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Monday, March 28, 2005

Aww...the big baby!

Seriously. That's one fricken-big baby head!

Julie and her sister, Carole, visited the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, this past Sunday. Though the Gallery now charges $6 to see the permanent collection (free on Thursday's after 5pm) I think this 'sculpture' of the creepy big baby is worth the price of admission.

I have another higher-quality photo of the baby alone, but I fear that its true 'hugiosity' would be lost if not depicted with a person beside it. You can also peer behind its hollow head and see how this fibreglass work was constructed. Wow. No new baby smell, however.

Got an email today (24 April 2005) commenting on the art and this weblog entry. See below for update:
Thanks to the great resource we know as the Internet, the sculpture, I found out, is by Ron Mueck: Untitled (Head of a Baby) 2003. Made from Silicone, fibreglass resin, and mixed media. It was Purchased 2003 by the National Gallery of Canada © Ron Mueck. Click here to see more details about this gargantuan head.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Bibliography of Weblogs (Focus on Library Blogs)

Via Waterboro Library Blog: some light reading...

BlogBib is "an annotated bibliography on weblogs and blogging, with a focus on library/librarian blogs." It's extensive. Sections: Definitions and History; Articles and Interviews About Blogs; Blogging at Your Library; Blogging Tools; Select Librarian/Library Blogs; Books on Blogging; Studies on Blogging; Presentations on Blogging.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Gently Down the Stream

What a fun night. Too bad I missed Ray Robertson the last time he was in town for Moody Food. What was I thinking? Pick up his new book, Gently Down the Stream, I think you'll have a great time with it. Tonight was the official Ottawa launch of the book by the way. This book is published by Cormorant Books as was his first novel, Home Movies (1997). It's hot of the presses. It's filled with naughty words and has a dog story or two. The entertaining Ray Robertson is currenty working on a new novel. You can read a small portion of chapter one on Michael Callaghan's web site The Exile Quarterly. This is the first online appearance of Robertson's current novel.

You may also know Mr. Robertson from his many appearances on TVOntario (TVO). TVO stunned readers and its audience last week when they announced they are cancelling their popular book show, Imprint. What were they thinking?
From Canadian Press:
"TORONTO -- TVOntario is cancelling two of its regular programs, the award-winning book series Imprint and the health series Second Opinion, resulting in the loss of between eight and 10 jobs, says the Canadian Media Guild. The provincial education broadcaster has made no official statement yet.
"Management has stated that its priority this year is to generate more revenue," says Carol Burtin Fripp, the union's TVO branch president. "At the same time, though, our capacity to produce programs is being cut back."
The union says TVO's eventual plan is to tighten its budget belt for the 2005-2006 fiscal year by cutting its work force by eight per cent, or 40 positions.
Created by the Ontario government 35 years ago and chaired by Isabel Bassett, TVO says it has more than 100,000 viewer members."

Ray Robertson's next reading will be March 31, 2005, 9pm at The Gladstone Hotel in the Melody Bar.

From the Gladstone Hotel website: "A book about dogs, monogamy, and karaoke. The Gladstone Hotel and karaoke in the Melody Bar play a significant role in Ray's latest book, so it is only fitting to launch it here. All are welcome to celebrate and belt out the tunes. From The Doors to John Denver - nobody is safe! At 9:30PM enter a karaoke contest with judges Ray Robertson, Ian Brown of CBC's Talking Books and Martin Tielli of the Rheostatics."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Hubert Aquin, Next Episode

