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Cormac McCarthy 1933-2023

Wednesday, Jun 14, 2023 at 6:29pm

We were devastated to hear about the passing of one of the greatest American writers to ever do it, Cormac McCarthy. A novelist and stylist who pushed the English language to its limits and reworked and exploded the myth of the American West. The list of writers he inspired is limitless. We'll be talking about his oeuvre until the end of time. RIP to an absolute legend.

"The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door. He took off his hat and came slowly forward. The floorboards creaked under his boots. In his black suit he stood in the dark glass where the lilies leaned so palely from their waisted cutglass vase. Along the cold hallway behind him hung the portraits of forebears only dimly known to him all framed in glass and dimly lit above the narrow wainscotting. He looked down at the guttered candlestub. He pressed his thumbprint in the warm wax pooled on the oak veneer. Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funeral cloth, the yellowed moustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping." - All the Pretty Horses

Where to Start with McCarthy?

There are really three good points of entry into his work. What most people consider his masterpiece, Blood Meridianis a brutal, mythic tale of violence in the American West in the 19th century. This novel traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving. Blood Meridian crystallizes a lot of McCarthy's style: the poetic, almost mythic feel, the long sentences, the apocalyptic descriptions of landscape. Though, the novel is extremely violent and isn't as accessible as the other books we'll recommend.

Another good starting point is All the Pretty Horses, an elegaic quasi-romance about a cowboy, John Grady Cole, and the rancher's daughter he meets in Mexico. This novel, the first in a loose trilogy called "The Border Trilogy" is beautifully, sensitively written, as evidenced by the quote from above. It's also a gripping recontextualization of what it means to be a cowboy. Here, McCarthy's prose gets more accessible, ever slightly more spare as he worries less about apocalyptic imagery and more about the feeling of ranching.

Finally, No Country for Old Men is a terrific entry point into his work. A lean, mean crime thriller about a man who stumbles across a drug deal gone bad and the bag of money left behind. Thinking he's finally made it and escape from poverty, he goes on the run, only to be pursued by what is easily one of the most chilling villains ever written. This is accessible, possibly to a fault, judging by some critics. No Country for Old Men is short and sweet, but still carries the philosophy, the beautiful richness of thought which characterizes all of his work.

Any of these would be perfect to start with. McCarthy's books are life-changing and we will miss him dearly.

Categories: Staff Pick, Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Publishing News, Literature, Author Focus

Our June Author of the Month: LORRIE MOORE

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 at 5:23pm

A PICTURE OF LORRIE MOORE. SHE HAS HER HANDS CLASPED TOGETHER AGAINST HER CHEEK

Lorrie Moore is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. She is the recipient of a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, as well as the PEN/Malamud Award and the Rea Award for her achievement in the short story. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The publication of I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home is a literary event—a major new novel by one of North America’s most admired writers—her first in more than a decade. A daring novel about love and death and what lies between; a ghost story set in the 19th and 21st centuries; an elegiac consideration of grief, devotion (filial and romantic) and the vanishing and persistence of all things—seen and unseen.A teacher visiting his dying brother in the Bronx. A mysterious journal from the 19th century stolen from a boarding house. A therapy clown and an assassin both presumed dead but perhaps not dead at all… A meditation on what it means to be haunted by the past. To what extent—both in our national history and in the heart—does life persist on into death and vice versa?

With her distinctive, irresistible wordplay and singular wry humor and wisdom, Moore deftly reveals how, even in death, it’s life that reverberates. Bold, meditative, theatrical, this new novel is an inventive, poetic portrait of lovers, siblings and the stories we have all been told, which may or may not be true but that take us on a windswept, imagined journey into the tragic-comic landscape that is, unmistakably, the Lorrie Moore Zone.

Categories: Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Author of the Month

Dune 101

Saturday, May 06, 2023 at 4:50pm

What is Dune?

Dune is a science fiction novel published in 1965 by Frank Herbert. It was well received immediately, winning both the inaugural Nebula and sharing the Hugo in 1966. Dune is often called one of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time; it has never gone out of print.

