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Last update: 2013-06-26

Stephen Motika on New York's Poet's House

2013-06-26
Length: 25s

Poets House is a literary center and poetry archive - a collection and meeting place in New York that invites poets and the public to join the living tradition of poetry. Free and open to the public, Poets House’s 50,000-volume poetry library is among the most comprehensive, open-stacks collections of poetry in the United States. Hosting acclaimed poetry events and workshops, Poets House not only documents the wealth and diversity of modern poetry, it stimulates public dialogue on issues of poetry in culture.

I visited Poet's House recently to speak with Program Director Stephen Motika about why a literary tourist might want stop by here. Please listen to our conversation here:

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Eric Chase on the Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl

2013-06-24
Length: 21s

The Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl has been leading tourists into bars rich in bookish history since 1998. Inside each bar, you take a drink and listen as your actor/tour guide tells of the history of the establishment and of the great authors who have hung out, gotten drunk and written there. You’ll get recitations from relevant texts and stops at "unique sites that are literary, historical, or alcoholic in nature." Tours start off every Saturday at 2pm, beginning at the White Horse Tavern, 567 Hudson Street and 11th Street, and last for three hours. (Take the 1 train to Christopher Street; Left on w. 10th to Hudson St.; Right/North on Hudson St. to West 11th Street). Tickets are $20, $15  for students/seniors. To make a reservation call (212) 613-5796.

I caught up with owner Eric Chase at the White Horse recently to learn more about the Crawl and why literary pilgrimage for many assumes such importance.

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Richard Minsky on Artists Books and Traditional Book Arts

2013-06-21
Length: 40s

Richard Minsky twirling The Philosophy of Umbrellas by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Richard Minsky is a celebrated American book artist,  bookbinder and scholar who at age 13 got his first printing press. In 1968, he graduated cum laude in economics from Brooklyn College, was then awarded a fellowship at Brown University, got his Master's degree in economics, and then pursued a Ph.D. at The New School for Social Research;  two years later he chucked it all for bookbinding, art and music. He studied bookbinding under master bookbinder Daniel Gibson Knowlton

 In 1974, Minsky founded the Center for Book Arts in New York, an organization dedicated to interpreting the book as an art object using traditional book arts practices. I met recently with Richard and his graphic novelist partner Barbara Slate at their house in the Hudson Valley for libation and conversation. My objective was to pry artists books apart from these traditional book arts moorings. Listen to how successful I was here:

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Edward Rutherfurd on his novel Paris; Place, Process and Literary Tourism

2013-06-13
Length: 27s

Edward Rutherfurd looking Parisien

Edward Rutherfurd was born in England, in the cathedral city of Salisbury. Educated locally, and at the universities of Cambridge, and Stanford, California, he subsequently worked in political research, bookselling and publishing. Abandoning this career in the book trade in 1983, he returned to his childhood home to write SARUM, a historical novel with a ten-thousand year storyline, set in the area around the ancient monument of Stonehenge. It was an instant international bestseller remaining 23 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. Since then he has written six more bestsellers: RUSSKA, a novel of Russia; LONDON; THE FOREST, set in England's New Forest which lies close by Sarum, and two novels which cover the story of Ireland from the time just before Saint Patrick to the twentieth century. In 2009 NEW YORK was published, and in 2013, PARIS.

Rutherfurd is the quintessential Literary Tourist. He 'walks' the cities he writes about, researches them, imagines them, and arrives at a personal understanding of them. We talk here about this process, about the importance of learning about the ordinary lives of people from the past, of writing short stories about the places you visit, and about history as reconnaissance and "finding out what happened to the last army that went there".


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Karl Laderoute on Why Nietzsche Matters

2013-06-12
Length: 41s

Without question, Friedrich Nietzsche is the go-to guy for those who want to sound smart at a cocktail party.  He's a philosophical superstar, ' the grandfather of postmodernism', an inspiration to thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Sarah Kofman, and Paul de Man. Nietzsche’s popularity lies, according to PhD candidate Karl Laderoute, in his rebelliousness and bombastic style. His aphoristic writing - with its lack of fully articulated argument - spurs students to think critically, says Laderoute, to develop their own views, interpret actively, recognize implicit biases and consider how science, poetry, history, and philosophy operate and intersect.

Nietzsche's famous epistemological ‘perspectivism’ suggests that  'knowing' is simply interpretion from a limited point of view. As very finite beings, humans can only engage in a limited number of cognitive processes at once. This limitation means that we can only consider phenomena, broadly construed as anything happening in the world, in small doses and in particular ways. In other words, says Laderoute, we always examine a phenomenon from some particular perspective, in which some set of interests is at play.

Listen as we discuss the implications of Nietzche's powerful world view:

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Prof. Nicholas Margaritis on British Literary Critic George Saintsbury

2013-05-26
Length: 38s

Nicholas Margaritis

George Saintsbury (23 October 1845 – 28 January 1933), though a prolific and influential British literary critic in the late 1800s, is today perhaps best known as the author of a book on wine called Notes on a Cellar-Book (1920). According to Prof. Nicholas Margaritis, Saintsbury deserves a larger modern audience.  Why? Listen to his explanation

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David Southward on Lionel Trilling

2013-05-20
Length: 24s

David Southward

Lionel Trilling (1905 – 1975) is one of the best known U.S. critics of the twentieth century. A Professor of Literature and Criticism at Columbia University from 1931 - 1975, his teachings focused primarily on the relationships between literature, culture and politics. His first and best known collection of essays, The Liberal Imagination, was published in 1950.

I met with David Southward, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, recently in Gatineau, Quebec at the ACTC Annual Conference to discuss Trilling and his approach to literary criticism.

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Prof. Edwin Conner on Longinus and the Sublime

2013-05-01
Length: 32s

"Longinus" is the name given to the unknown literary critic/author who wrote On the Sublime an essay written around 100 CE that examines the work of more than 50 ancient authors. In the essay - of which only an extended fragment remains -  Longinus talks of the sublime as a state that reaches "beyond the realm of the human condition into greater mystery."  How do authors produce this state in themselves, in their work, in their readers? How do we know it when we see it? Longinus gives us his take on the topic.

Prof Edwin Conner presented a paper on Longinus at the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC) Conference held recently in Ottawa. I talk to him here about Longinus's criteria for judging whether or not a work is sublime.

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Interview with Quantum Theatre founder Karla Boos on Dream of Autumn a play by Jon Fosse

2013-04-11
Length: 14s

Quantum Theatre was founded in Pittsburgh in 1990 by Karla Boos. Her goal was to create a company that incorporated world culture and international trends. Quantum has been a nurturing home for Boos' evolution as an artist and for the hundreds of collaborators that have created Quantum's work. These artists draw upon the resources of image, world languages, mixed media, and the power of non-traditional performance sites. Unique to the region, Quantum's productions are staged in places that aren't theatres. They have become a reflection of Pittsburgh itself, expressing the varying character of the city in places ranging from grand museums to the least likely abandoned industrial sites.

Boos often directs, acts and writes for the company. She played a lead role in the play I recently watched called Dream of Autumn by world renowned Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse. I met Boos after her intense performance to talk about Quantum, Fosse and the play.

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Interview with Emilio Gil on the History of Modern Spanish Book Design

2013-04-04
Length: 29s

Emilio Gil is a graphic designer and founder of Tau Design a firm that pioneered design services, institutional communications, and the creation and development of visual corporate identity programmes in Spain.  He trained at the SVA (School of Visual Arts) in New York under professors Milton Glaser, James McMullan and Ed Benguiat, and studied curating at Central St. Martins in London.

For his 1995 book ‘Un toro negro y enorme’ (An enormous black bull) Gil won the Laus de Oro award for Editorial Design, the Donside award, and the Certificate of Excellence from the Type Directors Club of New York.

He teaches in the Santillana Training Publishing Master’s program and is a professor at the University of Salamanca, the University Carlos III and at the University Europea, all in Madrid. In addition to having curated several important exhibitions on the history of graphic design in Spain, he is author of  Pioneers of Graphic Design in Spain (Index Book, 2007. Edition in the USA, Mark Batty Publisher), and co-author of  The Beauty of Things (Gustavo Gili, 2007). He has been president since June 2009 of AEPD (Spanish Association of Design Professionals).

I met with Emilio in his offices in Madrid several months ago to discuss some of the great Spanish modern book designers, including Manolo Prieto and Daniel Gil.

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Curator Lucy Mulroney on the Grove Press

2013-03-21
Length: 23s

Strange Victories: Grove Press, 1951-1985 is a major exhibition about the Grove Press currently currently running at the Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library in Syracuse.

Grove was founded by Barney Rosset in 1951 and is one of the world's great twentieth-century avant-garde publishing houses. It's credited with having introduced many important international authors to American readers during the postwar period.

The exhibition traces the history of the Press from its involvement in national censorship trials, to publication of politically-engaged works such as The Wretched of the Earth, Red Star over China, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and the scandalous and very profitable, “Victorian Library.” Grove not only challenged social mores, equality rights, and freedom of expression laws, it also "aggressively deployed savvy marketing strategies, became embroiled in labor union battles, floundered in its own success, and offended the sensibilities of not only “squares,” but feminists, Marxists, academics, and many others. Strange Victories tells the complicated story of Grove’s many literary and political achievements, whose profound influence on American culture endures today."

I met recently with co-curator Lucy Mulroney to talk about Grove Press and the exhibition. 

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Interview with Australian Poet Mark Tredinnick

2013-03-16
Length: 47s

Mark Tredinnick, winner of the Montreal Poetry Prize (2011) and the Cardiff Poetry Prize (2012), is the author of The Blue Plateau, Fire Diary, and nine other acclaimed works of poetry and prose. He lives in the highlands southwest of Sydney, Australia.

Tredinnick is “one of our great poets of place—not just of geographic place, but of the spiritual and moral landscapes as well,” according to Judith Beveridge. Of “Walking Underwater”, which won the Montreal Prize in 2011, Andrew Motion wrote: “This is a bold, big-thinking poem, in which ancient themes (especially the theme of our human relationship with landscape) are re-cast and re-kindled. It well deserves its eminence as a prize winner.”

I met recently with Mark in Ottawa after his appearance at Versefest to talk about, among other things, Japanese water-colours, light, falling water, geography, rain, longing, rhythm, speech, connection, sense making, the shadows that words cast, language as being, the weather, lipstick and pigs.

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Producer Maurice Podbrey on Waiting for the Barbarians - The Play

2013-03-03
Length: 30s

Waiting for the Barbarians is a novel  written by the South African-born Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee. Published in 1980 it won the James Tait Black Memorial and Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prizes for fiction. The book's title comes from a poem by Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine P. Cavafy. American composer Philip Glass wrote an opera based on the book which premiered in 2005.

In August 2012, the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town presented Alexandre Marine's stage adaptation of the novel. The production ran in Montreal at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts throughout January and February, 2013. I met with the play's Canadian-South African producer Maurice Podbrey at his home in Montreal to talk about the play, the novel, Coetzee, South Africa, Barbarians and the challenges of adapting books for the stage.

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Michael Lista on Ethics and Honesty in Poetry Reviews

2013-01-27
Length: 26s

I met with Canadian poet/critic Michael Lista several months ago to discuss the state of poetry reviewing in Canada, the need for honesty in criticism, and his take on poet/philosopher Jan Zwicky's essay “The Ethics of the Negative Review,” in which she defends her practice, while review editor in the 1990s of The Fiddlehead literary journal, of not publishing negative reviews.

Buckle up and enjoy the ride:

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Robert Fowler on al-Qaeda, Mali, Newtown and Terrorism

2013-01-15
Length: 45s

Robert Fowler has had a distinguished career as a Canadian diplomat and public servant.  From  1989 - 1995 he was deputy minister of National Defence; from 1995 - 2000, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, and, following that, ambassador to Italy  from 2000-2006. Over the years he has served as foreign policy advisor to three Prime Ministers, and as Personal Representative for Africa.

On Dec. 15, 2008, when he was in Niger as special envoy to the United Nation responsible for reconciling rebel and government forces, Fowler and his assistant Louis Guay, were kidnapped and held captive for 130 days by regional members of al-Qaeda. He tells the story of this ordeal in his book A Season in Hell.

Please listen here as we talk about it and, among other things, Coleridge's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner', sanity, religious fanaticism, mental illness, the Newtown massacre, and the clear and present threat posed to Mali, and Africa, by al-Qaeda.

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Corey Redekop on his novel Husk, and zombies

2013-01-05
Length: 45s

 

Corey Redekop has been many things: "actor, waiter, disc jockey, cameraman, editor, lawyer (almost), and now the fabled trifecta of publicist/librarian/author. His debut novel, Shelf Monkey, is either a work of insane genius or an intolerable left-wing screed, depending on which review you read. Stunningly handsome, supremely talented, superbly gifted at hyperbole, Corey abides in Fredericton, New Brunswick."

We climb up on the autopsy table to dissect his latest novel Husk (" The Sopranos of zombie novels"), and in so doing talk about Sheldon, a zombie with a brain, and what happens to him after he wakes up on - yes - an autopsy table, with his heart and guts spilling out all over the floor.

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Laurie Lewis on Book Design and the University of Toronto Press

2012-12-20
Length: 46s

 

Laurie Lewis began her publishing career in New York City with Doubleday in the early 60s, acting as liaison between the book design  and printing departments. In 1963 she moved to Toronto and joined the University of Toronto Press. When Allan Fleming came on board as Chief Designer in 1968 the new Design Unit was formed and Lewis became Fleming’s assistant. The department produced many important books, winning numerous awards both nationally and internationally.

For her outstanding service over they years to the design community, Lewis was made a Fellow of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada in 1975, proposed by Allan Fleming and Leslie Smart. She was vice-president of the Ontario Chapter from 1975 to 1977 and continued to support and contribute to the organization for many subsequent years and encouraged graphic design internationally through workshops in publication design in the third world, particularly in South East Asia and in South America, through volunteer assignments with the Canadian International Development Agency

Lewis  introduced computers to the design office at University of Toronto in 1984, with the original Macintosh 512K. In 1991 she took early retirement in order to pursue interests in writing and small publishing. She is the founder and director of The Artful Codger Press, established to encourage the publication of memoirs and life writings.

After retirement from her international volunteer work Laurie began what she calls "another life." She became editor of Vista, the publication of the Seniors Association in Kingston, and began a new career as a writer. In 2011, at the age of 80, her first memoir, Little Comrades, was published by Porcupine’s Quill, and was selected by The Globe and Mail as one of the Top 100 Books of the Year 2011. As of this writing, her next book, Love, and all that jazz is scheduled for publication in 2013.

I caught up with Laurie Lewis recently at her home in Kingston, Ontario where we talked about her impressive career, her colleagues, and some of the more collectible books that she has had a hand in designing. Please listen here.

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Ross King on Leonardo and the Last Supper

2012-12-09
Length: 42s

According to his website, Ross King is "the bestselling author of six books on Italian, French and Canadian art and history. He has also published two historical novels, Domino (1995) and Ex-Libris (1998), and edited a collection of Leonardo da Vinci's fables, jokes and riddles. Translated into more than a dozen languages, his books have been nominated for a National Book Critics' Circle Award, the Charles Taylor Prize, and the National Award for Arts Writing. He has won both the Governor General's Award in Canada (for The Judgment of Paris) and the BookSense Non-Fiction Book of the Year in the United States (for Brunelleschi's Dome). His latest book, Leonardo and The Last Supper, has been described as 'gripping' (New York Times), 'fascinating' (Financial Times), 'engaging' (The Guardian), 'enthralling' (Daily Mail), 'absorbing' (Kirkus), 'engrossing' (Booklist), and 'extraordinary' (Irish Times)."

It too won a Governor General's Award, this one in 2012. We met recently in Ottawa to talk about the book and the prize. 

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Julie Bruck on Monkey Ranch

2012-12-03
Length: 36s

Julie Bruck is the author of three collections of poems from Brick Books, MONKEY RANCH (2012),

 Image: Donald Roller Wilson

THE END OF TRAVEL (1999), and THE WOMAN DOWNSTAIRS (1993).  Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Ms,  Ploughshares, The Walrus, The Malahat Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Maisonneuve, Literary Mama, and elsewhere.

Montreal-born and raised, Julie has taught at several colleges and universities in Canada, and has been a resident faculty member at The Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire. Since 2005, she has taught poetry workshops for The Writing Salon in San Francisco’s Mission district, and tutored students at The University of San Francisco.

Awards and fellowships include The A.M. Klein Award for Poetry, two Pushcart Prize nominations, two Gold Canadian National Magazine Awards and, for Monkey Ranch, Canada’s 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, which we talk about here.

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Linda Spalding on her GG Award winning novel The Purchase

2012-11-30
Length: 31s

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Linda Spalding (née Dickinson) is a Canadian writer and editor who has, over the years, worked as a professor of English and writing at numerous universities. She currently lives in Toronto, is an editor with Brick magazine, and is married to novelist Michael Ondaatje.  

Spalding's  novel The Purchase has just won the 2012 Governor-General’s Literary Award for English Fiction. We met in Ottawa recently to talk about it.  Please listen here:

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Charlie Foran on Wingham, Ontario and Alice Munro

2012-11-11
Length: 9s

Creativehuron.ca
Several years ago, well known Canadian author/biographer Charlie Foran, playing the Literary Tourist, travelled to Wingham, Ontario and environs to spend a little time in Alice Munro country. We talked to him recently about his experience.

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Stephanie Hlywak on the power and place of Poetry in Chicago, and in our Lives

2012-11-05
Length: 36s

The power of poetry or what? Listen and learn

I met last month - October, 2012 to be precise, the very month one hundred years ago that Poetry magazine was launched in Chicago - with Stephanie Hlywak, Media Director at the Poetry Foundation to talk about the history, mandate, approach and architecture, not only of the magazine, but also of The Foundation and its impressive new building, and, as if this weren't enough, the place and places of poetry itself in our world. Please listen here:

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Crime Novelist Jason Webster on Valencia and Chief Inspector Max Camara

2012-10-27
Length: 30s

Jason Webster is an Anglo-American crime novelist, travel writer and critic. Born in California he now lives in Valencia, Spain. Webster was educated in England, Egypt and Italy. In 1993 he graduated from Oxford University (St John's College) with a degree in Arabic and Islamic History. His books all involve Spain, and include Duende: A journey in search of Flamenco (2003), which recounts his move here, and his quest to learn flamenco guitar, (itwas long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award); Andalus: Unlocking the secrets of Moorish Spain (2004)  and Sacred Sierra: A year on a Spanish mountain (2009) which describes a year that Webster and his Spanish wife spent living on their mountain farm in eastern Spain working on the land and planting trees with the help of a 12th century Moorish gardening manual.

Or the Bull Kills You (2011) is a crime novel set in Valencia, and the world of bullfighting. It is the first in a  series of detective stories featuring Chief Inspector Max Cámara of the Spanish National Police. It was long-listed for the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger.  Death in Valencia (2012), is the second book in the series.

I caught up with Jason recently in Valencia. We met at a sidewalk cafe in the Cabanyal -


the real neighbourhood in which his fictional action takes place -  to talk about how those who read and love his novels can get more out of them by visiting this great, colourful Spanish city.

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Eric Timmreck on the Shared Inquiry method of discussing great books

2012-10-16
Length: 12s

Shared Inquiry is a discussion method employed by the Great Books Foundation, which, according to its website provides " a teaching and learning environment, and a way for individuals to achieve a more thorough understanding of a text by discussing questions, responses, and insights with fellow readers. Shared Inquiry combines a sound theoretical base with proven strategies to engage all readers in higher-order thinking and collaborative problem solving. In Shared Inquiry, participants come together to help each other explore the meaning of a work of literature. Each participant brings a unique perspective that influences how he or she understands the work. Sharing their interpretations, participants gain new insights and deepen or even change their initial understanding."

I caught up with Eric Timmreck, President of the Houston Great Books Council recently in Toronto at an annual event called Toronto Pursuits, to talk about his experience using the Shared Inquiry technique.

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A Literary Tourist meets Terry Fallis on Parliament Hill

2012-10-14
Length: 16s

While researching an article on Literary Tourism for an upcoming issue of Ontario magazine, I got to meet and greet some stellar Canadian authors at sites across the province that feature, variously, in their works. Here, it's Terry Fallis, and his novel The Best Laid Plans. I got together with Terry on Parliament Hill, right next to the newly refurbished parliamentary library to talk about how its 'hallowed hallways' informed the writing of his book; about how readers might gain insight into its characters and plot by visiting the 'Hill', and how these buildings play an important role in Canadian political life, stabilizing democracy and inspiring hope for a better future. 

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Top Ten Things for Literary Tourists to do in Houston, Texas

2012-10-14
Length: 14s

I met recently with Kristi Beer from Inprint Houston, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring readers and writers in Houston, Texas. Founded in 1983, Inprint fulfills its mission through the nationally renowned Margarett Root Brown Reading Series, the Cool Brains! Reading Series for Young People, literary and educational activities in the community that demonstrate the value and impact of creative writing, and support for the Univeristy of Houston Creative Writing Program.  These programs and events play a vital role contributing to Houston's rich and diverse cultural life.

Who better then to question about how the Literary Tourist might best spend his or her time in Houston.

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Interview with Randall Speller on Canadian Book Design and the importance of Book Collecting to a Culture

2012-10-12
Length: 27s

Randall Speller was for 29 years a librarian in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Combining his career in art librarianship with an interest in Canadian literature and book collecting, he has done extensive research into the history of Canadian book illustration and design, especially in the years following World War II. Randall is a contributing editor to the DA: a Journal of the Printing Arts, where he has written several influential articles on book illustration and design.

Randall is also an accomplished painter. His work focuses largely on Victoria County, part of his longstanding interest in representing an area of Ontario that his family has had connections to since the 1840s. As his website puts it: "Capturing the essential qualities of this landscape has engaged him for more than 30 years. His subjects are the constructed elements of landscape and buildings that are shaped by people, by weather, by light and by time."

Please listen here as we engage in a conversation about the history of Canadian book design, and the importance of book collecting to Canadian, and indeed all cultures.

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Interview with Museum of Printing History Curator Amanda Stevenson

2012-10-11
Length: 23s

Houston's Museum of Printing History was founded in 1979 by Raoul Beasley, Vernon P. Hearn, Don Piercy, and J. V. Burnham, four printers with a passion  for preserving their various printing-related collections and sharing them with the community.  Chartered in 1981 the Museum had its official opening in 1982 with Dr. Hans Halaby, Director of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, cutting the ribbon.  The mission of the Museum is to promote, preserve, and share the knowledge of printed communication and art as the greatest contributors to the development of the civilized world and the continuing advancement of freedom and literacy. It does this through an active, on-going exhibitions program, and a series of book arts workshops.

I met with Musuem Curator Amanda Stevenson this past summer to talk about the collection. During our conversation she delivers a very informative thumb-nail sketch of how relief and intaglio printing techniques work.

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Interview with Strand Book Store Owner Nancy Bass Wyden

2012-10-05
Length: 21s

In 1927, Ben Bass opened Strand Book Store on Fourth Avenue, home of New York’s legendary Book Row. Named after the famous publishing street in London, the Strand was one of 48 bookstores on Book Row, which started in the 1890’s and ran from Union Square to Astor Place. Today, the Strand is the sole survivor.  I recently asked current owner Nancy Bass Wyden why.

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Miranda Hill on Project Bookmark Canada

2012-10-03
Length: 11s


Project Bookmark Canada is a national charitable organization that marks places where real and imagined landscapes meet. It does this by installing poster sized ceramic plaques - called Bookmarks - in the exact physical locations where literary scenes are set.

Its mission is to develope a network of hundreds of Bookmarks in cities, towns and other areas across the country, allowing Canadians and visitors the chance to read their way across Canada. Its mandate is to promote Canadian writers and writing, to invite readers to Canadian spaces and to encourage reading and literacy through a permanent, prominent exhibit of stories and poems set in Canada. I caught up with its founder Miranda Hill recently at what has developed into one the most exciting literary destinations/activities in Canada: the Kingston Writers Festival.

Please listen here to the story of Bookmark Canada, and how you can participate.

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Professor Adam Barrows on The Hogarth Press

2012-08-29
Length: 46s

Adam Barrows is a Professor in the English Department at Carleton University in Ottawa. The focus of his research for the last eight years has been the relationship between time, literary modernism, and imperialism. His background is in the history of science and his theoretical approach to literature is largely historical materialist, drawing heavily on the Western Marxist tradition, from the Frankfurt School to Raymond Williams and Henri Lefebvre.

Growing out of his interest in twentieth-century British literature he recently led a seminar on the Hogarth Press, as he puts it "one of the most important venues for the production and dissemination of the experimental writings that would come to define the modernist literary canon. Their express purpose was to enable the publication of works that would otherwise never have found a home in the conventional publishing industry, including their own.

In addition to publishing such central works of literary modernism as T.S. Eliot’s Poems (1919) and The Waste Land (1923), Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room (1922) and Katherine Mansfield’s Prelude (1918), the Hogarth Press was also committed to the publication of radically dissident anti-imperialist works such as Leonard Woolf’s own Imperialism and Civilization (1928), Lord Oliver’s The Anatomy of African Misery (1928), Edward John Thompson’s The Other Side of the Medal (1925) and C.L.R. James’s The Case for West-Indian Self Government (1933)."

We met recently to talk about Virginia and Leonard Woolf and the history and output of the Hogarth Press.

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Terry Cook on the Importance of History, and the neglect of Library and Archives Canada

2012-07-26
Length: 59s

Terry Cook received a Ph.D. in Canadian History from Queen's University, 1977. From 1975 to 1998, he worked at the then Public, later National, Archives of Canada, leaving as the senior manager responsible for directing the appraisal and records disposition program for all media. In his long and distinguished career there, he was responsible for the development of policies and methodologies which dramatically altered the national archival system.

In 1998, he founded Clio Consulting Inc., and since then has worked for national, municipal, and academic archives, as well as archival associations, around the world. He also took on the position  of Associate Professor for the Archival Studies Program in the Department of History at the University of Manitoba.

He has authored over 80 articles which have been published in Archivaria (two of his contributions being awarded the W. Kay Lamb Prize) and other leading archival journals.  He is the author of The Archival Appraisal of Records Containing Personal Information: A RAMP Study With Guidelines (1991) and co-editor of Imagining Archives: Essays and Reflections by Hugh A. Taylor (2003).

He has also contributed to the archival community greatly in his editing of scholarly journals and his participation in various professional associations.

We met recently in Ottawa to discuss the cuts to, and neglect of, Library and Archives Canada. Among other things we talk about the challenges facing all libraries and archives, conflicting mandates, the differences between born and made digital material,  the importance of source documents, and the current absence of any 'real' exhibition programming at LAC.

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Brian Busby on Montreal Noir and its Pulp Fiction

2012-07-15
Length: 18s

Véhicule Press is re-releasing a series of Montreal Noir titles.

As weird as it might seem today, people from New York used to come up to Montreal for a good time. Gambling houses, drugs, clubs, fast women...Montreal was one of the coolest places to be in post-war North America. Fun, racy, naughty...for a few fleeting years Montreal had a real Noir vibe.  A handful of cheap, disposable novels captured this era in ways that more main stream novels never could. According to literary historian Brian Busby, their colour and detail provide an important historical record. These nine pulp fiction paperbacks documented the landscape and life of the period in an exciting, unusual way. They've since been largely ignored by historians and, in some cases, hidden by their authors.  I met recentlywith Busby to talk about Sugarpuss on Dorchester Street, The Executioner and other such titles, and why this series of paperbacks is worthy of our attention.

