The idea of this blog is to facilitate the love of reading by collecting news about new books, or sometimes good old books. It is also dedicated to stamping out the scourge of e-books, Kindles, Kobo's, i-Pads, and all other such abominations.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Two BC Writers on Giller Longlist

Two BC authors appear on this year's Giller Longlist, just released. David Chariandry, who is listed for his first novel, Soucouyant (Arsenal), is a lecturer at Simon Fraser University. Claire Mulligan, who is listed for her rollicking tale of the BC gold rush, The Reckoning of Boston Jim, lives in the US now but came originally from BC.

2007 long list includes:
David Chariandy, Soucouyant.
Sharon English, Zero Gravity.
Barbara Gowdy, Helpless.
Elizabeth Hay, Late Nights on Air.
Lawrence Hill, The Book of Negroes.
Paulette Jiles, Stormy Weather.
D.R. MacDonald, Lauchlin of the Bad Heart.
Claire Mulligan,The Reckoning of Boston Jim.
Mary Novik, Conceit.
Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero.
Daniel Poliquin, A Secret Between Us.
M.G. Vassanji, The Assassin's Song.
Michael Winter, The Architects Are Here.
Richard Wright, October.
Alissa York, Effigy.
Author and 2005 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner David Bergen, writer Camilla Gibb, and poet and artist Lorna Goodison are the 2007 jury.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cam Stirs the Pot

Our dearly beloved Nanaimo-bred author Anne Cameron, now of Tahsis, has struck some sparks (No! Not Cam! Shocking!) by announcing in BC Bookworld's 20th Anniversary issue that "For me, the Bookstore on Bastion Street was the best damned bookstore in the country and did far more for writers in B.C. than Malaspina College, which should get the spud-butt award for the spread of illiteracy in thisprovince. They, and some other colleges and universities, have acted as ifthe printed word was dinosaur dung..."

This has elicited a query from a defender of Malaspina to the effect, "Will you tell me why you think this of Malaspina?"

To which the mild-mannered author replies: "Sir:For absolute years I made sure Malaspina College knew the Canada Council would pay writers to give readings, workshops, etc., and for absolute years if it hadn't been for The Bookstore On Bastion Street there wouldn't have been a Canadian writer doing anything at all in Nanaimo.Malaspina College has done amazingly little to recognize the writers in the region, on this Island, on this coast or in this province.At a time when JACK HODGINS, one of the finest Canadian novelists, was teaching at NDSS, Malaspina College could not seem to find time, or interest, to have him do a reading.I have done one reading at Mal Col. in more than twenty years.I don't actually think Malaspina College deserves the Spud Butt award. I don't think it deserves any awards at all."

So what do you think, dear readers? With all due respect, Cam has not been around the Malaspina campus much recently, and perhaps things have changed from the era she references. We would like to think so. But the question is fair: has our local u done its part to recognize and nurture local lit?

And dare we ask what the Spud-Butt award is?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sally Vickers, Dede Crane, James Lasdun, Jonathan Harr and a Magical Experience

Hi Raincoaster:

I think we may need to hear more about The Forsythe Saga--I suspect I missed out on it along the way. I do agree with you about Bill Gaston--he is very special--more about that later.

I walked into the Vancouver Public Library in July. I spent a good deal of my time in Vancouver at the Library wondering how to approach writing a blog. On the way to my favorite corner, I passed by the New Book Shelf and found an old friend, Sally Vickers,
in the form of her new novel The Other Side of You. A few years ago just as we were about to leave for Venice, I discovered Miss Garnet's Angel and I loved it. Because we don't have interlog yet (interlibrary borrowing), I stashed the book and returned to read it the next day. Alas, I had barely begun before we had to return to Nanaimo. , I immediately ordered it from the Vancouver Island Regional Library. It has arrived and not only have I read it but I have had the magical experience of reading it in conjunction with three other books that build one upon the other.

Sometime ago, I talked about The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr. This is the mesmerizing tale of the discovery of a Caravaggio painting, The Taking of Christ, that had been missing for over 200 years. Harr introduced me to Carvaggio and his life.
Caravaggio and many of his works particularly the "Emmaus" paintings as well as "David" and others are at the centre of The Other Side of You by Sally Vickers. It's astonishing how Vickers has brought Caravaggio to life.
David McBride, a psychiatrist, has as his patient Elizabeth Cruickshank. Elizabeth is suicidal and non-communicative. It is only when she mentions Caravaggio that McBride finds a way to interact with her and discover her great loss. McBride is also haunted by death. As a youngster, he witnessed the death of his six-year old brother and has carried the emotional baggage all his life. It is through the remarkable Thomas Carrington, an art historian, that Carvaggio's paintings and their meanings come alive for the characters in the book and for the reader. Vickers explores the power of art, passion, love and truth. As an added bonus she sets much of the book in Rome where we accompany her characters as they experiencence the art, sculpture and history of this glorious city.

