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Fall preview 2012: Canadian non-fiction, part II

The season of high-profile literary awards and author festivals is on its way, and there’s no shortage of new releases from marquee names. In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the fall’s biggest books.

TRUE CRIME

In 2009, police discovered a car in the Rideau Canal just outside of Kingston, Ontario. The car contained the bodies of three sisters – Zainab, Sahar, and Geeti Shafia – and 50-year-old Rona Amir Mohammad. Authorities later arrested the girls’ father, brother, and mother, all of whom were convicted of first-degree murder for their roles in the honour killings. Paul Schliesmann’s Honour on Trial (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, $19.95 pa., Oct.) examines the facts behind the case that horrified Canadians.

BUSINESS & FINANCE

He’s been a dragon in his den and gone to prison for his reality-television show, Redemption Inc. Now, Kevin O’Leary, businessman, pundit, and author of the hybrid memoir/business guide Cold Hard Truth, returns with The Cold Hard Truth about Men, Women and Money (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Dec.), a guide to avoiding common financial mistakes. • O’Leary’s left-leaning opponent on CBC’s The Lang and O’Leary Exchange, Amanda Lang, has a leadership book out this season. The Power of Why: Simple Questions that Lead to Success (HarperCollins Canada, $33.99 cl., Oct.) postulates that asking the right questions leads to increased productivity.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

From the internal combustion engine and cold fusion to the Internet and the artificial heart, all scientific discoveries and technological advancements are the product of human ingenuity. In the 2012 CBC Massey Lectures, Neil Turok argues that science represents humanity’s best hope for progress and peace. The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos (House of Anansi Press, $19.95 pa.) appears in September. • Terence Dickinson is editor of the Canadian astronomy magazine Sky News and author of the bestseller NightWatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe. His new book, Hubble’s Universe: Greatest Discoveries and Images (Firefly Books, $49.95 cl., Sept.), is a visually sumptuous compendium of images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

CULTURE & CRITICISM

Novelist and short-story writer Thomas King, who was also the first native person to deliver the prestigious CBC Massey Lectures, has long been a committed advocate for native rights. In The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday Canada, $34.95 cl., Nov.), King examines the way European settlers and natives have viewed each other via pop culture, treaties, and legislation. • Poet and critic Kathleen McConnell explores the portrayal of women in pop culture through the ages in Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight (Wolsak & Wynn, $19 pa., Nov.).

In A Civil Tongue, philosophy professor and public intellectual Mark Kingwell predicted the devolution of political discourse into a schoolyard-like shouting match. His new collection, Unruly Voices: Essays on Democracy, Civility, and the Human Imagination (Biblioasis, $21.95 pa., Sept.), is about how incivility and bad behaviour prevent us from achieving the kind of society we desire.

Poet, publisher, and critic Carmine Starnino turns his incisive and cutting attention to CanLit in his new collection of essays, Lazy Bastardism (Gaspereau Press,  Sept.). • James Pollock believes that Canadian poetry lacks an authentic relationship with poetry from the rest of the world. His new book, You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada (The Porcupine’s Quill, $22.95 pa., Nov.), attempts to situate Canadian poetry in a global context, through examinations of the work of writers such as Anne Carson, Eric Ormsby, and Karen Solie.

A new anthology from Women’s Press brings together essays addressing specific concerns of LGBT communities and individuals across the country. Edited by Maureen FitzGerald and Scott Rayter, Queerly Canadian: An Introductory Reader in Sexuality Studies ($64.95 pa., Sept.) takes up issues of education, law, and religion, among others. • For a brief moment in the 1960s, Montreal became a hotbed of Civil Rights activism, radically challenging traditional conceptions of racial hierarchies. The 1968 Congress of Black Writers included activists and spokespeople such as Stokely Carmichael, C.L.R. James, and Harry Edwards. David Austin chronicles this important gathering in Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal (Between the Lines, $24.95 pa., Nov.).

Belles Lettres (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Nov.) is a collection of postcards from authors such as Baudelaire, Flaubert, Proust, and Charlotte Brontë, collated and annotated by Greg Gatenby, the founding artistic director of Toronto’s International

Festival of Authors. • In The Other Side of Midnight: Taxi Cab Stories (Creative Book Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.), writer and anthologist Mike Heffernan chronicles the experiences of St. John’s cab drivers and their clients.

