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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Fame Us Event Tonight at Snap Contemporary Art


SNAP CONTEMPORARY ART and Arsenal Pulp Press are celebrating the book launch of

Celebrity Impersonators and the Cult(ure) of Fame
by Brian Howell

** It’s tonight **

Thursday, November 29
From 6-11 pm

Snap Contemporary Art will exhibit 21 of Brian Howell’s limited edition photos and Arsenal Pulp Press will sell signed copies of the book.

I’ll be there enjoying the music, cocktails and surprise celebrity guests. Maybe I’ll get some autographs.

190 West 3rd Ave. (near Columbia St. and 3rd Ave—close to Cambie St. bridge)

JK Rowling Is Worth 1 Billion Dollars

JK Rowling is 41 years old and worth $1 billion.

She’s the only woman and author on Forbes ‘U.K.‘s Billionaires’ list.

This seems like an extraordinary amount of money.

On the one hand it’s fantastic that a book author has such fame. It’s sad that she’s the only woman. What’s with all the rich dudes?

On the other hand there appears to be weird human nature that takes over when someone gets that rich.

I wonder if Malcolm Gladwell has written about the tipping point for wealth and fandom support? Is there a point where fans start to negatively react to the wealth they’ve amassed for someone else? Is this what happened to Microsoft?

A Green Christmas

imageI just discovered Leah Ingram’s blog, The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal). Leah’s profile is great, she says “Most mothers teach their kids to cook and clean. Mine taught me to compost. These days we’re trying to live a green and frugal lifestyle while I write books and magazine articles.”

The post I came across was on planning for a green Christmas.

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas reports the findings of the 2007 Cone Holiday Environmental Study, in particular that 55% of the Americans surveyed say they proactively seek opportunities to buy green gifts and products around the holidays.

Are you doing anything green this Christmas?

Anyone making their own wrapping paper?

Got an energy-efficient gift idea?

Here’s the Green Guide Toy Report.

Want to know if your tree should be fake, cut, plastic? Check out Earth 911.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Book Review: Soucouyant by David Chariandy

Soucouyant is a novel about memory by Vancouver author David Chariandy. Soucouyant is Chariandy’s first novel, but I suspect that it’s his first published novel. I imagine he has a trunk full of manuscripts and journals chock full of notations about characters.

Soucouyant was shortlisted for the 2007 Governor General’‘s Literary Award and longlisted for the 2007 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Award nominations don’t normally impress me but to have two nominations for the top Canadian prizes and to be a first-time author—that’s impressive.

There’s good reason for the nominations. The novel is a twisting plot of memory fragments. Adele is suffering from dementia, she is near the end of her life and her son has returned home to care for her. The fragments of memory that tell the story are those of Adele’s childhood in Trinidad during the Second World War, of the son’s childhood in Ontario, in a house near the Scarborough Bluffs, and of both characters’ present day experiences.

The memories that comprise the whole are about discord, displacement and distance. The discord appears in stories of racism and classism that the characters suffer. The displacement is the us vs. them, the plight of immigrants, the settling in that never quite happens for this family. And the distance is that which they create between themselves. The mother’s dementia distances her mentally from the present, the father dies, which pulls the family slightly apart, the oldest son leaves home to become a poet, the youngest also flees but later returns, only to distance himself again by being emotionally guarded.

Quill and Quire did not give the book a great review, although the reviewer Dory Cerny certainly agreed that it was worth reading.

The Tyee does a much better job of getting in touch with the plotlines Chariandy is experimenting with. I highly recommend checking out what The Tyee has to say on this one. It’s a great interview with David Chariandy.

Soucoyant by David Chariandy is published by Arsenal Pulp Press, a great Vancouver publisher. If you want more about David, check out CBC Words at Large.

And, I thought the book was great. It would be an interesting book club pick because the writing is strong and the story provides ample topics to discuss. It reminded me a little bit of At the Full and Change of the Moon by Dionne Brand.

