“Becoming Canada” by Ken Dryden

becomingcanada.jpeg When it comes to talk of winning, best-selling author Ken Dryden knows what he is talking about. From l97l-l979 he was goal-tender for the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, during which time the team won six Stanley Cups.

Since then, Dryden was elected to the House of Commons in 2004, and re-elected as Member of Parliament in 2008. All this time he has watched Canadians accept themselves as easy-to-get-along-with but a bit self-deprecating and unambitious. In this book he writes about contemporary Canadian politics: the Liberal leadership race, the Conservative minority governments, prorogation, even the Vancouver Olympics. He points out that partisan politics often spoil the bigger story – of what Canada might do in the global world of climate change, starvation, peace-keeping. He thinks that if we realized more clearly what we have already achieved at home, outgrowing the Two Solitudes, taking in immigrants who know a new Canada, we would stop being a “Yes..but ” country and grow into a country of the heart and imagination with confidence to speak out with our own voice.

Dryden has written four best-sellers, including “The Game”. In this new book he talks about the Own the Podium slogan of the Vancouver Olympics – not in the way public relations picked it up but the way the athletes performed – clear-eyed, unrattled, and winning medals. He would like to see the rest of us behave this way.

Review by Anne McDougall

Roy MacSkimming Signing “Laurier in Love” on Saturday, November 13, 1-3pm

laurierlove.jpeg Come down to Books on Beechwood on Saturday, November 13 between 1pm and 3pm and meet Roy MacSkimming. He will be here signing copies of his latest novel “Laurier in Love.”

Quoted from his website, the publisher writes:
“Laurier in Love reveals Sir Wilfrid Laurier as Canadians have never known him: deeply enmeshed in a passionate, enduring love triangle as he leads his country into a new century.”
(…)
“Boldly imagined and brilliantly executed, Laurier in Love portrays Laurier the gifted statesman, emerging onto the world stage at Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee; Laurier the silver-tongued orator, charming Americans in Chicago; Laurier the conciliator, bridging conflicts between English and French as Canada fights a distant imperial war in South Africa. Above all, we feel the joy and pain of two women who tie their destinies to the same man – until in the end he must act to resolve the impasse.”

Come visit us at the bookstore to meet the author, buy a book and get it signed! We look forward to seeing you all on November 13!

For more information about Roy MacSkimming and his other fiction and non-fiction titles, visit his website at www.roymacskimming.com.

Tim Cook Signing “The Madman and the Butcher” Saturday, November 6, 11am-1pm

madmanbutcher.jpeg Author and Great War Historian, Tim Cook, will be at Books on Beechwood on Saturday, November 6, from 11:00am to 1:00pm, to sign his new book “The Madman and the Butcher: The Sensational Wars of Sam Hughes and General Arthur Currie.”

From the jacket:
“Award-winning author Tim Cook turns his narrative powers to the conflict between two towering Great War figures: Sir Arthur Currie, Canadian Corps Commander, and Sir Sam Hughes, Canada’s war minister. Set against the backdrop of Europe’s battlefields and Canada’s political tumult, The Madman and the Butcher explores the nation’s discomfort with heroes, the need to place blame, and the very public war of reputations that raged on after the guns fell silent.”
(…)
The Madman and the Butcher is a powerful double biography of Sam Hughes and Arthur Currie. Using newly uncovered sources, Cook creates a haunting portrait of our greatest battlefield general and the man who tried to destroy him.”

Come down to the bookstore to visit with the author, buy a book, and get it signed! Refreshments will be served during this event. We look forward to seeing you here!

“Gold Diggers” by Charlotte Gray

golddiggers.jpg If you’ve ever wondered about what really happened in the Gold Rush, the Klondike, and Dawson City, this is the book to set you straight.

Biographer/historian Charlotte Gray has done a wonderful job of bringing these legendary spots to life. She takes six characters and follows their lives as the north beckons and gold may or may not fill their pockets. There are good clear maps and we can follow the miner as he backpacks ever further north; the saintly priest who keeps his “church” going long before any building was put up; the young writer Jack London who kept notes for his later books even though he could hardly stand up from scurvy. There was the spit ‘n polish Mountie and two unusual women: one a feisty business woman who wore starched blouses and ran a hotel, the other an imperious British journalist from The Times.

In the late l800’s these people first followed rumours of gold up in the Chilkoot Pass. Later they stampeded further north to what soon became Dawson City. The trail was horrendous; they had to carry in a year’s worth of food, clothing, equipment. Gray herself rafted down a section of the wide Yukon river in 2008 and gives vivid descriptions of the majestic countryside. There are also good photographs of the wild, muddy boom town that Dawson City became.

