Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

SHAUN SMITH'S SUNDAY SUNDRIES: 2009 IN REVIEW

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In the final Sundries for 2009, I offer a "best of" list from my columns over the last year.

February 22
BENT BOOKS
Over on The Bookseller’s site you can vote for Oddest Title of the Year. Is it Baboon Metaphysics, or Curbside Consultation of the Colon, or some other oddity? You choose. The shortlist was assembled by HORACE BENT. [Note: the prize went to The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-miligram Containers of Fromage Frais.]

March 22
ÜBER GEEKS
Brian Derballa over at Wired gives us a fascinating study of comic book store employees, with photos and interviews that take us not only into the stores where they toil, but also into their private nerd lairs. (Thanks to Brad Mackay at Cultural Magpie.)

April 5
THE SMELL OF BOOKS
The good folks at DuroSport Electronics have created a lovely way to ease the nasal transition from paper books to ebooks with their new line of ereader-compatible aerosol sprays called Smell of Books .

April 26
TAKING IT WITH YOU
Odds are you've already seen the bookshelf that can be converted into a coffin, but it is just so oddball I couldn't resist. (These though bubble shelves are also cute, if functionally questionable. [Thanks to The Causal Optometrist.])

May 24
VOICES
Green Apple Books & Music in San Francisco has a novel take on the shelf talker [link updated], exemplifying exactly why indie is better than corporate.

June 7
THE CHALLENGE
Sci-fi novelist and Wired journalist Bruce Stirling has posted a fascinating and somewhat chilling list of 18 challenges faced by contemporary literature. It is well worth a scan for anyone watching the current transformation of text into, well, whatever it is becoming.

June 28
Don't TSA me bro!
Cory Doctorow reports that: "Comics writer Mark Sable was detained and intensively questioned by the TSA for carrying a script for an upcoming comic book about a writer who is detained and intensively questioned by the TSA for writing a comic about terrorism." (The TSA is the American Transportation Security Administration.)

July 5
BUT NOT THERE
Seen the first page of The Moon People yet? For all those who ask, "Why not self publish?", here's your answer.

July 19
"drowning other people's kittens"
In the July/August issue of the Literary Review of Canada, University of Toronto scholar Linda Hutcheon has one of the most balanced, insightful and thorough assessments of the state of modern book (and arts) reviewing that I've encountered. It is well worth a scan for anyone who values such things — I know there are three or four of us left.

Writes Hutcheon: If we are seeking opinions to adopt or confirmation of our own “taste” or simply information, the vast expansion of reviewing that has come with electronic technology has been a boon. If reviews function for us as consumer reports, then the more perspectives we have, preferably by people like ourselves, the better. Those (often anonymous) reviewing websites, including Amazon.com and its ilk, serve this function well. But if we want reviews to teach us, if we want to learn more about a book, a film, a wine—its context, its particular qualities and forms—we might well want to know that the reviewer has more (or different) expertise and background knowledge than we do.

August 9
Wilson's "Won't Do" list
There's a wonderful note, reproduced on crookedtimber.org, showing a list of the many things (21 in total) that Edmund Wilson simply would not do in his wrole as a writer, most of which these days are considered necessary — if not mandatory — for most writers if they want to continue paying the rent. They include: "Judge literary contests", "Give interviews", and "Autograph books for strangers". A handwritten addition at the top of the list reads: "I don't [do] live readings either unless I’m offered a very large fee.” No doubt if Wilson were alive today, "Blogging" would be on the list as well. Ahem.

September 13
Da Vinci Code redux
Author Brian Joseph Davis has a funny piece on the Globe & Mail site this weekend in which he does a line edit on Dan Brown's nauseatingly bad novel THE DA VINCI CODE. (Brown has a new book out this week.) It's a fun, innovative and pleasingly interactive (blah blah) piece because you can download pdfs of Davis' edits (oh, clever!) which show his comments and changes in markup mode. Where were you Brian when Brown was shopping this p.o.s. novel around?

October 4
I'll take a pound of helvetica, please
Think you know your cheeses? Think you know your fonts? Test your skills at Cheese or Font.

October 25
Donegality
Tom Wright in The Times has a fascinating piece about a book that examines C.S. Lewis' works from a new perspective. Apparently Michael Ward's new book Planet Narnia explains how Lewis "secretly constructed the Chronicles of Narnia out of the imagery associated with the seven heavens of the medieval cosmos." Yeah, I know, sounds pretty Dan-Brown-wacky, but as Wright explains, not only is it apparently true, but Ward has also struck upon a seemingly new literary concept in his analysis, which he calls “donegality”.

November 15
Something for the nerds...
"Dear Santa, I would like a particle accelerator for Christmas, please. Failing that, how about a pop-up book about one, preferably the potentially world-ending Large Hadron Collider. (Merci gizmodo.com.)

November 29
Amazing paper engineering video #1
Absolutely lovely, lovely, lovely video from the New Zealand Book Council.

December 6
Interactive Dickens
The New York Times has a marvelous interactive gallery of pages from Charles Dickens' original handwritten manuscript for "Christmas Carol". (If you use Adblock, you must disable it to see the gallery.)

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.

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