Reviews

Gathering Dust

Thad McIlroy

The pleasure of Brian Busby’s The Dusty Bookcase (Biblioasis) is in the dipping. And the double dipping. At random I open the book to page 302 and learn of the 1954 novel Murder without Regret, by E. Louise Cushing, a mystery set in Montreal featuring Inspector MacKay of the “Montreal Police Service” and a young female protagonist not much interested in men. On page 53 is a review of André Langevin’s Orphan Street, which Busby considers just about the greatest Canadian novel he’s ever read. Page 257 leads with Ken McLeod’s “light… fun… and a bit of a ribald read,” A Body for a Blonde. McLeod was a pseudonym for my father, Kimball McIlroy; this review was my entrée into The Dusty Bookcase’s treasures. The book is filled with “Canada’s forgotten, neglected and suppressed writing.” The collection is, Busby writes, “a plea to look beyond the canon, the latest award winners, and the grotesque gong show that is ‘Canada Reads.’” There was a time, we discover in these pages, before Can - Lit became so self-consciously Can and Lit, when many Canadian authors just wrote novels. The book is an outgrowth of Busby’s blog of the same title and features just over 100 of the nearly 300 reviews that have appeared on the blog, each one “revisited and revised.” Busby has a fluid style—the writing feels more like a fireside chat. He’s a part of the story, sharing his own bibliophilic background with snippets of most authors’ bios, accounts of how their book was first received and clear guidance of what to look for in each find. A vexing problem with the book is the absence of an index. The book encourages repeat visits to certain authors and their remarkable work. But try finding same in a 364-page book loosely organized into chapters with names like “Bigots & Businessmen” and “Pop & Pulp.” It’s a major annoyance in what’s otherwise a gem of a collection.

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Thad McIlroy

Thad McIlroy is an electronic publishing analyst and consultant, and author of more than two hundred articles and several books on the subject. He lives in Vancouver and at thefutureofpublishing.com.


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