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Literary Tourist talks to David Theis about Literary Houston

2012-07-11
Length: 17s


While there is no ‘great Houston Novel,’ a lot of good stories  have come out of the city, many of which are told in David Theis’s Literary Houston, an anthology of writing on and about 'the Bayou city'. Stories, because Houston is a place where people come to DO things.  ‘To fly to the moon, create empires, build fortresses against cancer, and temples to surrealism’ as Theis puts it. I met him recently at a cafe just of Houston's busy Westheimer street. Seems like everwhere we moved something or someone very noisy decided to followed us. Still, we had an interesting conversation. Hope you enjoy it.

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Michele Rackham on Betty Sutherland and Canadian Book Design

2012-07-05
Length: 31s

Michele Rackham is a post doctoral fellow at Trent University. She is currently working on a digital catalogue raisonne of P.K. Irwin's (a.k.a P.K. Page) artwork that will  accompany a print art book to be published by the Porcupine's Quill. Rackham recently completed a PhD at McGill University. The title of her thesis is Between the Lines, Interartistic Modernism in Canada 1930-1960.

We met recently to talk about 20th Canadian book design, and the important work that artist Betty Sutherland did for the Contact Press designing book covers during the 1950s.

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Charles Foran on the courage of Mordecai Richler

2012-06-21
Length: 35s

Mordecai: The Life and Times has been called the ‘award-winningest’ book in Canadian literary history. I met recently with its author Charles Foran to talk about its subject, Mordecai Richler. The guts, aggression, honesty and pride of the man; a man who did things, who wrote to engender conversation, argument, who was socially engaged, who asked hard, uncomfortable questions. About Richler’s similarities to Pierre Trudeau.  His taking on a whole movement over Quebec’s sign laws.  His desire to write the best novel ever written. At least one book that would last. About Montreal, its tensions, and his loyalty to it. About Canadian culture. Digitization and the loss of literary life.

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Peter Dorn on his Heinrich Heine Press

2012-06-12
Length: 32s

Peter Dorn in his studio near Kingston, On. with Carl Dair

Heinrich Heine’s writings, poetry, and ideology delighted and enlightened me. He became a personal, meaningful experience, in the same way I feel, that private printing is a personal experience, printing meaningful things. These feelings make up the “idealistic” birth of the Heinrich Heine press”

Peter Dorn in Reader, Lover of Books, Lover of Heaven (North York Public Library, 1978. Designed by Glen Goluska).

Listen here to my conversation with Peter Dorn about his Heinrich Heine Press, his immigration to Canada, his work at Eaton’s department store, Canadian book design in the 1950s and 1960s, the influence of Carl Dair and Frank Newfeld, his move to Kingston and his work at Queen’s University.

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Brian Busby on Literary Montreal

2012-05-27
Length: 12s


I met recently with literary historian Brian Busby to talk about 'Literary Montreal', poet John Glassco, plaques and the Writers' Chapel of St James the Apostle Anglican Church.

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William Toye on Canadian Book Design

2012-05-24
Length: 27s

What William Toye apparently wanted most in the world after graduating from the University of Toronto in 1948,  was a job in Canadian book publishing. This, Robert Fulford tells us in a recent National Post profile, was an outlandish career move since Canadian publishing barely existed. We had few publishers and they produced few books. They did little more than import American and British books, selling Bibles, dictionaries and schoolbooks to keep themselves afloat. But Toye was insistent. Says Fulford: 

"When he applied for a job at the Canadian branch of Oxford University Press, he was told they had nothing for him but a place in the warehouse. He said that would be fine. Over the next six decades Canadian publishing steadily expanded and Toye found many ways to deploy the talents he developed. At age 84, still editing, he recently produced yet another in the long list of valuable books he’s given us, The Concise Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, Second Edition."

Quite apart from the outstanding work he has produced as editor, the multi-talented Toye has also written and designed some beautiful, memorable books of his own, and it is these we met to talk about last month.  Please listen here:

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Ron Silliman on Experimental Language Poetry

2012-05-04
Length: 37s

Jeff Hurwitz

This from the Poetry Foundation: "An influential figure in contemporary poetics, Ron Silliman became associated with the West Coast literary movement known as “Language poetry” in the 1960s and ‘70s. He edited In the American Tree (1986), which remains the primary Language poetry anthology, as well as penned one of the movement’s defining critical texts, The New Sentence (1987). Silliman’s prolific publishing career includes over thirty books of poetry, critical work, collaborations and anthologies. He has long championed experimental or “post-avant” poetics, most recently through Silliman’s Blog, a weblog he started in 2002."

I met recently with Ron at the Ottawa International Airport to talk about Language poetry. Among other things we discuss the 'Bardic I"; diagnosis of the self; examining viewpoint; the concept of clarity in writing; literary effects; passion through form; Raid killing bugs dead; manipulation of the reader; the artificiality of literary devices and preset responses. Louis Zukofsky. Received rather than earned wisdom. Shakespeare as a great font of creative invention. Bing Crosby as the Jimi Hendricks of the microphone. Steve Roggenback. The 'God help us' response. Unquestioned ideology. Ambiguity. Self check-out lanes. Common denominators.  Helen Vendler's irrelevancy. Poets' dishonest criticism. And the importance of reading series.

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Interview with Richard Stursberg on his book The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC

2012-04-29
Length: 23s

Jacket design by Jessica Sullivan 

Unlike Britain, which opted to invest in public non-commercial broadcasting in the early ’60s, Canada chose a hybrid model that freed the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to augment its Parliamentary appropriation with advertising revenues.

Canada’s 1968 Broadcast Act prescribed a broadcasting system controlled by Canadians that ‘safeguards and strengthens our cultural, political, social and economic fabric, promotes unity and national identity, and provides challenging, entertaining, informative programming that caters to a wide range of audiences.’

This conflicted mandate parked the CBC at a particularly congested intersection, one that today invites more collisions than ever before, what with the significant funding cuts just announced and profits from the Hockey Night in Canada franchise in jeopardy.

In addition to the impossible task of simultaneously promoting a single, nebulous national identity and culture, and providing programming for a wide variety of tastes and audiences, the CBC is also under pressure to produce “popular” shows that Canadians will watch and advertisers will support.

One solution is to abandon the old commercial hybrid model and fund the CBC not through Parliament, but directly from licence fees  levied on consumers. This way the CBC could, similar to TVOntario, carve out a more distinctive, unique role for itself by eliminating advertising  (and much of the glib, manipulative, audience-spinning crap one finds on commercial television)  from most of its schedule, and delivering ‘high’ quality Canadian alternative programming without regard for ‘lowest-common-denominator’ audience share. Replacing a chubby old confused mongrel, with a lean, alert purebred puppy dog.

Good idea. Perhaps that’s why it stands little chance of seeing daylight. Anything that resembles a new tax, or loosens the leash that government holds on public broacasting is unlikely to fly in Harperland, or for that matter in any other party-that’s-in-power land.

The alternative, one which Peter Stursberg championed as Vice President of English language programming at the CBC (2004-2010), is to focus on audience. ‘ What use are ‘good’ television shows if nobody watches them?  Stursberg  asks in his recent book The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC which documents his tenure with the public broadcaster.

While ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’ is no ‘Mad Men’, it is watched by lots of Canadians. And this is more than can be said of much CBC programming prior to Stursberg’s arrival.  By pushing one component of a decidedly messed-up mandate he created much controversy during his time at the CBC, and, eventually, got himself fired. One hopes that his book, and his bold efforts will, if nothing else, encourage debate, and ultimately produce from government a clearer mandate for this important, troubled institution.

I met with Richard (not Peter) Stursberg recently in Ottawa to talk about his new book.

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Erasmus of Toronto: Robert Fulford on Allan Fleming

2012-04-24
Length: 27s

Allan Fleming was born in Toronto in 1929. At 16 he left studies at the Western Technical School to apprentice at various design firms in Toronto. He then went to England, where he soaked up lessons from some of the great British book designers. Back in Canada in 1957 he joined the typographic firm Cooper and Beatty Ltd., and was working there when the opportunity to redesign Canadian National's logo came up in 1959.  In 1962 he became art director at Maclean’s magazine. He was vice-president and director of creative services at MacLaren Advertising from 1963 to 1968, and chief designer at the University of Toronto Press until 1976,  when he joined Burns and Cooper.

Suave, handsome, well-read, eloquent and confident, Fleming epitomised 'cool.' His design work won many awards in Canada, the United States and around the world. Though best remembered as the creator of CN’s corporate logo, Fleming was also a superb book designer, and this is what I talked about recently with Canadian literary journalist Robert Fulford who knew and was influenced by Fleming. Please listen here:

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Canadian Poets: Brian Trehearne on Irving Layton

2012-04-06
Length: 55s

Irving Layton.ca
Brian Trehearne is a professor of English at McGill University. His teaching and research areas focus on Canadian literature to 1970, chiefly poetry.  Awards and Fellowships include SSHRC Standard Research Grants, the Louis Dudek Award for Excellence in Teaching (three times) and the Arts Undergraduate Society Award for Excellence in Teaching. Publications include Canadian Poetry 1920 to 1960; Editor  (2010);  The Complete Poems of A.J.M. Smith,  Editor, (2007); The Montreal Forties: Modernist Poetry in Transition (1999) and Aestheticism and the Canadian Modernists: Aspects of a Poetic Influence (1989). He is currently working on a critical edition of The Complete Poems of John Glassco.

We met recently in Montreal to talk about the position of Irving Layton in the Canadian poetical canon. The influence of Montreal and parents on Layton's  poetry and persona; about masculinity, the sun, freedom, attention-seeking, Nietzsche, the Apollonian and the Dionysian, misogyny, aging, the Holocaust, vulnerability, and the best dozen poems.

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Tim Bowling on Book Collecting and his book In the Suicide's Library

2012-04-01
Length: 41s

Tim Bowling's collections of poetry include Fathom, The Book Collector, and The Memory Orchard. He has written three novels, including The Bone Sharps and The Paperboy’s Winter. Twice shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, Tim has won the Canadian Authors’ Association Award for Poetry and two Alberta Book Awards. In 2008, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

Tim was in Ottawa recently for Versefest. We met to talk about his book In the Suicide's Library,  an entertaining, fast-paced meditation ( yes, unusual) on modern life, the responsibilities of marriage and parenting, middle-age  and books and book collecting. Topics covered include book collecting, coincidence, suicide, the spirit, passion and harmony of books,  the use of hands, the line between bibliophiles and maniacs, the importance of physical books to the culture; we also cover writing about one’s book collections;  the sense of community among book collectors, the temptation of the material, possession, The Great Gatsby and green light, Las Vegas,  the power of knowledge, the pros and cons of the Internet, Serendipity Books, ‘shattering the groove,’ mid-life, change, parenthood,  and investing life with meaning.

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Poet Bruce Taylor on: No End in Strangeness New and Selected Poems

2012-03-23
Length: 40s

Bruce Taylor is a two-time winner of the A.M. Klein Award for Poetry. He has published four books of poetry: Getting On with the Era (1987), Cold Rubber Feet (1989), and Facts (1998). He has been a teacher, a puppeteer, and a freelance journalist. He lives in Wakefield, Quebec. We met recently to talk about his most recent collection No End in Strangeness: New and Selected Poems, (Cormorant Books, 2011) and sundry other topics relating to Canadian poets and poetry. Please listen here:

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Peter Cocking on book design at Douglas & McIntyre

2012-03-20
Length: 40s


Peter Cocking is a Vancouver-based graphic designer and design teacher. His wide ranging portfolio includes annual reports, airline tickets, snack-food boxes, CD packages, corporate identity programs, newspapers, and magazines. Since 2002 his focus has been on book and typographic design as art director at Douglas & McIntyre Publishing. Peter is the recipient of more than 40 awards for his design work. Peter has lectured at the national conferences of the AIGA and the AAUP, and to the Type Directors Club in New York. In 2009 he became the first Canadian juror at the 'Best Books in the World' competition, held annually in Leipzig, Germany.

We met recently at his offices in Vancouver to talk about D&M and some of the notable books that it has published.

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Interview with Canadian Printer and Book Designer Robert Reid

2012-03-09
Length: 41s

Robert Reid (Left) with friend and fellow book designer Tak Tanabe

Born in Alberta in 1927, Robert Reid moved to Vancouver with his family at an early age.  During his second year at the University of British Columbia he spotted a beautiful rubricated book on display in the library which inspired him to make something similar. Two years later, in 1949, he issued his first limited edition, a reprint of Alfred Waddington's The Fraser Mines Vindicated.

This book was well received, and encouraged him to set up his own commercial print shop in downtown Vancouver. Through the 1950s he designed and printed  a lot of beautiful material,  including the B.C. Library Quarterly magazine. During this time he also was typographic advisor to the editorial committee at the University of British Columbia.

During the sixties he printed three limited editions - The Journal of Norman Lee (1959), Kuthan's Menagerie of Interesting Zoo Animals (1960), and poet John Newlove's first collection, Grave Sirs: (1962) - before moving to Montreal for a job as director of production and design at McGill University Press. Here he published his magnum opus, The Lande Bibliography of Canadiana. It remains one of Canada's most beautifully crafted books.

In the mid seventies Robert left for New York, where he spent the next 25 years packaging books for major publishers. He returned to Vancouver in 1998 where he continues to participate in the making of beautiful books with, among others, Heavenly Monkey Press, and the Alcuin Society. We met recently in Vancouver to talk about his impressive, life-long achievements.

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Jan and Crispin Elsted on The Barbarian Press

2012-02-29
Length: 54s

Crispin Elsted, Canada's own larger (about a foot taller) than life William Morris.

Barbarian Press was established in 1977 in Kent, England where Jan and Crispin Elsted worked with Graham Williams at the Florin Press. With three flatbed hand presses and many cases of type, the couple returned home to Canada in 1978 to set up shop in Mission, British Columbia, about 50 miles east of Vancouver in the Fraser Valley.  The press’s publications range from new translations of poetry and prose, Victorian melodrama, and new poetry to bibliography, illustrated classics, typography, and books on wood engraving. This last has become a particular speciality since the publication in 1995 of Endgrain: Contemporary Wood Engraving in North America, which was greeted with considerable acclaim, and is now widely sought after. This has spawned an ongoing series of books called Endgrain Editions, each showing selected work of a single engraver, printed from the original blocks, with an introduction and a catalogue of major works.

I met with the Elsteds recently to talked to them, in their home, about, among other things, their literary backgrounds; gifts, hands and the discovery of artisanal skills; aspirations and influences; the continuity of human experience; books and students and work experiences; doing all of this together; retirement at age 30; hand presses, hand-made paper and hand setting type, Canadians in England studying Americans; publishing the canon; wood engravings; favorite children; wine and typeface connoisseurship; books as unique performances, and the evils of the digital age. Please listen here:

This interview is part of our Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Librarian Eric Swanick on Jim Rimmer

2012-02-20
Length: 15s

“PRINTING, ILLUSTRATION, TYPE DESIGN, typefounding, type engraving, bookbinding, graphic design, stone cutting and digital type design are things that have occupied me for over seventy years, and do to this day.  Excepting the bit of letter cutting in stone, these occupations have all put dinner on the table; but it has been my good fortune to have loved the work.”

This is how Jim Rimmer (1934-2010) starts off his Pie Tree Press, Memories from the Composing Room Floor (Gaspereau Press, 2008)

Rimmer was a mainstay of the letterpress/private press community in Vancouver for much of the past 50 years. Trained as a commercial compositor in the 1950s, his aesthetic taste,  artistic talent and mechanical know-how combined to produce a long, significant career as a graphic artist, printer, type designer and caster.  Despite the many fonts he designed, engraved and cast, despite his beautiful linocuts, and despite the fact that in 2004 he completed the first engraving and casting of Carl Dair's Cartier face in metal, Jim is remembered most of all for love.

The love of a business that he was passionate about; and the love that he instilled in so many, for books, the printed word, and the letterpress printing process.

An archive of material from the last decade of Jim's work is held by the Special Collections Library at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. I met there recently with Eric Swanick, Head of the Library, to talk about Jim Rimmer.

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Leah Gordon on the Alcuin Society's Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada

2012-02-19
Length: 18s

The Alcuin Society’s Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada have been recognizing achievement since 1981.

As Marlene Chan put it in the preface to the 2009 winners’catalogue,

“The hallmark of the judging process in all of the Alcuin competitions is, and has always been, that each book is considered as a total entity. The discerning judges examine every aspect of each book, including the dust jacket, binding, endpapers, half-title page, copyright page, title page, page layout, typography, integration of illustrations, chapter openings, running heads, reproduction of illustrations, clarity of printing, choice of paper, footnotes and bibliographical references. The judges select books in eight categories to encourage the very best in Canadian design, only where they see exceptional merit.”

I met recently with Leah Gordon, Chair of the Book Design Committee, at her home in Vancouver to talk about the history and goals of the society – and, in particular, its Awards program; about some of the books the society has published over the years, and about how, in addition to the judging criteria cited above,  appropriateness and usefulness also factor into the judges’ decision making process. 

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Interview with poet bill bissett

2012-02-15
Length: 35s

Monsieur Wikipedia informs us that bill bissett was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, attended Dalhousie University (1956) and the University of British Columbia (1963–1965), and dropped out of both because of a desire 'to live as a free agent, writer and painter unencumbered by any academic constraints.' He moved to Vancouver in 1958 and five years later set up blew ointment magazine. He later launched blewointment press, which has published volumes by Cathy Ford, Maxine Gadd, bpNichol, Ken West, Lionel Kearns and D. A. Levy, and many others.  bissett is currently based in Vancouver and Toronto.

Known for his 'unique orthography' , 4 incorporating visual elements into his printed poetry, and 4 performing "concrete sound" poetry using sound effects, chanting, and barefoot dancing, he is often associated with the Shamanistic in literature. He also paints, and produces audio recordings. His work 'often involves humour, a sense of wonder and sentimentality, and political commentary.'

In 2006, Harbour Publishing put out  radiant danse uv being, a tribute to bissett with contributions from more than 80 writers, including Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Patrick Lane, Steve McCaffery, and P. K. Page; and Carl Peters has just published a book called textual vishyuns: image and text in the work of bill bissett that analyses the poet's work.

I met with bill recently in Ottawa to talk about all of the above, starting with the blurring of boundaries. Please listen here:

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Will Rueter on his Aliquando Press

2012-02-03
Length: 46s

Will Rueter is a private printer, hand binder, instructor and printmaker living in Dundas, Ontario. He founded The Aliquando Press late in 1962. It has, to date, produced more than 100 books, and plenty of broadsides too. Rueter's work has been shown throughout North America and Japan and is held in public and private collections in North America and Europe.

I met him recently at his home in Dundas to talk about, among other things, the origins of his Press, his love of printing, his Dutch printer ancestors, and his 30 years at the University of Toronto Press designing books. During the latter part of our conversation we talk about those volumes he is most proud of having produced, including Majesty, Order and Beauty an edition of the edited journals of renowned British bookbinder and private printer, Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, a close friend of William Morris and a man who has had a profound impact on Rueter's life and work.

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Charlotte Gray on Nellie McClung

2012-01-20
Length: 36s

According to her website, "Charlotte Gray is one of Canada’s best-known writers, and author of eight acclaimed books of literary non-fiction. Born in Sheffield, England, and educated at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, she began her writing career in England as a magazine editor and newspaper columnist. After coming to Canada in 1979, she worked as a political commentator, book reviewer and magazine columnist before she turned to biography and popular history." In 2008, Charlotte published Nellie McClung, a short biography of Canada’s leading women’s rights activist in the Penguin Series, Extraordinary Canadians.

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Rare Books Librarian Richard Peek on Ten Great Literary Destinations in Rochester, N.Y.

2012-01-16
Length: 9s

 

Listen here to a Literary Tourist podcast with Richard Peek, Director, Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation at the Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester.

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Curators Steven K. Galbraith & Amelia Hugill-Fontanel on the Cary Graphic Communication Collection, Rochester N.Y.

2012-01-15
Length: 17s

The Cary Collection is one of America’s premier libraries on graphic communication, its history and practices. Located in Rochester on the campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology, the original collection of 2,300 volumes was assembled by New York City businessman Melbert B. Cary, Jr. during the 1920s and 1930s. Cary was director of the Continental Type Founders Association (a type-importing agency), a former president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), and proprietor of the private Press of the Woolly Whale. His professional and personal interests in printing led him to collect printer's manuals and type specimens, as well as great books on the printer's art. In 1969 his collection, together with funds to support its use and growth, was presented to RIT.  Today the library houses some 40,000 volumes and a growing number of manuscript and correspondence collections.

While its original strengths continue to be an important focus, other aspects of graphic arts history have also been developed. For example, the Cary is committed to building comprehensive primary and secondary resources on the development of the alphabet and writing systems, early book formats and manuscripts, calligraphy, the development of typefaces and their manufacturing technologies, the history and practice of papermaking, typography and book design, printing and illustration processes, bookbinding, posters, and artists’ books.

Though many of the volumes in the library are rare, the Cary has maintained, from the beginning, a policy of liberal access for students , especially those enrolled in the RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, and interested literary tourists.

The Cary Collection also manages some 36 Graphic Design archives documenting the work of important 20th-century Modernist graphic designers, and has been aggressively acquiring examples of avant-garde book typography. This great library is a must visit destination for all those who love books and the processes involved in making them.

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Stan Bevington on the Coach House Press, Part ll

2012-01-14
Length: 38s

Last summer I met with Stan Bevington in Toronto to talk about the history of the Coach House Press and some of the more collectible books that it has published over the years. In this, Part ll of our conversation ( please find Part l here), we discuss, among many other things, the influence of the Stinehour Press, the adoption,  adaptation, and in some cases invention of new printing, photographic and computer technologies, and the book designs of Glenn Goluska and Gordon Roberton.

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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David Gilmour on his novel The Perfect Order of Things

2012-01-09
Length: 36s

It didn't win any prizes; no awards; didn't make many, if any, long or short lists; but David Gilmour's The Perfect Order of Things is a great novel. The best I read last year. In fact, I think it's one of the best Canadian novels ever written. Deceptively easy to read, the book's 300-odd pages are not only crowded with elegantly crafted sentences, they collectively capture and convey levels of insight and depths of experience one typically finds only in great Russian novels. Perfect Order leaves you invigorated; filled with admiration for the life fully lived. It makes you want to get out there and show the world who's boss.David Gilmour was in Ottawa recently to attend the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

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Patrick deWitt on his novel The Sisters Brothers

2011-12-20
Length: 26s

Canada Council: Photo: Danny Palmerlee

Patrick deWitt was born on Vancouver Island in 1975. He has also lived in California, Washington, and Oregon, where he currently lives with his wife and son. He is the author of two novels, Ablutions and The Sisters Brothers, which recently won Canada's Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. Here's how the jury described it: "Brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters are at the centre of this “great greedy heart” of a book. A rollicking tale of hired guns, faithful horses and alchemy. The ingenious prose of Patrick DeWitt conveys a dark and gentle touch."

I met recently with Patrick in Ottawa to discuss his award winning novel. Please listen here as we talk, among other things, about mannered language, the Coen Brothers,  Charles Portis, horses, psychopaths, masturbation, arts funding and being Canadian.

Copyright © 2011 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Phil Hall on his Governor General's Award-winning poetry collection, Killdeer

2011-12-19
Length: 39s

Photo: Canada Council.

I met recently with Phil Hall, whose latest collection of poems, Killdeer, has just won the Canadian Governor General's Literary Award for English Poetry. It's a sensitive, engaging, revealing work that incorporates narrative essay, life philiosophy and literary criticism into its stanzas. In sharp contrast to  the arrogant, impenetrable and solipsistic, Hall's poetry is humbly presented, accessible, beautiful, pastoral, reflective and at times profound. Listen here as we talk about brown speckled eggs and fiddle tunes, imbalance and literary prize juries, lying, distraction, pain, what's important, plus theatre and spectacle,  truth and doubt.

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Jonathan Rose on British Publishing House J.M. Dent & Sons

2011-12-12
Length: 27s

Prof. Johnathan Rose

Joseph Malaby Dent (30 August 1849 – 9 May 1926) was the British book publisher who gave the world the Everyman's Library series.

After a short,  unsuccessful career as an apprentice printer he took up bookbinding, and shortly thereafter founded  J. M. Dent and Company, in 1888, publishing the works of Lamb, Goldsmith, Austen, Chaucer, and Tennyson among others. Printed in short runs on handmade paper, these books enjoyed some success, but it wasn't until the Temple Shakespeare series, launched in 1894, that Dent hit the big time.

Ten years later he began planning what became known as the Everyman's Library, a canon of one thousand classics, attractively, but practically, produced pocket-sized books sold for a shilling each. To meet demand, Dent built the Temple Press.  Publication of the series began in 1906; 152 titles were issued in the first year. They were hugely popular.

'Small, lame, tight-fisted, and apt to weep under pressure,'  Dent's ungovernable passion was, says critic Hugh Kenner,  for bringing books to the people. He remembered when he'd longed to buy books he couldn't afford. Yes, you could make the world better. He even thought cheap books might prevent wars."

I met with famed book historian Johathan Rose recently to discuss J.M.Dent, and to find out why the Everyman's Library series was so successful. Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Mark Kingwell on Glenn Gould

2011-12-07
Length: 40s

Glenn Gould was a world renowned classical pianist and an 'eccentric genius'— a 'solitary, headstrong, hypochondriac virtuoso.'  Abandoning stage performances in 1964, he concentrated instead on mastering recordings, radio, television, and print. His sudden death at age fifty stunned the world, but his music and legacy continues. Philosopher/critic Mark Kingwell sees Gould as a philosopher of music whose contradictory, mischievous, and deliberately provocative ideas ruled his life. Instead of a single narrative, Kingwell adopts a 'kaleidoscopic' approach.  It took Gould twenty-one "takes" to record the opening aria in the famed 1955 Goldberg Variations, Kingwell does the same with Gould's life. Each take offers a slightly different, sensitive interpretation of this complex man, each plays with the notes, harmonies and dissonances that characterized his time on earth.

I met this past summer with Kingwell to talk about Gould, chutney, the problem of the biographical line, perfectionism, architectural beauty, tempo, pregnancy, absence becoming presence, recording and communications technology, and wonder. Please listen here to our conversation here:

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Douglas Gibson on Stories, Storytelling and Storytellers

2011-12-01
Length: 47s

Douglas Gibson was, for more than 40 years, a noted Canadian editor and publisher whose skills both as writer and salesman put him at the pinnacle of his profession. Douglas Gibson Books, the first editorial imprint of its kind in Canada, has over the years  published much of the best writing that has ever come out of this country.

Stories About Storytellers is Gibson's memoir. In a series of short profiles, he tells us tales about some of the authors he has worked with during an illustrious career.  He himself is an impressive story teller. The book takes us on a coast to coast tour, through the lives and writings of, among others, Jack Hodgins, Harold Horwood, Alice Munro, James Houston, Mavis Gallant, Alistair McLeod, Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney. Gibson's journey through Canadian political and publishing history,   eloquently documents the story of Canada.

We met recently in Ottawa. Please listen here as we talk, among other things, about his careers and roles as editor and publisher, about the best Canadian fiction, luck and a system that encourages Canadian writing, olympic gold, the difficulty of literary prizes, subjective judgement, and the most important paragraph in Canadian writing. 

