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The Biblio File hosted by Nigel Beale
53 minutes | 4 days ago
Anne Giardini on Carol Shields and the new Prize for Fiction
Only seventeen women have won the Nobel Prize for Literature since it started in 1901. That's 17 out of 119 winners. In order to rectify this imbalance, an important new prize has been established. The Carol Shields Prize for Fiction is "the first English-language literary award to celebrate creativity and excellence in fiction by women writers in the United States and Canada." I wanted to learn more about Carol Shields, so I read Startle and Illuminate, Carol Shields on Writing and interviewed one of its editors, Anne Giardini, who also happens to be Carol's daughter in addition to being a writer, and Chancellor of Simon Fraser University. Startle and Illuminate is culled from decades worth of Carol's correspondence, essays, notes, comments, criticism and lectures, drawn together by Anne and her son Nicholas. Anne and I talk here about, among other things, Carol's thoughts and advice on the craft of writing; redemption; Carol's voice on the page and in the air; the existence of ordinary, boring people; the invisibility of women's lives; group courage; rootedness; and candles matching housecoats.
74 minutes | 9 days ago
Dan Mozersky on setting up Indigo Books in Canada
Dan Mozersky enjoyed a long and fruitful career in Canada's retail book industry. As a founding member of Indigo Books & Music's executive team he was instrumental in turning the company's vision into reality. During the 1990s he served as manager of U.S. Operations for Classic Books in New York. Prior to this he founded and owned a chain of retail bookstores in Ottawa and Montreal. Active in the Canadian Booksellers Association (CBA), he served as director, vice president, and chair of various industry committees. In 1985 he was recognized by the Canadian Book Publishers' Professional Association as bookseller of the year. We talk here in Part ll of our conversation about Dan's work with the CBA, and how he helped establish Indigo Books, Canada's largest chain of big box bookstores.
53 minutes | 13 days ago
Bill Waiser on Almighty Voice, and how history is written and re-written
Bill Waiser is a western Canadian historian. He has published more than a dozen books– many of them prize-winning. A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905, for example, won the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. Bill has been appointed to the Order of Canada, awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, named a distinguished university professor, and granted a D.Litt. He was the 2018 recipient of the Royal Society of Canada J.B. Tyrrell medal, presented for “outstanding work” in Canadian history, as well as the 2018 Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media: The Pierre Berton Award. We talk about his most recent book In Search of Almighty Voice, Resistance and Reconciliation (Fifth House, 2020), about the life of Almighty Voice - a member of the One Arrow Willow Cree who died violently at the hands of Canada's North-West Mounted Police in 1897 - and how his violent death spawned a succession of conflicting stories — in newspapers, magazines, pulp fiction, plays and film; about how history is written and re-written, and why an 'accurate' depiction of the life and death of Almighty Voice matters.
50 minutes | 16 days ago
Matt Dorfman on the best book covers of 2020
Matt Dorfman is an internationally recognized designer and illustrator. He is the art director of the New York Times Book Review and former art director of the New York Times Op-Ed page. Additionally, he maintains a one-person office specializing in work for publishers, film, theater and various cultural institutions. I talked with Matt recently about his selection of the best book covers of 2020 for the New York Times Book Review - dissecting his decision-making process and judgement calls. Among other things we discuss the differences between designing the book review and op-ed sections, the delays between creating a jacket design and it appearing in public, dust jackets capturing zeitgeists, the tension between commerce and art, the power of jealousy, gateway drugs John Gall, David Pearson, and Roy Kuhlman, being haunted by Barbara de Wilde, Carin Goldberg, and Louise Fili, collecting dust jackets, how much our wives hate books, and visual literacy.
20 minutes | 18 days ago
Larry McMurtry (R.I.P.) on Book Ranching
Novelist, screenwriter and essayist Larry McMurtry is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 novel Lonesome Dove, a sweeping historical epic that follows ex-Texas Rangers as they drive cattle from the Rio Grande to Montana. (Update: Larry died yesterday, March 25, 2021). He grew up on a ranch outside of Archer City, Texas, which is the model for his fictional town of Thalia. A book collector, McMurtry purchased a rare book store in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighbourhood in 1970 and named it Booked Up. In 1988 he opened a second Booked Up in Archer City, establishing the town as a "Book City." This store is arguably the largest single used bookstore in the United States, carrying somewhere between 400,000 and 450,000 titles. McMurtry is well-known for the film adaptations of his work, especially Hud (from the novel Horseman, Pass By), The Last Picture Show; James L. Brooks’s Terms of Endearment, and Lonesome Dove, which became an enormously popular television mini-series. In 2006, he was co-winner (with Diana Ossana) of both the Best Screenplay Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. I interviewed him ( in 2008) as part of a project I was working on for the Canadian Booksellers Association. We talk about his latest, Books: A Memoir, his life as a book rancher, having the right books, junk, the fun of the hunt, book-scouting, catalogues, bookstores and cultural vitality, keeping stock fresh, burning out on fiction and movies, the declining number of used book stores, and optimism for the future.
