canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999


Compiled by Nathaniel G. Moore

As the summer dwindled away and the catalogues poured in from across the country, I realized just how many books go undetected, over-detected or barely detected in this business season after season after season after season. It’s like a pattern or something. I was also reminded of a conversation I had at a book launch a couple of years ago with a bookseller, and we got to talking about US book retail interest in the always vilified Chapters-Indigo chain, and this yearning’s subsequent quenching when they realized just how small our industry is in comparison to their own…

Yet, in a fit of irony, this preview will neglect so many new releases this fall, releases that many individuals have laboured hard to make available to readers who might never ever even hear about their works. Which leads, to my next point, and that is the point of taking advantage and making the most of buzz and brand new opportunity. It’s the job of the publicist, publisher and editors of any press (or even the author in some cases) to make all of us care, whether we are reader, reviewer, fan, fellow author or all of the above. 

While glow-trend social programs of the tech-tool-boom persuasion such as MYSPACE, YOUTUBE and FACEBOOK have assisted in the online promotional process, and the sometimes well-attended live events are hit and miss in this industry, one key factor remains important: a sense of excitement oozing from those who are working to promote these authors. And I must say, I have, for the most part while putting this hit-list together, felt this positive ooze. 

With that, we welcome you to the first instalment of TDR’s comprehensive guide to book buying, launch attending, review pitching, and general literary hob-knobbing nationwide, as we reveal an uneven but earnest portrait of the publishing landscape that is the fall season. We’ve got debut and sophomore releases, first-time poets, hostage-taking debuts, legendary poetry retrospectives and contemporary criticisms.

TDR proudly presents the fall preview in all its formats: we’ve got Hart-breaking biographies, insightful anthologies, concrete works of urbanized non-fiction, long-awaited spin-offs and more ISBN’s than an Indigo category manager could shake a scented candle at: enjoy the fall.


"Looming apocalypse aisles four Douglas." Okay, so no one else heard that loudspeaker announcement but you and I, however, The Gum Thief (Random House, Sept.) Douglas Coupland’s new novel, is described as "Clerks meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf—starring Roger, a divorced, middle-aged "aisles associate" at a Staples outlet, who begins an obsession with a fellow employee at the end of her Goth cycle named Bethany." The catalogue promises the novel is, among other things, a story of love and looming apocalypse. Toronto artist and author Brian Joseph Davis (author of 2005’s tabloid tableau Portable Altamont) is up to his new tricks again with his debut novel I,Tania (ECW, Sept.) a book that uses the memoir format and gets bawdy while recounting the highly fictionalize true story of the rise and fall of the far-leftist group the Symbianese Liberation Army, and its heiress hostage turned helper. The novel also answers some plaguing questions and proves some debate-worthy points including: Why John McEnroe is scarier than Ian Curtis and How Don DeLillo can kill…with his mind, and finally, do violent debutantes have a place in political struggle? Joseph has the answers, I,Tania is your hook-up. ‘Yeah, don’t do us any favours, Ass Eyes!’ Former women’s hockey player-turn-novelist Cara Hedley is hoping to score in regulation time with Twenty Miles (Coach House, Oct.) a novel about The Scarlets, a hard-hitting women’s hockey team. (Dare I remind readers the women’s Olympic hockey squad did what the men’s failed to repeat last year?) Lead by players named Toad, Hal, French Pelly and Heezer (who moonlights as a waitress at Hooters) Hedley’s book refreshes the male-dominated world of Canadian Puck-Lit with a serious hereditary backdrop and plenty of questionable officiating. Gail Anderson-Dargatz releases Turtle Valley (Knopf, Sept.) No stranger to a Giller win, M.J. Vassanji releases the much anticipated The Assasin’s Song (Doubleday, Sept.) While the Giller-nominated Elizabeth Hay is following up her bestselling Garbo Laughs with Late Night On Air, a novel set in the mid-1970s that centres around the romantic and rivalry-ready lives of the workers at a Yukon radio station. Wings of a Bee is Julie Roorda’s first novel for young adults, the story of quirky oddball named Bronwyn DeGroot. (Sumach,Oct.) Montreal’s favourite novelist/barmaid Maya Merrick brings us another refreshing round with her sophomore novel The Hole Show (Conundrum, Oct.) full of colourful dreamers and lovers like Billy, the cross-dressing butcher boy, who leaves the farm and changes his name to Beau. The novel follows Billy and his gang of thespians who form a controversial theatre troupe set in the politically vulnerable Montreal of the 1970s. Merrick’s first novel, Sextant, (Conundrum, 2005) was recently translated and published into French by Les Editions du Boreal. On the other side of the country, Teresa McWhirter follows up Some Girls Do with Dirtbags (Anvil, Oct.) a novel about reckoning with one’s past, one’s choices, and one’s expectations for the future. Spider is a scrappy kid growing up in rural B.C., and when a tragic event causes her world to implode she heads to Vancouver for solace, distraction, and experience. Peter Robinson brings Inspector Alan Banks back with Friend of the Devil (M&S, Sept.) Ottawa poet, editor, artist rob mclennan debuts in novel form with the ever-topical uncertainty of urban romance in White (Mercury, Oct.) Brendan Mcleod, winner of the 29th annual 3-day novel contest, is releassing his new novel, The Convictions of Leonard McKinley , a a comedic coming-of-age novel about a teenager who must suppress his dark side in an attempt to become a better human being. (Arsenal, Sept.) Pulpy and Midge (Coach House, Oct.) will take the day-job world of faxing and water cooler gossip by storm when Jessica Westhead’s unleashes her debut novel which Lynn Coady calls "a hilariously deadpan, wincingly funny take on one office innocent’s workplace coming of age." Join Jessica and the House September 25th at an office party book launch through Pages This is Not a Reading Series. Richard B. Wright is back with October (Penguin Sept.) the story of a Toronto professor who travels to London to see his dying daughter and stumbles into his past. Elyse Friedman releases the much anticipated Long Story Short (Anansi, Oct.) Stephen Henighan is back with A Grave In The Air is a sequence of stories (though the catalogue says novel) dominated by Central and Eastern European themes. (Thistledown, Avail). Roddy Doyle fans will be pleased when The Deportees is released (Knopf, Sept.) collecting stories Doyle previously wrote for Metro Eireann, a magazine by and for immigrants to Ireland. Massachusetts novelist and academy award-nominated screenwriter Tom Perrotta brings the always topical issues of child-rearing and sexuality to the forefront in his latest novel The Abstinence Teacher (Random House, Oct.) Kuroshio by Terry Watada (Arsenal, Oct.) centres around an Issei woman who arrives on the west coast from Japan as a picture bride crushed in the loveless throes of a disappointing marriage. Toronto literary fixture Stan Rogal’s third novel As Good As Dead (Pedlar, Oct.) let’s us tag along with suddenly fame-struck writer Vic who confronts celebrity living with a press circuit including a stop on Oprah and at the erotic island that is The Playboy Mansion. The Stone Face by Sherry Macdonald (Anvil, Oct.) is set in the year is 1964 where first-time film director Alan Schneider is about to embark on a project combining the talents of Buster Keaton and Samuel Beckett. Tacones: high heels (Anvil, Aug.) by Todd Klinck is a reprint of the 1997 winner of the 3-Day Novel Contest. Tacones is a hangout for a subculture of outlaws and rejects—crackhead murderers, transvestite prostitutes, biastogerontophiles, hustler boys, and addicts—all blatantly searching for connection. Ray Robertson releases What Happened Later (Thomas Allen, Sept.) David Chariandy’s debut Soucouyant (Arsenal, Sept.) takes its name from an evil spirit in Caribbean lore, and a symbol of the legacies that haunt the Americas. The novel is the story of a mixed-race family living in suburban Ontario affected by the mother’s worsening dementia, while the Rock’s favourite son Michael Winter releases The Architects Are Here (Penguin, Sept.). The Anansi Reader: Forty Years of Very Good Books, edited by Lynn Coady (Anansi, Oct.).


