All stories relating to Alice Munro
It’s been more than a decade since the iconic – and iconoclastic – Susan Musgrave published a new collection of poetry. In the April 2011 issue of Q&Q, Musgrave discusses her new collection, Origami Dove (McClelland & Stewart), with fellow B.C. poet Lorna Crozier, whose collection Small Mechanics also appears this spring with M&S. Also in April, a profile of overlooked short story author Clark Blaise, a special report on B.C. publishing, and a feature on the financial struggles facing Canadian literary journals. Plus reviews of new books by Julie Booker, John Furlong, Joe Ollmann, Chester Brown, Nicola Winstanley, Elisa Amado, Mélanie Watt, and more.
On poetry and prose
Two of B.C.’s leading poets – Susan Musgrave and Lorna Crozier – discuss writing, self-doubt, and Al Purdy’s birthday cake
Special report on B.C. publishing
Industry newcomer Randal Macnair brings new life to Oolichan Books; B.C. BookWorld’s Alan Twigg on surviving lean times; New Society carves out a distinctive niche in D&M’s growing eco-book empire; B.C. booksellers find solidarity at this year’s provincial book fair
A year after the Department of Canadian Heritage slashed funding for small-run periodicals, many venerable literary magazines are struggling to adapt
Clark Blaise’s return to form
An insider’s take on the collapse of H.B. Fenn and Company
Snapshot: Books for Business CEO Sean Neville
Best short stories: Alexander MacLeod on Alice Munro
Cover to cover: Gil Adamson’s Ashland
Guest opinion: Carmine Starnino on rebooting the CanLit canon
Kirstie McLellan Day’s hockey-book hat trick
Up Up Up by Julie Booker
Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country by John Furlong with Gary Mason
Mid-Life by Joe Ollmann
Paying for It by Chester Brown
Touch by Alexi Zentner
Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright, Puritan Child, Native Daughter, Mother Superior by Julie Wheelwright
Underground by Anatanas Sileika
PLUS more fiction, non-fiction, and poetry
BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Cinnamon Boy by Nicola Winstanley; Janice Nadeau, illus.
What Are You Doing? by Elisa Amado; Manuel Monroy, illus.
You’re Finally Here! by Mélanie Watt
Banjo of Destiny by Cary Fagan
PLUS more fiction, non-fiction, and picture books
THE Q&Q/BOOKNET CANADA BESTSELLERS
THE LAST WORD
Cynthia Holz on a writer’s search for inspiration between novels
There’s no formula for choosing the books of the year. Some break ground, some tackle familiar themes with new energy. Some represent the best work from established authors, some introduce us to important new voices. And some are simply in-house favourites we feel deserve a little more attention. Here are the Fiction and Poetry books that made the most impact in 2010.
Alice Munro’s short story, “Dimensions,” which appears in her recent collection Too Much Happiness, is one that the author herself cannot reread. In the story, a blue-collar B.C. father suffocates his three young children with a pillow while his wife is away.
What makes this story even more unsettling is its resemblance to the 2008 criminal murder trial of B.C. father Allan Schoenborn, who was charged with first-degree murder for killing his three children after the story was published in The New Yorker in 2006.
Maclean’s writer Bill Richardson points out the striking similarities between the murder trial and Munro’s short story:
There are other examples of life imitating art. The 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic was foretold in the novella Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan, in which a luxury ocean liner called Titan smashes into an iceberg and capsizes in the North Atlantic. A 2004 Hubble space telescope image of dust and gas swirling around stars in the dark has the distinct look of Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night. As for Munro’s short story, it ran in The New Yorker in 2006.
At the centre of “Dimensions” and the B.C. murders is the father. Both are blue-collar (the fictional father, Lloyd, works at an ice cream factory, Schoenborn was a roofer), and seemingly threatened by the possibility of their wives leaving them. Insanity figures prominently. Schoenborn has testified about hearing voices, and that he’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia and paranoia.
Geoffrey Taylor, director of Harbourfront’s Reading Series, is to receive an honorary degree from the School of Creative & Performing Arts at the Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. Taylor, who has been with Harboufront Centre for 20 years, is being honoured for his contribution to the promotion of Canadian books and authors.
Over the last five years, Taylor has been responsible for the International Festival of Authors, has served as a jury member for both the Toronto Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Awards, and has been an adviser to the Humber School for Writers. In 2008, Q&Q included him in a list of the most influential people in Canadian publishing.
