Kevin Brennan – update on a new collection of essays

Kevin Brennan has previously been featured on Reading Recommendations a number of times, as well as being an All-Star Author and on the list of
Reading Recommendations Revisited.

I don’t make any bones about it – Kevin Brennan is one of my very favourite authors writing today! So it’s always a pleasure to promote any new books he happens to publish, like this one right here …

In No Particular Order: A Memoir
by Kevin Brennan

It’s true that life is linear, but the living of it is all over the map. In this memoir-in-vignettes, novelist Kevin Brennan (Parts Unknown, Yesterday Road) examines his life the way memories occur in the wild: in no particular order. Whether it’s recalling high school humiliations, ups and downs in love and romance, or unique interactions with the human race at home and abroad, Brennan both entertains and moves the reader with moments of unexpected poignancy and full-tilt humor. In No Particular Order is a deconstructed memoir, like no other because it looks at life as it really is — a kaleidoscope of individual moments.

For more information about Kevin and his publications, as well as more about this new eBook, check out his blog, What the Hell.

Purchase a copy from:
Amazon

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Aritha van Herk Recommends George Melnyk

Front_cover_FirstPersonPlural-Melnyk

Third Person Plural
by George Melnyk
with a Foreword by Aritha van Herk

Genre: Essays

First Person Plural by George Melnyk is a collection of essays on the subject of identity and self-image. The book begins with the author’s personal memoir as a Canadian of Ukrainian heritage who arrived in Canada from a “displaced person” camp after the war. It also studies similar questions of identity and image as they affect other persons, including the Serbian-Canadian novelist David Albahari, artists Natalka Husar and Marie Elyse St. George, and Leonard Cohen. Other essays deal with the bombing of Hiroshima as portrayed by Japanese manga comic books, and the perception and image of movie stars like Marilyn Monroe. Numerous photographs complement the essays.

P1010330 George Melnyk is a cultural historian and essayist. First Person Plural is his 26th book and it continues his essay publications that began with Radical Regionalism (1981), and then continued with Beyond Alienation (1993), New Moon at Batoche (1999) and My Mother is an Alien (2003). George is the author of the two-volume Literary History of Alberta (1998-99) and numerous books on Canadian cinema, including One Hundred Years of Canadian Cinema (2004) and Film and the City (2014). He lives in Calgary, where he teaches at the University of Calgary.

Why I recommend this book:
This collection of essays, a meditative gathering that focuses on images and their affect, connects characters as disparate as Marilyn Monroe and Leonard Cohen with George Melnyk himself. In the process, he examines how images project and protect identity, and how we come to understand ourselves through images.

The book’s epigraph, by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, declares, “Everyone has three lives: a private life, a public life and a secret life.” This interesting premise is augmented by other lives, George Melnyk’s visual life, textual life, and visionary life; and these writings throw his projections onto the shadowed screen of individuality and community.

The most interesting and effective motif in these essays is Melnyk’s conflictedness about his Ukrainian roots, his admission that he is part of a triple diaspora, and thus has been pulled in multiple directions. He says, “My escape into western Canadian identity was a conscious way of avoiding the problematic past and its ongoing iterations in contemporary Ukraine.” This “hiding/revealing” informs both the content and the approach of the essays. He confronts directly why he for a long time repressed his Ukrainian heritage and the effect his family’s displacement and migration has had on his choices and his intellectual enthusiasms. His sense of being an outsider, “of being ashamed of who one was,” delineates the profound reverberation of subtle alienations.

These essays are written with Melnyk’s straightforward style, his bluntness both unusual and disarming. They are best when he is personal, when he looks intimately at those images that compel our attention, whether they are photographs of Marilyn Munroe or of himself as an infant, sees himself as the stateless refugee, “Melnyk, Urii Roman,” on his way to Canada. That is a powerful platform from which to investigate his fascination with art and image, the play of history and fiction.

These essays are most compelling when they dare to investigate what matters to an individual and his reading of himself. In his projection of the personal, Melnyk succeeds in living that Kroetsch line of “unhiding the hidden” even while he dons another disguise. He says, “The essays hold up a mirror to different parts of me—my ethnic self, my artistic self, and my new regional self. When I combine them into a single self I become the kind of western Canadian I am today.” His yearning to imprint himself “onto a known geography” ventures into the unknown with a journey that collapses the familiar and the strange, and that engages with both known and alien geographies. He becomes the “kind of western Canadian” who embodies then our doubts and our determination, our archive and our aspiration. And what could be better than that?

