Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book News Vol. 6 No. 28



Michael Ondaatje - September 21, 2011
Join us for an evening with the Booker Prize-winning author of The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, as he discusses his forthcoming novel, The Cat's Table. Details:

An Evening with Anthony Bourdain - 8pm, October 29, 2011
The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. Tickets: $47.50/$55.00/$62.50/VIP package: $152.50. Tickets now on sale at Ticketmaster. Support the Writers Festival: use the code "writers" when purchasing your ticket, a portion of the ticket proceeds will go to the VIWF and you will receive a $5 discount per ticket. Details:

An Evening with David Sedaris - 8pm, November 5, 2011
The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. Tickets: $45.00/$50.00/$57.50. Tickets now on sale at Ticketmaster. Support the Writers Festival: use the code "writers" when purchasing your ticket, a portion of the ticket proceeds will go to the VIWF and you will receive a $5 discount per ticket. Details:

Wade Davis - November 10, 2011
An evening with scientist, anthropologist and bestselling author Wade Davis discussing his latest book Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. Details:

Indian Summer Literature Series
The Indian Summer Festival continues this week with renowned authors and thinkers from India, Canada and the UK—intimate, thought-provoking and truly international conversations about literature, language, politics, democracy and freedom of speech.

Hari Kunzru and Anosh Irani in Conversation (July 14, 6pm) - Hari Kunzru (The Impressionist, Transmission, My Revolutions) and Anosh Irani (The Song of Kahunsha) in conversation with moderator Dr. Azadeh Yamini-Hamedani.

Writers & Democracy: Tarun Tejpal in Conversation with Terry Gould (July 14, 8pm) - Tejpal and Gould are known for their fearlessness and defence of the freedom of speech. These award-winning journalists discuss the role of writers and journalists in a modern democracy, the challenges facing them, and how each has fought to defend that vision.

Defining Diaspora (July 16, 4pm) - Authors Ashok Mathur, Ameen Merchant, Anosh Irani, and Hari Kunzru explore ideas of location, cultural origins, language, migration, and authenticity as they define the concept of diaspora.

Biographies Revealed (July 17, 2pm) - Historian, biographer, and journalist Shrabani Basu presents her books Spy Princess and Victoria and Abdul and the lives behind them; hosted by Hal Wake.

A Literary Afternoon Tea on the Terrace (July 17, 3:30pm) - Join author Shrabani Basu and other Festival writers for an hour of literary conversation and an Indian-themed afternoon tea service.


Dutch academic Frank Dikötter has won the Samuel Johnson prize for Mao's Great Famine, described by judges as a 'stunningly original history’. Judge Brenda Maddox commented: "It's a testament to the power of non-fiction, that it can rock you back on your heels."

The Best Canadian Political Books of the Last 25 Years project is meant to get Canadians to reflect on Canada's political history and the ideas and personalities that have driven meaningful debates over the last two decades. The organizers also hope the list of 12 finalists will stir some debate. Book titles, the opportunity to comment, and the place to vote are all here:

Annabel Lyon won the award for Best Profile for her profile, entitled Eye for Detail, of the well-known writer Edith Iglauer and her seven-decade writing career. Lyon received the award at the 2011 Western Magazine Awards.

Gillian Andrews, Sarah Jackson, Jane McKie, Jane Yeh and Lydia MacPherson are shortlisted for the £5,000 Edwin Morgan international poetry prize. This is the first competition to be held since Morgan – Scotland's inaugural Makar/ national poet – died last year. The winner will be announced mid-August.

Stickfighting Days, described by judges as a "Homeric" short story of life and death in a city rubbish dump has won Sierra Leone's Olufemi Terry the Caine prize for African writing.

Canadian Alexander MacLeod, Edna O'Brien, and Colm Tóibín are among those shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor prize, the world's richest award for a short story collection.

For the first time, the Guardian is opening up to public scrutiny the list of submissions for the Guardian first book prize. This is being done to allow debate around the list, and to provide a new route for books outside the mainstream to be brought into contention. There are 136 submissions from publishers; what's missing from the Guardian first book award list?


Vancouver is seeking its third Poet Laureate. Nominations and submissions will be accepted until Aug. 24.

