Globe Books
 

September 21, 2019

 
 
Long read
 
Fall books preview: 52 reads to watch for this season
  Fall books preview: 52 reads to watch for this season
 

Becky Toyne

 
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Book news
 
Author Graeme Gibson was a leader of Canada’s literary scene
  Author Graeme Gibson was a leader of Canada’s literary scene
 

Judy Stoffman

Experimental novelist, conservationist, birdwatcher, outdoorsman, cultural activist, gifted cook, generous host, world traveller – Graeme Gibson was a key figure in a talented generation of Canadian writers who brought a modern Canadian literary tradition into being. He also helped put in place the structures to make it possible for authors to earn a living in this country. He and his life partner, author Margaret Atwood, were a power couple at the heart of the country’s literary culture for close to five decades.

 
Mr. Gibson died at 85 in University College Hospital in London, on Sept. 18 with Ms. Atwood and his children by his side. He had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke five days earlier. The couple had been travelling in Italy, then in England to launch Ms. Atwood’s latest speculative novel, The Testaments. He had been in declining health and suffered repeated falls since the start of the year.

 
He made legions of friends in many countries not only because of his literary standing, but through progressive causes he tirelessly championed, such as the freeing of jailed writers and habitat preservation for birds and other animals. News of his passing was reported around the world, from The Guardian, Le Monde and Corriere della Serra to the Sydney Morning Herald.

 
 
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All-female slate nominated for Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction
All-female slate nominated for Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction
 

Becky Toyne

When the winner of this year’s prestigious Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction is announced on Nov. 5, a woman will take home the $60,000 purse.

 
For the first time in the history of the prize – and noteworthy for any literary award, especially one for non-fiction – the short list announced Tuesday is made up exclusively of female writers.

 
 
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Life in a cult: Sarah Edmondson unveils her experience with NXIVM
Life in a cult: Sarah Edmondson unveils her experience with NXIVM
 

Marsha Lederman

Sarah Edmondson says it’s hard to sit in a coffee shop – even to leave the house – any more without being recognized. There’s the woman who escaped that cult, the woman who was branded with that guy’s initials on her bikini line. Or, worse, there’s that woman who tried to get me to join.

 
The Vancouver actor has become inextricably linked with NXIVM (pronounce NEX-ee-um) and the poster child of cult escape, often fielding inquiries from other lost souls in similar situations.

 
 
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Book reviews
 
Helen Knott’s new book offers astonishing insight into the promises and betrayals of addiction
Helen Knott’s new book offers astonishing insight into the promises and betrayals of addiction
 

Cheryl Suzack

  • Title: In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Struggle and Resilience
  • Author: Helen Knott
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Publisher: University of Regina Press
  • Pages: 366
Although not yet thirty years old, Helen Knott is well known internationally for her advocacy. One of a handful of Indigenous youth invited to speak before the United Nations about how Canada is failing Indigenous peoples, Knott is also a respected environmental activist who has organized nationally against the Site C Dam in British Columbia. In 2016, she was recognized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative through their “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” campaign. Her poetic voice, political insights and storytelling skill place her among a select group of women from around the world committed to peace, justice and equality.

 
Her memoirs, In My Own Moccasins, build on these commitments, conveying astonishing insights into her experience of being trapped by an abusive addictive lifestyle and by the knowledge of how it played out and wrought devastation in her life.

 
 
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Back to Blakeney offers a reminder of the efficacy of Big Politics
  Back to Blakeney offers a reminder of the efficacy of Big Politics
 

David Moscrop

  • Title: Back to Blakeney: Revitalizing the Democratic State
  • Edited by: David McGrane, John Whyte, Roy Romanow and Russell Isinger
  • Genre: Essays
  • Publisher: University of Regina Press
  • Pages: 320 pages
If democracy in Canada should one day come to an end, how will it die? Certain observers of the global democratic recession worry that the decline of self-rule will lead to hollowed-out institutions and pervasive technocracy – not tanks in the streets or a general at the podium, but unresponsive legislatures alongside unaccountable managers. Others worry about the rise of toxic populism in the authoritarian tradition – rabble-rousing, angry, violent – leading to military hardware and fringed epaulettes as tools of decision making.

 
Canadian democracy is stable, but vulnerable. We face the climate crisis, an unpredictable and changing global order, income inequality, declining voter turnout and growing distrust of politicians. These challenges are set against the backdrop of a conflicted state caught between a latent impulse to do something for its people and the centrist market orthodoxy that it should do very little of that thing – or, perhaps, the concession that if the state must do something, the technocrats should manage it from top to tail, focus-grouping, data-scraping and, of course, means-testing it along the way.

 
In Back to Blakeney: Revitalizing the Democratic State (University of Regina Press, 2019) – a series of essays on the late New Democrat premier of Saskatchewan, Allan Blakeney – fifteen writers trace a line from the 1970s to today. Together, the essays take readers through his 11 years as first minister, and the legacy of his successes and shortcomings. Woven through the assembled pieces are potential futures that might be imagined from the vision of an activist state led by a “principled pragmatist.”

 
 
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John Zada’s search for Sasquatch chronicled in his new book In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond
  John Zada’s search for Sasquatch chronicled in his new book In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond
 

Peter Kuitenbrouwer

  • Title: In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch
  • Author: John Zada
  • Genre: Non-Fiction
  • Publisher: Greystone Books
  • Pages: 336
As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Toronto, John Zada read Sasquatch books from the library, such as On the Track of the Sasquatch and The Sasquatch File, and played in the forested ravines behind his house. As an adult and a respected journalist, he organized a B.C. Sasquatch quest of his own, which became the subject of his book, In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond. This seems a silly book premise at first. Certainly, I got smirks at the dining table when I brought up the possible existence of a Bigfoot (a term Zada uses interchangeably).

 
In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond delivers, though. Zada eschews the blurry black-and-white photos of hairy silhouettes. He gives us instead an adventure travel story in the tradition of Paul Theroux and, in parts, Jon Krakauer. “Few, if any, seasoned travellers or explorers think the planet has been comprehensively probed,” Zada writes.

 
 
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Good reads
 
Edward Gorey’s satire continues to be a timeless work of art
  Edward Gorey’s satire continues to be a timeless work of art
 

Kate Taylor

During the brief period when I lived in a university dorm, I had a postcard stuck on my door that served as a kind of nameplate. “K is for Kate who was struck with an axe,” the caption read, underneath an illustration of a small girl gruesomely impaled and abandoned in a snowy clearing with a trail of bloody footprints leading away from her little body.

 
Fans of the illustrator and author Edward Gorey will recognize the reference: The bloodied Kate is K in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, one of Gorey’s several alphabets and probably the best-known work in his oddball oeuvre of small picture books. The alphabet begins with “A is for Amy who fell down the stairs/B is for Basil assaulted by bears,” and continues through the children’s many improbable deaths.

 
I had only pinned up the postcard because I found it funny and, aside from recognizing that I prefer my comedy black, have never thought much about why Gorey’s work so delights me. Or not until this summer when I read a recent biography of the man – only the latest in the string of Gorey books, cards and coffee mugs that friends and family have bestowed over the years. Mark Dery’s Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey is a biography stuffed with literary and visual analysis of his remarkable art. (Details on his early life, on the other hand, remain sparse.)

 
 
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Ten drool-worthy books to get you cooking this fall
  Ten drool-worthy books to get you cooking this fall
 

Julie van Rosendaal

 
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In case you missed it
 
Who is the real Justin Trudeau? Two books paint vastly different pictures
Who is the real Justin Trudeau? Two books paint vastly different pictures
 

John Ibbitson

 
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