Links for people to buy the book:
Frontenac House
Alpine Book Peddlers

Aritha van Herk 88 Guest reviewer’s latest title or project:
I am working on a book about Calgary, and a place-biography of Robert Kroetsch.

From The Alberta Award of Excellence site: Aritha van Herk is an acclaimed author, teacher and mentor who has made significant contributions to the canons of Alberta and Canadian literature. Her work has enriched the lives of readers across Canada and around the world, helped to shape a generation of writers and fostered a deeper understanding of what it means to be an Albertan. Aritha van Herk’s work to enrich the lives of her fellow Albertans and Canadians includes her eloquent and ardent contributions as an advocate for the arts. In 1983, she joined the University of Calgary’s Department of English where she helped to develop the school’s nationally and internationally regarded creative writing program; she played a key role in the development of Canada’s first English PhD program in Creative Writing. Aritha’s reputation as a professor and mentor is one of exacting standards tempered with the compassion, guidance and insight young writers need to develop their craft. Many of the students Aritha has worked with at the U of C have gone on to become productive and celebrated Canadian authors in their own rights and they all acknowledge her guiding hand as an important factor in their success.

Robert Runté – update on a new publication

Dr. Robert Runté was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in Oct. 2014, and was a contributor to another anthology also featured on Reading Recommendations in Oct.

978-0-7864-9592-4The Canadian Fantastic in Focus: New Perspectives
Allan Weiss, Editor
Literary Criticism: Canadian Speculative Fiction

Bringing together papers presented at the Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy from 2005 to 2013, this collection of essays includes Veronica Hollinger’s keynote address, “The Body on the Slab,” and Robert Runté’s Aurora Award-winning paper, “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading” along with 15 other contributions on science fiction and fantasy literature, television and music by Canadian creators.

Authors discussed include Charles de Lint, Nalo Hopkinson, Tanya Huff, Esther Rochon, Peter Watts and Robert Charles Wilson. Essays on the television show Supernatural and the Scott Pilgrim comics series are also included.

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Dr. Robert Runté with the 2014 Prix Aurora Award he won for this essay in the category of Best Fan Related Work.

From Robert Runté:
I grew up in an age when speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, and so on) was still considered beneath the dignity of serious scholarly attention. Indeed, one of my early deans once told me that he considered “scifi” of lower literary value than Harlequin Romance (which to his mind was the worst comparison he could draw), and that he was more embarrassed by my interest in SF than if I had written porn. So I am pretty relieved to find that the new generation of scholars has dropped such pretensions and is eagerly and capably delving into Canadian science fiction and fantasy. Drawn from the most outstanding papers of the last seven years, this collection provides a representative cross-section of both this new generation of energetic, innovative and insightful Canadian academics, and of the brilliant Canadian authors they have chosen to review.

Allan Weiss’ introductory essay provides an excellent overview of the history of scholarship on the Canadian contribution to the genre, and I like to believe that my own essay provides an overview of the themes that have dominated Canadian speculative fiction and distinguish it from the American and British versions of the genre. I have also tried to explain the social dimension of reading: why we need to create spaces where our youth can explore what it means to be Canadian, to find their own voice by creating their own interpretations of popular tropes.

I confess to being particularly proud of my essay, not just because it represents a summation of everything I’ve been arguing for the past 35 years, but because the essay won a major award even while the book was still in press. My presentation at the 2013 Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy won a 2014
Aurora Award (Canada’s answer to the American Hugo Awards). Apparently, the suggestion that Canadian authors address themes that resonate particularly well with Canadian readers hit a responsive chord with the Award’s voters.

Links for people to buy it:
McFarland Publishing (publisher’s catalog)
Amazon – eBook and Paperback

Robert Runté is Senior Editor with Five Rivers Publishing, and a freelance development editor /writing coach at SFeditor.ca.

Teresa Karlinski

IMG_0919Teresa Karlinski

What is your latest release and what genre is it? The latest release includes two non-fiction stories in the anthology, Slices of Life.

Written by 17 writers, these stories span from childhood to old-age, some humorous, others challenging.

Quick description: The Entrepreneur – a young girl learns through setting up a lemonade stand, and Bibliotherapy, examines a women’s book club.

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Brief biography:
Teresa Karlinski lives with her cat, Lady Gaga, in Ontario, Canada. She is a grandmother and a student of life. Although retired, she hasn’t enough time to read her overwhelming collection of books. Days consist of reading, writing and blogging. Her stories appear in various magazines and anthologies.

Links to buy Teresa’s book:
Amazon (available in print copy only)

Teresa’s promo links:
Blog: How the cookie crumbles

E-mail: cookiecrumbles2012 (at) gmail.com & TeresaKarlinski (at) gmail.com

What are you working on now?
Editing short stories for publication, the current one involves a lonely retiree and her cat.

