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All stories relating to Quebec

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Quebec government to examine book-price regulation

Just a few of the authors and artists who support the campaign.

One year after French-language book distributors launched the Our Books at Fair Price campaign, it appears as if the idea may have support from the Parti Québécois government.

According to CTV, the Quebec government is considering the regulation of book prices as a means of protecting independent booksellers. The proposed plan could include fixing prices on books, regardless of where they’re sold or their format (digital or print), and reducing discounts on bestselling titles.

A parliamentary commission will begin hearings on Aug. 19.

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Why ebooks in Quebec are a taxing issue

While NPR urges the world to stop the ebook versus print debate, in Quebec, the debate has shifted to how digital titles are taxed, and what constitutes a “real book.”

According to Montreal’s The Gazette, the Quebec government has treated print books as zero-rated for tax purposes since 1996, but ebook sales can still include the 9.5 per cent provincial sales tax.

Robert Hayashi, CEO of the digital publishing advocacy organization eBound Canada, disagrees with the discrepancy. “Just like there is a hardcover (print book) format and a softcover format, ebooks are just another format,” he told the The Gazette. “So if government is not taxing the hardcover book, we believe that government should also not tax the ebook.”

In another Gazette article, Kobo’s vice-president of finance, Daniel Budlovsky, lamented that Quebec consumers who purchase ebooks through Kobo are charged both provincial and federal sales taxes, while those who buy their ebooks through U.S. competitor Amazon pay no sales taxes.

Although Budlovsky said the discrepancy “should be atrociously viewed by the Canadian public,” Kobo isn’t ready to battle the Canadian government to change the tax laws.

“We accept the law for what it is and feel that it should be changed but that is a long and bureaucratic process,” Budlovsky said. “We work in a … fast-moving industry where we need to stay ahead of the competition by working on things that are under our control.”

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Robert Lepage’s creative alchemy

This feature by Sarah Greene appeared in the November 2011 issue of Q&Q.

Robert Lepage’s impressive artistic career spans theatre, film, and opera, and includes stints as designer and director for Cirque du Soleil and a Peter Gabriel world tour. The prolific Quebec actor, writer, and director has now added graphic novelist to his list of achievements. The Blue Dragon, first published in French earlier this year by Quebec’s Éditions Alto, appears this month from House of Anansi Press.

Adapted from the play of the same name, the book reunites co-writers Lepage and Marie Michaud, both of whom performed in the original 2008 production. The idea for the graphic novel, first suggested by Lepage’s sister and assistant Lynda Beaulieu, seemed natural given the influence on the play of Hergé’s The Blue Lotus, about TinTin’s adventures in Shanghai; the use of Chinese calligraphy, video, and comic panel-like squares in the set design; and the fact that the central character, Pierre Lamontagne, is a graphic artist and calligrapher.

“We thought a graphic novel would be more faithful, do more justice to the piece,” says Lepage. “We saw it as an opportunity to extend the themes of The Blue Dragon.”

A follow-up to the mid-1980s production The Dragons’ Trilogy, the story is set in modern-­day China and revolves around three characters in a love triangle: Lamontagne, a middle-aged Quebecois artist who lives in Shanghai and runs a contemporary art gallery; his ex-wife, a Montreal-based ­advertising executive hoping to adopt a baby; and Lamontagne’s younger Chinese lover. Just as there are three characters interacting in three languages (French, English, and Mandarin), there are three possible endings to the play and the book. Éditions Alto played on the number by printing a first run of 3,333 copies.

To adapt the highly visual play into print, Lepage and his production company, Ex Machina, imagined how they would present the story as a film. They auditioned a number of Quebecois artists for the project, eventually choosing Fred Jourdain, a young illustrator known for his portraits of rock stars and celebrities. Jourdain’s fluid, vivid illustrations of a rainy Shanghai are conveyed by mixing comic-book art with more painterly images. “He was very strong at expressing emotions on his characters’ faces,” says Lepage.

Anansi publisher Sarah MacLachlan fell in love with this combination of graphica and fine art. “I thought that was an extraordinary thing,” she says. The Blue Dragon is Anansi’s first graphic novel for the adult market (its children’s imprint, Groundwood Books, published the YA title Skim by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki in 2009). Canadian fiction editor Melanie Little met Éditions Alto president Antoine Tanguay last January, at the Canada Council for the Arts’ inaugural translation rights fair in Ottawa, and presented an offer within days.

