On this edition of Books for Breakfast, we take a look at some books boldly told from the perspective of an animal narrator. We've all heard from critters in kids books, but we take on some stories for adults too. Specifically, we read Garth Stein, James Agee, Paul Auster, Roald Dahl, Natsume Soseki, Franz Kafka, and try to measure their success in channeling the voice of animals while also asking... why bother? Finally, we launched our new contest, asking you to write a solid-gold first line for us! Details over on the contest page. Thanks to the winner of our previous contest, Michael Roberts, for joining us for the second half of the show.
Brad Suggs & Orchestra – Elephant Walk
Timber Timbre – Lonesome Hunter
Timber Timbre – Do I Have Power
Doug Paisley – Bluebird
Raveonettes – Noisy Summer
Roscoe & Friends – Barnyard Soul
Neko Case – I’m An Animal
Eiyn Sof – Deer in A Tiger’s Disguise
Psapp – Everybody Wants to Be A cat
Eamon McGrath – I am The Deer
RL Burnside – Just Like A Bird Without A Feather
We recently wrapped up our first ever Books For Breakfast contest, in which we asked our listeners to submit a very short story (500 words or less) based on this image and the caption "I Woke Up In Boone, North Carolina". Here are the top three submissions, as judged by Barb Minett (owner of the Bookshelf), Mark Laliberte (editor of Carousel Magazine), and our very own Dan Evans. Thanks to everybody who participated!
(the winning story!)
The road signs tell me I woke up in Boone, North Carolina. You learn to trust the signs – their weary green faces washed out by the pastel inevitability of ultraviolet light. “You are now entering Boone! Heart of the High Country”. Not an extension of hospitality, a statement of fact. Population: 13 843. An indisputable figure, a reminder of the authority of statistics. So you learn to trust the signs, to appreciate their frankness. Allow yourself to be comforted by absolute truth.I guess it is more accurate to say I woke up in the backseat of my father’s Cutlass Ciera greeted by dry mouthed, astigmatic motion sickness. The vague feeling of having travelled through time. Through blank space. In the front seat my brother’s hand impatiently turns the radio dial past conservative talk radio and the withered rapture of gospel music set to tape to a station broadcasting static and occasionally golden oldies. “Stand By Me”. “Harper Valley PTA”.
“Look who’s finally awake,” says the top half of my father’s face in the rearview mirror. The bottom half of my brother’s face spreads into a grin that tells me I’ve been caught in the act, offering me the humiliation of falling asleep. “I was just resting my eyes”. The futile response cements my disgrace. Failure duly acknowledged, my brother’s hands return to the radio dial; my father’s grip the steering wheel, revealing a network of veins nearly as circuitous as the system of interstates that we currently call home.
My attention drifts to King Street, the major artery of parked cars and local businesses rendered silent by power windows. High school kids smoke filched cigarettes outside of Capone’s Pizza. Huddled together, exchanging conspiracy theories of Al Capone’s connection to their sleepy Appalachian town. Colour coordinated old ladies march together towards weekly book club meetings, carrying dog-eared copies of Rebecca.
I can’t shake the feeling that nobody actually lives here – this is all an elaborate hoax. A theme park. Kids ride bikes, people put the garbage out. After dark, they get in their cars and drive home to sleep somewhere else, leaving Boone haunted by 13 843 ghosts. My spectral existence projected onto another town in the face of the realisation that the only air I will breathe here is conditioned. My feet will never touch the pavement. I can’t locate myself within the trail of cities where I have slept. The family Oldsmobile is a nation unto itself forging through the blank space of America. I am lost in the back seat. Adrift. Displaced. A sign reads “You are now leaving Boone”. You learn to trust the signs.
The smallest of the small presses can be the most fertile places to hunt for marginal voices; I think of margins as places filled with lost or undiscovered treasure.
Mike Soret’s memoir is good loot — his Confessions . . . begin in 1995, which is when he led (and eventually destroyed) a Vancouver-based revival swing band called The Molestics. Frankly, sometimes offensively, the book explores five or so years in the life of an unknown band trying to build its audience.
Labelled Dixieland-punk, or “hokum” music, the Molestics gained a reputation for putting on wild performances that focused on making memories over making fans. Soret writes: “My lyrics were never very clever, my horn playing never very good. But as an actor, I brought something.”
And as a memoirist, Soret brings more: with few prospects for any legacy, or enough royalty payments to buy rose-coloured glasses, he uses hindsight to zero in on the tragic-comic theatre of the music industry from the perspective of fleeting celebrity. It’s a reader’s good luck, he’s still putting on a good show.
