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Esi Edugyan, JJ Lee, Charlotte Gill nominated for B.C. Book Prizes

The West Coast Book Prize Society has announced the shortlists for the 28th annual B.C. Book Prizes, and for Esi Edugyan, the competition cuts close to home.

Edugyan, whose novel Half-Blood Blues won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize and this morning was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, is competing against her husband, Steven Price, and his novel, Into That Darkness, for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Both books are published by Thomas Allen Publishers.

Charles Taylor Prize for Non-fiction shortlisted authors Charlotte Gill and JJ Lee face off again, this time for the Hubert Evans Non-fiction Prize, alongside 2012 Canada Reads finalist Carmen Aguirre. Gill is also nominated for the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award.

The winners in all seven categories will be announced at the Lieutenant Governor’s B.C. Book Prizes Gala on May 12 in Vancouver.

Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize:

Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize:

  • Chuck Davis, The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver (Harbour Publishing)
  • Fred Herzog, Fred Herzog: Photographs (Douglas & McIntyre)
  • Andrew Nikiforuk, Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests (Greystone Books)
  • Sheryl Salloum, The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton (Mother Tongue Publishing)
  • Scott Watson, Thrown: British Columbia’s Apprentices of Bernard Leach and Their Contemporaries (Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery)

Hubert Evans Non-fiction Prize:

Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize:

  • Patrick Lane, The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane (Harbour)
  • Susan McCaslin, Demeter Goes Skydiving (University of Alberta Press)
  • Garry Thomas Morse, Discovery Passages (Talonbooks)
  • John Pass, crawlspace (Harbour)
  • Sharon Thesen, Oyama Pink Shale (House of Anansi Press)

Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize:

Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize:

  • Glen Huser, The Runaway (Tradewind)
  • Pamela Porter, I’ll Be Watching (Groundwood)
  • Karen Rivers, What is Real (Orca)
  • Caitlyn Vernon, Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest (Orca)
  • Moira Young, Blood Red Road (Doubleday Canada)

Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award:

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Weekend reading list: the top stories from around our offices

Every weekend Q&Q rounds up the highlights from other websites in the St. Joseph Media family. This week’s top stories include tales of suburban migration, fall cooking, and political espionage.

Toronto Life: Exodus to the burbs: why die-hard downtowners are giving up on the city

Fashion Magazine: New York Fashion Week style snaps

Canadian Family: 10 tasty recipes to try in September

Ottawa Magazine: POLITICS CHATTER: Of lust and espionage (Mark Bourrie’s take on the Xinhua scandal)

Where Canada: Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Windsor, Ontario

20 Minute Supper Club: Five incredible cheesecakes

Wedding Bells: The hottest wedding centrepieces right now

Torontoist: Final recommendations on city service cuts released

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Fall preview 2011: Canadian fiction

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

NOVELS

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.

SHORT FICTION

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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U.K. poets band together to protest cuts

It’s National Poetry Month here in Canada, an annual initiative by the League of Canadian Poets to bring public attention to poetry. But across the Atlantic, the beginning of April more closely resembles T.S. Eliot’s characterization as “the cruellest month.” On March 30, Arts Council England (ACE) announced cuts to over 200 arts organizations, including the Poetry Book Society, which Eliot himself established in 1953. Responding to the cut in funding, British poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy said that it was “a national shame and a scandal” that “goes beyond shocking and touches the realms of the disgusting.”

In response to the denial of funding for the Poetry Book Society, a letter of protest has been signed by more than 100 poets. The Poetry Book Society claims it will have to shut down entirely if the proposed cuts kick in as of April 2012.

This reaction is to some extent predictable; what is less predictable is the reaction in opposition to proposed funding for British publisher Faber. In light of cuts to the Poetry Book Society and certain smaller publishers, the decision to give money to a relatively well-off publisher such as Faber has ruffled some feathers. From the Guardian:

Former Faber director Desmond Clarke, also a former chair of the board at the Poetry Book Society, said he found ACE’s decision to favour the publisher over the Poetry Book Society “extraordinary.”

“As a commercially profitable publisher, Faber is more than capable of investing in a small number of poets each year,” he said. “The reality is that Faber has made enormous amounts of money by publishing poetry, and out of the royalties of Cats which has provided it with many millions over the years.” T.S. Eliot, author of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which inspired the musical, left his literary estate to Faber.

Clarke added: “If I were still a director of Faber I would actually be embarrassed that we should take money when the Poetry Book Society has lost funding.”

The broader picture shows that literature is actually the biggest winner in ACE’s new budget, seeing a 10 per cent increase in funding, while all other cultural arenas experience a net loss. The same article quotes Rachel Feldberg, director of the Ilkley Literature Festival (one of the organizations that will benefit from ACE’s allocation of funds) as feeling “torn” between her own elation and sadness for those who lost out:

“It’s exciting for us but for our colleagues the outlook may be bleak,” she said. The increased funding will enable the festival to continue and expand projects including work with young people in Leeds and Bradford schools.

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Daily book biz round-up: Amazon rips off Kindle users; snogging Salman; and more

Today’s book news:

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Jacob Scheier’s first rule of awards controversies: don’t talk about awards controversies

Governor General’s Literary Award–winning poet Jacob Scheier has weighed in on the Ali Smith/Giller Prize controversy on Now Magazine‘s website. As you may recall, Scheier himself was at the centre of an awards scandal after winning the GG in 2008, when it was discovered that jurors Di Brandt and Pier Giorgio Di Cicco had clear ties to both him and his collection, More to Keep Us Warm.

