Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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The front page of the New York Times' digital edition last Thursday heralded "Schott’s Vocab: A new blog by Ben Schott on the words of our times." Turns out the blog has actually been running since November 2008, but who's counting? To me, it's just fun to add Mr Schott, the British lexicographer and author of such collections of esoterica as Schott's Miscellany and Schott's Almanac, to my daily blog roll. Who knew, for instance, that "Sea Kittens" is "A bizarre euphemism for fish – advocated by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in an attempt to persuade children that fish are too cuddly to eat"?

The web has given us an echo of Virginia Woolf's famous 1929 long essay "A Room of One's Own", in which she examined the barriers faced by women writers and concluded that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction". This, of course, is true for all writers and now two excellent photo blogs take us inside the rooms of various pen jockeys, female and male. The Guardian's "Writers' Rooms" profiles Brits (primarily) such as Beryl Bainbridge, Margaret Drabble and Martin Amis. Canadian poet Evie Christie, meanwhile, has created a site titled Desk Space with snaps and words from fellow Canuck scribes. (Yours truly is featured this week.)

Edinburghian author Alexander McCall Smith has been making the rounds and the Globe & Mail’s Simon Houpt caught up with him for a chat in NYC recently. (Most astonishing fact: “He writes about 1,000 words an hour.”) McCall Smith also just completed his first serialization of a novel on the web. Titled Corduroy Mansions the 100-chapter book gets royal treatment on the Telegraph's website, which has made the novel’s chapters available as straight web pages, emails, rss feeds and podcasts (read by none other than Andrew Sachs, of Fawlty Towers). So pick your poison. There are also mini bios of the novel's characters and a quaint letter from the author. One question: How on Earth does McCall Smith see anything with those tiny little eye glasses?

Staying with Scotland for the moment, the world has given us a Latin version of Winnie the Pooh (Winnie Ille Pu) so why not a Scots version of the Canadian-influenced kids classic? The Times has an interview with James Robertson, the man who has given Pooh and the rest of the occupants of the Hundred Acre Woods Scots voice in a new translation from the oddly and somehow appropriately named publisher Itchy Coo. I quite like (and secretly prefer) Robertson's Scots name for Piglet: Wee Grumphie. (Grumphie is Scots for pig.)

Three Canadian cookbook authors need to be congratulated for their inclusion on the nominees list for this year’s James Beard Awards, announced earlier this month. Jennifer McLagan, who I wrote about for, has been nominated in the “single book” category for her excellent volume Fat. Meanwhile Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duiguid, who I profiled in Quill & Quire, have been nominated in the “international” category for their superb book, Beyond the Great Wall. Best of luck to all!

While not exactly a book item, this is from a book site and it is certainly one of my favourite web oddities. If you’ve never checked out the customer reviews for Tuscan Whole Milk on, it is well worth the time. It has been going on for years and there are now over 1,000 bizarre and entertaining reviews. At one point foolish Amazon even tried to take the reviews down, but such a protest arose on their forums that they had to reinstate them.

Finally, speaking of protest, a petition has been started by AVAAZ to fight the Harper government’s attack on the CBC. I signed it yesterday and I encourage readers of this blog to do the same. The CBC this week announced that it will have to cut at least 800 jobs across the country due to the unwillingness of the Harper government to acknowledge that — just like the car companies and private broadcasters that Harper is apparently willing to support — the CBC's business model has suffered a drastic blow in the recession. This assault on public-interest journalism, of course, is entirely politically motivated as part of Harper’s aggressively low-brow anti-culture agenda and should be met with outrage.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Shaun Smith

Shaun Smith is a novelist and journalist living in Toronto. His young adult novel Snakes & Ladders was published in January 2009 by the Dundurn Group.

Go to Shaun Smith ’s Author Page