La Presse - Montréal Wednesday March 16 2005

"It happened exactly twenty-eight years ago plus a day. On a Tuesday March 15th, like yesterday. The snow had started to melt. The mild temperature regiistered 6 degrees Celsius. The morning's headlines reported that the Montreal Canadiens had broken a hockey record, that the fortune of the billionaire Howard Hughes was but a shadow of what it had been, that there were a million unemployed in Canada, and that for [Québec premier] René Lévesque Ottawa was synonymous with inertia.
A little after two o'clock in the afternoon, Sherry Monahan, a 35 year-old nurse, born in Vancouver of Irish parents, was bringing her dog Mandy back from a dog-care centre. The shortest route to her home took her on to the tree-lined laneway that ran through the grounds of the Villa Maria convent school. Half-way up the lane, she suddenly stopped in front of a scarlet, two door Ford Granada, parked on the side of the road. It wasn't so much the car that gave her the chills but the two male feet that extended from behind the car. Her eyes stopped for a moment on the brown Oxford shoes, then moved up the impeccable blue pants with fine white stripes on which the barrel of a gun had fallen. Suddenly comprehending what had happened, Sherry turned sharply aside, trying not to vomit.
The man was called Hubert Aquin. He was 47 years-old and, four months after the election of the [separatist] Parti Québecois as Québec's government, Aquin had just shot himself in the face with the shotgun he'd inherited from his father.
Thus begins a gripping story, in a thick volume of 865 pages, published in English a year and a half ago by the McGill-Queen's University Press. Bearing the laconic title of HA! (the initials of Hubert Aquin) this work, written by the Montreal filmmaker Gordon Sheppard, is the investigation of a planned suicide, recounted with dialogues, music and décors. During the major part of his adult life, Hubert spoke of suicide. Duirng almost an equal amount of time, Gordon Sheppard sought to know why that subject, rather than sovereignty, literature or renewal, so fascinated this great Québec writer.
The final product is a book unlike any other. It's a living hybrid, practical and palpitating, that has more in common with a psychological thriller than with an essay. Morever, it doesn't address itself to an elite but to anyone who wants to know who, really, Hubert Aquin was, and why we should not forget him.
I speak about this today because it's the 28th anniversay of Aquin's death, because it's the 40th anniversary of his first novel Prochain épisode [Next Episode], but also because HA! so captivated me that it enriched and overwhelmed me.
Until I read HA! I only knew one or two things about Hubert Aquin: that he was a great writer, who was also a powerful intellectual, one of the original nationalists, a failed terrorist, and the author of grand, thoughtful texts. I hadn't read any of his books, not even when, by the the greatest of ironies, Prochain épisode, the hallucinatory story of a separatist who wants to take up arms, won the battle of the books competition [Canada Reads] at CBC in 2003, and soon found itself heading the best-seller list in English Canada.
The noisy media attention given Prochain épisode in 2003 convinced me of Aquin's immense talent, but not of the necessity of reading him. HA!, yes. Because this unearthly book, to which Gordon Sheppard consecrated more than 25 years of his life, is a reference work as extraordinary as it is impossible to ignore. In a hundred years, when we all will have disappeared and the Hubert Aquin pavillion at UQAM will have been torn down or turned into a Price Club outlet, HA! will tell our heirs who we were, how we lived, and why, sometimes, we died.
HA! is not only the autopsy of a spectacular suicide, regarded by some as the most successful of Aquin's works. It's an exhaustive portrait of modern Québec, with its greatness, its miseries, its ambitions, its weaknesses and failures, and its drifting about. Entirely made up of interviews with witnesses, hence of living, animated words, which relate the most insignificant details as well as the greatest events, HA! takes us back to Hubert Aquin's roots as well as to those of a Québec in a period of great change, capable of the greatest advances but also profoundly trapped by a past from which it hasn't succeeded in freeing itself.
Gordon Sheppard told me yesterday he wrote this book for foreign readers so that the works of Aquin would finally enjoy the international reputation which had always eluded them. But at this point in our history, as the memory of Aquin is being forgotten day by day to the point that it now refers to nothing more than a building in concrete [the pavillion at the University of Québec in Montréal that bears his name], it's urgent that this book shine forth here [in Québec], in our bookstores as well as in our libraries and universities.
Until quite recently, for legal reasons Sheppard couldn't publish the French version of this book, even if all the interviews were originally conducted in French, including those with Andrée Yanacopoulo, Aquin's widow, as well as those with Gérald Godin, Pierre Bourgault, Yves Michaud, Jacques Godbout and others. This legal obstacle was lifted in 2000, but no contract for a French version has yet been signed with a Québec publishing house.
Money is a big factor here. Above and beyond the size of the book, there is the graphic complexity of laying out the many photographs and drawings included in the book, as well as the very compelling reproduction, on lined yellow paper, of the suicide letter that Aquin left his wife, plus the reproduced postcard sent from Switzerland to his son Emmanuel two weeks before his death.
The interprise is costly, but the pedagogic, literary and cultural impact that this book is likely to have on future generations has no price.
In taking his life with his father's gun, on the tree-lined roadway of the Villa Maria convent school on March 15 1977, Hubert Aquin believed it was all over for him. He was mistaken. There has been a follow-up. There is now a next episode 865 pages long which bears a title comprised of two letters of the alphabet.: HA!, an _expression of surprise, if not that of a great laugh when one discovers that there is a life after death."

