Vol. 6 No. 48


The perfect gift for book lovers!
Gift certificates, in increments of $20, are now available for the 2012 Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival. To purchase gift certificates, valid towards events during the 2012 Festival from October 16 to 21, please call 604-681-6330 x0. Gift certificates are available for purchase until December 16, 2011. Some restrictions apply.


Finalists named for BC's National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

Oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee's biography of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies, a 'remarkable and unusual' study, has won the Guardian First Book award, with a £10,000 prize.

An excerpt is here:

Nicanor Parra, the Chilean poet and mathematician who seeks to demystify poetry and make it accessible to a wide audience, is winner of the 2011 Miguel de Cervantes Prize. Worth €125,000 (nearly $171,500 Cdn), the Cervantes Prize honours a Spanish-language writer for his or her body of work.

Jesmyn Ward has won the US National Book Award for her novel Salvage the Bones. The book was inspired by her family's gut-wrenching experience just prior to, and during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Margaret Drabble is the winner of the 2011 Golden PEN Award, an award given annually to an accomplished writer whose body of work has had a profound impact on readers, is held in high regard by the literary community, and is supportive of the values upheld by English PEN.

Emma Donoghue's novel Room has won the 2011 Evergreen Award. The Evergreen Award is administered by the Ontario Library Association as part of the Forest of Reading program, designed to expose adult library users to Canadian fiction and non-fiction. The award will be presented in February, 2012.

David Guterson (author of Snow Fallng on Cedars, Ed King) was declared 'the clear winner' of the Literary Review's bad sex fiction award with his 'mortifyingly awful sex scenes'.


Alice Oswald, shortlisted for her much-praised collection Memorial, has withdrawn from the TS Eliot poetry prize in protest at the sponsorship of the investment company Aurum and its focus on hedge funds.

How do you write about cancer? Siddhartha Mukherjee describes the process to Decca Aitkenhead, including dealing with the declarations of well-meaning individuals fostering 'positive mental attitude'. "A positive attitude does not cure cancer, any more than a negative one causes it", says Mukherjee.

Britain's Royal Mint has come up with a novel way to wish Charles Dickens a happy 200th birthday—a new coin with a portrait of the author made up of the titles of some of his most famous fictional works.

Alison Flood reports that New York City's transport department is hoping to reduce accidents with a set of haikus. Here is a selection:

As a lark during this month's holiday season, House of Anansi has taken one of the most prominent authors in its stable—CanLit icon Margaret Atwood—and made her over as a Charleston-dancing elf: Atwood as dancing avatar.

The Colombian court has ruled against a man who claimed Gabriel García Márquez used his life story for the main character in Chronicle of a Death Foretold. This brings to an end a 17-year legal fight.

Prompted by Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes sequel's imminent arrival in movie theatres, the Observer has identified the ten most brilliant sleuths, ranging from the Man with No Name to the single woman on the list—Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jasperson. A gallery of the ten is here:

Toronto comic artist Ramon Perez has illustrated Jim Henson's Tale of Sand, an unproduced film script in an archive for almost 40 years, now a graphic novel for adult readers. Perez's graphic novel will be the only version true to her father's vision, says Lisa Henson. Tale of Sand will be launched in Canada in January, 2012.

Author Christa Wolf, one of Germany's most significant writers, has died in Berlin, at 82. Wolf is best known for her novel Cassandra, a retelling of the Trojan War, known for its feminist themes. Wolf was awarded the Thomas Mann prize in 2010.

Ten paper sculptures, created from shredded books, have been left anonymously at various cultural institutions in Edinburgh.

A sculpture created specifically for Ian Rankin can be viewed here:

Siddhartha Mukherjee names Primo Levi as his hero. After reading Levi's description of distilling, Mukherjee writes: "If chemists can write like that, God help the writers."

Film-maker Shaun Tan, In a conversation with Neil Gaiman, says: 'I use text as the grout between the tiles of the pictures. I always overwrite and then trim it down to the bare bones'.

The Globe and Mail's guide to the fattest and fanciest gift books, in all categories, can be found here:

Renowned literary critic Harold Bloom has just begun his 58th year teaching literature at Yale. In an interview, Bloom says that Walt Whitman is America's Shakespeare, but not much appreciated. The result is the forthcoming "Walt Whitman: A Pageant," a combination of biography, poetry and music.

In an essay about fantasy fiction, Adam Gopnik describes Oxford students' experience studying in the 1940s under Tolkien—then considered the most boring lecturer, teaching the most boring subject. But, as the boring old professor knew, says Gopnik, the backstory is the biggest one of all.

Novelist (The Yacoubian Building, The State of Egypt), dentist, and defender of democracy, Alaa Al Aswany speaks to Joe Lauria about the Egyptian uprising and the future of Eygpt.

The National Post's Mark Medley is reading Moby Dick for the first time and poses a challenge to readers: what books do you feel you should read but haven't? Post in the comments section or participate in the conversation. on Twitter (#unread) before Saturday, December 10.

Twitter is good for literacy, says Margaret Atwood. We should celebrate it and the internet as new platforms for instant communication and as drivers of literacy, says Atwood.

The National Literacy Trust has published research showing that almost 4 million children in Britain—one in three—do not own a book. The Literacy Trust charity, which carried out the survey, said the proportion had risen from one in 10 in 2005.

Niall Ferguson's resort to legal threats over a bad book review smacks of bullying, not intellectual rigour, writes Catherine Bennett.

