Category: Features

The Man Booker International Prize 2018: Readers to watch

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The Man Booker International Prize is a slightly more obscure prize than, say, The Women’s Prize, The Giller Prize, or the plain ol’ Man Booker Prize. That’s partly why I am keen to follow it – it’s not as overwhelming. There are plenty of other #mbi2018 readers, though. Here are a few I’m following. If I missed you, let me know!

The Man Booker International Prize Shadow Jury

These are the cool kids of #mbi2018. They are already posting longlist reviews! Actually, I’ve followed several of them for years, and they are super nice. Here is the full list of shadow jurors. In particular, I recommend Dolce Bellezza for thoughtful reviews and reading challenges galore; and Tony’s Reading List for his sense of humour and commitment to translated fiction (and the best book blog tagline in the game: “Too lazy to be a writer – Too egotistical to be quiet”). Continue reading

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How to follow a UK Prize from Canada or my foray into the Man Booker International Prize

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I made a snap decision today: I’ve decided to follow the Man Booker International Prize. I came to my decision, oh, about a half hour before the longlist was announced this morning. In my excitement, I filmed two videos before work: one about why I’m following the prize, and one reacting to the longlist. Scroll down to watch, if you wish.

Since my early morning burst of activity, though, I’ve learned some harsh lessons about following a UK prize from overseas: you can’t get the books.

Well, you *can*. And I knew it would be a pain – this isn’t my first rodeo (or my first Booker). But the combination of UK publication dates, translations, and this particular longlist’s preponderance of small press books makes the 2018 MBIP a real challenge. So, I did some research. Continue reading

Jonathan Franzen’s Away Message

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This time of year, I’d usually be kicking off another round of Franzen in February, but due to my unplanned, two-month blogging hiatus, I don’t have my shit together.

So, sadly, this year I will not be bringing you any new Franzen conspiracy theories, nor will I be peer pressuring anyone into reading their First Franzen (which has generally not gone well).

But I just remembered, the most amazing Franzen-related incident of my life occurred during my hiatus, and while I regaled everyone on social media, YouTube, and even IRL, I haven’t shared it with you, dear readers.

Continue reading

Short Story Recommendations from Short Story Lovers – and #SSAC2017 winner announcement

I would have announced this sooner, but I took at week-long internet break (inspired by Bookbii) and it was lovely.

Meghan has won the Short Story Advent Calendar giveaway! She’s an accomplished short story writer herself. Check out her writing here.

Thank you to everyone who entered. I asked you to tell me about a great short story collection as part of your entry, and did you guys ever come through. Below is the full list of recommendations: Continue reading

The Short Story Advent Calendar 2017: Giveaway open till Oct. 17

Disclaimer: Giveaway copy is courtesy of the kind people at Hingston & Olsen Publishing, but I bought my own copy. I know one of the creators, Michael Hingston, and reviewed his novel The Dilettantes here.

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It’s that time of year again: The Short Story Advent Calendar is on sale now, and I have a copy to give away. I plan to do daily reveal videos, so subscribe on YouTube if you haven’t already!

The SSAC is exactly what it sounds like: individually bound short stories that you open every day from December 1 to 25. The creators also post daily author interviews and extras on their website. The best part is reading along and chatting about the stories with fellow bookish people on the internet – use #ssac2017 on Twitter.

How to enter & other fine print

  • To enter: tell me about the last great short story you read in the comments, and make sure your comment either includes your email address, or links to somewhere I can find it. Or, email me at lauratfrey@gmail.com and put SSAC in the subject line. If you haven’t read a great short story lately, that’s okay! Just tell me how excited you are to start reading them, or something.
  • Rules and regulations:
    • Contest is open till October 17, 2017.
    • On October 18, I will randomly choose a winner. I will notify the winner by email and ask for their mailing address. If I don’t hear back in 48 hours, I’ll choose again.
    • The winner’s calendar will ship in late October.
    • The giveaway is open internationally, but can only ship to addresses in Canada, USA, Mexico, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Good luck!

Psst… Hingston & Olsen are offering a second story box this year. The Ghost Box is full of scary stories, and is still available but probably won’t be for long.

CanLit for Cynics: Q&A with Peter Unwin

petroniusWhen I wrote about CanLit cynicism for carte blanche, I started with Alex Good’s book of essays, Revolutions (full Q&A here). Then, a very strange novel fell into my hands (actually, it was placed there by Kelsey at Freehand Books) and I knew these books were meant to be together. Searching for Petronius Totem is a strange, hilarious book, and author Peter Unwin is a bit strange and hilarious himself. Read on for the full Q&A.

