Sunday, June 24, 2007

Town House by Tish Cohen

Scored this one from the nice people at Harper Collins. Incidentally, for those who keep up with the industry, HCP has recently acquired rights to most Hyperion and Miramax books so we can look to an interesting future. Confusing,perhaps, because I think Fenn is keeping some of the titles they had before.

Oh well.

On to one of the most charmingly eccentric experiences of my reading life.

Jack Madigan is agoraphobic. ( Don't look it up, it means he doesn't leave his house ) Severe panic attacks and the constantly replaying images of a troubled childhood in a carton ( under the strange eye of his rockstar father, Baz ), keep Jack from stepping beyond the threshold of his crumbling if gorgeously historic Boston Townhouse.

Living off the royalties of his father's songs ( think our friend from Hornby's About a Boy ) his ailment has so far not been a drastic problem.

When the royalties start dwindling, however, and a scatterbrained real estate agent named Dorrie is the line between his comfort-zone and the scary world outdoors, Jack is in more than a pickle.

The crumbling house is populated by a melange of quirky eccentrics: Jack, Dorrie ( thinking the odd little fish from Finding Nemo is apt in this case ), Jack's hippie son Harlan and the little girl who crawls through a hole in the wall and joins Jack each morning at the kitchen table for coffee.

It is a breezy, fresh and well-paced book that screams the best of summer reading.

The house, with its tricky dumbwaiter, and drywall dents and gashes ( from Baz Madigan's many guitar rants ) is as much a leading character as our endearing agoraphobic.

Prepare to be stirred with compassion and empathy for a man whose whole world is set in a four-storey townhouse, charming throughout its drafty discomfort and cat-sized rats.

Prepare also to be reminded of the best Nick Hornby novel: not intrusively, but by a friendly comparitive nudge.

I hope to read more of Tish Cohen's work in the near future !

Thursday, June 14, 2007


About a month ago, a shipment arrived at my bookstore bearing a copy of the most esoteric and dry looking book known to the world of literary history: An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin by Rohan Kriwaczek.

Well, what does one do with this?...gothic cover et al. Does one shelf it in history? In Music? Nay, one snatches it up and places it in the staff picks section. This book is too good to pass up, mockworthy and full of hours of random page opening.

After my coworker and I used the ireads application on Facebook to "review" this slighted piece of brilliance with high words of praise, I decided to wikipedia the book just to see what I could glean about Funerary Violins.

What I discovered and what remains the best part of the whole experience --- is that the funerary violin book is indeed a complete and utter hoax.

The publisher was hoaxed.

The agent was hoaxed.

Unsuspecting bookstore clerks who chalked it up as yet another strange history book were hoaxed.

I dare you to google it, and to dive into a labyrinth of mistruths. In an age ( *cough* James Frey and the Da Vinci Code ) where readers are forever blurred with lines crossing fact and fiction and an incessant need to read about secret societies and a tyrannical Catholic Church, research into the supposed Guild of Funerary Violinists will definitely stay your thirst.

Search Rohan Kriwaczek's website to find sound snippets of songs that never existed, to read more of Herr Hieronymous Gratchenfleiss, to be directed to the website for the Guild of Funerary Violinists, to read of Kriwaczek's made up credentials in his made-up history, to order famous cd's of funerary violinists to register to fake universities for fake courses dealing with this "forgotten" form of musicianship.


It is sheer genius, utterly fun and worth a second glance.

Also, it is destined to become a rarity, so buy the book soon. Who knows what limited run this lucky piece of work will have.


Saturday, June 09, 2007


I was lucky enough to be a reader on the Leacock Humour Award Committee this year. This means I was part of a team that selected a winner from 43 submitted entries. We narrowed them down to a shortlist and decided (along with national judges ) a winner.

Past winners have been W.O. Mitchell, Farley Mowat, Mordecai Richler and dozens of other worthy Canadians.

This year the winner was ( unsurprisingly ) Stuart McLean ( who I , like all good Canadians, love ) for his newest Vinyl Cafe compilation: Secrets from the Vinyl Cafe.

I sat at a table with very interesting people....some who had been to the very first awards ceremony in 1947 and had been coming ever since.

Out of the interesting people I talked to, Stuart McLean and Will Ferguson were the highlights.

I had met both before in passing at author events and signings ( I have been heavy in the bookselling business for almost six years now ), but was glad to have another opportunity.

Will Ferguson is a class act.

I was thrilled to be invited and hope to go again sometime.

Long live Mariposa and thriving literary awareness in small towns.