Verbatim: A Novel

Notes on an unconventional book

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A companion volume

When I finished writing Verbatim: A Novel in January 1995 I took some time off from writing. Did what many writers do: put aside the (handwritten) pages for a while to get some distance. Read the rest of this entry »


Books ahead

It’s always fun to take a look at future reading material (though changes can occur). Such as here… Read the rest of this entry »

On the PEI Book Awards

In the past, I’ve written on the PEI Book Awards. They are handed out every two years. The latest event occurred not too long ago, and for my take on it, visit Arts East.

A review for a different audience

Or at least, I think Goodreads has a somewhat different readership than At GR a review of the novel has just been posted that describes the way, to the reader’s mind, the subject of governance (and much else) is addressed. There’s even a brief history lesson on what Hansard is, which can be helpful to the majority of people who never run across it. Very thankful for this long review, and for the time taken to consider what was written.

New notice

It’s been a while since there’s been something to say here, but winter is a quiet time (especially when enhanced by the polar vortex and storm after storm), and after all, it’s been three and a half years since the release of Verbatim: A Novel. However, it was noticed recently by u.s. novelist Marek Waldorf here, and he makes certain points not touched on by earlier reviewers. (His novel The Short Fall looks at politics from the personal end, and is well worth reading, as I said in this review.) The use of the word “boobishness” is particularly appreciated for its rarity nowadays. Thanks go to Marek for taking the time to make substantive comments, as every new review helps keep the book in the public eye.

A frenchman’s revenge…

… on another frenchman. In the late 1880s and early 1890s Alphonse Allais wrote under the pseudonym Francisque Sarcey, portraying himself as an Ubu-like literary figure, a bit of a dolt, dense and large, and conventional. His target for seven years? The real parisian theatre critic… Francisque Sarcey. The real one never seemed to mind. A set of AA’s columns and letters have been collected in How I Became an Idiot, published in May of this year by Black Scat Books. I reviewed it here and I hope that others hear of the book. It’s in a limited edition, so if you like the review, act fast by contacting the publisher. (And there’s no ISBN #.) What could say Christmas better than a satire?

What does it take to write criticism?

Since about 2003 I’ve been writing book reviews, and before and after that longer articles, a few of which would be considered academic, others called popular. If a writer can write criticism about books, positive and negative and neutral, and likes doing it, then that’s a further contribution to dialogue in the republic of letters, though there’s no obligation on anyone to do that. Sometimes in canada we’re pretty dull in our critical writing, so anything that invigorates the conversation is welcome.

Not not everyone thinks like that. And some writers object to criticism. In April of this year, responding to a Big Other piece of mine on his rules for writing, Chad Pelley commented: “Most papers and magazines do such a dry job covering books that it’s nice to hear right from the author on their work or motivations. The reviews, m’eh. Why do I care what some critic I dunno thought? And what’s exciting about reading a review for a book I haven’t read? A guest post is a direct connection to the writer, and the best way to form an opinion on their book, often. For me.”

In the fall of this year it came as a surprise to read, in a publication called Atlantic Books Today that’s available for free at book stores, an article titled “Critiquing the critics” by Pelley, in which he says: “We readers are talking more than you think we are about your articles.” Going from not caring what critics think to being engaged in deep conversations about book reviews is quite a change. The Pelley article has many problems, and earlier this month The Winnipeg Review, for which I’m a contributor, published my response, titled “Atlantic Books Today Gets Prescriptive.” In it is a link to the Pelley piece, so I hope you’ll read both.