The graphic novel has also had an effect on the theatrical version of The Blue Dragon, which will be remounted by Toronto’s Mirvish Productions in January. “Our work with Fred had a big influence on the piece,” Lepage says. “Both to make it stronger by simplifying some of the storylines, but also by complexifying some things that needed to be more [complex]. A lot of that came from some of the very rich, effervescent exchanges we had with Fred.”

Lepage says the adaptation was so successful it’s changed his approach to publishing: “Whatever play we come up with we should try to find a format – not necessarily another graphic novel – that is as faithful to our visual approach to the stage as it is [to] the written word.”

Éditions Alto and Ex Machina have continued their partnership, producing a limited-­run souvenir book for Lepage’s production of Stravinsky’s opera The Nightingale and Other Short Fables and collaborating on a nine-volume box set for his epic nine-hour opera Lipsynch.

“[Lepage] is a central cultural figure in Quebec right now,” says Tanguay. “Everything he does turns to gold.”

Illustrations by Fred Jourdain, courtesy of Anansi

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Gill, Westoll among Charles Taylor Prize nominees

Just as a pair of novels came to dominate the past fall’s literary awards season, so too has a pair of non-fiction titles, about tree-planting in the Pacific Northwest and a group of chimps living out their days in a Quebec animal sanctuary, emerged as the books to beat.

Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe (Greystone Books) by Charlotte Gill  and The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery (HarperCollins Canada) by Andrew Westoll (both of which were named Q&Q books of the year for 2011) led the nominations for the 2012 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction, the shortlist for which was announced in Toronto Tuesday morning. Both titles are also on the shortlist for the $40,000 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-fiction, which was unveiled last month.

The complete shortlist, as chosen by jurors Allan M. Brandt, Stevie Cameron, and Susan Renouf, is as follows:

The winner of the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize will be announced at a gala luncheon in Toronto on March 5.

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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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Atwood to mentor emerging writer in Rolex arts program

Thanks to Rolex, one lucky writer will get the chance to become Margaret Atwood’s protege. On Monday, the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative revealed its list of arts professionals who will serve as mentors to emerging artists in the fields of literature, theatre, film, dance, music, and visual arts for the next year.

The luxury watchmaker started the Arts Initiative in 2002 to support “highly talented young artists from around the world and [bring] them together with great masters, for a year of creative collaboration in a one-to-one mentoring relationship.” Through the program, mentor and mentee spend a minimum of six weeks working together. The Arts Initiative provides the protege with US$25,000 for travel costs and living expenses throughout the program, and another US$25,000 at the end of the initiative to finance a project. (No word on whether any watches are involved in the deal, but what young author couldn’t use a diamond-encrusted timekeeper to tick away the writing hours?)

Proteges are selected by a panel of international experts in the six artistic categories who put together a list of potential participants, though the mentor has final say on who they’re paired with.

For 2011–2012, Atwood’s fellow mentors are Chinese choreographer Lin Hwai-min, American film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil, French director Patrice Chéreau, and South African visual artist William Kentridge. Past Rolex literary mentors include Toni Morrison, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, and Wole Soyinka. From 2006–2007, Quebec-based writer Edem Awumey was protege to Moroccan novelist Tahar Ben Jelloun.

(In other Atwood news, the author turns 72 today. She got an early start celebrating at Laurentian University’s seventh annual Margaret Atwood Birthday Dinner in Sudbury, Ontario, on Thursday.)

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Canadian literary event round-up: Oct. 21-27

The literary scene is lively this week with many festivals underway. Here’s a sample of what’s happening across the country:

  • LitFest non-fiction festival, various locations, Edmonton (until Oct. 23, tickets at
  • Vancouver International Writers Festival, various locations, Granville Island (until Oct. 23, tickets at
  • Ottawa International Writers’ Festival, various locations, Ottawa (until Oct. 25, tickets at
  • International Festival of Authors, various locations, Ontario (until Oct. 30, tickets at
  • Gaspereau Press’s 12th annual Wayzgoose and open house, Kentville, Nova Scotia (Oct. 22, all day, free)
  • Roald Dahl Day with screening of James and the Giant Peach plus contests, Gladstone Hotel, Toronto (Oct. 23, 11 a.m., $10)
  • Canzine, 918 Bathurst Centre, Toronto (Oct. 23, 1 p.m., $5)
  • Psychologist Shelagh Robinson demos Mirror Read Books, Babar Books, Pointe-Claire, Quebec (Oct. 24, 2 p.m., free)
  • François Cusset reads from The Inverted Gaze, Type Books, Toronto (Oct. 26, 7 p.m., free)
  • Scrivener Creative Review launches its latest issue with guest reading by Jason Price Everett, Papeterie Nota Bene, Montreal (Oct. 27, 4:30 p.m., $5 for entry, a copy, and a cupcake)

