Saturday, January 23, 2016


From Moving Poems, Donne's "The Expiration", filmed by Lotus Hannon.

Nature/ La nature/ 자연/ Природа/ 自然 - Baram video series

Nature/ La nature/ 자연/ Природа/ 自然 - Baram video clip

Nature/ La nature/ 자연/ Природа/ 自然 - Baram video series - stills

Copyright © 2015 Finn Harvor. Please contact me at fharvor at yahoo dot com if you wish to share.

그림/ Dessin/ Sketch

Done many years ago during lunch hour in Nathan Philips Square

녹차/ Green tea

Shannon Culver - ebook consultant, industry analyst


March 15, 2014

1 Since the beginning of the 21st Century, the publishing industry has existed in a state of tumult. The industry has contracted, sales have fallen, and, now, in part because of the ripple effects of the economic crisis of October 2008, the industry is faced with dual the challenges of a depressed economy and changing reading habits, as people spend more and more of their leisure time social networking with smart phones and tablets.

But are the problems faced by literary publishing really simply the result of a few bad years? After all, some of the problems facing the industry go back much further: the cutting of the mid-list, beginning with what Adam Bellow called the "Great Midlist Contraction of the 1990s," the ascendancy of the deal, new generations with reduced interest in reading for pleasure, and the "TV-ization" of popular culture.

What is your take on the current depressed state of literary publishing? Is it nothing to worry about? Is it just a passing phase? Or is it an intractable problem -- in other words, is it the new normal? And if the latter, what can be down to counter-act it?

There are pros and cons to the proliferation of smart phones and tablets. On the one hand, it's true that people have more options as to how to spend their leisure time, and time that might be spent reading may instead be used on social media sites, or playing games online. On the other hand, though, if people are reading digitally and have their account loaded onto their device, they have potentially more opportunities to read than in the pre-digital era as well, because they are more likely to have a book on hand when stuck in a waiting room, or on transit.

Literary publishing is undoubtedly in a period of flux right now, and it may be less viable now for an author to make a living from writing alone, or to receive a six or seven figure advance for a book, but I don't think that the industry is in crisis. Great writing is happening, and new publishing initiatives are starting up all the time to bring that work to readers.

The multi-national houses are cutting their mid-lists, but in a lot of cases, independent publishers are snapping up the authors dropped from the bigger houses, and the work is still being published.

2 How much potential do you think the Internet has as a vehicle of publishing? It's clear that there is a place for online criticism; the lit-blogosphere is dominated by it. But not many people read short stories or novels online.

Will the Internet really become the medium in which serious people both publish and read fiction? Or is this a technological pipe-dream, and is it more a question of using the Internet as an effective means to sell and distribute printed books?

I think serious people already are reading and publishing fiction online. Sites like Byliner and The Atavist are publishing original, digital-only pieces of long-form journalism and fiction, and having considerable success doing so. There's an opportunity to publish work on the web that falls into the grey area between the short story and the novel that authors are embracing.

In an international context, growth in the ebook marketing may be slowing in North America and the UK, but there's still a lot of room for growth in other parts of the world. Distributing print books internationally can be difficult, but as smart phones become more common in Asia, South America and Africa, there's a potential to reach new readers through the internet that wasn't possible with print.

There's also a whole generation of children growing up right now who are being raised on screens, and who may not have with the same sense of cultural attachment and nostalgia related to print books that previous generations have. Those digital natives may be more willing to publish and read digital texts, and to view them as equal to printed works.

3 It is arguable the Internet isn't effective as a medium for publishing long works of fiction because very few people can stand looking at regular screens for the necessary length of time. But e-ink provides a solution to this. It eliminates eye strain.

E-books are now accepted in the industry. However, how much potential do you think e-ink and e-book technologies have? Will they ever replace print? Or will the two co-exist from this point on?

I believe that the two formats will continue to co-exist for some time. I think we're at a point where it's clear that digital books, and publishing of literature online, aren't going to completely overtake printed literature (in the next few decades, anyway), but they're also not going away. Digital sales still remain a fairly small piece of the pie for most publishers, but the number of people reading in digital format is growing.

On the other hand, it's clear that there is still a desire for print books in the current market, and many studies I've seen recently indicate that digital adoption rates among adolescents are not as high as was anticipated, so it seems that the demand for print will persist.

Aside from transmitting stories and information, printed books are also cultural artifacts that hold special meaning to people as objects, and that aspect of the printed book is hard to reproduce with digital. I personally do most of my fiction reading in digital format, but I still buy printed books occasionally, if it's something that I know I would like to have on my shelf, and be able to lend to friends, and re-read.

There's room for both formats in my consumption of literature, and I think a lot of people feel the same way.

4 In the past few years, articles and blog posts have appeared criticizing the pricing of books. Are books (particularly in Canada) too expensive? Has this been a factor in reducing the size of the book-buying audience over the last twenty or so years?

Book prices in Canada are higher than in the U.S. or the UK, and that's becoming more apparent as the market becomes more international through digital sales.

