Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Weston Words, with Charles Foran

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Charles Foran

As part of our series celebrating non-fiction and the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction in particular, Open Book speaks today with finalist Charles Foran, who is nominated for Mordecai: The Life and Times, his biography of the late, great Mordecai Richler.

The Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction carries not only the name of Ontario's former Lieutenant Governor, but also one of the most significant purses for a literary prize in Canada, with $60,000 awarded to the author judged to have written the finest work of non-fiction.

Check out all of Open Book's interviews with finalists through our continuing Weston Words series.

Open Book:

Tell us about the book for which you were shortlisted.

Charles Foran:

Mordecai: The Life and Times is a big book about a big life — that of Mordecai Richler, the outspoken novelist and critic that Margaret Atwood once described as "Canada's first shock-jock".


Where were you when you received news of your nomination?


I was in Belgrade, Serbia, attending the annual congress of PEN International.(I am president of PEN Canada.) My wife emailed me with the news and, to celebrate, I raided the mini-bar in my room. Drank a Serbian beer called Jelen.


What unique experience or benefit does non-fiction provide for readers?


Biographies allow us to experience a life, however modestly, and thus to reflect a little on the wonder and strangeness that is any human existence — including our own.


Tell us about a favourite non-fiction book.


Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard may be the single most galvanizing non-fiction reading experience of my life. The density, intensity and descriptive beauty of the prose sat me up in astonishment and humility. Here was a writer committing himself to the story-telling and language of a non-fiction narrative as though it were a novel. Here was a way to bridge the two forms.


What can you tell us about your next project?


After five years of non-fiction, I am reverting to fiction for a while. It feels good, not being so encumbered by facts, and my desk is a lot less cluttered.

Charles Foran is the author of eight previous books, including the novels Carolan's Farewell and House on Fire, and the award-winning non-fiction work The Last House of Ulster. Born and raised in Toronto, he holds degrees from the University of Toronto and University College Dublin, and has taught at universities in China, Hong Kong and Canada. A former resident of Montreal, where he was a columnist for the Montreal Gazette and reported on Quebec for Saturday Night magazine, he currently resides with his family in Peterborough, Ontario. He has made documentaries for CBC Radio and is a contributing reviewer for the Globe and Mail.

For more information about Mordecai: The Life and Times please visit the Random House Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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