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Weekend reading: the week’s top stories from St. Joseph Media

Looking for some extra long-weekend reading? Here are the week’s top stories from the St. Joseph Media offices:

Toronto Life: Introducing Bannock, Oliver and Bonacini’s new café and restaurant at The Bay’s flagship store

Fashion Magazine: Fall beauty guide 2011

Canadian Family: Nine ways to help your family get more sleep

Ottawa Magazine: ARTFUL BLOGGER: From Russia with lust at La Petite Mort

Where Canada: Across Quebec: 10 Boutiques we love

20 Minute Supper Club: Six Japanese recipes for weekend cooking

Wedding Bells: Seaside style in Prince Edward Island

Torontoist: New site shares what Toronto said to Rob Ford


Fall preview 2011: Canadian fiction

In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at the fall season’s biggest books.


One of the most anticipated releases of the fall season is surely the new novel from internationally acclaimed author Michael Ondaatje, his first since 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award winner Divisadero. Set in the early 1950s, The Cat’s Table (McClelland & Stewart, $32 cl., Sept.) tells the story of an 11-year-old boy crossing the Indian Ocean on a liner bound for England, and the mysterious prisoner shackled on board. • Also from M&S is Guy Vanderhaeghe’s first novel in eight years. Set in the late 19th-century Canadian and American West, A Good Man ($32.99 cl., Sept.) is the third book in a loose trilogy that also includes The Last Crossing (2003) and The Englishman’s Boy, which won the 1996 Governor General’s Literary Award. • A third GG winner has a new novel out this season: David Gilmour, who won in 2005 for his previous novel, A Perfect Night to Go to China. Gilmour returns with The Perfect Order of Things (Thomas Allen Publishers, $26.95 cl., Sept.), the story of a man who revisits traumatic and life-changing incidents from his past.

Marina Endicott follows up her Scotiabank Giller Prize–shortlisted 2008 novel Good to a Fault with The Little Shadows (Doubleday Canada, $32.95 cl., Sept.), about three sisters who become vaudeville singers following the death of their father. • Acclaimed novelist Helen Humphreys returns with an historical novel set in France during the Napoleonic period. The Reinvention of Love (HarperCollins Canada, $29.99 cl., Sept.) is about a French journalist whose affair with Victor Hugo’s wife causes a scandal (as it might be expected to do).

Brian Francis’s debut novel, Fruit, was a runner-up in the 2009 edition of CBC’s battle of the books, Canada Reads. His second novel, Natural Order (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Aug.), tells the story of a mother who is forced to confront the secrets she has kept about her son when her carefully constructed life is overturned by a startling revelation. • Kevin Chong returns to fiction with his first novel in a decade. Beauty Plus Pity (Arsenal Pulp Press, $17.95 pa., Sept.) follows an Asian-Canadian slacker in Vancouver whose incipient modelling career is derailed by the death of his father and the sudden departure of his fiancée.

Requiem (HarperCollins Canada, $32.95 cl., Sept.), the third novel from Frances Itani, is about a Japanese-Canadian who embarks upon a cross-country journey of discovery following the death of his wife. • Anita Rau Badami follows her best-selling novels Tamarind Mem and The Hero’s Walk with Tell It to the Trees (Knopf Canada, $32 cl., Sept.), about the Dharma family – the authoritarian Vikram, the gourmand Suman, and the old storyteller Akka. When the Dharmas’ tenant, Anu, turns up dead on their doorstep, the family’s long-buried secrets begin to boil over. • Gayla Reid returns with her first novel since 2002’s Closer Apart. Set during the Spanish Civil War, Come from Afar (Cormorant Books, $32 cl., Aug.) tells the story of an Australian nurse who falls into a relationship with a Canadian soldier from the International Brigade.