Taylor will be presented with the degree at a ceremony on Nov. 7.
The IFOA has also confirmed the lineup for its second annual presentation of the Rogers Writer’s Trust Fiction Prize shortlist. For the reading on Oct. 28, the following authors will be reading:
- Douglas Coupland will read from Generation A
- Annabel Lyon will read from The Golden Mean
- Andrew Steinmetz will read from Eva’s Threepenny Theatre
- Jacqueline Larson will read from Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood’s English-language translations of Nicole Brossard’s Fences in Breathing
- Jane Urquhart will read from Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness on behalf of Munro, who is unable to attend the event
The winner of the $25,000 award will be announced on Nov. 24 in Toronto.
Writing in the National Post books blog, novelist Ray Robertson says that while Alice Munro may have to forcibly remove her work from Scotiabank Giller Prize consideration, he doesn’t even bother with the formality – he just writes the kind of gritty, contemporary novels that offend the priggish literary sensibilities of the established “culture industry.”
There’s inevitably been some point during the writing of every one of my six novels when I knew that I was unofficially but no less effectively disqualified for Giller Prize consideration.
Some point, in other words, when I knew that the tender sensibilities of that year’s distinguished arbiters of taste would no doubt be chafed by some damning reference of mine to either bodily functions (because we all know that people in works of literature don’t go to the bathroom) or popular culture (because we all know that people in works of literature spend the majority of their time occupied not with jobs and families and television and boredom, but with either travelling to remote countries looking for lost lovers or distant family members or else sitting in abandoned lighthouses alternately listening to the mournful sounds of the sea and brooding upon those timeless day-to-day concerns of time, loss, and memory) or for simply failing to set said novel in a sufficiently charmingly bucolic and/or fascinatingly exotic locale (because we all know that real literature doesn’t take place where most people actually live and work and go to the mall and die).
Certainly, there’s room to criticize and debate this year’s Giller shortlist, but Robertson’s embattled tone seems a little self-serving. Consider, for instance, that while historical novels are generally well-represented on the Giller shortlist, the odd gritty, urban novel does occasionally slip past the censors – think Rawi Hage’s De Niro’s Game or Cockroach. And never mind that Robertson’s latest novel, David, is in fact an historical novel set in the Elgin Settlement, near Chatham, Ontario. Presumably, there are enough references to bodily functions to have effectively disqualified it from consideration.
It’s not quite the biggest reward that can be given to a writer (that would be inclusion in Oprah’s Book Club, or maybe Richard and Judy’s), but the Nobel Prize for Literature is nothing to sneeze at – just look what it has done for last year’s winner, J.M.G. Le Clézio (who?). The prize is to be handed out tomorrow, and the international book media abounds with speculation. That the head of the prize recently remarked that the Nobel has been too “Eurocentric” in its picks has caused some to believe this is America’s year, with maybe Philip Roth or Joyce Carol Oates heading to Stockholm.
As far as the oddsmakers are concerned, however, the prize is most likely to go to Israeli writer Amos Oz. According to the odds posted at Ladbrokes.com, Oz has a 3-1 chance of walking away with it, the same German author Herta Müller (who?).
Alice Munro is farther down the list at 25-1, the same odds as Bob Dylan(?). Atwood is 40-1, and Ondaatje is 50-1.
Whoever wins, the odds of someone posting, within 24 hours of the announcement, a video mashup on YouTube featuring Kanye West interrupting the ceremony in Stockholm are about 2-1.
Academy Award-winning director Jane Campion is in Toronto for the 2009 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, where her new movie, Bright Star, about a love affair between John Keats and the girl next door (not Elisha Cuthbert), is premiering. In addition to doing promos for Bright Star, Campion is apparently also scouting talent for her next film, an adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story “Runaway.”
Campion, who won a screenwriting Oscar as well as the Palme d’Or for her 1994 film The Piano, is a fan of Munro’s writing. She told the Canadian Press that Munro is a “genius,” someone who is “so unassuming, yet goes so deep.”
Although she was cagey about whom she might be talking to, she did admit that she has found some Canadian talent that interests her:
“I did meet somebody here,” she added.
“It’s a nice opportunity to meet a lot of actors who I’ve loved because they’re not having to audition – they’re just meetings and we talk about the story.”
This is not the first time that a Munro story has been brought to the screen. Homegrown filmmaker Sarah Polley adapted Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” for her acclaimed 2006 film Away from Her.