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Andrew Cohen on Lester B. Pearson

2011-11-06
Length: 38s

Lester "Mike" Pearson was an extraordinary politician. He was also an extraordinary athlete, diplomat, leader, teacher, writer and student. And yet, despite all of this, and, the fact that during his lifetime he was the world's best known Canadian, many are today unaware of the important role he played in creating modern Canada with its enviable social programs and economic safeguards. Andrew Cohen's biography of Pearson, part of Penguin's Extraordinary Canadians series, sets out to rectify this as it explores the various, successful lives this man led, and the contributions he made both to the building of Canada and world peace. Please listen here

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Dan Boice on the Mitchell Kennerley Imprint

2011-11-02
Length: 28s

A complicated, fascinating, largely unknown man who did a great deal for American literary publishing, Mitchell Kennerley was born in 1878 in Burslem, England. He arrived in the United States in 1896 to help set up publisher John Lane's U.S. offices. After an unhappy parting, Kennerley set off to publish various small literary magazines, and in 1906 launched his own imprint under which he published literary criticism, modern drama, fiction, and poetry, including Modern Love, first book off the press. He produced elegant books in small print runs and launched the careers of many important young authors of poetry particularly. American Bookman said  that his imprint was "in itself guarantee of a book's worth.” Christopher Morley called Kennerley “unquestionably the first Modern publisher in this country.”

Kennerley's publishing career wound down during the First World War, and he subsequently took over operation of the Anderson Galleries where he orchestrated some of the 20th century's most amazing rare book auctions. The Huntington and Folger Libraries were largely built on these sales.

He opened the Lexington Avenue Book Shop in 1940 and operated it until his suicide in 1950. Women, an inability to focus, a failure to pay his bills and desire for a lifestyle beyond his means, have all be pointed to as explanation for his sad ending.

I met recently with Dan Boice, author of the 1996 bibliography of the Kennerley imprint, in Iowa to talk about kennerley and the books he produced. Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Emilie Buchwald on Milkweed Editions

2011-10-30
Length: 33s

Founded in Minnesota in 1980 by Emilie Buchwald and R.W. Scholes, Milkweed Editions is one of the nation's leading independent, nonprofit literary publishers, releasing between fifteen and twenty new books each year in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children's literature. Much of its nonfiction is addresses critical environmental issues and works to expand ecological consciousness. Milkweed’s authors come from Minnesota and around the world. Today more than one million Milkweed books are in circulation. Collectively they have received more than 190 awards and special designations, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, two American Book Awards, the Liberatur Prize for Fiction, seven New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year, and ten Minnesota Book Awards. Milkweed’s mission, which combines an emphasis on the literary arts with a concern for the fabric of society, leads it to be active in the Minneapolis community in ways that demonstrate the social relevance of literary writing.

I met recently with co-founder Emilie Buchwald to talk about the history of Milkweed, and how interested parties might go about collecting its books. Please listen here

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Randy Bachman on collecting guitars, vinyl, and books

2011-10-20
Length: 24s


Hard not to like Randy Bachman. He's smart, friendly, interested, passionate...and a collector. Why a collector? Because in 1976 his favourite guitar was stolen from a Toronto hotel room, and he wanted to get it back. What? A late-1950s orange Gretsch guitar, the Chet Atkins model.Bachman used it -- "my first real professional guitar" -- on the Guess Who hit Shakin' All Over, and later for Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Takin' Care of Business. He has yet to find it.

Not all was lost however. Thirty years of hunting, on and off line, through music stores, pawn shops, websites and garage sales resulted in the world's largest and finest collection of Gretsch electric guitars. This trove of roughly 380 instruments was sold to the Gretsch company several years ago for its museum in Savannah, Ga.

I met with Bachman recently in Ottawa - he was here to promote his new book Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap Stories, a written telling of stories told on his popular CBC radio program of the same name. Please listen here as we discuss the madness and wonder that is guitar, vinyl and book collecting. Budding collectors: be sure to note the records he suggests you go after.

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Allan Kornblum on the Coffee House Press

2011-10-11
Length: 50s

Coffee House started out as the Toothpaste Press in Iowa in the early 1970s. Founded by Allan Kornblum after taking a University of Iowa typography course with the famed printer Harry Duncan, this small publishing house dedicated itself to producing poetry pamphlets and letterpress books. After 10 years, Kornblum closed the press, moved to Minneapolis, reopened it as a nonprofit organization, and began publishing trade books. .

In the early 1990s, books such as Donald Duk by Frank Chin and Through the Arc of the Rainforest by Karen Tei Yamashita (a 1991 American Book Award winner) drew national attention and helped cement the press's reputation as a publisher of exceptional works by writers of color. According to Kornblum, Coffee House has actively published writers of color as writers, "as representatives of the best in contemporary literature, first and foremost—then, only secondly, as representatives of minority communities." This could well be the press's most important contribution to American literature.

In July 2011, after a two-year leadership transition process, Kornblum stepped down to become the press’s senior editor. Chis Fischbach, who began at the press as an intern in 1994, succeeded him as publisher. Coffee House has published more than 300 books, and releases 15-20 new titles each year. It is known for long-term commitment to the authors it chooses to publish, and is currently located in the historic Grain Belt Bottling House in Northeast Minneapolis, where I met with Kornblum to conduct this interview:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Stan Bevington on the Coach House Press

2011-09-27
Length: 30s

In 1965, Stan Bevington, moved to Toronto from Edmonton, rented an old coach house, installed an antique Challenge Gordon platen press and set up Coach House Press. Over the years his small publishing house introduced the world to the early works of bpNichol, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, George Bowering, Frank Davey, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Anne Michaels and many other important Canadian writers.

Known for its experimental production techniques and innovative designs, Coach House has published more than 500 titles of its own since 1965, and printed thousands more for other presses, libraries and art galleries. In addition to employing some of Canada's greatest type and book designers, Bevington also kept Coach House at the forefront of  new printing and computer technology advancements, collaborating with artists, programmers and e–book designers.

He has lectured at York University and the Rochester Visual Studies Workshop, at the Banff Publishing workshop and Radcliffe at Harvard, and has received numerous grants, prizes, honourary degrees and life time achievement awards for his work in publishing and the Arts.

We met recently in Toronto, outside the Coach House premises, to talk about the history of the Press, and, more specifically, about those books, among the many it has published, that might be of greatest interest to the collector. Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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George Walker on his Presses, and Wood Engravings

2011-09-18
Length: 23s

George Walker is a wood engraver, book artist, author, illustrator and educator who has taught courses at the Ontario College of Art & Design since 1985. For over twenty years he has exhibited his wood engravings and limited edition books internationally. Among many book projects, George has illustrated two hand-printed editions written by Neil Gaiman. He is the author of The Inverted Line (2000 Porcupine's Quill), ImagesFrom the Neocerebellum (Porcupine's Quill 2007), The Woodcut Artist's Handbook (Firefly Books 2005), and Graphic Witness (Firefly Books 2007). Elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art in 2002, Walker belongs to The Loving Society of Letterpress Printers, The Binders of Infinite Love and the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG).

I met recently with George and his partner/wife Michelle Hogan-Walker in Ottawa over breakfast. We talked about the various presses that the two of them have owned and operated, about his oeuvre, and his book collecting habit. Finally, we discuss Frans Masereel,  Max Ernst , and Laurence Hyde, and the thread that traces Walker's work back to the early part of the last century. Please listen here:

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Joanna Skibsrud on The Sentimentalists as object, and the controversy surrounding its publication

2011-09-12
Length: 19s

Johanna Skibsrud's debut novel The Sentimentalists won the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the 2009 Alcuin Award for best designed work of prose fiction, the first book ever to achieve this double win. Skibsrud has also published two books of poetry, including Late Nights with Wild Cowboys in 2008. The Sentimentalists was written for her Master's thesis at Concordia University.She is currently pursuing a Ph.D.  and lives in Tuscon Arizona. 

The Sentimentalists was first published by Gaspereau Press, a highly regarded small press based in Kentiville Nova Scotia, in a print run of 800 copies. The firm had difficulty filling demand for the book after it won the Giller. Chapters-Indigo, Canada's dominant bookstore chain, claimed not to have any of the books in stock anywhere in Canada during the week the Giller was announced. One result was a significant increase in ebook sales; the novel quickly became the top-selling title in the Kobo ebookstore. Within about two weeks Gaspereau announced that it had sold trade paperback rights to Douglas & McIntyre; at the same time it continued to print small runs of the novel in its original format.

As if this weren't enough, Giller juror Ali Smith, a British writer, spoke to literary agent and friend, Tracy Bohan, about the book before it was longlisted. Just days before the longlist was announced, Bohan secured a deal for the rights to distribute the book internationally. She subsequently sold the book to her boyfriend, Jason Arthur, a director of Random House UK imprint William Heinemann.

According to The National Post, Andrew Steeves, co-owner of Gaspereau Press, says he received an email from Skibsrud in which “She told me that Tracy Bohan had contacted her and that an author, Ali Smith, had recommended that Tracy read The Sentimentalists.” Before the longlist was revealed in September, “Tracy was very interested in making a deal with me that morning.” After the longlist was revealed, Steeves admitted, “it looked a little funny to me.”

I met recently with Skibsrud in Ottawa. We talked about all of the events surrounding publication of  The Sentimentalists (surly already despite its short life, one of the most storied books in Canadian history) and about the book itself as object. Please listen here:

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Etgar Keret on his film Jellyfish

2011-09-07
Length: 28s


Etgar Keret is an Israeli writer known for his short stories, graphic novels, and scriptwriting for film and television. His first work, a collection of short stories, was largely ignored when it was published in 1992. His second book, Missing Kissinger, a collection of fifty very short stories, was a hit. The story "Siren", which deals with paradoxes in modern Israeli society, is included in the curriculum for the Israeli matriculation exam in literature. Keret has co-authored several comic books, written a children's book (Dad Runs Away with the Circus) and served as a writer for the popular TV show The Cameri Quintet . He and his wife Shira directed the 2007 film Jellyfish, based on a story written by Shira. This is what we talked about when we met earlier this year in Ottawa. Please listen here:

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Cheryl Torsney on: Why Collect?

2011-07-29
Length: 10s

Whilst in Texas recently I did what all crazed literary tourists do, I checked around for listings of interesting conferences that were taking place at the time, in the area. The Popular Culture Association was holding one in San Antonio, and this is where I caught up with Cheryl Torsney, (at the time Dean of Hiram College, now Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the State University of New York at New Paltz), who was delivering a paper called Collecting as Pedagogy. Listen here to our conversation:

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James Keeline on collecting Tom Swift books

2011-07-26
Length: 24s

James Keeline  liked to take apart radios as a young boy. He was also interested in space technology and computers. While in school he worked for a used bookstore. He ended up managing the place and running its web site and computer network. He also started researching and writing about children's series books. His particular interest and expertise is the Stratemeyer Syndicate and its founder Edward Stratemeyer. I met James recently in San Antonio to talk about collecting the Tom Swift series of books. Please listen here:

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Cathy Henderson and Richard Oram on Alfred A. Knopf Inc.

2011-07-11
Length: 38s

 The Harry Ransom Center holds the Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. archive, which includes books published under the Borzoi imprint and books from Alfred A. and Blanche Knopf’s personal library. The Ransom Center’s Associate Director for Exhibitions and Fleur Cowles Executive Curator, Cathy Henderson, and Associate Director and Hobby Foundation Librarian, Richard Oram, collaborated on The House of Knopf, a book that contains collected documents from the Knopf, Inc. archive and is part of the Dictionary of Literary Biography series. It goes for a paltry $547 on ebay...so, instead of buying the book, I decided to travel down to Austin, Texas to interview the authors. Listen here to the result

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Top Ten Literary Destinations in Texas

2011-06-25
Length: 13s

Charles Lohrmann is the editor of  Texas Highways, the official travel magazine of Texas. It "encourages recreational travel within Texas and tells the Texas story to readers around the world. Renowned for its photography, statewide events coverage, top weekend excursions, off-the-beaten path discoveries, and scenic destinations, Texas Highways helps readers discover the treasures of the Lone Star State." 

I met with Charles recently in Austin and asked him for his top ten literary destinations in Texas. Please listen here for his answer:

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Book Scholar George Parker on The Ryerson Press

2011-06-20
Length: 46s

This from the Loyalist Research Network website:

GEORGE L. PARKER was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and schooled in Lunenburg and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He attended Mount Allison University and Pennsylvania State University, and received his Ph. D. from the University of Toronto. He is Professor Emeritus of the Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, Ontario, where he taught from 1967 to 1997. He lives in Halifax. Professor Parker has contributed articles on Canadian authors and publishers to Canadian Literature, the Dalhousie Review, the Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, the Oxford Companion to Canadian History, The Canadian Encyclopedia, and the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. He edited one volume and co-edited another in the four-volume anthology, THE EVOLUTION OF CANADIAN LITERATURE (1973) He is the author of THE BEGINNINGS OF THE BOOK TRADE IN CANADA (1985) and the editor of Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s THE CLOCKMAKER, SERIES ONE, TWO, AND THREE (1995). He contributed to all three volumes of the History of the Book in Canada (2004-2007), and has published several chapters of his history of Toronto publishing, 1900-1970, in English Studies in Canada and in the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada.

I met recently with George Parker at his home in Halifax to talk about the history of the Methodist Book and Publishing House and its trade publishing division, Briggs, which later morphed into The Ryerson Press, "one of Canada’s most important book publishers during the twentieth century". Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Andrew Steeves on the Gaspereau Press

2011-06-10
Length: 42s

Gaspereau Press was established in February 1997 as a registered partnership by Andrew Steeves and Gary Dunfield. That year the Press published the first issue of its literary quarterly, The Gaspereau Review, and three trade titles. In 2000, Gaspereau relocated to Kentville, Nova Scotia, where a printing press and bindery equipment were installed enabling the firm to produce its own books. By 2004 the Press had nine full-time employees and was publishing ten titles annually.

Gaspereau's core philosophy emphasizes a commitment to the importance of the book as a physical object, "reuniting publishing and the book arts". One of the few Canadian publishers that still prints and binds in-house, the firm's books usually sport letterpress-printed covers which feature original artwork, are printed on fine paper and are smyth-sewn. The result is "strong, flexible, attractive books" that are comfortable in the hand and durable.

I met recently with Andrew Steeves to talk about his approach to printing and publishing, about his experience with Johanna Skibsrud's The Sentimentalists, and about what he hopes to acheive with his work and in his life.



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Charlie Foran on Maurice 'Rocket' Richard

2011-06-09
Length: 32s

From his website: "Charlie Foran was born and raised in Toronto. He holds degrees from the University of Toronto and the University College, Dublin, and has taught in China, Hong Kong, and Canada. He has published ten books, including four novels [and a biography of Mordecai Richler Mordecai: The Life & Times], and writes regularly for magazines and newspapers in Canada and elsewhere...Charlie has also made radio documentaries for the CBC program Ideas and recently co-wrote the TV documentary Mordecai Richler: The Last of the Wild Jews. A former resident of Montreal, where he was a columnist for the Montreal Gazette and reported on Quebec for Saturday Night Magazine, Charlie currently resides in Peterborough, Ontario, with his family."

We talk here about his recent 'brief life' of Maurice Richard - part of Penguin Canada's Extraordinary Canadians series -  of how 'The Rocket' was exploited both on and off the ice, and how his proud on-ice ferocity and contrasting silent, off-ice dignity, clashed and coincided with the transformation of Quebec during the second half of the 20th century.

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Alex Ross on Modern, Classical and Popular Music

2011-05-27
Length: 41s

According to Wikipedia: Alex Ross  was born in 1968 and has been the music critic at The New Yorker magazine since 1996.

He graduated from Harvard University in English summa cum laude for a thesis on James Joyce, and was a DJ at college radio station, WHRB.

His first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, a cultural history of music since 1900, was released in the U.S. in 2007. The book was a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, and placed on the New York Times list of the ten best books of 2007, 

He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, three ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for music writing, and a Holtzbrinck fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin. In 2011 he will receive the Belmont Prize for Contemporary Music at the pèlerinages Art Festival in Weimar.

His second book, Listen to This, was released in the U.S. in September 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. We met recently in Ottawa to talk about his approach to criticism, why he writes about music, and the connections he makes between classical, modern and popular music. Please listen here:

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Michael Gnarowski on the Contact Press

2011-05-18
Length: 39s

Professor, poet, editor and critic, Michael Gnarowski was born in Shanghai, China in 1934. He received his Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Ottawa in 1967. While an undergraduate at McGill, he contributed to, and co-edited, Yes (1956-1970) magazine. He also wrote for and/or edited Le Chien d'or/The Golden Dog (1970-1972), Delta, Golden Dog Press (1971-1985), and Tecumseh Press, and was series editor for McGraw-Hill Ryerson's Critical Views on Canadian Writers Series (1969-1977) and co-edited Canadian Poetry (1977- ) with David Bentley.

In 1970 Gnarowski  wrote a brief history and checklist of the Contact Press. Here's his entry on Contact in the Canadian Encyclopedia:

"Contact Press (1952-67) was founded as a poets' co-operative by Louis DUDEK, Raymond SOUSTER and Irving LAYTON, who were generally dissatisfied with the slight opportunities for publication available to Canadian poets. Contact went on, in the course of its 15-year history, to become the most important small press of its time. Launched at the mid-century, it published all the major Canadian poets of the period, and transformed literary life and small-press activity in Canada by its openness to a variety of poetic styles and its assertiveness of the poet's role in the production of his own work. Beginning before subsidies and government aid to Canadian book publishing had become a mainstay of such activity, Contact was a self-financed act of faith on the part of its founders.

While its main thrust was in publishing the new work of individual poets, it produced a milestone anthology, Canadian Poems 1850-1952, co-edited by Dudek and Layton in 1952, and an avant-garde manifesto of young poets published as New Wave Canada: The New Explosion in Canadian Poetry (1966). This was a successor to Souster's Poets 56, which had featured young poets in response to Dudek's query "Où sont les jeunes?"Essentially a "no-frills" press, Contact published handsome, workmanlike books with, on occasion, a mimeographed pamphlet. Its writers ranged from F.R. SCOTT, one of the early moderns, to the newest wave represented by Margaret Atwood, George Bowering and John Newlove." 

I met with Gnarowski recently at his home in Kemptville, Ontario to talk about the history, and collecting of, Contact Press. Please listen here to our conversation:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Author Vincent Lam on Tommy Douglas

2011-05-08
Length: 36s

Vincent Lam is a Canadian born member of the expatriate Chinese community of Vietnam. He is an emergency physician in Toronto, and lectures at the University of Toronto. He has also worked in international air evacuation and expedition medicine in the Arctic and Antarctic. His first book, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, won the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize. We met recently in Ottawa, during the federal election, to talk about his most recent book, a biography of Tommy Douglas, part of Penguin Canada's Extraordinary Canadians series.

Of many interesting observations made during our conversation: two government programs by which Canadians define themselves (old age pensions and universal health care) were introduced during periods of minority government, when the CCF/NDP held the balance of power, and Tommy Douglas's 'socialist' government in Saskatchewan produced balanced or surplus budgets in every one of the seventeen years it was in power.

Listen here for more:

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Margaret Lock on Lock's Press

2011-04-26
Length: 40s

Locks' Press, according to the  Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild's Ottawa Chapter website, "was founded in 1979. Since then it has printed eleven books, fifteen pamphlets, and twenty-four broadsides. The editions are small, 30 to 80 copies. The press prints mainly illustrated editions of unusual but enduring texts, ranging from classical Greece to the early twentieth century.

Fred is the editor and has provided translations for about a third of the titles (from Greek, Latin, Middle English, Provençal, and German). Margaret does the woodcut illustrations, design, typesetting, printing and binding.

The character of the press is conservative and scholarly. Most texts are presented in their original spelling and punctuation. Many of the texts have an underlying serious moral. The presentation is enlivened by the illustrations.

 

Simple, strong, sometimes slightly comic, the woodcuts encourage the reader to reconsider the text, and remember its message."

I spoke recently with Margaret about her press, its history, her approach to illustration, her work philosophy, and what she looks for in fine press books. Please listen to our conversation here:

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Olivier Barrot on Les Editions Gallimard

2011-03-22
Length: 20s

Olivier Barrot has presented the literary program Un livre, un jour (A Book a Day) daily on channels France 3 and TV 5 Monde since 1991. In 2009, the year in which he celebrated his 4,000th program, he created Un livre toujours (Always a Book), a weekly program devoted to paperback books.

Along with Thierry Taittinger, Olivier Barrot is the co-founder of Senso. He has been co-director of the magazine since 2001. He has worked as a journalist for Le Monde, where he has written the “Books” and “Travel” sections since 1986, for the Canal+ TV (“demain” (Tomorrow) then “la grande famille” (The Extended Family) from 1988 to 1992) and for Pariscope, as founder-manager of the Parispoche (Pocket-Paris) supplement.

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Gaston Gallimard, the  son of a family of wealthy art collectors, took over the Nouvelle Revue française from his friend André Gide more than 100 years ago to establish a "publishing counter" and an enduring company which has remained independent and successful ever since.  Most major writers – French and otherwise – have appeared in Gallimard’s impressive catalogs over the past century.  Jacques Rivière, Jean Paulhan, André Malraux, Albert Camus and Philippe Sollers, have all worked with Gallimard. The company publishes in all genres – from poems to detective novels – in either its famous white-covered paperbacks or its prestigious Bibliothèque de la Pléiade collection.

I met with Olivier recently in Ottawa to talk about this impressive publishing house, and how one might best go about collecting its books. Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.



g its books. Please listen here:

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Tom Boss on Copeland & Day, and Stone & Kimball

2011-03-14
Length: 28s

Tom Boss is the owner of Thomas G. Boss Fine Books in Salem, Mass. He has been in business in the Greater Boston area since 1974, specializing in Art Deco, Arts & Crafts, and Art Nouveau books, livres d'artiste, fine bindings, press and illustrated books, the eighteen-nineties,  and the decorative arts, as well as in fine art, posters and graphics in these areas.  He also stocks and publishes reference books relating to these fields.

We met recently at the Boston International Antiquarian Bookfair to talk about the history, and collecting, of Copeland & Day, Stone & Kimball and other similar small publishing firms active in the 1890s in America. Please listen here to our conversation:

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Jack David on ECW Press

2011-03-06
Length: 46s

ECW Press is a North American small press book publisher located in Toronto, Ontario. It was founded by Jack David and Robert Lecker in 1974 as a Canadian literary magazine called Essays on Canadian Writing. Its first books belonged primarily to two series - the Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors (ABCMA) and Canadian Writers and Their Works (CWTW).

Throughout the 1980s ECW published a wide range of Canadian literary reference titles, and - in order to stay alive - began to service third-party clients, creating promotional books for corporations. In the 1990s ECW returned to trade publishing; at the time Publishers Weekly recognized it as one of the fastest growing and most diversified independent publishers in North America.

ECW now publishes literary fiction, poetry, mysteries, and 'fan-based' pop-culture titles on topics that include professional wrestling, MMA, music, and television and film. Thanks to its transformation, ECW has come to stand for Entertainment. Culture. Writing...or, as Jack David tells us, anything you may wish it to stand for.

ECW books have won the Governor General's Literary Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, the Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry, the Heritage Toronto Award, and the Independent Publisher Book Award.  The company has published close to 1,000 books which are distributed throughout the English-speaking world and have been translated into dozens of languages.  Please listen here to my conversation with the ever engaging Jack David.

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Joseph Boyden on Gabriel Dumont and Louis Riel

2011-02-11
Length: 21s

Joseph Boyden (born 31 Oct 1966) is, Wikipedia tells us, a Canadian novelist and short story writer.

"He grew up in Willowdale, North York, Ontario and attended the Jesuit-run Brebeuf College School." His father Raymond Wilfrid Boyden, was a medical officer who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was the highest-decorated medical officer of World War II.

Of Irish, Scottish and Métis decent, Boyden writes about the First Nations heritage and culture. Three Day Road, is a novel about two Cree soldiers serving in the Canadian military during World War I. It was inspired by Ojibwa Francis Pegahmagabow, the legendary First World War sniper. Boyden's second novel, follows the story of Will, son of one of the characters in Through Black SpruceThree Day Road. It won the Giller Prize.

He studied creative writing at York University and the University of New Orleans, and subsequently taught in the Aboriginal Student Program at Northern College. He divides his time between Louisiana, where he and his wife, Amanda Boyden, are writers in residence, and Northern Ontario."

We met recently in Ottawa to talk about his contribution to Penguin's Extraordinary Canadians series, Louis Riel & Gabriel Dumont. Please listen here (apologies for all the background clammer. It recedes a bit after the first few minutes):

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John Ralston Saul on Penguin's Extraordinary Canadians, Lafontaine and Baldwin

2011-02-09
Length: 27s

John Ralston Saul was elected President of International PEN in October 2009.

His award-winning essaysand novels have had an impact on political and economic thought in many countries. Declared a “prophet” by TIME magazine, he is included in the prestigious Utne Reader’s list of the world’s 100 leading thinkers and visionaries. His works have been translated into 22 languages in 30 countries.

 

He has received many national and international awards for his writing, most recently South Korea's Manhae Grand Prize for Literature. He has published five novels, and is General Editor of the Penguin Extraordinary Canadians project, a series of 18 biographies that reinterprets important Canadian figures for a contemporary audience by pairing well-known Canadian writers with significant historical, political and artistic figures from 1850 onwards.

Born in Ottawa, Saul studied at McGill University and King's College, University of London, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1972.

We met recently in Ottawa to discuss his general editoring of Extraordinary Canadians, and his particular authoring of Lafontaine and Baldwin, one of the books in the series.

Please listen here:

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Richard Charkin on Book Publishing, and great book publishers

2011-01-24
Length: 1s

Richard Charkin began his career in 1972 as Science Editor of Harrap & Co. He has since held many senior positions in the publishing world with companies such as Pergamon Press, Oxford University Press, Reed International/Reed Elsevier, and Current Science Group. At Macmillan Publishers Limited he served as Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck. He was also Chairman of Macmillan India Ltd.

In 2007 he was appointed Executive Director of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.  with responsibility for operations worldwide, and focus on spearheading growth through acquisitions, new publishing areas and international expansion. He's also a damned fine blogger, and a captivating raconteur.

I met Richard recently at his home in London. We talked in his garden - in competition with the occasional helicopter and airplane - about what he considers to be the biggest challenges facing book publishing, and those publishers who he thinks have best met them.

Please listen here:

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John Randle on The Whittington Press

2011-01-19
Length: 33s

Born in the mind of John Randle at the age of 14 when he first entered his school's press room, the Whittington Press started life in a disused gardener’s cottage in 1971.

 Its first book, Richard Kennedy’s A Boy at the Hogarth Press, was printed on weekends during 1971-1972 on an 1848 Columbian.

Matrix -  the Randle’s revered annual publication on fine press printing - started out as a planned slim volume of some thirty two pages saddle stitched into stiff covers; the objective was for it to serve as “ a means of seeing in print a few short pieces which would not in themselves justify the production of individual titles, but which together might make a worthwhile publication.” Matrix 1 grew to seventy two pages, and had to be square backed.  

With it the Randle’s created an environment in which “author, artist and printer, punchcutter and typecaster “can work separately and together to both nurture and explore each others’skills. The revered annual provides an important platform for typographical dialog among and between fine press aficionados on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

I met John Randle recently in his repurposed gardener’s cottage to talk about his Press, his calling, and his thoughts about the practice of fine press printing.  Please listen to our conversation here:

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Gordon Graham on his publishing career

2011-01-06
Length: 36s

W. Gordon Graham was born ninety some years ago in Scotland. He attended university in Glasgow and after graduation enlisted in the army; he was awarded the Military Cross and Bar for active service in Burma. He started his postwar career as a freelance newspaper correspondent in Bombay writing for, among other publications: Business Week,  Chemical Engineering Record, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Glasgow Herald. In 1950 he started augmenting his journalist’s income with part-time work as a College and Trade Traveller for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. Six years later he was appointed their International Sales Manager, based in New York. He subsequently moved to London to run McGraw-Hill’s  European and the Middle Eastern book business. In 1974 he left the company to become Chairman and Chief Executive of Butterworths, where he oversaw a  tenfold increase in turn over.

