Sundry Things Number Two

It’s been quite some time since I posted an entry; no doubt those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter will have simply assumed that I’ve been eaten by dragons, or abducted by aliens, or sequestered in some dungeon by shadowy men in black Ray-Bans. None of these things are true, but they’re rather more interesting than the truth, the truth being that I’ve been struggling with a pretty severe bout of depression for most of the last year and a half (for reasons I have more than once alluded to, but will not go deeper into today), and have done little more than stare glassy-eyed at television and video games. I don’t vilifiy these things the way some do, but I’ve certainly let them take up more of my free time than I should have. Well, to be fair, I’ve also taken up running, but that’s a far more recent development.

Right now I’m seven book reviews behind, and I also owe my man Josh Ellis of Red State Sound System an album review, something I’ve never done before here on I’m going to do my level best to get caught up on those things, starting this weekend. In the meantime, I’d like to share with you some bits of news, and a couple of sites that have recently captured my attention.

First the news:

As you’re all by now aware, Canadian novelist and musician Paul Quarrington passed away Thursday morning after a much-publicized battle with cancer. I was not fortunate enough to meet Mr. Quarrington, nor have I yet read any of his works, though the much-acclaimed Whale Music is lined up for later in the year. I direct you to Mr. Beattie for a better sense of the man and his impact on Canadian letters, and links to the various tributes that are being gathered around the Web.

Respected Canadian poet P.K. Page also died earlier this week, at the age of 93. New Quarterly editor Kim Jernigan remembers her.

Blogger Ed Champion has an excellent piece on the recent San Francisco Panorama issue of McSweeney’s. Definitely worth reading.

The Canadian Periodical Fund guidelines have at last been finalized and presented to the public, and the results are grim. There are no exceptions for literary journals or other small arts magazines. I have no doubt this means a great many fine journals will not be able to survive. You can find more of my (rather quickly dashed-off) thoughts on the matter in the comments for this article at the Quill and Quire blog.

Brian Joseph Davis kept things classy over at the Globe and Mail today with this piece on one of the rumored names for the tablet computer that Apple is expected to unveil next week.

Finally, Kerry Clare of Pickle Me This is doing an independent alternative to this year’s Canada Reads lineup, called Canada Reads: Independently. It features an exciting list of panelists and, to this blogger anyway, a much more exciting list of books.

And now the sites:

The first is The Dusty Bookcase, “A Very Casual Exploration of the Dominion’s Suppressed, Ignored and Forgotten” (no Oxford commas for Mr. Busby, apparently). It’s a remarkably fun look at books and writers from Canada’s past that have more or less been lost to all but those troubled few who rummage through the scrapheap of literary history. What I thought I knew about the history of Canadian publishing has been completely turned on its head by this blog, and it only makes the outright snobbishness of our literary lights (we don’t produce mass market pulp here, no sir, our publishing stars are all Literary writers, with a capital “L”) all the more disgraceful. The Dusty Bookcase is a must read for anyone interested in what has come before us—the entries on Harlequin alone make digging through the archives more than worth it. I should point out that this blog was brought to my attention by a post Daniel Wells made on the CNQ blog.

The second blog I discovered by way of The Dusty Bookcase. Caustic Cover Critic is maintained (if I understand things right) by Australian writer/editor/book designer (?) JRS Morrison. The blog not only features book covers from a variety of countries in an astonishing array of styles and genres, but Morrison also provides great, meaty histories and commentary regarding the evolution of cover art and the work of specific designers. He’s also managed to get some book designers to speak about their work and process, including David Drummond, who designed Dead Man’s Float by Nicholas Maes, a book I wrote about back in January 2008, and originally only picked up because of its cover.

Speaking of book covers, if anyone over at Capuchin Classics wants to send me some review copies of their absolutely gorgeous books, I’d be more than happy to write about them. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Knowhatimean, saynomore, saynomore.


Writer. Editor. Critic.


  1. August, really nice to see you back and in fine form. Unfortunately I wasn’t following you on Twitter and did think something (a dragon?) may have been responsible.
    I hope you are feeling better. Hang in there.

  2. Thanks, dude. I still don’t feel all that hot, but I figure if I don’t start doing things again, I never will.

  3. The head swells and the face reddens – though I should point out that I am male… a married male , at that. So, you see. “Mrs. Busby” is my wife (who does not contribute to the blog). That said, I once took first place in a Halloween contest while dressed in drag. At the time, two of the judges maintained that they’d thought I was, in fact, a woman. Age has since robbed me of my girlish figure.
    I’m pleased you enjoy the blog.

  4. Oh my. That was a 3 AM failure of proof-reading, I’m afraid, not genuine confusion about the gender of a blogger named “Brian”. I’ll fix it as soon as I get home from work.
    Congratulations on first prize! I don’t have the legs for drag.

  5. Really? I link to Jezebel about a story that is also simultaneously picked up by CNN, MSNBC and finally even the Times, and my classiness is picked out for besmirching? I’m strangely honored.

  6. This is perhaps old-fashioned of me, but I expect better of the Globe.
    When I first heard that the Globe and Mail was putting most of its books coverage online, I saw tremendous potential, and hoped that it would lead to a return to actual books journalism. Longer, more thoughtful reviews, real reporting on actual issues that affect readers, publishers, and writers, and maybe some increased attention to indie writers and publishers.
    Instead, though the reviews have stayed more or less the same, what we got were more opportunities for our most famous and most overrated writer to have her picture passed around, a handful of largely irrelevant and mostly juvenile humour pieces, and second-hand reporting on stories already run on blogs, where they had been dealt with earlier–sometimes much earlier–and with greater depth.
    I said from the beginning that if the Globe was going to do this ‘online thing’, it should take the time and effort to do it right, or it would simply be a waste. So yeah, when something like this runs in the Globe, it’s the Globe I’m going to focus on, regardless of where else it comes from.

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