Monday, July 25, 2011

Four Montreal Jewish writers worth hearing (at least three of them anyway.)

I organized and participated in a session of the recent Association of Jewish Libraries conference in Montreal. The idea was to gather a group of local writers to read from new work and talk about what it means, if anything, to be a Jewish writer. It's worth your time if you happen to have a spare hour and a half, or less.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sherwood Schwartz 1916-2011

He gave us Ginger and Marianne. The three hour tour. The critics hated his shows and we loved them, and still do, and for that alone he is worth honouring. He rejected the staid father-mother-two kids suburban portrait of the typical 1950s American family and decided that there was something truer and more absurd to our existence. We're actually an incompatible motley shipwrecked bunch thrown together on a lush beautiful island with no obvious way to get off, and somehow we survive together.

Sherwood Schwartz has finally found a way off this crazy island. Here's a fond salute to one of the most influential storytellers of my generation.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Salesmanship: The ebook

Ever since jumping hesitantly on the bandwagon a few weeks ago I've become positively enamoured with my ereader. Now I am a full-on devotee. The natural next step was to start toying around with epublishing. A few hours of tinkering with free downloaded software and walla!! My first e-book, appropriately titled "Salesmanship", and featuring three short stories. Admittedly, the savvy internet user will be able to track down two of these three stories on the web. But why read off a screen when, for the outlandishly inexpensive price of $4.99 (shipping and handling included), you can own this digital edition to add to your personal ereader library? I'm still not exactly sure how it'll work administration wise, but try it out by clicking on the Buy Now button and maybe, if all goes as planned, you'll receive shortly a special e-package of literature in the e-mail. And best of all no trees were sacrificed.

The $50,000 poem

Hear ye!! Hear Ye!! Calling all poets!! Don't delay. The deadline for the inaugural $50,000 Montreal International Poetry Prize approaches this Friday, July 8th! It's open to all poets - and that means you (who doesn't consider him/herself a poet). Everyone's eligible!

Look, I'm actually fan of poetry. Read the stuff, edited a couple of anthologies, even write the stuff on occasion. So why does this new prize for a poem seem so completely absurd? I keep asking myself, can there possibly by such a thing as a poem worth $50K? We're not talking a novel that takes years to write or a body of literary work; a single poem! And why does it seem that as less people read poetry and buy poetry publications the more poetry prizes there are, and the higher their purse. Clearly, a declining readership has prompted a kind of false, one might even say sad, effort to prop up flaccid, sagging prestige. The spectacle (if that's what it could be when it involves poetry) recalls the compensations needed by the owner of a souped-up muscle car. A new prize will not generate new interest in poetry, if that's what the organizers are after, and certainly not new book buyers. Never have, and never will. As well-intentioned as this prize might be it only serves to make generally ignored poets feel better about themselves, at least one poet anyway. I keep thinking about all that money being put to good use by spreading the largesse; imagine how many poetry collections $50K could buy.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Where Saint-Urbain intersects Chabanel

It does in fact - I mean Saint-Urbain and Chabanel intersect as you'll see in the video below. I was asked by the Gazette to participate in the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of Mordecai Richler's death. My written contribution is here. My video contribution, from Chabanel naturally, is below.