ENTERTAINMENT

In the years following Liz Worth’s Treat Me Like Dirt, the market for books about the Canadian punk music scene has been as frenzied as the audience at a Fucked Up concert. In Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk, (ECW, $22.95 pa., Oct.), Sam Sutherland looks at the historical context for Canadian punk progenitors such as D.O.A., the Viletones, and Teenage Head. • One early Canadian punk band – Victoria’s NoMeans­No – is the subject of the latest book in the Bibliophonic series from Invisible Publishing. NoMeansNo: Going Nowhere ($12.95 pa.), by Halifax author Mark Black, is due out in October.

Marc Strange, who died in May, was known for mystery novels such as Body Blows and Follow Me Down. He was also the co-creator (with L.S. Strange) of the seminal Canadian television series The Beachcombers. Bruno and the Beach: The Beachcombers at 40 (Harbour Publishing, $26.95 pa., Sept.), co-written with Jackson Davies, the actor who played Constable John Constable in the series, chronicles the iconic show and its equally iconic lead actor.

Since its release in 1971, Ken Russell’s notoriously blasphemous film, The Devils, has been the subject of heavy censorship in both the U.S. and the U.K. Canadian film scholar Richard Crouse examines the history of this cult classic in Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of The Devils (ECW, $19.95 pa., Oct.), which includes an interview with the film’s director, who died in 2011.

HUMOUR

Former model and current stay-at-home mom Kelly Oxford has found her largest measure of fame as a result of her sarcastic Twitter feed (@kellyoxford), which features such Oscar Wildean witticisms as “IDEA: ‘Bless This Mess’ novelty period panties” and “Some parents in China get their kids to work in factories and I can’t get my kid to pass me some Twizzlers.” The essays in Everything’s Perfect When You’re a Liar (HarperCollins Canada, $24.99 cl., Sept.) promise more of the same. • If you prefer your humour with a larger dollop of political satire, you’ll be pleased to know that Rick Mercer has a collection of brand new rants on the way. A Nation Worth Ranting About (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Oct.) includes the author’s description of bungee jumping with Rick Hansen, and a more serious piece about Jamie Hubley, a gay teen who committed suicide after being bullied.

If you want to know whether you might be a redneck, ask Jeff Foxworthy. If you want to know whether you might be a native of Saskatchewan, check your birth certificate or consult the new book from author Carson Demmans and illustrator Jason Sylvestre. You Might Be from Saskatchewan If … (MacIntyre Purcell/Canadian Manda Group, $12.95 pa.) appears in September.

FOOD & DRINK

Rob Feenie is the latest Food Network Canada celebrity chef with a new cookbook. The host of New Classics with Chef Rob Feenie, who famously defeated Masaharu Morimoto on Iron Chef America, offers innovative approaches to classic, family-friendly fare in Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics: Everyday Recipes for Family and Friends (D&M, $29.95 pa., Sept.). The recipes have undergone stringent quality control, each one having been approved by Feenie’s children, aged 3, 6, and 7.

Camilla V. Saulsbury’s 500 Best Quinoa Recipes: Using Nature’s Superfood for Gluten-free Breakfasts, Mains, Desserts and More (Robert Rose, $27.95 pa., Oct.) provides more healthy recipes based on the reigning superstar ingredient. • Aaron Ash, founder of Gorilla Food, a Vancouver restaurant that features vegan, organic, and raw cuisine, has achieved popularity among celebrity fans including Woody Harrelson and Katie Holmes. His new book, Gorilla Food: Living and Eating Organic, Vegan, and Raw (Arsenal Pulp, $24.95 pa., Oct.), collects 150 recipes, all of which are made without a heat source.

SPORTS


Rocker Dave Bidini returns to his other passion – hockey – in A Wild Stab for It: This Is Game Eight from Russia (ECW, $22.95 cl., Sept.), in which the author talks to various Canadians about the influence of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series. The release of the book is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the iconic series. • The man who made that series so memorable also has a book out this fall. Co-written with sports commentator Roger Lajoie, The Goal of My Life (Fenn/M&S, $32.99 cl., Sept.) traces Paul Henderson’s route through the OHL and the NHL, on his way to scoring “the goal of the century.”

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, ex–CFL quarterback and coach Frank Cosentino has penned the appropriately titled The Grey Cup 100th Anniversary (McArthur & Company, $29.95 pa., Oct.). • Crime fiction writer Michael Januska offers his own take on 100 years of Canadian football history in Grey Cup Century (Dundurn, $14.99 pa., Sept.).

Q&Q’s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. • All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

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Book links roundup: Ryan Gosling memes book to be published, social media’s effect on book criticism, and more

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Slideshow: George Stroumboulopoulos and celebrity librarian Nancy Pearl at the OLA Superconference

More than 4,700 library professionals, authors, and exhibitors descended on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre last week for the 2012 Ontario Library Association Superconference – the largest library conference in Canada, which ran Feb. 1–4.