Welcome to the St. Patrick’s Day edition of Books for Breakfast – where we fail to mention or even notice that it’s St. Patrick’s Day at all! You can listen to the show in two, one-hour chunks here:
Dan’s back! Today we’re talking about “instructions” and books that give us instructions. We’re not talking specifically about the giant book that Peter just finished, but certainly influenced by it. Then, we’re going to announce our contest winner and runners up and hear from the judges themselves.
Hugo Montenegro – Soundtrack to Lady in Cement – Jilly’s Joint
Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone – I Was Born (a Unicorn)
Brought Dan up to speed about our conversation with Sarah Manguso from last week. Talked about his ski trip and about how he was advised (by Peter) NOT to take the instructions to the Alps. Instead, he took a copy of the Paris Review. Kelly bought two books associated with Amy Hempel (because Sarah Manguso dropped her name and said that she was excellent) – New Stories from the South: 2010 and Amy Hempel’s Collected Stories. Peter’s been reading Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, and he acquired a cookbook that he’s promised to tell us about in our “instructions” segment.
Superchunk – Leaves in the Gutter – Learn to Surf
The Morning News Tournament of Books is still happening. The opening round just ended today and they’re on to the quarterfinals starting March 21st. Peter talked about A Visit From the Goon Squad and Skippy Dies – although he hasn’t read either in full, he’s wary that A Visit From the Goon Squad should be the winner after reading the first few paragraphs. And speaking of contests, Dan talked a little bit about Katrina Best winning the Regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize with Bird Eat Bird. Guess what?! It’s a collection of short stories. We’re telling you – short (short short) stories are totally “in” (and they’re in ’cause we said so. Duh). Next, we had a little debate about eBooks and their place in the library. HarperCollins allows libraries 26 check-outs of its eBooks, download-able from home. Dan and Peter retain a sense of hope that books and eBooks can coexist peacefully. Kelly is skeptical.
Clues – Clues – Perfect Fit
Announced that we WILL announce the flash fiction contest winner after 9:00. But for now, we wanted to talk about the “instructions” we get from the books we read. This will probably (hopefully!) be a two-part series, as we’re looking to get Adam Levin of The Instructions on the phone. Peter summarized this weighty book for us, and explained how it lead him to look for instructions in other books.
We came back with Barb Minett from the Bookshelf in Guelph in order to unveil her choice for the winner of the flash fiction contest! In 500 words or less, we asked you to respond to the prompt: “I woke up in Boone, North Carolina.” We numbered each entry and sent them to our judges like this:
1. Michael Roberts
2. Susan R.
3. Andrew Robinson
4. Abby Wilson
5. Joey Czikk
6. Casey Ford
7. Philippe Best
8. Reilly Jones
9. Peter Bradley
10. Tim Patterson
Barb loved the first lines of almost all of the entries, but found that the contest came down to who could sustain the tension/retain attention throughout the 500 words we gave them. Barb’s clear winner was…..Tim Patterson! Barb read his story for us on air. She also enjoyed numbers: 7, 4, 2, and 1.
Grails – More Extinction
We came back with Mark Laliberte, editor of Carousel, and our second judge of character and short stories for the morning. Mark liked Michael Roberts’ story the best, but also enjoyed numbers: 6, 4, 3, and 2.
Jose Gonzalez – In Our Nature
We came back with Dan. He and Peter read Dan’s favourite story (Andrew Robinson’s #3). Dan also liked numbers: 4, 1, 10, and 7.
Jay Crocker – Super Disease
When we came back, Kelly announced the winner (and stumbled through an explanation of the tally-ing process – they were professional. Trust us…) – Michael Roberts pulled ahead and will receive some books and music prizes. Hopefully, he’ll come on the show next week, and maybe he’ll be our judge for the next contest! Tied for second place were Andrew Robinson and Tim Patterson (authors of the other stories that we read on air!). Congrats and thanks to everyone! for participating.
Brokeback – Another Routine Day Breaks
Peter called his friend Dan to talk about following (and not following) the recipe for making a flourless chocolate cake.
With Dan in the alps, Kelly and Peter spent this mostly un-themed show talking about flash fiction (we wrapped up our flash fiction contest on the show today, and stories will be read and winners announced on next week’s show!). We interviewed one of our favourite flash fictionizers, Sarah Manguso, which was a nice treat (especially after talking to Deb Olin Unferth last week; they were published side by side in a three-piece set of super-short fiction.
Anyhow, why don’t you just listen to the show? You can hear it in two one-hour chunks here:
Duke of Burlington – Flash
Javelin – The Merkin Jerk (Take 3)
*** Sarah Manguso doesn’t want us to call them “flash fictions” – but today is the end of our very short story contest…! Listeners had one last chance to get their contributions in before 9:30 a.m.
