How do I switch from one app. to the other? [Wow, I just discovered the little triangles. Ok, but I hate the dashboard, can it go away and only be viewable when you want it? I’m sure it can. I must find that preference.]
I dislike that our monitor goes black with the words “No Input”. It seems this is the sleep mode, but the computer is actually active so why the blank? I don’t know yet.
I dislike the windows. I haven’t figured out yet the logic of where things are. When you double click on the hard drive, you get a left-hand column, then the next column shows the folders in the hard drive. Ok, what the hell are the things in the left-hand column. There’s an applications folder here, but also one in the harddrive folder. There’s the stupid house icon “James” (see below “Things I’ll always hate”), a documents folder (where does that live?), Movies, Music and Pictures.
When I put my music in the Music folder, it wasn’t accessible from iTunes. Sometimes computers make me feel dumb.

Things I’ll always hate:
On set up you define a user. James and I share the computer but I put his name as our first user. That made him Administrator, with a shortname of James. When we realized that we don’t want to be separate users, just one user, we also realized that you can never change the shortname for the Admin person. That really sucks. And why can’t you change it? You can change the user name and password. Our computer is forever James. And there’s a stupid house icon that I don’t understand.
I hate that when we started up the mini, it didn’t have Tiger already installed.

I’ll have to check in after a couple of weeks and see if I still hate these things.

Oh, and we swapped the cube for the mini. Life is different. Smaller anyway, and we have less cash.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Body Knows—BookLust, Russian airplanes and English Professors

Patricia at BookLust was flyin’ hi a couple of days ago and posted a cartoon and commentary about her most recent fear-inspired, drug-induced flying experience. Fear-inspired is modifying drug-induced. [Patricia, if you’re reading this skip the next paragraph.]

I like flying, in fact I used to skydive, but last year on a Russian airplane from Havana to Cayo Largo del Sur, I truly thought I was going to meet my end. I should have known when the booking agent asked if I was British. Apparently Brits are not allowed to fly on rusty Russian aircraft. Canadians? We’re cool with that. The 2 stewards sat on a metal folding chair at the back of the plane during take off. Well, one sat on the chair, the other sat on the lap of the chair-sitter. Twenty minutes into the flight the entire cabin filled with smoke. The stewards passed around candies. As one of 3 English-speakers on the flight, I tried to ascertain whether we were going to die. I speak ok Spanish, but the only answer I could get was don’t worry. The Italians looked worried, and the Germans were looking for the Emergency Exits. I practiced the crash position and my Hail Mary—I figured we were in a Catholic country, it couldn’t be bad to send a memo up to Himself. Turns out it was a malfunctioning air conditioner and I had to get back on for the return flight 8 hours later.

I had an English professor once who hated flying. His theory was that the human body was not meant to fly, and that airports use clever devices so that the body doesn’t know it’s going in the air. For example, you walk down a corridor, sit in a lounge, walk down another corridor and sit in the plane. You don’t really see the plane unless you purposely look out the window. There’s a baggie around the end of the corridor and the door of the plane—look, you’re not going anywhere, just down a different corridor.

“But,” he’d say. “The body knows.”

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Sponsorship Scandal

Yesterday was a big day for the sponsorship scandal. Its first convicted criminal. 18 counts of fraud, 3 withdrawn. Ottawa defrauded of $1.5-million.

The interesting thing is that the Globe and Mail notes “making financial amends won’t necessarily mean that he [Coffin] will stay out of jail.” I’m particularly curious about the “necessarily”. Is that an option? You can buy your way out of criminal status these days?

Here’s a list of conveniently appropriate Latin phrases for yesterday’s political news:
caveat emptor: let the buyer beware
in flagrante delicto: in the act of commiting a crime
persona non grata: an unwelcome person
post mortem: after death
pro bono: done without charge
quid pro quo: something for something
vox populi: the voice of the people

Reclaim your Latin. Try out a phrase.