New Star Blogs

Some questions for the Canada Council


On June 3, Cana­da Coun­cil Direc­tor Simon Brault, and Direc­tor Gen­er­al Car­o­line Warren were in Van­cou­ver for a Town Hall Meet­ing to give a pre­sen­ta­tion on the Cana­da Coun­cil’s pro­grams and cur­rent pri­or­i­ties. This was fol­lowed by a ques­tion-and-answer peri­od where mem­bers of the audi­ence could ask ques­tions of Mr. Brault and Ms War­ren. It seemed that half the mem­bers of the audi­ence that almost filled the York The­atre on Com­mer­cial Dri­ve had some­thing to get off their chests, and the hour went by before New Star pub­lish­er Rolf Mau­r­er had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak. Mr. Mau­r­er offered to use New Star’s own site to pose his ques­tions, which fol­low.



Thank you, Mr. Brault, and Ms War­ren, for your pre­sen­ta­tion, and for giv­ing us this oppor­tu­ni­ty to ask ques­tions and raise our own con­cerns. I wish to raise two issues, and I promise to be suc­cinct.

I have been the pub­lish­er of New Star Books since 1990, and pre­vi­ous to that had worked at the press since 1981 in every capac­i­ty, encom­pass­ing man­age­ment, edi­to­r­i­al acqui­si­tion, pro­duc­tion, sales, mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion, and pack­ing orders for ship­ping. I men­tion this because although I have no imme­di­ate plans to retire, I do face the fact that over the next few years I must pre­pare the press for new own­er­ship — the sec­ond suc­ces­sion that I will have been part of at New Star Books.

For that rea­son I read with a cer­tain amount of alarm the news that the Cana­da Coun­cil has recent­ly sab­o­taged the pro­posed sale of the Ontario lit­er­ary press The Porcupine’s Quill to new own­ers. Aes­thet­i­cal­ly, I could not be far­ther from Tim and Elke Inkster, the cur­rent pro­pri­etors of the press; and polit­i­cal­ly, I could not be far­ther from the ide­o­log­i­cal posi­tions held by the prospec­tive new own­er, Ken Whyte. I am non­plussed, how­ev­er, to find myself in their cor­ner on this one.

Sab­o­taged” is a strong word to use; I strug­gled to find the right one. But “blocked” or “pre­vent­ed” would be wrong, because they imply a cer­tain right, or pro­pri­ety, to the action. I resist any claim by the Cana­da Coun­cil that they have any right to inter­fere in the inter­nal work­ings, includ­ing suc­ces­sion, of any orga­ni­za­tion that ben­e­fits from their sup­port.

The Cana­da Council’s role is to sup­port the ongo­ing work of Canada’s pub­lish­ing hous­es. It has a role in assess­ing the qual­i­ty of the work car­ried out by the press, and to sup­port that work, at lev­els that vary wide­ly accord­ing to its judge­ment, and the judge­ment of the juries it assem­bles. It is not, how­ev­er, itself a pub­lish­ing orga­ni­za­tion. It is an arts agency, tasked with the respon­si­bil­i­ty for pro­vid­ing finan­cial sup­port for an indus­try that in the absence of pro­grams such as Writ­ing & Pub­lish­ing, would not be able to exist in this coun­try, for struc­tur­al rea­sons. Arguably, it lacks the exper­tise to make such pub­lish­ing deci­sions as who can best car­ry on the work of any giv­en press, and its prin­ci­pals. Sim­ply put: your offi­cers do not work close enough to the knives to be able to make such deci­sions.

It is sim­ply not with­in the Cana­da Council’s ambit to deter­mine who gets to pub­lish in this coun­try. It amounts to unwar­rant­ed inter­fer­ence in the inter­nal deci­sions of a pub­lish­ing house. I am dis­mayed to con­sid­er that the val­ue of my life’s work will at the end of the day be judged by an offi­cer at the Cana­da Coun­cil on the basis of cri­te­ria that I have had no voice in deter­min­ing, and which are in any case obscure, or even con­sis­tent­ly applied. I urge you to revis­it this issue, and to recon­sid­er your pol­i­cy around com­pa­ny suc­ces­sion.



The sec­ond top­ic I wish to raise is one that has pre­vi­ous­ly been high­light­ed by the More Cana­da Report, which was issued late last year.

This report draws atten­tion to the pre­cip­i­tous decline this cen­tu­ry in Cana­di­an par­tic­i­pa­tion in Canada’s own book mar­ket­place. Using data pro­vid­ed by the Depart­ment of Cana­di­an Her­itage, the More Cana­da Report states that the pro­por­tion of Cana­di­an-authored books sold in Cana­da has declined from 27 per­cent in the ear­ly 2000s (itself almost cer­tain­ly rep­re­sent­ing a decline from a decade ear­li­er), to about half that today: 14 per­cent. Of that 14 per­cent, it is esti­mat­ed that only 4 per­cent rep­re­sents books pub­lished by Cana­di­an firms, i.e., those pub­lish­ing hous­es sus­tained by Cana­da Council’s sup­port.