The Gold Rush produced many myth-makers, apart from Jack London, including Robert Service and the Canadian writer, Pierre Berton who was the son of a Klondike stampeder and spent the first ten years of his life in Dawson City. Like Charlotte Gray’s other books on historical figures in this country, this does not feel like myth – but rather the true story, and quite fascinating.

Review by Anne McDougall

“Extraordinary Canadians: Stephen Leacock” by Margaret MacMillan

leacock.jpeg Robertson Davies once said: “Don’t try to analyse Stephen Leacock”. Margaret MacMillan avoids this, but she does give a sympathetic, as well as provocative picture of perhaps the most extraordinary Canadian in this series.

She is of course the renowned writer/historian now warden of St. Antony’s College, Oxford. In his introduction to this book, John Ralston Saul says she is a master of the imperial mind, being a descendant of Lloyd George and equally at home in both the UK and Canada. Leacock was born in England, coming to Canada as a young boy in l870. For a long time England was “home” in all his public lectures, although he would change that as time went by. MacMillan understands his point of view – in both his professional life as a professor at McGill of Political Science and his humourous books, full of satire on Canadian life.

Leacock first discovered his ability to make people laugh when he published, at his own cost, “Literary Lapses” in l9l0 and “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town” in l9l2. They took off in the UK and then around the world. Leacock said the best humour is dignified and gentle, about the incongruities of life. He also said it is blended with pathos, i.e. both tears and laughter.

MacMillan writes sensitively about Leacock’s private life. He was happily married but lost his wife in l925, when she was 45, he 55. More importantly their only son, born in l9l5, was showing a defect, and did not grow past five feet. Leacock was left to care for him on his own and young Stevie proved a tragic figure, not able to earn his living. Indeed Leacock’s last years were sad ones when he was retired from teaching at McGill and missed the congenial Montreal ambiance. But this is not what the world knows or cares about when chuckling over his books. They show the high courage Leacock displayed til the very end and still provoke laughter everywhere.

Review by Anne McDougall

“The Lady Who Lassoed Me” by Colin Alexander – Saturday September 18, 1pm to 3pm

Local Ottawa author, Colin Alexander, will be in the store on Saturday, September 18 from 1pm to 3pm signing copies of his book “The Lady Who Lassoed Me: Popular and Humorous Traditional Verse about Living, Loving & Money.” The book includes stories such as “The Lady Who Lassoed Me,” “Dinah Saw the Dinosaur” and “The Ghost of the Yellowknife Inn.”

From the book jacket: “This book is fun for readers of all ages. It’s a collection of comic and narrative verse that rhymes, scans and (mostly!) makes sense – like the tongue-twister Dinah Saw the Dinosaur. The Lady Who Lassoed Me was inspired by a real lady of the street on a sunny summer day in Ottawa. The Ghost of the Yellowknife Inn is a narrative ballad about the epic search for gold in the Canadian Arctic. This book is in the traditional light verse by A.A. Milne, Alfred Noyes (The Highwayman) and Kipling, and by Robert Service (The Cremation of Sam McGee). It also looks back to comedians whose work was literary, clever and acerbic, like Tony Hancock, Peter Ustinov, Peter Cook, and the Harvard Maths professor Tom Lehrer.”

We hope to see you at the event!

Book Event of Alastair Sweeny’s “Black Bonanza”, September 11, 1pm to 3pm

blackbonanza.jpeg Alastair Sweeny will be in the store from 1:00pm to 3:00pm on September 11 to promote his newest book, “Black Bonanza: Canada’s Oil Sands and the Race to Secure North America’s Energy Future.”

Quoted from Publisher’s website:
Black Bonanza takes the reader on a tour of the fabulous tar sands of north west Canada, the world’s largest single deposit of oil, greater than that of the entire Middle East. In fact, the 1.7 trillion plus barrels of oil in the tar sands just about equals the world’s entire stock of proven reserves of conventional petroleum.

The global economy is dependent on access to energy and stable market prices are a large factor of its overall health. In contrast to the oil reserves held by other nations, the oil sands in North America represent an opportunity to ensure that we will not be held hostage by countries that would dictate fuel prices. Already the Alberta oil sands have become a major factor the world economy, and certainly represent the promise of a viable and stable source of energy for North America. The result is that the world’s major energy companies are getting deeply invested in the tar sands, and one third of multinational giant Shell’s reserves are now there. Until the 2008 downturn, institutional investors flocked to buy a piece of the action, and even Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have been recent visitors to the site, and all of this action made Alberta second only to China in its growth rate and has made the oil sands a huge target for environmental criticism and controversy.

