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

Without question, Friedrich Nietzsche is the go-to guy for those who want to sound smart at a cocktail party.  He's a philosophical superstar, ' the grandfather of postmodernism', an inspiration to thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Sarah Kofman, and Paul de Man. Nietzsche’s popularity lies, according to PhD candidate Karl Laderoute, in his rebelliousness and bombastic style. His aphoristic writing - with its lack of fully articulated argument - spurs students to think critically, says Laderoute, to develop their own views, interpret actively, recognize implicit biases and consider how science, poetry, history, and philosophy operate and intersect.

Nietzsche's famous epistemological ‘perspectivism’ suggests that  'knowing' is simply interpretion from a limited point of view. As very finite beings, humans can only engage in a limited number of cognitive processes at once. This limitation means that we can only consider phenomena, broadly construed as anything happening in the world, in small doses and in particular ways. In other words, says Laderoute, we always examine a phenomenon from some particular perspective, in which some set of interests is at play.

Listen as we discuss the implications of Nietzche's powerful world view:

Direct download: Karl_Laderoute_Nietzsche.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 10:14pm EDT

Nicholas Margaritis

George Saintsbury (23 October 1845 – 28 January 1933), though a prolific and influential British literary critic in the late 1800s, is today perhaps best known as the author of a book on wine called Notes on a Cellar-Book (1920). According to Prof. Nicholas Margaritis, Saintsbury deserves a larger modern audience.  Why? Listen to his explanation

Direct download: Nicholas_Saintsbury_1.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 4:56pm EDT

David Southward

Lionel Trilling (1905 – 1975) is one of the best known U.S. critics of the twentieth century. A Professor of Literature and Criticism at Columbia University from 1931 - 1975, his teachings focused primarily on the relationships between literature, culture and politics. His first and best known collection of essays, The Liberal Imagination, was published in 1950.

I met with David Southward, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, recently in Gatineau, Quebec at the ACTC Annual Conference to discuss Trilling and his approach to literary criticism.

Direct download: David_Southward_Trilling.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 3:19pm EDT

"Longinus" is the name given to the unknown literary critic/author who wrote On the Sublime an essay written around 100 CE that examines the work of more than 50 ancient authors. In the essay - of which only an extended fragment remains -  Longinus talks of the sublime as a state that reaches "beyond the realm of the human condition into greater mystery."  How do authors produce this state in themselves, in their work, in their readers? How do we know it when we see it? Longinus gives us his take on the topic.

Prof Edwin Conner presented a paper on Longinus at the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC) Conference held recently in Ottawa. I talk to him here about Longinus's criteria for judging whether or not a work is sublime.

Direct download: Edwin_Conner_on_Longinus.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 10:47am EDT

David Staines is a Canadian literary critic, university professor (English at the University of Ottawa), writer, and editor.  He specializes in three literatures: medieval, Victorian and Canadian. He is editor of the scholarly Journal of Canadian Poetry (since 1986) and general editor of McClelland and Stewart’s New Canadian Library series (since 1988). His essay collections, include The Canadian Imagination (1977), a book that introduced Canadian literature and literary criticism to an American audience, plus studies on Morley Callaghan and Stephen Leacock.

But it’s not for any of this (save a defense of Callaghan in the face of John Metcalf’s condemnations) that I sought  Prof. Staines’ company. Rather it’s because he co-edited Northrop Frye on Canada (University of Toronto, 2001). Frye, Canada’s most celebrated literary theorist, a man many hold responsible for the dearth of evaluative analysis in Canadian criticism; a man whose thoughts and person Staines knows (and knew) very well; is the reason we met.

Please listen here to a conversation that reveals the author of Fearful Symmetry and The Anatomy of Criticism as a surprisingly self contradictory critic; speaks to the remarkable talent of Alice Munro and Canada’s current stock of strong fiction writers; outlines criteria for acceptance into the New Canadian Library; and identifies some of the best Canadian novels.

Direct download: David_Staines_031608-095233.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 11:54am EDT

Photo: Nigel Beale.

" Robert Fulford is a Toronto author, journalist, broadcaster, and editor. He writes a weekly column for The National Post and is a frequent contributor to Toronto Life, Canadian Art, and CBC radio and television. His books include Best Seat in the House: Memoirs of a Lucky Man (1988), Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto (1995), and Toronto Discovered (1998)." This is how the man describes himself on his website. I’d only add that I think he is the best of his kind.

I sat down with him recently at his home in Toronto to talk about his long, distinguished career as a Canadian critic/journalist, and about evaluative criticism and what matters most in a book. Here’s our conversation:

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Copyright © 2010 by Nigel Beale.

Direct download: Robert_Fulford_111307-170740.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 2:17pm EDT

Kevin Gilmartin is a professor of English at California Institute of Technology, and visiting professor at the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies at York University in England.  He is the author of Print Politics: The Press and Radical Opposition in Early Nineteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1996) and Writing against Revolution: Literary Conservatism in Britain, 1790-1832 (Cambridge, 2007), and the co-editor with James Chandler of Romantic Metropolis: The Urban Scene of British Culture, 1780-1840 (Cambridge, 2005).  His essays have appeared in such journals as Studies in Romanticism, ELH, and The Journal of British Studies, and in several essay collections.  His research interests include Romantic literature, the politics of literary culture, the history of the periodical press and of print culture, and intersections between literary expression and public activism.

We talked recently at length about 18th century British essayist/critic William Hazlitt. Please listen here:

Direct download: Kevin_Gilmartin_William_Hazlitt.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 8:23am EDT

Writer, journalist, comic reader, intermittent blogger, and over-tired family man Brad Mackay is the author most recently of a biographical essay which appears in The Collected Doug Wright Volume One (Drawn and Quarterly, 2009).

First of a two-volume set,  the book – designed by well known Canadian cartoonist Seth -  presents a comprehensive look at the life and career of one of the most-read, best-loved cartoonists of the 1960s. The work draws from thousands of pieces of art, pictures, and letters, plus the artist’s own journals, and provides a picture of the British-born Wright as both cartoonist and human being. It follows his artistic development from earliest unpublished works through to the introduction of his most enduring comic strip, Nipper. First published in 1949, a full year before the debut of Peanuts, it memorably captured both the humorous and frustrating side of parenting.

I spoke with Brad recently in Ottawa. We use Wright as a wedge to drill into the history of illustration, comics and graphic novels. Toward the end of our discussion Brad provides some tips for those interested in collecting comics and graphic novels.

Please listen here

Direct download: Brad_MacKay.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

In a recent conversation I had with him, Canadian critic, editor and short story writer John Metcalf hauls off on both the Giller Prize and two time winner M.G. Vassanji;  the former for boosterism and an inability to distinguish between good and bad literature ( for placing two-time winner Alice Munro in the same category as Vassanji), and the latter for being a person who, ‘there’s no question,’ can’t " handle the English language".

I met with Vassanji recently in Montreal at the Blue Met Writers Festival ostensibly to talk about  his new Penguin biography of Mordecai Richler (please stay tuned for the audio); but before commencing I asked him to respond to Metcalf’s attacks. Here’s what he had to say:

Copyright © 2009 by Nigel Beale
Direct download: M.G_Vassanji_Criticism.mp3
Category:Literary Critics -- posted at: 3:56pm 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