Four per­cent. Can you even speak of a “domes­tic indus­try”?

While each one of us pub­lish­ers have been anec­do­tal­ly aware of this sharp decline in access to our own mar­ket­place, the More Cana­da Report is the first time we have seen any acknowl­edg­ment that this decline is not a prob­lem spe­cif­ic to our indi­vid­ual com­pa­nies, but a broad­er phe­nom­e­non. The Cana­da Coun­cil, how­ev­er, has been able to watch this cat­a­stro­phe unfold, in real time, over the past fif­teen to twen­ty years. This rais­es some ques­tions, which I am now putting to you:

How does the Cana­da Coun­cil under­stand this decline in mar­ket share for Cana­di­an pub­lish­ers?

What, in your view, are the caus­es of this decline, and how should these be addressed?

What are the impli­ca­tions, for the Cana­da Council’s own work and for the coun­try itself?

How is the Cana­da Coun­cil itself propos­ing to respond to this sit­u­a­tion?

Why has it been silent through­out this event?

I thank you for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to bring my con­cerns for­ward, and wish you well in your own work at the Cana­da Coun­cil for the Arts.

The New Star Review of Reviews


A round-up of recent reviews we’ve detect­ed in the cos­mos…

A recent issue of Cana­di­an Lit­er­a­ture reviews Michael Turn­er’s 9x11, odd­ly paired with a book by Paul Ver­meersh, a poet of con­fes­sion­al lyri­cism.   The review­er doesn’t seem to much like it, maybe .. . didn’t real­ly GET the book.

Nice­ly pre­sent­ed though on a copy-pas­ta about the Koote­nay School of Writ­ing (all these years lat­er, that KSW patch still scares), it’s a nov­el read­ing of both Turner’s book and the com­mu­ni­ty it’s root­ed in.

Pre­vi­ous­ly, Jonathan Ball reviewed for the Win­nipeg Free Press , along­side a book by anoth­er old up-and-com­er. “Turner’s a nation­al trea­sure — bril­liant, strange, dark and even fun­ny, wry even at his most sen­ti­men­tal — and 9 x 11 has a stark ele­gance,” says Ball. Final­ly, poet Shazia Hafiz Ramji reviewed it for the Geor­gia Straight, declar­ing  “… may as well be a guide to liv­ing in Van­cou­ver right now.”

Michael’s poem “I Ran to Per­sia” (not in the book) is Dusie Poem No. 308, and it’s a doozie.

John Har­ris, retired Eng­lish prof (Col­lege of New Cale­do­nia), Coleridge schol­ar, and long-time observ­er of Can­lit — he wrote a book about George Bow­er­ing and his Work way back in ‛88, and it’s still in print!—has writ­ten a long and infor­ma­tive piece about Some End / West Broad­way, by Georges Stan­ley and Bow­er­ing, which appeared last month on Bri­an Faw­cett-owned-and-oper­at­ed  It’s right here.

The pre­vi­ous issue of Cana­di­an Lit­er­a­ture ran a review / notice real­ly of Sharon The­sen’s The Receiv­er, along­side Rever­ies of a Soli­tary Bik­er, by Catri­ona Strang. Stick­ing more close­ly to the journal’s role of report­ing on recent writ­ing & pub­li­ca­tion, Hilary Clark’s review is more in the way of an unin­fect­ed descrip­tion of Thesen’s “uncan­ny poet­ics of recep­tion”, and inves­ti­gates the paths tak­en and deci­sions made by the poet to find her voice for the col­lec­tion.

On the lit­er­ary webzine Emp­ty Mir­ror, Ali Znai­di has done a deep dive into rob mclen­nan’s A perime­ter, notic­ing a lot in his slow, per­cep­tive read­ing that might oth­er­wise have got­ten away. “mclennan’s poet­ry is clear­ly an exam­ple for a work of art that looks for new pos­si­bil­i­ties of mean­ing beyond “the post­mod­ern con­di­tion,” writes Znai­di. “Con­tain­ing seeds of rev­o­lu­tion­ary acts and polit­i­cal posi­tions (in a non-rad­i­cal way) mclen­nan mas­ter­ful­ly explores the fis­sures in the psy­che and the cracks in the walls in this hos­tile world of now.”

Who says there are no sec­ond acts in Amer­i­can lives?  Oh, right.  Amer­i­can lives.  Doesn’t apply to any­body else. Svend Robin­son’s re-emer­gence onto Canada’s polit­i­cal stage is a sec­ond act that has seemed as inevitable as that guy pick­ing up the gun that some­one else absent­mind­ed­ly left on the man­tel­piece back in the first act.  And so, of course, has “Don’t for­get the ring!” Well.  Graeme Tru­elove’s excel­lent 2013 polit­i­cal biog­ra­phy, Svend Robin­son: A Life In Pol­i­tics, pro­vides a use­ful reminder of Robinson’s con­tri­bu­tions to Cana­da, and to the New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and its activism on behalf of work­ing-class Cana­di­ans.  And, yes, it deals with the ring thing too, a whole chap­ter devot­ed to it in fact.




Collapsible: The Ontario Tour


Col­lapsi­ble is now in book­stores and cir­cu­lat­ing through the cos­mos. The short sto­ry form is unam­bigu­ous­ly un–dead in this new album of thir­ty fic­tions from Tim Con­ley, com­ing at the read­er in a vari­ety of shapes and guis­es run­ning the gamut from ellip­ti­cal micro–fictions to tales of the inex­plic­a­ble.

Catch Tim Con­ley thrice in Ontario this month where he’ll be read­ing with oth­er fic­tion authors who are launch­ing their lat­est books as well.

First stop is Kingston, ON, for a group launch at Nov­el Idea, with Amy Spur­way (Crow), Vic­to­ria Het­her­ing­ton (Moon­calves) and Scott Fother­ing­ham, (The Rest is Silent).

The very next evening Tim and friends will check in with the fine folks at The Book­shelf, and final­ly, in Toron­to on Sun­day April 29th, Tim will be part of Junc­tion reads — a fic­tion-only read­ing series.

What the experts are say­ing:

“In this wit­ty and dynam­ic new col­lec­tion, Tim Con­ley shows us how real­i­ty, the sto­ry, and the human are a sin­gle mar­vel­lous­ly entan­gled sur­face. Like a Moe­bius Strip, with all our sur­prise end­ings, para­dox­es, mys­ter­ies, ambi­gu­i­ties, come­dies, inge­nu­ity and inven­tion, we are our sto­ries and our sto­ries are us. In the tra­di­tion of Calvi­no, Lydia Davis, Borges and Kaf­ka, these short fic­tions explore the strange­ness, curios­i­ty, beau­ty, con­tra­dic­tion, humour and delight­ful dis­com­bob­u­la­tion of being alive and of being alive to the telling tale.”

— Gary Bar­win, author of Yid­dish for Pirates, win­ner, Stephen Lea­cock Medal, Cana­di­an Jew­ish Lit­er­ary Award, and final­ist for the Governor–General’s Lit­er­ary Award and the Sco­tia­bank Giller prize.

Tim Conley’s Sto­ries Chal­lenge You to Dig Deep­er:

“This adven­tur­ous spir­it is some­thing Con­ley embraces in Col­lapsi­ble: some entries in the col­lec­tion are straight­for­ward and real­is­tic, but many play with your assump­tions and per­cep­tion. Some are sur­re­al for­ays into fan­tas­ti­cal sce­nar­ios — on the sur­face, at least. But Con­ley excels at blur­ring the line between the real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion and the wool drawn over our eyes by nar­ra­tors with skewed world­views, or ulte­ri­or motives.”
(Read more)

If you don’t find Col­lapsi­ble in your local book­store, just ask for it by name. This is the 21st cen­tu­ry. I’m sure some­one will be able to help you order this excit­ing new fic­tion col­lec­tion, regard­less of where you are in our vast coun­try.

Mudflat Dreaming: Vancouver events in April


Join author Jean Wal­ton at three excit­ing events this month when the author returns to Van­cou­ver to dis­cuss Mud­flat Dream­ing .

“I look for­ward to talk­ing about what it means to live “in suspension”-—that is, sus­pend­ed above the tidal waters, but also “in sus­pen­sion” about whether you will be evict­ed from your home,” Wal­ton remarks. “This is some­thing that I think con­tin­ues to haunt Van­cou­ver today.”

The book, which tra­vers­es the inter­sect­ing domains of activist and doc­u­men­tary film, water­front envi­ron­men­tal­ism, as well as urban land use, was recent­ly reviewed by BC Stud­ies, a snip­pet of which appears below:

It’s appro­pri­ate that a book about a city often referred to as “Hol­ly­wood North” should ground itself in close read­ings of film and the visu­al sig­na­tures of place they con­tain. Two of these films, Livin’ On the Mud and Mud­flats Liv­ing, were made to doc­u­ment the lives of inhab­i­tants of the Maple­wood Mud­flats. The oth­er film, Some Peo­ple Have to Suf­fer, doc­u­ments the griev­ances of the work­ing-class res­i­dents of Bridgeview and their prob­lems access­ing ser­vices and infra­struc­ture. This lat­ter film was a prod­uct of a fas­ci­nat­ing Nation­al Film Board pro­gram, “Chal­lenge for Change,” an ini­tia­tive that empow­ered under­rep­re­sent­ed com­mu­ni­ties to pro­duce films—a gov­ern­ment-spon­sored for­ay into media activism. Though blue col­lar sub­urbs and float­ing coun­ter­cul­ture vil­lages may seem dis­sim­i­lar, Wal­ton shows how they shared more than one might expect, emerg­ing through the same his­tor­i­cal process­es and social and geo­graph­ic con­text.”


