Monday, April 26, 2010

Print it and they will come

Men don't read fiction. That's been the mantra of the publishing industry for some time. I've just picked up "Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk. It was a huge hit when it came out in '96, was made into a popular film, you know the rest... While reading this weekend I couldn't stop from wondering, if men aren't reading fiction who the hell bought this book? I've made the argument about men reading fiction before. Here's another piece worth considering in which the author makes the compelling argument that if the publishing industry is in the doldrums it's partly because they have been ignoring fifty percent of the market. It seems self-evident that when a book like Fight Club becomes a mega-hit, or Harry Potter or The DaVinci Code, that the difference was all the men reading the books too.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My bruised ego

is feeling a little less touch-sensitive today thanks to Richard Helm.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yann on the reviews

"...the way a work of art is received is part of the dialogue of art." - Martel

"Just as every painting is a response to the history, tradition and nature of art, every story is part of a larger conversation about storytelling." - Rotchin

Could you blame me for thinking that Martel is quoting me. Or perhaps I just have unique insight into the writer. It turns out that my review was gentle in comparison to others. I'm a little offended that my review isn't quoted in the National Post piece, especially since it ran in four CanWest papers including in Martel's hometown of Mtl and his current home of Saskatoon - which also leads me to believe that he's got my review in mind. Martel appears to be taking the drubbing in stride, and why wouldn't he with the deal he got. Cry all the way to the bank brotha!

Friday, April 16, 2010

One more on beatrice & virgil

Steven Beattie over at That Shakesperean Rag writes the most thoughtful, fair-minded and precise review so far.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bellow, Malamud, Roth and ... Mosley?

The question remains: Why would the Jewish literary establishment in America not want to claim Mosley as a member of the canon? Mosley says that his inclusion would challenge the myth that Jews belong to white America. But perhaps the truth is simpler; perhaps it’s just an oversight, and it’s now time to include him in all serious considerations of the American Jewish canon. Or perhaps the collision of Jewish themes with black themes in his work has complicated the question of what is Jewish writing, and no critic or anthologist has been prepared to accept the ambiguity.

My friend Harold Heft makes the persuasive case for Walter Mosley to be included in the canon of Jewish-American fiction.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

More beatrice & virgil, reviewing the reviews

I was particularly interested to see how the new Yann Martel would be reviewed by others. Pasha Malla gushes in the influential Globe & Mail calling the novel "ingenious." He is intrigued by the way Martel puts himself, or rather a fictional representation of himself, at the centre of the novel.

"What if Yann Martel were never writing a book called A 20th-Century Shirt? What if his 2007 spoilers were, in fact, an extra-textual prologue to the book he was actually working on all along, the book we now have in our hands? Either way, the potential for such speculations speaks to Beatrice & Virgil's capacity to expand beyond its pages, and to the terrain – the reader's imagination – where its multiple layers unfold."

Surely such questions and convolutions, the layers of 'extra-textual prologue' as Malla calls them, are only interesting for a fellow writer or an academic. Where Malla is captivated by Martel's blurring of the boundary between the 'factual' and the 'imagined' others would likely see the exercise as rather pompous and excessively self-regarding.

Most 'ordinary' readers just want a good story. But here, Houston - even Malla rather sheepishly admits - we have a problem: "If there is a weakness to Beatrice & Virgil, it might be the actual story." Well to my mind a novel that has a weak story is akin to saying that the only problem with a certain model of airplane is that it has a spot of trouble flying.

But Malla's qualifying if indicates that he's not terribly bothered by the lack of story. To ask, "what is the book about," he asserts, misses the point. The novel is too "complex" and "nuanced" for questions like that.

Michiku Kakutani of the New York Times calls the Holocaust-fable on which the novel pivots "
botched" and "cringe-making". Referring to Life of Pi Kakutani writes "Mr. Martel’s new book...unfortunately, is every bit as misconceived and offensive as his earlier book was fetching.

Miami Herald reviewer was even more blunt. A cardinal rule of reviewing is that you have to finish the book, so it's not often that you read a book review where the reviewer openly admits that they couldn't get past page 50. "I realized: I don't care what happens to this guy or his book or why this story was sent to him. Once you reach the 'I don't care' point, it's time to move on. And so I did." The public admission that she threw in the towel a quarter the way in struck me as refreshingly honest. Book reviewers hate feeling or looking stupid. Few will admit that they just didn't get it. Martel's obviously a smart guy and it took him nine years to write this follow-up to his international sensation Pi. The pressure on the reviewer to give him the benefit of the doubt is tremendous. But what if the emperor has no clothes?

Philip Marchand sums it up best writing in the
National Post "Reviewers will be puzzled and some will damn with faint praise. Unfortunately, they will have good grounds for this response."

Monday, April 12, 2010

More Mode Support - Chabanel fashion for Haiti Relief

My 15 seconds of fame on the local Global News. I spoke for about five minutes and this is the result. At least they got the spelling of my name right (the company I work for is called Groupe Dayan.) The initiative will ship about 50,000 garments in total when the campaign is done.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


April is National Poetry Month. Also, The season of joy for dogs and their walkers.



Post to post
lawn to lawn

invisible lines
crisscrossing streets

traces everywhere
left behind


bringing you
to your senses.


You follow
stop watch
running low
comes to an end
your fist tightens
heart ticks
tells you
it’s time
to move on
the leash


The white
German shepherd
on the other side
with unfamiliar master
in tow
is your childhood dog
you’re certain of it
dead and buried
long ago
and you wonder
if could it be
and your answer
is maybe.