In the digital realm, self-published authors with low overhead costs are driving prices down, and traditional publishers are in some cases being forced to lower their prices to compete.

There's certainly more demand for inexpensive books, but the cost of producing and disseminating them has not reduced significantly for publishers, so the reality is that lowering prices leads to lower margins for publishers, in what is already a pretty low margin industry.

5 Staying with the same theme. Literary novels were once publishing in hardcover and then, several months later (and a spot on the best-seller lists willing), they were available as affordable pocket-sized paperbacks. However, in the 1980s this practice ceased and literary paperbacks started being published in North America as pricier trade paperbacks. Only genre fiction retained the pocket-book form. In retrospect, was this a prudent decision by publishers of literary fiction? Or should the literary pocket-book make a return?

In some ways, I think that digital is replacing the pocket-book. If people aren't concerned with acquiring the hardcover or literary paperback as an object, digital is a good alternative to the pocket-book or mass market paperback. I'm not sure there's a need for the return of the literary pocket-book.

6 What is your view of print-on-demand? Do you think it will ultimately be adopted by the industry to the degree e-books have?

There are a lot of exciting opportunities afforded by print-on-demand. Publishers can resuscitate backlist titles on smaller scale, or produce new texts in smaller print runs. It also enables international sales more easily.

The technology involved in POD is still prohibitively expensive for most publishers to own and operate their own machines, but more presses are taking advantage of the POD services supplied by digital asset managers like Lightning Source. I do think that we will see an increase in the number of books created through POD machines in the next decade.

7 When we met, you mentioned that right now there is a struggle for primacy between task specific e-readers and more general usage tablets. Is e-ink technology more in the "interest" of the publishing industry since e-ink allows for sustained reading? Or is this factor something the marketplace alone should decide?

This will likely be something that the marketplace determines. Right now, there are more opportunities to create illustrated, complex and enhanced texts for viewing on a tablet than on an e-ink device, and those texts are viewed by some as a way for books to compete with other digital media, so I wouldn't necessarily say that e-ink is more in the interest of the publishing industry.

8 Are e-titles perceived as a threat to print? Or is it a question of snobbery, with publishers instinctively viewing e-titles as artistically 'lesser”?

Digital is still perceived as a threat to print by some publishers, but most of the ones that have incorporated digital texts into their catalogue have found that it's just another piece of the puzzle, rather than the overtaking force it was originally anticipated to be. Digital texts are still most often created and treated by publishers as a secondary, lesser product, but in part that's because they still only account for a small fraction of sales.

9 Or is it a question of arts council funding, with arts monies allowing Canadian publishers to keep producing primarily in print, whereas in the (for better or worse) more capitalistic and competitive U.S., small presses do not have the same degree of luxury?

Grant funding does make it easier for Canadian publishers to continue to produce in print, but it also enables them to participate in the digital marketplace through initiatives like eBOUND. Their American counterparts have less funding for both print and digital.

10 Or -- in a twist on this theme -- is the arts council funding that is available to Canadian publishers earmarked for print production, so that Canadian houses do not have enough monies left over to build an e-book base?

Federal and provincial governmental bodies have begun earmarking funds for digital production and distribution over the past few years, which has helped a lot of smaller Canadian publishers to digitize their catalogues. I can't speak to the exact breakdown of funding that publishers receive for print vs. digital, though.

서울에서 추운 날/ Un jour froid en Seoul/ Cold day in Seoul

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Heather Birrell - Novelist

Heather Birrell, interviewed on August 11. 2012:

1 V. S. Naipaul has declared there are not any important writers anymore, Philip Roth has predicted the novel will become a cult activity, Peter Stothard has asked if fiction writing simply used to be better, Cullen Murphy, David Shields, Lee Seigel, and Geoff Dyer have all stated that non-fiction is superior to fiction. The list of people of letters who apparently have lost faith in literary fiction goes on an on; it is clear that an elementary questioning of the novel is not a passing cultural phase. Furthermore, the short story seems to be under siege as well: many agents and multinational publishers do not handle/publish story collections, small magazines seem perpetually underfunded, and a YouTube-ification of text and image seems to be taking short narrative in new directions. 

What is your opinion? Do the novel and short story have a future? If so, what kind? And will e-technology alter the very forms of them? If so, how?

I don’t want to sound like someone who refuses to leave her garret, but as a writer, I try not to think about this too much. I’ve chosen to write fiction, or it’s chosen me, and it’s part of the way I tussle with and honour the world. I also have a young family and a full-time teaching job, so often there is not a lot of room left in my brain to consider these questions -- and when I have a pocket of time, I usually want to spend it reading authors who excite me, or contemplating my own writing projects.

I do have a certain amount of faith that my work will find readers and have come to understand that the quantity of those readers is much less important than the quality of the connection to the reader -- i.e. -- that the readers who end up with my books in their hands are those who are yearning for the kind of stories and prose I can deliver. Also: my writing is never going to make me the big bucks. Having a day job, while often all-consuming and time-sucking, can be freeing in that respect; I am not dependent on my writing or writing-related gigs for my livelihood and that, to me, really gives me permission as a creator.

