Can you hear it?
That something-in-the-air inspiring Canadian writers to pick up their pens and write about music in fiction and memoir, biography and history?
Why Birds Sing, by Nina Berkhout
About the book: When opera singer Dawn Woodward has an onstage flameout, all she wants is to be left alone. She’s soon faced with other complications the day her husband announces her estranged brother-in-law, Tariq, is undergoing cancer treatment and moving in, his temperamental parrot in tow. To make matters worse, though she can’t whistle herself, she has been tasked with teaching arias to an outspoken group of devoted siffleurs who call themselves the Warblers. Eventually, Tariq and his bird join the class, and Dawn forms unexpected friendships with her new companions. But when her marriage shows signs of trouble and Tariq’s health declines, she begins questioning her foundations, including the career that she has worked so hard to build and the true nature of love and song.
Last spring—as launches, festivals and other events were cancelled across the country—49th Shelf helped Canadian authors launch more than 50 new books with LAUNCHPAD. And now we're back this fall, but with a twist.
LAUNCHPAD 2.0 features new releases selected by great Canadian writers who've chosen books that absolutely deserve to find their way into the hands of readers.
Today we're launching Christa Couture's memoir, How to Lose Everything, which is being championed by... me, Kerry Clare, author and editor at 49thShelf.com. Last spring, I had the opportunity to read this book by Couture, who is an award-winning singer-songwriter, as well as a radio host and writer, and I devoured it in two days. On my phone. And I have a really crummy phone. I have almost never managed to read an entire book on a screen, let alone in two days, so voraciously. But this is a pretty special book. A book you might think would be a bit of a downer, this story that catalogues the monumental losses experienced by Couture throughout her life—she had cancer as a child; she lost her leg in curing that cancer; her first two children died; she got divorced; she got cancer again. And yet. This is a book that sparkles and sings, a memoir as rich with joy as it is with sadness, a story …
Blair Stonechild is author of Buffy Sainte-Marie: It's My Way, the newly released authorized biography.
Kerry Clare: As a writer, what compelled you to take on Buffy Sainte-Marie as your subject? Of the many dimensions of her talent and story, which interested you the most?
Blair Stonechild: I recall Buffy as a huge inspiration during my university days in the early 1970s. She has had a nearly 50 year career and is known and loved world wide. When I realized she didn’t have a substantial biography, I decided to approach her. I wanted her inspirational story to be fully known. One of the main things I learned is how natural and broad her talent and creativity is and how she triumphed over adversity. She provides a great example to many Aboriginal and other youth who feel desperate about their situation that determination and drive can get you somewhere.
KC: Your previous books were about Canadian First Nations history and educational policy. It seems a big leap from those books to a celebrity biography. But what are the connections between your new book and the other two? What were you able to bring to a biography of Buffy Sainte-Marie that the average biographer couldn’t have offered?
BS: Because Buffy has roots in and links to the First Nations community, my i …
Please join Canadian Bookshelf host Julie Wilson (aka Book Madam) in conversation with her chum Robert J. Wiersema as they talk about coming of age and the soundtracks of their youths. Rob's mixtape heavily features Bruce Springsteen, the subject of his latest book Walk Like a Man (D & M Publishers); Julie realizes she has a lot of Enya on vinyl and a worn out cassette of Bronski Beat's The Age of Consent.
When: Tuesday, September 13, 7 p.m.
Where: Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay St., Toronto, ON
RSVP on Facebook
And now, a few words from Rob:
I've come to realize over the past couple of books that writing is at least as much about what you cut out, and what is not written, as it is about what actually appears on the printed page. Suffice it to say, I learned this the hard way. I don't feel so bad about writing long and editing back, though, when I remember that Bruce Springsteen wrote and recorded more than seventy songs for the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. He left sixty plus on the cutting room floor; the remaining ten songs comprise what might just be a perfect album.
With my book Walk Like a Man, I didn't overwrite. (Well, no more than normal, I suppose. After all, what's twenty thousand words between friends?) Given the nature of the book—short es …