Naomi Klein, author of No Logo is back with The Shock Doctrine (Knopf, September) examines how the free market came to dominate the world based on four years of on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones. Chris Turner opens up possibilities for all in The Geography of Hope (Random House Oct.) is one writer’s exploration of a the world’s many beacons of possibility using front-line reporting, analyiis Turner argues for optimism amid the gloom and already in place solutions around the world including Canada’s largest wind farm and Europe’s most environmentally friendly communites. Turner touches on economic, social and spiritual futures. From The Geography of Hope: "There are, I’m sure, any number of images called to mind by talk of ecological revolution and renewable energy and sustainable living, but I’m pretty certain they don’t generally include a hearty fiftysomething Dane in rubber boots spotted with mud and cow shit."

"To me there is something bordering on beautiful about a brotherhood of big tough men who pretended to hurt one another for a living instead of actually doing it. Any idiot can hurt someone." Widely considered one of the greatest technical wrestlers of all time, Calgary’s favourite son and Canadian sports hero, Bret "The Hitman" Hart continues his healing process from personal tragedy with Hitman: My Real Life In The Cartoon World of Wrestling. (Random House, Oct.) The autobiography traces the legendary career of Bret Hart who reveals how the industry works, pays and betrays, including how he coped with the death of his younger brother and once rival Owen Hart in 1999, or how he helped put over the industry’s biggest draw of all time in "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Hart was passionate about his legacy, and the legacy of those around him.

