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Something Different: Ma Jian and Georges Simenon

Thursday, Aug 15, 2013 at 9:11pm

"If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking."
-Haruki Murakami

Ma Jian
A few years ago I read a book called Beijing Coma by Ma Jian. The narrator of that story is a young man lying in a coma in a room in his mother's apartment. The man fell into a coma through injuries sustained during the Tiananmen Square Massacre, but because that event is officially unmentionable in China, his mother is not allowed to acknowledge what happened to her son. The book is the narrator's memories of the events leading to, during and after the demonstrations but that story remains silent in the world around him. The citizens of Beijing as a whole, it becomes clear, are in a kind of coma.

The novel felt like an important book, and now Ma Jian has written another important story, The Dark Road. Exiled from China (where his books are banned), Jian went back posing as a journalist and spent time with peasants trying to evade the Family Planning police, the department in charge of enforcing China's one-child policy. The Dark Road follows a family on the run from these authorities, determined to have a male child despite already having a daughter. The story is harrowing at times but Jian does such an incredible job of humanizing his characters that the novel rises above mere journalism and gets to the kind of insights that only fiction can convey. Ultimately uplifting, Ma Jian's novels are described by Madeleine Thien as "works of lament" and take us away from the official tourist sights in modern China.

Georges Simenon
Georges Simenon is possibly best known for his series of Maigret detective novels, but in total he wrote several hundred books (estimates vary), and the best may be what he called his roman durs (hard novels). These are stand alone stories that almost always involve a crime committed by people, as described by Roger Ebert, who are "doomed to transgressive behaviour." The novels are melancholy, misleadingly straightforward, and full of psychological insights.

You could try just about any of these novels, but in particular I would suggest The Train, which is about a man who is separated from his family while fleeing the invading Nazi army and then struggles to maintain hope rather than give in to despair. Or try Strangers in the House, about a man who has become distant from his daughter, who lives in the same house yet whom he never sees, until events conspire to force them back together. Or perhaps An Act of Passion, which is a letter of confession, an act of self-justification, written to an examining magistrate from prison by a convicted murderer. John Banville says of Simenon that he "knew more about existentialism than the existentialists." I would add that he tells a better story too.

This article was written by McNally Robinson's own Chris Hall.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases, Something Different

New games have arrived in our Winnipeg store

Saturday, Aug 10, 2013 at 7:34pm

We've added a number of new games to our collection in the past couple weeks. Here's a look at what we got:

> Batman: Arkham City Escape
Board game - A two-player game that pits Batman against all of his greatest foes as they try to escape Arkham.

> 20 Express
Board game - In this bingo-style game, each player has a train of 20 cars to fill with numbers. The goal is to make long series of ascending numbers.

> MindWare Q-BA Maze 2.0 Big Box
Mind puzzle - A unique system of colorful cubes that interlock to form a marble run. Configurations are unlimited, allowing for unpredictable action when steel balls travel the various routes.

> World's Best Dice Games
Dice games - Everything you need to learn and play the World's Best Dice Games (such as Drop Dead and Aces in the Pot) is included in this kit!

> Battle of the Sexes
Party game - You'll never understand them, so you might as well defeat them! This hilarious adult trivia game pits men vs the woman in the ultimate showdown.

> Tantrix: Match!
Board game - Consists of a sequence of 12 unique puzzles. Using preplaced tile clues, your mission is to fit the remaining tiles to ensure that all colors match.

> Morphology
Mind/Logic/Party game - A fun, creative, and challenging party board game for the entire family, combining simple shapes, your imagination, and creativity.

Looking for more games? Start browsing through our various categories by clicking here.

Categories: Winnipeg, New Releases, Games

New Releases of the week (Aug. 2-9)

Thursday, Aug 08, 2013 at 7:51pm

Here are some of the newest releases from the past week:

Books: Fiction

-> Going Home Again by Dennis Bock (Literature)
-> Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (Literature) - in paperback
-> Rathbones by Janice Clark (Literature)
-> Guts by Roddy Doyle (Literature)
-> Extraordinary by David Gilmour (Literature)
-> Once We Had a Country by Robert McGill (Literature) - in paperback
-> NW by Zadie Smith (Literature) - now in paperback
-> The Purchase by Linda Spalding (Literature) - now in paperback
-> The Magic of Saida by M.G. Vassanji (Literature) - now in paperback
-> Mistress by James Patterson (General Fiction) - 30% off
-> The Sundering, Book I:The Companions by R.A. Salvatore (Fantasy) - 30% off
-> The Last Witness by W.E.B. Griffin (General Fiction)
-> A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay (Mystery) - in paperback
-> On Beulah Height by Reginald Hill (Mystery) - in paperback
-> Peck Peck Peck by Lucy Cousins (Children's Picture Books)