Thurs­day, April 25, 7:30p.m. Van­cou­ver His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety (110 Ches­nut Street, Van­cou­ver)

“Water­front Bat­tles and the Squat­ters who Fought Them in 1970s Van­cou­ver”
All lec­ture events are free (admis­sion by dona­tion), open to the pub­lic, and take place at the Muse­um of Van­cou­ver, 1100 Chest­nut Street

Fri­day, April 26, 2:00 p.m. Sur­rey City Cen­tre Library, 10350 Uni­ver­si­ty Dri­ve. (Room 405) “Some Peo­ple Had to Suf­fer: River­front Activism ‘Down on the Flats’ in 1970s Sur­rey”

 Jean Wal­ton reads from Mud­flat Dream­ing: Water­front Bat­tles and the Squat­ters who Fought Them in 1970s Van­cou­ver (New Star Books, 2018). This book tells the sto­ry of hip­pie squat­ters on the North Shore of Van­cou­ver and work­ing class res­i­dents in Surrey’s river­side neigh­bor­hood of Bridgeview who came to feel like “squat­ters,” always on the verge of evic­tion. This read­ing will focus on sub­ur­ban land use on a volatile flood plain, wel­fare and youth pro­grams, NFB film activism, and Scrap­yard Art in Sur­rey of the 1970s. 

Sat­ur­day, April 27, 7:30p.m.People’s Co-op Book­store, 1391 Com­mer­cial Dri­ve, Van­cou­ver, B.C. Join Jean Wal­ton for a read­ing and book sign­ing.

Mud­flat Dream­ing: Water­front Bat­tles and the Squat­ters Who Fought Them in 1970s Van­cou­ver by Jean Wal­ton (Trans­mon­tanus, 204 pages, ISBN: 9781554201495).

Lis­ten to Jean Wal­ton dis­cuss her new book on The Com­men­tary

Catch it now! Collapsible by Tim Conley


New Star Books is excit­ed to pub­lish a new fic­tion col­lec­tion from St. Catharines writer Tim Con­ley.

Col­lapsi­ble, a book whose title, the author explains, is part­ly an aes­thet­ic state­ment, as it points to “a cer­tain ten­den­cy that might be not­ed in the writ­ing itself.” But Con­ley is quick to point out that “so many things in our world are col­lapsi­ble: tele­scopes, hats, umbrel­las, human rela­tion­ships, civ­i­liza­tions, and maybe even, accord­ing to some sci­en­tists, the uni­verse itself.”

Col­lapsi­ble oper­ates like a con­cept album. The par­al­lels to a fic­tion col­lec­tion and a long play­ing album are not that hard to see.

The pro­vi­sion­al qual­i­ty of short fic­tion res­onates, I think, with our own sense of imper­ma­nence,” Con­ley explains.  Going from one sound to anoth­er, some longer than oth­ers, some are sad, melod­ic, and some more heady than oth­ers. “Short fic­tion intrigues me as a form,” Con­ley says, adding, “it is so eas­i­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed just now. I am com­pelled to keep explor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of this form, because there are so many.”

Toron­to author Spencer Gor­don says Conley’s writ­ing “will inspire you to read and write and think with more audac­i­ty.”

Con­ley will be launch­ing Col­lapsi­ble on March 29th at the Nia­gara Artists Cen­tre at 7pm. Con­ley will be also be releas­ing Unless Act­ed Upon , a new poet­ry col­lec­tion this sea­son, pub­lished by Toronto’s Mans­field Press.

Con­ley teach­es Eng­lish at Brock Uni­ver­si­ty, and has pub­lished wide­ly on Joyce, Nabokov, and oth­er aspects of twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry lit­er­a­ture.

Finally, Michael Turner comes back to #TORONTO!


It’s been a while since Michael Turn­er last read in Toron­to. And to make up for it this month, the eclec­tic artist and writer has a slew of events lined up in the city that might nev­er win the Stan­ley Cup, if they can’t man­age it in the next cou­ple of sea­sons.

Turn­er will be doing a talk at OCAD Uni­ver­si­ty dur­ing the day on Mon­day Jan­u­ary 21st, and lat­er that evening, par­tic­i­pat­ing in Frost­bite: A Lit­er­ary Ice­break­er of an Evening, which is also a fundrais­er for Nellie’s Shel­terAnoth­er Sto­ry Book Shop will be on hand to sell books, includ­ing 9x11.

Oth­er Frost­bite read­ers include Erin Moure, author of Sit­ting Shi­va on Minto Avenue, by Toots, and nine oth­er authors. The fol­low­ing evening on Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 22nd, Michael Turn­er will per­form at the Art Bar Read­ing Series, one of Canada’s most cel­e­brat­ed series and a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to get a signed copy of Turner’s new poet­ry book. 

For a quick refresh­er course on the poet’s first poet­ry title in near­ly a quar­ter cen­tu­ry, let’s take a look at some recent reviews.

