New Star Blogs

Andrew Struthers at Shadow Mountain in Victoria, April 7


Andrew Struthers, author of The Sacred Herb / The Devil’s Weed, will be reading from and signing copies of his smokin’ flip-book at Shadow Mountain Dispensary on April 7.

The Sacred Herb / The Devil’s Weed, which was announced as a finalist for the BC Book Prize earlier this month, is a hilarious look at a humble plant that has entertained, inspired, and occasionally terrified so many for so long.  As Leanne Allen from Vulture Culture TV puts it, “Reading Struthers’ writing is like … swimming in jello. And reading his new book The Sacred Herb/The Devil’s Weed is half like that, and half like … floating in mercury.”

Join Struthers for readings and book signing at Shadow Mountain Dispensary, 543 Herald Street, Victoria.  Doors open at (when else?) 4:20 p.m.

The Excelsior Hotel Incident

This week's news, that The Sacred Herb / The Devil's Weed by Andrew Struthers has been nominated for the Hubert Evans Award in the BC Book Prizes, reminded us of the author's earlier brush with this country's literary prize machinery.  That was in the late 1990s, when Struthers was nominated for a National Magazine Award for The Green Shadow in its original form, serialized in the Georgia Straight.  He tells that story in Chapter 1 of The Last Voyage of the Loch Ryan (2004), from which this excerpt is taken.

After university I tried living “on the Grid”, with a day job and a credit history and a notice of disconnection and a stress-related skin disease, but it just wasn’t me. So I moved into the forest in Clayoquot Sound and built a pyramid out of cedar and glass, perched on a hundred-foot cliff, looking out through a canopy of giant trees over a sparkling limb of the Pacific.

On the horizon lay an island where the ancient village of Echachist once stood, until it was destroyed in battle two centuries back. For years there was no sign of human activity down there. Then one evening the setting sun caught on two golden cedar beams. Someone was raising a house frame.

I asked around at the Common Loaf Bakery. The builder was Joe Martin, whose forebear had been the chief at Echachist. I watched Joe’s house go up, and just before he finished the roof the Federal Government slapped a demolition order on my door. My house wasn’t up to code. I moved into town for the winter, and by spring the fuss had died down, so I carried my stuff back up the hill and continued my contraband lifestyle.

To pay the bills I worked on fish boats in summer and at the fish plant in winter. My one attempt at a career was writing, but it didn’t work out. I loved the writing but hated the career. These days you can’t simply write, you also have to be a celebrity, which I find unsettling, because the only celebrity I resemble is Shrek.

But I gave it my best shot, and right away things got out of hand. I wrote one story — The Green Shadow — and next thing I knew I was nominated for a national humour award, up against Mordecai Richler. The awards banquet was at the Excelsior Hotel in Toronto. The entrée was pork — not my favourite at the best of times, and with Mordecai on one side and Paul Quarrington on the other, vying for quips, I was so nervous I couldn’t eat a bite. Mordecai was just the opposite. The guy had an intense love of pork, I guess. He ate his meal, and then he ate mine. Then he wandered around the banquet hall scoring pork rinds from the plates of strangers, all the while puffing on a rancid Gauloise and swigging haughtily from a giant bottle of Cherry Jack.

When the MC announced the winner, Mordecai didn’t even listen. He ran, snuffling and wheezing and wiping the grease from his stubby sausage fingers on the frills of his cheap rental tuxedo, to the stage, where he grabbed the award, shouldered the MC aside and began grunting platitudes into the microphone.

Okay, that never happened. I didn’t even go to the awards banquet. My account is what we fishermen call a yarn. It starts with the truth and casts off from there. What makes Clayoquot Sound’s yarns unique is that the truth is often stranger than fishing. Here’s what really happened that night.

The awards were the same day as the fun fair at Pasheabel’s school. She had just turned six, and what she wanted more than anything in the world was to win a cake in the
cakewalk. We bought a ticket and tried and lost. Bought another ticket, lost again. Third time I said, “This is all the money I have left. If we go in the cakewalk again, we can’t afford to go in the haunted house.”

But Pasheabel knew what she wanted. Cake. Not so much to have cake as to win cake. So round we went again, and when the music stopped we were standing on the sweet spot. Sally Mole came running up to us. “You won!”

It seemed like a good omen, and it was. I thought about Mordecai and the awards banquet. They must be announcing the winner right about now. Suddenly I knew I had won that too. It was one of those moments when it seemed the mysterious thread that sews together the lives in a small town runs deeper than anyone imagines, connecting every human life, even mine and Mordecai’s.

Sally handed us an evil-looking chocolate bunt baked by Ian Bruce’s kid, who was barely older than Pasheabel — but to us it was a magic cake. We took it down to Barry Grumbach’s house. Barry was a crab fisherman who lived on the inlet. The night was full of stars, the inlet was flat as glass, and on the grass behind the house the usual suspects were roasting a giant ling cod and playing tunes. Halfway through the evening, Charles Campbell called from the Georgia Straight. “You won!”

