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Samuel Martin: If the Writer Builds a Fire, the Reader Will Come to Watch You Burn

A Blessed Snarl by Samuel Martin (Breakwater Books).

Samuel Thomas Martin is the author of This Ramshackle Tabernacle (Breakwater Books), which was shortlisted for the 2010 BMO Winterset Award and longlisted for the 2011 ReLit Award for Short Fiction, and the novel A Blessed Snarl, also from Breakwater Books, about a man who moves his family back to Newfoundland to start a new Pentecostal church.

Originally from Ontario, Martin now lives in Newfoundland with his wife Samantha and their dog Vader.



Find Martin at his "e-nook out of the pull of the Google slipstream," The Dark Art Cafe.

(Read Sam's post on finding the right book at the right time.)

Julie Wilson: Your collection of short stories, This Ramshackle Tabernacle, is set in and around the fictional villages of St. Lola and St. Olga in northeastern Ontario. Why was it important to locate the stories in a particular kind of place, a recognizable one, while not naming those places as they currently exist?

Sam Martin: In rural communities, people know each other and, at least in my hometown, there is a lot of emphasis on telling stories—true stories—and getting the details right. You can’t have people over for coffee without storytelling and part of that is cutting in and saying, "That’s not how it happened," or "Come on now, get it right." So, to write …

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Bad Jobs in CanLit: A List by Grace O'Connell

Book Cover The Edible Woman

1. The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood: Think your job is dull? Marian's job has to do with beer and food and is still somehow boring. She writes and edits surveys to measure consumer satisfaction in an office that makes Dunder Mifflin look cosmopolitan, and even has to go door to door asking creepy men how much beer they drink. Between her office happily ascribing to a virgin/whore dichotomy and weirdos pressing temperance brochures into her hands, it's pretty crappy.

Book Cover Microsoft

2. Microserfs by Douglas Coupland: Sometimes a bad job is a matter of opinion. Some of the characters in Microserfs love their ninety-hour work weeks, some hate them. Desperate for approval from a God-like Bill Gates, one character locks himself in his office, eating only food that can be slipped under the door. Work-life balance is not a popular phrase in this office.

Book Cover Ghosted

3. Gh …

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Robert Hough on the nature of con men and the secret to writing a successful novel.

Dr. Brinkley's Tower by Robert Hough (House of Anansi Press).

About Dr. Brinkley's Tower: Equal parts Mark Twain and Gabriel García Márquez, Robert Hough's wildly imaginative new novel takes us to 1931 and Corazón de la Fuente, a tiny Mexican border town where the only industry is a run-down brothel. Enter Dr. Romulus Brinkley and his gargantuan radio tower, built to broadcast his revolutionary goat-gland fertility operation. Fortunes in Corazón change overnight, but not all for the good. Word of the new prosperity spreads, and the town is overrun by the impoverished, the desperate, and the flat-out criminal. The tower's frequencies are so powerful the whole area glows green, and the signal is soon broadcasting through every bit of metal it can find: fencing wire, toasters, even a young woman's new braces. Meanwhile, Dr. Brinkley has attracted the affections of Violeta Cruz, Corazón's most beautiful resident. But is he really all that he seems?

Peopled with unforgettable characters and capturing a young Mexico caught between its own ambitions and the imperialist designs of its neighbour to the north, Dr. Brinkley's Tower is a stunning achievement in storytelling.

Julie Wilson: The doctor in Dr. Brinkley's Tower is based on a real man, an American doctor who created a treatment for impotence and then promoted his practice …

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Maggie Helwig's Girls Fall Down named 2012 One Book: Toronto [author interview]

Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig (Coach House Books)

Maggie Helwig's Girls Fall Down—the acclaimed novel of fear and love set in a Toronto in crisis—has been named the 2012 One Book: Toronto title. The Toronto Public Library's city-wide book club runs throughout April.

The Toronto Public Library runs the One Book: Toronto program as part of April's "Keep Toronto Reading" festivities. Torontonians are encouraged to read one book together en masse and join in a city-wide conversation. Throughout April, the Toronto Public Library will host dozens of events concerning Girls Fall Down and its themes.