The novel is set in the far, far future when interstellar travel is possible thanks to “melange” or spice, a consumable substance which allows a specialist guild to navigate the complexities of faster-than-light travel. Galactic society is feudal in structure, with large Houses competing for economic dominance, all of whom hope to control the planet Arrakis, the only place in the universe where the spice can be found. The beginning of the Dune saga follows House Atreides as they take over stewardship of the planet only to be dismantled from within by spies planted by rival House Harkonnen. Duke Atreides’ son, Paul, survives the attack and goes “underground,” where he is trained in the ways of the desert by the Fremen people, the original settlers of the planet thousands of years earlier. Paul Atreides grows in power, fulfilling a prophecy thousands of years old that a Messiah who can see and think forwards and backwards through time would unite the galaxy. But first he must defeat Baron Harkonnen and his House and free Arrakis from ecological collapse due to demand for melange.

Herbert’s masterpiece is deeply philosophical, rife with deep thoughts about the nature of power, politics, religion, free will, technology and ecology. Dune has often been credited with bringing explicit ecological concerns to the field of science fiction. A deeply humanistic novel, Dune tries to consider how power shapes individuals and how individuals can shape society, for good or for ill. 

Where Should You Start?

With the first book of course! Herbert’s universe is complex and somewhat daunting at first, but he lays out everything you need to know in the first few hundred pages of the first book. Armed with that knowledge you are ready to take on the rest of the action packed second half of the novel and the rest of the series. 

After Dune, What’s Next?

Herbert took years and years to devise the sequels, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, and the time and care he put into them show. Some folks argue all you need is the first Dune, but we think books 2 and 3 have their delights. Dune Messiah and Children of Dune should be read together, one after the other, not only because that’s the order they were published in, but because they were conceived as tightly bound, one plot flowing into the next. Dune Messiah follows Paul Atreides, the Muad'Dib, as the Emperor of the galaxy, but the remnants of House Harkonnen and new enemies conspire to remove him from power. Paul is tormented by foreknowledge: that he must do despicable things to set humanity on a millenia-spanning course with distant utopia as the goal. Dune Messiah is shorter than Dune, but more focused, with less worldbuilding and more intrigue and action. Children of Dune is longer, but not quite as lengthy as Dune. In it, Paul’s children have come of age and the religion around the Muad'Dib has coarsened and veered from the path Paul worked so hard to put humanity on; the utopia promised will never come to pass because Paul refused to make the necessary sacrifice. Leto, his son, has the same foreknowledge as Paul but does not shy away from what must be done. With Children of Dune’s denouement and end, the trilogy is complete, and the story can be closed.

Aren’t there more Books in the Series?

Yes, the fourth book is God Emperor of Dune, set 3,500 years after Children of Dune, with Leto still living as Emperor. This novel, published five years after the previous one, is a bridge between what Herbert envisioned as two trilogies: the first Dune trilogy, then a second, comprising Heretics of Dune, Chapterhouse: Dune, and Dune 7, which was left unfinished after Herbert passed away in 1986. Dune 7 was completed by his son, Brian Herbert, and his collaborator Kevin J. Anderson as two books, Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune. While the reception to these last two was decidedly mixed, completionists may want to delve in just to see how Frank Herbert saw the series ending. 

Adaptations

There are quite a few adaptations of the books, despite their legendary status as impenetrable or difficult. First is David Lynch's 1984 version known simply as Dune. Critically reviled and disowned by its director, the 1984 version features Kyle MacLachlan as Paul and a score by the band Toto. Recently, the film was restored and reissued by Arrow Video in 4K UHD.

After that, the Sci-Fi channel did two TV mini-series with the intent of adapting the source material more closely. Frank Herbert's Dune and Frank Herbert's Children of Dune starred Alec Newman as Paul and then James McAvoy as Leto II, Paul's son. While these adaptations were closer to the book, a network TV-sized budget and rudimentary computer graphics held them back from being great.

Famously, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve adapted the novel into two parts: 2021's Dune: Part One and 2024's Dune: Part Two, starring Timothée Chalamet as Paul. Critical reception was high and more importantly, it reignited interest in the Dune books.

While the books have never been out of print, they have enjoyed a huge sales boost in the last two years and we hope to bring even more fans onboard! But how to start?

