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Thursday, January 27, 2005

World Book Capital 2005 - Montreal

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, Montréal has been chosen to be the World Book Capital for 2005. This is the fifth time the title of World Book Capital has been awarded by UNESCO. The inaugural city was Madrid in 2001, followed by Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003) and Antwep in 2004. The programme of the World Book Capital begins each year on April 23rd and runs for a year.

Montréal City Hall, at least, seems to be aware of this, thank goodness, as their official communiqué shows. However, I have seen little else on the web from other Montréal book people in anticipation of this year long event. Time to get a move on people!

Bangkok is eyeing 'World Book Capital' title for 2008. Among the criteria for being chosen is the potential of the book market, the number of publishers, local readers, and libraries, and their locations.

After Montreal, from April 2006 to April 2007, Turin will be the new World Book Capital.
UNESCO has recently given the prize to a city that has not only a rich tradition of excellence with its cultural structures, but a city that for almost twenty years has been the host of the International Book Fair, one of the most important fairs in Europe of its kind.

UPDATE: 24 April 2005

Gratuitous Booker Name Dropping

It was not ten short days ago when I finished reading Nabakov's Butterfly aka Tolkien’s Gown and Other Stories of Great Authors and Rare Books and felt compelled to email Rick Gekoski to say what a fun read it was. He read my brief email and within a matter of minutes responded:

And thank you for a great quote. I love that Ballard, and will use it as if it were my own.

The quote to which he was referring was in my email footer:

JG Ballard, the author of Empire of The Sun and Crash, said that he thought publishers were right to sell their works in any way they could. On the whole publishers do a very good job. Any fool can write a novel but it takes real genius to sell it, he said.

Today, Rick Gekoski was boosted futher into the limelight as he was just named to the judging panel of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2005. "Chaired by Professor John Sutherland, the strong line-up consists of fiction editor of the Times Literary Supplement, Lindsay Duguid; writer and antiquarian book dealer, Rick Gekoski; novelist, Josephine Hart; and literary editor of The Evening Standard, David Sexton."

I imagine the judges will now be quite busy culling and reading the masses of books and picking their favourites. My 2005 prediction, if you are interested, is that the winner, a male, will be controversial, the ubiquitous British odds makers will be wrong, and that I will probably buy at least one signed first UK edition of the losers on the shortlist and miss out reading the winner's book entirely. Some things never change.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Father William Bernard MacDonald

My Great-Grand Uncle, Father William Bernard MacDonald of Stellarton, Nova Scotia before and after digital retouching in 2005.

Name: William B. MACDONALD
Given Name: William B.
Surname: MacDonald
Birth: 15 Apr 1849 in West Merigomish, Pictou Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Death: 24 Jul 1918 in Lourdes, Pictou Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Title: Father
Occupation: Priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada

Whisky at £500 a dram spices up haggis

By David Derbyshire, Consumer Affairs Editor(Filed: 25/01/2005)
A Scottish chef has created the world's most expensive haggis to celebrate Burns Night tonight.
It is made with finest Scotch beef, boiled, as tradition dictates, in a sheep's stomach and infused with one of the rarest whiskies in the world. The cost: £2,850.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Douglas Coupland in Ottawa

Douglas Coupland reads from Eleanor Rigby at the Library and Archives of Canada Auditorium - 8 p.m.

UPDATE: [11:10pm]

It was near 30 below tonight. Despite the weather and Monday night schedule, Mr. Coupland drew a decent sized crowd of mainly 20 somethings. Scruffy lot I must say. The spirit (and clothing) of Che Guevera is alive and well in Ottawa it seems. My impression of Douglas Coupland? He looked, well, haggard. And talked similarly. What's all the fuss about him I wonder? In any event, I believe it's sheer marketing genius to use the 'Dorian Gray' mid-90s photo of him on the dust jacket.