Canadian on List of Top 20 Evil Characters

Via The Guardian online news:

"Villains are the more convincing and interesting characters," says Rodney Troubridge, a key adult buyer at Waterstone's who helped compile the list. "In fiction a villain is usually more convincing than a hero, although it seems to be easier to write about a hero in non-fiction. A writer has to really use their imagination to create a villain and I think readers react to that effort."
According to Waterstone's, several different strands can be identified within the titles picked out. Books which help the reader understand the nature of evil by putting them right in the centre of it, such as Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark or Gil Courtemanche's A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, can be uncomfortable reads but have a lasting impact on the reader. "

The Waterstone's villains and anti-heroes library list:

1. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov; The devil goes down to Moscow.
2. Perfume by Patrick Suskind; A vile crime carried out by an eloquent criminal makes for moral confusion.
3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding; The thin line between human reason and animal instinct is crossed.
4. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk; Much nastier than the film. A cocktail of hatred, anger and destruction.
5. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess; The ultimate novel of teenage delinquency.
6. Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally; The best and worst of human nature is exposed.
7. A Sunday at the Pool by Gil Courtemanche; Takes the reader right to the heart of the genocide in Rwanda.
8. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson; Drugs, excess and paranoia. Everything we want from our anti-heroes.
9. Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre; An anti-hero for the Michael Moore generation?
10. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov; Disturbing and incendiary subject matter - but who is the real innocent in this story?
11. The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart; What happens when you replace human reasoning with a throw of the dice?
12. The Color Purple by Alice Walker; Exposing the brutal reality of life in the American south between the wars.
13. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The definitive novel about racism, making us question our own views and morals.
14. American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis; Spend time with a witty, attractive serial killer.
15. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald; Behind the chocolate-box exterior, we think Gatsby shows all the signs of a real anti-hero. When it comes to consumerism run rife, he gives Patrick Bateman a run for his money.
16. The Collector by John Fowles; Collecting butterflies is bad enough, but art students?
17. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger; Every teenager's favourite anti-hero.
18. The Secret History by Donna Tartt; One of the most gripping stories ever, leaving the reader feeling implicated at the end.
19. On The Road by Jack Kerouac; Two anti-heroes for the price of one in this classic of the Beat generation.
20. The Outsider by Albert Camus; A random act of violence puts the values of society under an uncomfortable microscope.

Ray Robertson at the Manx

Plan 99's End of Winter Reading Series continues with a reading from Ray Robertson Saturday, March 19 at The Manx at 5pm.

"Robertson’s first novel, Home Movies, won the Alta Lynd Cooke Prize and his second novel, Heroes, received considerable acclaim. Ray is a regular reviewer and columnist for the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. He is also a frequent guest on CBC Radio’s “Talking Books,” CBC Newsworld’s Hot Type, and TVO’s Imprint. His third novel, Moody Food (2002) was picked as a Book of the Year By The Globe and Mail and The Vancouver Sun. This reading will launch Ray’s fourth novel, Gently Down the Stream." -Chris Swail

Saturday, March 12, 2005

John Metcalf, C.M. (Order of Canada)


John Metcalf, C.M. (Member) of Ottawa, Ontario

"His is one of the most colourful and passionate voices in Canadian literature. A writer whose work has been featured in numerous anthologies and literary journals, John Metcalf is also an editor known for his consistent encouragement and championing of up-and-coming writers. He has compiled dozens of anthologies of Canadian fiction, giving voice for the first time to some of Canada's greatest short story writers. As senior editor at The Porcupine's Quill press, a job he does on a voluntary basis, he continues to bring emerging writers to the fore. Although as a critic he is often blunt, he is nonetheless broadly respected for his dedication to excellence in Canadian publishing."
Here is an example of how Metcalf inscribed one of his books to me. This title is one of his seminal books critical of 2oth century Canadian Literary history, aptly entitled What is a Canadian Literature? (1988). "Arguments that must be fought over". Indeed. John Metcalf's influence in the formation and development of Canadian Literature is profound and this latest honour of the Order of Canada is an important step in recognizing his work to date. His family and family of writers must be proud.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Shortlist for the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

The shortlist for the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award was announced today by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Patron of the Award, Councillor Michael Conaghan.