In 2006, I had the opportunity to e-interview Deborah Eisenberg (a fantastic and accomplished American short story writer) for the on-line (and sadly no more) bookninja. She said:

If most fiction is made according to a general idea of what fiction ought to be, then most fiction is going to be fairly predictable. And people who want, and are accustomed to, predictable fiction are unlikely to be good at engaging in the very active process of reading – they merely want their expectations met, and are perplexed when their expectations aren't met. So it's a self-perpetuating, actually a self-generating, situation, and I think it's a fine thing to meet it head on with a simple refusal.
I love that: a simple refusal.

As for the short story! I adore the form, to read and to write. As a short story practitioner I have definitely been well-served by small magazines. I think it’s tragic that they have to struggle the way they do; small press workers are the unsung heroes of our age. They work so hard for very little recompense or glory and serve an invaluable role in fostering new writers and bolstering more experienced writers. They are a vital part of the literary eco-system and deserve our protection.

2 Are the very significant structural changes taking place in the publishing industry having an effect on novel or short story writing? If so, how?

I don’t think they’re having an effect on the writing -- people who want to write will find a way to write. Anybody who writes with a notion of what will sell as his or her prevailing impetus -- well, I don’t think that’s exactly artful, authentic writing, is it?

These are easy things to say, I realize, while you are in the throes of creation; it is more difficult have this same conviction when you are trolling for a publisher. Of the eleven stories in my second collection, seven had been previously published in respected literary journals, one had won the Journey Prize. I had some short story street cred going into the submission process. And now that it’s seen the light of day as a book, Mad Hope has been well-received by readers and critics alike. I am thrilled with my publisher -- both the editorial and publicity/marketing support I’ve received have been stellar.

But the book’s road to publication was rocky. Before Coach House welcomed me back, I got a lot of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ from editors who professed to admiring the manuscript but not knowing how to sell short stories or finding the prose too ‘writerly’.

It can chip away at your soul, this pitching/pining, watching/waiting process, and hold you in its unhealthy thrall for protracted periods. To my mind, it is, quite simply, anti-art. Having said that, it seems to be a new fact of life as publishers are less willing these days to take leaps of faith and commit to authors (especially if they are being stylistically or thematically adventurous) for the long haul.

  1. Is the cutting back of mid-lists and a general cautiousness about taking risks on new or relatively unknown writers affecting the caliber of writing that does manage to get into print?

Yes, I think so. But the small presses are filling the breach in amazing and nimble ways. This is reflected in critical response (the amount of space/air time dedicated to books from smaller publishers) and prize lists (which used to be dominated by the larger more moneyed publishing companies, but are increasingly populated by books from independent presses).

4 Do you have an author's website? Does it help you sell books?

I do have an author’s website. I have no idea if it helps me sell books -- I’m not sure how I would or could measure that and I honestly don’t want to.

5 How do you feel about running an author's website? Do you feel its a labour of love – or an annoying imposition? Or something else altogether?

I have mixed feelings about it. I recently had the website re-designed and built so that I could update it on my own and incorporate a blog element. On the one hand I like that I can control my presence -- to a certain extent -- on the web, and I also like the freedom a blog affords, the opportunity to describe, riff of, and link to things that pique and hold my interest as a writer and as a mother and teacher and human being engaged in the world around me. I think a blog can be a really wonderful way to form relationships with other readers and writers, and a lovely complement to a writer’s body of work. On the other hand, I am still grappling with what it means to present and shape a presence on-line. I hate the notion of personal branding (that thing people do to cattle and used to do to slaves) with a passion and sometimes trying to figure out my boundaries around ‘sharing’ just makes me want to unplug completely and take a nap. And yes -- updating the site can feel like an annoying imposition at times, especially since my life is pretty hectic at the moment. But I do feel a responsibility to, at the very least, let readers know about upcoming publications and readings and provide a portal to my writer-self.

6 Is the selection system for novel and short story manuscripts fair? Should it be made blind?

I’m going to do that thing people do when they’re stalling, taking time to think about the question, which is to repeat the question: Is the selection system fair? I think it depends on the publisher and editor in question. I’m not sure making the judging blind would help -- if you’re suggesting some people get published because of who they are or more importantly, who they know, I’m sure you’re right. But I think more often, big publishers are looking for the all important ‘hook‘ that will make them money, more than anything else -- so the hook might be the very fact of the author -- his/her history, looks, job, but it might also be the book’s subject matter or political relevance, or the headlong pace of the plot. It’s not often stellar prose, acute psychological insight or brilliant experimentation are seen as hooks that will make a publisher money.... because they’re looking to appeal to a broad swath of people and their wallets. Is this ‘hook‘ business more true lately? It seems to me it is, simply because big publishers’ decisions are more dependent on marketing strategies and revenue potential.