He ‘retired’ in 1990, at which time he became the founder-editor of LOGOS, The Professional Journal of the Book World.I recently had the privilege of interviewing Gordon Graham at his home in England. Among other things we spoke about his legendary career, and those qualities he thinks best characterize great publishers. Please listen here:

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Roderick Cave on The Golden Cockerel Press

2010-12-13
Length: 38s

Roderick Cave with George lll at the British Library

The Golden Cockerel Press is one of most important, productive English private presses in the history of fine printing. In 2002 Oak Knoll Press and the British Library co-published the first extensive study of the Golden Cockerel. Written by Roderick Cave, the book is based on interviews and the Press' widely-scattered archives.  Responsible in large part for a revival in wood-engraving, Golden Cockerel Press books published between 1920-1960 contain the work of  brilliant practitioners such as Robert Gibbings (who owned the Press throughout much of the 20s), Eric Gill, David Jones, Agnes Miller Parker, Eric Ravilious, and John Buckland-Wright.  The Press' literary achievement was also significant; it published original manuscripts by writers such as H.E. Bates, A.E. Coppard and T.E. Lawrence.

I met with Roderick Cave recently at the British Library to discuss the works and history of The Golden Cockerel Press. As with all episodes in our Publisher History Series, questions are asked primarily from the perspective of a book collector. Please listen here:

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Richard Greene on his GG Award winning book of poetry Boxing the Compass

2010-12-09
Length: 34s

Richard Greene's Boxing the Compass recently won the Governor General's Award for English Poetry. 

Here's how the jury saw it:
"Richard Greene’s Boxing the Compass leaves us feeling unmoored, adrift across time and voice. The matchless long poem at its heart pulls us back to our always-moving selves, on an always-moving earth. We follow him in his offbeat but strangely familiar travels."

Here's my review of the book in the Globe and Mail .

Originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, now living in Cobourg, Ontario, Richard is not only a poet, he's also a biographer, critic and professor of English at the University of Toronto. He edited Graham Greene: A Life in Letters (2007) and has just written a biography of British poet Edith Sitwell.  Boxing the Compass is his third collection of poetry. Please listen as we talk about it here:

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Dianne Warren on her 2010 Governor General's Literary Award winning novel Cool Water

2010-11-26
Length: 32s

"Dianne Warren is best known for her short stories and plays. One of her three published plays, Serpent in the Night Sky, was a GG finalist in 1992, and she has written several radio dramas for CBC. She has published three short story collections – one of which, Bad Luck Dog (1993), won three Saskatchewan Book Awards. Her stories can also be found in numerous anthologies, journals and magazines. A long-time resident of Saskatchewan, she brings to her writing an honest portrayal of people in rural communities, conveying their subtle complexities and deep attachments to family farmland. Dianne Warren was born in Ottawa, and is currently living in Regina."

So says the Canada Council. Here’s what Dianne has to say about her 2010 Governor General’s Literary Award winning novel Cool Water:

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Prof. Iain Stevenson on the history of 20th Century British Publishing Houses

2010-11-20
Length: 47s

Iain Stevenson has worked with Longman, Macmillan, Pinter, Leicester University Press, Wiley, and The Stationery Office.  In 1986 he founded the environmental publisher Belhaven Press. He created the award winning MA in Publishing Studies at City University London and was a Professor in the Department of Journalism and Publishing there between 1999 and 2006. He is active on the governing and advisory board of the Publishers Association.

Current research is centred upon the history of British publishing and the applications of new technology in publishing, especially e-books and alternatives to the printed monograph in academic and scholarly communication.
  
We met recently to talk about his excellent new book, Book Makers: British Publishing in the Twentieth Century, published by British Library.

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

Subscribe to the Biblio File Podcast here

Please listen here:

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Alexander MacLeod on his Giller Short-listed book of short stories: Light Lifting

2010-11-04
Length: 37s


Alexander MacLeod was born in Inverness, Cape Breton

Alexander MacLeod was born in Inverness, Cape Breton and raised in Windsor, Ontario. His award-winning stories have appeared in a variety of leading journals, some have been selected for The Journey Prize Anthology. He holds degrees from the University of Windsor, the University of Notre Dame, and McGill. He currently lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and teaches at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Light Lifting, his first book, a collection of short stories, has been shortlisted for Canada's Giller Prize.

We met recently to discuss the work, specifically 'Miracle Mile', the collection's first story. Our conversation touches on technique and themes, the search for significance and meaning, disciplines, how, why and what people care about, and the use of metaphor and pace.

Please listen here (and tune in for the Giller announcement November 7th to see if Alexander wins!)

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Toby Faber on Faber & Faber

2010-10-30
Length: 49s

Previously managing director of Faber and Faber, Toby Faber is now a non-executive director of the firm and Chairman of its sister company Faber Music. An author in his own right, Faber has written two books Fabergé's Eggs and Stradivari’s Genius: Five Violins, One Cello, and Three Centuries of Enduring Perfection, both successful, neither of them published by Faber. Born in Cambridge, England, in 1965, he lives in London with his wife and daughter.

We met recently to talk about his family's renowned publishing firm, its history and how interested parties might best go about collecting its publications. Our conversation took place at Faber HQ in London specifically at the same table Toby's grandfather Geoffrey frequently sat at years ago with T.S. Eliot, Richard de la Mare and other iconic members of the Faber family.

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

Please listen here:

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Frank Newfeld on Canadian Book Design and which of his books to Collect

2010-10-21
Length: 31s

from Brian Busby’s The Dusty Bookshelf

Frank Newfeld  is a Canadian book designer, illustrator, art director and educator.

He has designed over 650 books and won more than 170 Canadian and international awards,  is a former Vice-President of Publishing at McClelland & Stewart and  Head of the Illustration Program at Sheridan College,  and Co-founder of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada

Newfeld has written and designed three children’s books, two of them published by Oxford University Press and one by Groundwood Books (Douglas & McIntyre). In 2008 his memoir  Drawing on Type was published by Porcupine’s Quill.

We talk here about the origins of his career as a book designer and illustrator, about some of his innovations, about the books he considers his best, and about which of his titles the collector might fruitfully pursue.

Please listen here

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Robert Baldock: On the Yale University Press, London

2010-10-15
Length: 30s

Robert Baldock started working at Yale University Press in London as a history editor in 1985. After serving as editorial director of the publisher’s humanities division, and deputy m.d.,   he was promoted to Managing Director in 2004. His authors on the biography, history, politics, music and religion lists have included Roy Porter, Richard Evans and Diarmuid MacCulloch. Prior to Yale he worked at Weidenfeld & Nicolson and the Harvester Press.

We talk here about his predecessor John Nicol, a brilliant editor and designer who developed Yale’s art and architecture list, Nicol’s triumph Life in the English Country House; about Yale’s partnerships with the world’s great galleries and museums, its hands-on approach to production, E.H.Gombrich’s A Little History of the World (400,000 copies sold, and counting), Strawberry Hill and the Lewis Walpole Library in Connecticut, the Yale series of Younger Poets, the Annals of Communism series, and architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner’s famous guides.

Please listen here:

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Book Historian Michael Winship on Ticknor and Fields; Houghton, Mifflin

2010-10-07
Length: 22s

"The best book published by Ticknor and Fields: Life of William Hickling Prescott, by George Ticknor (1864)

Michael Winship is a bibliographer and historian of the book – with special expertise in pre-1940 American publishing and book trade history.  He edited and completed the final three volumes of Bibliography of American Literature, for which he received the bibliography prize of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and served as an editor of and contributor to the recently completed 5-volume A History of the Book in America. We talk here, on a windy day (hence the background static)  in Haaavud Yaaaad about collecting books published by Ticknor and Fields, later Houghton Mifflin.

Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

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Carl Spadoni on McClelland and Stewart

2010-10-03
Length: 33s

Jack McClelland, [1967]

Carl Spadoni is the Director of the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, McMaster University Library.  In 1999, he was awarded the Marie Tremaine Medal by the Bibliographical Society of Canada for outstanding service to Canadian bibliography and for distinguished publication. He is the author of seven books including the Bibliography of McClelland and Stewart Ltd. Imprints, 1909-1985 (with Judy Donnelly) . We met during the summer in Hamilton to talk about the history of M&S and which books and series from this venerable Canadian publishing house might be worth collecting.

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

Subscribe to the Biblio File Podcast here

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

Please listen here:

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Prof. Ruth Panofsky: On the history, and collecting of, MacMillan Company of Canada

2010-10-03
Length: 25s

Photograph of ‘St Martin’s House’, 70 Bond Street, Toronto, home of Macmillan of Canada

Ruth Panofsky is Professor of English at Ryerson University in Toronto where she specializes in Canadian Literature and Culture, focusing on Canadian authorship and publishing history. She is the author of The Force of Vocation: The Literary Career of Adele Wiseman and is currently preparing a SSHRC-funded history of the Macmillan Company of Canada, 1905-1986. We met this past summer in Toronto to talk about MacMillan, its history and some of the more important books and authors it has published.

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works. Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

Please listen here: 

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McGill University Rare Book Librarian Richard Virr on Book Collecting

2010-10-03
Length: 22s

Richard Virr is the Head and Curator of Manuscripts at the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the McGill University Library. We met recently in Montreal to talk about book collecting, characteristic traits of the book collector, and different kinds of collections, including the Stone and Kimball collection that was purchased by McGill in 1972. It holds most of the books published by Stone & Kimball (1893-1897) of Cambridge, Chicago and New York, a publisher important primarily because of its focus on book quality and design. Please listen here:

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Mac Johnson on Collecting Rare Prints

2010-09-07
Length: 26s

W.McAllister (Mac) Johnson is a retired professor of art history at the University of Toronto. Some years ago he donated his collection of close to 1000 scholarly, art historical titles to the Carleton University Library in Ottawa.  The collection is unusual, in that it was assembled not by titles, but by categories of art-historical scholarship, including works on provenance and association; technical and theoretical works; museum, exhibition, and auction catalogues; translations and re-editions; connoisseurship (attribution) and criticism; reference works and ephemera. Together the books offer insights into the intellectual, institutional, social, and commercial activity of the art world in France and other European countries in the period spanning the Renaissance to the 20th century.

Johnson, an American-born art historian of international repute,  taught at the University of Toronto, where he trained two generations of Canadian scholars and curators, as a professor of Art History. The library he has donated to Carleton University represents the material evidence of his scholarly activities over the past four decades.

We met recently to talk about some of the practical approaches, philosophies and joys of collecting.

(Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here)

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Giller Prize Founder Jack Rabinovitch: On How to Pick the 'Best' Novels, and the merits of M.G. Vassanji

2010-09-06
Length: 15s

Jack Rabinovitch is a philanthropist best known for founding the annual Scotia Bank Giller Prize (named after his late wife, Doris Giller, a former literary columnist and editor at the Toronto Star)for best Canadian novel. Rabinovitch, a reporter and speechwriter who later turned to business, making his fortune in food retailing and real estate,  was an executive with Trizec Corporation where he helped develop close to six million square feet of hotel, commercial and retail space. He was Maclean’s magazine’s man of the year in 1999 and is a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario.

This week his membership in the Order of Canada was upgraded to platinum…he is now an Officer of the Order. Part of the citation for this added honour reads:

"Jack Rabinovitch continues to lend extraordinary energy to the promotion of Canadian literature. Maintaining a very active leadership role in the administration of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, he has negotiated a partnership that has solidified the Giller as Canada’s most lucrative and illustrious literary award. Canadian authors and publishers alike have gained increased sales as a direct result of either a nomination or a win, while the awards have helped to raise the profile of new and lesser-known authors."

We met this morning to talk about the Giller, its contribution to the purchase, reading and discussion of Canadian novels,  the various strengths and weaknesses of literary juries  adjudicating merit, and his choice for ‘best’ Canadian novel of all time.

(Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here)

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

 Please listen here:

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David R. Godine on the History, and collecting, of his publishing House

2010-07-26
Length: 36s

Publisher and book collector David R. Godine is the founder and president of a small, independent, eponymous publishing house, located in Boston, Massachusetts. It produces between twenty and thirty titles per year and maintains an active reprint program.

Bio: After receiving degrees from Roxbury Latin School, Dartmouth College, and Harvard University, Godine worked for Leonard Baskin, the renowned typographer and printmaker, and master printer Harold McGrath. Going solo in 1970, from the confines of a deserted barn, using his own presses, Godine printed his first books. Most were letterpress, limited editions, printed on high-quality paper. In 1980, the company initiated its children’s program. A number of these books have become classics. The company has also published two important series: Imago Mundi, a line of original books devoted to photography and the graphic arts; and Verba Mundi, featuring the most notable contemporary world literature in translation. In 2002, Godine bought most of Black Sparrow Books’s backlist.

2010 marks the fortieth anniversary of Godine’s multiple award-winning publishing enterprise. We met recently in his office to talk about those books he’s most proud of having published, about the books he is, as a collector, most proud to own, and about how best one might go about collecting the Godine imprint. Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how to go about collecting their works.

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Leslie Morris on New Directions

2010-07-26
Length: 25s

Leslie Morris is Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at Houghton Library, Harvard University in Cambridge MA and an expert on the New Directions publishing house. I met with her recently to talk about publisher James ‘Jay" Laughlin

"New Directions was founded in 1936, when James Laughlin (1914 – 1997), then a twenty-two-year-old Harvard sophomore, issued the first of the New Directions anthologies. "I asked Ezra Pound for ‘career advice,’" James Laughlin recalled. "He had been seeing my poems for months and had ruled them hopeless. He urged me to finish Harvard and then do ’something’ useful."

and the history of his venerable firm. Subjects covered include Ezra Pound, dust jacket designer Alvin Lustig, experimental poetry, works in translation…all of which are informed by an underlying desire to get at those books within this publisher’s output that might most appeal to book collectors and book lovers generally.

Please listen here:

Subscribe to the Biblio File Podcast here

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how to go about collecting their works.

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Tim Inkster on the Porcupine's Quill

2010-07-21
Length: 45s

Porcupine’s Quill; and why it wont do business with Heather Reisman

Elke and Tim Inkster have made an important and enduring contribution to Canadian literature. In 1974 they founded The Porcupine’s Quill (PQL), a publishing house based in Erin, Ontario. Renowned for excellence in design and production, and for taking risks with new, unpublished authors, the firm has helped kick-start the careers of many of Canada’s best known writers . PQL publications have won numerous awards and serve as an example to the world of Canadian publishing excellence.

Its first title came off the press in 1975: Brian Johnson’s only book of poems, Marzipan Lies. Brian Johnson is currently the film critic for Maclean’s and "claims to have met Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, twice!" (almost certainly an in-joke here that I’m not privy to).  Many of the early titles were slim volumes written by poets Tim Inkster had met as a student at the University of Toronto — amongst them Ed Carson who until recently was President of Penguin Canada, and Brian Henderson who is currently the publisher at Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

I met the Inksters recently in the garden behind their Press House. It butts up against the West Credit River, where this little critter

spent most of the morning chopping and hauling lumber from one

 

 bank to the

other.

While he was doing this Tim and I made our way back into the press room to talk about the history of The Porcupine’s Quill and how to go about collecting its books. During this discussion we hit on how market forces often influence appearance: namely glossy versus matte finished covers. It was here that Tim got into describing the difficulties he’s encountered dealing with Chapters, Canada’s one and only big box bookstore. Please listen here to our conversation:

Subscribe to the Biblio File Podcast here

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how to go about collecting their works.

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Mark Samuels Lasner on Collecting The Bodley Head

2010-07-12
Length: 31s

Collector, bibliographer, and typographer Mark Samuels Lasner is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Delaware Library and a recognized authority on the literature and art of the late Victorian period. A graduate of Connecticut College, he is the author or co-author of  among other works, The Bookplates of Aubrey Beardsley (Rivendale Press, 2008), A Bibliography of Enoch Soames (Rivendale Press, 1999), The Yellow Book: A Checklist and Index (Eighteen Nineties Society, 1998), A Selective Checklist of the Published Work of Aubrey Beardsley (Thomas G. Boss Fine Books, 1995), and England in the 1890s: Literary Publishing at the Bodley Head ( Georgetown U Press, 1990). His articles and notes have appeared in the Book Collector, Browning Institute Studies, Notes and Queries, and other journals. He has organized or co-curated exhibitions across the United States.

I met recently with Mark in St. Petersburg, Florida to discuss the history of The Bodley Head and how one might best go about collecting work produced by this publisher. Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how to go about collecting their works.

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David Staines on Northrop Frye and Evaluative Criticism

2010-06-28
Length: 33s

David Staines is a Canadian literary critic, university professor (English at the University of Ottawa), writer, and editor.  He specializes in three literatures: medieval, Victorian and Canadian. He is editor of the scholarly Journal of Canadian Poetry (since 1986) and general editor of McClelland and Stewart’s New Canadian Library series (since 1988). His essay collections, include The Canadian Imagination (1977), a book that introduced Canadian literature and literary criticism to an American audience, plus studies on Morley Callaghan and Stephen Leacock.

But it’s not for any of this (save a defense of Callaghan in the face of John Metcalf’s condemnations) that I sought  Prof. Staines’ company. Rather it’s because he co-edited Northrop Frye on Canada (University of Toronto, 2001). Frye, Canada’s most celebrated literary theorist, a man many hold responsible for the dearth of evaluative analysis in Canadian criticism; a man whose thoughts and person Staines knows (and knew) very well; is the reason we met.

Please listen here to a conversation that reveals the author of Fearful Symmetry and The Anatomy of Criticism as a surprisingly self contradictory critic; speaks to the remarkable talent of Alice Munro and Canada’s current stock of strong fiction writers; outlines criteria for acceptance into the New Canadian Library; and identifies some of the best Canadian novels.

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Bob Fleck on Oak Knoll Books

2010-06-21
Length: 29s

 

Oak Knoll Books – specialists in books on books – was founded in 1976 by Bob Fleck, a chemical engineer by training, who let his hobby get the best of him. Oak Knoll Press, the publishing arm of the business was established two years later.

Today, the thriving company maintains an inventory of about 23,000 titles. Specialities include books about bibliography, book collecting, book design, book illustration, book selling, bookbinding, bookplates, children’s books, Delaware books, fine press books, forgery, graphic arts, libraries, literary criticism, marbling, papermaking, printing history, publishing, typography & type specimens, and writing & calligraphy – plus books about the history of all of these fields.

I met  with Bob recently to talk about the story of his company, about his love of books, of A. Edward Newton, of traveling the globe to meet fellow bibliophiles, of visiting used bookstores, and of the plan Bob has to partner with Between the Covers, The Kelmscott Bookshop, and The Old Bookshop of Bordentown,  to convert the second story of his existing premises into a new store called The Bookshop in Old New Castle. Grand Opening: May 1 (Click here to see a slide-show of the remodeling process). Please listen here:

 

Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Adam Thorpe on the Real Robin Hood

2010-06-21
Length: 40s

 

Poet, playwright and novelist Adam Thorpe was born in Paris in 1956 and grew up in India, Cameroon and England. After graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1979, he started a theatre company and toured villages and schools before moving to London where he taught Drama and English Literature. Thorpe lives in France with his wife and three children. His most recent books are a collection of short stories, Is This The Way You Said? (2006); a poetry collection, Birds with a Broken Wing (2007); and the novels  The Standing Pool (2008) and Hodd (2009) in which he depicts Robin Hood as a glorified 13th century gangster surrounded by a group of psychopathic thugs, desperate men preying on the innocent.

We talked recently in Toronto at the IFOA, about the Robin Hood myth, and our apparent need to create heroes to address injustice, to express indignation, and right the wrongs of an unjust world. In the conversation we riff off William Flesch’s contention that fiction satisfies our desire to see the good vindicated and the wicked get their ‘comeuppance.’

Listen here

( Subscribe to the Biblio File Podcast here )

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Allen and Pat Ahearn on Books to Collect

2010-06-21
Length: 31s

"The Quill & Brush was established in 1976 as an outgrowth of a part-time business run by Allen and Patricia Ahearn who started collecting and cataloging books in the early 1960s. The Ahearns have over 45 years of experience in the field. At present the Quill & Brush is operated by Allen and Pat and their two daughters, Beth Fisher and Sue Regan.

The Quill & Brush specializes in first editions of literature, mystery/detective fiction and poetry, as well as collectible books in all fields. The firm focuses mainly on books published from the middle of the 19th century to the present. Their stock of over 15,000 books is housed in a beautiful library in the Ahearns’ home, nestled in the woods at the base of scenic Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland…"

 …which is where we met to talk about ebooks and their impact on the future pricing of collectible books, about collecting what others don’t; first books; Larry McMurtry, best used book selling practices and much more. Please listen here:

Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here

Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Carmine Starnino: On Canadian Poems and Poets

2010-06-21
Length: 32s

Photo: Gaspereau Press.

"Good reviewing," writes Carmine Starnino in the not-to-be-missed introduction to his A Lover’s Quarrel Essays and Reviews, "- reviewing that believes in literary failure – is invaluable because by calling one poem good and another less good, and adducing clear reasons for those claims, it offers one writerly interpretation of a particular achievement, and invites the reader to sypathetically tag along; his or her senses momentarily borrowing the reviewer’s responses."

We met recently in a somewhat echoey corner of the National Gallery in Ottawa to hold Starnino’s most recent collection of poetry, This Way Out, up to scrutiny, naming names. Which of his poems are good, which bad; who are the best and worst contemporary Canadian poets. Listen here as we walk the walk of A Lover’s Quarrel:

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Jane Urquhart reading a poem called The Literary Club

2010-04-07
Length: 2s

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Nicholson Baker: On the Future of the Book

2010-03-28
Length: 31s

Photo: Nigel Beale.

Nicholson Baker (born January 7, 1957) is an American writer of fiction and non-fiction. As a novelist he often focuses on describing the minute physical detail of our surroundings, straws and escalators for example, writing on provocative topics such as voyeurism, phone sex  and planned assassination.  Enthusiasts laud his ability to explore and illuminate the human psyche, critics call him a boring gadfly. Much of his non-fiction deals with the printed word, how it’s presented, stored, consumed. 

We talk here about the future of the book, ebooks, the ipad, the Kindle, brodart dust jacket covers, Daniel Dafoe, bloggers, CIA, weapons scientists at the Library of Congress, letterpress printing and the pulling of books off shelves.

Please listen here:

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A.L. Kennedy on how to be Funny

2010-02-18
Length: 36s

Writer, comedian A. L. Kennedy lives and works in Glasgow and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2003 she was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'. Her novel Day (2007), won the Costa Book of the Year Award. She reviews and contributes to most of the major British newspapers, and has been a judge for both the Booker Prize for Fiction (1996) and The Guardian First Book Award (2001).

 

Her first book, Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains (1990), a bleak collection of short stories, won several awards including the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. Other short story collections include Now That You're Back (1994) and Original Bliss (1997), and her novels include: Looking for the Possible Dance (1993); So I Am Glad (1995), winner of the Encore Award, which focuses on child sexual abuse and its consequences in adulthood; and Everything You Need (1999), the story of a middle-aged writer living on a remote island and his attempt to build a relationship with his estranged daughter. We met recently at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto to talk about humour, the buzz of post-Suicide attempts, living as if you are going to die, self esteem, making other worlds, changing reality, fictional rehearsals, Buster Keaton hats, the physicality of great comic actors, storytelling and investing in lies, Lolita, Nicola Six, Shakespeare, Hamlet, Yann Kott, Benny Hill, Blazing Saddles, freedom and child molestation. 

Please listen here:

(Subscribe to the Biblio File Podcast here)

 Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com…

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Robert Fulford on Book Reviewing

2010-02-07
Length: 42s

Photo: Nigel Beale.

" Robert Fulford is a Toronto author, journalist, broadcaster, and editor. He writes a weekly column for The National Post and is a frequent contributor to Toronto Life, Canadian Art, and CBC radio and television. His books include Best Seat in the House: Memoirs of a Lucky Man (1988), Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto (1995), and Toronto Discovered (1998)." This is how the man describes himself on his website. I’d only add that I think he is the best of his kind.

I sat down with him recently at his home in Toronto to talk about his long, distinguished career as a Canadian critic/journalist, and about evaluative criticism and what matters most in a book. Here’s our conversation:

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Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Professor Kevin Gilmartin: On Critic William Hazlitt

2010-01-15
Length: 37s

Kevin Gilmartin is a professor of English at California Institute of Technology, and visiting professor at the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at York University in England.  He is the author of Print Politics: The Press and Radical Opposition in Early Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1996) and Writing against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790-1832 (Cambridge, 2007), and the co-editor with James Chandler of Romantic Metropolis: The Urban Scene of British Culture, 1780-1840 (Cambridge, 2005).  His essays have appeared in such journals as Studies in Romanticism, ELH, and The Journal of British Studies, and in several essay collections.  His research interests include Romantic literature, the politics of literary culture, the history of the periodical press and of print culture, and intersections between literary expression and public activism.

We talked recently at length about 18th century British essayist/critic William Hazlitt. Please listen here:

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Richard Coxford on Fine Press Books: History and Collecting

2010-01-12
Length: 37s

Richard Coxford is the proprietor of Bytown Bookshop in Ottawa, Canada. He has been collecting fine/press books for many years. We talk here about their history, and the joys and challenges of hunting them down.

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Librarian Richard Landon: On Collecting Rare Books

2010-01-11
Length: 38s

Richard Landon is Director of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and Professor of English. He has taught courses on aspects of the history of the book and bibliography for many years in the University of Toronto’s Graduate Department of English and the Faculty of Information. Among his recent publications are Bibliophilia Scholastica Floreat (2005), Ars Medica (2006), ‘Two Collectors: Thomas Grenville and Lord Amherst of Hackney’ in Commonwealth of Books (2007), ‘The Elixir of Life: Richard Garnett, the British Museum Library, and Literary London’ in Literary Cultures and the Material Book (2007), and articles in the History of the Book In Canada (2004-2007).

We met recently in his office

to talk about his career, the role of a rare books librarian, the Encyclopédie, changes that have occurred in the market place, collecting as scholarship, Charles Darwin, Galileo, Copernicus, the future of the Thomas Fisher collection, ebooks, books about books, unpublished medieval texts and limitless collecting possibilities. Please listen here:

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Author Jane Urquhart: On Lucy Maud Montgomery

2009-12-10
Length: 40s

Published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables is the first in a series of bestselling novels by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Although often dark and complex, and at times racy, the ‘Anne’ novels are today considered by most to be children’s books. Inspired by similar girls’ stories of the time, and her own childhood experiences in rural Prince Edward Island, Montgomery’s writing has affected generations of women around the world, perhaps none more so than another Canadian, novelist Jane Urquhart, who has just written a biography of Lucy Maud as part of  Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series. We met recently to talk about the vast disconnect between the work and the woman; depression, lesbianism and gaiety; about place, truth and memory, narrative and culture, confidence and role models.    Please listen here:

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Cory Doctorow: On the Future of the Book

2009-12-06
Length: 11s


Copyright activist, speaker, teacher (how about ’speacher’…or ’spreacher’), columnist, science fiction novelist, short story writer, co-editor of  Boing Boingand the very manifestation of articulate dynamism, Cory Doctorow was in town recently to promote his novel Little Brother (free download here), a fast paced, current-day 1984-like polemic calling for teens to subvert security measures, especially those used by governments that claim to "defend my freedom by tearing up the Bill of Rights.”

As Austin Grossman puts it in the New York Times:

MY favorite thing about “Little Brother” is that every page is charged with an authentic sense of the personal and ethical need for a better relationship to information technology, a visceral sense that one’s continued dignity and independence depend on it: “My technology was working for me, serving me, protecting me. It wasn’t spying on me. This is why I loved technology: if you used it right, it could give you power and privacy…Little Brother argues that unless you’re passably technically literate, you’re not fully in command of those constitutionally guaranteed freedoms — that in fact it’s your patriotic duty as an American to be a little more nerdy."

