- Black Canadian writers, including ‘Ninja favourite Canisia Lubrin, talk life, politics, and the burden of art;
- Lupita Nyong’o’s children book is snapped up for an animated feature;
- British Book Awards longlists;
- Data visualization reveals books most often assigned on reading lists (spoiler: you will need better glasses to find yours);
- Classics or porn? What’s the best lockdown read?;
- A primer on the history of the type foundry;
- Justin says to read more Canadian books, so let’s all throw some money at the estates of Robertson Davies and Lucy Maud Montgreengables;
- Every now and then cowboy poetry makes it back into the news… good times;
- From assembling Hondas to writing plays: the evolution of the robot;
- On Toni Morrison changing the literary landscape as an editor;
- A little George Saunders in conversation;
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.
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.
- The Writer’s Trust adds a prize for best book of Public Policy… One step closer to the lower levels of importance where we’ll finally get one for a book of poetry, I guess;
- Giller Prize doing “master” panels;
- Krikus looks at books on being Black in America;
- Princeton University Press opens diversity-driven development grants;
- Deathtrap library was fake news (gosh, when’s the last time you heard that term? Glorious);
- The second or third literary event I attended on moving to New York City in 2000 was a memorial for Gwendolyn Brooks where I met some people who became long-term friends.. Paris Review traces her influence;
- I deduce a juicy boost of Proust has come to roost;
- Big boxes of money in lit crate service for kids;
- Albert Camus, netminder;
- Today in Did-You-Know-This-Is-A-Thing: Study with me videos allow you to watch people study and take notes, in silence, in real time… What a time to be alive;
- Dundurn rebrands;
- Amazon ebook lawsuit gathering steam, and cases;
- Why merging giant publishers is no good for Canadian writers and readers;
- NOW the right wing media cares about culture;
- Yeah, well Utah can go F itself;
- How Gibney got her groove back: reclaiming creativity in lockdown;
- Val McDermid on coming up in a man’s world;
- Make Your Bed military indoctrination, now aimed at kids (ftr, boys, just because Daddy is armchair-fighting-the-power here doesn’t mean you don’t have to make your beds);
- How, and when, post-publication corrections are made — all the way up to and including recalling the entire book, yeesh;
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.
- Valentine’s Day dregs from CBC;
- Lessons from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life in lockdown (lockbrown?);
- RIP: Rachna Gilmore, children’s author, dead at 68;
- The bookstore owner behind National Black Literacy Day;
- On science fiction since 1970 (it’s criminal to me that Nalo Hopkinson isn’t mentioned in the Afrofuturism section);
- RIP: James Gunn, sci-fi author, dead at 97;
- On how a good teacher with an eye for good books can change everything;
- Nostalgia for when Bruce Willis had enough hair to be a romantic lead;
- DK’s pandemic pivot;
- On poetry’s pandemic-busting power;
- How libraries offered a haven for nerds and queers, and queer nerds;
- Elizabeth Warren to publish children’s book;
- Looking back on Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique;
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.
- Top News: author and longtime blogger Sarah Weinman of CrimeReads replaces retiring Marilyn Stasio as NYT’s Crime Fiction columnist! Congratulations, Sarah!;
- Also Top News: Jen Sookfong Lee and Pia Singhal join ECW (my home sweet home) as acquiring editors;
- Adichie to publish book on grief;
- Time riffs on what super-poet Amanda Gorman says about America;
- RIP: Johnny Rogan, music biographer, dead at 67;
- Stephen King keeps rewriting the end of The Stand… Is that allowed? I mean, I love it, but would that we all got a crack at fixing early mistakes;
- Dylan Farrow steps out with first novel;
- Little Free Library owner comes up against the librarian mafia;
- See below*
- In praise of mediocre books: sometimes you just need to power through?;
- On the ties between Calvino and Instagram;
- A visual guide to how long it’s going to be before you get your hands on that ebook from the library, and how the bestseller lists affect, or don’t, just that;
- The National Book Foundation in the US gets a new ED;
- On Seth Abramson and the state of the Twitter Threaderatti Threadosphere;
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?
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.”
- PEN finalists include hometown hero Souvankham Thammavongsa;
- The first professionally trained Black librarian in the US;
- On publishing’s dirty little secret: the environmental toll paper takes on our little blue aggie rolling around in night’s black velvet marble bag;
- How getting cancelled on social media can lead to a book deal cancellation;
- Holy shitballs, says 15-year-old me: Netflix is making Redwall into an animated series;
- Black historical romance queen talks race, love and history;
- Camel-based bookmobile library:
- On Christopher Plummer, an actor who read as much as recited;
- Nun Twitter: like nuns in general, but not hitting you with a stick;
- Camilla’s royal book club for those inbred from generations of war criminals;
- Email signoffs you can steal from famous writers’ letters (wait, we’re supposed to sign off?);
- After a good few years in which their main creative output appeared to be dashcam videos, Russia seems to be getting back to writing?;
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.