7 According to media reports, e-book sales now represent a significant percentage of overall sales. But small bookstores see them as more a threat to their survival than anything else, and a lot of book people remain print people. Are you enthusiastic about e-books? Do they hold the potential for a renaissance in literary publishing? Or are they over-rated and too susceptible to piracy?
I don’t own an e-reader, and have no plans to, but this is not because I have any strong feelings against them. I do have an i-phone and do a lot of reading of periodicals on there while commuting or lying next to a napping baby. It saved me from total annihilating boredom during some marathon breastfeeding sessions in dim light. I have read some short stories on my phone through an app called Storyville that delivers a new story every week, and that was nice. But I still love a good old fashioned book and Coach House did such a good job making my old fashioned book look like a very current and beautiful object. For the most part, I think the more avenues that lead to the written word, the better.

Oh, and piracy. I’ve had my work available on-line, and have given away an e-version of one of my stories for free. Before I agreed to the latter, I did have some reservations, but decided (after polling some readers I trusted) that it was a pretty fantastic opportunity for potential readers to get a taste of who I am as a writer, and, to use a hackneyed metaphor, be lured into buying the cow after having had a taste of the oh-so-delicious-and-nutritious milk.

8 What do you think of literary prizes? As Jason Cowley has commented, they reduce our culture's ability to think in a critically complex fashion? Do they suggest, “this book is worth reading and all these others aren't?”

I’m not sure they reduce our culture’s ability to think in a critically complex fashion although I do think they have an effect on how we think about what’s out there... The problem, I suppose, is that I live in pretty cloistered world, full of people who like to talk and argue books all the time -- so the creation of lists and the naming of winners is always cause for a broader discussion and disagreement re: who belongs, who was omitted, whether a winner is deserving, what machinations might have prompted a shortlist or a win. The readers I know who are not so sunk in this literary world do care about prize winners, I suppose, but they also go to their friends and to favourite blogs (and I think the proliferation of book blogs is a great boon for literary conversation and critique) for help in curating their reading lists.

I have benefitted directly from two literary prizes: the Journey Prize and the Edna Staebler Award. The Journey Prize (co-sponsored by McClelland & Stewart and the Writer’s Trust of Canada) is awarded to the best story published in literary journals in the previous year (nominated by said journals’ editors). The nominated stories are then winnowed down by a jury, who chooses a longlist (that becomes the anthology), a shortlist, and a winner. The winner receives $10,000 and the nominating journal $2000. To me, this seems a wonderfully healthy type of literary award. It draws attention to a broad swath of accomplished stories and (often emerging) writers, and supports both the writer and the journal/editor that helped brought the writer’s work to light. The Edna Award’ is an in-house honour administered by The New Quarterly.  You can’t apply for it or enter to win.  It originates in a wonderful and whimsical tradition that Edna Staebler (a southern Ontarian journalist, cookbook author, and well-loved free spirit) herself initiated — a writer/philanthropist, she would send cheques of a thousand dollars to students and individual writers she admired, with the simple note reading “Enjoy! Edna.” attached.  TNQ has used a generous gift of $25,000 that Edna Staebler gave the magazine in 2006, the year of her death at age 100, to recognize outstanding essays published in the magazine in the previous year with their version of Edna’s flash-generosity. The recipient is chosen by a judge selected from past winners. Both of these awards, it seems to me, reflect the type of solidarity and spirit that contribute to a thriving literary culture and community.

9 What are you working on now that you're excited about?

I’ve just finished an essay for an anthology-in-the-making edited by Kerry Clare (of, (M)Other Stories: Dispatches from the Limits of Maternity. I’m excited to see what other women have to say about this seemingly inexhaustible topic.

And, like every other person in the coffee shop, I’m working on a novel. I have been alternately excited and excoriated by this project for more years than I’d like to admit. I’m in an excited phase right now, and hoping it will feel like a workable draft soon. It’s set in the eighties in Toronto, and it’s also about Cuba, a draft dodger, how families are made and unmade, a tire plant shut-down, young love and idealism, and the fumbling techniques and tactics we use to rescue each other and ourselves.

용인에서/ Yongin

새 비디오/ Nouveau video/ New video - YouTube

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

큰 영화/ Film du longue-mettrage/ Feature-length movie

Take 14 of my nature, urban/nature feature documentary

L'industriel et le vert/ The Industrial and the Green

판교에서 서울까지 고속화/ L'express entre Pangyo et Seoul/ The expressway between Pangyo and Seoul

Alanna Wilcox - novelist, publisher

Alanna Wilcox - novelist, publisher
Fall, 2012

1. Literature is in trouble -- that is, more trouble than usual. Why do you think this is? The increasing prevalence of TV? The distractions of increasingly narcotic subcultures such as video games? Sept. 11? The Crash of 2008? Or is talk of the "death of literature" simple exaggeration?

Well, I don’t believe in the ‘death of literature’ by any means. Look how many people are eager to commit to reading long, long books like Twilight. I am more concerned with the homogenization of what it is that people are reading, and the fact that while we may spend more hours per day reading, that reading is not in the form of books but of blogs, etc., which don’t do much to further prolonged and substantive thought or good writing.

