GGs announced

Joan Thomas and Gwen Benaway win fiction and poetry GGs. Sad to see Michael Crummey not take one, but glad to see Gwen there. English language winners list below.

Fiction: Five Wives by Joan Thomas
Nonfiction: To the River by Don Gillmor
Poetry: Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway
Kidlit, text: Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow
Kidlit, illustration: Small in the City by Sydney Smith
Translation: Birds of a Kind by Wajdi Mouawad, translated by Linda Gaboriau
Drama: Other Side of the Game by Amanda Parris

Library palate cleanser

Strange questions are afoot at the NYPL.

Since The New York Public Library opened its doors in 1895, its librarians have been greeted with an unending stream of questions. The people of New York City—and beyond—have a voracious appetite for knowledge and, for more than 100 years, the Library is where they have come for answers. In the 1920s, staff provided instructions on how to shear camels and directed patrons to prints illustrating 14th-century corsets. In 1956, a schoolteacher phoned to learn the signatories to the 1888 Suez Treaty. The Library’s highly trained staff has even sought an answer to what makes mud stick together.

Can I get on the guest list?

Should we be charging people to browse at bookstores? Wooh, child. Lemme get my popcorn and settle in on this one.

The Strand was selling the book at a modest discount off of its suggested retail price, but I suspected that it would be less expensive on a certain ubiquitous Web site. Sure enough, the same book was listed there, brand new, for ten dollars less than the Strand’s price. If I ordered it from this Web site, it would be delivered to my door, the next day, for free.

The moral high ground is to buy the book from the Strand. The store afforded me the pleasure of browsing the shelves on a weeknight in New York. The store’s owners permitted me to pick up the book and read a few pages, for as long as I wished. They should have my money. But, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that I chose three additional books and that each of those books was also ten dollars less online. I could save forty bucks, which isn’t chump change. So the question then becomes, where do we draw the line? Are we expected to underwrite David’s battle with Goliath, no matter what the cost? I want to give my money to the Strand. I’m willing to pay more in exchange for the intangibles that I’m offered by a store’s physical existence. But I fear that this business model, whereby physical retailers are basically relying on a code of honor from their customers, is just not sustainable.

So why not monetize the intangibles? The Strand, and stores like it, could charge an admission fee.

Two old ladies meet in a castle…

Presumably while wearing fabulous hats. Wait, isn’t that what we’re supposed to comment on? It’s an article about ladies, so shouldn’t we spent some inches on describing their dress as a tonic to their boring accomplishments? Don’t let us down, publicly-funded-news-outlet-that’s-supposed-to-be-better-than-Fox. Maybe you should just run a wire story without looking at it.

Dressed in a dark dress, brightly multicoloured scarf and a wide-brimmed red hat, she told British media that she felt “a bit emotional” in the presence of the queen.

Ah, that’s the patriarchy right there. Safe and sound. (Margaret Atwood made a sort of knight type, will presumably get armour at later date.)

Today in Things I Never Thought I’d Have to Say: it’s time to storm the Toronto Public Library

Listen, you know how I feel about librarians: sexiest people on the planet. That is, when they’re not supporting hate speech. Sadly, the board of the TPL has upheld an ill-informed decision to allow an anti-trans activist to speak. My partner, novelist and screenwriter Elisabeth de Mariaffi, was scheduled to speak there this week at their invite but has backed out in protest (along with other panelists Lynn Coady and Christy-Ann Conlin), but will still fly in to join the protests . The library told her that while the rhetoric at the event may be hateful, it doesn’t constitute hate speech, officially. Tell that to trans folk who feel they can’t come near your libraries any more because you are legitimizing in the public eye dehumanizing messages of intolerance and hate. Make no mistake, people like this human wet-wipe go OUT OF THEIR WAY to book public institution space BECAUSE it seems to have a legitimizing effect. If the message is one of intolerance and hate, it doesn’t belong in a public space. (Side note: I would be interested to see some analysis of how the Ford government’s recent edict making public institutions develop a “free speech” policy (which is to say: a policy designed to create this exact situation for his base of hate-mongering mouth-breathers) has impacted and encouraged all this.) Get out your pitchforks and torches, people.