I’m clearly not nerdy enough… incarcerated I am in fact by technological illiteracy…incapacitated too…neither machine I used to record my conversation with Cory worked for the full duration of our encounter…they did however capture enough, thankfully, to provide his engaging take on the future of the book, the seeds of its destruction…and mention of a guy with a lemon up his nose. Please listen here:

(For discussion of copyright, please watch this space over the coming days for my interview with the acknowledged giant in the field, Bill Patry).

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Yann Martel on: What Stephen Harper is Reading

2009-11-26
Length: 31s

Block head?

Listen here as  famed author of Life of Pi and self proclaimed political gadfly Yann Martel 1) Absorbs a barrage of punishing jabs I throw at him over his latest book What is Stephen Harper Reading? and 2) Punches back at a Canadian Prime Minister whom he considers to be a visionless, ‘fact’-mired, fiction-eschewing ideologue.

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Kate Pullinger on: The Mistress of Nothing

2009-11-26
Length: 25s

(last night at Art Matters)

Kate Pullinger is a novelist who also writes for film and various digital platforms. Born in Cranbrook British Columbia she went to high school on Vancouver Island, dropped out of McGill University, worked for a year in a copper mine in the Yukon, traveled, and eventually settled in London. Pullinger has written two short story collections; her  novels include When the Monster Dies (1989), Where Does Kissing End? (1992), A Little Stranger and most recently The Mistress of Nothing which has just won Canada’s GG Literary Award for best English Fiction (to be awarded this evening).

She has lectured and taught at, among other institutions: the Battersea Arts Centre, the University of Reading, and Cambridge University, as well as in various prisons. She currently teaches Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University, Leicester.

The Mistress of Nothing (2009), takes its inspiration from the life of Lucie, Lady Duff Gordon, and is set in nineteenth-century Egypt. I met with Kate yesterday afternoon. Among other things we talk about what it’s like to win the GG, class structures, and the future of the book (check out her website here). Please listen here:

 

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Larry Thompson: On the Process of Letterpress Printing

2009-11-20
Length: 31s

established Greyweathers Press
 
several years ago because of  a "love of beautifully designed type
 
  skillfully arranged on a well-proportioned page."
 

His original plan was to print letterpress books only, however, as his enterprise evolved Larry became interested in relief block prints and now includes these in his work. Editorial focus is on the literature both of 19th and early 20th century British and American writers
 
  and young, unpublished writers. All printing and typesetting
 
  is done by hand on a Vandercook S-219AB proofing press.
 
  Books are also bound by hand.
I met with Larry in his studio in Merrickville, Ontario (about a half hour drive south of Ottawa), to talk about what he does. Listen here as he takes us through the letterpress printing process.

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Bookseller Don Lindgren on Collecting Cooking Books

2009-11-13
Length: 35s


Researching ‘literary’ Portland (Maine) before trekking down there, I came across mention of Rabelais Book shop.  What an interesting concept it’s built upon:  the vertical integration of new titles on food, wine, gardening and farming, with rare out-of-print  books. Patrons therefore inhabit several distinct categories: Book lovers and collectors from around the globe, food lovers and cooks from around the block. Situated in Portland’s East End next door to Hugo’s (chef Rob Evans won the 2009 James Beard award for Best Chef Northeast) and within walking distance of half a dozen other great restaurants, including Bresca, Duckfat and Fore Street, the store, in several short years, has become the go-to place for New England’s foodies. Hosting author readings, art exhibits, film showings/dinners and  Slow Food meetings, the shop is a jointly owned by Samantha Hoyt Lindgren, a former photo editor and pastry chef, and her husband Don, an antiquarian book dealer. I met with Don at Hugo’s – we thought it would be quieter there than in the store – to talk food and books…listen for the names of titles you might want to start collecting here:

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Tor Books Publisher Tom Doherty

2009-11-11
Length: 25s

After working his way up through the publishing trade during the 1950s and 1960s, Tom Doherty became publisher of Tempo Books in 1972 and later Ace Books. In 1980 he established his own publishing firm Tom Doherty Associates Inc., with the help of several investors including silent partner Richard Gallen (of Dell Emerald Books fame), and with it the Tor Books imprint.

Early Tor titles included Norton’s Forerunner; Fred Saberhagen’s Water of Thought; Poul Anderson’s Winners, Starship, Explorations and Guardians of Time; Keith Laumer’s The Breaking Earth, Beyond the Imperium, and The House in November; Harry Harrison’s Planet of No Return and Planet of the Damned; Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen’s Coils; and Steve Barnes and Larry Niven’s Belial

Honours during the early/mid eighties included The Prometheus Award for The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith (1982) and the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (1985).

 In 1986 Doherty sold his company to St. Martin’s Press and TDA/Tor Books became a division of the larger company. Over time the portion of non-SF "mainstream" titles at Tor grew, to a point where,  by 1993, they made up more than half the list. As a result a new imprint, Forge Books, was established in order to better market these titles.

Tom does a much better job of charting the history of his career and these companies than I have here. Listen and learn how and why he has enjoyed such success; you can just tell how much fun he’s had in the business.

Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here.

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Science Fiction Editors David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer

2009-11-09
Length: 40s

David Hartwell has worked as a Science Fiction and Fantasy editor for Signet, Berkley Putnam, Pocket (where he founded the Timescape imprint and created the Pocket Books Star Trek publishing line), and Tor (where he headed Tor’s Canadian publishing initiative, and introduced many Australian writers to the US market). Since 1995, his title at Tor/Forge Books has been "Senior Editor." He chairs the board of directors of the World Fantasy Convention and is an administrator of the Philip K. Dick Award. He holds a Ph.D. in comparative medieval literature and lives in Pleasantville, New York with his wife Kathryn Cramer and their two children

Each year, with Cramer, he edits two anthologies, Year’s Best SF and Year’s Best Fantasy. Both anthologies have consistently placed in the top 10 of the Locus annual reader poll. In 1988, Hartwell won the World Fantasy Award in the category Best Anthology for The Dark Descent. He has been nominated for Hugo Awards on numerous occasions, and won in 2006, 2008 and 2009.  Hartwell has also edited four best-novel Nebula Award-winners. 

I interviewed Hartwell and Cramer recently at their home/bookstore in upstate New York. We talk about the differences between SF editors and their more general literary kin.

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Rocky Stinehour on The Stinehour Press

2009-11-06
Length: 34s


Roderick ‘Rocky’ Stinehour is a very pleasant, accomplished gentleman from Vermont. He’s also recognized internationally as a printer of high repute and a designer of beautiful, scholarly books. His career spans over much change in printing technology and the way in which books are produced and distributed. In 1950, after graduating from Dartmouth College, he, along with his wife and brother, established The Stinehour Press in the village of Lunenburg, Vermont.


From modest beginnings the Press flourished thanks to persistence, vision, and the ability to attract skilled passionate co-workers; due to the quality of its books, the company will long be remembered as one of America’s finest scholarly publishers. 

I visited Rocky in the ‘Northeast Kingdom’ recently. Listen here to our conversation

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Book Artist Claire Van Vliet on the Janus Press

2009-11-02
Length: 35s

Claire Van Vliet is the owner of the Janus Press founded in 1955 located, since 1966, in Newark, Vermont. Janus Press has to date produced approximately 100 publications — books, pamphlets, and broadsides- , many of them designed, illustrated, type-set, printed (sometimes on paper made by the artist), and bound by Van Vliet herself  in a well-equipped studio, printshop, bindery of her own design.

Born in Ottawa, Canada, she has lived in the United States since 1947. After graduating with an MFA degree from Claremont Graduate School (1954), Van Vliet traveled in Europe, apprenticing herself for a time as a hand typesetter. During these travels she taught herself etching while working as a craft instructor at the United States European Headquarters in Germany.  For the remainder of the ’50s and early 1960s she taught printmaking, typography and drawing at the Philadelphia Museum School (now The University of the Arts) and worked as a type compositor for John Anderson, first at The Lanston Monotype Company in Philadelphia, and then at his own Pickering Press in New Jersey. In 1965 to ‘66 she was hired by the Art Department of the University of Wisconsin, Madison as a Visiting Lecturer in Printmaking.

Primarily a publisher of first edition poetry (including the work of Seamus Heaney), Van Vliet pioneered the use of colored paper pulps for book illustration, and more recently has developed a variety of distinctive non-adhesive book structures. Museums that collect Van Vliet’s  work include The National Gallery in Washington, DC; the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute. In addition to her many honors, in 1993 the University of the Arts in Philadelphia named Van Vliet an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts. We met in her studio recently to talk about artist books and a long, outstanding career. Please listen here:

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Galway Kinnell on Poetry

2009-10-14
Length: 27s

NB Authors

Galway Kinnell was born February 1, 1927 in Providence, Rhode Island. He has been hailed as one of the most influential American poets of the latter half of the 20th century. Educated at Princeton and Rochester Universities, he served in the United States Navy, after which he spent several years traveling, in Europe and the Middle East. His first book of poems, What a Kingdom It Was, was published in 1960, followed by Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock (1964).

Upon his return to the United States, Kinnell joined CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) as a field worker and spent much of the 1960s involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Social activism during this time found its way into his work – Body Rags (1968), and especially The Book of Nightmares (1971), a book-length poem concerned with the Vietnam War. Other books of poetry include Selected Poems (1980), for which he received both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Imperfect Thirst (1996); When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone (1990) and A New Selected Poems (2000), a finalist for the National Book Award; He has also published translations of works by Yves Bonnefroy, Yvanne Goll, François Villon, and Rainer Maria Rilke. Honors include a MacArthur Fellowship, a Rockefeller Grant, the 1974 Shelley Prize of the Poetry Society of America, and the 1975 Medal of Merit from National Institute of Arts and Letters. He has served as poet-in-residence at numerous colleges and universities, and as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007.

We met recently at his home in Vermont to talk about his work. Please listen here:

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Curator Jerry Fielder on Yousuf Karsh

2009-10-07
Length: 24s


Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002) was born in Armenia in 1908. His photographer uncle, George Nakash, brought him to Canada in 1924. After apprenticing in Boston with John H. Garo, Karsh settled in Ottawa in 1932, where he began his professional career. By 1936 he was photographing visiting statesmen and dignitaries, among them President Franklin Roosevelt.

His December, 1941 portrait of a bulldoggish Winston Churchill, symbolizing Britain’s wartime resolve, brought Karsh international attention.  Among the most widely reproduced portraits in the history of photography, ‘Churchill’ was also one of the first to carry the famous "Karsh of Ottawa" copyright.

I met recently with Jerry Fielder, Curator and Director of the Estate of Yousuf Karsh to talk about Karsh and the books that contain his works.
Please listen here:

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Cartoon Historian Brad MacKay on Doug Wright

2009-10-05
Length: 30s


Writer, journalist, comic reader, intermittent blogger, and over-tired family man Brad Mackay is the author most recently of a biographical essay which appears in The Collected Doug Wright Volume One (Drawn and Quarterly, 2009).

First of a two-volume set,  the book – designed by well known Canadian cartoonist Seth -  presents a comprehensive look at the life and career of one of the most-read, best-loved cartoonists of the 1960s. The work draws from thousands of pieces of art, pictures, and letters, plus the artist’s own journals, and provides a picture of the British-born Wright as both cartoonist and human being. It follows his artistic development from earliest unpublished works through to the introduction of his most enduring comic strip, Nipper. First published in 1949, a full year before the debut of Peanuts, it memorably captured both the humorous and frustrating side of parenting.
I spoke with Brad recently in Ottawa. We use Wright as a wedge to drill into the history of illustration, comics and graphic novels. Toward the end of our discussion Brad provides some tips for those interested in collecting comics and graphic novels.

Please listen here

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David Mitchell on experimenting with the novelistic form

2009-10-03
Length: 31s

This from the incom­par­able Brit­ish Council’s con­tem­por­ary writers web­site:
Born in South­port in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Mal­vern, Worcester­shire, study­ing for a degree in Eng­lish and Amer­ican Lit­er­at­ure fol­lowed by an MAin Com­par­at­ive Lit­er­at­ure, at the Uni­ver­sity of Kent. He lived for a year in Sicily before mov­ing to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught Eng­lish to tech­nical stu­dents for eight years, before return­ing to England.

In his first novel, Ghostwrit­ten (1999), nine nar­rat­ors in nine loc­a­tions across the globe tell inter­lock­ing stor­ies. This novel won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and was short­l­is­ted for the Guard­ian First Book Award.

His second novel, number9dream (2001), was short­l­is­ted for the 2002 Man Booker Prize for fic­tion. It is set in mod­ern day Tokyo and tells the story of Eiji Miyake’s search for his father.

  In 2003 David Mitchell was named by Granta magazine as one of twenty ‘Best of Young Brit­ish Nov­el­ists’. In his third novel, Cloud Atlas (2004), a young Pacific islander wit­nesses the night­fall of sci­ence and civil­isa­tion, while ques­tions of his­tory are explored in a series of seem­ingly dis­con­nec­ted nar­rat­ives. Cloud Atlas was short­l­is­ted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.   David Mitchell lives in Ire­land. His latest novel is Black Swan Green (2006)   We met recently in Toronto to talk about exper­i­ment­a­tion and real­ism, plot, char­ac­ter and all that good stuff, but also about the great­ness of John Cheever, high brow and pulp fic­tion, good pot boil­ers, the cos­mos, cosmi, con­nec­tions, meld­ing verbs, plat­it­ud­in­ous pro­fundit­ies, crit­ics as platy­pus taxi­derm­ists, poetry in prose, the ori­gin­al­it­ies of happy blun­ders and cul­tural jux­ta­pos­i­tions, Perec’s W, mon­key­ing with struc­ture, plan­ning your funeral, eval­u­at­ive cri­ti­cism and the delight­ful exper­i­ence of read­ing Chekhov’s short stor­ies.

Please listen here:

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John Bidwell on the Morgan Library's Collection

2009-09-22
Length: 37s

John Bid­well is Astor Cur­ator of Prin­ted Books and Bind­ings at thePier­pont Mor­gan Lib­rary, before which he was Cur­ator of Graphic Arts in the Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity Lib­rary. He has writ­ten extens­ively on the his­tory of paper­mak­ing in Eng­land and America. 

The Prin­ted Books and Bind­ings col­lec­tion at the Mor­gan con­tains works span­ning West­ern book pro­duc­tion from the earli­est prin­ted eph­em­era to import­ant first edi­tions from the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. Hold­ings encom­pass a large num­ber of high points in the his­tory of print­ing, often exem­pli­fied by a lone sur­viv­ing copy or a copy that is per­fect in every way. Areas of strength include incun­ables, early children’s books, fine bind­ings, and illus­trated books. 

Yolande de Sois­sons in Prayer
“Psalter-Hours of Yolande de Sois­sons”
France, Ami­ens, ca. 1280–90
MS M.729, fol. 232v
Pur­chased by J. P. Mor­gan, Jr., 1927

The col­lec­tion is foun­ded upon acquis­i­tions of Pier­pont Mor­gan, who sought to estab­lish in the United States a lib­rary worthy of the great European col­lec­tions. Among the high­lights are three Guten­berg Bibles, works by Lord Byron, Charles Dick­ens, Edgar Allan Poe, John Ruskin, Mark Twain, Her­man Melville, and Wil­liam Mor­ris, and clas­sic early children’s books. The Carter Bur­den Col­lec­tion of Amer­ican Lit­er­at­ure, a major 1998 gift, strengthens the Morgan’s twentieth-century hold­ings with authors such as Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Vladi­mir Nabokov, Ger­trude Stein, and Ten­nessee Williams. 

I talk here with John Bid­well about the col­lec­tion, what it con­tains, how it was acquired.

 Copy­right © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

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Professor Joseph Khoury: on Succession in King Lear and Hamlet

2009-09-15
Length: 32s

Charles H. Cameron as King Lear (1872) / print by A.L. Coburn, ca. 1915, Photo by

Julia Margaret Cameron

Shakespeare wrote Hamlet before James l came to the throne. Events in the play reflect many of the real world concerns that  Englishmen had about being ruled by a foreigner. At the play’s end, Denmark’s line of  rulers is extinguished, and a foreigner (Fortinbras) takes the throne.  James was married to Anna of Denmark, some feared that if he were to attempt a military takeover,  he might call on the forces of his brother in law Christian IV of Denmark.

King Lear was written after James’s succession. At the start of the play Lear is firmly established as king of a united Britain. This reflected James’s wish to be ruler of a fully united kingdom. In fact he approached Parliament, without success, in 1607 in hopes of securing a closer political union.

The names of the Dukes in King Lear are taken from real life. James had recently made his sons Henry and Charles the Dukes of Cornwall and Albany respectively. In the play Albany is an honest man who realises too late the evil doings of his relatives. Once aware, he works to restore natural order. At the end,  hope for the monarchy rests with him,  Albany from Scotland, who is free to reunite the fractured kingdom. In this he represents what James wanted to achieve with his succession.

Listen here as Prof. Joseph Khoury, from St. Francis Xavier University, and I discuss the themes of succession and the divine right of kings  in Hamlet and King Lear.

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Denise Mina on the Crime Mystery

2009-09-03
Length: 37s


Crime novelist Denise Mina is the author of a trilogy of novels set in Glasgow: Garnethill (1998), which won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey Memorial Dagger; Exile (2000); and Resolution (2001).     Sanctum (2002), is the story of a forensic psychiatrist, convicted of killing a serial killer. The Field of Blood (2005) is the first in a new series, the second in the series, The Dead Hour, was published in 2006, and the third, Slip of the Knife, in 2007.   Mina also writes short stories, one of which, ‘Helena and the Babies’ from Fresh Blood 3 (1999), won the Crime Writers’ Association Macallan Short Story Dagger. Two short stories and a play, Hurtle (2003), have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Her latest play is Ida Tamson. Her lastest novel is Still Midnight (2009).

We met recently in Ottawa where Mina was the international guest of honour at Bloody Words, Canada’s national mystery conference. Our conversation cuts a wide swath across the socio-political  (alcoholism, the accurate depiction of mental illness, the courage of the mentally ill) the psychoanalytic (detective stories as re-enactments of the primal act) and the technical (cozy endings, realistic puzzles); please listen here:

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Karl Seigler on Literary Book Publishing

2009-08-22
Length: 32s


Karl Siegler is a founding member of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia and the Literary Press Group of Canada; he has served as president of the Association of Canadian Publishers twice, and was one of the founding members of the Simon Fraser Centre for Studies in Publishing and its Masters in Publishing Program. He’s also the publisher at Talonbooks.

Talonbooks has published Canadian poetry and drama since the publishing house was established in 1963. According to some dated, but I’m sure currently applicable stats from the Canada Council the average Canadian drama title sells 594 copies during its first two years in print, the average poetry title sells 405 copies.

Karl and I talk here first about the role of a literary publisher, then about how Talon has managed to stay in business for over forty years,  and finally about constituencies and the title he is most proud of publishing. Please listen here:

 Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

 Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here.

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Ha Jin on: The Writer as Migrant

2009-08-17
Length: 37s

Ha Jin was born in China in 1956. After Tiananmen Square, he emigrated to the United States. Unlike most exiled writers Ha Jin was not established in his native language; he had no audience in Chinese, and so chose to write in English.
  He has published three collections of poetry, including Between Silences and Facing Shadows, and three collections of short fiction, Ocean of Words, received the PEN/Hemingway Award, and Under the Red Flag, won the Flannery O’Connor Award. His novel Waiting won the National Book Award for fiction as well as the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1999. In 2004, he published War Trash, which also won the PEN/Faulkner Award.  He lives in the Boston area and is a professor of English at Boston University.
We met recently in Ottawa to talk about his first book of non-fiction The Writer as Migrant (University of Chicago Press). Adapted from The Rice University Campbell Lecture he delivered in 2006, the book consists of  three interconnected essays exploring the experience of migrant,  ‘exiled’ writers in relation to their ‘home’ countries and languages.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn,  Lin Yutang, Homer, Joseph Conrad , Vladimir Nabokov and others all contribute to the conversation. Please listen here:

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Richard Holloway on Organized Religion

2009-08-13
Length: 41s

Photo: Nigel Beale.

Richard Holloway is a Scottish writer/broadcaster  and former Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church who was educated at Kelham Theological College and the Union Theological Seminary, New York City. Between 1959 and 1986 he was curate, vicar and rector at parishes in England, Scotland and the United States, at which point he became the Bishop of Edinburgh, a position he resigned from in 2000. Now an outspoken commentator on religious belief in the modern world, he is author of more than 20 books, well-known for his support of liberal causes, including human rights for gays and lesbians in and outside of the church. Holloway lives in Edinburgh with his American-born wife Jean. They have three adult children.

We talk here about one of his most recent books, Between the Monster and the Saint, as he puts it: ‘a gradual plea for self awareness and forgiveness, and through this, tolerance and compassion toward others.

(Subscribe to Nigel Beale’s Biblio File Podcast here)

 Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com…

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Copyright Expert Bill Patry: On Orphans and Pirates

2009-08-13
Length: 22s

In 1841 Thomas Babington Macaulay observed that “it is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.”

In his new book Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, highly regarded copyright lawyer Bill Patry concurs with Macaulay, arguing that ‘copyright should last only as long as is necessary to ensure that works that would not have been created but for the incentive of copyright are created.’

The book at once demonstrates how copyright is a utilitarian government program–not a property or moral right, and deplores the manner in which debate has deteriorated into a battle between oversimplified metaphors; language which demonizes everyone involved – pirates and orphans alike. This has led to bad business and bad policy decisions. "Unless we recognize that the debates over copyright are debates over business models, says Patry, we will never be able to make the correct business and policy decisions

A former copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, policy adviser to the Register of Copyright, law professor and author of the definitive Patry on Copyright, the man, currently copyright counsel to Google, is a centrist and advocate of balanced copyright laws, and, perhaps most significantly, the owner of a kickin’ pair of running shoes

Moral Panic concludes with a call not for strong or weak copyright laws but more effective ones, designed to maximize the creation of new works and learning, and minimize obstacles which prevent others from accessing and building upon them.

Listen here as Patry, speaking as a concerned, informed citizen, not as a Google employee, works his way out from Macaulay’s lucidity, a sampling of which I cite to start off our conversation:

Subscribe to the Biblio File Podcast here

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Author Terry Griggs on: Farce Noir

2009-08-13
Length: 27s


Terry Griggs is the author of a collection of short stories, Quickening, which was nominated for a Governor General’s Award, and two novels, The Lusty Man, and Rogues’ Wedding, shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Award. She has also written two books for children, Cat’s Eye Corner, shortlisted for a Mr. Christie’s Book Award and a Red Cedar Award, and most recently a sequel, The Silver Door. In 2003 she received the Marian Engel Award. Born on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, she currently lives in Stratford, Ontario.

We met recently in Ottawa to talk about her latest ‘farce noir’ comic mystery novel, Thought you were Dead,  and, as a result about: cartoons, dead flies, Nabokov, Pnin’s zany, self-mocking speech and ways, fending off intimacy, how comedy sharpens your judgment, wordplay, names and book titles, the male-female divide, ambiguity, contained chapters, Philip Larkin, naked women on book covers, and The Monkeys’ Michael Nesmith’s mother who invented liquid paper.

Please listen here:

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Donald Antrim on Creative Writing Workshops

2009-08-13
Length: 34s

This past Spring at the Blue Met Writers Festival, Donald Antrim conducted a workshop entitled: Fiction and Memoir: "Writing Ourselves" It was designed to explore the ‘challenging and often frustrating process of reading into one’s own work;’ and to identify aspects of that work which may have been underdeveloped, unnoticed, or even, avoided. As the syllabus put it:

"Fiction and memoir are not, as a rule, brought together in workshops. And yet many of the concerns that are most important to all of us—the technical production of form; the experience of psychological drive within the narrative; and the tangible-seeming, built-from-scratch, moral or immoral world our characters inhabit—are experienced by writers of fiction and memoir. Whatever we write, we may all have cause to wonder about the overt and the embedded evidence of our own experiences, even in works in which autobiographical material is scrupulously occluded. Perhaps, in opening the class to writers of non-fiction and fiction, there will be a fruitful exchange."

Donald Antrim is the author of three novels, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: A Novel, The Hundred Brothers and The Verificationist: A Novel. His latest publication is The Afterlife (2006). He lives in Brooklyn, New York. We talked about workshops in general, and what happened in Montreal specifically. Please listen (may have to crank it a bit) here:

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Robert Bringhurst on Book Design

2009-07-28
Length: 29s

Born in Los Angeles in 1946, Robert Bringhurst is an award winning Canadian poet, typographer and author. Perhaps best known for  The Elements of Typographic Style – a reference book of typefaces, glyphs and the visual and geometric arrangement of type, he is also a respected translator of poetic works from Haida into English.  He lives on Quadra Island, near Campbell River, B.C.

We met recently in Ottawa to talk about his definition of the book as articulated in The Surface of Meaning, and of typography and the services it ideally offers its readers, including:

Invite the reader into the text Reveal the tenor and meaning of the text Clarify the structure and the order of the text Link the text with other existing elements Induce a state of energetic repose, which is the ideal condition for reading

Please listen to our conversation here:

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Author A.B. Yehoshua on his novel Friendly Fire

2009-07-21
Length: 39s

A.B. Yehoshua was born in 1936 to a fifth-generation Jerusalem family of Sephardi origin. His first book of stories, "Mot Hazaken" (The Death of the Old Man) was published in 1962. He was an important member of the "new wave" generation of Israeli writers who differed from earlier writers by focusing on the individual rather than the group.  Franz Kafka, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, and William Faulkner  were all formative influences. 

Author of nine novels, three books of short stories, four plays, and four collections of essays, Yehoshua has won the Brenner Prize, the Alterman Prize,  the Bialik Prize, the Israel Prize for Literature, the National Jewish Book Award and many, many other international prizes.

His most recent novel, Friendly Fire, explores the nature of Israeli familial relationships, personal grief and bitterness. We met recently at the Blue Met Writers Festival in Montreal to talk about the book.  Our conversation touches on the Jewish diaspora, hatred and minorities, a two state solution, gestures recognizing good, the metaphor of fire, domestic violence, Apartheid, South Africa, solutions, marriage, and marriages between Arabs and Jews.

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Author M.G. Vassanji: On Mordecai Richler

2009-07-18
Length: 23s

M G Vassanji was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania. Before coming to Canada in 1978, he attended MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, where he specialized in theoretical nuclear physics. From 1978-1980 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Atomic Energy of Canada, and from 1980 to 1989 he was a research associate at the University of Toronto. During this period he developed a keen interest in medieval Indian literature and history, co-founded and edited a literary magazine (The Toronto South Asian Review, later renamed The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad), and began writing stories and a novel. In 1989, with the publication of his first novel, The Gunny Sack, he was invited to spend a season at the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa. That year ended his active career in nuclear physics. Vassanji is the author of six novels and two collections of short stories. He has won the Giller Prize, twice; the Harbourfront Festival Prize; the Commonwealth First Book Prize (Africa); the Bressani Prize and the Order of Canada.   We met recently at the Blue Met Writers Festival in Montreal to talk about his most recent work: a brief biography of Mordecai Richler for Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series.The discussion touches on Richler’s outsider status, his struggle with and acceptance of Jewishness, making one person’s story everyone’s story, cities, streets and communities, mothers and fathers, growing out of groups, humble origins, irony, great novels versus journalism, and honesty.

