New Star Blogs

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.

UPDATED: Positively 4th Avenue: Andrew Struthers at Banyen Books and Salt Spring Island


Vic­to­ri­an writer and film­mak­er Andrew Struthers (The Sacred Herb/The Devil’s Weed, Around The World On Min­i­mum Wage, &c., &c.) is back in Van­cou­ver for a read­ing and greet­ing at Banyen Books in fabled Kit­si­lano on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 23. There will be two show­ings of Dr. Struthers’s strange and dis­turb­ing pre­sen­ta­tion, at 6:30 and 8 p.m. You will find it well worth the price of admis­sion, which is nil.

Here’s Banyen’s own page about this event.

Mr. Struthers takes advan­tage of a lay-over on Salt Spring Island on his return jour­ney, with a lec­ture at Leaf Com­pas­sion, #105–109 McPhillips Avenue right in the heart of vibrant down­town Salt Spring.  Sev­en-ish?  Maybe lat­er, d00d.  If you do show up a lit­tle ear­ly, there’s Salt Spring Books right across the street, and they do have copies.

The Sacred Herb/The Devil’s Weed is an unfair­ly bal­anced look at all the whole mar­i­jua­na hoo-ha. The author’s pre­vi­ous book, Around the World On Min­i­mum Wage, an inner trav­el­ogue about his youth­time voy­ages to parts unknow­able, will sure­ly also be avail­able for perusal.