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Goodbye Russell Hoban

Friday, Dec 16, 2011 at 6:52pm

This week saw the passing of Russell Hoban, an underrated giant of fantasy, experimental fiction, and children's literature.

Generations of readers will remember him for his wonderful children's picture books, including Bedtime for Frances and The Little Brute Family; others, for his 1980 post-apocalyptic masterpiece Riddley Walker, written entirely in a kind of devolved pidgin, and its brilliantly fractured take on British history, any recollection of which has been occluded by catastrophe.

Categories: Reviews, Site News, Staff Pick, SciFi & Fantasy


The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes

Sunday, Nov 06, 2011 at 12:38pm

Tony looks back over his life with the advantage of experience, wisdom and thoughtful philosophical questions. But how does his former lover Veronica tie in with his friend Adrian's long-ago suicide? And why did Veronica's mother leave Adrian's diary to Tony in her will? As Tony says, "What did I know of life, I who had lived so carefully?" Slowly but surely revealing what he has learned, Tony wonders as he approaches the ending of his life if it is enough.

Winner of this year's Booker Prize, The Sense of an Ending is meticulously written, offering its pleasures with subtlety and precision.

Categories: Reviews

Gordon W. Dale -- Night Table Recommendations

Friday, Dec 09, 2011 at 11:05am

I mostly read fiction, memoirs, and poetry--preferences that are reflected in my night table choices. I've selected books that have been published relatively recently, because I believe it's important to support new works. (I've allowed myself one exception, The Smoking Diaries, by Simon Gray, which I excuse on the grounds that it's new to me.)

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Categories: Reviews, Discussions, Authors, Winnipeg, Night Table Recommendations


Andre Gerrard -- Night Table Recommendations

Friday, Nov 04, 2011 at 1:27pm

The concept of father memoirs is a fascinating one. Confronting fathers directly and publicly is not, and never has been, easy: the patriarch should judge and not be judged. To write about the father is to sit in judgement upon him, and for most cultures this was a taboo too strong to be overcome. The Greeks, despite their searingly perceptive stories about father child interactions, did not attempt to do so-nor did the Romans, the Italians of the Renaissance, the Elizabethans, or even the Romantics. Paradoxically--but not surprisingly, given the rigid paternalism of the age and the attendant psychological pressures--personal father writing, like radical feminism, is a product of the Victorian era.

In 1907, six years after the death of Queen Victoria, Edmund Gosse published Father and Son. Once the taboo was broken, writers were quick to take advantage of the new possibilities. The 20th century saw a steady increase in the number of father memoirs, and, now that the boomers are aging and seeking to immortalize themselves, such memoirs are becoming as ubiquitous as tattoos. And, as with tattoos, some are visceral works of art. The six books described below give an idea of how poignant, rich and rewarding father memoirs can be.

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Categories: Reviews, Discussions, Authors, Night Table Recommendations


Alone in the Classroom, by Elizabeth Hay

Sunday, Nov 06, 2011 at 1:04pm

In this creepy, three generation novel, Elizabeth Hay tells the story of how a teacher/principal sexually assaults girls he teaches on the Canadian prairies in the 1920's and '30's. We watch in horror as Parley Burns slip slides through the lives of women, destroying them utterly. Hay's glowing prose exposes the secretive nature of women's relationships with their mothers and daughters as, unable to name the horror that slinks among them, they live with austerity and pressure-cooker sexual repression.

From the author of the Giller Prize-winning Late Nights on Air, Alone in the Classroom is a beautifully written novel about a difficult subject.

Categories: Reviews
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