Readersforum's Blog

May 13, 2012

Neil Gaiman: By the Book

What book is on your night stand now?

There are a few. My current audiobook (Yes, they count; of course they count; why wouldn’t they?) is “The Sisters Brothers,” by Patrick deWitt. It was recommended by Lemony Snicket (through his representative, Daniel Handler), and I trust Mr. Snicket implicitly. (Or anyway, as implicitly as one can trust someone you have never met, and who may simply be a pen name of the man who played accordion at your wedding.) I’m enjoying it — such a sad, funny book about family, framed in a Wild West of prospectors and casual murder.

My “make this last as long as you can” book is “Just My Type: A Book About Fonts.” It’s illuminated a subject I thought I understood, but I didn’t, and its chapter on the wrongnesses of Comic Sans came alive for me recently visiting a friend at a Florida retirement community, in which every name on every door was printed in Comic Sans. The elderly deserve more respect than that. Except for the lady I was visiting, widow of a comics artist. For her, it might have been appropriate. On the iPad there are several books on the go, but they are all by friends, and none of them is actually published yet, so I will not name them.

When and where do you like to read?

When I can. I read less fiction these days, and it worries me, although my recent discovery that wearing reading glasses makes the action of reading more pleasurable is, I think, up there with discovering how to split the atom or America. Neither of which I did. (I clarify this for readers in a hurry.)

What was the last truly great book you read?


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April 5, 2012

Esi Edugyan and Patrick deWitt nominated for Walter Scott Prize

  By Shannon Webb-Campbell

Esi Edugyan and Patrick deWitt will go head-to-head once again, this time for the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction, a U.K. literary award established in 2010.

Last year, the duo dominated the Canadian award circuit. Edugyan won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen Publishers) and deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press) took the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Literary Award. Both were shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, but lost to Julian Barnes.

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December 6, 2011

Audiobooks for giving

Object lessons: Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

From George Smiley to the complete Harry Potter.

By Sue Arnold

Once the ritual traditions of giving and gorging are over, that quiet, becalmed period between Christmas and New Year is the perfect time for catching up on all the books and programmes you’ve missed during the year. My recommendations for presents and personal indulgence include blockbuster boxed sets whose marathon running times will take you through to next summer, plus a random selection of shorts, single-CD audios for people who prefer to dip.

Best series: The Complete George Smiley (BBC, 21hrs, £80). The award-winning Radio 4 dramatisation of all eight Le Carré books featuring the tubby, bespectacled spymaster with “the cunning of Satan and the conscience of a virgin”. Everyone remembers Alec Guinness’s inscrutable Smiley in the TV version. Simon Russell Beale’s portrayal takes inscrutability to vertiginous new heights.

Best music: Opera Explained (Naxos, 79mins, £5.99). The antithesis of every “Famous operatic arias” and “Best of Verdi” cherry-picking album. Thomson Smillie’s patient, unpatronising analysis of a score of operas on one CD apiece (except for Wagner and Gilbert and Sullivan, who each get two) covers social context, composer’s biog, anecdotes and, of course, cherries.

Best novel: The Sisters Brothers (Whole Story Audio, 9hrs, £17.35). The first western to be shortlisted for the Booker, Patrick de Witt’s quirky modern morality tale about a pair of contract killers in Gold Rush America will make you laugh. It may even change your mind about psychopaths, especially if they clean their teeth.

Best history: A History of the World in 100 Objects (BBC, 25hrs, £23.50). Everyone’s obligatory coffee-table book last Christmas, but remember, it was a radio series, and what made it so memorable were the conversations between British Museum director Neil MacGregor and the experts handling the various artifacts, which have to be heard rather than read. Why does Seamus Heaney looking at a 9th-century Viking helmet and then reading from his own translation of Beowulf immediately conjure up visions of raiders in longships rowing inexorably towards the Northumbrian coast?

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November 17, 2011

Foran, deWitt add GGs to literary accolades

The Sisters Brothers

By Stuart Woods

Two of the most high-profile winners of the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Awards have already won major literary prizes this season.

Charles Foran won the non-fiction prize for Mordecai: The Life & Times (Knopf Canada), which last month won the inaugural Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for non-fiction and, earlier this year, the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction. In total, Foran has earned $130,000 in prize winnings for his biography of the late Montreal author (and two-time GG winner for fiction). Foran is also in the running for the $40,000 B.C. National Award for Non-fiction, which will be handed out in 2012.

This year’s fiction winner is Patrick deWitt, whose comic Western, The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press), also won the $25,000 Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction.

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October 7, 2011

Shortlist For Giller Revealed

By Leigh Anne Williams

The shortlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s richest prize for fiction, was announced Tuesday morning in Toronto. The finalists are: David Bezmozgis  The Free World (HarperCollins Canada); Michael Ondaatje  The Cat’s Table (McClelland & Stewart);
Lynn Coady The Antagonist (House of Anansi Press); Zsuzsi Gartner Better Living Through Plastic Explosives (Penguin Group Canada); Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (House of Anansi Press); and Esi Edugyan  Half-Blood Blues (Thomas Allen Publishers)
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