Please listen here:

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Author Zoe Heller on her novel The Believers

2009-07-18
Length: 33s


This from Contemporary Writers: " Zoe Heller was born in London in 1965 and educated at Oxford University and Columbia University, New York.  She is a journalist who, after writing book reviews for various newspapers, became a feature writer for The Independent.  She wrote a weekly confessional column for the Sunday Times for four years, but now writes for the Daily Telegraph and earned the title ‘Columnist of the Year’ in 2002. She is the author of two novels: Everything You Know (2000), a dark comedy about misanthropic writer Willy Miller, and Notes on a Scandal (2003) which tells the story of an affair between a high school teacher and her student through the eyes of the teacher’s supposed friend, Barbara Covett. It was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize for fiction, and was recently released as a feature film, starring Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench."

We met recently in Ottawa to talk, ‘companionably’ about her latest novel The Believers.

Please listen here:

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Nino Ricci on Pierre Trudeau

2009-07-15
Length: 35s

Nino Ricci’s first novel, the best-selling Lives of the Saints, won international acclaim and a host of awards, including, in Canada, the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and in England, the Betty Trask Award and the Winifred Holtby Prize.  It was followed by In A Glass House and Where She Has Gone, which completed the trilogy that Lives of the Saints began, Testament, co-winner of the Trillium Award, and, The Origin of Species which won Ricci his second Governor General’s Award.

Born in Leamington, Ontario, to parents from the Molise region of Italy, he completed studies at York University in Toronto, at Concordia University in Montreal, and at the University of Florence, and has taught both in Canada and abroad.  We met recently at the Blue Met Writers Festival in Montreal to talk about his most recent work: a brief biography of Pierre Trudeau for Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series.

Topics covered include the Italian Canadian attachment to Trudeau and the Liberals, immigration, gun slingers, alluring leadership qualities, fear of failure, media strategies, bilingualism’s mixed legacy, the Charter, budget deficits, the pride of being Canadian, and philosopher-kings.

Please listen here:


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Margaret MacMillan on History and Stephen Leacock

2009-07-10
Length: 35s

Margaret MacMillan was educated at the University of Toronto and at Oxford, where she obtained a B. Phil. in politics and a D. Phil. for a thesis on the British in India between 1880 and 1920. Her books include Women of the Raj, Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, which won the 2003 Governor General’s Award, the Samuel Johnson Prize, the PEN Hessell Tiltman Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize and was a New York Times Editors’ Choice for 2002, Nixon in China, The Uses and Abuses of History, and most recently Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians:  Stephen Leacock.  Currently, MacMillan is the Warden of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University.
We met recently in Montreal at the Blue Met Writers Festival. I posed a simple question: Referencing the two most recent books you have authored: How do you write history? Please listen here to a comprehensive,  enthusiastic answer that addresses research, records, racism, other potential worlds, being of your time, Iraq, lessons, dangers, inevitable biases, humour and Stephen Leacock’s legacy.  

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale

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Meir Shalev on Television Satire

2009-06-24
Length: 29s


Meir Shalev, (pictured above with his sister) one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists,was born in 1948 in Nahalal, Israel’s first moshav. He is a bestselling author in Israel, Holland, and Germany; and he has been translated into more than twenty languages. His novels include A Pigeon and a Boy, Fontanelle, Alone In the Desert, But A Few Days, and Esau. Russian Romance (The Blue Mountain) is one of the top five bestsellers in Israeli publishing history. Shalev is often compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Prizes he has won include the Juliet Club Prize (Italy); The Chiavari (Italy); and The Brenner Prize of 2006—the highest Israeli literary recognition awarded for his novel, A Pigeon and a Boy, published in the US by Random House in 2007.

I met Meir at The Blue Met Writers Festival in Montreal recently. We talk here about, among other things, television, satire, The Daily Show, great sentences, labels, Gogol, gardening and farming.

Please listen here:

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Henrietta Dax on Clarke's Bookshop, Cape Town

2009-06-17
Length: 24s


Clarke’s Bookshop, the most famous in Cape Town, specializes in selling southern African books to universities and libraries that teach and have an interest in same. Established in 1956 by Anthony Clarke, the Long Street shop today remains much the same as it was 50 plus years ago:  filled with book-lined, wooden-floored rooms spread over two levels containing an eclectic mix of new and used, rare, out-of-print, academic and popular books sold to customers local and institutions foreign. Catalogues filled with books from among other countries Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa itself, go out to the likes of Yale University, the Smithsonian Institute and the African Studies Centre in Holland, twice a year.

I spoke recently with owner Henrietta Dax who for more than thirty years has ventured forth annually to Mozambique,  the US, the UK, and other more exotic locales buying, selling, bartering and stockpiling  books she thinks will appeal to her customers. Please listen here:

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Author Margie Orford: On Bibliotherapy

2009-06-13
Length: 34s


Crime novelist,  film director, children’s author and award winning journalist, Margie Orford was born in London and grew up in Namibia and South Africa. She has studied under J M. Coetzee, and worked in publishing with the African Publishers Network. In 1999 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and while in New York she worked on a groundbreaking archival retrieval project, WOMEN WRITING AFRICA: The Southern Volume.  She lives in Cape Town, where we met recently to discuss another of her many projects: Fifteen Men, a collection of writing by South African prisoners, all of whom are serving very long sentences, with whom Margie spent a year leading a creative writing course. This book is the result. We talk here about her experience.

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M.G Vassanji on his Critics

2009-06-09
Length: 9s

In a recent conversation I had with him, Canadian critic, editor and short story writer John Metcalf hauls off on both the Giller Prize and two time winner M.G. Vassanji;  the former for boosterism and an inability to distinguish between good and bad literature ( for placing two-time winner Alice Munro in the same category as Vassanji), and the latter for being a person who, ‘there’s no question,’ can’t " handle the English language".

I met with Vassanji recently in Montreal at the Blue Met Writers Festival ostensibly to talk about  his new Penguin biography of Mordecai Richler (please stay tuned for the audio); but before commencing I asked him to respond to Metcalf’s attacks. Here’s what he had to say:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale…

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Open Letter's Chad Post: on Publishing in Translation

2009-06-04
Length: 27s

Open Letter is the University of Rochester’s literary publishing house. ‘ It is dedicated to connecting readers with great international authors and their works. Publishing twelve books a year and running an online literary website called Three Percent, Open Letter is one of only a handful of U.S. organizations with a commitment to cultivating an appreciation for international literature.’

‘Chad W. Post is the director of Open Letter, a press dedicated to publishing literature in translation. He also runs Three Percent, an online blog and review site focused on international literature. Prior to starting Open Letter, he was the associate director at Dalkey Archive Press. In addition, he co-founded Reading the World, a unique collaboration between publishers and independent bookstores to promote world literature.’ We talk here among other things about the dominance of great non-English speaking novelists, Roberto Bolaño, Julio Cortazar (Hopscotch is one of Post’s favourite novels), Jose Saramago and the phenomenon of one-foreign-author-at-a-time, reasons for the success of 2666, why American authors have the inside track, how economics works against translation, and the opportunities that exist in publishing foreign authors.

Please listen here: (Apologies for the rather abrupt ending).

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Author Damon Galgut on South Africa

2009-06-03
Length: 33s

Credit: book.co.za

Damon Galgut is a writer based in Cape Town.  He wrote his first novel, A Sinless Season (1984), when he was seventeen. Small Circle of Beings (1988), a collection of short stories, was followed by The Beautiful Screaming of Pigs (1991), the story of a young white man on military service who suffers a nervous breakdown. The Quarry (1995), was made into a film by a Belgian production company. The Good Doctor (2003), is set in post-Apartheid South Africa, and explores the relationship between two different men working in a deserted, rural hospital. It won the 2003 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa Region) and was shortlisted for both the 2003 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.  His latest novel is The Impostor (2008).

We talk here about national and personal trauma, corruption and realpolitik, the shadow of J.M. Coetzee, South African literature as boundaried by massive inequalities, childhood cancer, ambiguity, the new class system, real world maturity and the need for compromise.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Andre Brink on Life & Writing in South Africa

2009-05-22
Length: 50s


This from contemporary writers: One of South Africa’s most distinguished writers, André Brink was born in 1935. Poet, novelist, essayist and teacher, he began work as a University lecturer in Afrikaans and Dutch Literature in the 1960s. He began writing in Afrikaans, but when censored by the South African government, began to also write in English and became published overseas. He remains a key figure in the modernisation of the Afrikaans language novel.

 

His book, A Dry White Season (1979), was made into a film starring Marlon Brando while An Instant in the Wind (1976), the story of a relationship between a white woman and a black man, and Rumours of Rain (1978) were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction.  Devil’s Valley (1998) explores the life of a community locked away from the rest of the world, and The Other Side of Silence (2002), set in colonial Africa in the early twentieth century, won a Commonwealth Writers regional award for Best Book in 2003. He has also written a collection of essays on literature and politics, Reinventing a Continent (1996), prefaced by Nelson Mandela. 

He is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Cape Town. His latest novels are Praying Mantis (2005) and The Blue Door (2007). His memoir, A Fork in the Road, has just been published.

I met Andre Brink recently at his home in Cape Town. (His lovely young wife Karina greeted me at the door and led me into his book-lined study. Before entering the house however, I encountered this in the garden:


). Once seated we talked mostly about his life, about his father, about love and duty, justice, Apartheid, inter-racial sex, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer; his love affair with poet Ingrid Jonker, her suicide, her poem ‘Plant me a Tree,’ English as his second language, Picasso, recommended wines and staying in South Africa, despite his nephew having been shot dead by intruders last year at his home just north of Johannesburg.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Stephen Johnson on Random House Struik

2009-05-20
Length: 26s

Stephen Johnson is Managing Director of the recently formed South African publishing firm Random House Struik. We talk here about the merger, the independence of SABC (the state owned South African Broadcasting Corporation), Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, Random House Struik’s political power, Apartheid’s banning of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, the current government’s under-funding of libraries, political corruption and the loss of early promise, Apartheid by other means, freedom, story-telling and other explanations for South Africa’s flourishing publishing sector, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Jacob Zuma’s shower head, and plans Johnson has for the future of his company.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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John Metcalf on Negative Reviewing

2009-05-14
Length: 36s


I recently interviewed Canadian critic/editor/writer John Metcalf on his love of Books and Book Collecting. The same afternoon we talked also about the process of book reviewing,  whether or not the use of insult and/or invective is ever justified and if so, when. John is known as a ‘blunt’ critic; one who tells his unsugared truths directly, who is not reticent to attack ‘with savagery’ books he feels 'insult' him. The conversation refers, among other things, to the Salon des Refuses exercise undertaken by Canadian Notes and Queries and The New Quarterly magazines, personal slights, the problem of awarding the same prizes to authors of widely varying talents, and the importance to healthy literary culture of truth-telling critics.

Lengthy sentence alert: There are predictable attacks on M.G. Vassanji, Ann Marie MacDonald, and Robertson Davies here, and there is praise too for many young Canadian short story writers, but perhaps the most evident feature of this discussion is Metcalf’s anger, precipitated, I’d say, primarily by a combative dedication to serving a cause larger than himself – excellence in literature – aggravated in small part both by the perceived inability of Canadians to recognize literary greatness, and personal rejection at the hands of  this country’s ‘literary establishment’  – bolstered by a natural taste for confrontation and a glee in the fighting of a good fight.

Please listen here:

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Franschhoek Literary Festival Director Jenny Hobbs

2009-05-12
Length: 18s


JENNY HOBBS is a novelist and freelance journalist who lives in Franschhoek, South Africa. She is the author of four novels, Thoughts in a Makeshift Mortuary, The Sweet-Smelling Jasmine, The Telling of Angus Quain, and Video Dreams, four non-fiction books, and short stories published and broadcast locally and by the BBC. She reviewed books for many years and has written for and worked on TV book programmes, both as a presenter and interviewer.

She’s also the Literary Director of the Franschhoek Literary Festival, now in its third year. The event has enjoyed success from its opening page. Last year the Commonweath Writer’s Prize chose Franschhoek as the place to announce its winner (Canadian Lawrence Hill). We talk here about how the Festival came about, and what it takes to make it happen.  

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Dawn Arnold on Northrop Frye and the Frye Festival

2009-05-10
Length: 25s

Dawn Arnold is Chair of the Frye Festival in Moncton, New Brunswick. Jane Urquhart, Wayne Johnston, Neil Smith, Alexandre Jardin and Miriam Toews are among the many authors who will participate in this year’s ten day event.

Dawn and I talk here about the history of the Festival, Northrop Frye’s thoughts on imagination and new worlds, the benefits to children of learning more than one language, how writing affects understanding, Moncton strip clubs, Acadie, French language childrens’ authors, Richard Ford, classroom visits, and inspired students. For more information on this year’s Frye Festival please click here.

Please listen to our conversation here:

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Pittsburgh Post Gazette Books Editor Bob Hoover

2009-05-07
Length: 2s

Pittsburgh Post Gazette Books Editor Bob Hoover has written about books with the paper for more than 20 years. We talk here, at a noisy diner


in the shadow of the Heinz ketchup factory, about the role of a books editor, Pittsburgh’s lively literary arts scene, blogs, the 800-900 review copies Bob receives each month, and keeping readers current about everything book related. We also talk about Bob’s connection with authors David McCullough and Michael Chabon, and his disconnect with Philip Roth and Paul Theroux; about Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban home, and the reviewing genius of John Updike.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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John Metcalf on Book Collecting

2009-05-01
Length: 37s

John Metcalf is best known as a writer/editor who has worked with many of Canada’s foremost short story writers including Michael Winter, Terry Griggs, Steven Heighton, and Caroline Adderson. Born in Carlisle, England, and educated at the University of Bristol, he emigrated to Canada in 1962. In addition to writing his own novels, short stories and essays, he for years edited the work of others at the Porcupine’s Quill. He is currently Senior Editor with Canadian Notes and Queries magazine. Metcalf is also a serious book collector.

Riffing off John Carter's Taste & Technique in Book Collecting, we talk here about, among other things: what defines the book collector, Richard Yates, and Eleven Kinds of  Loneliness being one of the most 'stupendous books of short stories ever published in the United States,' dealers stock-piling the first editions of up and coming authors, Alice Munro's Dance of the Happy Shades and how little a signed First of it costs, connoisseurship and Sir Kenneth Clark, collecting what you love, and what the budding Canadian book collector should buy.

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Professor Rohan Maitzen on George Eliot’s Middlemarch

2009-05-01
Length: 45s

Originally from Vancouver, Professor Rohan Maitzen has an Honours B.A. in English and History from the University of British Columbia and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Cornell University.  Since 1995, she has been a member of Dalhousie University’s English Department.

Her main teaching area is the Victorian novel; she has a particular admiration for George Eliot and assigns her greatest novel, Middlemarch, whenever possible.

I had the pleasure of ‘meeting’ Rohan online, in the comments section of her blog Novel Readings. I admire her smooth flowing, erudite prose and her reaching out to an audience wider than just those sitting in her classroom,  as well as her grappling with issues about who the academic should address, and how literature should be taught.

Rohan was in Ottawa recently for a ‘Learneds’ conference. I got to meet her in person, and interview her, off the cuff , one on one, about the life and lessons found in Middlemarch. Please listen here:

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Chris Cleave on his novel Little Bee

2009-03-23
Length: 27s


Chris Cleave was born in London and spent his early years in Cameroon. He studied Experimental Psychology at Balliol College, Oxford, and now writes a column for the Guardian newspaper. His debut novel Incendiary won a 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize, and is now a feature film. Chris lives in London with his wife and two children.

We met recently to talk about his engaging, important new novel Little Bee. Topics discussed include masks, truth-telling, trauma, trust, happiness, the struggle to survive, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and its deficiencies, asylum seekers are true heroes, engaging with the developing world, people in transition, life-changing events, sexual adventurousness, making sense of life retrospectively, inane reality TV shows and the need for refugees to tell their heroic stories convincingly.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Priscila Uppal on Canadian Elegies, and Mourning

2009-03-23
Length: 47s


Poet, author, Priscila Uppal, an English professor too at York University, challenges traditional psychological and anthropological models of mourning in her new book We Are What We Mourning: The Contemporary English-Canadian Elegy, suggesting that Canadians mourn differently.

Traditional models define successful mourning in terms of detachment from the loved one who has died; the ability to cut the strings of grief, and to step into the roles of mothers and fathers vacated by the dead. To become unnecessarily identified with grief and death is, according to traditional views, to fail at mourning. To succeed - to maintain health-  one must ‘move on;’ accept that the dead are gone; celebrate the fact that they are in heaven. All of this Uppal debunks.

After reading thousands of Canadian elegies she concludes that mourning, at least in late 20th century Canada, is not about forgetting, but about claiming identity. You are, she says, what you mourn. And we, apparently, mourn our parents in elegies to a much greater extent than do others in the U.S. and U.K., for example, who tend to mark the death of youth more frequently with this poetic form.

Many immigrants to Canada didn’t know their parents very well; didn’t know their countries of origin, didn’t learn much about their traditions. In order to take over the roles their parents played - to learn about themselves - many have used mourning as a way to create and recreate the past; as a means to carry on into the future. Art - the elegy - is used as a way to attached to the past, and to connect and incorporate it into the present. What you mourn - what it is you are upset about losing -  will determine, according to Uppal, how you see history.

We talk about all of these topics, why and how the work of mourning has so drastically changed in Canada during the latter half of the twentieth century, why the contemporary English-Canadian elegy emphasizes connection rather than separation between the living and the dead.

Please listen to a ‘lively’ conversation here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Luise von Flotow on Literary Translation

2009-03-15
Length: 31s

Luise von Flotow is an associate professor in Translation Studies at the University of Ottawa with a special interest in translation and gender. In 1992, her translation Deathly Delights was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. Her most recent book is the English translation of Girls Closed In by Quebec author France Theoret. I spoke with Luise in her office several weeks ago about Canada as a mecca for translation, efforts to convince government of the potential for this industry to expand, and the challenge confronting translators of being faithful to original work while at the same time appealing to audiences in the translated language. She is passionate about her work. You can tell by the charming enthusiasm in her voice. Just listen, especially when she tries to evade identifying the best translators.

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Jessa Crispin on: Bookslut

2009-02-19
Length: 36s

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of Bookslut.com " a monthly web magazine and daily blog dedicated to those who love to read. We provide a constant supply of news, reviews, commentary, insight, and more than occasional opinions." Author Jana Martin describes her this way: 

"Certainly she’s a reader, a great reader, and she knows how to make one good party after another, whether in a beer-poster-clad upstairs room at the Hopleaf or Bookslut. She’s a hostess for all of us, a sundress’d impressario. In that way she belongs on the same hearty category as Mike McGonigal: self-made, peripatetic, generous but with standards and boundaries. The other thing is that, like McGonigal, she gives off a slightly timeless vibe: a bit San Francisco 1950s, a bit Chianti in Greenwich Village, a bit rockabilly, a bit Christina’s World."

We met at her home recently in Chicago, and talked about, among other things, the origins of Bookslut, her underemployment at Planned Parenthood, ex-boyfriends, blog advertising, hiring writers, shrinking book review sections, writing for oneself, inexplicable successes, the name ‘Bookslut’ and thoughts of changing it, Somerset Maugham, favourite novels, and the future of blogs.

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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A conversation with Keith Fiels, Executive Director, American Library Association

2009-02-19
Length: 58s

I was in Chicago recently and met with Keith Michael Fiels, Executive Director (since July 2002) of the American Library Association. According to  The ALA Constitution  the purpose of ALA is “…to promote library service and librarianship.” Stated mission is “To provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” In 1998 the ALA Council voted commitment to five Key Action Areas as guiding principles for directing the Association’s energies and resources: Diversity, Equity of Access, Education and Continuous Learning, Intellectual Freedom, and 21st Century Literacy. Subsequent strategic plans added to these: Advocacy for Libraries and the Profession, and Organizational Excellence. 

Keith and I talk here about, among other things, these principles, the benefits of belonging to the ALA, simple actions librarians can take to improve their libraries, the future of the book, the future of libraries, video games, copyright, digitization, the recent Google settlement, library fines, libraries as social centers, amalgamation of libraries and archives, access to databases and dead links, the importance of libraries as purchasers of non best-selling books, and the bounce-back of literary reading.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Levi Stahl: On the role of a University Press Publicity Manager

2009-02-11
Length: 36s

A lifelong resident of Illinois, Levi Stahl works at the University of Chicago Press. For the past three years he has maintained a literary blog, I’ve Been Reading Lately. He has written for the Poetry Foundation, the Chicago Reader, the Bloomsbury Review, the New-York Ghost, the Quarterly Conversation, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. His short fiction has recently been published in the New York Moon. Levi is also an editor with Joyland - Chicago edition (he’s currently accepting submissions from current and/or former Chicagoans. For more information, you can e-mail him at levistahlATgmail.com)

We met recently in Chicago to talk about his role as publicity manager for the University of Chicago Press. Early on we talk about copy writing and appealing to as many different audiences as possible, about tours and dealing with the media, about differences between university and mainstream publishers, Modernism, Robert Graves, black and white comedy teams, and finally, about the role Levi played in getting the UCP to re-issue a series of Richard Stark (pen name of Donald Westlake, who, sadly, died the day before we conducted our interview) ‘Parker’ mystery novels, most notably The Hunter, which, though stained through with violent ‘thuggery’ is, according to Levi, very well written, and filled with insight into humanity.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Rain Taxi Editor Eric Lorberer

2009-02-05
Length: 29s

Mr. Wikipedia tells us: "Rain Taxi is a Minneapolis-based book review and literary organization. In addition to publishing its quarterly print edition, Rain Taxi maintains an online edition with distinct content, sponsors the Twin Cities Book Festival, hosts readings, and publishes chapbooks through its Brainstorm Series. Rain Taxi’s mission is “to advance independent literary culture through publications and programs that foster awareness and appreciation of innovative writing.” As of 2008, the magazine distributes 18,000 copies through 250 bookstores as well as to subscribers. The magazine is free on the newsstand. It is also available through paid subscription. Structurally, Rain Taxi is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. It sells advertising at below market rates, much of it to literary presses."

Rain Taxi’s website tells us that the publication is a winner of the Alternative Press Award for Best Arts & Literature Coverage that runs ‘reviews of literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction with an emphasis on works that push the boundaries of language, narrative, and genre. Essays, interviews, and in-depth reviews reflect Rain Taxi’s commitment to innovative publishing.’

I dined and conversed with RainTaxi editor Eric Lorberer , indoors, recently in Minneapolis. We talk here about the state and nature of today’s book reviewing business. Please excuse the abrupt ending.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Bookseller Kathy Stransky on the Used Book Trade

2009-02-05
Length: 20s


Kathy Stransky co-owner, with her husband, of Midway Used and Rare Books on University Avenue in St. Paul Minnesota for the past 27 years, talks about the impact of the Internet, Half Price Books moving in down the street, high tech book scouts, rapid transit, and thieves, on her business. Gloom and doom? Yes, it’s been hard, but still, despite diminishing returns, nothing can beat doing what you love for a living. Nothing can beat the complete joy of reading either, says Stransky. Listen too for the two authors who are most in demand among book thieves.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Margaret Eaton on the ABC Canada Literacy Foundation

2009-02-05
Length: 28s

Today is Family Literacy Day! Literacy is defined as “the ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities at home, at work and in the community - to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.” Four out of 10 adult Canadians, age 16 to 65 - representing 9 million Canadians - struggle with low literacy according to Statistics Canada. This means they are denied the pleasures and benefits of, among other things, reading literature. Literature, as John Carey puts it in the final chapter of his book What Good are the Arts?, enlarges your mind, and it gives you thoughts, words and rhthms that will last you for life.

With this in mind, we talk to Margaret Eaton, President of the ABC Canada Literacy Foundation about what is being done to help those who live with illiteracy to overcome this obstacle. In so doing we discuss the impact of the Internet on reading habits and the income of freelance writers, the future of the book, blogging, publishers’ business models, and bringing the U.K.’s successful Quick Reads program,which commissions authors (including Ruth Rendall, Joanna Trollope and Richard Branson), to write exciting, short, fast-paced books specifically for adult emergent readers, to Canada. Margaret is now looking for well know Canadian authors to write true crime, and how-to titles, both of which were very popular in England. I immediately suggest William Deverell, and a can’t miss how-to topic: Seven Steps to Phenomenal Sex.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Antiquarian Book Dealer Robert Rulon-Miller

2009-02-03
Length: 36s

Robert Rulon-Miller is an antiquarian book dealer who lives, if not in a mansion, then at the very least in a great big house on Summit Avenue, one of the toniest in St. Paul, Minnesota. Not that toiling as a bookseller is anyway to get rich quick. He has worked hard for many years in the business, specializing in 'Rare, Fine & Interesting Books in Many Fields; 1st Editions, Americana; LIterature; Fine & Early Printing; Travel; and the History of Language.' His most recent catalogue is titled Language and Learning. Robert is also the Director of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar scheduled for August 2nd-7th, 2009, at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, immediately following the Denver Antiquarian Book Fair.

We met recently at his home to talk books. Topics covered include deaccessioning, Railway and mining tycoon James J. Hill, Robert"s friendship with Elmer Anderson, book collector adn Governor of Minnesota; Robert’s interest in words and language, his expertise in dictionaries and grammars and lack of interest in Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary, Better World Books’s business model, partnering to buy and sell expensive books, and advice for the novice bookseller. 

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Librarian Rosemary Furtak: On Artist Books

2009-02-03
Length: 23s

Rosemary Furtak has been librarian at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis for 25 year. She is co-curator of ‘Text Messages’, an exhibit on artist’s books currently showing (until April 2009) at the Center. We talk here about her early championing of the artist book genre (her definition being: "a book that refuses to behave like a book (like the 35,000 books that sit in the stacks"), the line between books and art, and words and art, and librarians and curators…and how to go about collecting artist books. We talk too about the challenges of cataloguing artist Ed Ruscha’s 26 Gasoline Stations,

about the prolific and surprising Dieter Roth, inexpensive materials and Richard Tuttle, and Lawrence Weiner, his Statements and his art making process. The works of these four are highlighted in the exhibition.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Victoria Glendinning: On Biography

2009-01-19
Length: 26s

Photo by NB

Biographer, critic, broadcaster and novelist Victoria Glendinning was born in Sheffield, and educated at Somerville College, Oxford, where she read Modern Languages. She worked as a teacher and social worker before becoming an editorial assistant for the Times Literary Supplement in 1974.

President of English PEN, she was awarded a CBE in 1998. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Southampton, Ulster, Dublin and York. Her biographies include Elizabeth Bowen: Portrait of a Writer, 1977; Edith Sitwell: A Unicorn Among Lions (1981), which won both the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for biography) and the Duff Cooper Prize; and Rebecca West: A Life (1987), and Vita: The Life of V. Sackville-West (1983) and Trollope (1992) both of which won the Whitbread Biography Award.

We talk here ostensibly about her latest book,  Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie: Letters and Diaries 1941- 1973 but in fact, mostly about the nature of biography,the difference between editing letters and writing lives, fabricating dialogue, compiling data, selecting facts; the importance of place, material and familial limitations, life over art, Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville West, Sissinghurst, and text versus context.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

Please listen to the Biblio File interview here:

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Christian Mcpherson on his first collection of Poetry

2009-01-19
Length: 24s

Born, raised and currently resident in Ottawa, Canada, Christian McPherson’s poetry has appeared in a variety of print and online journals. He has won the John Spenser Hill Award and the Ottawa Public Library Short story Award. We met recently to discuss his first published collection called Poems that Swim from my Brain like Rats leaving a Sinking Ship. Please listen here as we talk, among other things, about death, the misery of TV news, and a light hearted approach to life:

(For more of Nigel Beale's Musings on the Book, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts...please visit http://nigelbeale.com)

 

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Tanja Jacobs on playing Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days

2009-01-19
Length: 22s

Now Photo By Steve Payne

"Tanja Jacobs is a well known actress, director, teacher and coach. She has worked in the professional theatre since 1981, and performed at most major theatres in Canada. She has been nominated for ten Dora Mavor Moore Awards and has won twice.  As a director, her credits include 1002 Nights, Johann’s Cabinet of Wonders, Goddess, and Mid-Life Crisis . On television, besides her role as federal employee SM3 Sexsmith on Power Play, Jacobs guest starred on many Canadian shows including Ready or Not and Street Legal. Film credits include "Trial by Jury" and "Loser"." She recently finished a run at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa as Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days directed by Leah Cherniak.

