Interview: Douglas Roche, Peacemakers

If you polled the average person about the state of the world today, chances are the response would be built around catastrophes, from climate change to financial collapses to human rights violations. Relatively few would jump to the fact that the global extreme poverty rate has been cut in half since 1990. Developing countries are developing faster. Infant mortality rates are dropping. So are disease rates. Last month, the World Health Organization declared that 10 Asian countries, including India, are now officially free of polio. (Measles has returned to Alberta, but that’s a different story.)

This week’s column is about Canada’s most decorated peacemaker, and the good news we won’t let ourselves believe.

Read the whole thing here.

Interview: Padma Viswanathan, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

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“I remember that kid blankness,” she says, reached by phone in Toronto. “The information comes, and you have no emotional template into which to fit it. It was as though the bombing made me so aware of the vast realms of human psychology that I had no access to.”

At school, Viswanathan had been intrigued by uprisings such as the Communist Revolution in Russia. “But this seemed so random. So vicious. I couldn’t understand it as a political act, at the time.”

This week’s column is a profile of Padma Viswanathan, whose new novel, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao, takes a hard fictional look at the Air India bombing and the unlikely connections that we make in the wake of tragedy.

I liked talking with her a lot. For one thing, she confirmed the legitimacy of this photo—her parents used to rent paintings from the EPL back when she was a kid. For another, she currently lives not in Toronto or Brooklyn, but Arkansas. Which means she automatically jumps five notches in my books.

Read the whole story here.

Interview: Fiona Staples, Saga

The first paperback volume of Saga (Image Comics), made up of issues one through six of the monthly comic series, was released in October 2012—approximately 74 weeks ago.

It has spent 53 of those weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

This week’s column is a profile of one of my very favourite comics artists, and who just happens to live a three-hour drive away from Edmonton. Fiona Staples is in town tomorrow to sign copies of volume three of Saga.

Read the whole story—including the excellent moment where she asked her co-creator whether the cast was going to be “automatically white”—here.

Lisa Martin-DeMoor and Jessica Hiemstra, How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting

What strikes her most, though, are the new stories she hears. “One of my aunts lost a baby shortly after birth, the other experienced multiple miscarriages,” Stonehouse writes. “The sister-in-law offering the baby clothes was once a twin but her sister died at birth. Yet my parents-in-law never talked about this, even to her. Such stories surface only when strictly necessary, after the fact, and never before.”

In last week’s column, I interviewed one of the editors of How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting, a new anthology of essays about pregnancy, parenthood, and loss. I learned a lot from this book.

Read the whole story here.

Interview: Chip Kidd

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And she said, ‘I hope that’s not too mean.’ I remember thinking, ‘Wow. If that’s your idea of mean, I’m home free.’ At least they didn’t tell me it was a total piece of s—- — which was something that I was used to hearing [at Penn State].”

In this week’s column, I got to interview Chip Kidd! The great Chip Kidd, who’s designed more books in your home library than you probably realize. (He’s also written a couple of books about Batman.)

Kidd is in Edmonton next week to deliver a free public talk about book design at MacEwan University. And if you see him around town, be nice: he’s also finishing up the cover for the new Haruki Murakami novel.

Read the whole story here.

Interview: Grant Lawrence, The Lonely End of the Rink

The Lonely End of the Rink is positively saturated with nicknames for the NHL players being discussed, no matter how briefly or tangentially. There’s got to be at least one per page, on average. A sampling, from flipping through the book at random: Andy “The Organ” Moog, Jim “The Thrill” Nill, “Captain” Kirk McLean, Dave “Scrub Brush” Babych, and Mason “Everybody Loves” Raymond.

In this week’s column, CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence and I talk hockey, bullying, and nicknames. So many nicknames.

Lawrence’s new memoir is in stores now.

Read the full story here.

Interview: Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Space can teach us plenty about the rest of the universe. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth goes into exhaustive detail about how much time is spent on scientific observation and research, sometimes on the astronauts themselves. (Hadfield says he was “peeing for science … about 25 per cent of the time.”)

In this week’s column, I got to interview (and get a shameless photo with) a genuine spaceman.

Plus, as it turns out, Hadfield’s new memoir is good! I learned stuff.

Read the whole story here.

Interview: Marty Chan, Ehrich Weisz Chronicles/Barnabus Bigfoot

Last week, Marty Chan posted the following message on Twitter: “All the dapper authors wear this at their book launches.” And let me say, right off the bat, that whatever you’re picturing right now, you’re wrong. Attached to Chan’s tweet was an image of a modified bowler hat, complete with miniature clocks, springs, a padlock, and two overlapping pairs of goggles that light up with the flick of a switch.

This week’s column is about Edmonton kids’ author Marty Chan, who’s got two new books out this fall. In one, a young Harry Houdini teams up with Nikola Tesla to fight time-travel crime; in the other, a sasquatch is ridiculed for possessing only normal-sized feet.

Read the whole thing here.

Interview: Kadrush Radogoshi

For the next two months, Radogoshi was held in isolation in a tiny, windowless cell. There was nothing to do. He didn’t even have anything to sit on, as his bed was folded up into the wall each morning. The only thing he had to look at was a series of 32 optical illusions on one wall of the cell. “They were to make us crazy,” Radogoshi says. “I studied psychology. I know. These were hallucinations.”

By the time he was released from jail, Radogoshi was 30 kilograms lighter than when he’d arrived. “After that,” he says, “I was active in political life.”

This week’s column is about a celebrated Kosovo writer who’s been quietly living in Edmonton for the past three years, trying to escape his past and start over writing in English.

Read the whole thing here.