In our acquired and read segment, Peter reviewed the Instructions by Adam Levin – a 1,030ish page book that he FINISHED! after staring it down for months before cracking the spine. Peter gave a detailed review but only alluded to an ending that…might not…sit well with readers. After slogging through such a long book, you want the ending to really zap you. But Peter warned us that the ending of the Instructions takes a sudden and surprising turn that makes the protagonist a lot less lovable, and he worries that all of this talk of the ending might scare people off from the book which he adored anyhow.
This week, Kelly acquired a long book, too, but didn’t finish it. She is about 60 pages into David Foster Wallace(R.I.P.)’s Infinite Jest and is daunted but looking forward to the project. Some of Infinite Jest’s themes seem similar to the themes Peter found in the Instructions. Peter mentioned that he likes to think about where the author found or created the nugget that lead to them writing their work, and he thinks that Levin took some inspiration from Philip Roth’s “Conversion of the Jews.”
Peter gave Kelly the Believer book, Book of Writers Talking to Writers (21 Interviews) and talked about what he would read next. That includes: The Curfew by Jesse Ball and Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
Jimmy Hopps, etc. – One Ton
*** Kelly was sitting in Dan’s chair because Dan was busy skiing in the Alps. The chair is the Publishing News chair, and so Kelly did her best to shed some light on what’s going on in writing and publishing this week. Shel Silverstein has a new, posthumous collection due out in September from HarperCollins Children’s Books. Meanwhile, Dolly Parton is busy giving one book a month to Scottish kids “in care” until they’re five years old so that they can develop a literary relationship with their caregivers and the world around them. And in New York, an anonymous writer is posting his or her book one page at a time on lampposts in East Village. Local pizza slingers and cab drivers don’t seem to care, but we think it’s a nice example of public “flash fiction”.
John Zorn – Recuerdos
*** We talked to Mel Epp about her Guelph tutoring duties. She tutors all ages, from kindergarten-ers on up, and helps them with their literacy skills. Sometimes this takes the form of working with letters and phonics, but sometimes she and her tutorees read books together. Sometimes this means slogging through the classics for the umpteenth time (To Kill a Mockingbird, Hamlet, etc.), but sometimes she and her students choose the books together and they read a lot of really excellent young adult Newbury winners. We pressed Mel to say what formative books marked her childhood at age 8, 12, 15, and 20. She mentioned Sweet Valley High, but also Tess of the D’Urbevilles and The Other Side of the Mountain. We look forward to tapping into Mel’s memory banks often for suggestions of books we may have missed as children or books we should remember to return to frequently.
The Silt – Taking a Walk
*** Sarah Manguso Interview (pt. 1)
Christine Bougie – Hammy’s Revenge (she’s playing tonight in Guelph at the eBar!)
*** Sarah Manguso Interview (pt. 2)
Eric Chenaux – Love Don’t Change
Sven Libaek – Misty Canyons
*** We replayed Kevin Nun’s improv flash fiction addition to the contest from last week’s show over Link Wray’s song, “Big City After Dark”, along with two of the other submissions to our contest. Peter read from All Known Metal Bands and we read one of our listener’s letters on air! She’s wondering about books or references for non-institutional or communal living. Any suggestions? Email email@example.com.
You can hear an archive of today’s radio show in two hour long chunks here:
Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2 Judges – Red Horse (Judges II)
Western Terrestrial – Western Terrestrial – Fair Fall (Grace)
Talked about the music. Colin Stetson’s album has rocketed to the top of the charts of Peter’s heart.
The Hipless Boy – it’s a love letter to Montreal by “Sully” (turns out that Dan knew him in Toronto under his real name: Shirwin Tjia). Talked about how books make us want to live in different places and times. Dan didn’t make the most of his time in Montreal.
Adam Levin’s “The Instructions” – about a boy who reacts poorly to authority. His fights are ethical – a young, wannabe messiah named Gurion stalks the halls at a remedial school as part of a program called THE CAGE. This doorstopper, THOUSAND page book chronicles four days in his life. Where does his menace come from? Hulk-style, complete rage, but from a small body.
Dan talks about the Oscars. “127 Hours” and the harrowing stuff therein (cutting your own arm off with a letherman. James Franco’s (Freaks N’ Geeks, Spiderman) addition to the book world: Palo Alto. He’s kinda angsty. His book of stories
Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming – Heartaches and Pain
Talk about genre fiction (Michael Chabon’s “Maps and Legends”). Dan’s book club is reading Orson Scott Card – a sci-fi book?! – called “Empire.” About a possible next Civil War in the States. This is a 20-person book club… and it didn’t read the whole book. Felt okay talking about the book’s major issues even if only 40 pages were read. Orson Scott Card might be politically offensive (?) – people would have been much more into reading this if it were pure non-fiction. The characters are built on ideologies, so they don’t run too deep. A bit wooden. Peter’s read a couple little pre-next-American Civil War stories in the past year. Paul Auster’s Man in the Dark, and Arthur Nersesian’s “The Five Books of Moses”, specifically.
