Archive for September, 2010

One fall launch and one Giller longlist

A couple of bits of local-ish book news:

First, Allan Donaldson’s new novel, The Case Against Owen Williams, will be launching at Westminster Books in Fredericton this Thursday night at 7:00pm. The book’s been getting some good reviews, so if you’re in the neighbourhood I hope you’ll come hear Allan read. He’ll also be in Halifax next month. The full book description can be found here, on the Nimbus site.

Second, I was thrilled today to see a book I worked on last year, Scotsburn, NS, author Johanna Skibsrud’s debut novel, The Sentimentalists, on this year’s Giller Prize long list. It’s great both to see Johanna’s (amazing) book on there and to see some small presses in the mix (including Gaspereau, Coach House and Biblioasis). The full list is here.

In other news I borrowed Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist (remember book club?) from a friend and roared through it in a couple of sittings this weekend. I’ll be back with more to say on that very soon.

Elizabeth Bishop

Work has been occupying all my desk-sitting, typing inclinations for the last little while here, so I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve been up to 9 to 5. One of the books I’ve been editing recently is a short biography of Elizabeth Bishop by Sandra Barry, scheduled for release next spring. Bishop has generally been understood to be an American poet. She was born and died there, served a term as Poet Laureate, and won the Pulitzer Prize. But her mother’s family were from Nova Scotia and she spent formative years here, and many of her poems draw on that time. So there’s been a growing movement to have her better recognized as a Nova Scotian – hence the book.

When I first started reading Sandra’s manuscript, I realized how much I liked Bishop’s poetry, and at the same time how little of it I’d actually read. So I’ve decided to do what Bishop herself advised doing with poets one likes, and read all her published work. I’ve started not at the beginning, but with what was handiest, the one collection I already own, her last, called Geography III. It contains a few of her best-known poems, including “The Moose” and “In the Waiting Room.” I think what I like most about Bishop’s work, probably what a lot of people like about it, is the thinking out loud she does toward figuring out her own sense of being, of being a person separate from others, and toward formulating the best descriptions of things. There is some conversational fumbling that happens right on the page, and in the process she manages an intimacy without getting gossipy. Even if you’re not a poetry reader, I recommend checking out her work. You might be surprised.

The publication of the biography coincides with the celebrations planned for Bishop’s centenary. If you’re already a Bishop fan or if you want to know more, the Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has set up a frequently updated blog, with all sorts of interesting reading – musings from some of the artists who have stayed at the Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village, NS, and posts by Sandra and other Society members about Bishop’s life and work, with a focus on her Nova Scotia connection: