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

Alberto Manguel is an Argentine-born writer, translator, and editor, and the author of  many books of both non-fiction, including  A History of Reading (1996), The Library at Night (2007) and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: A Biography (2008); and fiction ( News From a Foreign Country Came , 1991). We met recently at the Kingston WritersFest; I asked him to recount some of his favourite experiences in bookstores and libraries around the world.

First he pointed out that libraries and bookstores, in spite of their being public places, are really private spaces that each reader makes his or her own home: a sort of autobiography, where the books that interest you contain words that mirror your own experience.  We talk about a Tel Aviv bookstore he visited 60 years ago, bookshop stickers, the reconstructed library of Aby Warburg in Hamburg, and treasures found by chance in used bookstores on Avenida Corrientes in Buenos Aires. Manguel has a new novel coming out next year called A Return that sketches the character of one of the old booksellers on this street.


Direct download: Alberto_Manguel_final_mp3_130926_003.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 6:06 PM


Corey Redekop has been many things: "actor, waiter, disc jockey, cameraman, editor, lawyer (almost), and now the fabled trifecta of publicist/librarian/author. His debut novel, Shelf Monkey, is either a work of insane genius or an intolerable left-wing screed, depending on which review you read. Stunningly handsome, supremely talented, superbly gifted at hyperbole, Corey abides in Fredericton, New Brunswick."

We climb up on the autopsy table to dissect his latest novel Husk (" The Sopranos of zombie novels"), and in so doing talk about Sheldon, a zombie with a brain, and what happens to him after he wakes up on - yes - an autopsy table, with his heart and guts spilling out all over the floor.

Direct download: Coery_Redekop_110109_001.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 11:01 PM

According to his website, Ross King is "the bestselling author of six books on Italian, French and Canadian art and history. He has also published two historical novels, Domino (1995) and Ex-Libris (1998), and edited a collection of Leonardo da Vinci's fables, jokes and riddles. Translated into more than a dozen languages, his books have been nominated for a National Book Critics' Circle Award, the Charles Taylor Prize, and the National Award for Arts Writing. He has won both the Governor General's Award in Canada (for The Judgment of Paris) and the BookSense Non-Fiction Book of the Year in the United States (for Brunelleschi's Dome). His latest book, Leonardo and The Last Supper, has been described as 'gripping' (New York Times), 'fascinating' (Financial Times), 'engaging' (The Guardian), 'enthralling' (Daily Mail), 'absorbing' (Kirkus), 'engrossing' (Booklist), and 'extraordinary' (Irish Times)."

It too won a Governor General's Award, this one in 2012. We met recently in Ottawa to talk about the book and the prize. 

Direct download: Ross_King_110102_001.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 1:26 PM

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Linda Spalding (née Dickinson) is a Canadian writer and editor who has, over the years, worked as a professor of English and writing at numerous universities. She currently lives in Toronto, is an editor with Brick magazine, and is married to novelist Michael Ondaatje.  

Spalding's  novel The Purchase has just won the 2012 Governor-General’s Literary Award for English Fiction. We met in Ottawa recently to talk about it.  Please listen here:

Direct download: Linda_Spalding_110101_003_2_32mg.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 3:46 PM

Mordecai: The Life and Times has been called the ‘award-winningest’ book in Canadian literary history. I met recently with its author Charles Foran to talk about its subject, Mordecai Richler. The guts, aggression, honesty and pride of the man; a man who did things, who wrote to engender conversation, argument, who was socially engaged, who asked hard, uncomfortable questions. About Richler’s similarities to Pierre Trudeau.  His taking on a whole movement over Quebec’s sign laws.  His desire to write the best novel ever written. At least one book that would last. About Montreal, its tensions, and his loyalty to it. About Canadian culture. Digitization and the loss of literary life.

Direct download: Charlie_Foran_Richler_ZOOM0007.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 2:13 PM

Jacket design by Jessica Sullivan 

Unlike Britain, which opted to invest in public non-commercial broadcasting in the early ’60s, Canada chose a hybrid model that freed the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to augment its Parliamentary appropriation with advertising revenues.

Canada’s 1968 Broadcast Act prescribed a broadcasting system controlled by Canadians that ‘safeguards and strengthens our cultural, political, social and economic fabric, promotes unity and national identity, and provides challenging, entertaining, informative programming that caters to a wide range of audiences.’

This conflicted mandate parked the CBC at a particularly congested intersection, one that today invites more collisions than ever before, what with the significant funding cuts just announced and profits from the Hockey Night in Canada franchise in jeopardy.

In addition to the impossible task of simultaneously promoting a single, nebulous national identity and culture, and providing programming for a wide variety of tastes and audiences, the CBC is also under pressure to produce “popular” shows that Canadians will watch and advertisers will support.