Kenneth Pachter — The Murder of Two Men by a Young Kid Wearing Lemon Yellow Gloves
Rouge Ciel – Bryologie – Imbroglio
New game: Page Fifty-Six. It’s a Facebook game, so we’re selling out a bit. But here’s what you do. You reach for the book closest to you and read the fifth line on page fifty-six. Has to be the book closest to you, not your favorite book or the “coolest” book in the room. Reveal those “guilty pleasures”! Dan reached for Deb Olin Unferth’s “Revolution” and Peter read from Chabon’s “Maps and Legends”.
Peter talked about the music we heard (yum) and then Dan talked about some publishing news: We’re still in prize season. The Lionel Gelber Prize was awarded this week – for the first time in 22-ish years, it’s gone to a woman. Sheila’s “Polar Imperatives”. Also, the biblioasis inspired Metcalf-Rooke Prize. Ususally to a story writer, this year they gave it to a novelist: Claire Tacon, for the forthcoming “In the Field”.
We should do a show on Arctic Books. Peter loves “Sand and Ice”.
A Year of Reading Locally: Dan’s coming at you as a bookseller. A great magazine called “What If?” features creative teen fiction. They highlight a list of local fiction/short story/non-fiction/poetry contests.
SPEAKING OF WHICH……..we have a contest! A flash fiction contest! It’s been extended by a week. So get your entries in.
Josephine Foster and the Victor Herrero Band — “Las Tres Hojas”
We heard Peter reading Deb Olin Unferth, by Deb Olin Unferth. Then we got that very woman on the phone! (She was very good, no?)
Flash fiction written while she was working an “accidental” job teaching Egyptian art. Now she’s on tour for “Revolution” – getting good feedback, but doesn’t really pay attention to reviews. About being 18 in Nicaragua, fomenting the communist revolution. Became slowly disillusioned with both her boyfriend and the revolution, ran out of money. Came home. Talked about what revolution is – it happens only when the insurgents win. Dan asks if there was a second front – a war of love or something. Deb was in love. Became Christian for this guy, wouldn’t have gone to Nicaragua for him. As time when on, a coming-of-age story emerged and she became less dependent. About being out of comfort zone, feeling estranged, not belonging as a tourist but also even at home. Through writing, Deb’s become an actual person. Before that, thinks she wasn’t much of a person but writing helped her become one. Dan wants to know if Deb would revise the trip if she could and how. She wishes she had been a little better behaved… she was an 18 year old brat, but she doesn’t know that she could have acted differently. Dan says that he thinks she was brave for revisiting the issue and for writing it down. Deb talks about being afraid of American arrogance, gets confronted by two military guys on her tour and feels that pressure, knows that war isn’t funny or to be taken lightly.
Peter asks about a funny author editor relationship with Eli Horowitz from McSweeney’s – Deb loved being part of the McSweeney’s team. They got her to write “Revolution”. Eli isn’t really around these days, though. He bought a cabin in the woods. But he was terrific to work with though he was kind of a hard-ass. They worked together on one book for a solid eight months. Both of the female characters from “Vacation” became as developed as they did because of Eli. He said from the beginning that he wasn’t going to compliment her and every thing he wrote was a criticism.
Deb’s object, the thing she keeps coming back to, is Central America. She’s fascinated with form and so even though she’s tried a lot of different forms, the topic stays the same. She likes flash fiction because it’s philosophical (!) (Kelly sighs with pleasure). Micro fictions: You can make an argument or analyze a word in a short, philosophical examination. They’re still full stories, but they’re a bit circular.
Deb read to us from “Revolution”, (ch.) “Good Ideas”.
I-roy — Noisy Place
LP game! – a new feature whereby Peter offers an LP for scrutiny; Dan and Kelly guess at the style of music based on the story that the cover art tells (and then they tell that story…); then we all listen to see how close the guessing game is to reality.
Tape – “Drip Stone” from the album Luminarium
“Interview” with Kevin Nunn. He’s kicking off a reading series. Thinking of bringing in some established authors to do some readings and some aspiring authors to try out their readings in front of a group of sympathetic, nice, local people. A lot of the evening would be available for networking, and so the emphasis will be on making connections and forming a community. We outed Kevin as a (reluctant) writer – and asked if he would improvise a flash fiction.
April 20th eBar
Olympic Symphonium — “A Lot to Learn” from the album The City Won’t Have Time
Books for Breakfast is a weekly one-hour radio show based on Guelph, Ontario’s CFRU 93.3fm. You can tune in to 93.3fm or http://www.cfru.ca every Thursday morning from 8-9am! If you’re interested in contributing to the show, we want to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.