Innovation was the theme for this year’s gathering, which featured more than 200 sessions and presentations by special guests such as Guy Gavriel Kay, Jonah Lehrer, Catherine Gildiner, Neil Pasricha, Nora Young, George Stroumboulopoulos, celebrity librarian Nancy Pearl, and Ontario Minister of Education Laurel Broten.

Click through the slideshow for a peek at what professional development and partying down look like in “library-land” (as one speaker put it).

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Vancouver poet laureate Evelyn Lau offering free manuscript review

Photo: vancouververse.ca

As part of her three-year term as Vancouver’s poet laureate, Evelyn Lau is offering free manuscript consultations.

Starting March 5, Lau, who is working on her sixth poetry collection, will meet monthly with selected writers at the Vancouver Central Library to evaluate poetry manuscripts and answer questions about submitting to literary journals, giving readings, and other related topics.

To be considered for one of the 40-minute sessions, send a writing sample of up to three poems and a paragraph of what you hope to achieve to poetlaureate@vancouver.ca.

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Apple shakes up textbook publishing

Rumours of Apple’s entry into the digital textbook market were confirmed this morning with the announcement of iBooks 2.

The latest version of Apple’s e-reading platform focuses on media-rich, interactive digital textbooks designed for the iPad. Education publishers McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – which comprise approximately 90 per cent of U.S. textbook market sales – have signed on as the first content partners.

But it’s not just international corporations that will have the capability to produce and sell e-textbook content. Apple also announced iBooks Author, a free DIY ebook app that has been compared to GarageBand, Apple’s audio-editing software that has made digital recording and sound engineering accessible to independent musicians and podcast producers.

“Education is deep in our DNA,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of world-wide marketing, at a launch event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Schiller also noted that education institutions already use “more than 1.5 million iPads and have access to more than 20,000 education apps,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Apple’s move into education isn’t all about the children. If a publisher wants to take advantage of the platform, it has to sign an exclusivity contract with Apple, and keep textbook prices at $14.99 or less (of which Apple takes its customary 30 per cent cut). While the lower price is great for students, there is the upfront cost of purchasing an iPad. And as tech website Engadget points out, with all the interactive graphics and video, the first released e-textbooks take up anywhere from 800MB to 2.77GB of memory, which means it won’t take much to fill a low-end 16GB tablet. Also, what happens when the classroom iPad breaks?

Reaction from Twitter users has been mixed:

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B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-fiction finalists announced

The B.C. Achievement Foundation has announced the shortlist for the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-fiction.

Chosen from a longlist of 10 titles, the finalists are:

  • Bad Animals: A Father’s Accidental Education in Autism by Joel Yanofsky (Viking Canada)
  • Human Happiness by Brian Fawcett (Thomas Allen Publishers)

Gill’s Eating Dirt was nominated earlier this year for the inaugural Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for non-fiction. Last month, Bad Animals won the Quebec Writers’ Federation’s Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-fiction.

The winner, who will receive $40,000, will be announced Feb. 6 in Vancouver.

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Windsor Library settles in wrongful dismissal suit

A controversial lawsuit brought against the Windsor Public Library Board by its former CEO, Brian Bell, has been settled out of court. Windsor Star columnist Anne Jarvis criticized the settlement with Bell, which she pegs at more than $80,000: “I’d say Christmas has come early for Brian Bell.”

In 2008, Bell was fired without severance when it came to light he had been articling at a Windsor, Ontario, law firm while on paid sick leave from WPL. Bell, citing wrongful dismissal, sued the board for $500,000. Jarvis notes that the library’s education incentive program had already paid out nearly $36,000 towards Bell’s business and law school tuition. Bell now practices law in Toronto and specializes in employment and labour issues.

The columnist explains that the library opted to settle the suit because it had “mishandled the firing,” “breached Bell’s privacy,” and “couldn’t find Bell’s file or correspondence between the board and Bell.”

“Whatever,” writes Jarvis. “All I know is I’m forking out yet more money for Brian Bell.”

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MFA program rankings come under fire

Earlier this month, nearly 200 creative writing faculty from across the U.S. signed an open letter in objection to Poets & Writers magazine’s 2012 ranking of MFA programs.

From the letter:

To put it plainly, the Poets & Writers rankings are bad: they are methodologically specious in the extreme and quite misleading. A biased opinion poll – based on a tiny, self-selecting survey of potential program applicants – provides poor information.