Michael Ondaatje Wins the Governor General’s Literary Award

Author Michael Ondaatje won the Governor General’s Literary Award today for his novel Divisadero.

CBC has a brief report on the award and Ondaatje’s previous wins and nominations.

In June, I reviewed Divisadero by Michael Ondattje. I liked the book, but I was more enthralled by the second half of the story than the first. The first is a modern-day love story and the second is a historical love story. The historical one is written with the same magic that he brought to The English Patient. My full review is here.

And if you want sound instead of text, publisher McClelland & Stewart has a podcast of Ondaatje on BookLounge.ca.

The full list of the Governor General’s award winners for all 14 categories are available on the Canada Council website but I have a short call out to Iain Lawrence of Gabriola Island, BC, who won the English-language children’s literature award for his book Gemini Summer. A local hat’s off.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Waiting for the Sony Book Reader? Forget About It! Amazon Launches Kindle

Remember that Sony Book Reader that was supposed to be all the rage and never actually appeared in the Canadian market?

Well, forget about it.

Amazon launched Kindle, a wireless, portable reading device with access to 90,000 titles.

Hmmm, is this how publishers’ Search Inside the Book files are now being used? I bet it is.

Kindle looks ugly but sounds lovely.

* wireless, no internet needed, it uses cell phone networks
* no monthly plan, no software to install, nothing but go
* electronic paper
* can receive emails from you of Word documents and pictures for “easy on-the-go viewing”
* 10 ounces

What’s wrong with it?

* Did I mention ugly?
* How about that it only holds 200 titles and is $400 USD.
* 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 4-level gray scale. GRAY! Can we have some colour please. Why is that so hard?

Scroll to the bottom of the page to watch the Kindle Drop Test. It’s rather soothing, slow-mo.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball is mentioned by Paschal in the comments of this post. It’s a good post on why Kindle will/should fail. Here are a couple of quotes that resonate with me.

What it comes down to is that when you purchase books in Kindle’s e-book format, they’re wrapped in DRM and are in a format that no other software can read. There are no provisions for sharing books even with other Kindle owners, let alone with everyone.


So the Kindle proposition is this: You pay for downloadable books that can’t be printed, can’t be shared, and can’t be displayed on any device other than Amazon’s own $400 reader — and whether they’re readable at all in the future is solely at Amazon’s discretion. That’s no way to build a library.

Totally agree.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Book Preview: The Dirt on Clean by Katherine Ashenburg

imageCanadian author.

Dirt on Clean by Katherine AshenburgI like to review a book after I’ve read it. I hope that’s a standard course of action for most reviewers. The problem is that I have a full-time job, which means that you are left to the whims of my schedule and reading habits, and this particular book cannot be washed away or soaked too long.

Katherine Ashenburg, author of The Mourner’s Dance, has published a new book with Knopf Canada, The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History.

As a cautionary sort with germs, I’ve often reflected on the origins of my cleanliness. It’s the fault of my mother and uncle. As a school kid, I came home for lunch. My mother, like all good mothers, would tell me to wash my hands. I’d run upstairs, turn the tap on, play with my hair, turn the tap off and run downstairs for my lunch. Notice there was no hand washing.

My uncle was a regular lunchtime guest. He was studying science at the university and one day brought along some books for me inspect. Science books. Science books, full of microscope photos of germs. Germs on your hands. Germs in your snot. Germs on school tables and door knobs.

I was a princessy girly-girl. I barely liked fuzzy caterpillars.

From then on I scoured my hands raw.

Did I mention that I was a child of extremes?

Katherine Ashenburg can relate to my experience. In the introduction of The Dirt on Clean, she talks about standards of hygiene reaching absurd levels in the late 50s and early 60s.

The idea of a body ready to betray me at any turn filled the magazine ads I pored over in Seventeen and in Mademoiselle ... A long-running series of cartoon-style ads for Kotex sanitary napkins alerted me to the impressive horrors of menstrual blood, which apparently could announce its presence to an entire high school.

Oh, the hysteria. Imagine smelling offensive and not even knowing!

