In the News
Literature

Congratulations to Esi Edugyan, winner of this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize! Edugyan’s win was announced at last night’s Giller gala. Half-Blood Blues, set amidst the jazz scene in Europe before and after the Second World War, has been greatly praised since its release Read More

Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Barry Broadfoot
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Othersrunning every Friday. The following is taken from the chapter on newspaper guy and oral historian, Barry Broadfoot.]

To my romantic eye, the Sun newsroom, loud with the clack of typewriters, was straight out of The Front Page. And right at home there was this what-the-hell guy Barry Broadfoot, the book review page editor, with his feet on the desk and — probably — a bottle of rye in the drawer.

In those days every office had its drunk (not that Barry played that role at the Sun, where I’m sure there were several candidates). I’ve worked with a few people where you knew that nothing that old Bill said after lunch really counted. Often old Bill was an ex-serviceman, and everyone else covered for him as a matter of course. Being a drunk then was a little like having a bad cold today; colleagues made allowances and helped out.

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In the News
Literature
Sisters-Brothers

Kudos to Patrick deWitt, whose second novel, The Sisters Brothers, has won 2011′s Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Nominated for numerous prizes this year, the book’s inventive characterization and genre-bending take on the Western are earning it acclaim from readers across Canada.

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Literature
Reading In Canadian

At this time of year, it’s easy to get caught up in reader anxiety: why haven’t I picked up Book X yet? Friend Y has already read book Z and I haven’t! Zounds, I still haven’t read all the shortlisted books from last year’s Prize A!

Some of this stress makes sense, as after all, books named to prize shortlists tend to be important and interesting works of art, and well worth reading. But some of the stress is fuelled by social competition, and a sense of commitment that doesn’t always make sense.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Mavis Gallant
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and OthersThey will run every Friday. The following is taken from the chapter on short story writer, Canadian, and Parisienne. Mavis Gallant.]

She has a formidable presence. She speaks in an accent that she says belongs to another era in Montreal, but to modern Canadian ears sounds English-influenced. She speaks with great, sibilant precision that can on occasion be mistaken for a hiss. As for her manner, with strangers she is such a reserved, dignified, and lady-like figure that she seems, metaphorically, to be wearing white gloves. Scores of journalists have come away from interviews with her, confessing that they felt intimidated.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Stories About Storytellers Robertson Davies
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is the fifth excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and OthersThey will run every Friday. The following is taken from the chapter on man of letters, oracle, and ugly duckling, Robertson Davies.]

World of Wonders was the first book by Robertson Davies that ushered me, a young editor, into his world. Its title provides a neat summary for that world in 1975, where to me everything was a little brighter, a little more surprising, and much more interesting than the everyday world offstage. It was a larger-than-life place, fully floodlit, and Davies was at its centre, ideally cast for the role of Man of Letters.

For a start, he looked like Jehovah. Not since Alexander Graham Bell — or, a mischievous thought, Karl Marx — has there been a head where flowing white locks and well-shaped beard combined so artfully to produce a leonine look, perhaps the look of the bust of Mendelssohn that adorned the piano of the house where he grew up, learning how a true artist should appear. It is impossible to think of Robertson Davies without that trademark beard.

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In the News
Literature

Governor General's Literary Awards
Hard on the heels of the other members of the “big three” English-language fiction triumvirate in Canada, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Literary Awards shortlists were announced today. In the English-language fiction category, the awaited shortlist reads:

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Literature

Writers-Trust-LogoAaand they’re off! It’s the Rogers Writers’ Trust first out of the gate, with the Giller close behind and the Governor General’s Literary Awards coming up fast. Whatever you think of the growth of “prize culture,” in Canada autumn is the season of words on the page, Word on the Street, and the hope, speculation, and intrigue of our major literary competitions. It’s a season when CanLit captures the attention of the public more than ever.

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Literature
Canadian Library Month
Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang

Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler

October is Canadian Library Month, and thank goodness for that. There’s no other public institution that’s been as formative and memory-filled for me as my local library.

It was at the library that I first learned how to read. I can still remember the pride of moving from the baby books in the west corner of the library, a place periodically festooned with coloured cut-outs of chubby animals and dancing letters, to the other side of the wall – the Big Kids side.

On the Big Kids side lay thick, wordy books like Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Older girls who wore candy bracelets and braided their own hair read these books, and I wanted desperately to be part of that world. Finishing one of those books meant something. Even at the age of six I knew this was true. So, one day I snuck over to the Big Kids side, pretended like I belonged, and casually picked up Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang. It was just the right amount of thick. It felt substantial in my hands, even as it gave off a faint smell of sour cheese.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Alistair MacLeod
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is the third excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and OthersThey will run every Friday. The following is taken from the chapter on Alistair MacLeod.]

So my phone calls became more frequent, and more urgent, especially after Alistair rashly allowed that it was possible that he might finish the book in time for fall. This was a key moment of misunderstanding: when Alistair said “fall,” he meant that he would finish the book in the fall; what I chose to hear was that he would finish in time for us to publish his book in the fall, after the usual months of publishing preparations. I have referred to him as a stone carver, chipping out each perfect word with loving care. Certainly my confidence in the excellence of his writing was such that — without having read a word of the manuscript — I felt able to put the book in the Fall 1999 catalogue (going to the printer at the end of May) and to write him a letter in April outlining very precisely the generous terms we would offer for the new book, for which we would hold “a place of honour” in our fall list.

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Stephen Leacock
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is the second excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and OthersThey will run every Friday. The following is taken from the chapter on humorist Stephen Leacock.]

In my experience, every humorous writer finds that his or her public confidently expects them to be a happy person, facing life with a wry chuckle, and perhaps a slow, smiling shake of the head. To his great credit, Leacock tried to shoot down this view. He wrote: “If a man has a genuine sense of humour he is apt to take a somewhat melancholy, or at least a disillusioned view of life. Humour and disillusionment are twin sisters.”

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Literature
Stories About Storytellers
Stories About Storytellers

Stories About Storytellers, by Douglas Gibson with illustrations by Anthony Jenkins (Copyright © Douglas Gibson, 2011 Published by ECW Press)

[Editor’s note: This is the first of eight excerpts from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Others. They will run every Friday for the next eight weeks. The following is an excerpt from a chapter on Alice Munro.]

When people ask me what Alice Munro is really like, I try to deal with the two halves of the complete Alice. One is the frowning, concerned good citizen, determined to do The Right Thing, and worrying her way towards it. That’s the Alice who some years ago quietly put me under pressure to make sure that her next book was printed on recycled environmentally friendly (and more expensive) paper. And this, I should note, was at a time when using recycled paper in books was still rare, and associated with new fringe books by small publishers, not major bestsellers by major writers published by major houses. So her choice had a huge impact.

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