Now Poets & Writers has issued a response, arguing that their survey of writing program applicants – rather than current students, alumni or faculty – provides valuable information:

While applicants are not experts on creative writing programs, they do have a vested interest in researching the various qualities of a number of programs and comparing them.

This back-and-forth is sparking debate about how to judge a writing program and who should be doing it. Perhaps more interesting, the exchange is also raising questions about what’s worth most in a writer’s training.

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Columbia Publishing Course finds enthusiasm among students, faculty

It seems like every other day one news outlet or another is carrying a story about the incipient demise of the publishing industry, the death of print, and the dominance of digital. These, we are told, are dire times for publishers.

Don’t tell that to any of the 475 applicants to this year’s Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, a number The New York Times says is “the highest … in years.” The 101 students accepted into the six-week course paid close to $7,000 USD to attend seminars run by industry veterans in what is billed as “the shortest graduate school in the country.”

This year, it was impossible to ignore the rapid ascendancy of digital publishing, and many of the courses were geared to this subject. From the NYT:

[T]he summer session began with a focus on “The Digital Future.” Students were schooled in “Reinventing the Reading Experience: From Print to Digital” by Nicholas Callaway, the chairman of a company that produces book apps for children. Managers from Penguin Group USA explained how to master “e-marketing,” and a panel of digital experts talked about short-form electronic publishing — not quite a magazine article, not quite a book — which is so new, the genre doesn’t really have a name.

Despite the uncertainty of the new digital landscape, there was apparently no shortage of enthusiasm among the students and teachers in this year’s course.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Carolyn Pittis, the senior vice president of global author services at HarperCollins, told a packed room of students several days into the course. “So it’s very exciting for those of us who spent many years when a lot of things didn’t happen.”

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Publishing at the polls: Foreign-ownership regulations

As Canadians head to the polls on May 2, Q&Q looks at key federal policies affecting the publishing industry. Stay tuned for upcoming features on federal funding and mass digitization.

When it comes to foreign ownership in Canada’s book businesses, the only thing all industry players seem to agree on is that the current policy is woefully outdated. Known as The Revised Foreign Investment Policy in Book Publishing and Distribution, an amendment to the Investment Canada Act, the current regulations have been in place since 1992.

Since that time the global economy has adapted to an increasingly consolidated business scene and the advent of digital publishing. In light of these massive changes, the federal government initiated a review of the guidelines and their effectiveness in the industry’s three main sectors – publishing, distribution and wholesale, and retail – four years ago. An announcement regarding the review findings and the government’s subsequent decision, officially slated for 2011, was unofficially expected sometime this month. And then the election was called, which halted any further discussion or review.

In July 2010, the department of Canadian Heritage released “Investing on the Future of Canadian Books,” a discussion paper that addressed the “evolving book industry landscape.” The paper presented policy review options available to the government, and solicited feedback from industry players. Phase two of the book policy review saw this feedback posted to Canadian Heritage’s website, where the public could comment on submissions.

The third phase involved three roundtable discussions with industry representatives, which took place December in Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto.

Canadian Publishers’ Council executive director Jacqueline Hushion reports the sessions were well attended and represented an array of industry interests. On the publishing side, CPC members included David Swail, president and CEO of McGraw-Hill Ryerson; Kevin Hanson, president of Simon & Schuster Canada; Greg Nordal, president and CEO of Nelson Education; and Brad Martin, president and CEO of Random House of Canada, among a number of others.

The Association of Canadian Publishers was represented at both English-language events in Vancouver and Toronto. “Publishers who attended from the ACP at both of those roundtables all got the message that the status quo for the policy is not, in [Canada] Heritage’s view, a viable option,” says ACP executive director Carolyn Wood. “There’s going to be change.”

The ACP supports the current policy, and has pushed for increased accountability, as opposed to relaxing or repealing restrictions. “We think the current system needs to be more carefully applied, and that a greater degree of transparency would be valuable and productive,” Wood says. “We think the limiting of ownership to Canadians, except where net benefit can be demonstrated, is a sound basis. We believe the application, measurement, and reporting of the net benefits process need to be strengthened.”

So what’s to become of this intensive multi-year review? Wood suggests it may be “quietly shelved” for the moment, though she quickly adds it’s possible the Department of Canada Heritage will push ahead. Hushion agrees that once the election dust settles, there’s likely going to be a long delay getting the process back on track, but she’s confident it will happen.

“The process will have to go forward, because the process was something that came from Cabinet,” Hushion says. “It’s just now a question of how much later it will be completed.”

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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