I [want] to draw a significant parallel between that controversy and this year’s Giller uproar, a parallel that holds true for many, if not every, literary award controversy.

What happens in these ‘controversies’ is the mainstream media jumps on conflict, regardless of the facts (or lack thereof), and stamps the words  ‘scandal’ in a big bold writing. They use these words, of course, to get us to read about it. If they could, with any legitimacy, add the word ‘sex’ to the headline, they would.

But I don’t blame media outlets for that. I blame the fiction writers and poets, the ones who fuel these dust-ups, by writing their speculations on their blogs and Facebook pages for the media to pick up.

[...]

I would urge all writers when they hear the siren sizzle of juicy gossip to stay off Facebook and blogs, and, if you have to, put that gossip where it belongs: into a good story.

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Daily book biz round-up: Giller scandal edition

There’s a lot of outraged buzz in online book circles this morning about whether Scotiabank Giller Prize juror Ali Smith broke jury protocol and engaged in a form of literary insider trading by arranging for her U.K. agent, Tracy Bohan, to sign winner Johanna Skibsrud before the longlist was even announced. As Q&Q reported earlier this month, Bohan then went and brokered a healthy deal for U.K. and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) with William Heinemann editor Jason Arthur (who we’ve since learned is Bohan’s boyfriend). The question now is: did Smith inform her fellow jurors that she was involved in promoting one of the authors in contention?

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Daily book biz round-up: Pearson still world’s biggest publisher; Penguin’s teachable moment; and more

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Portrait of David Davidar as a young man

While researching the ongoing David Davidar sexual harassment scandal, Q&Q came across an archival newspaper column written by one of his former mentors, the late Indian poet and columnist Dom Moraes. The piece, written in 2002, is a reminiscence of Davidar’s early days working as an associate editor for a Mumbai literary magazine. We quote it here because it provides a not-irrelevant, pre-scandal glimpse into Davidar’s character:

[David] was a tall, coltish, bespectacled young man, curiously lovable. While Dhiren [another editor at the magazine] had abstained from most of the pleasures of the world, David was — at least then — very susceptible to them. He drank a lot and liked to fall in love. He was paradoxically a devout Christian. At that time he lived in the YMCA in Colaba, not far from me. He would often drop in for Sunday lunch. I discovered that he usually stopped at church before this, to attend the morning service.

[...]

After this David became an associate editor of Gentleman, together with Harish Mehta. The two young men invented a monthly feature. They took turns every month to interview a beautiful film starlet or model over an expensive, often candlelit dinner, paid for by the office. David’s first such dinner, with a then famous model, caused him to tell me enthusiastically that he loved her. I was not unused to these confessions. I suggested that he should declare his emotions to her, not me, and should start by asking her to a meal that he paid for himself.

Later David came to tell me the lady had accepted his invitation to dinner. He was to pick her up the following evening. I advised him to be particularly careful about the impression he made on her father, and to take her flowers. He said my ideas in these matters were unoriginal. It was Easter. In the patisserie of a hotel, he had seen a life-size Easter bunny made of chocolate. It cost a lot and with a lavish dinner would exhaust his month’s salary, but it was worth it. As to her father, he expected to have a man-to-man talk with him over a drink.

This rendezvous was not a success. Through nerves, he arrived far too early, carrying his gigantic gift with difficulty. The reaction of the family had been one of amusement rather than awe. While the girl got ready, the father rather grumpily offered David a drink from his last bottle of Scotch. In those days a bottle of Scotch was much prized by its owner. But the girl took time to dress, David’s nervousness increased and by the time she appeared the bottle was empty. The father was by then no longer grumpy, but positively hostile.

Later requests for a date were firmly turned down. Soon after this David left Bombay. I missed our long talks about literature, and his youthful presence. He wanted to be a writer and showed me his poetry. When he returned from America he told me he wanted to write a long novel about his clan in Kerala. This has now been published, a decade after he first mentioned it to me, and has been praised. He is already the CEO of Penguin India, but I think he will be more pleased with his book than with his position, and I am pleased for him.

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Orlando Figes admits writing anonymous Amazon reviews

Earlier this week, Quillblog reported on a British contretemps about an academic’s wife who apparently posted a series of vitriolic reviews of her husband’s rivals on Amazon using the moniker “Historian.” As we noted this morning, The Guardian is now reporting that the reviews were actually written by Orlando Figes, the academic himself, who misled his lawyer and allowed his wife to take the blame for the scandal. The Globe and Mail has also picked up on the story:

“I take full responsibility for posting anonymous reviews on Amazon,” he said in a statement released Friday. “I have made some foolish errors and apologize wholeheartedly to all concerned.”

Figes specifically apologized to his wife, his lawyer — who was misled about the source of the reviews — and to the authors he trashed on Amazon, including Rachel Polonsky, Robert Service and Kate Summerscale.

Figes goes on to state that his behaviour might have been tied into unspecified health problems:

“I am ashamed of my behavior, and don’t entirely understand why I acted as I did,” he said. “It was stupid — some of the reviews I now see were small-minded and ungenerous but they were not intended to harm. This crisis has exposed some health problems, though I offer that more as explanation than excuse. I need some time now to reflect on what I have done and the consequences of my actions with medical help.”

The old saw about reaping and sowing comes to mind, but Quillblog would like to point out that this whole farrago is yet another nail in the coffin of anonymous online reviews. Surely it’s time for Amazon to change its policy and require that reviewers to identify themselves by name.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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