I was reminded of Dede Crane's splendid book Sympathy just released this year. At the heart of this story is the relationship between a physician Dr. Michael Myatt and Kerry Taylor, a severly damaged woman. Kerry's life is shattered when her husband and son are killed in an automobile accident. Kerry, a retired ballet dancer, is in a catatonic state. Dr. Myatt's therapy is considered controversial and some of his colleagues are suspicious of his methods of treatment but his work has produced positive results. Myatt has much to learn about his life as he comes to terms with a childhood trauma that puts him at risk. In addition to dealing with the death of her husband and son, Kerry has to work through a difficult mother-daughter relationship. It is in a diary to her great friend Hugo, former dancing partner, that we learn about Kerry's life and her struggles.
Crane has peopled her book with wonderful characters; the belligerent Marcus, Johnny B, the victim of a terrible anxiety, and obsessed with Kerry, and Norma who is grieving the death of her daughter from breast cancer.
This is a story about the relationship between the mind and the body and how the wisdom of the body can aid in the healing of the mind. Crane's intimate knowledge of the world of dance informs the book and its structure. As in Sally Vicker's book, as both doctor and patient became aware of hidden secrets they are better able to heal. Dede Crane writes with humour and compassion.

In the midst of all this reading, the library called to let me know that Seven Lies by James
Lasdun had arrived. The book has had wonderful reviews and is on the Booker Prize long list.
What a startling contrast to all of the above. The title is taken from a quote by Martin Luther
"Every lie must begat seven more lies if it is to resemble the truth and adopt truth's aura."
Stefan Vogel grows up in East Germany. As a very young man he finds himself in a situation where the first lie takes hold. He longs to live in America and fantasizes about what his life might become. Through a series of dangerous maneuvers, he realizes his dream and makes his way to America with the wife he adores. His life begins to unravel when secrets he thought were locked away behind the Berlin Wall surface after the Wall comes down. Most of my favorite novels are ones in which I can find at least one character I like. This is not that kind of book, but it is deeply engaging. Just as Sally Vickers' The Other Side of You is concerned with finding
truth, Seven Lies, is about the destruction of a human being when lie builds upon lie.

It's not often that the books I read at any one time, build so beautifully on one another.
I have found that I have become preoccupied with how the stories compliment one another.
When that happens for me it's magical.

This blog began with " a woman walked into the library-- In the new Martha Grimes
"a man walked into a pub" but that's for another day.

The Lost Painting Jonathan Harr available in paperback this fall
The Other Side of You Sally Vickers harcover available from the library
Sympathy Dede Crane paperback available now
Seven Lies James Lasdun hardcover available from the library

Nanaimo Celebrates with its Authors

Over 100 people turned out for a celebration of Grandparent's Day with a reading by
Carol Matthews from her new book The First Three Years of a Grandmother's Life.
Rick Scott opened the afternoon with his song "Grandma". The reading ended with a standing ovation for Carol. If you were up and about at 7:00 a.m., you may have heard Sheryl McKay's interview with Carol on CBC.
Some of the proceeds of the book sales will benefit the work of Adrianne Dartnell and Rick Lennert who spend several months each year working in Cambodia and other South-east Asia countries building shelters and supporting women and children.
To order the book contact:

Carol Matthews
102 Pirates Lane
Nanaimo, B. C. V9R 6R1
Book cost 15.95
Postage 1.75

Total 17.70

Nanaimo writer Carol Windley on the long list for the Giller Prize

For the first time the Giller Prize jury has released the long list.. There is great cause for rejoicing in Nanaimo --Carol Windley's book Home Schooling, one of the 15 books selected, is a collection of short stories published by Cormorant Press. It is interesting to note that 7 of the titles are published by Canadian literary presses.