John A. by Richard Gwyn (Random House, Sept.) will bring us closer to the "man who made us" in John A. Macdonald. In this first volume, spanning 1815-1867, Gwyn follows Macdonald’s life from his birth in Scotland to his emigration with his family to Kingston, Ontario, his early political ambitions, conceiviing Confederation and presiding over the first Canada Day. Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater (Key Porter,Oct.) is based on the Award-winning documentary of the same name, (Winner Canada’s Top Ten—Toronto International Film Festival, Winner People’s Choice Award and Winner Best Documentary—Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival) with over 200 photographs, the book reveals the reality of sharks as pillars in the evolution of the seas. As a result of human greed, the ocean’s king predators are a vulnerable minority, facing mass extinction. Technically not a fall title, but nonetheless, Secret Carnival Workers: The Paul Haines Reader, edited by Stuart Broomer (H. Pal, Jul.) collects the work of Paul Haines (who died in early 2003) in short fiction and music journalism forms that he wrote from 1955 to 2002. Paul Haines is the father of Toronto musician/poet Emily Haines. Veteran photographer Pat Graham releases Silent Pictures, (Akashic, Sept.) featuring photographs of Modest Mouse, Ted Leo, Bikini Kill, Fugazi, and The Shins are just some of the subjects that helped define ‘90s underground rock.The Dictionary of Homophobia by Louis-Georges Tin (translated by Marek Redburn) (Arsenal, Nov.) is the result of seventy researches in fifteen countries, at 448 pages it’s described as "a mammoth encyclopaedia book that documents the history of homosexuality, and various cultural responses to it." Includes Canadian contributors and issues. Imagination in Action (Mercury, Oct.) edited by Carol Malyon, collects the essays and articles by Canadian painters and sculptors, musicians and composers, poets and novelists and journalists including: Adam Dickinson, bill bissett, Joe Blades, Penn Kemp, Phlip Arima, Stan Rogal, Steve McCabe, and Susan Helwig. Vancouver’s homelessness is the subject of Street Stories: 100 Years of Homelessness in Vancouver (Anvil, Sept.). Photographs by Lindsay Mearns, authored by Michael Barnholden and Nancy Newman. Tracing the homeless problem since 1907 in Vancouver, the book delves into new programs and initiatives that have been tried and have seemingly failed. Concrete Toronto: A Guide to Concrete Architecture from the fifties to the seventies edited by Michael McClelland and Graeme Stewart (Coach House, Oct.) is a guide through Toronto’s extensive concrete heritage, and a re-examination of the uniqueness and value of these historic buildings. Included in the book are remarks from some of the original concrete architects, local practitioners, journalists and industry experts. Includes archival photos, drawings and interviews. rob mclennan explores Ottawa: The Unknown City (Arsenal, Oct.) with tons of interesting facts, including one surrounding an Oscar Wilde visit that may very well have changed the genius’ life forever. Have you ever wondered what living in a world where porn had no fake breasts or big budget trailers? Black and White and Blue by Mojo magazine approved rock writer Dave Thompson (ECW Sept.) traces the development of adult cinema since 1889 to around 1980 when the advent of the home VCR changed the landscape of adult film forever. If the apocalypse and science fiction are your guilty pleasure, if you need to brush up on your history of the Cylons, and if you can’t decide if you like the new series better than the old one, better pick up a copy of Frak You! (ECW, Oct.) the Ultimate Unauthorized Guide to Battlestar Galactica by Jo Storm. High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm: The Life and Music of Valaida Snow by Mark Miller (The Mercury Press, Oct.) Traces the hyperbolic story of this singer, trumpeter and dancer, child star, jazz pioneer and world traveller. Loath him or rely on him, Subverting The Lyric (ECW, Oct.) showcases the Wayne Gretzky of Canadian Poetry rob mclennan in his most honest form: the tireless and passionate reflector of this country’s literary providers. With essays on the works of such diverse Canadian writers as Bowering, Fiorentino and Christakos, it is easily a work that the academia and literati sects should own, study and debate over with great interest


Poetry goes through a shake up and an always welcome identity crisis this fall when Ottawa poet Stephen Brockwell releases the real made up, (ECW, Oct.) an intriguing collection that concocts itself around the notion of imitation, mimicry and "blatant theft" while the wry circuits of David McGimpsey hopes to temp basic cable subscribers and lower Neilson numbers at the same time when he unplugs his latest poetry collection Sitcom (Coach House, Sept) a book that wobbles its bunny-ears and flips its poetic channels between the serious and the comedic. Margaret Atwood releases The Door (Anansi, Sept.) The author of The Dying Poem Rob Budde releases Finding Ft. George a poetic record of the poet’s growing love of Prince George and northern British Columbia. Diane Guichon debuts with Birch Split Bark (Nightwood, Oct.) musing on birch bark canoes and the private waters of humanity, while Michael Blouin debuts with I’m Not Going To Lie To You (Pedlar, Oct.) in a collection that shows us how small details add up to a sense of purpose, while Jacob Scheier’s More To Keep Us Warm (ECW, Oct.) also a debut collection, mourns the absence of both religious and cultural identity as the poet deals with issues of familial loss. Last Water Song by Patrick Lane (Harbour, August) takes its form with a series of 16 long elegies on writer acquaintances who are no longer with us, followed by a section of 23 lyrics and narratives. Rita Wong releases Forage (Nightwood, Oct.) described as "impassionate rants against the abuses of power" touching on cultural and political angst. Perhaps one of the most exciting poetry releases this fall will be The Alphabet Game: A bpNichol Reader by bpNichol (edited by Smaro-Kamboureli and Darren Wershler-Henry) which amasses key texts from the very broad spectrum of Nichol’s work, and is the ideal introduction for brand new readers who wants to catch up to the rest of his fans. (Coach House, Oct.)







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