2. Reports of declines in book sales have become widespread. How bad are the delcines? And do you think they are only a cyclical phenomenon, or do they represent a permanent, negative change for print book sales?

That’s not strictly true, I don’t think. Last year saw our biggest sales ever, for instance. The ‘long tail’ theory of book retailing is exactly right: sales are down in the mid-list, the majority of titles that get published. But they’re up for those few bestsellers, and for the niche titles at the other end of the graph.

But it is true that our culture values books less and less, or is at least less willing to pay for them, in the same way that we’re less willing to pay for any culture, which we have come to expect for free. I’m not sure what we can do to fix this.

3. What area of book publishing is suffering most? More specifically, are novel sales suffering more than other kinds of books?

I don’t know — I only know our little corner of publishing. Poetry has never been huge, so no palpable difference. We notice declines in fiction mainly when we try to sell foreign rights to our novels and everyone else says fiction is not selling.

4. Are the declines linked to woes in the bricks-and-mortar retail sector, for example, bankrupt/near-bankrupt independents and teetering chains like America's Borders, or are troubles in the retail trade the result, not the cause, of declining book sales?

For us, yes, the loss of bookstores is a huge problem. Pages in Toronto accounted for a very substantial portion of our sales, so its loss is tragic — and tragic for me as a reader, too, as browsing a well-curated bookstore is the best way of amassing a fine library.
As a publisher, it means we have to work extra-hard to find other avenues of sales: more events, readings, web sales, etc. Which takes up an enormous amount of extra time.

5. Are online retailers like Amazon taking over so much market share that they are driving books-and-mortar bookstores out of business? Or does Amazon, with its discounts, simply create more book sales for itself, and are the books-and-mortar stores suffering from their own structural deficiencies?

I can’t really imagine how to begin answering this one. There’s no baseline, and everything is in flux, so there’s really no way of knowing.

6. The publishing industry suffers from retailers' ability to return unsold books. In the current environment, is reversing this policy possible?

No bookstore would ever agree to return to a world without returns. The risks would be too big. And as much as we hate returns, it’d be worse without them, because odd books like ours would simply never get ordered in the first place. Returns used to be handled really responsibly: smart ordering, frequent reordering and careful attention meant that they were reasonable. But the big chains changed that by using returns as a way of forestalling payment and then reordering, or ordering ridiculous quantities, or ordering carelessly across their outlets. There’s maybe no understanding there what impact giant returns have on publishers, whose margins are so close to zero anyway.
We all joke that the only people making money in publishing are the shipping companies.

7. In your opinion, do e-books -- with their lack of printing costs and ease of distribution -- represent a golden opportunity for publishers to reverse the trend of declining sales?

Right now, no. It’s simply an additional cost and administration burden for publishers, with no discernable sales at this point. If they catch on, sure, it could be fantastic for publishers — if they end up adding to the number of books sold. But if they simply take over some of the print sales, it won’t make much difference, as the money saved on printing is offset by the expenses of making the e-book. But if the total numbers can grow, that’d be great.
8. Or are e-books -- with their vulnerability to piracy and untested popularity with the bulk of the reading public -- over-rated?

Well, I don’t know any ‘book people’ who actually LIKE reading e-books. I use a Sony Reader to read manuscripts, and it’s not exactly enjoyable. I’ve not yet read a ‘real’ book on it.
As for piracy? For us, that’s not an undesirable outcome. It happens with print books all the time: people lend them to friends or take them out of the library. So, if a few e-files get passed around, it’s not a bad thing — it all serves to get the book READ, which is the most important thing.
9. Does the Google settlement, allowing Google to scan books as it wishes, represent a form of piracy? Or, as Google argues, will its planned scanning of the world's books strengthen book sales and reading culture?

It’d be great if we could all work together to make this something good, which it well could be. How amazing to have an archive of the world’s literature, great for scholars and readers and authors, and anything that reifies the importance of books is not something we can afford to reject. But yes, permission from all involved is essential.
10. Is the Kindle model of fixed prices for e-books but a relatively piracy-free sales/distribution system (and, sometimes, sound profits for publishers) one that you are happy with? Or does it lend Amazon too much control over pricing?

I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.
11. Is the "agency model" of, for example, Apple's iBooks better?

12. How much potential do e-book sales directly from a publisher's own site have?

Who knows? But sales of print books from publishers’ websites seem to cap out around 5 percent, so it might be the same. Still, it’s an important service to offer, I think.
13. Do you think the e-book, being a digital form, will eventually evolve into a new form of narrative, incorporating audio and visual elements?

I hope so.
14. Will a movement toward e-books drive a separate-but-linked movement toward audio-books more than exists now?

I don’t know. But maybe the interest in podcasts that the iPod has inspired will help.
15. Are book trailers a valuable marketing tool or a waste of money and time?

I don’t know. The ones we make are free, other than costing a couple of hours of Evan’s time. And they seem to attract attention. Whether that translates into sales, I have no idea.
16. In South Korea, books incorporating pictures and text are massively popular. In North America, graphic novel sales remain comparatively healthy. Will the print book move more and more in the direction of an objet d'art, appealing to book buyers as much with images as text?

Probably. The more the book is an object, the more it distinguishes itself from online ‘content.’
17. Prizes and awards are playing an increasing role in determining an author's career-trajectory. In short, winning a major literary prize can win a writer a large audience overnight (not to mention, considerable fame and financial remuneration). But, as British critic Jason Cowley has observed, what is lost is the the ability for readers to think in a critically complex fashion.

Are literary prizes dangerous in this regard? Do they convey to the public the message that "this book is worth reading and all these others aren't"?

There are two sides to it: prizes bring attention to books and reading, which is a good thing, but they also draw all that attention to a few titles. I guess the optimist would hope that prize-winning books can be a ‘gateway drug’ to more reading, though the pessimist might say that it encourages a kind of laziness (‘I’ll just read whatever they tell me to read’). On balance, I’d say they do more good than harm.

18. Literary publishing has always been a marriage of art and commerce. But in recent years, the Cult of the Deal has become more influential, with agents demanding larger advances and marketing people paying especially close attention to sales figures. Is the "art" side of the business being pushed out?

In the larger houses, maybe. But we still work hard to try and balance the two: making good art while still staying in business. Of course, if the Canadian government didn’t help us out by awarding grants, that wouldn’t be possible. I mean, we still have no money, and so we scrimp and save at every turn — which means no giant advances, which means we miss out on those big books. But we’re more interested in books that are a little more unusual, in any case.

19. Many major publishers now refuse to accept "unsolicited" work; that is, they will not even consider work unless it is agented. Is this a sound policy from point of view of finding the best new literary voices? Isn't there a chance good writing will be squeezed out?

As a smaller publisher, it’s often very frustrating to have no money and to not have access to ‘bigger’ books, and it’s especially frustrating that when a book by an unknown author does well, we lose them to bigger houses, just when they’re in a position to start earning back all that we invested (intense editing, big promo) in the first book. On the other hand, it means that I get to be, for lack of a better word, a talent scout. I love finding something great in the slush pile. So, no. As long as smaller literary houses exist, I’m not worried about good writing vanishing. And, to be fair, the big houses publish some really good stuff!

20. Alternatively, for small presses that do accept unsolicited work, is the problem that the majors are squeezing the small houses at the distribution/retail marketing end? In other words, even when good writers get published by small houses, do they have a fair chance of winning an audience? Or are the major houses introducing an overly corporate, overly aggressive mentality to the book trade?

Our culture thinks bigger is better, so of course people assume that a Random House book is better than a Coach House book. And I don’t think Random House is deliberately squeezing us out or thwarting us — everyone’s just fighting to get space for their own titles. How to fight such a pervasive cultural perception? No idea! We’ll just keep making great books and trying to elbow out a little space for them.

21. Are agents too powerful? If so, in what ways? Or are they a largely beneficial and necessary element of contemporary publishing?

Agents are important for authors with a lot of business stuff to manage. It does make me sad, however, when authors working at our scale end up giving a chunk of the small amount of money they make to an agent when they don’t really need one. Many authors benefit from having an agent, but Canada is a pretty small pond, and I worry that there are a lot of authors who don’t really need one...
As an editor, I do sometimes bemoan the fact that the agent is now involved in what used to be such a tight, intimate relationship between author and editor.

22. Does Canada have too many publishers? Or too few?

I’m not much of a capitalist, but here I’d say the market can decide that. I do find it troubling that this question comes up so often. Every book that has readers can justify its place, and one could argue that if we place so much emphasis on diversity and democracy the same should be true for our reading list.

23. And what role can traditional, venerable institutions such as libraries and English Departments play in reversing the decline in sales of literary fiction?

Libraries need to balance being reactive (blowing the budget on Twilights because that’s what people want) and proactive (considering themselves taste-makers and lining the shelves with books they think should be read). But a little further in the direction of the latter would be okay with me. Ditto English departments. Academics could also afford to take a broader view of what ‘literature’ is — we’re on the campus of the University of Toronto, with its hundreds of English classes, and we rarely have requests for tours of our printing presses or discussions of how publishing works or even visits from authors. It’d be nice if they thought of literature as living, kinetic being instead of simply autopsying it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

겨울의 하늘/ Le ciel d'hiver/ Winter sky

Poet Kevin Connolly reads from Revolver

Kevin Connolly - poet

Kevin Connolly - poet, editor, critic

Sept., 2012
1 V. S. Naipaul has declared there are not any impo­­rtant writers anymore, Philip Roth has predicted the novel will become a cult activity, Peter Stothard has asked if fiction writing simply used to be better, Cullen Murphy, David Shields, Lee Seigel, and Geoff Dyer have all stated that non-fiction is superior to fiction. The list of people of letters who apparently have lost faith in literary fiction goes on and on; it is clear that an elementary questioning of the novel is not a passing cultural phase. Furthermore, the short story seems to be under siege as well: many agents and multinational publishers do not handle/publish story collections, small magazines seem perpetually underfunded, and a YouTube-ification of text and image seems to be taking short narrative in new directions.

