Monday, May 31, 2010

Some poet's about to get PAID

If you're tuned in to the word on the street, you'll no doubt be aware that the speculation is heating up about this year's Griffin Poetry Prize, one of Canada's biggest literary derbies. The Griff-Po-Pri, as we say in the business (no, not really, I just made that up), was started ten years ago by Canuck businessman and philanthropist Scott Griffin. The award goes to one Canadian and one international poet who write in English (ha ha ha, in your FACE, Quebec). The prize is currently up to CA$75,000, which is roughly $71,707 American--or, to put it another way, more money than any professional poet will ever see in his entire life--and is frequently called the "most generous" poetry prize in the world*, which isn't that hard when you to stop to consider its closest competitor, the Bridport Prize, is only worth about US$6000.** Even writers shortlisted for the Griffin--that is, the people who didn't even win--still walk away with about US$10,000. So yeah. A big deal for people who write very skinny books.

For a heartfelt analysis of the finalists, you should check out Paul Vermeersch's article in the Globe and Mail, and there's an interesting analysis here at poetry blog Table Music.

About two months ago the Griff-Po-Pri people announced the prize's shortlist. The finalists will read their work at The Royal Conservatory in Toronto on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, and then the Griffin people will announce the winners of the poetry lotto. That's only two days away, and the betting and bookmaking is heating up. Wait, you mean you didn't know many bookies give odds and take bets on the winners of literary prizes? Yeah, it's a thing. People like to gamble. Some people have already started crunching the numbers for you. I'd say the current odds-on favorite for the Griffin International Prize is Scottish poet John Glenday.

Me? I prefer underdogs. The current longshot I think is Irish poet and author of The Sun-fish Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin--I say longshot because a) she's a woman, and b) she's not American, both of which put her behind the eight-ball historically. So yeah, I'm putting all my money on Chuilleanáin for the win. Go Sun fish!

Who's your bet?

(*Well, not counting the Nobel Prize in Literature, of course.)
(**Oh wait, there's also the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, which is worth about US$10,000.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BookExpo America (BEA)

Mentally preparing to swan out all over BEA on Thursday. There's an awful lot I am excited to see. In the meantime, I am sitting hungry in the unfinished basement of our new store, thinking about Banana Yoshimoto. Specifically, Kitchen.

Love and death aside, it's about food and the lonely comfort of a kitchen. The writing is clean and spare, touched with melancholy; it's a tender phantom of first novel. I was fifteen when I read this and would still like to walk around a city supermarket in the middle of the night with Banana Yoshimoto. Books about food and food relationships are out there in plentiful number but often feel off to me. While hugely unprepared to discuss say, the madeleines of In Search of Lost Time, I thought I could deal with the years 1993 & 2003 and two books I thought hit a perfect, clear note. The other?

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
A lifelong love of all things Pépin began with The Apprentice. From working in the restaurants of his family as a child in rural France to a rigorous apprenticeship in the classical kitchens of Paris restaurants, to cooking for the Prime Minister, the stories continue onto his work with Howard Johnson's, teaching, and his famous collaboration with Julia Child. This is a perfect memoir, covering an enormously busy span of time with great warmth, hilarity and surprising speed. I may have read this in one sitting but return to revisit chapter recipes often. Maman's Apple Tart!

I had the opportunity to hear Pépin speak at Astor Center last year. In a room filled with people, what I remember most is that he walked around and made sure to shake everyone's hand before starting. That content of character is part of what makes his stories so enjoyable. Seriously, the best.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reboot, restart.

It's hard to believe this picture is from last week. That postal bucket? Filled with splintered wood now. The marker map and signs? Torn down. And the metal carts have moved across the street, down the block, with the lights, books, and us in tow.

A grand opening is yet to come. However, as we put the finishing touches on all finishing touches, we are open to accept buybacks. You can come visit us at the folding table pressed up to our new entrance at 150 Campus Road.

And yes, there's totally going to be a party.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Please make this real.

My favorite thing in the world is to read (or really, overhear) the retelling of a movie plot. The straighter people attempt to keep things, the more crooked they go. Really, it starts with a gloriously bad movie and its IMDB entry. From the trivia section ("During the shooting of Terri Susan Smith's death scene the crew became offended and walked out of the production. This would happen again during the director's next film Brain Damage (1988)." Wait, again?!), I can frequently be persuaded to continue to the Wikipedia entry. Spoiler alert, people not on top of their comedic horror game:

An angry Duane picks Belial up and runs furiously on the streets of New York and makes it back to his hotel. As everyone hears his screams and anger they come to his hotel room. There he threatens his brother Belial. An angry Belial grabs Duane's testicles and then lets go. He then grabs on top of Duane and both fall out the window. Hanging from the hotel railing they look at each other then fall. From there everyone comes and looks in sadness and fear and now knows what all the chaos has been for the past three days.

It's so good; I only wish there was more. And there is, but it requires a lot of me. Looking up every movie as I think of it? I'm afraid not. What I really want is someone to do it all for me. I want a Tumblr where I can just go and enjoy synopses of movies. So, do it. My birthday is in September.