Why do great writers release bad books? Why don't their editors stop them? HarperCollins should have saved Findley from himself and spared us Spadework, his flaccid take on unfettered ambition at the Stratford Festival.
Rock and Roll Novels
In 2001 Canadian fiction lapsed back into its comfy relationship to period. With the exception of Timothy Taylor's Stanley Park, all the books shortlisted for the Giller Prize fell into the category of historical fiction, and every nominee had that all-Canadian obsession with landscape. Edgy urban fiction was painfully low-profile, and the rock 'n' roll novel was almost invisible. Yashin Blake's Titanium Punch had some energy -- Blake really kicks it in when he's writing about music -- but no craft or characters. We're still desperately seeking a book that reflects contemporary T.O.'s city slickness.
Rita Mae Brown
The once edgy role model for lesbian writers is coasting. She used to write about the clash between southern manners and Yankee values, but Alma Mater, her tale of wealthy college coeds' southern discomfort with coming out -- how 70s! -- marks her as a writer who's out of touch with anything that matters.
They're not dead yet, but the fact that most major publishing companies have discontinued their e-book-only releases doesn't bode well for the cyber-lit movement. E-book companions to paper publications are still being produced, but let's face it, tech editions aren't exactly taking over. People still love the feel of a real live book.
Word On The Street organizers must be doing something right. The sun always shines on the annual outdoor literary fair that takes over Queen West between University and Spadina on September 29. Tons of kids' stuff and great readings, including appearances by Sarah Dearing, Hal Niedzviecki, Sheila Heti, Elizabeth Ruth, Marnie Woodrow and others. 416-504-7241, www.thewordonthestreet.ca.
No Logo author and anti-globalization goddess -- she hates that term but we can't help it -- Naomi Klein launches a new book at a major event September 26. She introduces Fences And Windows, a collection of essays both previously published and new at Bloor Street United Church (300 Bloor West), at 7:30pm. $5. Sponsor the Toronto Women's Bookstore also plans a mid-November evening to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking book This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women Of Color. This Bridge, which blew minds with its hard-hitting racial analyses, has recently been reprinted. Plans are set for a huge party/reading with music, spoken word and a celebration that will double as a book launch for the follow-up anthology, This Bridge We Call Home, due out this fall. Confirmed authors/artists include Dionne Brand and Jacqui Alexander. Venue to be announced. 416-922-8744.
The season's alt-lit highlight is definitely Canzine 2002 on October 6 at the Big Bop. Now eight years old, it's Canada's largest zine fair, but it's also a festival of alternative culture. Look for reps from over 150 underground periodicals, a hands-on seminar on starting your own online radio show and a radical reading series featuring Corey Frost, Michael V. Smith, Mariko Tamaki and others. Free. 416-538-2813, www.brokenpencil.com.
OK, Farley Mowat and Austin Clarke don't exactly scream cutting-edge, but the International Festival of Authors has a few cool faces coming to town. Keep your eyes out for Irish guy Colm Tóibin, political performer Christopher Hichens and homegrown author of The Lost Garden Helen Humphreys, who definitely deserves the spotlight at this glam event. October 23 to November 2. Events to be held in York Quay Centre (235 Queen's Quay West and Queen's Quay Terminal's Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). Ticket prices range from $10 to $25, $8 to $20 for members. Full schedule and ticket information at www.readings.org and 416-973-4000.