Categories: Site News, Staff Pick, Fun, SciFi & Fantasy, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Book Lists, Literature

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Our May Author of the Month: PETER WOHLLEBEN

Friday, Apr 28, 2023 at 3:45pm

AN IMAGE OF PETER WITH HIS ARMS CROSSED AND HE'S STANDING IN THE WOODS

Peter Wohlleben is one of the world’s most notable foresters and a passionate advocate for tree conservation. Wohlleben lives in Germany, where he manages an ecologically conscious forest and runs an academy for education and advocacy. His books are bestsellers around the world.

In his beloved book The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben revealed astonishing discoveries about the social networks of trees and how they communicate. Now, in The Power of Trees, he turns to their future, with a searing critique of forestry management, tree planting, and the exploitation of old growth forests. As human-caused climate change devastates the planet, forests play a critical role in keeping it habitable. While politicians and business leaders would have us believe that cutting down forests can be offset by mass tree planting, Wohlleben offers a warning: many tree planting campaigns lead to ecological disaster. Not only are these trees more susceptible to disease, flooding, fires, and landslides, we need to understand that forests are more than simply a collection of trees. Instead, they are ecosystems that consist of thousands of species, from animals to fungi and bacteria. The way to save trees, and ourselves? Step aside and let forests—which are naturally better equipped to face environmental challenges—heal themselves. With the warmth and wonder familiar to readers from his previous books, Wohlleben also shares emerging scientific research about how forests shape climates both locally and across continents; that trees adapt to changing environmental conditions through passing knowledge down to their offspring; and how old growth may in fact have the most survival strategies for climate change. At the heart of The Power of Trees lies Wohlleben’s passionate plea: that our survival is dependent on trusting ancient forests, and allowing them to thrive.

Categories: Site News, Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, New Releases, Author of the Month

Join us Saturday April 29, 2023 for Canadian Independent Bookstore Day!

Wednesday, Apr 26, 2023 at 4:15pm

WHAT IS CIBD?

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day (CIBD) is the annual day when readers, writers, illustrators, publishers, and other industry supporters come together to celebrate indie bookstores across Canada. By joining the celebration, you are advocating for independent businesses, supporting a flourishing bookselling community, and investing in Canadian culture.

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day is taking place on Saturday, April 29, 2023!

Every purchase made with us on April 29th will be eligible to enter a draw to win a prize pack filled with an assortment of books. Customers who purchase items in-store will be given a ballot to fill out, and customers who purchase on our website will be entered automatically. The winners will be determined the week following and contacted directly about their prizes. We will have five (5) prize packs to give away on the day:

  • Two packs for adults at Grant Park
  • One pack for adults at the Forks
  • One pack for kids at Grant Park
  • One pack for adults for online shoppers
  • (check back to more info on what our Saskatoon location is doing that day)

Ballots will be available in store(s). One (1) ballot per person.

The online winner will be picked randomly from online orders made April 29th, 2023 (12:00AM to 11:59PM).

WHY CELEBRATE INDIE BOOKSTORES?

Independent booksellers are an integral part of Canadian culture. As professionals, they are deeply passionate about their work, prioritize best-in-class customer service, and provide unmatched value for the book-buying public.

But it’s more than that. Indie bookstores are pillars of the communities in which they reside. Their staff are actively involved in the neighbourhood and provide an inclusive space where people can connect over shared interests. Local booksellers also play a vital role in the Canadian literary ecosystem. They are conduits of discovery, championing Canadian creators at all career stages and introducing Canadian readers to a diverse range of voices from across Canada's rich cultural landscape.

Indie booksellers work hard to serve their customers and communities. CIBD is our opportunity to say thank you.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

Here are some ways you can participate in Canadian Independent Bookstore Day:

Buy books! Purchase books and other items in-person, online, or by phone to show your support.

Help us spread the word. CIBD is an opportunity to raise awareness about everything that indies have to offer. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share our posts!

Fill out ballots in store and/or make a web order for a chance to win a prize pack!

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!

CIBA, the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association, has a contest of their own! They are giving away three (3) grand prizes of money to spend at your favourite indie bookstore.

Click here for more information on their prize. We'll be giving away CIBD bookmarks with information as well!

THANK YOU

Thank you to everyone for continuining to support Canadian independent bookselling. We've been Canada's largest indie bookseller for over 40 years, and that's all thanks to readers like you!

Thanks also to the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association for their support all these years, and to the publishers who have helped us put together our contest prizes (not to mention all the resources they provide to help get books into the hands of our readers!).

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