The party went ballistic, everyone chanting, “Nice try, Mordecai!” I forget what happened next. At dawn Pasheabel and I woke up on the couch to find our magic cake had
been eaten by drunks. There was nothing left except a swirly pattern on the plate where someone had licked it clean.

It seemed like a bad omen, and it was. After that night my writing career took a sinister turn. When the book version of The Green Shadow came out, my publisher, Rolf Maurer, a German intellectual with a huge forehead and a soul patch, sent me on a tour to flog it. The interviewers asked the same questions over and over and over until I started making the answers up out of sheer boredom, and then they nailed me on the facts. It was like spending a week downtown in a miniskirt that didn’t quite cover my ass. The low point came on CBC’s Almanac, with Cecilia Walters. The studio was cavernous and empty. It seemed too grand for radio. It was more like a TV studio that had gone blind. I sat in the green room listening with horror as the guest before me told a harrowing tale of surviving breast cancer. When I got to the hot seat, Gloria was sobbing like a schoolgirl. This was going to be a tough act to follow.

I read a chapter, and Gloria chuckled with glee and asked if I still lived in my pyramid in the woods. Dead air. The Feds still had that demolition order on my house. If I told the truth, town council would be obliged to evict me all over again. “No,” I said, “I live in a double-wide trailer on Chestermans Beach.”

Back in Tough City I climbed the trail to my pyramid and found three Commercial Drive hippie chicks and an Australian shaman camped out on my floor. They had braved the pass, bushwhacked through the rainforest to my place, unrolled their bed mats, lit my oil lamps, and used my only saucer as an ashtray. They comprised what Rolf called my “fan base”. I said, “You people have to go.” But the Aussie had other ideas. He wanted to unblock my root chakra by laying his didjeridoo across my ass and blowing. I said, “Mister, I don’t even know you.”

By now you’re thinking, This has got to be another yarn. Sadly, that’s exactly what happened. Out here, yarn and truth get tangled. A lot of Clayoquot tales are true at one end and tall at the other. But I swear on the grave of Jesus, every tale I’m about to tell you is true at one end.

Some End / West Broadway launch at the People’s Co-op Bookstore, March 30


George Bowering and George Stanley will be at the People’s Co-op Bookstore in Vancouver on Friday, March 30 for the launch of their new book, Some End / West Broadway.

Some End / West Broadway presents the latest collections of these two old masters in a back-to-back “tumble” format.  Jack Shadbolt’s diptych Encounter is reproduced on the book’s covers.  Some End / West Broadway , released by New Star Books on February 14, was reviewed this week on rob mclennan’s blog.

Join Georges Bowering and Stanley for readings and light refreshments at 7 p.m.  The People’s Co-op Bookstore is at 1391 Commercial Drive.  Admission is free.

Holy smoke! The Sacred Herb/The Devil’s Weed is a BC Book Prize finalist


The BC Book Prizes announced its 2018 finalists today.  The list includes Victoria word- and filmsmith Andrew Struthers, finalist for this year’s Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize, awarded to the best original work of literary non-fiction published in the previous year.

Woo-hoo!  Although might be fair to point out that the original plan was for The Sacred Herb / The Devil’s Weed to be eligible for last year’s prize.  (This is addressed in the book.)

Struthers is no stranger to book prizes, having never won any, but he did once win a National Magazine Award (remember magazines?) for the original version of The Green Shadow.  He describes that harrowing experience in The Last Voyage of the Loch Ryan.

He is also the author of Around the World on Minimum Wage.  Copies of the profusely corrected second edition of this succes d’estime are still available.


Lisa Robertson auf Deutsch


German-language rights to Lisa Robertson‘s first book, XEclogue, have been placed with German publisher Turia + Kant.  Translator Marcus Coelen‘s rendition of Robertson’s feminist detournement of Virgil’s love poems will be issued in 2019.

Robertson joins a Turia + Kant list that includes German translations of works by Alain Badiou, Jacques Lacan, Mieke Bal, Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Fernando Pessoa, Chantal Mouffe, Paul Virilio, and Slavoj Zizek, among many others.

Originally published by Tsunami Editions in 1993, XEclogue was re-issued in 1999 by New Star Books.

Lisa Robertson’s book The Weather (2001) has recently been issued in Swedish (Vadret; Ramus Forlag) and French (Le temps; Edition Nous).

Robertson was recently awarded with the inaugaral C.D. Wright Award for Poetry, established in honour of the American poet. The award is for a poet with “vibrant lyricism, seriousness, and striking originality.”

The deal with Turia + Kant was arranged for New Star Books by Bill Hanna of Acacia House Publishing Services.



John Armstrong reading in Chilliwack Monday, February 5


John Armstrong, author of A Series of Dogs, will be reading at the first installment of a new local writer series in Chilliwack, this Monday, February 5, at Tractorgrease, 48710 Chilliwack Lake Rd. 

Armstrong’s most recent book, A Series of Dogs (2016), is a memoir following all the tail-waggers that have featured in his various lifelong adventures (and even a few cats), and was a finalist for the 2016 Leacock Prize.  His early life as Buck Cherry, leader of legendary punk rock band The Modernettes, as well as the following fifteen years as an award-winning journalist at the Vancouver Sun, inspired his first books with New Star, Guilty of Everything (2001) and Wages (2007).

