Too Many Books In The Kitchen

I'm Michael Hingston, books columnist for the Edmonton Journal (new columns every other Friday).

My first novel, The Dilettantes, was just published by Freehand Books. Here's everything you might want to know about it.

Other topics under discussion: podcasts, strange sodas, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Moby-Dick.

Email me, if you like, at hingston [at] gmail [dot] com. I'm available for hire and I like free books.

WRITING

Favourites: 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013
What I Read: 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 (so far)

All Reviews /
All Interviews /
All Columns

Mark Abley (1)
Henry Adams (1)
Chris Adrian (1)
Charlie Ahearn (1)
César Aira (1) (2) (3)
André Alexis (1)
Rona Altrows (1; interview)
Jonathan Ames (1)
Kingsley Amis (1)
Martin Amis (1) (2) (3)
Karen Armstrong (1)
Margaret Atwood (1)
Jane Austen (1)
Paul Auster (1)
Tash Aw (1)
Todd Babiak (1) (2; interview) (3; interview)
Chris Bachelder (1; Q&A)
Nicholson Baker (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
Rosecrans Baldwin (1)
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Roy Blount Jr. (1)
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C.P. Boyko (1; interview) (2)
Inge Bremer-Trueman (1; interview)
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Grant Buday (1)
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Michael Chabon (1)
Marty Chan (1; interview)
Dan Charnas (1; interview) (2)
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Meags Fitzgerald (1; interview)
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Isol (1)
Harry Karlinsky (1) (2)
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A.L. Kennedy (1) (2)
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Sarah Lang (1; interview)
Annette Lapointe (1)
Grant Lawrence (1; interview)
Nam Le (1)
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Fran Lebowitz (1; interview)
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Alex Leslie (1)
Lawrence Lessig (1)
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Michael Lewis (1) (2)
Naomi K. Lewis (1; interview) (2; interview)
Tao Lin (1) (2; Q&A) (3)
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David Lipsky (1) (2)
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Colin McAdam (1; interview)
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Lorrie Moore (1) (2) (3) (4)
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Haruki Murakami (1) (2) (3) (4)
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Jason Lee Norman (1; interview) (2; interview)
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DC Pierson (1) (2; Q&A)
Hannah Pittard (1)
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Thomas Pynchon (1) (2)
Jennifer Quist (1)
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Simon Rich (1; interview) (2) (3)
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Ringuet (1)
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Will Self (1; interview)
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Cordelia Strube (1)
Alan Sullivan (1)
J. Courtney Sullivan (1) (2)
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Miguel Syjuco (1)
Justin Taylor (1) (2; Q&A) (3)
Rob Taylor (1; Q&A)
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Lynne Tillman (1)
Ken Tingley (1)
Miriam Toews (1; interview)
Wells Tower (1)
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Deb Olin Unferth (1)
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Chris F. Westbury (1; interview)
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D.W. Wilson (1; interview)
Kevin Wilson (1)
Michael Winter (1)
James Wood (1)
Molly Young (1) (2; Q&A)
Vlado Žabot (1)

OTHER PIECES

"Comic Sans" (The Incongruous Quarterly)
"'No Fear' T-Shirts Based on Board Games" (McSweeney's)

"The Men in the Mirror"
"Moby-Dick; or, My Favourite Book"
"The Pop-Culture Annotated 'Lord's Prayer'"
"Tumblr Recommends"

Lifespan of a Novel, part one: Finding a publisher

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For the next four weeks, I’ll be mapping the journey Blind Spot took as it transformed from a file on Miall’s computer to an expertly designed paperback published by Edmonton’s own NeWest Press, and available in stores across the country next month. Along the way we’ll learn how a publisher chooses which titles to acquire, how editors and designers help shape the finished products, and finally, how publishers and authors try to make their books stand out in a literary landscape that’s more crowded than ever.

Hoo boy, am I excited about this one. Today is the debut of a new series I’m calling Lifespan of a Novel, where we’re going to watch from four different angles as Laurence Miall’s Blind Spot walks the long, tricky road to publication.

Week one: So you’ve finished your manuscript. Now what?

Aug 15, 2014
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Interview: Meags Fitzgerald, Photobooth: A Biography

And there’s the rub. As Fitzgerald makes clear in the book, the old-fashioned chemical photobooth is an endangered species, either being covertly replaced by digital lookalikes or else junked entirely. In fact, they’re already living on borrowed time: only one company on the planet still produces paper for the black-and-white machines, while the paper for colour photos stopped being made seven years ago. Current stocks are expected to run out for good by summer 2015.

That’s right: chemical photobooths will soon be a thing of the past. Luckily there’s Meags Fitzgerald, an Edmonton-bred illustrator whose new graphic novel, Photobooth: A Biography, will make you want to find your local booth and pose for one last strip. (I did.)

I interviewed Fitzgerald for this week’s books column. Read it here.

Jul 25, 2014
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Interview: Chris F. Westbury; The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even

This was partly to do with Duchamp’s playfulness (in 1917, he famously scrawled a fake signature on a urinal and declared it art), and partly with the inscrutability of his intentions. What did any of it mean? Was it all a big joke? Duchamp courted mystery wherever he went, and that was before he quit the art world altogether to devote himself to playing chess—and certainly before it was discovered, following his death in 1968, that he’d spent the final 20 years of his life on a secret, final installation.

Over time, Westbury saw the foundation of a novel forming. “The idea that there could be some kind of tie-in between the way artists viewed Duchamp and the way obsessive-compulsives view their thing is one of the things that got me onto it.”

This week’s column is about obsession.

Read the whole thing here.

Jul 4, 2014
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Interview: Mark Frauenfelder

If you talk to certain people about DIY culture, they’ll raise their eyebrows with suspicion, or perhaps fear—as if what you’re describing is an all-or-nothing proposition. The thinking goes that once you accept the premise that there’s pleasure to be had from making things by hand, you’ll be forced into investing in pedal-powered refrigerators and whittling your own cutlery out of driftwood.

Full disclosure: Mark Frauenfelder has whittled a wooden spoon or two.

Next week Frauenfelder, co-founder of Boing Boing, is coming to Edmonton to awaken the maker inside of us all. I spent a good chunk of this interview griping about a birdhouse I once had to build (in fairness, Frauenfelder was on my side), but that has been wisely scoured from the final column.

Read the whole thing here.

Jun 13, 2014
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Interview: Sarah Lang, For Tamara

This week’s column: talking end of the world blues with Sarah Lang, “poet laureate of the post-apocalypse.”

Read the whole thing here.

Jun 9, 2014
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Interview: Inge Bremer-Trueman, A Root Beer Season

This week’s column is about love in the time of root beer.

Read the whole thing here.

May 9, 2014
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Interview: Dan Riskin, Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You

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Even when it comes to plants, Riskin demonstrates that nature is not exactly bending over backward to provide for us. Here’s the sentence that knocked me further off my chair than any other: “There are more than 250,000 kinds of plants in the world, but we humans get more than 90 percent of our calories from just fifteen of them.” Fifteen! And most of those have been carefully cultivated over the centuries to become more edible than they were when we first found them.

This week’s column is about Dan Riskin, an Edmonton-raised bat biologist and TV host, whose new book ventures into the nastiest corners of the natural world. I have already re-packaged several of his anecdotes to Bridget at the dinner table, who audibly gasped more than once. Success!

Read the whole story here.

Apr 25, 2014
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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.

Apr 11, 2014
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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.

Mar 28, 2014
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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.

Mar 21, 2014
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