Haitian expat Dany Laferrière is back with his third novel in translation in three years. The Return (Douglas & McIntyre, $22.95 pa., Aug.) tells the story of a 23-year-old Haitian named Dany who flees Baby Doc Duvalier’s repressive regime and relocates to Montreal. Thirty-three years later, Dany learns of his father’s death in New York City, and plots a return to his native country. David Homel translates. • Another Montreal resident, poet Sina Queyras, has a novel out this fall, the author’s first. Autobiography of Childhood (Coach House Books, $20.95 pa., Oct.) is about one day in the lives of five siblings haunted by the death of a brother years before. • Infrared (McArthur & Company, $29.95 cl., Sept.), the new novel by Nancy Huston, is about a photographer who travels to Tuscany with her father and stepmother. Employing internal dialogues with the photographer’s mental doppelgänger, Huston opens up her hero for exposure and provides an intimate picture of her interior life.

CanLit mainstay David Helwig returns with a novella, his first since 2007’s Smuggling Donkeys. Killing McGee (Oberon, $38.95 cl., $18.95 pa., Oct.) tells the story of a professor’s dual obsessions with the assassination of D’Arcy McGee and the disappearance of one of his students. • Toronto-based poet Dani Couture returns with her first novel, a surreal and iconoclastic take on that perennial CanLit staple: the family drama. Algoma (Invisible Publishing, $19.95 pa., Oct.) tells the story of a family attempting to cope with the aftermath of a young child falling through the ice and drowning. • Shari Lapeña also has a novel about a perennial CanLit concern: raising money to allow one time to write poetry. Happiness Economics (Brindle & Glass, $19.95 pa., Sept.) tells the story of a stalled poet who takes a job writing advertising copy to start a poetry foundation.

Jamaican-born novelist, poet, and non-fiction author Olive Senior returns to long-form fiction with Dancing Lessons (Cormorant, $22 pa., Aug.), about a woman looking back on her life after a hurricane destroys her home. • Memoirist Frances Greenslade (A Pilgrim in Ireland, By the Secret Ladder) has a debut novel out this August. Shelter (Random House Canada, $29.95 cl.) is a coming of age story about two sisters searching for their mother, who abandoned them after their father was killed in a logging accident.

Not one, but two novels this season extend the burgeoning CanLit focus on towns that have been/are about to be flooded (after Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists, Anne Michaels’ The Winter Vault, and Michael V. Smith’s Progress). Tristan Hughes’s Eye Lake (Coach House, $19.95 pa., Oct.) is about the town of Crooked River, Ontario. Named for a river that was diverted to make way for a mine, the town harbours secrets that surface when the river reclaims its original course. • And in September, Goose Lane Editions will publish Riel Nason’s The Town that Drowned ($19.95 pa.), about the suspicions, secrets, and emotions that flare up when the township of Haverton is scheduled to be flooded to allow for the construction of a massive dam.

Edward Riche follows up his Thomas Head Raddall Award winner The Nine Planets with Easy to Like (House of Anansi Press, $29.95 cl., Sept.), a satire about a screenwriter and oenophile who dreams of travelling to Paris, but is trapped in Canada by an expired passport and a growing Hollywood scandal. Relocating to Toronto, he bluffs his way into the upper echelons of the CBC. • Former president and CEO of Penguin Canada, David Davidar was forced out of his position under a cloud of scandal after accusations of sexual harassment. Davidar’s new novel, Ithaca (M&S, $29.99 cl., Oct.), is, perhaps not coincidentally, about the rise and fall of a publishing star.

Canadian literary icon Michel Tremblay returns with a new novel, the first in a trilogy. Set in 1913, Crossing the Continent (Talonbooks, $18.95 pa., Oct.) takes the author’s characters out of Quebec for the first time, to tell the backstory of the people who populate his Chroniques du Plateau-Mont-Royal series. Long-time Tremblay collaborator Sheila Fischman translates.

A resident of St. John’s, Newfoundland, lately one of the most fertile spots for Canadian writing, Michelle Butler Hallett crafts genre-busting stories and novels that frequently experiment with gender and perspective. Her new novel, Deluded Your Sailors (Creative Book Publishing, $21.95 pa., Sept.), focuses on the culture industry from the perspective of Nichole Wright, who makes a discovery that puts a government-funded tourism project in jeopardy, and a shape-shifting minister named Elias Winslow. • Another Newfoundland native, Kate Story, has a novel out with Creative this season. The follow-up to 2008’s Blasted, Wrecked Upon This Shore ($21.95 pa., Sept.) tells the story of Pearl Lewis, an emotionally damaged, charismatic woman who is seen at different stages in her life.

