The Biblio File Hosted by Nigel Beale
Twenty - forty minute interviews with accomplished authors, publishers, biblio people, conducted by an excitable bibliophile.

This from contemporary writers: One of South Africa’s most distinguished writers, André Brink was born in 1935. Poet, novelist, essayist and teacher, he began work as a University lecturer in Afrikaans and Dutch Literature in the 1960s. He began writing in Afrikaans, but when censored by the South African government, began to also write in English and became published overseas. He remains a key figure in the modernisation of the Afrikaans language novel.


His book, A Dry White Season (1979), was made into a film starring Marlon Brando while An Instant in the Wind (1976), the story of a relationship between a white woman and a black man, and Rumours of Rain (1978) were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction.  Devil’s Valley (1998) explores the life of a community locked away from the rest of the world, and The Other Side of Silence (2002), set in colonial Africa in the early twentieth century, won a Commonwealth Writers regional award for Best Book in 2003. He has also written a collection of essays on literature and politics, Reinventing a Continent (1996), prefaced by Nelson Mandela. 

He is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Cape Town. His latest novels are Praying Mantis (2005) and The Blue Door (2007). His memoir, A Fork in the Road, has just been published.

I met Andre Brink recently at his home in Cape Town. (His lovely young wife Karina greeted me at the door and led me into his book-lined study. Before entering the house however, I encountered this in the garden:

). Once seated we talked mostly about his life, about his father, about love and duty, justice, Apartheid, inter-racial sex, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer; his love affair with poet Ingrid Jonker, her suicide, her poem ‘Plant me a Tree,’ English as his second language, Picasso, recommended wines and staying in South Africa, despite his nephew having been shot dead by intruders last year at his home just north of Johannesburg.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: Andre_Brink.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 8:07pm EDT

Stephen Johnson is Managing Director of the recently formed South African publishing firm Random House Struik. We talk here about the merger, the independence of SABC (the state owned South African Broadcasting Corporation), Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, Random House Struik’s political power, Apartheid’s banning of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, the current government’s under-funding of libraries, political corruption and the loss of early promise, Apartheid by other means, freedom, story-telling and other explanations for South Africa’s flourishing publishing sector, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Jacob Zuma’s shower head, and plans Johnson has for the future of his company.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: Stephen_Johnson.mp3
Category:Book Publishers -- posted at: 10:48pm EDT

I recently interviewed Canadian critic/editor/writer John Metcalf on his love of Books and Book Collecting. The same afternoon we talked also about the process of book reviewing,  whether or not the use of insult and/or invective is ever justified and if so, when. John is known as a ‘blunt’ critic; one who tells his unsugared truths directly, who is not reticent to attack ‘with savagery’ books he feels 'insult' him. The conversation refers, among other things, to the Salon des Refuses exercise undertaken by Canadian Notes and Queries and The New Quarterly magazines, personal slights, the problem of awarding the same prizes to authors of widely varying talents, and the importance to healthy literary culture of truth-telling critics.

Lengthy sentence alert: There are predictable attacks on M.G. Vassanji, Ann Marie MacDonald, and Robertson Davies here, and there is praise too for many young Canadian short story writers, but perhaps the most evident feature of this discussion is Metcalf’s anger, precipitated, I’d say, primarily by a combative dedication to serving a cause larger than himself – excellence in literature – aggravated in small part both by the perceived inability of Canadians to recognize literary greatness, and personal rejection at the hands of  this country’s ‘literary establishment’  – bolstered by a natural taste for confrontation and a glee in the fighting of a good fight.

Please listen here:

Direct download: John_Metcalf_Negative_Reviewing.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 5:18pm EDT

JENNY HOBBS is a novelist and freelance journalist who lives in Franschhoek, South Africa. She is the author of four novels, Thoughts in a Makeshift Mortuary, The Sweet-Smelling Jasmine, The Telling of Angus Quain, and Video Dreams, four non-fiction books, and short stories published and broadcast locally and by the BBC. She reviewed books for many years and has written for and worked on TV book programmes, both as a presenter and interviewer.

She’s also the Literary Director of the Franschhoek Literary Festival, now in its third year. The event has enjoyed success from its opening page. Last year the Commonweath Writer’s Prize chose Franschhoek as the place to announce its winner (Canadian Lawrence Hill). We talk here about how the Festival came about, and what it takes to make it happen.  

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: Jenny_Hobbs.mp3
Category:Festival Organizer -- posted at: 5:19pm EDT

Dawn Arnold is Chair of the Frye Festival in Moncton, New Brunswick. Jane Urquhart, Wayne Johnston, Neil Smith, Alexandre Jardin and Miriam Toews are among the many authors who will participate in this year’s ten day event.

Dawn and I talk here about the history of the Festival, Northrop Frye’s thoughts on imagination and new worlds, the benefits to children of learning more than one language, how writing affects understanding, Moncton strip clubs, Acadie, French language childrens’ authors, Richard Ford, classroom visits, and inspired students. For more information on this year’s Frye Festival please click here.

Please listen to our conversation here:

Direct download: dawn_arrnold.mp3
Category:Festival Organizer -- posted at: 7:06pm EDT

Pittsburgh Post Gazette Books Editor Bob Hoover has written about books with the paper for more than 20 years. We talk here, at a noisy diner

in the shadow of the Heinz ketchup factory, about the role of a books editor, Pittsburgh’s lively literary arts scene, blogs, the 800-900 review copies Bob receives each month, and keeping readers current about everything book related. We also talk about Bob’s connection with authors David McCullough and Michael Chabon, and his disconnect with Philip Roth and Paul Theroux; about Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban home, and the reviewing genius of John Updike.

Please listen here:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: bob_hoover.mp3
Category:Editors -- posted at: 4:06pm EDT

John Metcalf is best known as a writer/editor who has worked with many of Canada’s foremost short story writers including Michael Winter, Terry Griggs, Steven Heighton, and Caroline Adderson. Born in Carlisle, England, and educated at the University of Bristol, he emigrated to Canada in 1962. In addition to writing his own novels, short stories and essays, he for years edited the work of others at the Porcupine’s Quill. He is currently Senior Editor with Canadian Notes and Queries magazine. Metcalf is also a serious book collector.

Riffing off John Carter's Taste & Technique in Book Collecting, we talk here about, among other things: what defines the book collector, Richard Yates, and Eleven Kinds of  Loneliness being one of the most 'stupendous books of short stories ever published in the United States,' dealers stock-piling the first editions of up and coming authors, Alice Munro's Dance of the Happy Shades and how little a signed First of it costs, connoisseurship and Sir Kenneth Clark, collecting what you love, and what the budding Canadian book collector should buy.

Direct download: John_Metcalf_Book_Collecting.mp3
Category:Book Collector -- posted at: 11:55am EDT