49 minutes | a month ago
Richard Nash on the Business of Literature, Part ll
Richard Nash is a coach, strategist, and serial entrepreneur. He led partnerships and content at the culture discovery start-up Small Demons and the new media app Byliner. Previously he ran independent publishers Soft Skull Press and Red Lemonade where he published Maggie Nelson, Lynne Tillman, Vanessa Veselka’s Zazen, Alain Mabanckou, and many others. He was awarded the Association of American Publishers’ Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing in 2005. We met via Zoom (as I'm sure you'll be able to tell) to talk more about his article 'What is the Business of Literature?', about where publishing has been, technology and "the shock of the old," repurposing technology, essential reading, the influence of capitalism on publishing, copyright, great books not seeing the light of day, dance floors, reading, and the richness of book history.
69 minutes | a month ago
Will Schwalbe on the benefits of reading and talking about books
Will Schwalbe has spent most of his life in publishing: at William Morrow, and then at Hyperion, where he was Editor in Chief. In January 2008 he left Hyperion to found a startup called Cookstr.com and ran that for six years. It’s now part of Macmillan Publishers, where he has worked since 2014. Books he has written include Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better with his friend David Shipley. The End of Your Life Book Club, about the books he read with his mother when she was dying. And Books For Living, about the role books can play in our lives and how they can show us how to live each day more fully and with more meaning. He lives in New York City with his husband David Cheng In addition to Books for Living, we talk about Faber, Sonny Mehta, Rohinton Mistry, reasons for reading, adults reading to children - and their conversations, greater powers, book clubs, cook books, Christopher Isherwood, giving and sharing conversations about books for birthdays, tyranny, and my new venture, Literary Retreats.
62 minutes | a month ago
Jason Rovito: One of the New Antiquarians
Since 2012, Jason Rovito has been working with institutional and private collectors to grow the documentary value of their collections "because the Cloud forgets." Subject strengths include: the avant-garde, design, the human sciences, and visual culture across the full spectrum of Special Collections formats: rare books, ephemera, manuscripts, photographs, prints, audio/visual materials, and archives. Jason is a member of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of Canada (ABAC), and the Ephemera Society of America (ESA), and is committed to their codes of ethics. Based in Toronto, he regularly exhibits at fairs in New York, Toronto, and London. Jason has been touted by many as one of the talented "new antiquarians" who are discerning value in all sorts of interesting and unusual places. We talk about this entrepreneurial tradition among successful bookseller down the ages; about Italy, and prisons, and virtual book fairs, and much more.
36 minutes | a month ago
On The Biblio File Book Club: Is Nick Carraway Gay?
Marc Côté is President of Cormorant Books, a literary publishing house noted for its discovery and development of Canadian writing talent and the publishing of Quebecois fiction translated into English. He has won Canada's Libris Award for editor of the year twice, and Cormorant has won the Libris Award for small presses three times. At Cormorant Marc has acquired and edited many award-nominated books. The Great Gatsby is a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published by Scribner's in 1925. Set in the Jazz Age on Long Island it depicts narrator Nick Carraway's relationship with mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, and Gatsby's obsessive desire to reunite with his former lover Daisy Buchanan. The Biblio File Book Club is series of book discussions with smart people about books that they believe are important; books they would recommend to loved ones...books they consider to be essential reading.
53 minutes | 2 months ago
Richard Ovenden on the fragility and importance of Libraries
Richard Ovenden has been Bodley’s Librarian (the senior executive position of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) since 2014. He is a Fellow at the Society of Antiquaries and Royal Society of Arts; a member of the American Philosophical Society; Treasurer, at the Consortium of European Research Libraries; and President of the Digital Preservation Coalition. He awarded the OBE by The Queen in 2019. And almost as big a deal, he joined me recently on Zoom to talk about his new book, Burning the Books, a history of the deliberate destruction of knowledge; about the threats to libraries past and present; about fire, war, violence, obsolescence, complacency and underfunding. And about the fragility of libraries, and their fundamental importance to democracy, to truth and facts, to the rule of law, in short, to our treasured Western way of life.
78 minutes | 2 months ago
Dan Mozersky on how to build a successful chain of bookstores
Dan Mozersky enjoyed a long and fruitful career in the retail book industry. As a founding member of Indigo Books & Music's executive team he was instrumental in turning the company's vision into reality ( we talk about this in Part ll of our conversation). During the 1990s he served as manager of U.S. Operations for Classic Books in New York. Prior to this he founded and owned a chain of retail bookstores in Ottawa and Montreal. Active in the Canadian Booksellers Association, he served as director, vice president, and chair of various industry committees. In 1985 he was recognized by the Canadian Book Publishers' Professional Association as bookseller of the year. We talk here in Part l of our conversation about how Dan built his successful chain of bricks and mortar bookstores.