Teresa’s reading recommendation:
The Fishers of Paradise by Canadian author Rachael Preston. The story is set in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1930 and deals with the consequences of choices. Riveting.

Pam Chamberlain

Chamberlain, Pam head shotPam Chamberlain

What is your latest release and what genre is it? In the Company of Animals: Stories of Extraordinary Encounters – Nonfiction (memoir), edited by Pam Chamberlain

Quick description: In In the Company of Animals, 37 writers from across Canada tell thought-provoking stories of extraordinary encounters with animals. From tributes to a beloved cat or dog to tales of a chance encounter with a moose or a bear, these stories are sure to entertain and enlighten. The writers — including Farley Mowat, Richard Wagamese, David Weale, Linda Johns, Anny Scoones, and David Adams Richards — are people who spend time in the company of animals, paying close attention to them and the lessons they can teach us.

Animal Book cover

Brief biography:
Pam Chamberlain grew up on a mixed farm in east-central Alberta and studied English at Augustana University College and the University of Alberta. She’s been teaching English literature, composition, and creative writing for twenty years. In 2010, she edited and published published Country Roads: Memoirs from Rural Canada (Nimbus Publishing), a collection of stories about life in rural Canada. She lives in Calgary.

Links to buy Pam’s book:
Nimbus Publishing
McNally Robinson
Chapters

Pam’s promo links:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

What are you working on now?
A book-length memoir about growing up in a small agricultural community

Pam’s reading recommendation:
Richard Wagamese’s For Joshua and One Native Life

Bruce Gillespie

I’d like to make a personal comment about today’s Reading Recommendation. I have not yet had the opportunity to read this book, but I believe it is a very important publication. A Family by Any Other Name first came to my attention when my good friend, Calgary-author Betty Jane Hegerat, told me her essay had been accepted for inclusion in the anthology. Ever since that day, I have been doing my best to help spread the word about the book, and since it was officially published on April 8th, I am very proud to now be able to include it’s editor, Bruce Gillespie, as my Reading Recommendation for today. smt

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Bruce Gillespie

What is your latest release and what genre is it? My latest book is A Family by Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships, an anthology of personal essays, published by TouchWood Editions.

Quick description: At no other time in history have lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) relationships and families been more visible or numerous. A Family by Any Other Name recognizes and celebrates this advance by exploring what “family” means to people today. The anthology includes a wide range of perspectives on queer relationships and families—there are stories on coming out, same-sex marriage, adopting, having biological kids, polyamorous relationships, families without kids, divorce, and dealing with the death of a spouse, as well as essays by straight writers about having a gay parent or child. These personal essays are by turns funny, provocative, and intelligent, but all are moving and honest. Including writers from across North America, this collection offers honest and moving real-life stories about relationships and creating families in the twenty-first century.

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Brief biography:
Bruce Gillespie is an award-winning Canadian writer and editor and an assistant professor in the digital media and journalism program at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford campus. He is also the editor-in-chief of J-Source.ca, a hub for news, analysis, and commentary about Canadian journalism. Bruce, with Lynne Van Luven, was the co-editor of two previous anthologies of personal essays: Somebody’s Child: Stories About Adoption and Nobody’s Father: Life Without Kids.

Links to buy A Family by Any Other Name:
Amazon.ca – Canada – eBook and print
Amazon.com – US – eBook and print
Indigo.ca – print
Kobo – eBook
iTunes

Bruce’s promo links:
BruceGillespie.com
Twitter
A Family by Any Other Name Facebook group
A Family by Any Other Name: TouchWood Editions
Goodreads
An interview on Metro Morning, CBC Radio Toronto
Report on the Toronto launch

What are you working on now?
With A Family by Any Other Name now hitting bookshelves, I’m in between projects at the moment, but I have a few ideas in mind that I intend to start working on just as soon as I catch my breath.

Bruce’s reading recommendation:
As you might guess from my publishing history, I’m a big fan of personal essays. So, I was delighted when one of my favourite novelists, Ann Patchett, released a collection of essays recently called This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Her nonfiction is every bit as good as her fiction, and it’s the sort of book you want to read as slowly as possible, to enjoy each and every word and make it last as long as possible. (I absolutely agree with Bruce’s recommendation. I recently read the book and thought it to be an excellent collection of essays. smt)

Betty Jane Hegerat and ‘Nathan Burgoine, two of the contributors to A Family by Any Other Name have been featured on Reading Recommendations.