Many thanks to Mr. Unwin, and Ms. Attard at Freehand books!

 

 

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CanLit for Cynics: Q&A with Alex Good

Canadian Novel.inddI’m pretty cynical about CanLit lately. When I noticed that carte blanche, a Quebec-based literary journal, was running a “Who Needs CanLit” series on their blog, I knew I had to get in on it.

One of the books I drew on was Revolutions by Alex Good, a collection of essays that leaves no CanLit heavyweight unscathed. Have a peek at my essay over at carte blanche, then read on below for my full conversation with Alex Good, who may actually be more cynical than me.

Many thanks to Mr. Good and the fine folks at Biblioasis who put me in touch with him! And stay tuned for my Q&A with poet, novelist, and YouTube star Peter Unwin later this week.

Continue reading

How to read a book every week by ignoring your responsibilities: seven tips

Inspired by “How to read a whole damn book every week” by Kevin Nguyen, who has great bookish tweets

Ever notice that most “how to read more” articles are really basic? Smug too, but that’s inevitable. The GQ article above was better than most, but let’s talk about some ways to increase your book consumption that you might actually not know about. Continue reading

Before & After Canada Reads

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Each year around this time, I take a social media break, and in 2017 it’s more extreme than usual: for the month of March, I’m not only staying away from Twitter and Facebook, but also YouTube, Instagram, Goodreads… anything with a “feed.” And this blog. I’m going to pretend the internet stopped evolving after 2006, basically.

I’d be remiss if I took off with out reminding you all about Canada Reads, which is going down March 27-30 on CBC (I am allowing myself to watch broadcast TV on YouTube. I gotta keep up on Workin’ Moms too!) AND letting you know that Write Reads podcast is staging its own version of the national reading debate.

“After Canada Reads” will be released in a special edition Write Reads podcast in late April. It’s sort of a homage to Canada Reads, but also sort of an anti-Canada Reads. If you enjoy the general concept of debating books, but find the topics and criteria for those debates to be somehow both insipid and alarmist (“the book Canada MUST READ RIGHT NOW”) – or if you just have a lingering ick factor due to the ex-host – this maybe be the reading event for you.

Oh, and I’m taking part! Of course.

The theme: The best/most memorable/most inspirational female character in Canadian Literature.

The books:

  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • Malarky by Anakana Schofield (this one is mine!)
  • The Break by Katherena Vermette (also on the legit Canada Reads)
  • A Chorus of Mushrooms by Hiromi Goto
  • Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Check out all of the defenders and their book choices here.

So, while you struggle through the official Canada Reads without my insightful commentary about who lays the best smack downs, who has the best lipstick, and who needs to shut the hell up, remember to read along and get ready for After Canada Reads. See you all in April!

Jonathan Friendzoned: Some Thoughts on Purity

Our next #FranzeninFebruary guest post is courtesy of Matt Bowes, who’s pun game is on point (see post title). Matt is the General Manager at NeWest Press, my favourite Edmonton publisher. He sent me my very first review book  back when I was a just a baby book blogger. He used to dabble in book blogging himself, but these days you’ll find him podcasting about Bollywood movies at Bollywood is for Lovers.

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Jonathan Franzen can be a hard writer to like sometimes, but paradoxically I find him to be easy to love. The eternal English major in me thrills to see his recurring writerly tics crop up in each new fiction work, stuff like detailed descriptions of bird species, bathroom humour, the Club of Rome, and an uncomfortable sense of détente with the modern world. It’s one of the reasons people also like Wes Anderson: when an artist sets the table with recurring themes and preoccupations, it breaks down a sort of barrier, allowing readers to see what the deeper truth on offer is this time out. It’s like Commedia del’Arte, a set of agreed-upon motifs that act as a gateway to entertainment.

I’ve only read The Corrections, Freedom and now Purity, so I’m not entirely sure if these recurring traits appear in his earlier novels The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion, but I would be surprised if they weren’t in there somewhere.

So while it’s easy to see a critic latching on to Franzen’s straightforward obsessions and calling them out as being on the nose, it’s this exact heart-on-the-sleeve nature of his work that makes me really like him, and stick up for him in conversation, even as Franzen the reluctant public personality often gets himself into trouble. His jeremiads against social media and its practitioners, his bemoaning the state of book promotion and his attempts to embody The Great American Writer archetype are well-documented and rightly mocked, but unlike some other claimants to that throne, Franzen always comes correct with the literary goods in the end. Continue reading