61 minutes | 2 months ago
Mary Newberry on the Joys of Indexing. Yes, Indexing.
Mary Newberry is a Toronto-based freelance editor, indexer, and teacher. Her early passion was dancing. The self-discipline she learned from it is today one of her greatest assets. She works mostly with humanities-related texts: academic, government, literary, creative arts and general interest, and lately, in memoir. She has a long-term relationship with social justice and diversity, and enjoys working in these areas. Scholarly editing is one of her specialties. She enjoys complex materials, helping to bring clarity and concision to emerging ideas. She often works with scholars for whom English is an additional language, and teaches indexing in a course she developed for Ryerson University's Publishing Program. In 2016, she won the Ewart-Daveluy Award for excellence in indexing. We talk here about the history and practice of indexing, looking specifically at her notable work on Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, in addition to several of her award-winning books.
46 minutes | 3 months ago
Jonathan A. Hill on the importance of bookseller catalogues
The son of prominent book collector Kenneth E. Hill, Jonathan A. Hill grew up in a house filled with old books. After graduating from university in 1974 he served a classic apprenticeship, working for four leading antiquarian booksellers in San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. In 1978 he started his own company and has specialized in science, medicine, natural history, bibliography and the history of book collecting, and early printed books. For the past 20 years he has, partnering with his wife Megumi, also sold antiquarian Japanese, Chinese, and Korean illustrated books, manuscripts, and scrolls. During the past 43 years the company has issued more than 230 catalogues devoted to these various subjects. It is thanks to them that I contacted Jonathan. We talk here about his (and Jerry Kelly's) impressive work, and about bookseller catalogues in general.
51 minutes | 3 months ago
Book Collector Miriam Borden on rescuing the Yiddish language
Miriam Borden, a teacher of Yiddish and PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto, is winner of the 2020 Honey and Wax Book Collecting Prize for “Building a Nation of Little Readers: Twentieth-Century Yiddish Primers and Workbooks for Children.” Borden collects twentieth-century Yiddish educational materials. Language primers form the core of her collection which also includes songbooks and workbooks, flash cards, and scripts from school plays. These artifacts testify to a once-thriving Yiddish school system across North America, a network that collapsed after World War II as Jewish immigrants assimilated and Hebrew emerged as the language of the State of Israel. As a teacher of Yiddish, Borden now uses these vintage materials to instruct adults hoping to reconnect with a lost part of their heritage. This from her winning essay: “There was no heirloom china in the house where I grew up, no silver from grandmother’s chest to be taken out and polished for holidays and family celebrations. That china had all been shattered, the silver stolen. . .The heirlooms, and most of the family, were lost. But that does not mean I am bereft of inheritance. I was raised with an heirloom language, a treasure that could be taken out and polished and used on those rare moments when no word in English or Polish or Hebrew would fit the occasion. I was raised to speak the language of the dead. But never for a moment did it ever dawn on me that it was a dead language.” Miriam’s collection represents "an impressive effort of historical preservation and an inspiring example of how a collection that began as something personal becomes a collective resource," said the Prize judges. You can read her winning essay and bibliography here.
68 minutes | 3 months ago
Martin Latham on The Bookseller's Tale
Martin Latham has been a bookseller for thirty-five years. He has a PhD in Indian history, and taught at Hertfordshire University before turning to bookselling. He is proud to be responsible for the biggest petty-cash claim in Waterstones' history, when he paid for the excavation of a Roman bath-house floor under his bookshop. Martin's books include Kent's Strangest Tales, Londonopolis, and most recently The Bookseller's Tale which we talk about in this episode. It's really a book full of tales about books of course, and bookstores, libraries, chapbooks, marginalia, women readers and collectors - chock full of fascinating biblio adventures. I highly recommend it.