Books: Non-Fiction

-> The Tragedy of the Templars: Rise and Fall of the Crusader States by Michael Haag (History)
-> I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life by Joel Osteen (Christianity) - now in paperback
-> Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke by Rob Sheffield (Music)
-> Who I Am by Pete Townshend (Music)
-> Torn Apart: A Family's Journey to Find Each Other by Jennifer Thiessen (Canadian Biography)
-> Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine (Parenting)

Music CDs

-> Didn't It Rain by Hugh Laurie (Jazz)

Order any of the products above here on our website, or contact your nearest McNally Robinson bookstore to check availability. If we have the item in-store, we can put it on hold for you.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases

A letter from Jane Gardam

Saturday, Aug 03, 2013 at 7:12pm

Jane Gardam, McNally Robinson's current Author of the Month, kindly addressed to us this letter:

- - - - -

Hello, McNally Robinson customers.

Thank you for choosing me as your August Author. I have close ties with Canada. My mother's family in Yorkshire and my brother's wife's family have long ago moved in on you and call it home.

I was brought up in the North of England and because of the War had been nowhere until I was 18 when I came south to London University. I 'married south' -- a young ex-Navy lawyer and life became a mixture of early struggle and then my husband's great success internationally, especially at the Hong Kong Bar and in the Orient which, very late in my writing career, I visited often when the children were old enough to leave behind. I had three. My eldest son is head of an Oxford College and my youngest son emigrated to America, married and I have an American grandson who plays the drums. He turns up in some of my books as Herman. I had a daughter who became a distinguished Botanical artist. She died of breast cancer two years ago. This has changed all our lives.

My writing life has been a great blessing and I hope, God willing, to write more stories though I am 85! Age is nothing. Children and work are everything.

Bless you all,
from Jane Gardam

- - - - -

Along with her letter, Jane sent us the complete first chapter of her newest book, Last Friends, which you can read by clicking here.

Categories: Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases, Preview

New Releases of the week

Thursday, Aug 01, 2013 at 11:04pm

Here are some of this week's newest releases:

Books: Fiction

-> Born with a Tooth by Joseph Boyden (Literature, paperback)
-> Necessary Errors by Caleb Crain (Literature, paperback)
-> A Marker To Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik (Literature, hardcover)
-> Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins (Literature, paperback)
-> My Heart is Not My Own by Michael Wuitchik (Literature, paperback)
-> Dollybird by Anne Lazurko (Prairie Literature, paperback)
-> Naruto Vol. 62 by Masashi Kishimoto (Graphic Novels/Manga, paperback)
-> Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah (Mystery, paperback)
-> Ghostman by Roger Hobbs (Mystery, paperback)
-> Good Night, Sleep Tight by Mem Fox and Judy Horacek (Juvenile Fiction/Nursery Rhymes, hardcover) - 30% off

Books: Non-Fiction

-> These Few Precious Days by Christopher Andersen (Biography, hardcover)
-> Skinnygirl Solutions by Bethenny Frankel (Diet & Nutrition, hardcover)
-> You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney (Psychology, hardcover)
-> RG3: The Promise by David Sheinin (Sports/Biography, hardcover)
-> Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women & Power in India by A. Fontanella-Khan (Women, hardcover)
-> Manson: The Life & Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn (True Crime/Biography, hardcover)
-> Eating for Two: The Complete Guide to Nutrition During Pregnancy and Beyond by Annabel Karmel (Pregnancy/Childcare, hardcover)
-> One World School House by Salman Khan (Education/Teacher Resource, paperback)

Music CDs

-> The Civil Wars by The Civil Wars (Pop/Rock)
(Also available as a 2 LP/CD set)

-> Elvis at Stax 3CD by Elvis Presley (Rock/Pop)

Order any of the products above here on our website, or contact your nearest McNally Robinson bookstore to check availability. If we have the item in-store, we can put it on hold for you.

Categories: Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases
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