By Rebecca Wigod, Vancouver Sun
September 24, 2010
VANCOUVER — It’s customary to begin our annual look at significant autumn books by naming new novels by British Columbia writers — books like Caroline Adderson’s The Sky Is Falling, Douglas Coupland’s Player One, William Gibson’s Zero History and Robert J. Wiersema’s Bedtime Story.
But while they don’t weave a spell in quite the same way, the non-fiction titles coming from B.C. authors this season are impressive, so let’s break with tradition and start there.
Benjamin Perrin, a University of B.C. law professor whose expertise has been recognized by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has written Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking (Penguin, October). The book, whose first chapter is titled “The Renaissance of Slavery,” exposes actual cases in B.C. and across Canada — and also highlights hopeful signs, such as police officers building trust with victims to catch the people who are exploiting them.
More intimate in scale and available right now is Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me (Freehand Books), a memoir in cartoon form. Author/illustrator Sarah Leavitt lives in Vancouver. Our forthcoming review calls Tangles a “wrenchingly honest” memoir, “both a celebration of life and an elegy.”
The book Sex, Lies, and Pharmaceuticals (Greystone Books) is about how drug companies are repackaging women’s sexual difficulties as “female sexual dysfunction” and offering remedies for it. One of the authors, Barbara Mintzes, teaches pharmacology and therapeutics at UBC; the other, Ray Moynihan, is an Australian.
Stephen Hume, whose columns you read in this newspaper, gives vent to his love of nature — in this wet province, especially — in A Walk with the Rainy Sisters (Harbour Publishing). The title refers to the Pleiades star cluster, associated with rainy weather, when its faint stars are easier to see.
B.C. BookWorld founder Alan Twigg has an encyclopedic knowledge of B.C. literature going back to the 18th century. His book, The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books and Authors, available soon from Ronsdale Press, is bound to start arguments. He leaves out many well-known writers (e.g., Jean Barman and P.K. Page), focusing instead on 150 who include Eric Nicol, Audrey Thomas, Sage Birchwater, Bud Osborn and Mark Zuehlke.
Simon Fraser University’s Andre Gerolymatos, respected for his knowledge of foreign affairs, will publish Castles Made of Sand (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Press, November). It’s about the spy games the U.S. and U.K. have played in the Middle East for the past 100 years.
Daniel Francis, whose curiosity about the past is wide-ranging, will bring out Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918-1919, Canada’s First War on Terror (Arsenal Pulp Press, Oct.). Asked why he chose the topic, Francis replied: “Retrospectively, it seems bizarre to think there was ever a fear of Bolshevik revolution in Canada. I was struck by the oddness of the events and the fact they are so little known, and I was interested in the way basic civil liberties were so easily subverted by the government in a time of perceived crisis.”
Now let’s give B.C. fiction its due.
Caroline Adderson’s The Sky Is Falling (Thomas Allen) is set in 1984 and 2004. In the earlier period, it relates the story of UBC students who are anti-nuclear activists. (Adderson was one in her early 20s, “utterly convinced that the world was about to end unless I, personally, pitched in to prevent it from happening.”)
Douglas Coupland will deliver this year’s CBC Massey Lectures. For the first time, they’ll take the form of fiction. Player One (Anansi) is what he calls a real-time five-hour story. Conveniently, because he’ll give five lectures — the first in Vancouver on Oct. 12, the others in cities to the east — it’s in five parts. It’s about five characters trapped in an airport cocktail lounge during a global disaster.
William Gibson’s Zero History (Penguin) continues in the same vein as Pattern Recognition (2003) and Spook Country (2007), with marketing magnate Hubertus Bigend hiring people with specialized intuition to suss out the story behind a brand of clothing called Gabriel Hounds. Quill & Quire’s review lauds the fast pace and snappy dialogue and appreciates how Vancouver’s Gibson explores the semiotics of everyday phenomena.
Victoria’s John Gould impressed readers with Kilter, his book of super-short stories. His first novel, Seven Good Reasons Not to be Good (HarperCollins), will soon be reviewed here as “a damn-near perfect book.”
Victoria bookseller Robert J. Wiersema will deliver his second novel, Bedtime Story (Random House, Oct.). Asked to describe it in one sentence, he recently said it’s about “books and the worlds they create, and about what happens when a young boy gets swept up in one.”
Sun Books Editor