Steven Beattie gets his own damn post

Why you gotta leave us like that Beattie? The beloved reviews editor for the Quill & Quire, (and occasional blogger) Steven Beattie, has left his post. This is a dude who has worked tirelessly (well, in fairness, he was quite tired) for CanLit for over a decade. Here’s hoping the reason you left is positive and the future for you is still in books, Steve.

Beattie, presumably pictured making large red pen marks on a review I wrote…

For nearly 13 years Steven has guided thousands of book reviews with his keen intellect and broad knowledge of both Canadian literature and the industry behind it. He has added dozens of new reviewers to our roster of contributors, expanding the perspectives of the magazine’s work.

He championed independent presses and their authors, looked for the overlooked, and made sure there was an opportunity for the broadest cross-section of authors and their publishers to be represented in the pages of Quill & Quire.

He ensured the elevated discussion of our national literature. Steven will be moving on to work on personal projects.


Monday news from Lockdown Town

It’s a very nostalgic Monday, with several articles taking over-the-shoulder looks at things. Which, I suppose is good, since we’re in total lockdown here with the more-contagious UK strain of Covid running through our population like R Kelly through a junior high. I mean, I myself am not that affected: I was already a shut-in who lived most of his life online, but I feel for everyone around me. So, look at some different news about books and things.

Freakout Flag Flying Friday

Well, I hope things are clearing up where you are, because they’re getting murky as Hell here. After having been a bastion of good government and citizenry, our little island in the North Atlantic saw a bunch of kids decided at Xmas and beyond to blow off caution and now the ‘Vid is spreading like wildfire and we’re basically in lockdown, election postponed, and, yes, in snowstorm season. So all that staying home, mask wearing, and not-seeing-my-friends we did is down the drain. On the positive side, my kids can now demonstrably see that I was right and not just as asshole who was trying to cramp their style. Anyway, I write to you now from our bunker where I wait for news from our wonderful CMHO who is appears in the last few press conferences to be getting ready to lay a beat down on the person who asks the next stupid question. I’ve seen that look in her eye, but mostly at reading question periods when someone in the audience stands and says, “This is more of a comment than a question… Actually, it’s two comments, really…” Beware, NL journos. I’ll try to lead with some good news below.

* On footnotes

On sponsored content in book journalism

Here’s an interesting one: I read about 20+ sites a day from which I gather the links that will become the Bookninja news roundups. Everything from established books sections at major papers to little backwater blogs chugging along in relative obscurity. And when I find news about the Canadian publishing scene, I try to prioritize it and give it top billing.

That said, what happens when you find Canadian news but realize someone paid the outlet to put it there. It’s not uncommon, these days, the advertorial — articles written by the publication, but for which the subjects are paying. So you have a new rum? Pay Food and Drink to write about it to ensure you get coverage. It would be like me paying Poetry to review my book. Should I be linking to this sort of stuff? I mean, it’s nice to see an international venue like Publishing Perspectives, a site I sometimes visit because it covers a wide range of topics from around the world, cover how well Quebec publishing is holding up during the pandemic, but the little word “sponsored” down in bottom corner gives me the willies.

Now, let’s be honest, Bookninja is no bastion of journalistic integrity. It’s a news aggregator with sauce, an opinion blog that covers hard news and plays for a laugh by saying things we are generally too polite (and often beholden) to casually say. But there’s no money being traded for any of this. I just do it because I was reading all this stuff anyway and I’m bored. That said, I’m not sure where these sorts of things fit in. Especially, if I hadn’t noticed the word “sponsored” (shudder) and just posted it like it was real coverage. That’s how these things get legitimized, through camouflage.

The point is it LOOKS like journalism, but is it? Who paid for it? Why? Would I feel better if both those questions were answered in the “article”? I mean, I WANT to know what’s happening in Quebec. But I want it reported on, not cribbed from press releases and client notes. What’s your take?

Queer coding in early magazines

This is a fascinating piece on the early days of queer magazines — which is to say, magazines that queer people read, regardless of the magazine’s intention. It focusses on Bachelor magazine, founded by a straight woman for straight bachelor men, but coopted by a gay community just starting to organize itself. The articles seemed to code secret (and not so secret) messages to gay readers throughout, and many young men found their sexuality through it. I remember reading Details when I was in my 20s and a friend telling me it was a mag for gay men. When I heard this I was like, “Wut?” but when I looked back down at it, I went…. “Oh yeah…. Would you look at that.” Didn’t stop reading it, but it sort of changed the perspective for me.

Finding an outlet that spoke to any segment of what we would today call the queer community, Bate wrote, required a good deal of “detective work.” There was Esquire, which was by no means a gay publication, but whose frank discussions of men’s fashion gave it a certain queer appeal. And there were bodybuilding magazines like Physical Culture that many gay and bisexual men latched on to in order to explore their sexualities.

Then, suddenly, there was Bachelor. The magazine was hard to miss: it was glossy, as big as Vogue, and its covers featured close-ups of famous men against garish backdrops. Contemporary coverage said Bachelor was shipped to newsstands in every state and to Canada; Time described its target audience as “a social cut above Esquire’s.”

Fiction in the time of thumbsplints

Can fiction adequately capture how much the internet has broken our brains? I wrote an entire book of poetry about this, and it isn’t pretty. Well, the cover is. That said, could fiction do it a bit more subtly? HuffPost looks at a couple books trying.

one of the great challenges in addressing social media in fiction; it hardly sounds stimulating to read about characters strategically composing a post with the right number of question marks or considering the best dunks on the day’s Twitter main character. It reflects a part of our life that feels wasteful of time and energy, that tends to leave us feeling itchy and alienated, both from others and ourselves. In two almost mirror-image novels, critic Lauren Oyler and poet Patricia Lockwood have shouldered the task of turning the particular brain poisoning acquired online into literature.

Meanwhile, CrimeReads explores the rise of “Digital Gothic”… Like when I feel my phone buzz in my pocket and then I reach for it and realize it’s not there? Phantom Hip Buzz, I call it, but maybe it should just be called “Ghost Phone”.

We’re so used to the digital, these days, that it passes almost without notice. You’re probably reading this, after all, on a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. Maybe you got here through a link you clicked on your Facebook or Twitter timeline, tucked in between the posts and chatter of strangers and friends.

If you’re under, say, twenty-five, you’ve always lived in a world like this. If you’re older… Well, chances are that by now, you’re used to it. For most of us, our digital devices are so familiar, they’re almost an extension of ourselves.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, they’ve even become—temporarily, at least—our only way of communicating with our family and friends: our de facto homes-inside-our-homes, the best approximation of those social spaces we’ve lost.