The cover star of the September issue of Q&Q is the Haitian-born, Montreal-based author Dany Laferrière, who came to national attention in the 1980s with his first novel, How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired, and is set to make a comeback in English-Canada with his latest novel. Also in the issue, Q&Q looks at a Quebec City publishing house that is bringing English-Canadian writing to French readers, and at the Montreal micro-publisher Conundrum Press, which evolved from being a quirky literary house to a quirky publisher of graphic novels. All that plus Fall Announcements, listing every fall adult title, and reviews of Linwood Barclay’s Fear the Worst, Douglas Coupland’s Generation A, Shinan Govani’s Boldface Names, and Arthur Slade’s The Hunchback Assignments.
Globe-trotting novelist Dany Laferrière is a big-time celebrity in Quebec. Now, after a decade-long hiatus, he’s being published again in English
Exposing family secrets
Six authors on navigating the personal minefield of memoir writing
The English invasion
An upstart Quebec City house is discovering a surprising demand in its home province for English-Canadian writing. And more in the spotlight on Quebec publishing: The evolution of Conundrum Press, and the dying art of literary translation
The season’s complete listings
Bonnie Burnard is back in the spotlight
Don LePan among the Animals
Snapshot: BookNet Canada’s new CEO Noah Genner
Cover to Cover: Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv’s The Tel Aviv Dossier
The e-catalogue cometh
Harry Bruce on the Hugh MacLennan novel that almost never was
Local Buzz: Back to the Beach
Canada’s beleaguered litmags must experiment online to stay relevant, argues Jason McBride
Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
Galore by Michael Crummey
The Fallen by Stephen Finucan
Animal by Alexandra Leggat
Plus more fiction, non-fiction, and poetry
BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Violet by Tania Stehlik and Vanja Vuleta Jovanovic
The Winter Drey by Sean Dixon
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
Plus more fiction, non-fiction, and picture books
THE LAST WORD
The ups and downs of Amazon’s sales rankings can drive authors to distraction, writes Linwood Barclay
Anyone who was champing at the bit for an awards-season showdown between the two reigning CanLit deities – Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood – must be feeling a bit disappointed following the news that Munro has taken her new collection, Too Much Happiness, out of contention for this year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize. According to an article in Saturday’s Globe and Mail, “punters” are upset that the literary cage match between Munro and Atwood (whose new novel, The Year of the Flood, is also a likely contender for the award) won’t materialize. Among the most disappointed, unsurprisingly, are Munro’s own publisher and the organizers of the Giller Prize itself:
“Her reason is that she has won twice and would like to leave the field to younger writers,” Munro’s publisher, Douglas Gibson, confirmed this week. “In my role as greedy publisher I pointed out that the Giller Prize produces so much publicity, that even to be nominated for it is tremendous publicity,” he said. “But her mind is made up on this. Alice preferred to withdraw from the competition.”
Giller Prize administrator Elana Rabinovitch echoed the disappointment. “I appreciate the reason she’s doing it, but I also think it’s a bit of a shame,” she said. “Ultimately the prize is for the best work of fiction in Canada, period, and this takes a likely contender out of the mix.”
Translation: Munro’s classy move puts the kibosh on a no-brainer of a marketing campaign for the Giller organizers and McClelland & Stewart, which publishes both authors.
It is perhaps worth noting that when Munro’s 2001 collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage failed to garner a Giller nod, there was speculation that Munro had pulled the title from contention. At the time, Gibson told Q&Q, “It would be entirely consistent with [Munro's] personality” to do so, although if she had, it was without his knowledge. That same year, Timothy Findley pulled his novel Spadework from consideration “for any literary prizes.” Munro and Atwood have both taken books out of the running in years that they served on the Giller jury, the former with The View from Castle Rock in 2006, and the latter with The Blind Assassin in 2000.
In this year’s case, it is hardly “disappointing” that Munro is generous enough to put her own interests aside and allow other writers the opportunity to share in some of Giller’s reflected glory. (If there is anyone still unconvinced of Munro’s merit, her winning another award is unlikely to change that.) The disappointment voiced by Gibson (who is admittedly speaking with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek) and by Rabinovitch smacks of self-interest. By recusing herself, Munro has made it harder to argue that CanLit is dominated by a hegemony of familiar figures that keep popping up again and again.
In fact, the only person who seems to appear completely selfless in all of this is Alice Munro.
Some book-related links: