LATEST Feature Articles
by Thursday, April 13, 2017-
Remember when you got your first e-reader and saw that great Word Search feature that allowed you to find every instance of a word in a particular work - say you wanted to track down every instance of the word "horse" in Cervantes' classic, Don Quixote? What a great shortcut to finding a particular passage, reviewing and analyzing a work, or taking it a step further, using it to compare and contrast many works of literature either for personal interest or for scholarly purposes.
Turns out Ben Blatt did just this thing posting his findings in Publishers Weekly self-reviewing his book Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing (Simon & Schuster), and here are a few of the points inside that piqued my interest:
1. Authorship of previously disputed (or thought to be known) texts can be traced to the real author(s) by the incidence, the order and use of words. For example, they've put to rest the theory that Shakespeare collaborated with Marlow - they positively did.
2. Exclamation points - the so-called marker of not-so-great-writers... Turns out James Joyce, an undisputed GREAT writer, uses them the most! (see below)
3. Comparison of "shortest" and "longest" first sentences between authors. Turns out Toni Morison and Margaret Atwood win for shortest, and Jane Austen and Vladimir Nabokov win for longest.
And there's more. But you'll have to get the book. ...More >>
LATEST Author Interviews
by Friday, January 27, 2017-
If you want an intimate insight into the firmament of Trump voters then J.D. Vance's bestselling book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (published by Harper Collins) is poignant, painful but uplifting book. It describes his childhood growing up in a struggling, dysfunctional family in eastern Kentucky and the Appalachia of America. Closures in the steel industry and the auto industry have erased well-paying jobs, the consequence of automation or globalization. This has led to profound social decline with poverty, alcohol and drug addiction eroding the values of this formerly proud and independent working-class peoples who have become welfare dependent, complacent, and a sometimes angry demographic as a result. These are the people identified as being co-opted by President Trump.
JD Vance describes his upbringing by his "hillbilly" grandparents, without whose love and support he would have become the victim of his mother's failings, and fallen through the cracks of the system. In spite of the odds stacked against him, Vance managed to graduate from high school and turn his life around during a stint in the Marines following which he not only graduated with an undergraduate degree (paid for by veteran funds) from the state university, he was accepted into Yale Law School graduating summa cum laud, and then went on to marry a wonderful partner and live a successful life. He gave up his work in the law and now works with a California hedge fund creating economic development opportunities for the Appalachia. Now others there will have a better chance to turn their lives around as well. His first-person struggle as told in his book could help shape social service policy from this point forward. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis is a must read.
NPR caught up with the author and here is a link to their podcast and the transcript. I hope you'll take a moment to listen. (Click title to open feature) ...More >>
Feature Articles >>
Saturday, March 11, 2017
The moment all BC Book Publishers have been waiting for has arrived: the announcement of the longlist for this year's BC Book Awards. This is the chance to see the variety and creativity that writers, editors, book designers, and publishers have been working to bring to you. The full list is here The books that jump out at me:
Set in Kamathipura, Bombay’s notorious red-light district, The Parcel tells of a retired transgender sex worker named Madhu, who identifies as a “hijra”—neither man nor woman. She receives a call from the most feared brothel owner in the district and is forced to prepare a “parcel”—a young girl trafficked from the provinces—for its fate. Anosh Irani is the author of Dahanu Road, nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and bestsellers, The Cripple and His Talismans and The Song of Kahunsha. His play, Bombay Black, won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play, and his anthology, The Bombay Plays: The Matka King & Bombay Black, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. -BC Book Award site quote
A Disappearance in Damascus: A Story of Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War Award-winning journalist Deborah Campbell travels undercover to Damascus, reporting on the exodus of Iraqis into Syria following the Iraq War. When her “fixer,” a charismatic Iraqi woman who has emerged as a community leader, is seized from her side ....More >>
Book Reviews >>
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchellby David Yaffe (FSG/Crichton, June) - A biography, with dozens of in-person interviews with Mitchell, reveals the backstory behind the famous songs—from her youth on the Canadian prairie, the child she gave up for adoption, through her albums and love affairs, to the present.
For those of you who did not grow up listening to the music of Joni Mitchell it is fair to say that she remains one of Canada's foremost singer-songwriter-producers of the late 60s and 70s whose body of work has continued to evolve through to her last album released in 2016. She went from folk to pop to rock and roll and has worked with blues as well as jazz artists. She was won through competition and been awarded every accolade a singer and a songwriter of her distinction can be given. She was named 9th on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Best Songwriters list, and 42nd on their Top 100 Singers list. Having just sustained a brain injury, sadly she is confined to a wheelchair. When you play your Joni Mitchell music, you'll likely be pairing it with the likes of other fine Canadian artists: Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, and her US contingents in this league: Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
For me her music has intelligence, playfulness and a soulful melancholy individualism. Fellow musicians praise her complex and skillful phrasing, chord changes, tempo changes and timeless lyrics. When she located her own daughter, whom she'd lost to adoption during an era when she was a destitute artist undoubtedly contributed to her philisophic complexity. Her lyrics are lush with observations about the confines of mores and society. Joni simply valued her freedom, to remain "unfettered and alive" as she says in her song "Free Man in Paris". ....More >>
Publisher News >>
Friday, January 27, 2017
I am a subscriber to The Columbia Journalism Review whose features capture the latest thinking on all things pertaining to the medium and the profession. Like you I am a reader of books, and a subscriber to newspapers. Like you, I've been saving the planet by ticking the "electronic version only" to my subscriptions to save the world from destroying oxygen breathing trees and burning carbon fossils on delivery of my subscription.