In her Geor­gia Straight review oF  9x11 and oth­er poems like Bird, Nine, X and Eleven, Shazia Hafiz Ramji writes: “In unpre­ten­tious and straight­for­ward prose, Turn­er guides us into con­fronting the con­fu­sion and cacoph­o­ny of the city, plac­ing facts and speech beside images tuned in to cri­tique,” con­clud­ing apt­ly that “Turner’s frank, hum­ble, and humor­ous voice trans­ports us through the dif­fi­cult present of hous­ing in Van­cou­ver, while con­sid­er­ing the inti­mate work that goes into build­ing rela­tion­ships and the last­ing mag­net­ism of nar­ra­tive and speech.”  

In his review, poet / edi­tor / cura­tor / crit­ic rob mclen­nan wrote: “In short, sharp lyric turns, Turn­er blends the dai­ly mun­dane with the hor­rif­ic, artic­u­lat­ing how eas­i­ly such ter­ror becomes mut­ed, pre­sent­ed and even­tu­al­ly dis­missed, writ­ing out wars in oth­er places, and left far behind, yet with a vio­lence that often per­se­veres; car­ries through, is car­ried, and con­tin­ued.”

Jonathan Ball of the Win­nipeg Free Press calls Michael Turn­er “a nation­al trea­sure”, declar­ing it “bril­liant, strange, dark and even fun­ny,” and filled with “stark ele­gance.”




Homage to Bromige


It might have been one of the most suc­cess­ful author-less book tours ever. David Bromige’s recent­ly con­clud­ed Always Already Posthu­mous World Tour in sup­port of if wants to be the same as is: Essen­tial Poems of David Bromige, with stops in Sebastopol, San Fran­cis­co, Philadel­phia, New York, Wash­ing­ton, and Van­cou­ver, fea­tured dozens of read­ers. But Bromige’s own cameos were lim­it­ed to doc­u­men­tary film footage.

Bromige’s unavoid­able absence (he left the build­ing in 2009) pre­sent­ed the con­di­tions for cov­er per­for­mances — com­mon enough in music, sad­ly less a fea­ture of poet­ry world. Just as with a musi­cal com­po­si­tion you can’t real­ly get to know it until you’ve lis­tened to a few dif­fer­ent inter­pre­ta­tions, you don’t know a poem at all until you’ve had a chance to hear it: and, as with a music, every read­er brings their own under­stand­ing. Four dozen read­ers, rang­ing in age from some­teen to sev­en­ty-some­thing-some­thing, read from Bromige’s work in the course of his book tour.

Steven Lavoie pro­vides an account of the pro­ceed­ings at the Sebastopol Cen­ter for the Arts, which kicked off the tour, as well as the Alley Cat Books event in San Fran­cis­co, over at The New Black Bart Poet­ry Society’s Parole Blog. Sebastopol read­ers includ­ed Gillian Cono­ley, Jon­ah Raskin, Cole Swen­son, and Pat Nolan, who has now pub­lished what might be the first prop­er deep dive into the Bromige col­lec­tion in the newest Poet­ry Flash. Film mak­er (and cov­er por­trait pho­tog­ra­ph­er) James Gar­ra­han’s 2009 doc­u­men­tary about Bromige was also giv­en an air­ing in Sebastopol.

The San Fran­cis­co read­ing at Alley Cat Books a cou­ple of nights lat­er was dis­creet­ly record­ed some­o­ne­orother, and is now re-live­able in all its glo­ri­ous widescreen MP3 splen­dour on the Penn Sound site.  You’ll be hear­ing Nor­ma Cole, Lyn Hejin­ian, Max­ine Cher­noff, Paul DeBar­ros, Jean Day, Nor­man Fis­ch­er, Kath­leen Fras­er, Susan Gevirtz, Bar­ry Gif­ford, Opal Nations, Michael Palmer, Stephen Rat­cliffe, and Kit Robin­son read from Bromige’s work.

The Philadel­phia launch at Kel­ly Writ­ers House fea­tured Charles Bern­stein, Rachel Blau Dup­lessis, Steve Dolph, Ryan Eck­es, Eli Gold­blatt, George Economou, Chris McCreary, Tom Man­del, Jason Mitchell, and Orchid Tier­ney. PennSound is the place to be for that one too.

The Poet­ry Project launch in New York, New York fea­tured Bruce Andrews, Steve Ben­son, Charles Bern­stein, Lee Ann BrownBri­an Car­pen­terAbi­gail Child, Nada Gor­donMichael Got­tlieb, Eri­ca Hunt, A.L. Nielsen, Stan Mir, Nick Piom­bi­no, and James Sher­ry. Was it record­ed? Yes; yes, it was. In two parts, for greater ease of diges­tion; check ‛em out, here, and here.

The if wants to be the same as is-mania may have been what pro­vid­ed the impe­tus for them to fea­ture one of Bromige’s poems on their web­site: “Poem for friends”.

The Wash­ing­ton launch took place at the superfine Bridge St. Books, fea­tured K. Lor­raine Gra­ham, Ryan Walk­er, Buck Downs and Rod Smith, and the evi­dence for that evening can be found here.