In 1972, Christina Parr returns to her hometown of Parr’s Landing, a place she fled years earlier. The dirty secret of Parr’s Landing? A 300-year-old vampire resides in the caves of the remote mining town. Christina learns why she should have stayed away in Michael Rowe’s Enter, Night (ChiZine Publications, $17.95 pa., Oct.). • English literature professor Janey Erlickson struggles to make headway in her academic career while caring for a tyrannical toddler in Sue Sorensen’s comic novel A Large Harmonium (Coteau Books, $21 pa., Sept.). • Paul Brenner, a Vancouver lawyer, dines with his son, Daniel, one Friday evening. The next day, Brenner receives word that his son has been murdered. Hold Me Now (Freehand Books, $21.95 pa., Oct.), the first novel from Stephen Gauer, examines a father’s grief and a lawyer’s faith in the legal system.


Anyone who has ever wondered what might transpire if the author of Bigfoot’s autobiography were to illustrate a story collection by Canada’s reigning postmodern ironist can stop wondering. October sees the publication of Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People (Random House Canada, $24 cl.), the first collaboration between author Douglas Coupland and well-known illustrator Graham Roumieu.

D.W. Wilson currently lives in London, England, but is a native of B.C.’s Kootenay Valley. The winner of the inaugural Man Booker Prize Scholarship from the University of East Anglia, Wilson’s debut collection, Once You Break a Knuckle (Hamish Hamilton Canada, $32 cl., Sept.), is a suite of stories about good people doing bad things.

Novelist Anne DeGrace has her first collection of short stories on tap for September. Flying with Amelia (McArthur & Company, $29.95 cl.) spans the 20th century and crosses vast swathes of territory. Wireless telegraphy, German POWs in Manitoba, the Great Depression, and the FLQ crisis all crop up in her stories. • David Whitton’s story “Twilight of the Gods” was included in the 2010 sci-fi anthology Darwin’s Bastards. The story also appears in Whitton’s first solo collection, The Reverse Cowgirl (Freehand, $21.95 pa., Oct.), which sports the most sexually suggestive title for a collection of CanLit stories since Pasha Malla’s The Withdrawal Method.

Toronto writer Rebecca Rosenblum follows up her Metcalf-Rooke Award–winning debut collection Once (a Q&Q book of the year for 2009) with The Big Dream (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., Sept.), a collection of linked stories about the lives of workers at Dream, Inc., a lifestyle-magazine publisher. • The Maladjusted (Thistledown Press, $18.95 pa., Sept.), Toronto writer Derek Hayes’ debut collection, focuses on people who run afoul of the dictates of polite society. • Also from Thistledown, Britt Holmström’s Leaving Berlin ($18.95 pa., Sept.) examines contemporary women in both Canadian and European settings.

The fine print: Q&Q’s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. 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 appeared in previous previews do not appear here.

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Novelist Gil Courtemanche succumbs to cancer

Gil Courtemanche, the journalist and novelist whose best-selling 2000 novel about the Rwandan genocide, A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, was made into a movie in 2006, lost a two-year battle with cancer of the larynx last Friday. He was 68.

From the Montreal Gazette:

In a career spanning nearly 50 years, Courtemanche covered politics and international affairs for media outlets including Radio-Canada, La Presse, and Quebec City’s Le Soleil. For the past five years, he wrote a weekly column for Le Devoir, where his insights and incisive style won a devoted following, said publisher Bernard Descôteaux.

“It was his capacity for indignation toward injustice that marked the last part of his career,” Descôteaux said.

“He was a model for journalists. He was one of the great writers who have left their mark on journalism in Quebec in recent years.”

He was also an advocate for Quebec sovereignty, co-founding the paper Le Jour with Yves Michaud, Jacques Parizeau, and René Lévesque.

Quoted in the Gazette, Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois said, “Committed, with an incisive style and easy way with words, [Courtemanche] belonged to a form of journalism we see less and less: the kind that denounces (wrongdoing).”

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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