But more and more I've become nostalgic for the rituals of home delivery of print copies of these items where I can make--an occasion--of sitting back in a comfortable chair with the newspaper and enjoy the page layouts, the smell of the ink and paper, the fact that advertisements are not popping up in my face (on my electronic screen), and tracking which articles I click, and feeding me information in silos of like-topics such that I am no longer served a diversity of features in the way that a well managed print publication provides.
The breakdown between the fourth estate and its public is fewer print subscribers which means fewer advertisers which mean fewer quality staff which means poorer quality journalism and consequentially publications going into the red and off the map.
In the publishing industry people have been predicting the return of book, and why not? Just yesterday I wanted to "lend" my copy of a book to a friend and I couldn't--it's on my iPad in digital format. And this is but one of the joys of physical book ownership that has been lost. Think of the state of your physical library, as in, those colourful and dusty shelves with copies of books you've had since the Gutenberg Press.
All the books on my shelves are from what seems like "another era" because I have added few new titles that reflect any update in my reading habits reflecting new topics of interest. But my kindle shelves show neat little rows of book "covers" backlit in colourful pixels illuminating on my screen and floating in the cloud. No help to anyone in my household or on my trusted lending list. (the ones who return books)
Whistler Reads >>
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Join Whistler Reads on Thursday March 16th at the Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) from 7-9:30 pm when we host two of Canada's prominent investigative journalists to discuss their latest books. Tickets/books here. Meet Alexandra Shimo and Kevin Donovan.
Kevin Donovan is an investigative reporter and editor at Toronto Star. He has won three National Newspaper Awards, two Michener Awards and three Canadian Association of Journalists Awards. In 2014 his team broke the story on the Jian Ghomeshi sex scandal. His book on the subject, Secret Life: The Jian Ghomeshi Investigation (published by Gooselane Editions) covers the investigation and trial from start to finish.
Readers will recall Ghomeshi's public admission to a preference for "rough sex", claiming his partners were willing participants. Whistlerites will recall Jian Ghomeshi's visit to our fine town in 2012 to chat up that year's Giller Prize author at the local writers' fest. The most memorable thing to me was how fast his affable demeanor switched over to agitated annoyance when he noticed bottled water had been placed on the staging table between him and Will Fergusen. He stopped the program until a carafe of tap water was brought in, but not good enough, he wanted the offending bottled water removed from view and his presence! Everyone waited through the awkward moment and silently took note.
Later that year, the CBC's decision to fire their superstar host of their most popular program, "Q" for allegations of conduct unbecoming were followed by a subsequent criminal investigation with charges laid, and a sensational trial that resulted in his acquittal. This case created a lightning rod for debate. Kevin's talk will discuss how journalists operate in the murky waters when it is one person's word against another and how this issue compounds when a celebrity is implicated and when the justice system gets involved.
Joining Donovon is Alexandra Shimo, a former editor at MacLeans Magazine. Alexandra Shimo spent four months living in an isolated fly-in First Nations community in northern Ontario investigating an alleged water crisis that may have been fabricated. Inevitably, she becomes drawn into the daily life of the community and conditions on reserve---that of severe poverty, isolation, youth suicide at crises proportions, and other issues garnered from her very personal vantage, which results in PTSD and more. Readers will better understand why this book is so important when they... ....More >>
WGBH Boston >>
Tuesday, January 03, 2017
The 2017 MASTERPIECE PBS season starts out tapping into the insatiable public appetite for young Royals, specifically, British. Their new series about Queen Victoria, titled VICTORIA airs January 15th and is based on the screenplay written by Daisy Goodwin. Buy the hardcover book, Victoria: The Heart and Mind of a Young Queen which is the official companion to the Masterpiece Presentation on PBS, and the DVD box set "Masterpiece: Victoria" .
It stars Jenna Coleman as the young queen portrayed from her coronation in 1837 at the age of 18 through her courtship and marriage to her cousin Prince Albert played by Tom Hughes. Goodwin says her inspiration for Victoria derived from watching her own teenage daughter's vigorous and tempestuous nature and imagining how a monarch at the same age might compare. In this sense, the character takes on a personalized flare.
While the series has been criticized for taking liberties with some specific historical facts in order to make her character more congruent with modern sensibilities and perspectives, it has all the hallmarks of beloved PBS productions that includes an exquisite cast, costumes, sets and settings. As a result, it has usurped viewer turnout for previous period costume dramas, reaching 5.3 million viewers with a production budget of £10m.
