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

Canada Council: Photo: Danny Palmerlee

Patrick deWitt was born on Vancouver Island in 1975. He has also lived in California, Washington, and Oregon, where he currently lives with his wife and son. He is the author of two novels, Ablutions and The Sisters Brothers, which recently won Canada's Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. Here's how the jury described it: "Brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters are at the centre of this “great greedy heart” of a book. A rollicking tale of hired guns, faithful horses and alchemy. The ingenious prose of Patrick DeWitt conveys a dark and gentle touch."

I met recently with Patrick in Ottawa to discuss his award winning novel. Please listen here as we talk, among other things, about mannered language, the Coen Brothers,  Charles Portis, horses, psychopaths, masturbation, arts funding and being Canadian.

Copyright © 2011 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: Patrick_de_Witt_56__121409-134126.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 10:21am EDT

Photo: Canada Council.

I met recently with Phil Hall, whose latest collection of poems, Killdeer, has just won the Canadian Governor General's Literary Award for English Poetry. It's a sensitive, engaging, revealing work that incorporates narrative essay, life philiosophy and literary criticism into its stanzas. In sharp contrast to  the arrogant, impenetrable and solipsistic, Hall's poetry is humbly presented, accessible, beautiful, pastoral, reflective and at times profound. Listen here as we talk about brown speckled eggs and fiddle tunes, imbalance and literary prize juries, lying, distraction, pain, what's important, plus theatre and spectacle,  truth and doubt.

Direct download: Phil_Hall_R09_0001_3_56.mp3
Category:Poets -- posted at: 2:11pm EDT

Johnathan RoseProf. Johnathan Rose

Joseph Malaby Dent (30 August 1849 – 9 May 1926) was the British book publisher who gave the world the Everyman's Library series.

After a short,  unsuccessful career as an apprentice printer he took up bookbinding, and shortly thereafter founded  J. M. Dent and Company, in 1888, publishing the works of Lamb, Goldsmith, Austen, Chaucer, and Tennyson among others. Printed in short runs on handmade paper, these books enjoyed some success, but it wasn't until the Temple Shakespeare series, launched in 1894, that Dent hit the big time.

Ten years later he began planning what became known as the Everyman's Library, a canon of one thousand classics, attractively, but practically, produced pocket-sized books sold for a shilling each. To meet demand, Dent built the Temple Press.  Publication of the series began in 1906; 152 titles were issued in the first year. They were hugely popular.

'Small, lame, tight-fisted, and apt to weep under pressure,'  Dent's ungovernable passion was, says critic Hugh Kenner,  for bringing books to the people. He remembered when he'd longed to buy books he couldn't afford. Yes, you could make the world better. He even thought cheap books might prevent wars."

I met with famed book historian Johathan Rose recently to discuss J.M.Dent, and to find out why the Everyman's Library series was so successful. Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

Direct download: Rose_Dent_R09_0002_2.mp3
Category:Publisher's Histories -- posted at: 10:04am EDT

Mark Kingwell

Glenn Gould was a world renowned classical pianist and an 'eccentric genius'— a 'solitary, headstrong, hypochondriac virtuoso.'  Abandoning stage performances in 1964, he concentrated instead on mastering recordings, radio, television, and print. His sudden death at age fifty stunned the world, but his music and legacy continues. Philosopher/critic Mark Kingwell sees Gould as a philosopher of music whose contradictory, mischievous, and deliberately provocative ideas ruled his life. Instead of a single narrative, Kingwell adopts a 'kaleidoscopic' approach.  It took Gould twenty-one "takes" to record the opening aria in the famed 1955 Goldberg Variations, Kingwell does the same with Gould's life. Each take offers a slightly different, sensitive interpretation of this complex man, each plays with the notes, harmonies and dissonances that characterized his time on earth.

I met this past summer with Kingwell to talk about Gould, chutney, the problem of the biographical line, perfectionism, architectural beauty, tempo, pregnancy, absence becoming presence, recording and communications technology, and wonder. Please listen here to our conversation here:

Direct download: Mark_Kingwell_Gould_R09_0001.mp3
Category:Extraordinary Canadians -- posted at: 9:05am EDT

Douglas Gibson, Editor/Publisher

Douglas Gibson was, for more than 40 years, a noted Canadian editor and publisher whose skills both as writer and salesman put him at the pinnacle of his profession. Douglas Gibson Books, the first editorial imprint of its kind in Canada, has over the years  published much of the best writing that has ever come out of this country.

Stories About Storytellers is Gibson's memoir. In a series of short profiles, he tells us tales about some of the authors he has worked with during an illustrious career.  He himself is an impressive story teller. The book takes us on a coast to coast tour, through the lives and writings of, among others, Jack Hodgins, Harold Horwood, Alice Munro, James Houston, Mavis Gallant, Alistair McLeod, Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney. Gibson's journey through Canadian political and publishing history,   eloquently documents the story of Canada.

We met recently in Ottawa. Please listen here as we talk, among other things, about his careers and roles as editor and publisher, about the best Canadian fiction, luck and a system that encourages Canadian writing, olympic gold, the difficulty of literary prizes, subjective judgement, and the most important paragraph in Canadian writing. 

