02 December 2011


[This entry is from December 2. I'm a lazy-ass, so just finished writing it now and posted it nearly a month late.]

At the airport in Vancouver, on my way home. Hadn't been here in a couple years, I think, and an invitation from the JCC's Vancouver Jewish Book Festival brought me back.

When I arrived on Monday, headed straight from the airport (on the snazzy new Canada Line rail service) to Mark Laba's place. Mark and I have known each other since we were about four years old. Mark's a literary whiz, and certainly a comedic genius. Why he has only one full-length book (the poetry collection Dummy Spit, from The Mercury Press) is beyond my understanding. So I continued my crusade, bugging the shit outta him to get a MS out there. He didn't seem perturbed. Mark spent about eight years writing an insane, surreal food column for The Vancouver Province. I think the editors finally read it a couple years ago, and then closed down the column, much to the dismay of probably thousands of fans of Mark's brilliant assault on restaurant reviewing.

George Bowering popped by Mark's place to pick up his copies of How I Wrote Certain of My Books, a wonderful addition to the "a stuart ross book" imprint that I put through Mansfield Press. It's George's 101st book. Or as his wife, Jean Baird, puts it, the first of his second hundred books. It was sort of an early birthday present for George, who turned 76 a few days later. George and I found a coffee place not far away and sat and talked about Audie Murphy and Stewart Granger for an hour. Well, cowboy movies in general.

The Festival generously put me up at the Rosedale on Robson, so this was probably my first-ever Vancouver visit where I stayed downtown. Spent several hours Monday wandering between grit and glitter. What a fascinating, weird city. It's also a city that has all sorts of personal resonances for me: the place I met the Pulp Press gang back around 1980: Tom Walmsley, Stephen Osborne, D. M. Fraser, Jon Furberg, and many others. I've also had a lot of writer friends land in Vancouver: Mark, of course, but also Clint Burnham, Brian Dedora (who finally came to his senses and moved back to Toronto this past year), Michael Boyce, and Laura Farina.

Tuesday I met up with Michael Boyce. We always have great conversations. Michael is the author of two novels from Pedlar Press: Monkey and Anderson. It's really pleasurable to have someone to discuss experimental fiction with — and someone who actually creates it. Michael and I met in Toronto in the early 1980s. I published his first work in a great little chapbook called Hit by a Rock. Brief prose pieces by Michael accompanied by line drawings by me. A Proper Tales Press product.

In the evening, I went to a weird Anvil Press launch: for Bob Robertson's Mayan Horror: How to Survive the End of the World in 2012. I hadn't heard of Robertson, who is apparently a CBC Radio personality. He was pretty darn funny. Headed out for some cheap-but-good sushi with Anvil's Brian Kaufman and Karen Green. We talked about publishing, digital books, Mark Laba, and my forthcoming poetry book, You Exist. Details Follow. The new Anvil catalogue has an early cover drawing for the book by Gary Clement, who did the cover for I Cut My Finger back in 2007. It's nice working with Anvil again.

Wednesday was a veritable festival of Clint Burnham, whose new scholarly work, The Only Poetry That Matters: Reading the Kootenay School of Writing, was launch a couple weeks back. Clint and I also share both ECW and Anvil as publishers of our poetry books. The usual great tour of East Hastings and some art galleries with Clint, Chinese lunch at New Town with Clint and his partner, Julie, and a look at the Stan Douglas photo installation over the doors of the new Woodward fancy-arts-centre-gentrification outlet. Oh, and we popped by ArtSpeak, where I scored a few more copies of A City, Some Rain, a beautiful "shared" publication by artist Toni Latour and me.

Headed to the JCC in the evening for my first festival event: a reading/panel with Norm Ravvin, Roberta Rich, and Alexi Zentner, moderated by yamulka-topped academic Alex Hart, who was excellent. We four writers were a pretty eclectic bunch, brought together with little in common except that we'd all just published novels. But that became the interesting challenge of the evening: drawings lines from one of us to another. I got a great response from the audience, with far more laughter (as usual) than I'd expected, and afterwards had a pretty steady stream of buyers of Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew (from which I'd read) looking for signatures.

Just before the reading, I was astonished to see three quasi-cousins of mine waiting in the lobby for the event: Elise, Sandi, and Nanci. It's a seriously rare occurrence to have a relative of mine at one of my readings, so I was pretty thrilled. I get the feeling that what I'm doing is so foreign to my cousins, etc., that they keep their distance. But these three came to the reading, bought my book, and really enjoyed themselves! After the event was over, Clint and I went to an amazing place on Main for some food and drinks.

Thursday morning, I did a reading/Q&A/talk for high school students from King David High, which is just about next door to the JCC. I read a few poems, a quick story, and a chapter or two from SDJ, and the kids were really attentive and had some great questions. This was my second time working with students from King David; hope I'll see them again!

Had a real nice lunch with my cousin Sandi. It's always good to feel like I have family. Because I do. Sandi's daughter is co-owner of the Broom Co. on Granville Island. You want brooms, that's the place to go. Tell her I sent you.

In the afternoon I met up with Laura Farina, great person and wonderful poet, whose 2005 collection from Pedlar Press, This Woman Alphabetical, is dying for a follow-up. And from what I've seen of Laura's new poems, it's gonna be great. After that I hoofed it to the lounge of the Hotel Vancouver to meet with the documentary filmmaker Catrina Longmuir. I met Catrina a couple years back in New Denver, when she and fellow documentarian Moira Simpson were working on Telling the Stories of the Nikkei, a film that ND teacher Terry Taylor, a local marvel, made finally happen.

An evening with Mark Laba at a sort of surreal cook-off event that closed the Jewish Book Festival rounded off the trip.

Pretty eager to get back to Vancouver to launch my forthcoming poetry collection from Anvil Press, You Exist. Details Follow.

Over and out.


At December 30, 2011 4:13 pm , Anonymous Geo Bowering said...

This guy Stuart Ross is a whirlwind out of the east, probably the best editor-kayaker in southeastern Ont.


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