Last call! Geist extended its deadline for its erasure poetry contest to July 15, 2011. To win Canadian-style fame and glory, read the excerpt of Susanna Moodie's Roughing It In the Bush and have at it with your eraser. Then enter your poem here: Questions? Contact

Vancouver's Poet Laureate, Brad Cran, has announced details for the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference, a four-day literary event at SFU Woodward's from October 9-22, 2011, created by an unprecedented collaboration among Vancouver's poetry communities. To register as a delegate for the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference or to view the detailed conference schedule, poet photos and bios, visit:

Until the 1980s, French fiction focused on "man and nature, the writer in Montmartre," creating literary forms and "literature for literature's sake", writes Devorah Lauter. Now, the story—and the larger world-are back.,0,7706930.story

A priceless 12th-century illustrated manuscript containing what has been described as Europe's first travel guide has been stolen from the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. The Codex Calixtinus had been kept in a safe at the cathedral's archives.

A long lost book of tributes to Byron from the poet's family vault has been discovered at a bring-and-buy sale in Savannah, Georgia. It is inscribed "to the immortal and illustrious fame of Lord Byron" and contains accolades by famous figures of the day.

Chinese poet and novelist, Liao Yiwu has gone into exile in Germany, saying Chinese authorities have forbidden him from publishing. Liao was recently released from detention, but remains under a gag order. He made his way to Berlin secretly.

Mills & Boon (the British equivalent of Harlequin romance novels) should come with a health warning, according to a report published in an academic journal.

If you haven’t yet got all of your summertime books, you may want to check out the Anansi annual Beach Blanket BOGO sale!

And/or enter the contest to win a copy of Peter Behrens’ new novel The O’Briens.

No woman, according to New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, was ever ruined by a book. But Christopher B. Krebs argues that Roman historian Tacitus may have warped cultural identity. A dangerous book? Depends who’s reading it, says Michael Dirda.

In an article about fiction’s taking us to places life can’t, Philip Hensher quotes results from Canadian academic Keith Oatley’s research. Oatley has concluded that habitual readers of novels were much better at coping with social situations and with a wide range of human beings.

LA Times reviewer Carolyn Kellogg interviews Jennifer Egan about her background and her approach to storytelling.

The book is not dead, it's just shape-shifting, writes Robert McCrum. Writers, booksellers and publishers are already exploiting the wizardry in the latest IT revolution.

In lieu of a review, a Reader Alert from Jack Batten: "If you’re really keen on grasping the intricacies of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s series featuring the unlikely crime-solving duo of Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne, then you need to read all seven Ferguson-Van Alstyne books in their correct order. Otherwise you’ll never understand either the nuances or the broader issues. You won’t have as much reading fun either."

Disgruntled British poets channeled William Carlos Williams recently ("so much depends / upon / a red wheel / barrow / glazed with rain / water / beside the white / chickens") when they delivered a red wheelbarrow carrying 423 members' signatures to the Poetry Society, demanding its board of trustees explain what lies behind a recent spate of high-level departures.

The Boston Globe includes John Freeman’s list of the 12 best books of 2010. Freeman is editor of Granta magazine, and author of The Tyranny of E-mail.

The Georgia Straight suggests summer reading titles for young and older adult readers.

Since adults buy books for children, which doesn’t give publishers feedback on children’s enthusiasm for the books, Random House Australia and Allen & Unwin have each created focus groups of voracious young readers for feedback which is, says A&U’s Julia Imogen. "brutally honest".


The loving, bloodthirsty Charlotte A Cavatica of EB White's classic children's novel Charlotte's Web was inspired by a real spider, according to Michael Sims’ The Story of Charlotte’s Web, a new biography of White.

On March 1, 1966, Ken Leishman masterminded the largest theft of gold bullion in Canada’s history. In Bandit: A Portrait of Ken Leishman, Wayne Tefs recreates the big dreamer and small-time crook behind this heist and Leishman’s audacious "Flying Bandit" jailbreak.

Lorna Crozier, Susan Musgrave, Sharon Thesen: three B.C. poets publishing for at least 20 years, and all at the top of their games, writes Zoe Whittall. Their new books are stunning additions to the spring poetry season, says Whittall.

I had not expected to be quite so moved by Margaret Drabble's collection, A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, says Stevie Davies. The title story opens with "There was once this woman. She was quite famous, in a way."

Defense lawyer Clarence Darrow is examined in enlightening detail in John Farrell’s Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned. Farrell's rich narrative shows Darrow remaining true to the cause and his faith over the course of a tumultuous life. says Wendy Smith.,0,4503692.story

Steve Sem-Sandberg’s The Emperor of Lies is a novel about horrific historical fact. A bestseller in Scandinavia, it won the Swedish equivalent of the Man Booker prize in 2009. Dickens would have been very pleased with this novel, says Carmen Callil.