75 minutes | 3 months ago
Doug Minett on Canada's most Innovative Bookstore
The Bookshelf bookshop in Guelph, Ontario was established in 1973 by Barb and Doug Minett. In 1980 it became The Bookshelf Cafe - Canada's first bookstore cafe/restaurant. Shortly thereafter an ambitious plan was conceived to add a cinema and bar to what was then the roof of the building. During implementation, University of Guelph physics professor and longtime customer, Jim Hunt, trained a team of 10 cafe servers and booksellers in the art & science of 35mm projection. In 1988 The Bookshelf Cinema showed its first film. Over 20,000 shows and 1,000,000 cinema goers later, the cinema continues to offer 14-15 shows a week with its fancy digital projection and great sound system. Shortly thereafter bookshelf.ca (Canada's first full-service online bookstore - sold to Indigo in the late 90s) was launched. The Bookshelf team also embarked on "the great leap sideways" expanding all aspects of the emporium by re-building the building next door and adding a music venue: the eBar. Many great Canadian musical talents have graced the eBar stage. The bar serves up great craft beers and dj's and dancing every Saturday night Over the years The Bookshelf has operated a number of food and beverage operations - originally with its own staff and later in collaboration with others. In 2015 The Bookshelf welcomed Miijidaa ("Let's Eat") as its restaurant collaborator. My conversation with Doug Minett starts with him in Europe, with his future wife Barb, the year prior to their setting up shop.
57 minutes | 3 months ago
Bianca Gillam on the role of a Special Sales Assistant at Simon & Schuster
It was on Twitter a couple of months ago that I noticed this tweet celebrating the work of one Bianca Gillam (@BinxGillam). 'You're the best special sales assistant ever', it said, or words to that effect. Hmm I thought. What, I wonder, does a special sales assistant do at a publishing house - I'd noticed that she worked at Simon & Schuster ( @simonschusterUK ). I wasn't sure. So I tweeted at Bianca, inviting her to appear on the podcast to explain just exactly what she does.
60 minutes | 4 months ago
David Gilmour on Truman Capote's slow descent into Hell
Last year at about this time David Gilmour and I sat down together to talk about "Mojave" one of Truman Capote's greatest short stories. We enjoyed ourselves so much we decided to do it again, this time with "Shut a Final Door." Capote wrote this story when he was only 23 years old. David contends that it strongly foreshadows how Truman's actual life would unfold - as a slow, messy descent into hell. Perfect fare for the holiday season. Merry Christmas everyone. Thanks for listening! Photo by Jack Mitchell
59 minutes | 4 months ago
Lennie Goodings on Virago & her new memoir A Bite of the Apple
Virago is a London-based British publishing company committed to publishing women's writing and books on "feminist" topics. Established by women in the 1970s in tandem with the Women's Liberation Movement (WLM), Virago has done much to address inequitable gender dynamics in the publishing world, and, unlike anti-capitalist publishing ventures, has branded itself a commercial alternative in a male dominated publishing industry, seeking to compete with mainstream international presses. Initially known as Spare Rib Books, Virago was founded by Carmen Callil in 1973 primarily to publish books by women writers. From the get-go the company sought two sorts of books: original works, and out-of-print books by neglected female writers. The latter were reissued under the "Modern Classics" label, which launched in 1978 In 1982, Virago became a wholly owned subsidiary Random House, USA, but in 1987 Callil, Lennie Goodings and others put together a management buy-out. After a downturn in the market, the board decided to sell Virago to Little, Brown, of which Virago became an imprint in 1996 (with Lennie as Publisher). In 2006, Virago became part of the Hachette publishing group with Lennie acting as editor and publisher. She is now Chair of Virago. Today the company's stated mission is to "champion women’s voices and bring them to the widest possible readership around the world. From fiction and politics to history and classic children’s stories, its writers continue to win acclaim, break new ground and enrich the lives of readers." I met Lennie via Zoom to talk about her life with Virago, as described in her new memoir A Bite of the Apple, published by OUP around the world, and by mighty Biblioasis in Canada.
48 minutes | 4 months ago
Martin Amis on his new novel Inside Story
Martin Amis was born in Oxford in 1949 and is a British novelist, essayist, and memoirist - all of whom show up to contribute to his latest novel, Inside Story. As it happens I read Lolita in tandem with Inside Story, so the front-end of our conversation is laden with nasty Nabokovian-related questions. Since Vladimir, along with Saul Bellow, has heavily influenced Martin's writing over the years, I decided this was fair game. Amis is best known for his novels Money (1984) and London Fields (1989). He received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his memoir Experience and has been nominated for the Booker Prize twice (shortlist for Time's Arrow and longlist for Yellow Dog). He served as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Manchester until 2011, and is considered one of the most influential novelists of our times. We met via Zoom to talk about everything he throws into this novel, plus the way he frames it. Nabokov looms large, as I say, as does Christopher Hitchens, and, towards the end, ketchup and relish. Like many of Amis's other works, Inside Story contains plenty of very good laughs - one pretty well every 3-4 pages (in between, I frequently caught myself wearing a wide smirk). There's a lot to be said for this, and for some genuinely beautiful writing in the novel, particularly about Israel; plus there's a fair amount of engaging literary criticism. In short, it's well worth spending time with this excellent hybrid; as, I hope you'll agree, it is with this interview... It starts mid-sentence, with the two of us talking about Chip Kidd's dust jacket design.
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