The Dirt on Clean is a history of cleanliness from a Western perspective, and what I like is Katherine’s writing style. She’s chatty yet thorough, gossipy yet respectful. She shares, for example, without naming names, some of the stories people confess about their own overly enthusiastic cleaning rituals or, more frequently, their avoidance of soap and water.

In the closing paragraph of the introduction, Katherine refers to Benjamin Franklin, who said that to understand the people of a country, he needed only to visit its graveyards.

Katherine says, “show me a people’s bathhouses and bathrooms, and I will show you what they desire, what they ignore, sometimes what they fear—and a significant part of who they are.”

So what smell are you? Mango, vanilla, smoke and sweat?

What would Katherine find in your bathroom that would betray your true colours (or smells).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Today Is My Birthday


How old?
Sara says I’m thirty-wahoo.

That bunny was my favourite toy. A puppet.

Bernidy the Bunny. He was always getting me into trouble. Stupid bunny.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Comment Spam

I turned on comment moderation so I can sort out some spam bots that are being soooo misguided.

Sorry for any inconvenience. I’ll try to be a timely moderator.


Dear Rockers, I’m Paying You Back

Darren Barefoot strikes again.

Darren has created a site DearRockers.org for paying back musicians—in particular the musicians whose music we download and don’t pay for. I can’t imagine who these people are!

Here’s how it works:

1. Pick a musician
2. Write them a letter
3. Scan or photograph the letter and send it to Dearrockers.org
4. Mail your letter with 5 bucks
5. Enjoy your new, guilt-free life

Here’s my letter to Wolf Parade.

Dear Wolf Parade

Dear Wolf Parade,
Your tunes are awesome!!!

I don’t have any apologies to the Queen Mary but maybe an apology to you. I like your music so much that I am willing to go to any means to get it. So for any songs I might or may download free ...

Here are a couple of Queens.

I’ll send a fiver instead of coins. But there’s a dude on the $5, which means my Queen reference doesn’t work. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

National No-Writing Month

In response to the frenzied activities of those participating in the US National Novel Writing competition, where contestants endeavour to write a book in a month,  Peter L. Winkler has launched National No Writing Month.

What do you have to do?


Well, at least no writing. In particular, avoid any fiction writing.

To help you, Winkler is going to blog about not writing. Enlighten Yourself Here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Memory Festival on Remembrance Day


Memory Festival Launch Party

Remembrance Day
Sunday, Nov 11, 1-4 pm
Listel Hotel, 1300 Robson St, Vancouver
Free admission

The Memory Festival is a free-floating series of public events focussed on public and private memory, and the questions that surround acts of memory and forgetting.

imageVancouver book designer and writer Barbara Hodgson, whose collage appears above, is appearing at the Festival with slides from her new book Trading in Memories, http://www.tradinginmemories.com.

Trading in Memories is Barbara Hodgson’s collage of souvenirs and travel stories from around the world. These are not your ordinary souvenirs. The photos, illustrations and travel anecdotes are about lost and found art picked up off the street, treasures discovered at flea markets and documents uncovered from between the pages of other finds.

(Work Industries created the website for the book. Yes, I’m bias but I think the book is gorgeous. Look inside the book.)

But the event isn’t just about Barbara, other special guests presenting readings, slide shows, exhibits and salubrious conversation include:

* Stephen Osborne, writer
* Faith Moosang, artist
* John Paskievich, photographer
* Dan Francis, historian
* Mary Schendlinger, writer
* Goran Basaric, photographer
* Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, artist
* Sandra Shields, writer
* Jamie Long, playwright,
* Craig Hall, actor
* David Campion, photographer
* Katherine McManus, university administrator
* Anne Grant, photographer

Join the party and share your memories.


Reminder: Writing.Wise

I’m going to be in Winnipeg, but I wanted to remind you about Writing.Wise.

Writing.Wise is an event for writers in the greater Vancouver area, organized by STC Canada West Coast, Vancouver Comicon, SFU Writing & Publishing, The Shebeen Club, FrogHeart Communications and Masters of Digital Media.

