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Giller Prize 2020 Special: The Chat with David Bergen

David Bergen

We’re thrilled to begin this year’s special Scotiabank Giller Prize coverage in conversation with David Bergen. David appears on this year’s shortlist for his short story collection Here the Dark (Biblioasis).

Jury citation:

"A dying woman asks an aging rancher to become her last lover. A fishing boat sputters to a halt off the coast of Honduras, compelling its owner to decide the fate of his repellent client. A young woman in a puritanical religious community glimpses the coloured world outside, and must choose whether to close her eyes, or to run. Sexual loneliness and moral confusion pull at the delicately wrought characters in David Bergen’s latest work, a story collection of masterly skill and tension. His third appearance on the Giller shortlist—including the 2005 winner, The Time in Between—affirms Bergen among Canada’s most powerful writers. His pages light up; all around falls into darkness.”

David Bergen has published eight novels and a collection of short stories. His work has been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Impac Dublin Literary Award, and a Pushcart Prize. He won the Giller Prize for his novel The Time in Between. In 2018, he was given the Writers’ Trust Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Lif …

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Fiction We Can't Wait to Read This Fall

In which we give you a list of amazing fall fiction along with the REAL reasons we're looking forward to these books in order to demonstrate that human-generated lists beat algorithm-generated lists any and every day. And we also liberally employ the royal we....

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Book Cover The Lightning of Possible Storms

The Lightning of Possible Storms, by Jonathan Ball

About the book: Aleya's world starts to unravel after a café customer leaves behind a collection of short stories. Surprised and disturbed to discover that it has been dedicated to her, Aleya delves into the strange book...

A mad scientist seeks to steal his son's dreams. A struggling writer, skilled only at destruction, finds himself courted by Hollywood. A woman seeks to escape her body and live inside her dreams. Citizens panic when a new city block manifests out of nowhere. The personification of capitalism strives to impress his cutthroat boss.

The more Aleya reads, the deeper she sinks into the mysterious writer's work, and the less real the world around her seems. Soon, she's overwhelmed as a new, more terrifying existence takes hold.

Jonathan Ball's first collection of short fiction blends humour and horror, doom and daylight, offering myriad possible storms.

Why we're taking notice: Because CanLit legend Gary Barwin writes that Ball is "not only …

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Launchpad: ANGEL WING SPLASH PATTERN, by Richard Van Camp

Launchpad Logo

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, award-winning storyteller Richard Van Camp is championing the first book by young emerging author...Richard Van Camp. That's right! Van Camp's first book Angel Wing Splash Pattern has been reissued in a Special 20th Anniversary Edition.

Van Camp writes in the new introduction to his book:

"Angel Wing Splash Pattern, looking back now, was me using the short story as a celebration of being Tłįchϙ Dene and being raised in Fort Smith, NWT. Our home growing up was filled with music, books, stories, visiting, laughter, and a fun sense of community… I’ve braided the best of the ’80s with the best of the North in Angel Wing Splash Pattern, and, typing here in our home wit …

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Filling the Gaps, Minding the Gaps: the Unconventional (Mostly) Small Town Girls of CanLit

My latest poetry collection, Gaptoothed, is about my own bashful, lusty Wife of Bath smile. Yet it is also about gaps in identity, memory, history—flaws, holes, spaces and absences, that when looked at from a certain angle, become powerful instruments of poetic expression. The collection, released by Gaspereau Press this past spring, is also about gender, girlhood, and the unconventional and vulnerable girls who too often fall through the cracks—or gaps—in a system that was never built to help the likes of them. The collection is dedicated to my late grandmother; she was supposed to be one of forgotten, cast-aside girls, but her tremendous wit, her razor-sharp tongue, her vitality made her unforgettable. The book is about the beauty of the one-of-a-kind that tells you off for not noticing sooner.

The books listed below have filled in the gaps for me over the years on a literary landscape that so often seemed full of holes—that still seems to be short so many vibrant and vital stories and poems and voices.

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Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson

This is …

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The Chat with Faye Guenther

Swimmers in Winter (Invisible Publishing) is Faye Guenther’s debut collection of short fiction. These six stories explore the lives of queer women across through time. Among other issues, the works consider conflicts between queer people and the police; the impact of homophobia, bullying, and PTSD; the dynamics of women’s friendships; and life for queer women in Toronto during WWII.

Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes, says “Faye Guenther lovingly tells the stories of ordinary women, whose lives have yet been mostly ignored by literature. Each character in this collection is a planet unto herself: the stories part the mists and show the miles to the surface. Dizzying, precise, and beautiful.”

Faye Guenther lives in Toronto. Her writing has appeared in literary magazines including Joyland and she has published a chapbook, Flood Lands, with Junction Books. Swimmers in Winter is her first collection of short fiction.

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Trevor Corkum: The title story “Swimmers in Winter” takes place partly in the back room of a lesbian bar in 1950s Toronto. It’s a powerful exploration of time and place. What did you learn about this period in Toronto’s queer history during your research?

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Big Fiction

Fall book season is exciting with its televised ceremonies and fancy galas, but spring is just as interesting, with regional and specialized prizes highlighting fantastic authors and books from across the country. As you make your summer reading plans, make sure to add some of these great books to the mix.

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Season of Fury and Wonder, by Sharon Butala

Nominated for the 2020 Alberta Literary Awards

About the book: “There are things that it is impossible to learn when you are young, no matter how much you read and study.” The season of fury and wonder, in Sharon Butala’s world, is the old age of women. These stories present the lives of old women—women of experience, who’ve seen much of life, who’ve tasted of its sweetness and its bitter possibilities, and have developed opinions and come to conclusions about what it all amounts to. These are stories of today’s old women, who understand that they have been created by their pasts.

But there’s another layer to this standard-setting example of “cronelit.” Not content to rest on her considerable literary laurels, Sharon Butala continues to push the boundaries of her art. The stories in Season of Fury and Wonder are all reactions to other, classic, works of literature that she has encountered and adm …

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Launchpad: The End of Me, by John Gould

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching The End of Me, by John Gould, of which Bill Gaston writes, "John Gould's skill with the short form is miraculous in the way of bonsai, the grand made to bloom within the small. And who knew death could be so wise, invigorating, playful—so richly alive?"

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

A collection of 56 sudden stories—funny, sad, absurd—about mortality.

Describe your ideal reader.

Likes to wonder more than assert, and to inhabit different points of vie …

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Launchpad: War at the Snow White Motel, by Tim Wynne-Jones

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching War at the Snow White Motel, by the award-winning Tim Wynne-Jones, a story collection for middle grade readers.

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

War at the Snow White Hotel is nine stories about kids getting themselves in huge messes and then trying to get out of them, one way or another. You know those totally dumb things you do by mistake or because you just weren’t thinking? Those things! But it’s also about war, the environment, stolen property, ca …

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Launchpad: You Are Not What We Expected, by Sidura Ludwig

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching You Are Not What We Expected, by Sidura Ludwig, which Jami Attenburg calls, “A gorgeous, highly visceral, deeply felt collection of linked stories about how families work—and don’t work—together. The Levine family is unforgettable.”

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

When Uncle Isaac comes back to Thornhill to help is sister care for her two grandchildren, he finds himself embroiled in more neighbourhood drama than he expected in this collection of …

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Launchpad: Swimmers in Winter, by Faye Guenther

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching Swimmers in Winter, by Faye Guenther, which Emily Schultz praises: "Guenther traces the paths of women in the city, struggling to survive, keep themselves fed and afloat while also falling hard for each other. In turns sexy and tender, tough and head-swirling, these characters will leave you changed."

The book is currently available as an e-book, and will be out in print in August.

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence:.

Swimmers in Winter is a short story colle …

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Launchpad: The Handsome Man, by Brad Casey

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching The Handsome Man, by Brad Casey, a collection of linked stories declared by Guillaume Morissette to be "a gem that celebrates little blips of happiness and small, elusive moments of genuine human connection."

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

I was reading The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez recently and there’s a part where the main character says something about how the novel, or the writing of a story, is an act of killing something and I didn’t entirely agre …

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Launchpad: Hunger Moon, by Traci Skuce

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching Hunger Moon, by Traci Skuce, of which Julie Paul writes, "Read these stories and be transported back to the age before internet, to tree planting camps and lakeside holidays, to relentless heat and longing in both near and distant corners of the world, as characters wrestle with transitions and loss and come to a deeper understanding of what it is to be human."

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The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

A collection of 13 short stories th …

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