What is your opinion? Do the novel and short story have a future? If so, what kind? And will e-technology alter the very forms of them? If so, how?
I feel sad that people are not onboard with the short story at the moment, but that has not always been the case and will change eventually. I’ve met Geoff Dyer and can more or less confidently tell you he was being cheeky. I don’t know how cocky a human has to be to believe that your work will have a lasting impact, but seriously, if Roth and Naipaul are worried, maybe it’s a dumb thing to worry about. Lady Gaga is a passing phase, the novel will be here as long as people write. As will poems and plays and short stories.

2 Are the very significant structural changes taking place in the publishing industry having an effect on novel or short story writing? If so, how? And is poetry -- the "odd kid who's adapted", being affected? Or has it got used to evolving according to its own set of rules?
Poetry is more or less exempt from this kind of discussion. Which is its strength and its problem. The good side of technology is that people can find things they normally wouldn’t otherwise. My feeling is that this helps poetry more than it hurts it, because sales of poetry books more or less mean nothing.

3 One occasionally hears calls for "less and better", including at presses specializing in poetry. Two questions here: first, do you agree there is too much poetry being published in Canada? Could we do with less?
Maybe. My real worry is that there are more very good Canadian poets publishing than ever before, and that the lousy stuff outshouts the good.

4. Second: Since publishing poetry in either English or French Canada is ipso facto not a way to make a living, should poetry presses be held to the same standards as presses which strive to be commercially successful (e.g., the Toronto based larger independents as well as the multi-nationals?)
I’m more or less sure no press in North America makes money on publishing poetry, period. Maybe in French Canada, but it would be a small amount. The idea that Anansi or M & S or Coach House are making money on their poets is nonsensical. They may make enough to support still doing it for all the right reasons, but that’s a different answer to a different question.

5. Is the cutting back of mid-lists and a general cautiousness about taking risks on new or relatively unknown writers affecting the caliber of writing that does manage to get into print?
It’s interesting you didn’t ask me if there was too much literary fiction being published in Canada, to which my answer would also be yes. Not to be bitchy, but I sort of despise terms like “mid-list,” which is a label that seems to attach itself to good writers who don’t sell. Most challenging writers don’t sell. And when they do, no one really knows why. Of course most crappy writers don’t sell either. You can see the problem.

6 Do you have an author's website? Does it help you sell books?
No. And I doubt it would, at least in my case.
7 How do you feel about running an author's website? Do you feel its a labour of love – or an annoying imposition? Or something else altogether?
It’s something else altogether. Have a look them. Narcissism at worst. Desperation, in many cases. There are exceptions, but if it’s a labour of love it’s usually one of self love. I find most of them as nauseating as Facebook and twitter.

8 Is the selection system for literary manuscripts fair? Should it be made blind?
I can’t speak for all presses, but Coach House bends over backward to find good writers and good manuscripts. Some writers do not understand where their work belongs, or that there’s a fairly stiff level of competition when each press publishes a very finite list every season. I declined several top-notch manuscripts a year because they did not fit the press, or would be held up longer than they should be by other commitments, etc. But good work always gets published; that much I know.

9 According to media reports, e-book sales now represent a significant percentage of overall sales. But small bookstores see them as more a threat to their survival than anything else, and a lot of book people remain print people. Are you enthusiastic about e-books? Do they hold the potential for a renaissance in literary publishing? Or are they over-rated and too susceptible to piracy?
I think we’re all in a wait and see model with this. I have no idea where it will go, but there are ways to protect electronic delivery from piracy. See steam and video games.

10 What do you think of literary prizes? As Jason Cowley has commented, they reduce our culture's ability to think in a critically complex fashion? Do they suggest, “this book is worth reading and all these others aren't?”
There will always be readers who are told what to read and others who read what they happen on or what interests them, the latter being the vast majority in my experience. I’m just happy people continue to read at all at this point, but I’m also not particularly worried it’s going to change all that much. It’s a pleasure to read a book, just like it is fun to go to the movies, or a ballgame or eat a good sandwich, for that matter. Literature should aspire to be a pleasurable part of everyday life, no more and no less. We’re not splitting atoms or exploring the surface of Mars after all.

11 What are you working on now that you're excited about?
I’m (slowly) working on a new bunch of poems. They’re not good enough to be excited about yet, but I’m trying. I like writing when it’s going well, and it’s getting there. Thanks for asking.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

From Baram XC - video clip

Pour voir le vidéo entière, va ici:

See see the whole vid, go here:

저녁/ La soirée/ Evening

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bernard Anton - poet, professeur

 Bernard Anton - poet, professeur

automne, 2012

1. On entend souvent que la littérature est dan un état de crise. Premièrement, êtes-vous d'accord avec ça? Si oui, quelles sont les facteurs qui ont crée cette crise? Est-ce la récession contemporaine? L'onzieme Septembre? Ou est-ce qu'il y a d'autres facteurs plus loins du nouveau millenaire qui a aussi fait la crise?  
Oui et non. La culture (la grande culture) est en crise parce que le volet artistique on dirait intéresse moins les gens qui sont portés vers les choses plus faciles à consommer et à comprendre. Cependant, la culture prend d'autres formes, telles la photographie, le vidéoclip... l'art pop sur le web est extrêmement vivant et populaire. Peut-être qu'il faut vulgariser et démocratiser la grande culture...