Sign up and join a lively discussion about stories and narrative in games, comic books, new media, books (fiction and non fiction), and song.

When: Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Time: 6:30pm to 10:30pm

Where:  Radha Yoga and Eatery, 728 Main St., above the Brickhouse Bar

Cost: Members of CWC STC and event partners: $15; Non-members: $20

Register online: click here

About the panelists

Kaare Andrews is a writer and artist who’s worked on comic books such as the Incredible Hulk, Ultimate X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, Gen13 and the Matrix. He won “Outstanding Comic Book Artist” at the Joe Shuster Awards in 2005. As a filmmaker, he’s directed a number of award-winning short films and as a designer of album covers, he worked on Tegan and Sara’s 2002 album, “:If it was you,” amongst others.

Mira Sundara Rajan, is a musician, author of “Copyright and Creative Freedom,” and the Canada Research Chair in Intellectual Property Law at the University of British Columbia. With a great grandfather who was exiled from British India then welcomed back and lauded as a national poet whose copyright was later nationalized, Sundara Rajan has a compelling story where copyright is concerned.

Sue Thomas, a UK expert in new media, is the author of the book “Hello World travels in virtuality” and others. A literary advisor to the British Council and the Electronic Literature Organization, she is the program leader for the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University. Her students collaborated with Penguin Books on ‘A Million Penguins’. She’ll explain how that blockbusting experimental wikinovel produced some surprising results.

Shari Ulrich recently released her latest solo album. A member of the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame, a Juno award winner, and a fixture on the Vancouver music scene, Ulrich has performed with Pied Pumkin, Ulrich Henderson Forbes, and Valdy & the Hometown Band. When she’s in town, Ulrich teaches songwriting locally.

Ian Verchere is known as the developer of over 30 game titles including two million-selling titles for Electronic Arts, SSX Tricky and NBA Street V2. Add his classic, best-selling Beavis and Butthead game on Sega Genesis for MTV and signing an exclusive worldwide deal in 1998 to bring Jackie Chan, an internationally renowned action star, into the world of video games and you might conclude that he’s a one trick pony. Well, he’s also been a business man, a founder of Radical Entertainment; an author, “V0N 1B0; General Delivery, Whistler, BC; a creative consultant for Roald Dahl’s literary estate, and a scriptwriter (with Douglas Coupland) who’s sold his work to Disney.

About the moderator
kc dyer is the author of four contemporary and historical young adult novels which have been published in Canada, the US, the UK, and Thailand. She’s also had a short story “Swim” included in, “SHORELINES: A Millennium Anthology” published by the North Shore Writers’ Association. The conference and the writing contest coordinator for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, dyer is a skilled, capable moderator with experience in, and opinions on, all aspects of the writing scene.

For more event updates, check out the writing.wise blog

Register online: click here

Remember, students of technical communication qualify for the member rate of $15.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Library Thing

Ok I finally joined LibraryThing.com. It’s awesome. I did not think I would enjoy documenting the books in my library, which I’m still doubting will be a fun process. What I do like is that it automatically imported all my reviews on Amazon Listmania. How cool is that?

Next up widgets for the blog.

Anyone else on Library Thing? What features should I know about?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Elizabeth Hay Wins the Giller Prize

Congratulations to Elizabeth Hay who won this year’s Giller Prize.

Read what CBC has to say.

Her novel Late Nights on Air is set in a small northern town at the the local radio station. It sounds like a comical book and it’s on my reading list.

At the moment though I’m reading another Giller nominee (on the longlist) and a Governor General’s nominee (on the shortlist). It’s Soucouyant by David Chariandy.

This is a novel about forgetting and remembering. The narrator returns to his childhood home to help his aging mother through dementia. It could become sad and dark, but I find it very funny (and revealing).

It’s been a long day, that’s all I’ve got right now. Goodnight all.

Elizabeth Hay, Late Nights on Air, on McClelland.com