Black Bonanza is the first major look at the modern engineering feat-and the promise-that is Alberta’s Oil Sands, primarily from a business and political perspective. It is one of the few books to focus on the positives and upside of this enormous project rather than the downsides of the development of this resource. This book will give readers a close-up of the great environmental and engineering challenges of developing the black bonanza that is the Oil Sands.”

For additional information on “Black Bonanza,” you can visit the author at his website, www.alastairsweeny.com or check out the publisher’s website, www.wiley.com. We look forward to seeing you at the event!

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett

thehelp.jpeg Kathryn Stockett has written a fine – and original – novel about black-white relations in a Mississippi town. She concentrates on the white women and their household “help”. But she skilfully carries the story far wider than that and we become truly immersed in the deep and troublesome chasm between the races.

The time is the early l960’s :- Martin Luther King, President Kennedy’s assassination, civil rights marches. But in Jackson, Miss. nothing is moving, until a young college graduate, who wants to be a writer, interviews a number of maids who agree to tell their stories.

These of course show the abundant love the nannies give their white charges, only to be shunted out of sight when the children grow up. The stories are quite startling, more so because of the acceptance by the blacks. There is a risk in telling, and later publishing them and the author reveals some of the heartbreaking results.

Kathryn Stockett grew up in Jackson, Miss. herself. Like this journalist she went to work in New York City and now lives in Atlanta with her husband and daughter. She knows intimately of what she writes and the book is both funny and moving, justly called “a stunning debut from a gifted talent.”

Review by Anne McDougall

“Bird Cloud: A Memoir” by Annie Proulx

birdcloud.jpeg Anyone who loved Annie Proulx’s “Shipping News” will know her as a versatile writer of novels, short stories and non-fiction.

“Bird Cloud” is her first non-fiction in more than 20 years. The title refers to the cloud in the shape of a bird that hung over a piece of property in the wilds of Wyoming that Proulx fell in love with and knew she had to buy. This book is the account of her acquiring 640 acres of Wyoming wetlands and prairie as well as 400-foot cliffs that plunged down to the North Platte River. It also tells us a lot about Proulx herself, the adventures that led to her stories, the constant moving, setting up house, having three sons and, in this book, hoping to find that elusive perfect spot to write, with room for thousands of books, guests, and writing tables.

Her chapters give a rich picture of the wild life all around her, the bird life: she sees pelicans, bald eagles, golden eagles, great blue herons, ravens, blue birds,harriers, kestrels, all of which she watches closely for days on end. There is a chapter on the elk, deer and antelope that remind her of the British hunters who discovered the wealth of game in the New World and greedily killed “eighteen stags in ten days’ stalking” and “easily obtained our limit of 800 brace of grouse and blackgame” – finally destroying the game in certain areas.

She tells of the Indian tribes that went back in time and even finds traces of their implements on her land. She writes: “Running through everything these people thought or knew, like the vast root systems of grasses that extend deep beneath the surface, were spiritual filaments that guided behaviour and nourished rich mythologies.”

She also gives some of her own background, interesting to Canadians as her ancestors came from Normandy to Quebec with records of one ,Jean Proulx ,marrying in Quebec City in l673. But this is mainly the story of challenges in building a house in the wild and stormy country that even Annie Proulx admits may not be the perfect house when winter completely closes down her road of entry. A brave, candid, book.

Review by Anne McDougall

“Cigar Box Banjo” by Paul Quarrington

cigarboxbanjo.jpeg Paul Quarrington sang his way off his earth, and he writes about it in this remarkable book.

“Cigar Box Banjo” will mean a lot to people in Ottawa who watch his brother Joel play the double bass in the National Arts Centre orchestra. They are a musical family from Toronto and Joel is part of this story along with a third brother.

It is a marvelous tale of popular music in Canada – rock’n’roll, the blues, folk, country and soul over the last 56 years, which is when Paul died, in January of this year. He actually had a career in both writing and playing music. The writing earned him the Governor General’s award for his novel “Whale Music”, as well as the Stephen Leacock Medal for “King Leary”.

This book zeros in on his musical side and the wild life of writing and playing music in and around Toronto where he grew up. There are vivid, funny stories of the bands he played in, including the cult band Joe Hall, and the Continental Drift. He finally became the rhythm guitarist and singer with the band Porkbelly Futures. When diagnosed with lung cancer he decided to keep on playing. This book is full of songs he wrote and shows he gave from Newfoundland to Nashville. It’s a terrific story.

Review by Anne McDougall