2. Et la littérature, c'est quoi, exactement? Et est-ce que le roman traditionel le meilleur representatif de ça?
La littérature est très vaste. Le roman traditionnel n'en est qu'une partie. De nouveaux genres littéraires ont émergé et l'emportent aujourd'hui, comme le slam, le spoken words...

3. Pensez-vous que l'internet devrai être le premier moyen pour distribuer les livres? Oui, pour rendre les livres visibles, accessibles. Internet aujourd'hui est le moyen # 1 de communication mondiale. Il est incontournable et tellement facile d'accès. Il dépasse les frontières. En 2-3 secondes, nous avons les réponses à presque toutes nos recheches... C'est beaucoup plus efficace qu'aller à la bibliothèque et fouiller durant des heures.

4 Pensez-vous que les e-livres remplaceront les livres de papier?  
Oui et non. Le livre papier est un format qui restera toujours, du moins pour moi. Nous avons besoin du contact avec la matière. On ne peut pas se limiter aux moyens virtuels.

5. Pensez-vous qu'il y a un mur entre la littérature anglophone Canadienne et francophone Québecoise? Si oui, qu'est qu'on puet faire? 
Ce n'est pas un mur, c'est différent. Ce sont deux cultures différentes qui évoluent dans deux contextes socioculturels qui ne se ressemblent pas du tout. On dirait deux pays distincts. Rien à faire. C'est normal.

6. Pensez-vous que les prix pour la littérature sont dangereux parce qu'ils suggerent qu “ce livre on doit le lire et tous les autres on ne doit pas”? 
Les prix récompensent une oeuvre ou un auteur. Cependant, ils tendent à minimiser le beau travail des autres auteurs, des autres oeuvres... Dans un concours, on donne un seul prix, on le choisit parmi les 5 finalistes. Mais les 4 autres qui n'ont pas remporté le prix sont aussi bons. Un prix est subjectif, relatif. C'est parfois un choix politisé, organisé... Tout dépend du jury. Un autre jury peut donner le même prix à un autre livre et ne même pas retenir celui qui a gagné le prix....

7. Avez-vous un site d'ecrivain? Si oui, pensez-vous qu'il est efficace pour promouvoir vos livres?  
Oui, j'ai un site d'écrivain. c'est très important d'être visible et accessible à mes lecteurs. C'est par respect pour eux. C'est mon outils de communication. Moi aussi, je dois faire ma part pour promouvoir mes livres... pas seulement mon attaché de presse et mon éditeur... 

8. Les "slams" (par example, "slams polygames"), c'est quoi exactement? 
C'est un recueil de textes poétiques qui sont rythmés et rimés qui traitent de la vie de tous les jours. Le choix de « polygame » est bien songé. C'est dans le sens large, polyvalent. Je ne parle pas de polygamie au sens propre ou sexuel du terme, mais au sens figuré. Pour moi, le slam flirt avec toutes les langues, toutes les cultures, tous les continents, tous les âges, tous les genres, tous les pays.

9. Selon votre biographie dans Wikipedia, "En 2005, il a eu un grave accident de voiture, ce qui ralentit ses activités. Il est impliqué dans plusieurs mouvements verts." S'il vous plait, disez nous plus des details comment l'accident a change votre vie.  
Depuis mon accident, je ne suis plus le même. Je fonctionne au ralenti, je prends mon temps. Je m'occupe plus de mon corps. Je suis plus vigilant. Mes limites m'obligent de choisir mes activités et d'être plus patient. C'est physique.

10. Au meme theme, dans "Plaidoyer pour la Terre et les vivants" [Living Earth], vous exprimez un passion pour l'ecologie. Est-ce que c'est possible pour la littérature d'aider l'environment?   
Tout peut contribuer à aider l'environnement : l'art, la politique, l'économie, l'industrie et la littérature aussi... Il y a plusieurs films qui essaient d'éveiller les consciences... plusieurs artistes, plusieurs écrivains. Le devoir de la littérature est de refléter et de dialoguer avec l'époque et les problèmes de son époque. C'est, il me semble, inséparable. Nous sommes tous des produits de notre époque. La littérature n'y échappe pas.

11. A ces jours, quel projets de le votre etes vous en train de faire?  
Je prépare un troisième recueil de salms et j'essaie de retravailler ma thèse de doctorat qui porte sur le pardon. Je voudrais en faire une version plus accessible qui rejoindrait le grand public et non seulement quelques spécialistes.