So who was Queen Victoria and what were her hallmark contributions to British history? ....More >>
Wine & Book Club >>
Friday, January 01, 2016
It's winter - let's revel in that. Who better to read this January and February than Sheila Watts-Cloutier, the Inuit writer whose book The Right to Be Cold: One Woman's Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic and the Whole Planet is a manifesto on climate change and its effect on the indigenous peoples of Canada's north. Cloutier is a compelling speaker. I've listened to her in the media and on several radio programs. This book will change the way you view the plight of peoples of the North. Sheila is a member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the non-governmental body representing the interests of Inuit people living in four Arctic nations. This led to her becoming a powerful advocate for Inuit rights at United Nations climate-change negotiations that garnered her nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
But the details of her upbringing and the stark contrast between the experience of living at home in the North compared with living at a lower latitude with a non-indigenous family during her formative years, highlights the importance of cultural identity and traditions.
As Naomi Klein writes in the Mar 13th issue of The Globe and Mail:
As the title of the book suggests, a major theme of The Right to Be Cold is how climate change poses an existential threat to cultures that are embedded in ice and snow. If the ice disappears, or if it behaves radically differently, then cultural knowledge that has been passed on from one generation to the next loses its meaning. Young people are deprived of the lived experience on the ice that they need to become knowledge carriers, while the animals around which so many cultural practices revolve disappear. As Watt-Cloutier has been arguing for well over a decade now, that means that the failure of the world to act to reduce its emissions to prevent that outcome constitutes a grave human-rights violation.
While some may snicker and say more NK hyperbole, we all know that the arctic at both poles are the puffin/penguin in the tunnel, and haunting images of polar bears clinging to a slab of ice condemn us all. Awareness is the forerunner to action, and the time for rhetoric has passed. We each need to become part of the solution to solving our planet's climate change issues. ....More >>
Author Interviews >>
Wednesday, January 04, 2017
I had a lawyer friend when we lived in Los Angeles who happened to be the nephew of a famous New York society cartoonist. He divulged an interesting factoid about this relative that has always fascinated me. When sketching his subjects live at New York plays, the Met and Broadway musicals, he used a small pencil and scratch pad from within his jacket pocket to do the work - sight unseen - so as not to distract or attract the attention of onlookers. A remarkable feat.
If you have an interest in these sorts of artistic profiles you can go to the wonderful publishing house of The NY Review of Books who have amassed a collection by four artists: David Levine (whose more than 3,500 caricatures have illuminated articles published in the Review since 1963); and John Springs, Pancho (Francisco Grails), and James Ferguson whose works have been published regularly in the Review over the past few years. Preview the extensive list in alphabetical sequence, or enter a subject or category into the search box to obtain a grouping of interest. As a bibliophile and a Canadian I chose the category "Canadian Authors" and came up with David Levine's wonderful collection - a work in progress, judging by the short list. It's all ON SALE right now if you act quickly. ....More >>
Technology Corner >>
Tuesday, April 04, 2017
Arguably the most impactful thing to happen to mankind in our lifetime has been the creation of the Internet (which now needs no capital, so says Chicago Manual of Style). Its creator is alive and well and working at both MIT and Cambridge University. His name is Sir Tim Berners-Lee. He was hired as temporary staff in the IT department of CERN. He enjoyed the work, they found him useful and he ended up coming on as staff and staying there for the next decade. His creation of the the web was for purposes of expedited collaboration between colleagues. But, there was an even larger picture to evolve. He imagined a platform where information could be exchanged across geographic boundaries, cultural borders, institutional barriers and philosophic confines. But reflecting today on what has become of the entity he worries about three important trends: "...over the past 12 months, I’ve become increasingly worried about three new trends, which I believe we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool that serves all of humanity." The following feature pulled from The Guardian.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
If the axiom of good writing is "Write what you know", then perhaps the axiom of a good reader should be "Read what you don't know." That's how I see FOLD, Canada's first literary festival celebrating literary diversity. It's founded by Jael Richardson and takes place in her hometown of Brampton, Ontario now in its second season, coming May 4-7 2017. "The Festival of Literary Diversity will celebrate stories that are underrepresented in Canadian literature — stories that reflect variations in geography, ethnicity, race, culture, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and religion, and stories that employ different methods of story-telling." Check out the 25 programs on offer over 3 days. The FOLD will utilize a “three-fold” approach in the programming: engaging readers, inspiring writers, and empowering educators. The main festival runs from Friday, May 6 to Sunday, May 8, but the larger festival includes a workshop for educators and sessions dedicated towards high school students.
What I didn't know is that "Brampton is Canada’s second fastest growing city and the ninth largest city in the country. Located immediately north of Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Brampton residents represent more than 170 different cultures and speak more than 70 languages. People have literally come from around the world to live, work, play, read, and write in this City." Speaking as a Vancouverite - that's a wonderful distinction to celebrate! ....More >>