The tour wrapped in Van­cou­ver, at the People’s Co-op Book­store, and read­ers includ­ed Fred Wah (who pub­lished Bromige’s first book, The Gath­er­ing), Mered­ith Quar­ter­main, Peter Quar­ter­main, George Bow­er­ing, Clint Burn­ham, Macken­zie Ground, Paul DeBar­ros, Anakana Schofield, and David’s son Chris and grand-daugh­ter Joni. Expe­ri­ence it for your­self; the launch is record­ed on Youtube’s, but also on the Penn Sound site,  where inci­dent­ly you’ll find a trove of Bromige read­ings &c., dat­ing back to the 1960s! There’s a pho­to gallery from the Van­cou­ver event here.

Mudflat Dreaming in the headlines


Jean Walton’s Mud­flat Dream­ing has been get­ting some buzz as of late.

In a recent inter­view on the Com­men­tary with Joseph Plan­ta, the author revealed insight into why she had to tell the sto­ry of these com­mu­ni­ties: “I want­ed to write some­thing that would take me back to that peri­od of the 1970s in the sub­urb of Van­cou­ver (Sur­rey) and when I was doing that I came across these films that were just gems of win­dows into that peri­od of time.”

In addi­tion to describ­ing Mud­flat Dream­ing as “a beau­ti­ful book,” com­mend­ing the author on her abil­i­ty to draw out the emo­tion­al real­ism of that time, Plan­ta praised Wal­ton for “evok­ing nos­tal­gia, even the pain of nos­tal­gia some­times that one feels towards a place that is famil­iar to them.”  Plan­ta described the book in his intro­duc­tion to their chat as “[o]ne of the more fas­ci­nat­ing books out now”.

Have a lis­ten at the entire inter­view here.

The Geor­gia Straight recent­ly pub­lished an excerpt of the book on their web­site which has been gar­ner­ing a lot of atten­tion from those curi­ous at see­ing Van­cou­ver in 1970 as it relates to this country’s ongo­ing hous­ing cri­sis in the present.

And one more nod came with a men­tion in the Talk of the Town sec­tion of the Van­cou­ver Sun about her recent launch. It’s quite impres­sive how long the author had been work­ing on the book pri­or to pub­li­ca­tion and we can’t wait to see what 2019 brings Jean and Mud­flat Dream­ing when she returns for more events.

From the Gare centrale to the Pacific Central: Toots on the shortlist for Vancouver and QWF prizes


Cana­di­an pub­lish­ing is not known for its chore­og­ra­phy. How­ev­er, fes­ti­vals and launch­es do often try their best to not step on each other’s toes dur­ing the fren­zy of each sea­son. So Erin Moure’s recent pres­ence in bi-coastal short­lists for region­al awards seems overt­ly quixot­ic. As pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed on these pages, Moure’s 2017 non fic­tion book Sit­ting Shi­va on Minto Avenue, by Toots got a QWF nom­i­na­tion. And we got all excit­ed about that.

Well, fast-for­ward less than a month and it’s hap­pened again. This time, here in British Colum­bia of all places! We feel torn in excite­ment in two direc­tions, and the author her­self couldn’t be more pleased.

Sit­ting Shi­va is the sto­ry of a man with­out pub­lic record, or at least, by today’s “Google Search” stan­dards, a civic phan­tom. Moure, the acclaimed award-win­ning poet and trans­la­tor, a ver­i­fied Can­Lit icon, only slight­ly demys­ti­fies the almost Holy act of cre­at­ing this book in but a week.

The text was cleaned up some, copy­edit­ed, some new­ly remem­bered things were added, and I added the research his­to­ry at the end. It turns out — I should have known but I didn’t till lat­er — that the mem­o­ries of a lit­tle man actu­al­ly hold the his­to­ry of cities, Van­cou­ver and Mon­tre­al, and of peo­ples, and of colo­nial­ism and its gen­er­a­tional trau­mas, and of a class of peo­ple that always got the short end of the stick in every­thing but that still had dreams and loves and joys and per­cep­tions and striv­ings and appre­ci­a­tion for life and respect for oth­ers. I learned so much from that lit­tle man.”

It’s a note­wor­thy occur­rence, we think, for a BC pub­lish­er to have book by a Mon­tre­al author (who lived 11 years in Van­cou­ver from 1974–1985) to get nom­i­nat­ed in both cities of the book’s ori­gin. Moure is appre­cia­tive of the recog­ni­tion. She’s clear­ly proud. To use a worn out word from the cur­rent zeit­geist, the hap­pen­stance of Toots sto­ry becom­ing a full-fledged and now dou­ble-award nom­i­nat­ed book seems almost ran­dom — slight­ly larg­er than a mere writ­ing exer­cise one morn­ing. Moure only slight­ly dwells on the books ori­gin and rather pri­vate ini­tial recep­tion. “Peo­ple who have since read that book say they learn some­thing about why I am the way I am too from that book. They see it. Maybe the book thinks like my brain does.”

The vic­tor will be announced at a pub­lic cer­e­mo­ny at the VPL on Decem­ber 8th. 

Bonus fun. Here is a link which is men­tioned at the end of Moure’s book. The author says Paul looked like Dean Mar­tin on a cer­tain album cov­er. Also, the NFB film Pier­rot à Mon­tréal which the book speaks of, as Paul was most like the guy who puts up the num­bers in the dance con­test.