The shortlist titles are:
  • Gardening at Night by Diane Awerbuck
  • The Half Brother by Lars Saabye Christensen translated from the Norwegian by Kenneth Steven
  • The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut
  • Elle by Douglas Glover
  • Phantom Pain by Arnon Grunberg translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett
  • The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
  • Willenbrock by Christoph Hein translated from the German by Philip Boehm
  • Deafening by Frances Itani
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

Frances Itani, talking from Hurst, Ontario, was on CBC Radio this afternoon with Brent Bambury expressing her happiness about being on the shortlist. She also had doubly-happy news in that the film rights have been recently sold so that a movie may be made from her first novel, Deafening (2003).

I am also pleased for the talented Damon Galgut, whom I met briefly at the Ottawa International Writers Festival (OIWF) last fall, and for fellow Canadian nominee, Douglas Glover for Elle. The winner will be announced this June 15, 2005. Though the shortlist is impressive and varied, I still think that the omission of Gordon Sheppard's HA! A Self-Murder Mystery is, well, a mystery.

The Exile 3 Edited by Ezra Pound

I have just received a recent aquistion for my Morley Callaghan collection. It is the third issue of The Exile, an expatriate magazine from the late 1920's. Only four issues of The Exile appeared between the spring of 1927 and the autumn of 1928 while the poet, Ezra Pound, lived in Rapallo, Italy.

This issue, Spring of 1928, has pieces by W.B. Yeats, Louis Zukofsky, 'E.P.', John Rodker, R.C. Dunning, Payson Loomis, Morley Callaghan, Clifford Gessler, Howard Weeks, and Herman Spector. The image below is the actual size the this little magazine. The magazine, more like a chapbook, originally sold for 50 cents and has 109 pages. There are only two ads for Covici's other publications at the end of the magazine: one for Ezra Pound's Antheil [$2.00] and the other for Apples and Madonnas by C.J. Bulliet [$3.50].

It amazes me how a literary magazine such as this can be devoid of any advertising unlike the ad-filled magazines of today. This is a fine example literature for literature's sake I suppose. Issue number one, it is proclaimed at the back of the book by Pound, that "America could absorb 300 copies" (of the total print run of 500). The 'editorial' written by Pound is priceless and concerns the duties levied upon this magazine by the Port of Noo York [sic]. He also wrote a nineteen point manifesto of sorts which helps explain the state of Mr. Pound's political and artistic opinions. "Quite simply", it ends, "I want a new civilization."

Craig Monk explains the situation thus:

The Exile could not be considered a magazine, according to American law, because
it failed to meet the definition of a periodical on two crucial points. First,
it was not considered a precisely dated publication; the customs appraiser
maintained that "Spring 1927" could not be considered a specific date. Second,
the Exile did not contain a declaration of the intervals at which Pound expected
it to appear. Moreover, because he planned to bring forth the magazine only
three times per year, the Exile would not be eligible for the reduced postage
afforded quarterlies, either. Once the shipment cleared customs, Price proposed
to cut Pound a cheque for $37.90; this would equal their agreed rate minus the
duty and penalty. "Now these errors are not your fault," Price assured the poet,
"but they were more clearly not mine; and I can't afford to pay for them....
It's hell, and I sincerely hope it will not cause you to stop publication"
(Price Manscripts 4).

Particularly interesting to me is the contribution of Morley Callaghan. The short story Ancient Lineage is his first entry in Pound's third issue of The Exile. Primarily known for his short stories at the time of this publication, Callaghan was anticipating the publication of his first novel, Strange Fugitive in 1928. Callaghan had already been published with some notoriety in important literary magazines and books of the day: This Quarter Volume 1 Nos. 2 and 3; The Toronto Star Weekly; the first and second American Caravan: A Yearbook in American Literature; and in transition Nos. 3 and 12. He was twenty five at the time of his appearance in The Exile Number 3.

More information, among many other references to Pound and The Exile, can be found by reading Craig Monk's excellent article here. If you are interested in seeing what the cover of issue number one looked like click here.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Pho Good enough to eat...

Our favourite Vietnamese Pho restaurant, among many in Ottawa's "China Town" is the Golden Turtle Restaurant. Although the photo below is not technically, Pho, it is a "dry soup" of rice noodles topped with juicy beef, crispy fried spring rolls with jumbo shrimp. This is Julie's favourite dish, while I prefer to have the Pho/soup variety with some hot sauce for an extra kick. If you have not had a steamy bowl of Pho before I urge you to try!