Carol Windley Home Schooling
David Adams Richards The Friends of Meager Fortune
Caroline Adderson Pleased to Meet You
Todd Babiak The Garneau Block
Randy Boyagoda Governor of the Northern Province
Douglas Coupland jPod
Alan Cumyn The Famished Lover
Rawi Hage DeNiro's Game
Kenneth J Harvey Inside
Wayne Johnstson The Custodian of Paradise
Vincent Lam Bloodletting and other Cures
Annette Lapointe Stolen
Pascale Quiviger The Perfect Circle
Gaetan Soucy The Immaculate Conception
Russsell Wangersky The Hour of Bad Decisions

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellinga

There are two books entitled Philosophy Made Simple. This book is a novel by Robert Hellinga, who in the mid-90's, wrote The Sixteen Pleasures. In The Sixteen Pleasures, he writes of Margo Harrington who leaves for Italy after the death of her mother. In Florence she participates with many other to rescue works of art and books that have been ruined by floods. When her money runs out a friend suggests she move into a convent. Among the books in need of repair, she finds a priceless volume of 16 erotic drawings that accompany 16 sonnets by Pietro Arentino. She restores the volume and arranges for it to be auctioned for a great deal of money. The convent which has faced closure now has the money to continue to operate. Hellinga brings alive the world of book and art restoration.

Hellinga's new book, Philosophy Made Simple, takes up the story of the Harringtons focusing on Margo's father. Rudy, now 60, is still grieving the loss of his wife, a real presence in this book. He finds himself bogged down by memories. His daughters are leading busy lives. Rudy decides to leave his job at Becker's Wholesale where he has been in charge of buying avocados and find an avocado grove in Texas where he can grow them. He takes with him the book Philosophy Made Simple written by Siva Singh. As he reads each of the philosophers from Plato to Schopenhaur, he meditates on the meaning of his own life.

Rudy's life is full, learning how to grow avocados, dealing with his health problems and making arrangements for his daughter Molly's wedding to TJ, a wedding which has its own complications--the ceremony is to be Hindu.

Rudy's new friends include Menardo, who besides managing the avocado grove introduces Rudy to "cultural Fridays" at an elegant bordello across the border.
Then there is his next door neighbour, the Russian who looks after Norma Jean, an elephant who paints. Nandini, mother of the groom, who owns a tea farm in India also becomes a wonderful friend. The star of this novel is Norma Jean a loveable, smart elephant.

All in all it's a wonderful novel, full of humour and wisdom.

Sixteen Pleasures is available in paperback

Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellinga is still in hardcover.

History of Love by Nicole Kraus

The plot of The History of Love is so complex that it is difficult to do a summary that does it justice. If you decide to read it and I hope you do, I suspect you will feel compelled to re-read it.

Leo Gursky, now in his 80's, arrived in New York from Poland after World War II. He feels so invisible that when he goes out he creates disturbances just to assure himself he is alive. Leo has lost three things in his life: the woman he has always loved, the son who doesn't know that Leo is his father, and the novel he wrote as a young man entitled The History of Love. He has no idea that this book has been published in Chile under another person's name.

Charlotte translated The History of Love for an South American contact. She named her daughter Alma after the heroine in this book. Teen-aged Alma, while trying to cope with her
unstable brother and her widowed mother, is determined to find the story behind her name.
Leo and Alma find one another and Leo finds his book is not lost.

You can see what I mean about a complicated plot and there's more. Kraus's characters are eccentric. She brings the stories of each together brilliantly, exploring love and loss in each of their lives. She explores the power of imagination to provide for loss.

History of Love is available in paperback

Friday, September 01, 2006

Big Bookie Baffled By Booker

If you guessed wrong about the booker shortlist, don't feel bad. One of London's top bookies picked a book to win all themarbles that didn't even make the cut. Prior to the announcement of the shortlist today, London bookie William Hill made 'The Nightwatch' by Sarah Waters and 'Black Swan Green' by David Mitchell the 5/1 joint favourites to win the Prize. The former is in the running, but Mitchell was bounced.
Hills odds on all longlist titles:
6/1 Peter Carey - 'A Love Story',
8/1 Andrew O'Hagan - 'Be Near Me',
10/1 Barry Unsworth - 'The Ruby In Her Naval',
10/1 Howard Jacobson - 'Kalooki Nights',
12/1 Clare Messud - 'The Emperor's Children',
12/1 Hisham Matar - 'In The Country Of Men',
12/1 Kiran Desai - 'The InheritanceOf Loss',
14/1 Edward St Aubyn - 'Mother's Milk,
14/1 Kate Grenville - 'The Secret River',
16/1 Naeem Murr - 'The Perfect Man,
16/1 Jon McGregor - 'So Many Ways To Begin',
16/1 Mary Lawson - 'The Other Side Of The Bridge',
16/1 M J Hyland - 'Carry Me Down,
20/1 Bar the rest