Sit­ting Shi­va on Minto Avenue is a book of sor­row that bears com­par­i­son to the great ones, among them Didion’s The Year of Mag­i­cal Think­ing, White’s Once and Future King, Milton’s “Lyci­das,” and, recent­ly, a slim but not slight vol­ume of poet­ry, City Poems, by foren­sic reporter Joe Fior­i­to, who mourns The Invis­i­ble Ones.” The Mala­hat Review

A brief excerpt:

Before I’d met him and before he’d had a steady job at CN as a wait­er then stew­ard, he’d had unem­ployed peri­ods of bad alcoholism,and he had sto­ries of the pros­ti­tutes and police, and of police mis­treat­ment of the poor and intox­i­cat­ed. Of being in the drunk tank and the police hos­ing them down because one per­son was shout­ing, and the impos­si­bil­i­ty of fight­ing against the force of water, being pushed across the floor by it. Then let out, lat­er, into the icy cold, with wet clothes.

Sit­ting Shi­va on Minto Avenue, by Toots is the sto­ry of a man who had no obit­u­ary and no funer­al and who would have left no trace if it weren’t for the woman he’d called Toots, who took every­thing she remem­bered of him and — for sev­en days — wrote it down.   Erín Moure, a poet who once lived in Van­cou­ver, begins this “work of the imag­i­na­tion” (“minto,” in Gali­cian, means “I’m lying”) with a quote from Judith But­ler about those per­sons who have “come to belong to the ungriev­able,” though there may be some that grieve them.  In record­ing the tale of the lit­tle man, through mem­o­ries and Google search­es, the book gives a glimpse into an entire era of urban Cana­da, from Vancouver’s Down­town East­side and Main Street and Chi­na­town to a long-ago Mon­tre­al between the Great Depres­sion and Expo ’67.

Read a review of this book on rob mclennan’s blog.
Read a review of this book from The Mala­hat Review

Sit­ting Shi­va on Minto Avenue, by Toots
Erin Moure
160 pages, 6×9 inch­es
Price: $21 CAD · $19 USD
ISBN: 9781554201419

The Big Note: ‘Big, beautiful, and smells great!’


It’s been a lit­tle over six months since Charles Ulrich dropped The Big Note on Zappa’s uni­verse last Mother’s Day. With August’s sec­ond print­ing — which like the first tru­ly deserves the epi­thet “big”; more than one tree had to go to make way for this suck­er — dwin­dling faster than the polar ice­caps, it’s high time to study this phe­nom­e­non clos­er, in order to try to bet­ter under­stand its root caus­es.

The first thing that jumps out is that The Big Note sto­ry has been com­plete­ly over­looked by MSM. So far, no Time or Rolling Stone cov­er (or even men­tion! (I guess they don’t have as much room to fit the news they print as they used to). Not once has it lead Reg­is and Kathy, or even Cana­da AM. No half-hour CNN News Spe­cial devot­ed to it. Not just Christo­pher Lehmann-Haupt, or Michiko Kaku­tani: the entire New York Times has main­tained a silence about what might be the biggest Zap­pa news sto­ry in a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry.

Nor have their been any well-attend­ed author sign­ings, whether at the Grand Open­ing of Indigo’s enter­prise flag­ship store in Short Hills, New Jer­sey, the Lab­o­ra­to­ry State; nor at the roll-out of the new-con­cept Barnes & Noble in Ver­non Hills, Illi­nois. The nev­er-planned cross-Cana­da tour was can­celled after a sin­gle show, the sold-out August 24 event at Lanalou’s Restau­rant in Van­cou­ver, BC, where an une­bri­at­ed Charles Ulrich tossed his U47 into the roil­ing crowd and swore that he would nev­er set foot in a tour bus again, unless it was going to Bad Dober­an next sum­mer.

So far the only crack in the main­stream Wall of Silence has been Char­lie Grimes’s review of The Big Note in the Decem­ber issue of Down­beat, down­load­ing into mail­box­es across these great lands of ours this month. And just in case Down­beat’s read­ers miss the point, we also have our own nifty, tough & bitchin’ ad on p. 85 of the same issue (and, for your view­ing plea­sure, repro­duced here as well). S’cool, you know. Down­beat was, like, the dad­dy-o of music mag­a­zines the first time Jann Wen­ner was wear­ing dia­pers.

And, local­ly, the review­er for the local under­ground news­pa­per the Geor­gia Straight has been one of the first, but not the only one, to point to the gen­er­al lessons that FZ’s music holds for all those lucky enough to have been born with prop­er ears. “[W]ill thrill ded­i­cat­ed musi­cians and musi­col­o­gists alike,” their writer Mar­tin Dun­phy con­clud­ed.