The subject of marriage is seminal to Jane Smiley's latest novel, Private Life writes Julian Guthrie; the primary characters are modeled after her own great aunt and uncle. Guthrie says that Smiley is now working on several books simultaneously.

David Dabydeen finds echoes of Naipaul (and Sir Walter Raleigh, Evelyn Waugh and others, but mostly Naipal) inform Rahul Bhattacharya’s The Sly Company of People Who Care, a passionate and poetic debut about Guyana.

A pathologist and a detective set out to prove an apparent suicide was indeed murder in 1950s Dublin in Benjamin Black’s A Death In Summer: a beach read for the brainy, writes Carolyn Kellogg.,0,7012477.story

Atlantic is Simon Winchester’s most heartfelt and magnificent book, writes Christopher Hirst. From the prologue, the Atlantic surges from the page. If you're holidaying anywhere on the Atlantic, says Hirst, this is the perfect beach read.

The Sins of the Mother, which opens Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon, appeared first in a collection of short stories. It was written with such beauty that its author became Penguin’s bright new discovery—at the age of 78, writes Arifa Akbar.

A true believer in the war on terror realized he was tormenting an innocent man. Glenn L. Carle’s The Interrogator: An Education is the result of his crisis of conscience. Like the man says: it’s Kafkaesque, writes Laura Miller.

A myth of contemporary Western society, writes Nathan Whitlock, is that we are a culture desperate to be tested. In 2005, four men were kidnapped at gunpoint by a group of Iraqis. James Loney’s Captivity wrestles with the philosophical questions raised by being tested.

The contents of an old suitcase provide both the book’s title and the inspiration for Sergei Dovlatov's tales of life in 1960s Soviet Russia, opening a small window onto daily life. It helps that Dovlatov, who died in 1990, had as many lives as a cat, writes Hannah Olivenne.

Commemorating the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War has resulted in an outpouring of new books, adding to that conflict’s status as the most-written-about event in American history. James M. McPherson reviews five new books, including ones that address British involvement.

Juliet Eilperin knows more about sharks and the intricacies of their relationship to humans than most, writes Alanna Mitchell. In Demon Fish, we discover what the shark means biologically to the ocean: the system will unravel if sharks vanish. The stakes are high.

Editor Peter Sekir’s Memories of Chekhov draws on memories of the author from his contemporaries and includes an account of Tolstoy's condemnation of Chekhov's plays as "worse than Shakespeare".

An excerpt of the book is here:

George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons is finally on the shelves this week. Newspapers world-wide are taking the rare step of reviewing the fifth installment in a very lengthy fantasy saga, and speaking highly of it, writes Alison Flood.

The Globe and Mail has commissioned short stories to run over six weeks. This week: Turtle Island by Joseph Boyden.


Fundraiser features a barbecue (1 pm), a baseball-themed poetry reading (1:30 pm), and a baseball game (2:30 pm). Potluck contributions are welcome. Proceeds support the Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival. Sunday, July 17 at 1pm. Tickets: $5-$15. More information at

Informal book signing and discussion includes short readings from contributors Romham Padraig Gallacher, Anne Fleming, Laiwan, Elaine Miller, Donnelly Black, Zena Sharman, and Ivan Coyote. Q&A to follow. Wednesday, July 20 at 7:00pm, free. Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium, 1238 Davie Street. More information at

Read and review William Gibson's Burning Chrome, a collection of short stories that deal with cyberspace and the information age. Thursday, July 21 at 7:00pm, free. The Grind & Gallery, 4124 Main Street. More information at


Reading by the author of Never Knowing. Monday, July 25 at 7:00pm. Chapters Granville, 2505 Granville Street. More information at 604-731-7822.

A long weekend of papers, presentations, workshops, readings, and other activities in celebration of haiku poetry, held at the Seattle Center, at the foot of the Space Needle. Featured presenters include Cor van den Heuvel, Richard Gilbert, David Lanoue, Carlos Colón, Fay Aoyagi, Jim Kacian, Emiko Miyashita, George Swede, and many others. August 3-7, 2011. For more information, visit

The 8th Annual Kootenay Book Festival will take place in Nelson B.C. September 23, 24 and 25. The featured authors are: Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap; Kathryn Stockett's The Help; Li Cunxin's Mao’s Last Dancer, and special guest Ruth Ozeki and her books My Year of Meats and All Over Creation. Further information and registration forms can be found at

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