Happy Days, written in 1961, observes determined human optimism in the face of a universe without meaning. Winnie, Beckett’s "hopeful futilitarian" is buried up to her waist in the earth, woken and summoned to bed each day by the same disembodied bell. Throughout the days, she performs a series of carefully observed rituals all related to the contents of a worn, old black purse. She combs her hair, applies lipstick, painstakingly examines a toothbrush, toys with a nail file, a tube of toothpaste and a revolver, all the while chattering at her inattentive companion, Willie. Hopeless yet hopeful; bleak yet funny, Happy Days is Beckett’s "testament to the resourcefulness of the human spirit"

Tanja and I talk here about playing Winnie, the difficulty of working at cliff’s edge without a narrative, talking, doing nothing and the need for communication and attention, loneliness, mid-life marriages, revolvers, supportive fellow actors, the quality of attachment and mirroring, the imperative to carry on, suffering and the avoidance of and surrendering to pain in front of an audience, revisiting moments of terror and fright and aloneness and the agony of doing this as someone who has been abandoned, the unbearable parts of being human, and how the use of simple descriptives can generate profound distilled moments, poems of events.

To start off with I quote V.S. Pritchett on Beckett. Read the quote here.

(For more of Nigel Beale's Musings on the Book, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts...please visit http://nigelbeale.com)

 

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Ross Raisin on his fictional character Sam Marsdyke

2009-01-07
Length: 39s


Ross Raisin is a young British author born in Keighley, Yorkshire. He has studied at the University of London, worked as a trainee wine bar manager and completed a  postgraduate degree in creative writing at Goldsmith's College. His debut novel Out Backward (God's Own Country in England) was published in 2008, and shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. It features Sam Marsdyke, a disturbed adolescent living in a harsh rural environment, and tracks his journey from an oddity to a malevolent, insane, psychopath.

(For more of Nigel Beale's Musings on the Book, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts...please visit http://nigelbeale.com)

 

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A conversation with Author Nadeem Aslam

2009-01-06
Length: 31s

Nadeem Aslam was born in Pakistan in 1966, moved to the UK as a teenager and now lives in London. He studied Biochemistry at the University of Manchester, but left to become a writer. His first novel, Season of the Rainbirds (1993) won a Betty Trask Award and the Authors’ Club First Novel Award, and was shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Whitbread First Novel Award. His second novel, Maps for Lost Lovers (2004), which took 11 years to write, won the 2005 Encore Award and the 2005 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. 

We met in Toronto recently at the IFOA, to talk about his latest novel The Wasted Vigil, about technique, self knowledge, writing 100 page biographies of his characters, the universal from the particular, Afghanistan, war, politics, love, the ignorance of history,  Flaubert, Proust, isolation, engagement and Yorkshire.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

Listen to the Biblio File interview with Nigel Beale here:

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Anne Enright on what constitutes a good short story

2008-12-23
Length: 32s

This is part three of a series of interviews conducted with three acclaimed short storywriters: Rebecca Rosenblum, Nam Le, and Anne Enright. In each case we riff off those qualities which Flannery O’Connor thought best constituted a good short story. I’ve listed some of them here.

 Anne Enright was born in Dublin in 1962, studied English and Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin, and went on to study for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She is a former RTE television producer. Her short story collection, The Portable Virgin was published in 1991, and won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Two collections of stories, Taking Pictures and Yesterday’s Weather were published in 2008. Her novels are The Wig My Father Wore (1995); What Are You Like? winner of the 2001 Encore Award ; The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002); and The Gathering (2007) which won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

We met at the IFOA in Toronto recently to talk about the short story, and, in so doing , about Beckett’s Happy Days, housewives with problems,  ideology, awakenings, characters’ voices, self deception, just doing it, James Joyce and women writers.

(For more of Nigel Beale's
Musings on the Book, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts...please visit http://nigelbeale.com)

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Joe Dunthorne on his debut novel Submarine

2008-12-17
Length: 30s

Joe Dunthorne is a graduate of the Creative Writing Masters at UEA, where he was awarded the Curtis Brown Prize. His poetry has been published in Reactions 5, Magma, Smiths Knoll and Tears in the Fence. His work has been featured on Channel 4, BBC Radio 3, 4 and in The Guardian and Vice magazine. We met recently at the IFOA in Toronto to discuss his debut novel, Submarine, why the behavior of teenage boys is often seen as abominable, the importance of getting laid, ambiguous characters, depression, the brilliance of novelist W.G. Sebald, East Anglia University, how humour works, and dustjackets which both attract attention and complement content.



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A conversation with Bruno Racine, President, Bibliothèque Nationale de France

2008-12-16
Length: 19s

Bruno Racine was appointed President of the National Library of France on April 2 2007. Over the years he has held many senior postions within the French government including: Director General Cultural Affairs for the City of Paris (1988-1993), Director of l’Académie de France à Rome (1997-2002), and Chairman du Centre Pompidou (2002-2007). He is also a writer. Non-fiction books include his best selling: Art of living in Rome and Art of living in Tuscany. His novel the Governor of Morée (Grasset) won France’s First Novel Prize in 1982.

We talk here about the role of a national library, about scanning and digitization, Google, the Lyon library (France’s second largest), Europeana, the value added offered by Librarians, Canada’s amalgamation of its National Archives and Library, the unlikelihood that France will follow suit, public servant novelists, Stendhal, and failure and success in careers and love.

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Amitav Ghosh on his novel Sea of Poppies

2008-12-10
Length: 21s

AMITAV GHOSH is one of India’s best-known writers. His books include The Circle of Reason, The Shadow Lines, The Glass Palace, Incendiary Circumstances and The Hungry Tide. Born in Calcutta in 1956 Ghosh studied in Dehra Dun, New Delhi, Alexandria and Oxford. His first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi. He earned a doctorate at Oxford before he wrote his first novel, which was published in 1986. He is married to the writer, Deborah Baker, and has two children, Lila and Nayan. He divides his time between Kolkata, Goa and Brooklyn.

We met recently at the IFOA in Toronto to talk about his most recent novel, Sea of Poppies, the first volume in a planned trilogy. Among other things we discuss how novels tell the stories of silenced, unheard voices, sailing, Mauritius, multi-racial crews, opium, the Caste system and the pleasures of research.

The Biblio File Copyright Nigel Beale http://nigelbeale.com 2008 

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Junot Diaz on Genocide and his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

2008-12-05
Length: 32s

Junot Díaz was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and is the author of Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which won the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. He is the fiction editor at the Boston Review and the Rudge (1948) and Nancy Allen professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We met recently at the IFOA in Toronto, and talked about, among other things storytelling as a way to give voice to lost life, unique characters, 9/11 and America’s dual response: Why don’t they like us? and We’re gonna bomb them into the stone age; gaps, how to inject humour and energy into a text, and the Dominican Republic as the egg from which the U.S. eagle sprang.


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Rivka Galchen on her novel Atmospheric Disturbances

2008-11-25

 

Rivka Galchen was born in Toronto. She grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, where her father, Tzvi Gal-Chen, was a professor of meterology at the University of Oklahoma. Her novel Atmospheric Disturbances features a character with the same name, Tzvi Gal-Chen, a professor of meterology and a fellow of the (fictional) Royal Academy of Meterology.

Galchen attended Princeton University, where she was an English major, and applied in her sophomore year to an early-admissions program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She received her M.D. from Mount Sinai in 2003, with a focus in psychiatry. After completing medical school, she completed an MFA at Columbia University. Farcically, Atmospheric Disturbances was nominated for Canada’s Governor General’s Award for fiction (she left the country when she was four years old). No way she was going to win; still, on the flip side, provides nice exposure for both prize and author.

We talk here among other things about denial, death, fathers, unreliable narrators, James Wood, Walter Benjamin, science, consensus knowledge, and being stoned.

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Nam Le on: The Short Story

2008-11-14
Length: 32s

Nam Le has won this year’s £60,000 Dylan Thomas Prize. It recognizes the best young writer in the English-speaking world with the goal of ensuring that the inspirational nature of Dylan’s writing lives on.

I met with Nam in Toronto recently at the IFOA. This is part two of a series of interviews conducted with three acclaimed short storywriters: Rebecca Rosenblum, Nam Le, and Anne Enright. In each case we riff off those qualities which Flannery O’Connor thought best constituted a good short story. I’ve listed some of them here.

Nam Le is author of The Boat, a collection of ’stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a fishing village in Australia to a floundering vessel in the South China Sea, in a masterful display of literary virtuosity and feeling.’

We talk, among other things, about never condescending to the reader, the prose having to be smarter than its author: tapping into things seen, but a just beyond their ken; gaps and allowing the reader to put their experiences into them; getting into the consciousness of characters; relinquishing ego; the difficulty of writing short stories — and the greatness of those who can do it well; spring-boarding detail and gearing it for expansion; and affecting paradoxical senses of recognition, wonder and redemption.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Joseph Boyden on his Giller Prize winning novel Through Black Spruce

2008-11-11
Length: 22s

Joseph Boyden has just won  The 2008 Giller Prize  for his novel Through Black Spruce.  We talk here about the novel, and the psychic distance Joseph requires to write novels about Northern Ontario and the Cree; the similarities between North and South, James Bay and New Orleans; snowmobiling over vast amounts of snow-covered bush, isolation in the wilderness; bridges between communities, oral culture, First Nation humour, respect for myths and legends, and soapboxes. Please excuse the abrupt ending!

For more interviews and book reviews www.nigelbeale.com Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Aleksandar Hemon on his novel The Lazarus Project

2008-11-11
Length: 36s

Listen to my interview with Aleksandar Hemon on his National Book Award nominated novel The Lazarus Project here at The Quarterly Conversation.

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David Curruthers on St. Armand Papers

2008-11-05
Length: 27s


David Curruthers, owner proprietor of St. Armand Papers in Montreal takes us through the process of how he produces paper that is used in the letterpress printing of books. We talk about pure fibre rags, old jute coffee bags, cover stock, denim and blue paper, beaters, pulp, and vat-like structures for pulp and machines that take 95% of the moisture out of the pulp and flatten it so that it can been stored in sheets that look and feel like blotting  paper and then treated with substances such as potato starch, clay and/or chalk, depending upon the end use of the paper. We also talk about opacity, smooth laid paper, end leafs, machine grain and bookmarks.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com


For more interviews and book reviews www.nigelbeale.com

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Michael Lista on: his first collection of poetry, Bloom

2008-11-04
Length: 39s

 

I first heard about Michael Lista in a workshop conducted by Meeka Walsh, Editor of Border Crossings magazine. She raved about him: "Michael is a remarkably gifted young poet who lives in Montreal. He has a special interest in the points of intesection between science and poetics."

These points live dramatically in the person of Louis Slotin, a scientist from Winnipeg involved in the Manhattan project and development of the atomic bomb, and Lista’s desire to capture a day in his life. On May 21, 1946, Slotin conducted a dangerous experiment referred to by his fellow scientists as "tickling the dragon’s tail." Using a framework of existing poems, in the way that James Joyce used Homer’s Odyssey, Lista has borderline plagarized them in a collection which documents this May day.  The book will be entitled Bloom. Anansi will publish it.

"Out of admiration for the virtuosity of Slotin’s achievements - with the attendant hubris and arrogance necessary to take risks and make anything new - and taking on those qualities in his own work, Lista’s poems do glitter, but more lastingly than that word would suggest. Dazzle too has a showiness I don’t mean to imply but the wit is so apparent. At the same time the tone is held and is exactly what the subject requires in this poetic construction."

Revisiting my Salon des Refuses experience in the last post, I am reminded of how rarely one encounters great literary work. Poetry especially. Pablo Neruda, Ted Hughes, Robin Robertson…I knew immediately upon first reading their poems that something extraordinary was happening. Their words rubbed up against my experience and sensibilities in ways that satisfied like few others have.

I felt something of this while reading the handful of poems Michael sent me (please find three in a future post) in advance of our conversation. We talk here about the suicidal dangers of emulating Joyce’s Ulysses, and the book’s unapproachability; punning, the multiple meanings of bloom, epiphanies, coincidences, translation, sex and physics, life and death.

For more interviews and book reviews www.nigelbeale.com

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Rebecca Rosenblum on What Constitutes a Good Short Story (1):

2008-11-01
Length: 27s

This is part one of a series of interviews conducted with three acclaimed short storywriters: Rebecca Rosenblum, Nam Le, and Anne Enright. In each case we riff off those qualities which Flannery O’Connor thought best constituted a good short story. I’ve listed some of them here.

We start with Rebecca Rosenblum, author of Once, " a collection of sixteen stories portraying the constricted and confused lives of the rootless twenty-somethings — students, office techies, waitresses, warehouse labourers, street hustlers — who inhabit them. These are stories grounded in the all-too-real comedy and tragedy of jobs and friendships and romances, books and buses and bodies." This debut collection won The Metcalf Rooke Award.

 Please listen here:

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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What Makes Vampires so Appealing? with Patricia McCarthy

2008-10-10
Length: 28s

Patricia K. Macarthy is author of The Crimson Series, three books, to date, about vampires. We talk here about what makes Vampires so appealing to so many people, about their being symbolic of man’s desire for supremacy, women’s desire to be consumed, about the fringe elements of society, the attraction of eternal youth and immortality, confidence, the perfect villian whose weapon is seduction, alpha males, power, the lack of conscience, film, Halloween, the draw of fantasy, the defiance of death and the preciousness of time.

During our conversation reference is made to poems by Byron and Goethe. Both example early literary treatment of Vampires [see vampires (and vampire fiction)].

The Vampire Female: "The Bride of Corinth" (1797) by: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

(1) Once a stranger youth to Corinth came,

Who in Athens lived, but hoped that he

From a certain townsman there might claim,

As his father’s friend, kind courtesy.

(2) Son and daughter, they

Had been wont to say

Should thereafter bride and bridegroom be.

But can he that boon so highly prized,

Save tis dearly bought, now hope to get?

They are Christians and have been baptized,

He and all of his are heathens yet.

(3) For a newborn creed,

Like some loathsome weed,

Love and truth to root out oft will threat.

Father, daughter, all had gone to rest,

And the mother only watches late;

She receives with courtesy the guest,

And conducts him to the room of state.

The Giaour by Lord Byron was first published in 1813 and the first in his Oriental romance series. It proved to be a great success, consolidating Byron’s reputation critically and commercially. Here’s how it starts:

No breath of air to break the wave

That rolls below the Athenian’s grave,

That tomb which, gleaming o’er the cliff,

First greets the homeward-veering skiff,

High o’er the land he saved in vain;

When shall such hero live again?

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

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Margaret Visser on her book The Gift of Thanks

2008-10-01
Length: 44s

Margaret Visser (born May 11, 1940) is a writer/broadcaster who lives in Toronto, Barcelona, and France. Her subject matter is the history, anthropology, and mythology of everyday life.

Born in South Africa, she attended school in Zambia, Zimbabwe, France (the Sorbonne) and Canada. She taught Greek and Latin at York University for 18 years.

Her books include Much Depends on Dinner, The Rituals of Dinner, The Way We Are, and The Geometry of Love; all have been best sellers. Many have won awards. Her most recent work is called The Gift of Thanks, published by HarperCollins. It asks: What do we really mean by Thank you? What are the implications of gratitude, and why are we so enraged when we meet its opposite?

In this conversation Visser tells us, among other things, that gratitude involves thinking, that gift giving takes the place of war, that apparently simple actions and behavior are in fact surprisingly complex, and that gratitude and gift giving is natural because humans beings are innate imitators. Oh yes. And we also talk about sexual gratification!

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Author Miriam Toews on: The Flying Troutmans

2008-09-18
Length: 19s


This from Random House: "Miriam Toews…was born in 1964 in the small Mennonite town of Steinbach, Manitoba. She left Steinbach at eighteen, living in Montreal and London and touring Europe before coming back to Manitoba, where she earned a B.A. in film studies at the University of Manitoba. Later she packed up with her children and partner and moved to Halifax to attend the University of King’s College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Upon returning to Winnipeg with her family in 1991, she freelanced at the CBC, making radio documentaries. When her youngest daughter started nursery school, Toews decided it was
time to try writing a novel."

She’s written four to date, including A Complicated Kindness which won the GG’s Award for Best Fiction in 2004.  We talk here about her latest The Flying Troutmans, about her father’s struggle with depression and the stigma that still surrounds the disease, about road trips and siblings, the definition of love, the film Little Miss Sunshine, writing novels with movie deals in mind, trust, abandonment and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Craig Poile co-owner of Collected Works on How to run a successful Independent Bookstore

2008-07-18
Length: 36s

Listen here to my conversation with Craig Poile, co-owner of Collected Works, a successful, innovative independent bookstore based in Ottawa, Canada. We talk, among others things, about a rudimentary webcam-teleconferencing system dubbed ‘Great Talking Head,’ that Craig has set up to get big name authors, such as Julian Barnes and Peter Carey, and their fans, together in his bookstore; about bookseller-publisher relations, in-store writing workshops and print-on-demand.

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Les Petriw: What Small Publishers and Authors should look for in a Distribution company

2008-06-30
Length: 36s

 

Distribution is a critical spoke in the publishing cycle, and yet it’s surprising the scant amount of thought many small publishers give to how their books will eventually be sold, and how much it will cost to get their titles into the stores. Most new titles issued by small/self publishers wont ever be stocked on the shelves of chain superstores, not even for a short tryout period. Only a tiny fraction of these titles are ever selected directly by discount merchandisers or supermarkets, despite these outlets accounting for a big percentage of overall book industry sales. Bookseller don’t have time to meet with 100s of small publishers, hence the importance of the distributor. 

I talk here with Les Petriw, Managing Director & International Sales Director of National Book Network, ’second or third largest in North America,’ about why publishers should consider using distribution firms such as his. In-stock status at a national distributor is essential to selling books in any quantity through retail outlets, but it isn’t cheap. From what I’ve been able to learn, distributors working with small publishers typically require a discount of from 50% to 75% off the cover price. In other words, they pay the publisher between 25% and 50% of the cover price on books they actually sell. So picking the right company is important. Here, according to Les, is what you should look for:

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Harlan Coben on the Business of Publishing Books

2008-06-29
Length: 36s

Harlan Coben’s latest novel HOLD TIGHT debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list — and simultaneously debuted at #1 in the London Times.

Winner of the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award – the first author to win all three – international bestselling author Harlan Coben’s critically-acclaimed novels have been called "ingenious" (New York Times), "poignant and insightful" (Los Angeles Times), "consistently entertaining" (Houston Chronicle), "superb" (Chicago Tribune) and "must reading" (Philadelphia Inquirer). His most recent novels, THE WOODS, PROMISE ME, THE INNOCENT, JUST ONE LOOK, NO SECOND CHANCE, TELL NO ONE and GONE FOR GOOD have appeared on the top of all the major bestseller lists including the New York Times, London Times, Le Monde, Publishers Weekly, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY — and many others throughout the world. His books are published in thirty-seven languages around the globe and have been number one bestsellers in in nearly a dozen countries.

Harlan was born in Newark, New Jersey. After graduating from Amherst College a political science major, Harlan worked in the travel industry. He now lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben MD, a pediatrician, and their four children.

****

I try to mix it up by warning that popularity should not be confused with greatness. Harlan brushes me off by following the good Dr.’s line of argument: "The purpose of a writer is to be read, and the criticism which would destroy the power of pleasing must be blown aside. [Samuel Johnson: Pope (Lives of the Poets)].

We look at the author as brand, the feigned disinterest many authors hold for the business side of publishing books, Harlan’s New York Times Op-Ed pieces, his preference for the missing over the dead, suburban desperation, and 2.5 million books sold worldwide each year.  

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Japp Blonk on Sound Poetry

2008-06-23
Length: 36s

Jaap Blonk is a self-taught composer, vocal performer and sound poet.

As a vocalist, Blonk has performed around the globe exciting audiences with his powerful stage presence and childlike improvisation. Live electronics have over the years extended the scope and range of his concerts. Besides working as a soloist, he has collaborated with many musicians and ensembles, including Maja Ratkje, Mats Gustafsson, Nicolas Collins, Joan La Barbara, The Ex, the Netherlands Wind Ensemble and the Ebony Band. He was the founder and leader of the long-standing bands Splinks (modern jazz, 1983-1999) and BRAAXTAAL (avant-rock, 1987-2005).

We talk here about the noises humans make that aren’t words, how important they are in communication, and the way sound poetry utilizes them; about meaning found in intonation and getting booed, the pleasure of inventing structures, Dadaism and the breaking of rules, Johnny Van Doorn and A Bridge too Far, the international phonetic alphabet, pitch, timber and the best English language sound poets. Listen, and brace yourself for the recital of a sonnet Jaap wrote in honour of Van Doorn.

 

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Lindsey Davis on: Historical Crime Fiction

2008-06-17
Length: 40s

Lindsey Davis was born and raised in Birmingham, read English at Oxford, then joined the civil service, which she left in 1985.She started writing about Romans in The Course of Honour, the remarkable true love story of the Emperor Vespasian and his mistress Antonia Caenis. Her research into First Century Rome inspired The Silver Pigs, the first outing for Falco and Helena, which was published in 1989. Starting as a spoof using a Roman ‘informer’ as a classic, metropolitan private eye, the series has developed into a set of adventures in various styles which take place throughout the Roman world. The Silver Pigs won the Authors’ Club Best First Novel award in 1989; she has since won the Crimewriters’ Association Dagger in the Library and Ellis Peters Historical Dagger, while Falco has won the Sherlock Award for Best Comic Detective. She has been Chair of the UK Crimewriters’ Association and Honorary President of the Classical Association. Her Official Website is www.lindseydavis.co.uk.

We met recently at the Blue Met International Literary Festival in Montreal, and talked, among other things, about the historical mystery genre, Ellis Peters, Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, foreshadowing, the treatment of women, killing characters off, good men, favourite plots and authors, and lessons that can be learned from the Romans,

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Rawi Hage on: Deniro's Game

2008-06-11
Length: 33s

Rawi Hage was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived through nine years of that country’s civil war. He immigrated to Canada in 1992. He is a writer, a visual artist, and a curator whose debut novel, De Niro’s Game (2006), was shortlisted for the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the 2006 Governor General’s Award for English fiction. It has just won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. House of Anansi Press will publish Rawi’s eagerly anticipated second novel, Cockroach, in fall 2008. He lives in Montreal where I caught up with him at the Blue Met International Literary Festival.

We talk about living in war conditions, New York, Deer Hunter and Russian roulette, art as memory, the absurdity of war, the dangers of organized religion, fundamentalism, politics and the writer, canoing and moose, women’s clothing, Arabic poetry and the influence of fathers.

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Ed Pettit on Edgar Allan Poe

2008-06-08
Length: 27s

Photo of Ed and Edgar from here.

Edward Pettit is a freelance book reviewer and writes the Bibliothecary blog.  He also  pursues graduate studies in literature at bucolic Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and teaches writing at La Salle University in Philadelphia. After having spent the first twenty-seven years of his life in the same Philadelphia neighborhood (Olney), he now resides just outside the "Athens of America" in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania with his lovely wife, five daughters and lottsa books. Oh, and one other thing, he's a fanatical fan ...if this isn't redundant...of Edgar Alan Poe...and hosts a blog dedicated to all things Edgar at Ed and Edgar.

He is busy writing a book about Poe's years in Philadelphia, due out in 2009, the bicentenary of the author's birth.


We met recently at the Philadelphia Book Festival. In this interview Ed treats us to a thumbnail biography of Poe,  his childhood, where he lived, studied and worked, what he wrote, which relative he married, which street corner he collapsed on, who championed him and who wrote the best books about him.

Please listen here to this intriguing life story:

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Donald Antrim on his memoir The Afterlife

2008-06-05
Length: 37s

Donald Antrim is the author of three novels and a memoir entitled, The Afterlife, which is about the strained relationship he had with his mother, Louanne, an artist, teacher and alcoholic. In addition to receiving some of America’s most prestigious fellowships, he is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, a magazine that includes him amongst their "twenty writers for the new century."

We met at the Blue Met International Literary Festival in Montreal, and talk here about his mother’s death, Camus, writing on the edge, suffering and distraction, luxury beds, Donald Barthelme, anger, sarcasm, loss of humour, collecting books, and the appeal of first editions. Donald also treats us to a reading from The Afterlife, and as part of this, the dedication in Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

(For more of Nigel Beale's Musings on the Book, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts...please visit http://nigelbeale.com)

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Derick Dreher on Dr. Rosenbach

2008-06-05
Length: 51s

 

Derick Dreher has been the Director of the Rosenbach since 1998. He has an M.A. in the History of Art from Yale University,and is a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton. A Fulbright scholar, he was awarded a Kress International Research Fellowship, for research in Germany. A specialist in graphic arts of the Renaissance, he has published on a variety of subjects, including prints and drawings ranging from Dürer to Daumier, and has spoken internationally on drawings, rare books, libraries and the art of memory.


We met recently at the Museum on a rainy Philadelphia morning to talk about the life, loves and business practices of celebrated bookseller and collector 'Doctor'  Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach, who got his PhD. in 1901, and subsequently went into business with his older ambitious Anglophilic brother Philip who sold fine and decorative arts. The Doctor was bent on selling books and manuscripts. We examine his ability to turn  customers  into collectors, to build libraries, to serve as an advisor not a dealer; his first great customer, street car magnate Harry Widener, who went down with the Titanic; what $100,000 bought in 1912, the Doctor's relationship with the Huntingtons and Folgers, his brilliant, ruthless book buying and selling practices, his skill at manipulating prices and the media,  the manuscript of Alice in Wonderland, making private collections public, the Museum's 333,000 odd documents, the manuscript of James Joyce's Ulysses, bought at auction for the reserve price,  Stoker's notes for Dracula, Conrad's manuscripts, tours as appetizers,  the correspondence and physical library of Marianne Moore, and Maurice Sendak as a bridge to the museum's entire collection.  

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Frank Wilson on How to Write a Successful Book Blog

2008-06-01
Length: 36s

Frank Wilson has been reviewing books professionally since October, 1964. For most of the past decade he was Books Editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, given to retaining committed bloggers (e.g. Mark Sarvas, Scott Esposito, Ed Champion)  to review books. He retired recently. About five years ago he started blogging at Books Inq. It is one of the most successful blogs in the literary blogosphere. 

I interviewed Frank at his home in Philadelphia recently. We talk about how he established his blog, about the potential and influence of this medium, about the benefits of interactivity and connection and roundtables; Maxine Clarke’s crime fiction reviews; the provision of filtering services, shared links and interests; kindred spirits; embedding poetry and essays, and loneliness; about the strange side effects of reading and how passive entertainment becomes unwatchable, how most traditional media eschew feedback; what he looks for in book reviewers; Tchaikovsky’s unknown correspondent; the book’s connection to life;  the nature of discourse; Instapundit and ‘instalanches;’ and those blogs he goes to every morning.

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Margot Livesey on Shakespeare

2008-05-30
Length: 40s

"Margot Livesey grew up in a boys’ private school in the Scottish Highlands where her father taught, and her mother, Eva, was the school nurse. After taking a B.A. in English and philosophy at the University of York in England she spent most of her twenties [in Toronto] working in shops and restaurants and learning to write. Her first book, a collection of stories called Learning By Heart, was published by Penguin Canada in 1986. Since then Margot has published six novels: Homework, Criminals, The Missing World, Eva Moves the Furniture, Banishing Verona and The House on Fortune Street (May 2008)."