But the real work of the mar­ket­ing depart­ment was laid down decades ago, as Charles Ulrich estab­lished him­self as an author­i­ty on all mat­ters relat­ing to Zap­pa and the Moth­ers. It all start­ed out on the old usenet, in a dis­cus­sion forum going by the name of One-time affz denizen Russkiy_To_Youskiy remem­bers it thus­ly:

Well, I didn’t even know he had a book out. Lol… Basi­cal­ly, back in the day of the FZ news­group, there was a lot of just ran­dom info going around. For exam­ple, con­certs, set lists, and bootlegs that nobody knew about. A whole oth­er of guys were in search of info in one par­tic­u­lar aspect, and they were relent­less in pur­su­ing any­thing they could get, and they shared it with every­one. Ulrich start­ed the process of col­lect­ing and col­lat­ing all that info that every­one else was gath­er­ing. Guys like Roman start­ed the FZ lyrics page from the info he got from news­groups, which was essen­tial­ly crowd­sourced info, and then Ulrich incor­po­rat­ed all that info into his stuff. Rob­bert Heed­erik start­ed St. Alphonso’s Pan­cake home­page, and that was anoth­er huge and infor­ma­tive web­site from info gleaned from the news­group. I think, and I’m not sure right now, that St. Alphonso’s is gone, but Ulrich backed every­thing up and includ­ed it in his site. Vladimir Sove­tov’s is still up, and that was anoth­er exten­sion of the news­group to col­late huge amounts of info. Not sure if the­big­note web­page is still up, but that was a real­ly cool site too. A few oth­er peo­ple you can try look­ing up for sites and info are Patrick Neve, Jon Nau­rin, and Johan Wik­berg. Those guys were real­ly the ones who start­ed the FZ news­group, were the stew­ards of it, and a lot of info that we have now is because of those guys. There were quite a few sites in geoc­i­ties and there was a Frank Zap­pa web ring (if you remem­ber web rings), but off the top of my head I can’t real­ly remem­ber any specif­i­cal­ly. Im sure that if I look through my Netscape book­marks I still have them in there… ok, I’m feel­ing pret­ty old talk­ing this shit now… lol… At any rate, most of all that stuff went into plan­et of my dreams site, iirc.

(The “plan­et of my dreams” site that R2Y men­tions is Ulrich’s own web­site, The Plan­et Of My Dreams, which has its own spe­cial 1994 charm.)

A ves­ti­gial affz lingers on as part of the Google Groups empire, and sure enough, the ves­ti­gial lizard brain of the inter­net respond­ed to the stim­u­lus of the appear­ance of their old friend’s long-await­ed book.

Indeed, it is deep­est reach­es of the inter­net that most of the crit­i­cal recep­tion of The Big Note has been tak­ing place. Nowa­days, the biggest on-line FZ dis­cus­sion fori have names like and the demi-offi­cial The Zap­pateers dis­cus­sion thread that greet­ed the announce­ment of Charles’s book is kin­da fun.

One of the more detailed reviews so far is John Corcelli’s over at Crit­ics at Large (co-found­ed and edit­ed by Kevin Cour­ri­er, author of his own quite fat FZ book, who we are sad­dened to learn, left the firm last month). Sez Cor­cel­li, “.. . brings, for me, a renewed appre­ci­a­tion for Zappa’s col­lect­ed works and how to lis­ten to them. .. . suc­ceeds by defin­ing every­thing about the com­pos­er in pre­cise detail, and frankly I wouldn’t have it any oth­er way. The Big Note is a beau­ti­ful­ly ren­dered, 3-dimen­sion­al guide­book for the ages.” But you can read Corcelli’s review for your­self.

Amazon’s page for The Big Note is actu­al­ly pret­ty infor­ma­tive too, once you get past the publisher’s own b.s. Twen­ty-three cus­tomer reviews, not one less than 5 out of 5 stars. They’ve even heard about it over on Goodreads; just two reviews so far, but they’re both 5-star reviews too.

Mean­while, there are lit­tle dis­cus­sion threads pop­ping up all over the inter­nets.  More Red­di­ta­tion: “Most amaz­ing Zap­pa book there ever was!And over on the oth­er­wise-con­tro­ver­sial Steve Hoff­man forums, more respect for Ulrich’s amaz­ing achieve­ment., as well as our favourite com­ment about it so far: “The Big Note is big, beau­ti­ful, and smells great!”

Enough! You’ve con­vinced me!” we hear you cry.  “Where can I get my hands on a copy of The Big Note, before it’s com­plete­ly sold out, and each copy has become a high­ly sought-after rar­i­ty that I will no longer be able to afford?”  Ah, yes, well for­tu­itous­ly there are still a few copies left, and you might find one of them rat­tling around on the shelves of these pur­vey­ors of actu­al-print­ed books: Munro’s in Vic­to­ria, BC; McNal­ly Robin­son Book­sellers on the lone­some prairie; Pulp­fic­tion, the People’s Co-op Book­store, and High Life Records in Van­cou­ver, BC; Type Books in TO; Nov­el Idea in Kingston; that pre­vi­ous­ly men­tioned lit­tle ma-and-pa out­fit that start­ed in a garage in Seat­tle; and our own charm­ing, vin­tage web­site.