The European commission has launched an investigation into whether Apple and five large publishing houses have conspired to fix the price of ebooks.

The Writers' Trust of Canada is accepting submissions for the Bronwen Wallace Emerging Author Award, which is awarded to authors under the age of 35 whose work has been published in a magazine or anthology. The deadline for submissions is January 30, 2012. Full submission guidelines here:

The Writers Union of Canada has announced the jury and the submission deadlines for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, which will be awarded to the best first short fiction collection by a Canadian writer. The submission deadline is January 31, 2012 and submitted words must have been published in 2011.


Chuck Davis's History of Metropolitan Vancouver is 574 pages of short factual items covering the years from 1757 (George Vancouver's birth) to 2011 (the city's 125th birthday). A group of writers, photographers, editors and publishers helped finish the book after Davis's death.

Stephen King travels back in time to the Kennedy assassination—and changes the course of history. Which prompts Mike Fischer's question: what right do any of us have to change others' stories in order to write our own?

David Adams Richards' new book, Facing the Hunter: Reflections on a Misunderstood Pursuit is a mix of memoir and meditation about the art and sport of hunting, writes Nathan Whitlock, a practice he both defends and admits he has mostly given up.

What I Don't Know About Animals, by British author Jenny Diski, is a personal journey into her engagement with non-humans, writes Erika Ritter. Diski's wide-ranging exploration of what she doesn't know about animals makes for a lively read, says Ritter.

George Jonas is CanLit's version of a Swiss Army knife, writes Mark Medley; his output is as eclectic as it is prolific. Jonas comes full circle with the release of his 16th book, The Jonas Variations, his first collection of poetry since 1993.

Jean H. Baker's biography Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion, defends the Planned Parenthood founder's career without whitewashing her brush with eugenics, writes Barbara Spindel for Barnes & Noble Reviews. Sanger was a tenacious visionary in her advocacy for female sexual autonomy.

River of Smoke is Amitav Ghosh's follow-up to Sea of Poppies, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. In a recent New York Times piece, Dwight Garner wondered whether some overweight American novels might need liposuction: Why so large, he asks. This lush tome might well raise the same question, but Mark Anthony Jarman argues that this art is worth the time and caloric intake.


Come and hear poems and stories related to the theme of 'New Beginnings'. December's guest author, Dan Green, published his first novel, Blue Saltwater, last year. Thursday, December 8 at 7:00pm. Rhizome Cafe, 317 East Broadway.

Meet the renowned news reporter and author at a book signing of his new book, Here's Mike: And Junkyard Granny, Whistling Bernie Smith, the Robertson Screwdriver, Pancakes and Eternal Truth. Saturday, December 10 at 11:00am. Coles, Cottonwood Corner, 45-45585 Lukakuck Way, Chilliwack. For more information, phone 604-858-9595.

Book launch by Ibrahim Honjo, author of Poems I Didn't Want to Write, Some Other Dreams. Saturday, December 10 at 3:30pm. Renfrew Public Library, 2969 22nd Ave. E., Vancouver. More information at 604-441-0169.

Meet the soccer legend and renowned sports writer Jim Taylor at a book signing for Bob Lenarduzzi: A Canadian Soccer Story. Saturday, December 10 at 5:00pm. Black Bond Books, Trenant Park Square Shopping Centre, 5251 Ladner Trunk Road, Ladner. For more information, phone 604-946-6677.

Readings by Esi Edugyan and Jen Sookfong Lee. Thursday, December 15 at 7:00pm, free. UBC Bookstore/Library at Robson Square, 800 Robson Street. More information at www.robsonreadingseries.ubc.ca.


Readings by three members of the Vancouver Poetry Dogs: Stephanie Bolster, Barbara Nickel, and Elise Partridge. Tuesday, January 3 at 7:00pm, free. Peter Kaye room, lower level, Central Library, 350 W. Georgia Street.

Come hear about forgotten Chinatowns and stories about growing up Chinese in Vancouver and in Mexico. Meet authors Rebeca Lau, Chad Reimer, and Larry Wong and learn more about the new book series Gold Mountain Stories. Wednesday, January 11 at 7:00pm, free. Alma VanDusen & Peter Kaye Rooms, Lower Level, Central Library, 350 West Georgia Street.

Author of Ghost Dancing with Colonialism discusses her new book. Thursday, January 12 at 7:00pm, free. Alma vanDusen room, lower level, Central Branch, 350 W. Georgia Street.

Madeline Sonik, award-winning author and university teacher of writing, will teach autobiographical writing techniques, structure and theme. Saturday, January 14 at 1:00pm, free. Alma vanDusen room, lower level, Central Branch, 350 W. Georgia Street. More information at www.vpl.ca.

Please join the author as she reads from My Road to Rome: The Running Times of BJ McHugh, the story of how she became the world's fastest senior long-distance runner. Monday, January 16 at 7:00pm, free. Alma VanDusen & Peter Kaye Rooms, Lower Level, Central Library, 350 West Georgia Street.

Readings by Sachiko Murakami (Rebuild) and Nick Thran (Earworm). Thursday, January 19 at 7:00pm, free. UBC Bookstore/Library at Robson Square, 800 Robson Street. More information at www.robsonreadingseries.ubc.ca.

Reading by the author of his debut poetry collection, Embouchure. Thursday, January 26, 2012 at 2:00pm. Rm301, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre 1961 East Mall, UBC.