Direct download: Douglas_Gibson050103_01.mp3
Category:Publisher's Histories -- posted at: 1:39pm EDT

Andrew Cohen

Lester "Mike" Pearson was an extraordinary politician. He was also an extraordinary athlete, diplomat, leader, teacher, writer and student. And yet, despite all of this, and, the fact that during his lifetime he was the world's best known Canadian, many are today unaware of the important role he played in creating modern Canada with its enviable social programs and economic safeguards. Andrew Cohen's biography of Pearson, part of Penguin's Extraordinary Canadians series, sets out to rectify this as it explores the various, successful lives this man led, and the contributions he made both to the building of Canada and world peace. Please listen here

Direct download: Andrew_Cohen_Pearson_R09_0014.mp3
Category:Extraordinary Canadians -- posted at: 6:14pm EDT

A complicated, fascinating, largely unknown man who did a great deal for American literary publishing, Mitchell Kennerley was born in 1878 in Burslem, England. He arrived in the United States in 1896 to help set up publisher John Lane's U.S. offices. After an unhappy parting, Kennerley set off to publish various small literary magazines, and in 1906 launched his own imprint under which he published literary criticism, modern drama, fiction, and poetry, including Modern Love, first book off the press. He produced elegant books in small print runs and launched the careers of many important young authors of poetry particularly. American Bookman said  that his imprint was "in itself guarantee of a book's worth.” Christopher Morley called Kennerley “unquestionably the first Modern publisher in this country.”

Kennerley's publishing career wound down during the First World War, and he subsequently took over operation of the Anderson Galleries where he orchestrated some of the 20th century's most amazing rare book auctions. The Huntington and Folger Libraries were largely built on these sales.

He opened the Lexington Avenue Book Shop in 1940 and operated it until his suicide in 1950. Women, an inability to focus, a failure to pay his bills and desire for a lifestyle beyond his means, have all be pointed to as explanation for his sad ending.

I met recently with Dan Boice, author of the 1996 bibliography of the Kennerley imprint, in Iowa to talk about kennerley and the books he produced. Please listen here:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

Direct download: Dan_Boice_Mitchell_Kennerley_R09_0012.mp3
Category:Publisher's Histories -- posted at: 6:46am EDT

Founded in Minnesota in 1980 by Emilie Buchwald and R.W. Scholes, Milkweed Editions is one of the nation's leading independent, nonprofit literary publishers, releasing between fifteen and twenty new books each year in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children's literature. Much of its nonfiction is addresses critical environmental issues and works to expand ecological consciousness. Milkweed’s authors come from Minnesota and around the world. Today more than one million Milkweed books are in circulation. Collectively they have received more than 190 awards and special designations, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, two American Book Awards, the Liberatur Prize for Fiction, seven New York Times Book Review Notable Books of the Year, and ten Minnesota Book Awards. Milkweed’s mission, which combines an emphasis on the literary arts with a concern for the fabric of society, leads it to be active in the Minneapolis community in ways that demonstrate the social relevance of literary writing.

I met recently with co-founder Emilie Buchwald to talk about the history of Milkweed, and how interested parties might go about collecting its books. Please listen here

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

Direct download: Emilie_Buchwald_Milkweed_R09_0013.mp3
Category:Publisher's Histories -- posted at: 10:40am EDT

Hard not to like Randy Bachman. He's smart, friendly, interested, passionate...and a collector. Why a collector? Because in 1976 his favourite guitar was stolen from a Toronto hotel room, and he wanted to get it back. What? A late-1950s orange Gretsch guitar, the Chet Atkins model.Bachman used it -- "my first real professional guitar" -- on the Guess Who hit Shakin' All Over, and later for Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Takin' Care of Business. He has yet to find it.

Not all was lost however. Thirty years of hunting, on and off line, through music stores, pawn shops, websites and garage sales resulted in the world's largest and finest collection of Gretsch electric guitars. This trove of roughly 380 instruments was sold to the Gretsch company several years ago for its museum in Savannah, Ga.

I met with Bachman recently in Ottawa - he was here to promote his new book Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap Stories, a written telling of stories told on his popular CBC radio program of the same name. Please listen here as we discuss the madness and wonder that is guitar, vinyl and book collecting. Budding collectors: be sure to note the records he suggests you go after.

Direct download: Bachman_R09_0005_2.mp3
Category:Book Collector -- posted at: 3:53pm EDT


Coffee House started out as the Toothpaste Press in Iowa in the early 1970s. Founded by Allan Kornblum after taking a University of Iowa typography course with the famed printer Harry Duncan, this small publishing house dedicated itself to producing poetry pamphlets and letterpress books. After 10 years, Kornblum closed the press, moved to Minneapolis, reopened it as a nonprofit organization, and began publishing trade books. .

In the early 1990s, books such as Donald Duk by Frank Chin and Through the Arc of the Rainforest by Karen Tei Yamashita (a 1991 American Book Award winner) drew national attention and helped cement the press's reputation as a publisher of exceptional works by writers of color. According to Kornblum, Coffee House has actively published writers of color as writers, "as representatives of the best in contemporary literature, first and foremost—then, only secondly, as representatives of minority communities." This could well be the press's most important contribution to American literature.

In July 2011, after a two-year leadership transition process, Kornblum stepped down to become the press’s senior editor. Chis Fischbach, who began at the press as an intern in 1994, succeeded him as publisher. Coffee House has published more than 300 books, and releases 15-20 new titles each year. It is known for long-term commitment to the authors it chooses to publish, and is currently located in the historic Grain Belt Bottling House in Northeast Minneapolis, where I met with Kornblum to conduct this interview:

This interview is part of our  Book Publisher Series which focuses on the histories of important British, American and Canadian publishing houses, and how best to go about collecting their works.

Direct download: Coffeehouse_Press_R09_0011.mp3
Category:Publisher's Histories -- posted at: 8:50am EDT