Midgley and Sinead also spend time camping on the charmingly named Shark Island, which has an even less charming past, as the site of a former concentration camp during the Namibian genocide. When Midgley asks Sinead if she’d prefer finding a different campsite—one sheltered from the brutal winds that come from a front-row view of the Atlantic, perhaps—she stoically puts on another hoodie and declines. “I want to feel the ocean.”
This week’s column is about Peter Midgley, whose memoir Counting Teeth is about his recent return to his homeland of Namibia, 20 years after the country won its war of independence against South Africa.
His book launches this weekend as part of LitFest—Canada’s only non-fiction festival, y’heard?Oct 17, 2014
There is an unusual amount of time spent studying the knives in Christine’s family’s kitchen. The colour red recurs. And the most prominent object of all is her parents’ ever-present cigarettes, which are both a realistic symbol of life in the ’60s, as well as a coded sign of tension just beneath the surface. During moments of stress, out come the smokes.
This week’s column is about a forgotten Edmonton neighbourhood, as revived by a recent suite of novels by Wendy McGrath. (It also gave me an excuse to do some sweet, sweet research. At one point I cooed to the laptop screen, “Oooh… Bylaw 6767.”)Oct 3, 2014
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.Aug 15, 2014
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
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.Jul 4, 2014
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.Jun 13, 2014
This week’s column: talking end of the world blues with Sarah Lang, “poet laureate of the post-apocalypse.”Jun 9, 2014
This week’s column is about love in the time of root beer.May 9, 2014
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!Apr 25, 2014
“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.Mar 28, 2014