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

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: 10:13am EDT

Peter Dorn in his studio near Kingston, On. with Carl Dair

Heinrich Heine’s writings, poetry, and ideology delighted and enlightened me. He became a personal, meaningful experience, in the same way I feel, that private printing is a personal experience, printing meaningful things. These feelings make up the “idealistic” birth of the Heinrich Heine press”

Peter Dorn in Reader, Lover of Books, Lover of Heaven (North York Public Library, 1978. Designed by Glen Goluska).

Listen here to my conversation with Peter Dorn about his Heinrich Heine Press, his immigration to Canada, his work at Eaton’s department store, Canadian book design in the 1950s and 1960s, the influence of Carl Dair and Frank Newfeld, his move to Kingston and his work at Queen’s University.

Direct download: Peter_Dorn_R09_0007.mp3
Category:Publisher's Histories -- posted at: 10:26pm EDT


I met recently with literary historian Brian Busby to talk about 'Literary Montreal', poet John Glassco, plaques and the Writers' Chapel of St James the Apostle Anglican Church.

Direct download: Brian_Busby_on_Literary_Montreal.mp3
Category:Literary Destinations -- posted at: 9:51pm EDT

What William Toye apparently wanted most in the world after graduating from the University of Toronto in 1948,  was a job in Canadian book publishing. This, Robert Fulford tells us in a recent National Post profile, was an outlandish career move since Canadian publishing barely existed. We had few publishers and they produced few books. They did little more than import American and British books, selling Bibles, dictionaries and schoolbooks to keep themselves afloat. But Toye was insistent. Says Fulford: 

"When he applied for a job at the Canadian branch of Oxford University Press, he was told they had nothing for him but a place in the warehouse. He said that would be fine. Over the next six decades Canadian publishing steadily expanded and Toye found many ways to deploy the talents he developed. At age 84, still editing, he recently produced yet another in the long list of valuable books he’s given us, The Concise Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, Second Edition."

Quite apart from the outstanding work he has produced as editor, the multi-talented Toye has also written and designed some beautiful, memorable books of his own, and it is these we met to talk about last month.  Please listen here:

Direct download: Bill_Toye.mp3
Category:Book Designer -- posted at: 8:35pm EDT

Jeff Hurwitz

This from the Poetry Foundation: "An influential figure in contemporary poetics, Ron Silliman became associated with the West Coast literary movement known as “Language poetry” in the 1960s and ‘70s. He edited In the American Tree (1986), which remains the primary Language poetry anthology, as well as penned one of the movement’s defining critical texts, The New Sentence (1987). Silliman’s prolific publishing career includes over thirty books of poetry, critical work, collaborations and anthologies. He has long championed experimental or “post-avant” poetics, most recently through Silliman’s Blog, a weblog he started in 2002."

I met recently with Ron at the Ottawa International Airport to talk about Language poetry. Among other things we discuss the 'Bardic I"; diagnosis of the self; examining viewpoint; the concept of clarity in writing; literary effects; passion through form; Raid killing bugs dead; manipulation of the reader; the artificiality of literary devices and preset responses. Louis Zukofsky. Received rather than earned wisdom. Shakespeare as a great font of creative invention. Bing Crosby as the Jimi Hendricks of the microphone. Steve Roggenback. The 'God help us' response. Unquestioned ideology. Ambiguity. Self check-out lanes. Common denominators.  Helen Vendler's irrelevancy. Poets' dishonest criticism. And the importance of reading series.

Direct download: Ron_Silliman_ZOOM0010.mp3
Category:Poets -- posted at: 10:25am EDT

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: 5:04pm EDT

Allan Fleming was born in Toronto in 1929. At 16 he left studies at the Western Technical School to apprentice at various design firms in Toronto. He then went to England, where he soaked up lessons from some of the great British book designers. Back in Canada in 1957 he joined the typographic firm Cooper and Beatty Ltd., and was working there when the opportunity to redesign Canadian National's logo came up in 1959.  In 1962 he became art director at Maclean’s magazine. He was vice-president and director of creative services at MacLaren Advertising from 1963 to 1968, and chief designer at the University of Toronto Press until 1976,  when he joined Burns and Cooper.

Suave, handsome, well-read, eloquent and confident, Fleming epitomised 'cool.' His design work won many awards in Canada, the United States and around the world. Though best remembered as the creator of CN’s corporate logo, Fleming was also a superb book designer, and this is what I talked about recently with Canadian literary journalist Robert Fulford who knew and was influenced by Fleming. Please listen here:

Direct download: Robert_Fulford_Allan_Fleming.mp3
Category:Book Designer -- posted at: 1:06pm EDT

Irving Layton.ca
Brian Trehearne is a professor of English at McGill University. His teaching and research areas focus on Canadian literature to 1970, chiefly poetry.  Awards and Fellowships include SSHRC Standard Research Grants, the Louis Dudek Award for Excellence in Teaching (three times) and the Arts Undergraduate Society Award for Excellence in Teaching. Publications include Canadian Poetry 1920 to 1960; Editor  (2010);  The Complete Poems of A.J.M. Smith,  Editor, (2007); The Montreal Forties: Modernist Poetry in Transition (1999) and Aestheticism and the Canadian Modernists: Aspects of a Poetic Influence (1989). He is currently working on a critical edition of The Complete Poems of John Glassco.

We met recently in Montreal to talk about the position of Irving Layton in the Canadian poetical canon. The influence of Montreal and parents on Layton's  poetry and persona; about masculinity, the sun, freedom, attention-seeking, Nietzsche, the Apollonian and the Dionysian, misogyny, aging, the Holocaust, vulnerability, and the best dozen poems.

Direct download: Trehearne_on_Layton_ZOOM0012.mp3
Category:Poets -- posted at: 12:58pm EDT

Tim Bowling's collections of poetry include Fathom, The Book Collector, and The Memory Orchard. He has written three novels, including The Bone Sharps and The Paperboy’s Winter. Twice shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, Tim has won the Canadian Authors’ Association Award for Poetry and two Alberta Book Awards. In 2008, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

Tim was in Ottawa recently for Versefest. We met to talk about his book In the Suicide's Library,  an entertaining, fast-paced meditation ( yes, unusual) on modern life, the responsibilities of marriage and parenting, middle-age  and books and book collecting. Topics covered include book collecting, coincidence, suicide, the spirit, passion and harmony of books,  the use of hands, the line between bibliophiles and maniacs, the importance of physical books to the culture; we also cover writing about one’s book collections;  the sense of community among book collectors, the temptation of the material, possession, The Great Gatsby and green light, Las Vegas,  the power of knowledge, the pros and cons of the Internet, Serendipity Books, ‘shattering the groove,’ mid-life, change, parenthood,  and investing life with meaning.

Direct download: Tim_Bowling_amp_R09_0002_4.mp3
Category:Book Collector -- posted at: 8:06pm EDT

Bruce Taylor is a two-time winner of the A.M. Klein Award for Poetry. He has published four books of poetry: Getting On with the Era (1987), Cold Rubber Feet (1989), and Facts (1998). He has been a teacher, a puppeteer, and a freelance journalist. He lives in Wakefield, Quebec. We met recently to talk about his most recent collection No End in Strangeness: New and Selected Poems, (Cormorant Books, 2011) and sundry other topics relating to Canadian poets and poetry. Please listen here:

Direct download: Bruce_Taylor_56_R09_0001_5.mp3
Category:Poets -- posted at: 4:18pm EDT