See Armstrong read alongside local writers Margaret Bollerup, Heather Ramsay and Sylvia Taylor.  Doors open at 6 p.m., show at 7.  Admission is by donation.

Annharte to appear at Growing Room Literary Festival in March


Marie Annharte Baker will appear in the second annual Growing Room, a Feminist Literary Festival hosted by Room magazine.  The festival runs from March 1-4 at various venues throughout Vancouver, featuring talks, readings and workshops on a range of topics that lie at the intersection of feminism and writing.

Annharte is an Anishinabe (Little Saskatchewan First Nation, Manitoba) poet who now lives in Winnipeg.  She has been the author of several works, including Indigena Awry (2012) and Exercises in Lip Pointing (2003) from New Star Books, and AKA Inendagosekwe (2013) from CUE Books.

You can see Annharte at the following events:


Friday, March 2 | 7:30 p.m. | Native Education College, 237 5th Ave E

THE WITCHES YOU DIDN’T BURN:  Writing about Daughters, Mothers, and Grandmothers

Saturday, March 3 | 1:30 p.m. | Native Education College, 237 5th Ave E


Sunday, March 4 | 1:30 p.m. | Native Education College, 237 5th Ave E


Some End / West Broadway launch and appearance at Galiano Literary Festival


Left:  George Bowering;  Right:  George Stanley


George Stanley and George Bowering, co-authors of New Star’s forthcoming book Some End / West Broadway, will feature in the annual Galiano Literary Festival from 23-25 February this year.  The festival has been around for nine years, and features talks, book signings, and writing workshops by some of the best Canadian authors, all on the beautiful Galiano Island.  Both Stanley and Bowering have participated in the festival before, and the festival has hosted Bowering so many times that he is practically a regular feature.

You can see the pair at 1:40 p.m. on Sunday, 25 February, at the Galiano Oceanfront Inn.

The festival also published a  featured author interview with George Bowering, conducted by Kris Krüg As of now, you can still buy tickets to the festival here.

The pair’s latest work is a masterpiece of late style and friendship.  Some End / West Broadway combines back-to-back two powerful new works by old masters, George Bowering and George Stanley.  New Star Books will release the title on 14 February of this year.

The cover shows the two panels from Jack Shadbolt’s 1993 dyptich EncounterIt is reproduced courtesy of SFU Galleries, where the original painting is housed.

Sharon Thesen & Erin Moure at the People’s Co-op Bookstore Thursday, November 16










Sharon Thesen and Erin Moure will be in Vancouver to launch their newest books this Thursday, November 16, at the People’s Co-op Bookstore, 1391 Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

Montreal-based poet, translator and essayist Erin Moure lived in Vancouver for several years in the early 1980s, and her new prose work Sitting Shiva on Minto Avenue, by Toots is her remembrance of that time, of her friend and lover “the little man”, of the trains where they both worked, and of neighbourhoods in — Montreal and Vancouver — where the recalled events took place.

Born and raised in Prince George, now established in Lake Country in the Okanagan, Sharon Thesen returns to Vancouver where she lived for some years to launch The Receiver, a book about what you can pick up by listening.  The Receiver features the observant lyrical verse Thesen is known for alongside various kinds of prose, and culminates in a critical essay followed by a remarkable found poem both coming out of the poet’s work with Frances Boldereff.

Please join Sharon and Erin for brief readings, followed and preceeded by light refreshments.  The launch gets underway at 7, and admission is free.

November novelties: Anarchy explained; new books from Moure & Thesen


Three new books from New Star are reaching bookstores this month:

Anarchy Explained to My Father, by Francis Dupuis-Déri and Thomas Déri, introduces the reader to the basic concepts of anarchist thought, setting out the features which gives it such resonance today.  Written in the form of a dialogue, Anarchy Explained to My Father is both a bracing and inspiring message as well as an up-to-date sourcebook on anarchism.

This book should be read by anyone who wonders what anarchism is, what it can be, and how we work towards it.” — Mark Leier, author of Bakunin: The Creative Passion and Rebel Life.  “A brilliant exploration of a complex topic .. . a beautiful introduction to anarchy.” — Les Méconnus

Originally published in 2014 as L’Anarchie expliquée à mon père by Lux Editeur, Anarchy Explained to My Father is translated by John Gilmore.

Montreal-based poet/translator/critic Erin Moure‘s memoir Sitting Shiva on Minto Avenue, by Toots is a working of mourning and memory.  At its centre is an old friend, former lover, the remembrance of whom recreates long-ago worlds in Vancouver and Montreal.  Watch for a cameo appearance by our current prime minister’s grandfather.

The Receiver is Sharon Thesen‘s first book since Oyama Pink Shale in 2011, and marks both a contination and a departure for the Prince-Georgeois, now Okanagan-based poet.  Along with the wry lyrical work she is known for, The Receiver also encompasses autobiographical prose, sharp criticism, and found poetry that is both unsettling and hilarious.