After waiting over an hour in line for him to sign, rather, 'stamp' my book I did the readerly thing and asked him an impropmtu question when my turn came to meet him. I asked of him his favourite Canadian author (20th century). He cautiously replied that he didn't much like Canadian literature at all. What was I expecting? It was a dumbish question. He went on lamenting, in a whiny way, the typical Canadian (immigrant) stories or growing up in a small town and so on. He did admit to liking Gord Downie's Coke Machine Glow and that he thinks Alice Munro is the best writer Canada has. However, in mid-response, I gather he liked my Kanuk winter coat, as he fondled the distinctive owl patch on my lapel. I felt uneasy. He then signed my book, gave it the obligatory stamp 'with warmest personal regards douglas coupland' (the irony benumbs me), and shook my hand. I was off. Julie was graciously warming up the car in the lot. I promptly asked her for the Purell.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Favourite things

Forget Oprah... Here is a list of my favourite things.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Matthew Alexander reviews Feed My Dear Dogs by Emma Richler

"Like her much-admired collection of short stories Sister Crazy, Emma Richler's complex and moving first novel centres around the extraordinary and talented Weiss family." Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: A damaged film

I saw the odd film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou last night and found it to be the least funny of the three films in that sericomic artsy style of Wes Anderson's films. But at the same time, it was one of the few films that made me think awhile after its viewing. I wasn't sure that I was supposed to laugh in any event. It was half price Tuesday and there was only 12 people in the theatre for the 7 pm viewing. It did not bode well. After watching Anderson's film I was trying to sum up the film's experience with Julie but found the words did not come easily. It seems like a type of post modern comedy in which there is a sense of damage or incompleteness. For those who liked Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a must see. For those of you who did not see or like any of the previous two films, save your money.

We join Team Zissou in medias res during an Italian screening of their latest aquatic documentary in which a Bill Murray's right-hand man, Esteban du Plantier, is seemingly eaten by a 'jaguar shark'. The adventure thus begins anew with a new filmic quest to hunt down the killer mythical shark with some cameras and some dynamite. Team Zissou is an assemblage of odd characters who are armed with the requisite red toque, speedo and Glock pistol. There is a sense of 'damage' or 'incompleteness' to the film on many levels. It is intentional. Team Zissou is damaged or incomplete with the death of Esteban du Plantier, played by Seymour Cassel. Owen Wilson's character is damaged with the uncertainty of knowing whether Steve Zissou is his father. Cate Blanchet is damaged in her pregnancy without a father. Jeff Goldblum's character is damaged in the fact that is is only "partially gay" (what ever that means). Steve Zissou is estranged from his wife played by Angelica Huston. The two critter-cam'd dolphins are apparently useless. Even the pirate's dog, Cody, is damaged, having only three legs and been abandoned. The adventure is also damaged in that mid-way through its mission, team Zissou's ship, The Belafonte, is attacked by pirates. There is a certain two dimensionalness to the film. The Belafonte is primarily shown as a cut-away prop.

The film is quirky like that. The intellectual gags are semi-humorous (as intended?): Cate Blanchet's character is reading aloud the six volume novel, Remberance of Things Past by Marcel Proust and is currently reading from Swann's Way. During the night, Owen Wilson's character overhears this and goes to Blanchet's room and asks permission to join her reading. She explains that she is reading this to her baby in her womb. She further offers to catch him up on the novel but he refuses and believes he can get the gist of the story eventually. Yeah, right.

The film ends on another tragic note I will not give away in this post and the sense of damage and incompleteness continues to plague Team Zissou. Is The Life Aquatic the end of this trilogy of films? It certainly is a quirky tribute to its inspiration, Jacques Cousteau. As the credits roll we find out the film is dedicated to Jacques Cousteau. Cousteau's ship was The Calypso. From IMDB web site trivia: "Zissou's ship is called the Belafonte. Harry Belafonte became famous singing Calypso songs."

Monday, January 03, 2005

Best Christmas Movie

Bad Santa with Billy Bob Thornton is the funniest Christmas movie I have ever seen. Be sure to see this one with the kids. Or not. The film is directed by Terry Zwigoff--the man who brought us into Robert Crumb's world in, the eponymously named 1994 documentary, Crumb.