Wait, you people organize your bookshelves?

You authoritarian monsters. Books are meant to exist in a disheveled and hierarchical state based on how much interest you had in them when they came into the house. The further they are away from your reading chair, the less likely they’ll ever see the light of day again. And you put your friends’ books on the two most visible shelves in the dining room so that when they come by for dinner and inevitably creep your shelves, they see themselves reflected there and are inclined to bring better wine next time. It’s not rocket science, people.

On my old shelves, my books were organized into four broad genres: fiction, nonfiction, plays, and poetry. Fiction was arranged by date published, nonfiction by subject area, and plays and poetry were not in any particular order. On my new shelf, I stuck with my broad genres, and within each one, I kept things simple and organized everything alphabetically. Boring, but effective. But part of the fun of reorganizing your books is considering all your options, so here are 10 organizational strategies for the next time you find yourself in the throes of moving, decluttering, or, if you’re anything like me, procrastinating.

On author talks

This woman likes hearing authors talk, whereas I mostly can’t get them to shut up.

Going to author talks has let me steal little bits of writing advice and approaches that I can use in my own work, including “don’t be afraid to put whatever you’re currently really really enthusiastic about into your work and see if the story fits around it” (I don’t think Jasper Fforde said that in so many words, but that’s certainly why the Crimean War is such a focal point of the Thursday Next series). Since someone always asks an author how they deal with writer’s block, I’ve got hundreds of techniques to try next time I’m in a rut, from “finish in the middle of a sentence the day before” to Kuang’s “listen to some music and try to construct the movie trailer in your head”. 

Libraries take on digital giants

The librarians in the USA are fighting back, Conan the Librarian-style. The ALA is denouncing Amazon, et al, for their digital practices.

“Unfair behavior by digital market actors—and the outdated policies that have enabled them—is doing concrete harm to libraries as consumers in digital markets,” the response reads. “Libraries are prepared to pay a fair price for fair services; in fact, over the past ten years, libraries have spent over $40 billion acquiring [all] content. But abuse of the market position by dominant actors in digital markets is impeding essential library activities that are necessary to ensure that all Americans have access to information, both today and for posterity.”

The report explains that ebooks have become almost 20 percent of the U.S. book market, but libraries face major barriers to providing this content to patrons. Notably, Amazon Publishing now ranks as the fifth largest publisher of ebooks by dollar sales, yet the company refuses to license any of its digital content to libraries, at any price. Macmillan’s pending eight-week embargo on new ebook sales to libraries is also raised, as is “abusive pricing” of library ebook licenses by many publishers.

Sisters doing it for themselves

Women are telling their own stories in non-fiction in a way that doesn’t protect or excuse men, and they’re selling. Shouldn’t be news. Is. Here are a few titles, examined.

The misogynistic stereotype is that women’s very voices are grating and shrill, especially when raised in anything but a cheerleader-bright yell. But women have long comprised the lion’s share of literary consumers, and, evidently, ache to see elevated what has long merited serious attention.

Soon you won’t even have to read the book

The Children’s Book Centre is launching a YouTube presence, presumably to try to engage kids who are reading particular books, but five bucks says they spend three minutes there before looking up a couple of screaming 20-something man-children let’s-playing Minecraft. How can books compete with that?

Next spring, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre will launch Bibliovideo, a YouTube channel featuring author interviews, read-alongs, illustrator demonstrations, book trailers, and reviews. Using funds from the Canada Council for the Arts’ Digital Strategy Fund, the CCBC has brought together a group of key players in the Canadian children’s book community to steer and curate the project.

The intent is to create a place for librarians, teachers, parents, book creators, reviewers, and readers to access informative and engaging video content on all aspects of Canadian children’s literature, including fiction and non-fiction, old and new books, and ones written in English, French, and Indigenous languages.