Margot has taught at numerous universities, and received many awards and fellowships. She is currently a distinguished writer in residence at Emerson College and the John F. and Dorothy H. Magee writer in residence at Bowdoin College. She lives with her husband, a painter, in Cambridge, MA.

We met at the Philadelphia Book Festival, and talk here mostly about Shakespeare, and how themes found in Hamlet wend their way through much of what she has written: trust, betrayal, how much you can push other people around, entering stories from different angles, exits as entrances; the Alexandria Quartet, cranberry sauce, pieces of stories, cubism, faulty fractured vision, authorial versus character-faithful metaphors, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Tolstoy's ability to inhabit a wide range of characters, apparitions, the tradition of ghosts being real, our relationship with the dead, stories within stories, the sin of irrelevancy, Keats's wish to be taller, and Margot's ambition to make her sentences ('ethical units') better.

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Conversation with German Graphic Artist Anke Feuchenberger

2008-05-29
Length: 38s

Anke Feuchtenberger was born in 1963 in East Berlin and is one of Germany’s leading comic illustrator/ artists. Her award winning work has been published in numerous books, newspapers, magazines and anthologies, and includes paintings, drawings, comics, posters, prints, costumes and puppets.

Her illustrations and comics are rendered in highly recognizable style, often featuring naked, childlike creatures with huge heads,  wandering through strange, dream-like landscapes. Her haunting stories are a mixture of nightmare and fairytale.  She is currently a professor of arts at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung in Hamburg.

We met at the Blue Met International Literary Festival in Montreal recently, and talk here about babies and politics, how election posters gave her her first big break, utopia, the difference between East and West Germany, loneliness, vertical newspaper columns, her complicated comics, graphic novels, Edward Munch, Kafka, her success outside the borders of Germany, and Super Tear, her babushka superhero. 

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Glenn Patterson: On Belfast, Cities, Disney, Tolstoy and Public Houses

2008-05-27
Length: 44s

Glenn Patterson was born in Belfast in 1961 and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia under Malcolm Bradbury. He is the author of seven novels. The first, Burning Your Own (1988), set in Northern Ireland in 1969, won a Betty Trask Award and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

We met at the Blue Met International Literary Festival in Montreal to talk about reassessing the past, the development and urban topography of his home town Belfast, cities versus nations, Disney, Tolstoy’s theory of history, human complexity, his latest novel The Third Party, apathy, public houses, the minor impact of books, and how happy he is with his oeuvre.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale

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Alaa Al Aswany on Fiction and Democracy

2008-05-27
Length: 30s


Egyptian writer Alaa al Aswany was born in 1957 and studied dentistry in Egypt and Chicago. In addition to fiction, he writes on literature, politics, and social issues. His second novel, The Yacoubian Building, an ironic take on modern Egyptian society, was a significant best seller in and outside of the Arabic world. Chicago, a novel set in the city of that name was published in January 2007. The English translation is due out in bookstores this Fall.

We met at the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival in Montreal recently, and talk here about the contamination of literature by politics, compartmentalizing the two, achieving artistic value, Martin Amis and Islamism, the fallacy of Mark Steyn’s fear mongering, the novel as life on paper but more profound, significant, beautiful than the ‘real’ thing, the writer’s need to listen to the sound of the heart, the difference between writing and fabricating, and why his novels have enjoyed such world-wide success.

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John Hollander on Good and Bad Poetry

2008-05-26
Length: 21s

Born in 1929 in New York, educated at Columbia, John Hollander is a poet and literary critic. He has written more than a dozen books of poetry, and seven books of criticism, including Rhyme's Reason of which Harold Bloom said: "[it is] on all questions of schemes, patterns, forms, meters, rhymes of poetry in English, the indispensible authority..." and why I was so keen to interview him. According to New York Times, Hollander stresses the importance of hearing poems out loud: "A good poem satisfies the ear. It creates a story or picture that grabs you, informs you and entertains you."

His honors include the Bollingen Prize, the Levinson Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. A former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets he is the current poet laureate of Connecticut, and has taught at many different universities, including Yale.

We met recently at the Philadelphia Book Festival. I spend most of this interview relentlessly and unsuccessfully trying to badger him into identifying, comparing and describing the differences between great and bad poems. To name names. We do get to some of the great (Rosanna Warren, Shakespeare, Browning, Swinburne, Rossetti, for example) but he will not go anywhere near the bad. Toward the end, clearly tired from the day's activities and my uncalled for bullying, he reads a beautifully funny and thoughtful poem, based on a quote taken from Boswell's Life of Johnson, found in his most recent collection, A draft of Light.

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Andre Alexis on the themes in his Novels

2008-05-25
Length: 37s

Photo by Sari Ginsberg

André Alexis was born in 1957 in Trinidad and Tobago. His parents left for Canada when he was a baby. The family reunited in Ottawa when Alexis was four years old. He still remembers the trauma of this separation; it has coloured much of his writing since. Themes of absence, displacement, belonging and home animate his work. His debut novel, Childhood (1997), won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and was a co-winner of the Trillium Award.

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Andrew O'Hagan on Determination, Memoir, Israel, Martin Amis, Islam and Coloured Doors

2008-05-13
Length: 47s

Andrew O’Hagan’s most recent novel, Be Near Me, has just won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It is the story of an English priest who takes over a small Scottish parish in a post-industrial town by the sea; a story of art and politics, love and faith, and the way we live now, which pretty well summarizes the conversation we had this past weekend at The Blue Met International Literary Festival in Montreal. 

More specifically we talked about tragedy, escape, the determination not to be determined, fathers, the blurred boundaries between fiction, memoir and journalism, the United States, the role of writer in society, Martin Amis and Islamism, parents, writing ones own life, and coloured doors in social housing projects.

Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale. www.nigelbeale.com

(For more of Nigel Beale's Musings on the Book, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts...please visit http://nigelbeale.com)

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Irene Gammel on Lucy Maud Montgomery & Anne of Green Gables

2008-04-22
Length: 56s

Evelyn Nesbitt, whose looks Anne Shirley’s are modeled on.  

Biography as Screaming Farce:

Find out why L.M. Montgomery was so skeptical about biography despite spending endless hours shaping and re-shaping her journals for public display; using them to incubate ideas for her novels. Find out too how biography can, according to Ms. Gammel, provide valuable cultural and historical context within which to interpret, understand and appreciate works of art. And, if this isn’t enough, listen to what makes Anne of Green Gables a classic: how it appeals to young and old, takes Emerson, gives him a heart, tempered with satire, how it appeals to universals, answers yearnings with pagan fairy tales, subverts and transcends the formulaic, and traces the lives of characters who evolve from stereotypes to complex, contradictory human beings. 

If this still doesn’t do it, or even if it does, buy the book, Looking for Anne, written by Irene Gammel who, in addition to owning a delightful Montgomeryesque style, shares many of the characteristics of the heroines she so admires.

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Copyright © 2008 by Nigel Beale

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William Deverell on how to write Literary Crime Mystery Novels

2008-04-20
Length: 45s

William Deverell, has been widely hailed as Canada’s greatest ‘literary mystery’ writer. This from his website:

"Deverell worked as a journalist for seven years, with Canadian Press Montreal, the Vancouver Sun and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, where he was night city editor while at the University of Saskatchewan law school and editor of the student newspaper.

As a member of the British Columbia, Alberta and Yukon Bars, he was counsel in more than a thousand criminal cases, including thirty murder trials, either as defender or prosecutor. He is a founding director, former president, now honorary director of the B. C. Civil Liberties Association.

His first novel, Needles, won the $50,000 Seal Prize in l979 and the Book of the Year Award in l98l. His subsequent novels include High Crimes, Mecca,The Dance of Shiva, Platinum Blues, Mindfield, Kill All the Lawyers, Street Legal – the Betrayal, and he is author of the true crime book A Life on Trial – The Case of Robert Frisbee, based on a notorious murder trial which he defended…Trial of Passion won Canada’s 1997 Arthur Ellis prize in crime writing, and the Dashiell Hammett award for literary excellence in crime writing in North America. "

Our conversation explores Deverell’s oeuvre in light of the question: How to write a great crime novel? Humour, complex characters, contentious relationships and appropriate use of ‘the clock’ all feature prominently in Deverell’s work, and contribute to what makes it award winning.  

Twenty odd years ago my wife and I rented a cottage perched at the edge of the Rideau River for a weekend getaway. I cracked Deverell’s Dance of the Shiva shortly after arriving. Couldn’t getaway from it. Couldn’t put it down. After finishing it, couldn’t understand why Deverell wasn’t as popular as Turow, Cornwell, Ellroy or Rendell. Still can’t. 

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David Solway on What makes a Poem Great?

2008-04-06
Length: 39s

In honour of Poetry Month, here is my interview with Canadian poet, critic and more recently, political writer, David Solway. We first discuss what constitutes a great poem in the context of ‘political’ and other agendas that some poets incorporate into their work. According to Solway, great poems consist of authentic, incontestable, memorable language, with vivid power, lapidary quality and prodigious rhetorical flow, which takes time, education, reflection and maturity to work itself into themes of human importance; synoptic views of the complexity of human life; a confluence of eloquent language and major subject which has something important to say and which will resonate with contemporary and future generations.

Great poems are like Switzerland, says Solway: candidates must pass through a stringent, careful, fine-meshed filter before they are granted citizenship.

It is posterity that decides what is great. Aphoristic memorability and the wish to keep the words alive in the mind, determines its greatness.

Listen here to part one of our conversation:

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Sally Cooper on her second novel, Tell Everything

2008-02-28
Length: 40s

Sally Cooper’s second novel, Tell Everything,delves into the darkest regions of the human soul, and lends credence to Kipling’s line: "The female of the species is deadlier than the male."

During our conversation about Tell Everything we discuss topics including: the media and murder, Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo,

body parts in ponds,  Rapunsil and crime plays, three way sex, the blurred, complicated lines of consent, the fear of self revelation, and love, self protection, shame and acceptance, boxes and cameras, novel writing as catharsis, iguanas in snow drifts, crime scene photographs, facing moral issues, true crime magazines, Michael Redhill’s short story The Victim, and women being every bit as predatory as men.

Sally Cooper grew up in Inglewood, Ontario, population 400. She has an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Guelph, and has published in such places as Shift, Blood & Aphorisms, Carousel, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and eye weekly. Her first novel, Love Object, came out in 2002 to critical acclaim. She currently teaches creative writing at Humber College and lives and writes in Hamilton, Ontario.

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Kenneth Gloss, Owner, Brattle Books

2008-02-24
Length: 39s

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Larry McMurtry on Writing and Bookselling

2008-02-23
Length: 19s

Novelist, screenwriter and essayist Larry McMurtry is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 novel Lonesome Dove, a sweeping historical epic that follows ex-Texas Rangers as they drive cattle from the Rio Grande to Montana.

He grew up on a ranch outside of Archer City, Texas, which is the model for his fictional town of Thalia. A book collector, McMurtry purchased a rare book store in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood in 1970 and named it Booked Up. In 1988he opened a second Booked Up in Archer City, establishing the town as a "Book City." This store is arguably the largest single used bookstore in the United States, carrying somewhere between 400,000 and 450,000 titles.

McMurtry is well-known for the film adaptations of his work, especially Hud (from the novel Horseman, Pass By), The Last Picture Show; James L. Brooks’s Terms of Endearment, and Lonesome Dove, which became an enormously popular television mini-series. In 2006, he was co-winner (with Diana Ossana) of both the Best Screenplay Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Brokeback Mountain.

I interviewed him as part of a project I’m doing for the Canadian Booksellers Association. We talk about his latest book Untitled Fiction, his life as a book rancher, having the right books, junk, the fun of the hunt, book scouting, catalogues, bookstores and cultural vitality, keeping stock fresh, burning out on fiction and movies, the declining number of used book stores, and optimism for the future. For more interviews and book reviews www.nigelbeale.com

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Ray Hinst on: Haslam's Bookstore

2008-02-23
Length: 16s

Haslam’s Books, now Florida’s largest new & used book store, was established in St. Petersburg in 1933 by two avid readers, John and Mary Haslam. After World War II they were joined by the second generation, Charles and Elizabeth. The business began to expand. In response to customers’ requests, new technical books were added, then Bibles and religious books and finally a complete line of trade books and a large section for children. The business has moved four times to accommodate growth. Today the store covers 30,000 square feet and contains some 300,000 books.

To promote books and reading, Charles had a television program on WEDU, the local PBS station, called "The Wonderful World of Books," and reviewed books on WSUN radio. He also appeared as a regular guest on WTOG-TV. Elizabeth operated book fairs at local schools for 25 years and now conducts "field trips" of ‘Florida’s largest book store’ for elementary classes. Both have been active in the American Bookseller’s Association (Charles was president from 1978 - 1980). They have taught in Bookseller Schools and written chapters in "The Manual of Bookselling." Both are published authors.

In 1973, the third generation came into the business: daughter Suzanne (who also authored a chapter in the "Manual on Bookselling") and husband Ray Hinst a history, classics & military expert. Ray and I talk here about book re-printers, early Baedekers, not collecting your own inventory, the explosion in self publishing and authors who want bookstores to carry their works and provide signing events, collecting what you like, and the error of passing up on buying opportunities.

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Editor Ian Brookes on: Chambers Dictionary

2008-02-23
Length: 23s

Ian Brookes is Editor-in-Chief of The Chambers Dictionary which was first published in 1901 and most recently updated in 2006. We talk here about lexicographers, Samuel Johnson, Scotland, the speed of language change getting quicker, Chambers’ unique focus on old, Scottish, literary, historical words with humorous, sardonic definitions, such as  mallemaroking and pock pudding, use of the dictionary by crossword puzzle and word game enthusiasts, Wikipedia’s Hawaiian roots, the charm of browsing, the influence of rap, urban slang, multiculturalism, and instant messaging, cookery terms and the pain of being a teacher. 

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Kathryn Court, President, Penguin Books

2008-02-05
Length: 39s

Kathryn Court joined Penguin Books in 1977 and became Editorial Director two years later. In l984 she was named Editor in Chief of Viking Penguin and in 1992 Senior Vice-President, Publisher, and Editor in Chief of Penguin Books. She was named President of Penguin Books in August 2000. Authors she has worked with include: Reinaldo Arenas, Andrea Camilleri, J.M. Coetzee, Slavenka Drakulic, Mary Relinda Ellis, Robert Fagles, Josephine Humphreys, Garrison Keillor, Nora Okja Keller, Donna Leon, Mary McGarry Morris, John Mortimer, Richard Rodriguez, C.J. Samsom, Jim Trelease, and William Trevor.

We met last summer at BookExpo in New York, and talk here about: the role of publisher, artist Chris Ware’s funky Candide cover, new ways of selling things you already own, showing the young that reading can be fun, finding new authors and having faith in them, Andrea Camilleri and the benefit of buying series, hard cover versus soft cover sales, 4000 title backlists that finance front lists, J.M. Coetzee’s greatness, sales and distain for interviewers, the need for confidence in young editors in order to convince others that their picks are as good as they say they are, advertising in book review sections and how it doesn’t work, how emotional novels and those with voices women can identify with sell best, the three million copy selling The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, the sales power of word of mouth, and the joyful intensity of working as part of an editorial team…as a happy few against the world.

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Antiquarian Bookseller Patrick McGahern

2008-02-05
Length: 54s

Patrick McGahern has been selling books in Ottawa, Canada since 1969. His store specializes in used and rare books: Canadiana, Americana, Arctic, Antarctic, Travel, Natural History & Voyages, Illustrated & Plate Books, Irish and Scottish History and Literature. More than 30,000 titles are stocked at the Glebe store. Thousands of rare, scarce and interesting books are offered through their Catalogues which are published six times a year. Almost 10,000 titles are featured in their online database through ILAB (International League of Antiquarian booksellers).

I talked with Patrick recently in his store about the book trade: how it was, how it is, how it will be. About idiosyncrasies, obsessions, buses and booksellers playing psychiatrist and priest; about ILAB and AbeBooks, and finally, about simply doing the work.

(For more of Nigel Beale's Musings on the Book, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts...please visit http://nigelbeale.com)

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Children's Bookseller Margie Macmillan on: Granny Bates Books

2008-01-28
Length: 26s

Margie McMillan is co-owner of the award winning Granny Bates Children’s Bookstore in St. John’s Newfoundland. We talk here about longevity and research as a reason for success, the brilliance of Graham Oakley and The Church Mice, the difference between back lists and mid-lists, schools as bread and butter, book sellers as literary critics, driving through the swiss alps, new products that are called books, movies and cereal.

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John Freeman, President of the National Book Critics Circle

2007-12-13
Length: 25s

John Freeman is president of The National Book Critics Circle. Founded in 1974, the NBCC is a non-profit organization consisting of nearly 700 active book reviewers who honor quality writing and communicate with one another about common concerns. We met recently and talked, among other things, about the NBCC’s awards program, an impressive new blog site called Critical Mass, and the Campaign to Save Book Reviews, which is addressing the alarming shrinkage of newspaper book review sections across North America.

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Bernard Margolis President of the Boston Public Library on public libraries and their history

2007-05-24
Length: 37s

Bernard Margolis is President of the Boston Public Library (BPL). Founded in 1848, it was the first large free municipal library in the United States. Mr. Margolis has served on the Governing Council of the 63,000-member American Library Association (ALA), and has won many awards including “Colorado Librarian of the Year", two John Cotton Dana library public relations awards, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ “Award of Excellence? for his library-sponsored “Imagination Celebration."

He’s also a master storyteller as you’ll find out. We talk here about libraries as a public good, a culture of words and books designed to help everyone improve their lives, French ventriloquist and originator of the concept of the modern library Alexandre Vattemare (1796-1864), the U.S. as a leader in realizing this concept, immigration and self learning, an informed citizenry as the best defense of liberty, democratic access to information, BPL as the first to have a newspaper room, branch libraries and a separate children’s room, the Red Sox and the Yankees, why the ebook hasn’t replaced the paperback, Brewster Kahle versus Google and the Internet archive, and the question of whether or not information will be ‘free for all’ to improve the world.

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John Wronoski, Archives Dealer

2007-05-21
Length: 48s

John Wronoski is a rare book dealer who specializes in literature, and primary works in the history of ideas in English, German, French, Spanish, and Russian. His shop, Lame Duck Books, contains the most significant selection of 19th and 20th century Spanish language literature in the world, and important originals of 17th and 18th century English poetry. In addition to performing the traditional role of bookseller, John serves as agent in the institutional placement of archives for some of the 20th Century's most important authors.

It is in this capacity, as literary archives dealer, that we talk here about, among other things: the importance of recognizing value in the rare book trade, paper production in the lives of writers, evident spiritual input in the process of creation, the evaluation, cataloguing, packaging and marketing of manuscripts, the comparative value of long-hand versus typed documents, the compatibility of pen and paper with the flow of thought, the value of hand written/type-written correspondence versus email, rich book dealers getting richer, Frederic Tuten's Tin Tin in the World, loosing $1 million manuscripts and adoption agencies.

(Please note the interview was conducted before the British Library purchased the Pinter archive)

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Author Elias Khoury

2007-05-10
Length: 46s

Elias Khoury is author of eleven novels including Little Mountain and Gates of the City. He is currently professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at New York University, and editor in chief of the literary supplement of Beirut’s daily newspaper, An-Nahar. We talk here, at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival, about his latest novel in English Gate of the Sun, of how great literature speaks to what is human and how religion doesn’t; of how telling stories helps us to overcome death, and how knowledge helps to overcome power; of keys, loss, hatred and love; of how important the right to story, memory and language is to the existence of a people; of the double tragedy of Palestine in 1948, the real one and the fact that the telling of this catastrophe has not been permitted; of how reading literature helps us discover ourselves and of how literature attempts to give meaning to the meaninglessness of life.

www.nigelbeale.com

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Peter Behrens on his novel The Law of Dreams

2007-05-03
Length: 33s

Peter Behrens’ short stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Tin House, Saturday Night, and The National Post and have been anthologized in Best Canadian Stories and Best Canadian Essays. He was born in Montreal and lives on the coast of Maine with his wife and son.

We talk here, at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival, among other things about voice and poetry in his debut novel The Law of Dreams, Winner of The 2006 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. It tells the story of a young man’s struggle to survive the Great Famine in Ireland of 1847. On his odyssey through Ireland and Britain, and across the Atlantic to Canada Fergus O’brien encounters death, violence, sexual heat, ‘boy soldiers, brigands, street toughs and charming, willful girls – all struggling for survival in the aftermath of natural catastrophe magnified by political callousness and brutal neglect. ‘ Think Dickens meets J.M. Coetzee.

The book has been hailed by many reputable media outlets including The New York Times and The New Yorker.

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Lydia Davis on: Translating Proust

2007-05-03
Length: 31s

Lydia Davis is a contemporary American author and translator of French. From 1974 to 1978 she was married to Paul Auster, with whom she has a son. She has published six collections of short stories, including The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories (1976) and Break It Down (1986). Her most recent collection is not Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, but rather Varieties of Disturbance, published by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. Her stories are acclaimed for their brevity, poetry, philosophy and humour. Many are only one or two sentences long.

We talk here, at the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival, about the role of the translator, her Swann’s Way, measuring rooms three inches at a time, becoming Proust as an actor might a character, dialogue being more of a translation challenge than description because speech is born of environment and times, and the goal of creating living language that’s timeless.

Copyright © 2007 by Nigel Beale

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C. S. Richardson on Book Design

2007-04-19
Length: 35s

C.S. Richardson is an accomplished book designer who has worked in publishing for over twenty years. He is a multiple time recipient of the Alcuin Award (Canada’s highest honour for excellence in book design) and a frequent lecturer on publishing, design and communications. A rare bird indeed, he recently published his first novel The End of the Alphabet, and is currently at work on his second.

We talk here about C.S. Lewis, the role of the book designer, the award winning Bedside Book of Birds, ‘thumbage,’ how the best book design is invisible, the best designers currently at work in Canada, the U.S. and Britain, and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, (published by Chatto and Windus in England, and Knopf in the U.S.), which, according to Richardson, is one of the best designed books in recent memory.

Copyright © 2007 by Nigel Beale http://nigelbeale.com

 

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Ottawa Librarian Barbara Clubb

2007-04-18
Length: 52s

Barbara Clubb is City Librarian and CEO of the Ottawa Public Library, past president of the Canadian Library Association, a member of the International Relations Committee of the ALA/Public Library Association; a director for the Canadian Writers Foundation and Monthly Book Reviewer for CBC Ottawa Radio One.

In this fascinating, wide ranging conversation we talk about the role of a city librarian now, at the turn of the 21 century; about library as place…where loitering is okay; accessibility, prescriptive versus reflective provision of information; the move from education to recreation and culture; Harry Potter in plastic; downloading copyrighted books; the zero list; a contest between librarians and Google; leveraging Google; the book as client versus people as clients; nine million items going in and out; and the necessity for librarians to be the opposite of their anti-social stereotype.

 

Copyright © 2006 by Nigel Beale

 

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Editor John Metcalf on: The Role of the Short Story Editor

2007-04-07
Length: 49s

John Metcalf is a highly regarded author who happens to have edited many of Canada’s foremost short story writers including Lisa Moore, Alice Munro, and Michael Winter. Born in Carlisle, England, and educated at the University of Bristol, he emigrated to Canada in 1962. In addition to his own writings (novels, stories and essays), he currently holds the unsalaried post of Senior Editor at the Porcupine’s Quill of Erin, Ontario and is the editor of Canadian Notes and Queries. He resides in Ottawa, Ontario with his wife, Myrna.

We talk here about the role of the editor, game playing, the placement of words and punctuation, manipulating emotions, unclogging channels between writers and readers, diplomacy, nouns, hammers, electric current, anti-Americanism, ignorant Canadian nationalists and inferiority complexes.

Copyright © 2006 by Nigel Beale

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Erotica writer Amanda Earl

2007-03-24
Length: 28s

Amanda Earl writes erotic fiction in Ottawa, Canada, as much for her own pleasure as anything else. Her stories have consistently been selected for publication in Carroll and Graf’s annual Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica. Amanda publishes and writes poetry, is managing editor of the Bywords Quarterly Journal, and hosts Bywords.ca, a website invaluable to Ottawanians interested in local literary events.

We talk here about the definitions of erotica and pornography (a common joke: “Erotica is when you use a feather. Pornography is when you use the whole chicken.�?), red wine versus white, connecting with and arousing readers, giving pleasure, the act, golden showers, being bad, the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, S&M, compelling characters and work as prostitution.

 

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Churchill Bibliographer Ron Cohen on Bibliography

2007-03-23
Length: 40s

Ronald Cohen is author of the Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill 3 Volume Set (ISBN: 0826472354) published in 2006: a ‘richly annotated work’ containing thousands of entries, with detailed descriptions of each work by Churchill, including information on content, typography,paper, illustrations, maps, facsimiles, bindings, dust jackets, publication and printing history, translations, and library/collection locations, plus circumstances of publication.

Cohen’s fascination with Churchill began during his time with The Economist in London, shortly after his graduation from Harvard University. He began collecting Churchilliana in 1969. The publication of this major work is the culmination of 25 years’ dedicated research. Cohen is the National Chair of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a lawyer, founding Chairman of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, a Genie award-winning film producer, and President of the Friends of Library and Archives Canada.

We talk here generally about the art of bibliography, specifically about binding and centriod colour charts, altruism, accessibility, building road-maps, how many bibliographers start off as disgruntled collectors, experiencing the thrill and joy of collecting without having to lay out the dough, bibliography as storytelling, innovative periodical entry descriptions, errata, when to stop, how Cohen always got it wrong, surrendering, and uncharted works bolting from the undergrowth.

 

(For more of Nigel Beale's Musings on the Book, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts...please visit http://nigelbeale.com)

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NGC Chief Curator David Franklin on Exhibition Catalogues

2006-09-12
Length: 40s

DAVID FRANKLIN is Chief Curator at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and editor of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Renaissance in Florence, a catalogue published by Yale University Press to accompany a major exhibition of the same name held at the Gallery from May 29, 2005 to September 5, 2005.

We talk here mostly about the exhibition catalogue as book: what differentiates it from typical works of scholarly non-fiction, the challenges of catering both to the research community and the general public; What is it? A tour guide? A souvenir? A text book? Offering words for works; the drawbacks of publishing to deadline; how, ideally, catalogues should be written after exhibitions take place... But we don't ignore content: the pragmatism of Giorgio Vasari; his art collection; the primacy of drawing in Renaissance Florence; painting as a process of investigation; and the jolting juxtaposition of illuminating essays and academic catalogue entries...

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Christopher Pratt Artist Poet

2006-08-24
Length: 42s

Christopher Pratt is one of Canada’s most ‘prominent’ painters. He is now also a published poet. We talk here, in his home of St Mary’s Bay, Newfoundland on the Salmonier River, about his book A Painter’s Poems (Breakwater Books, 2005), about parallels between his writing and his art, emptiness, loneliness, cleanliness, juxtaposing real and imagined worlds, getting it right, abandonment, absence and how it draws in readers and viewers, leaving important things unsaid, seasons, a man drawing circles in the sand who, when asked why he does it, responds "Well, I’d be a damned fool if I didn’t," and about how creation involves sharing what is most intimate in order to communicate; in order to find out about and connect with the same in others.

Copyright © 2006 by Nigel Beale

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Author Tim Parks

2006-08-14
Length: 34s

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Author Michael Crummey on: The History Novel

2006-08-14
Length: 36s

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