“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” — Haruki Murakami
Roque Larraquy’s Comemadre begins in a questionable institution in Buenos Aires in 1907, when its staff, more reminiscent of the Marx Brothers than of a functioning ward, set out to lure in terminal cancer patients to serve as guinea pigs in a grand experiment. The experiment? To plumb the liminal space between life and death by offering up a quack cure to the hopeful, only to encourage said patients to dedicate their bodies to science once the medication inevitably fails. The doctors are convinced that by interrogating severed heads during their nine seconds of post-decapitation consciousness that they can interpret the poetry of their utterances and gain insight into the life beyond. The venture is, expectedly, a failure, but one full of impressively deadpan slapstick and grand guignol set pieces. Somehow, that only covers the first half of this inventive combination of fiction and theory, horror and humour. The second begins a century later, when a performance / installation artist with a surprising connection to the clinic draws inspiration from this legacy to turn his own body into his ultimate artwork. Immaculately translated by Heather Cleary, Comemadre is a unique and thrilling book.
We first encounter Cassie, the young narrator of Eleanor Kriseman’s The Blurry Years as she huddles with her mother on a bed in another small, rented home, listening to the mice in the walls and eating reheated spaghetti. It is just another day in her “blurry years”: a seemingly endless procession of time spent following her alcoholic mother as she listlessly moves from place to place, her only child caught up in her gravity. All too often, Cassie is stripped of her agency and subject to the whims of those adults around her. When she does assert herself as a teen, her struggle to free herself from the proscribed role of ward and victim is as messy and affecting as one would imagine, but free of the usual platitudes that haunt this type of writing. Not simply another coming of age novel, The Blurry Years has a momentum not simply driven by narrative but by a combination of place (Florida itself is a vital character) and voice. Kriseman brings Cassie to life on the page, finding in her journey the story of a life coming into its own and freeing itself of the past. It is a shimmering evocation of adolescence and marks the unveiling of an exciting new voice.
— John ToewsCategories: Staff Pick, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Difference
"If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking."
-- Haruki Murakami
Forrest Gander’s latest novel, The Trace, is a haunting look at loss and loneliness and a meditation on the intersection (and collision) of different worlds. Dale and Hoa, a couple recovering from a traumatic incident involving their son, decide to travel into Mexico to investigate the three possible fates Ambrose Bierce might have faced when he disappeared in 1913 while covering the Mexican Revolution. The trip is an excuse to escape from the despair that dwells with them at home and an attempt to bridge the distance that has arisen between them. Their journey is threatened by a break down in the middle of the desert and the presence of a ruthless group of drug smuggling narcos. A spare, elegantly written novel interspersed with Gander’s award-winning poetry, the humanity in The Trace is raw and real.
Forrest Gander was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2011 poetry collection Core Samples for the World. Trained in both English literature and geology and born in the Mojave Desert, his sense of both the landscape of the desert and the interior landscapes of his characters is masterful.
In the word of Publishers Weekly: “As in his previous works, Gander shows he is keenly aware of the loneliness that imbues human suffering and sets grief alight using beautiful, tense, haunting prose.”
This piece written by our very own bookseller John Toews.
A binary star is a system containing two stars that orbit their common center of mass. Binary stars are gravitationally bound.
An unnamed narrator and her long-distance boyfriend embark on an aimless road trip across America in Sarah Gerard’s debut novel Binary Star. Both vow to leave their vices behind, her eating disorder and penchant for pills and his alcoholism, but those promises cannot be kept. In Portland they happen upon a book on vegananarchism and in it find their cause. She fixates on the stars, both celestial and celebrity, and as such astronomy provides the baseline allegory in this short novel; the couple as binary stars, the anorexic as a shrinking white dwarf burning unreplenished fuel. Binary Star is a portrait of lovers who cannot live together or apart.
This is a work that defies the boundaries between poetry and prose, between fiction and non- (the novel began life as a memoir). In a lyrical style that is both hypnotic and arresting, Gerard crafts a haunting story of consumption beyond control.
This novel burns bright. A truly stunning debut.
This piece written by our very own bookseller Devon Arthur.
This article originally appeared on page 10 of the January/February 2015 edition of our news magazine, The Bookseller. You can pick up a free copy of the magazine in our bookstores, or read it online here.Categories: Staff Pick, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Something Different
Sholem Aleichem is perhaps the most pre-eminent name in Yiddish literature, and among the immediate figures that come to mind in Jewish writing in general. Fiddler on the Roof, based on Sholem Aleichem's endeared Tevye the dairyman and the longest-running performance on Broadway, sealed the Yiddish writer's name in North American pop culture.
Dubbed the Jewish Mark Twain (Mark Twain would respond, calling himself the American Sholem Aleichem) and deemed "a worthy heir to Gogol," the iconic Yiddish author and his influence is explored in a new biography, The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye by Jeremy Dauber.
Sholem Rabinovich was born in 1859 in Ukraine, at a time when the so-called Haskalah, the Jewish enlightenment, was growing and adversely altering the Yiddish-speaking world of Eastern Europe. The young Rabinovich aspired to be a writer, witnessed how a new body of literature and art was emerging in that "jargon" called Yiddish, and adopted the pen name Sholem Aleichem, a traditional greeting meaning "peace be upon you." He could have easily been one of the characters that shape his fiction, having come from an impoverished childhood, married into wealth, and lost everything.
Writing with a notion of "laughter through tears," Sholem Aleichem's works spoke to his Yiddish-speaking brethren, addressing the hardships and discrimination his people often faced in the old country, tales that came with a unique dash of humour, layered in critical thought and gems of wisdom. He was so popular that at one time he was writing simultaneous premieres for two competing Yiddish theatres in New York City. When he died in 1916, his funeral was one of the largest New York had ever seen. But the Sholem Aleichem story doesn't stop there. The biography looks at the amazing afterlife of Sholem Aleichem in English translation, and beyond.
The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem, hailed as the "first comprehensive biography" on the beloved author, is a finely-written work, illuminating a Yiddish-speaking world coloured in a certain joy, of course sorrow, and yet still touches so many Jewish North Americans. The book makes for a wonderful gift on the Hanukkah holiday.
Categories: Reviews, Staff Pick, Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg
Our booksellers are also book readers, so you can imagine we've each got a title or two (or ten or fifty) that we love.
And now we're sharing them with you! On this page you can find an ever-growing selection of Staff Picks supplied to us from both our Winnipeg and Saskatoon booksellers. These books are highly recommended by the booksellers that chose them, and each is available in-store or to order.
Contact your nearest McNally Robinson bookstore to check current availability. Or if you're in the store, keep an eye out for our Staff Picks displays throughout!Categories: Site News, Staff Pick, Saskatoon, Winnipeg
"It's important to get somehow into the mind and make it move somewhere it has never moved before."
"Some years ago I wrote a book about a boy named Geryon who was red and had wings and fell in love with Herakles. Recently I began to wonder what happened to them in later life. Red Doc> continues their adventures in a very different style and with changed names. To live past the end of your myth is a perilous thing."
- Anne Carson
A literary event: a follow-up to the internationally acclaimed poetry bestseller Autobiography of Red ("Amazing" - Alice Munro) that takes its mythic boy-hero into the twenty-first century to tell a story all its own of love, loss, and the power of memory.Categories: Poetry, Staff Pick, Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases
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