Past One Book: Toronto titles include Midnight at the Dragon Cafe (Judy Fong Bates), More (Austin Clarke) and Consolation (Michael Redhill).

About Girls Fall Down:

Girls Fall Down opens with a girl fainting in the Toronto subway. Her friends are taken to the hospital with unexplained rashes. Swarms of police arrive, and then the hazmat team. Panic ripples through the city, and words like poisoning and terrorism become airborne. Alex, a medical photographer who is hoping to chronicle the Toronto he knows on film before his sight fails completely, is a witness to this first episode. During the hysteria, he encounters an old girlfriend–the one who shattered his heart in the eighties, while she was fighting for social justice …

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In Conversation With: Shari Lapena on her love of wilderness adventure tales

One of the perks of this gig is that I get to invite myself into the homes of authors who offer me coffee, tea, maybe a little snack, and a good look at their bookshelves. There's always a nice chat, maybe another snack, and upon leaving I usually have an idea of how our follow up interview will unfold. In the case of Shari Lapena, I knew immediately that I'd want to know more about her love of adventure wilderness tales, which sits in opposition to her own writing style. Beyond a guilty pleasure, the impulse to return to one kind of tale, or one particular author, is a creature comfort, something that doesn't just bring us satisfaction, it roots us in a place where we feel at home in ourselves. Enjoy the chat, and Shari's short reading from her novel Things Go Flying.

Julie Wilson: Shari, thank you for having me in your home to record you reading from your 2008 novel Things Go Flying. You have a new novel out, Happiness Economics, launching September 27, at the Dora Keogh, 7 p.m. Toronto people, come on out! (Both novels are published by Brindle & Glass Publishing.)

One of the things I like about recording authors in person is the chance it offers to catch a glimpse at their bookshelves. You mentioned your "creature comforts," the non-fiction, adventure wilderness tales you're taken in by. I'm intrigued by the kind of books we tend to return to because we know they won't disappoint, be it a style of writing, topic matter or the unabashed fandom we have for one author over anot …

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Six Books I'm Rereading: A List by Elizabeth Hay

Elizabeth hay

Elizabeth Hay’s latest novel is Alone in the Classroom. Her other works include Late Nights on Air, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and has been an enormous national bestseller, as well as A Student of Weather (finalist for The Giller Prize and the Ottawa Book Award), Garbo Laughs (winner of the Ottawa Book Award and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award) and Small Change (stories). In 2002, she received the prestigious Marian Engel Award. Elizabeth Hay lives in Ottawa.

Man from the Creeks

The Man from the Creeks, Robert Kroetsch, 1998: Kroetsch’s sudden death in June made me pick up his last novel once again. I came to it for the first time a few years ago, ten years after it was published (I often come late to books) and fell in love with its tender, amused and desperate tone. What underlies the novel/adventure/yarn/love story is Robert Service’s ripping poem “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.” The poem calls to the storyteller/poet in Kroetsch and the resulting 307 pages are perfect.

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Imperfect People: A Book List by Caroline Adderson

Caroline Adderson's headshot

Caroline Adderson is the author of two internationally published novels (A History of Forgetting, Sitting Practice), two collections of short stories (Bad Imaginings, Pleased To Meet You), and three books for young readers (Very Serious Children, I, Bruno, Bruno For Real).Her work has received numerous prize nominations including the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist, the Governor General's Literary Award, the Rogers' Trust Fiction Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. A two-time Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and three-time CBC Literary Award winner, Caroline was also the recipient of the 2006 Marian Engel Award for mid-career achievement. Her latest novel is The Sky is Falling.

I am partial to imperfect characters, the kind of people we sidestep in real life because they make us uncomfortable, because we are afraid of them, because we are afraid of being them. How much easier to turn and face them when they are between the covers of a book! This embracing of the imperfect exemplifies, I think, what the act of reading (and for that matter writing) actually is -- an act of compassion: com + pati = to suffer with. Through literature we gain privileged access to the private thoughts and feelings of a character and so become them and suffer with them. Oddly, only as …

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What We've All Been Waiting For: Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2011

In publishing, springtime arrives in the autumn, which marks the blossoming of scores of brand new books into the world. And though summer is decidedly still at its height, one can't help but look ahead to the bounty the Fall 2011 season promises to deliver.