One solution is to abandon the old commercial hybrid model and fund the CBC not through Parliament, but directly from licence fees  levied on consumers. This way the CBC could, similar to TVOntario, carve out a more distinctive, unique role for itself by eliminating advertising  (and much of the glib, manipulative, audience-spinning crap one finds on commercial television)  from most of its schedule, and delivering ‘high’ quality Canadian alternative programming without regard for ‘lowest-common-denominator’ audience share. Replacing a chubby old confused mongrel, with a lean, alert purebred puppy dog.

Good idea. Perhaps that’s why it stands little chance of seeing daylight. Anything that resembles a new tax, or loosens the leash that government holds on public broacasting is unlikely to fly in Harperland, or for that matter in any other party-that’s-in-power land.

The alternative, one which Peter Stursberg championed as Vice President of English language programming at the CBC (2004-2010), is to focus on audience. ‘ What use are ‘good’ television shows if nobody watches them?  Stursberg  asks in his recent book The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC which documents his tenure with the public broadcaster.

While ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’ is no ‘Mad Men’, it is watched by lots of Canadians. And this is more than can be said of much CBC programming prior to Stursberg’s arrival.  By pushing one component of a decidedly messed-up mandate he created much controversy during his time at the CBC, and, eventually, got himself fired. One hopes that his book, and his bold efforts will, if nothing else, encourage debate, and ultimately produce from government a clearer mandate for this important, troubled institution.

I met with Richard (not Peter) Stursberg recently in Ottawa to talk about his new book.

Direct download: Richard_StursbergZOOM0004_2.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 9:04 PM

It didn't win any prizes; no awards; didn't make many, if any, long or short lists; but David Gilmour's The Perfect Order of Things is a great novel. The best I read last year. In fact, I think it's one of the best Canadian novels ever written. Deceptively easy to read, the book's 300-odd pages are not only crowded with elegantly crafted sentences, they collectively capture and convey levels of insight and depths of experience one typically finds only in great Russian novels. Perfect Order leaves you invigorated; filled with admiration for the life fully lived. It makes you want to get out there and show the world who's boss.David Gilmour was in Ottawa recently to attend the Ottawa International Writers Festival.

Direct download: David_Gilmour_56_1R09_0006_2.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 1:20 PM

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: 3:21 PM

Johanna Skibsrud

Johanna Skibsrud's debut novel The Sentimentalists won the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the 2009 Alcuin Award for best designed work of prose fiction, the first book ever to achieve this double win. Skibsrud has also published two books of poetry, including Late Nights with Wild Cowboys in 2008. The Sentimentalists was written for her Master's thesis at Concordia University.She is currently pursuing a Ph.D.  and lives in Tuscon Arizona. 

The Sentimentalists was first published by Gaspereau Press, a highly regarded small press based in Kentiville Nova Scotia, in a print run of 800 copies. The firm had difficulty filling demand for the book after it won the Giller. Chapters-Indigo, Canada's dominant bookstore chain, claimed not to have any of the books in stock anywhere in Canada during the week the Giller was announced. One result was a significant increase in ebook sales; the novel quickly became the top-selling title in the Kobo ebookstore. Within about two weeks Gaspereau announced that it had sold trade paperback rights to Douglas & McIntyre; at the same time it continued to print small runs of the novel in its original format.

As if this weren't enough, Giller juror Ali Smith, a British writer, spoke to literary agent and friend, Tracy Bohan, about the book before it was longlisted. Just days before the longlist was announced, Bohan secured a deal for the rights to distribute the book internationally. She subsequently sold the book to her boyfriend, Jason Arthur, a director of Random House UK imprint William Heinemann.

According to The National Post, Andrew Steeves, co-owner of Gaspereau Press, says he received an email from Skibsrud in which “She told me that Tracy Bohan had contacted her and that an author, Ali Smith, had recommended that Tracy read The Sentimentalists.” Before the longlist was revealed in September, “Tracy was very interested in making a deal with me that morning.” After the longlist was revealed, Steeves admitted, “it looked a little funny to me.”

I met recently with Skibsrud in Ottawa. We talked about all of the events surrounding publication of  The Sentimentalists (surly already despite its short life, one of the most storied books in Canadian history) and about the book itself as object. Please listen here:

Direct download: Joanna_Skibsrud_R09_0007.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 12:22 PM

Etgar Keret is an Israeli writer known for his short stories, graphic novels, and scriptwriting for film and television. His first work, a collection of short stories, was largely ignored when it was published in 1992. His second book, Missing Kissinger, a collection of fifty very short stories, was a hit. The story "Siren", which deals with paradoxes in modern Israeli society, is included in the curriculum for the Israeli matriculation exam in literature. Keret has co-authored several comic books, written a children's book (Dad Runs Away with the Circus) and served as a writer for the popular TV show The Cameri Quintet . He and his wife Shira directed the 2007 film Jellyfish, based on a story written by Shira. This is what we talked about when we met earlier this year in Ottawa. Please listen here:

Direct download: Etgar_Keret042309-101846.mp3
Category:Author Interview -- posted at: 2:30 AM

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