The folks at Mercury Press report that the mysterious graphic on the cover of their catalogue (reviewed in Geist 2) is "an Orange Griffen photograph of an arrow painted on a road. The location of the road remains a secret." Hmm, sounds like a challenge to me. Anyway, they publish many enticing literary books: Order in the Universe, stories by Veronica Ross, Hard Times, a fiction anthology, etc. Write to me if you want to know more.
In the entrepreneurial spirit, Broadview Press sent a review of their own catalogue. "The pleasant and tasteful background on the cover," writes Don LePan, "is achieved by xeroxing (or Canoning, to be more precise) an absolutely hideous piece of checked synthetic fabric. The innards are distinguished by not having a single blurb that begins 'This book ...'" (It's true, I checked.) Recent eye-catching offerings: Winter, insights literary and photographic into some people's favourite season, and The Broadview Book of Canadian Parliamentary Anecdotes, edited by Marc Bosc. There are other anecdote books. Collect 'em all.
Red Deer College Press has a very snazzy spring 1991 catalogue and a hot lead tide: Zero Hour, by Kristjana Gunnars. Her father learned he had only a few months to live, and because he was Icelandic he could not die honourably if he died in bed. Gunrurs' book is about her father, and about her, in those last months.
The peach-coloured Second Story spring flyer announces Our Lives: Lesbian Personal Writings, edited by the wry and smart Frances Rooney, A Taste for Justice, Canada's first politically correct cookbook as far as I know, and points between.
From Turnstonc Press comes Saving Face, poems by Roy Miki, about Japanese Canadians' struggle for a public apology and for private recovery. Miki was active in the Japanese Canadian fight for redress. Turnstone also announces Fox, a novel by Margaret Sweatman, and other classy stuff.
Sandhill Book Marketing represents a cornucopia of independent presses. Place Names of the Canadian Alps (Putnam et al) comes from Footprint Publishing; Permanent Wood Foundations is for northern Canadians or anyone else who can't have concrete foundations; and Cooking Without Mom: A Survival Cookbook (Hen Party Enterprises) is just what it sounds like.
The Penguin Books catalogue is noteworthy just for its size. I'm looking at three huge volumes and I suspect they're just the top layer: there are sixty-two pages of new hardcover books alone. Spotlighting something from this catalogue is like trying to name the two books you'd want on a desert island.
"A Decade of First Nation Publishing," says the cover of Theytus Books' spring 1991 catalogue. Seventh Generation is a recently published anthology of creative writing by aboriginal Canadians, and forthcoming titles are Gatherings II, an anthology focussing on the theme "Two faces: unmasking the faces of our divided Nations," and The Native Creative Process, a collaborative effort by Douglas J. Cardinal and Jeannette C. Armstrong.
In these days of North America's first "live war"—ending even as I write this—it doesn't hurt to re-read two good additions to the literature on pop culture: Jolts, The TV Wasteland and the Canadian Oasis, by Morris Wolfe (1985), and The Mass Media in Canada, by Mary Vipond (1989), both published by James Lor-imer & Co.
Coach House Press sends a gorgeous Fall 1990 catalogue, announcing 9 new books and 7 new audiotapes for the season, bp Nichol's posthumous gifts: The Martyrology Book(s) 7 &; Shanti, by Arnold Itwaru, a novel set in colonial Guyana; Language in Her Eye, eds. Sheard, Scheier, and Wachtel, essays by a staggering forty-four Canadian woman writers.
Now, about those Coach House audiotapes. Chris Dewdney, David McFadden, Elizabeth Smart—we aren't talking lite lit here. But are we talking Listener's Digest? The tapes are "abridged by the author herself" or include "generous selections" from books.
What does it mean? New audiences for good books, maybe, and/or more royalties for authors. But what is the intended audience? A full-page ad for the Coach House tapes, among others, in a recent Quill & Quire (a book trade magazine), starts with this teaser, in large type: "Why do your friends seem so well-read? They listen to M&S tapes." Hey, your friends are pretty smart, eh. They speak knowledgeably about the new Alice Munro, and they didn't even have to slog through it! They got it done while driving to work! Or riding the commuter train, or jogging around the park.
I want to be ready for this new literary wave. "So what are you hearing these days?" "Oh, I'm hearing the latest John Robert Colombo, it makes great bathroom listening." "Yeah, I'm hearing the entire New Canadian Library series, got 'em at a garage sale." McClelland & Stewart has a whole audiotape catalogue, with page heads like "Audio Encore" and, wait for it, "Audio Renaissance from Last Season."
Are tapes like movies? That is, are they a discrete art form? Is it best to hear the tape first, or does that wreck the book for you? Is it necessary to read the book at all? We already have reviews of audiotapes. Will they compete for Auditor General's awards and a Lit Hit Parade? Ten, fifteen years down the road, will CBC count down the all-time favourite Canadian novels on Labour Day weekend?
At the last minute: Véhicule Press sends a current booklist, with a covering note from Simon Dardick: "Do I dare?" Well might you ask, Mr. Dardick. Your catalogue can only be described as intensely chartreuse. However, it has an epigraph: "Culture is the only thing that can save the nation" (Rudolf Komorous), and news of the forthcoming The Passionate Debate: The Social and Political Ideas of Quebec Nationalism 1920-1945 by Michael Oliver, and Stone Voices: Wartime Writings of Japanese Canadian Issei, edited by Keibo Oiwa.