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The Antagonist by Lynn Coady is her first novel since 2006's Mean Boy, and the story of a wayward man who discovers a former friend has written a novel stolen from his life. The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott, about the Vaudeville lives of three singing sisters, is eagerly awaited by readers who loved her Scotiabank Giller-nominated novel Good to a Fault. Natural Order is Brian Francis's very different follow-up to 2009 Canada Reads contender Fruit, a witty portrait of an older woman reflecting on the choices she's made throughout her life. In Frances Itani's Requiem, a man is pulled into a painful past to understand the effects of the Japanese-Canadian internment upon his family.

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Beauty Plus Pity by Kevin Chong is "the tragicomic modern immigrant's tale" of a wannabe-model whose plans are dera …

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English-Quebec Fiction (by Elise Moser)

With great selections and thoughtful annotations, Elise Moser offers her English-Quebec Fiction reading list. Elise Moser's novel Because I Have Loved and Hidden It was published by Cormorant Books. She is currently president of the Quebec Writers' Federation, lives in Montreal, and reads a lot of English Quebec fiction. She also notes that, of course, there are MANY more than six wonderful English Quebec books...

earth

Earth and High Heaven, Gwethalyn Graham

First published in 1944, there is nothing dated about it, in style or content. Graham creates a vivid picture of Montreal in wartime, deftly managing all manner of issues (sexism, anti-Semitism, Canadian/Quebec politics, cities versus “the regions”) without ever falling into didacticism or losing her focus on the human drama. Heroine Erika Drake (“of the Westmount Drakes”) is a riveting figure of intelligence, flair, and powerful integrity.

speaking

The Speaking Cure, David Homel

This book is full of striking images: poets who are also war criminals, a woman who wears a bulletproof shirt during sex, asy …

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Books Your Dad Will Love

wild geese

What dad doesn’t like a bit of plot? For Father’s Day this year, may we suggest Martha Ostenso’s Wild Geese, which portrays the very worst father in all of CanLit? It’s a great read, but more than that, the tyrant Caleb Gare will make your own dad look really good in comparison. Another creepy dad reigns in Jonathan Bennett’s Entitlement, which is a fun, twistily-plotted novel that your dad might enjoy reading at the cottage this summer. (Or he might like any of the books recommended in Bennett's Power and Politics reading list).

city

So creepy, we’re glad he’s not anybody’s dad is the protagonist of Tony Burgess People Live Still in Cashton Corners, a perfect gift for the father who likes to blur the lines between true crime and disturbing fiction. And how about a couple of legal thrillers: Robert Rotenberg’s Old City Hall, and also his latest novel, The Guilty Plea? A father/son relationship is at the heart of Andrew Pyper’s terrifying novel The Killing Circle, and also in Thomas King’s just-as-mysterious Truth and Bright Water.

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Someone Who Writes

This week's guest post is from Angie Abdou, finalist in Canada Reads for The Bone Cage (published by NeWest Press) and author of the just released The Canterbury Trail (published by Brindle and Glass). In this post Angie speaks frankly and humourously about what happened when she discovered that the glamourous handle of "Writer" is elusive. She finds real meaning and substance in a humbler concept: she is someone who writes.

photo_angiebrock

I remember longing for the day I could call myself a Writer. I wasn’t exactly sure when that would happen, couldn’t be positive what transformative accomplishment would allow me to look in the mirror and say, “Ah, good morning Important Famous Writer Person.”

At first, I figured it would be as simple as publishing any piece of creative work. However, the momentous occasion of my first publication came and went without me feeling in the least bit transformed. Though I’d published a piece of fiction in a noteworthy and respected journal, I didn’t notice people treating me with a newfound awe, reverence, or even respect. My mom, it’s true, was quite impressed, but everyone else seemed unfazed (even as I waved said journal in their faces), and I felt more or less, well, exactly the same: self-conscious, insecure, and eager for approva …

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