Articles by Dan
"From time to time, Western literature undergoes an upheaval so momentous that its entire landscape is transfigured. The old order falls away, or rather is devoured and transformed by its own offspring, and the tremors carry on for decades, even centuries, with fault lines spreading out in all directions. Modernism is not a movement, nor even a way of thinking, but an event: an event with which any serious writer has, in some way or another, to engage, and to which they should respond."
Now, one of the problems of attending the Raincoast Sales Conference last month in Vancouver was that pretty much all of April disappeared without a trace, so when the excellent Hesperus Press launched their new blog, I completely missed it. Fortunately, Mark at Ready Steady Blog pointed me in the right direction by posting about an splendid rant by Hesperus Press' Katya Aplin last week:
I simply do not understand how a tiny company, as we and some notable others are, can say 'what the hell: this is a damned sight more interesting, exciting, than Dan Brown, and if we love it others will' and sell enough copies to keep itself in tea and biscuits, and other publishers cannot-- I honestly don't believe that our society has 'dumbed down'. I think we as an industry need to provide the range to allow readers to make their own decisions, for god's sake let someone choose the author with the funny name. And the media need to expand their attentions to more than the books with the largest marketing department behind them. That said, we do a nice line in badges, if anybody wants.
It makes me want to go out and buy some translated fiction by some guy with one vowel in his name!
AND if you are wondering why I chose the cover of FATAL EGGS by Mikhail Bulgakov, as opposed to one of Hesperus' more recent titles, not only is the book awesome, but The Elegant Variation Blog decided to post about Bulgakov this morning so it seemed appropriate. AND I like the cover - frogs with red eyes ROCK.
May 07, 2007
A book that I've been pressing into the hands of my friends who don't like fiction is John Ghazvinian's compelling UNTAPPED: THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA'S OIL. Ghazvinian traipsed across Africa interviewing just about everyone he met, warlords, missionaries, oil executives, and cab drivers, and discussed (in alarming detail) an industry that has been a decidedly mixed blessing for the continent.
UNTAPPED is packed with anecdotes and fascinating detail, and as Salon put it so succinctly at the weekend, Ghazvinian "delivers an account that would be wildly entertaining if the story he was telling wasn't so full of heartbreaking poverty, venality, corruption and violence."
Basically it's brilliant, but don't just take my word for it - Here are some online resources to help you make up your own mind:
The Boston Globe (PRINT)
Charlottesville Podcasting Network (PODCAST)
There's a Zen-like serenity to John Porcellino's self-published King-Cat Comics--but in 1989, you never would have seen it coming. When Porcellino founded the Xeroxed zine 18 years ago, he was an Illinois college kid bursting with self-doubt, anger, and punk-fueled sarcasm, all of which spilled onto the pages of King-Cat. It's almost funny then that his new book--a richly annotated, 384-page hardcover called King-Cat Classix, published by the high-profile Drawn & Quarterly--compiles the lion's share of the scratchy first seven years of the zine. While there are hints, especially toward the book's end, of Porcellino's emerging maturity, his early autobiographical sketches revel in crude surrealism and wise-ass humor--all while maintaining a profound sweetness that would come to dominate King-Cat.
Browsing a fine local independent bookstore on Monday I was very pleased to see a big stack of the very cool Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career of An Imaginary Soul Superstar by Dori Hadar near the register.
By a strange coincidence, alignment of the stars, quirk of nature and/or fate if you will, the always interesting Bookburger (Feeding Hungry Readers!) posted a review of Mingering Mike on the very same day. Spooky.
April 30, 2007
The University of California Riverside news website has a neat online video interview with Marlene Zuk author of Riddled with Life: Friendly Worms, Ladybug Sex, And The Parasites That Make Us Who We Are. Yes that does say Ladybug Sex. Honestly, who knew?
Anyway, check out the interview. I really don't remember science being this interesting at school...
April 30, 2007
Pirates are, of course, the new wizards, by which I mean THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!
Melinda Long's hilariously awesome Pirates Don't Change Diapers is currently number 10 on the New York Times Bestseller list for kids books, Pirates of the Caribbean III is out on May 25th, and Colin Woodard author of The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down, published in a week or two, is interviewed on NPR. The whole interview is available online from their website and there are lots of other nifty links for your pirating pleasure. Arr! Indeed!
The Knack, a blog about new products, people, places and other exciting stuff, has just posted a review of The Smart Traveler's Passport: 399 Tips from Seasoned Travelers by Erik Torkells and the Readers of Budget Travel:
Filled with actual helpful tips, this little guide will get you safely around anywhere you need to go.
The help comes the way from Torkells and readers of Budget Travel, so they are what I would call "tried and true." Jim Citron, of West Lebanon, New Hampshire writes that "If you arrive in a foreign city after hours (and you can't use an ATM), convert only the money you'll need for the night. Some exchange booths offer a less favourable rate after banks close and then switch back to competitive rates when banks reopen."
Now that's news I can use.
The Knack's, new side project Pan Magazine also launched last week. An online journal written for Canadians who are passionate about their food, Pan is going look at the recipes, ingredients, people and experiences that make our mouths water. The next issue will be out in June, and - for all the budding writers out there - they are looking for submissions.
In the meantime, I should mention that the Pan Magazine Blog is featuring some hot titles from our friends Gibbs Smith, including a personal favourite Faster! I'm Starving: 100 Dishes in 25 Minutes or Less. NOW THAT'S NEWS I CAN USE.
I read a lot, and I went back twice to former Yugoslavia and put a few thousand kilometres on rental cars driving to the various places and landscapes that appear in the book--Sarajevo, Belgrade, rural Bosnia and Serbia, gorgeous medieval monasteries in Serbia, ancient mosques. I met a lot of generous and accommodating people--Serb, Muslim, Croat and also Yugoslavs who don't sport an ethnic identity--who were often a bit bewildered that this Canadian guy was writing a novel about their history and culture.
Published by Raincoast in 2006, Drina Bridge follows the story of Chris, a Torontonian traveling in Yugoslavia as civil war tears the country apart. Hoping to unearth the secrets of his dead lover's past, Chris' narrative becomes intertwined with the memoir of a hospitalized and embittered writer Slobodan Kusic. The result is a dark and courageous story of loss and reconciliation.
This book could be read and enjoyed for its interesting environs, its likeable writer, the political insight it offers or its striking and elegant prose.
I enjoyed it for the all of these but primarily for the questions Handler is brave enough to ask. While her answers to humanity's problems are not entirely satisfactory, it is hard to blame her for falling short. In the full course of human history, far too many people have claimed to have solved these conundrums, while no one actually has.
But Handler has the courage to look within and without, attempting to find a resolution and admitting what she does not know. The best passages are when she gropes for and is eluded by answers. For example, she writes of a New York protest:
"I watch my friends walking and chanting. They are good people, so good that they care about men and women and children they do not know and will never know. They are the conscience of this nation; they will not let these delegates forget what this administration is perpetrating. But this, what we are doing right now - is it helping? Or is it pushing us further apart? We didn't come here to convince the delegates to change their minds, or to win their esteem. But I can see what they are thinking. Faced with hatred, they hate us right back. That's what we've all learned to do. What would we risk if we tried something different?"
If you would like to hear Marisa Handler talk about activism and her book Loyal to the Sky, two new podcast interviews with her are available from the Intrepid Liberal Journal and from Uprising Radio.