books on the radio

“There’s Nothing Precious About [Poetry]”: Heather Haley

Heather Haley & the 45s Back in the Day. Photo: Bev Davies.

I recently sat down with the semi-reformed punk rock vocalist, trailblazing poet, self-proclaimed anarchist and creative technophile, Heather Haley to discuss her new book, Three Blocks West of Wonderland.

It was a blazing afternoon in June and we sought relative relief in a Thai restaurant on Commercial Drive.

Click here to listen to our informal chat.

It’s kind of like a studio demo. Loose and meandering and rough around the edges.

We start off riffing about the possibilities for poetry on the iPad and then move into Heather’s influential work in video poetry, her years rocking Cascadia in punk rock bands and a million other things.

Heather was a part of the ‘Night of the Poets & Other Writers‘ at W2 Real Vancouver Writers’ Series during the Olympics this year at the W2 Culture and Media House.

She’s launching her most recent book of poetry, Three Blocks West of Wonderland, at the new W2 Storyeum space on Saturday June 17th at 7PM.

We’ll be there and will probably record the show for future BOTR episodes.

Here’s the launch details:

Emcee Kedrick James: featuring Shannon Rayne, Peter Trower, Videopoem Screening-“Bushwhack”, Jenn Farrell.


Music by Chris Coon, Videopoem screening-“How To Remain”, Heather Haley.

Saturday July 17 at 7PM – W2 @ Storyeum 151 W. Cordova Vancouver, BC

After the interview Heather and I walked down Commercial Drive toward her car and talked about our mutual history of self-directed reading and some of the authors and books that we came across by fluke or reco over the years and how that process of seemingly random discovery has influenced us creatively.

Here’s a great list of writers that Heather sent me that was inspired by our conversation:

Andre Breton, Gustave Flaubert, Jean Cocteau, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas Pynchon, Rimbaud, Oscar Wilde, John Steinbeck, Octavio Paz, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sarte, ee cummings, Kenneth Patchen, Dostoyevsky, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, J.D. Salinger, Hemmingway, Melville, bp nichol, Earle Birney, bill bisset, Susan Musgrave, Alice Munro, George Bowering, Nathanial Hawthorne, Germaine Greer, DH Lawrence, William Burroughs, William Faulkner, Kafka, Doris Lessing, Barry Lopez, James Dickey, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, Kafka, Robertson Davies, Philip K Dick, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Marshall McLuhan, Anais Nin, Robert Stone, Darcey Steinke, Anne Sexton, Martin Amis, Wanda Coleman and the two Margarets, Lawrence and Atwood. Sylvia Plath, Lorna Crozier, Germaine Greer, Richard Brautigan, Emily Dickinson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Other creative influences: Art Bergmann and the Young Canadians, John Waters, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, the Dishrags, DOA, the Clash, Luis Buñuel, Lincoln Clarkes, Lenny Bruce, , Lydia Lunch, Frida Kahlo, Diane Arbus

In LA, Merilene M. Murphy, the Electronic Café, Beyond Baroque’s poetry workshop, Wanda Coleman, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Los Lobos, Run DMC, Harvey Kubernick, Excene Cervenka and X, the Woman’s Building, performance artists Cheri Gaulke, Joanna Whent, John Fleck, Rachel Rosenthal, painter Jeff Isaak, video artists Yonemotos, Mose Allison, Johnette Neapolitano of Concrete Blonde, Keith Levene, Chet Baker, Victor Noel, High Performance magazine, Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, Laura London, Diane Gamboa, Daniel J. Martinez, Black Flag, Zero One Gallery, neo-surrealists Malocchio, L7, Pam Ward, Penelope Spheeris.

Post Edgewise and Internet… Kurt Heintz, Western Front, Alexandra Oliver, Sheri-D Wilson, Michael Turner, Raquel Alvaro, Ian Ferrier, Catherine Kidd, Jill Battson, Geoff Inverarity, Adeena Karasick, Jim Andrews, Andrea Thompson, Kedrick James, Miranda Pearson, Bob Holman, Neil Campbell, Hank Bull. Montrealers Catherine Kidd, Victoria Stanton, Corey Frost, Ian Ferrier…etc etc


Happy Bloomsday 2010! A Day in the Life of Leopold Bloom.

Celebrate Bloomsday with a few chapters from Joyce's masterpiece, Ulysses.

Feels great to be able to celebrate June 16th with an audio edit of James Joyce’s masterpiece novel, Ulysses.

Listen to excerpts of Ulysses by clicking here.

The language in this book is incredible and the 2 readers featured in this episode of BOTR, Donal Donnelly and Miriam Healy-Louie, really evoke the musicality of Joyce’s words.

An early ad for publication.

Ulysses was first serialized in 1918 to 1920 in The Little Review before being published in Paris by Sylvia Beach on February 2, 1922.

Sylvia Beach was the famous owner of the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookstore which still exists to this day and has become a kind of mecca for book lovers from around the world.

Ulysses takes place during a single ordinary day – June 16th, 1904 – and follows Leopold Bloom as he goes about his average Dublin day.

Even though the book was considered to be a masterpiece of Modernist literature when it was published the book was variously banned and persecuted for obscenity in its time.

Of course, lest we think that we live in some kind of enlightened age that has learned the lessons from our puritanical past, Apple only now allowed a new illustrated version of Ulysses to be sold for reading on the iPad.

Apparently even today in enlightened California a cartoon penis can cause us to believe that censorship will protect ours and future generations from the reality of our basic nature.

So cheers to the sound of the English language and to Joyce’s handsome work and to a work of art that still challenges us as a society almost a century after it was written.

Cory Doctorow Interview Redux: For the Win

Cory Doctorow's new book is For the Win, published by Tor Teen. Photo by Joi Ito.

I recently had a chance to hook up with Cory Doctorow again via skype for a quick 37 minute interview about all kinds of interesting things.

Click here for the audio edit of our skype interview.

For the Win

He’s on tour for his new book, For the Win, and was in Toronto and environs doing publicity ahead of an event at the Merrill Collection.

In this wide-ranging talk we cover quite a lot of ground.

I start off by asking Cory about his new Print on Demand (POD) project that he’s been documenting for Publisher’s Weekly that’s called With a Little Help.

What I love about this project is that Cory is leading from the front.

He’s seen the opportunity to put some real numbers behind a POD project, has laid his process bare and is experimenting with a number of price points for fans and consumers.

Anyone interested in self-publishing or Print on Demand needs to know more about this project.

From there we discuss his new book, specifically the idea of ‘gold farming’, which, very generally, is the act of gamers in 3rd world countries working their way thru complex gaming levels and amassing treasure, loot or gold which they then sell to 3rd parties who then sell it on to others.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Sounds like something out of a science fiction story, right?

Except that it’s real. A weird new kind of colonialism, or a virtual sweatshop.

This leads us to discuss ‘Benevolent Dictators’, hackable devices, technical vs information challenges before moving on to discuss DRM, digital locks and possible consequences of the proposed new Canadian copyright legislation contained in Bill C32.

The conversation ends with Cory offering some advice to young creators – digital natives – who may be confused by the current discussions of ‘piracy’, DRM, windowing, POD.

Some very interesting insights on creative strategy, partnerships.

What do you think about the ideas that Cory expresses in this interview?

Peter Darbyshire: The Warhol Gang Doesn’t Exist

Peter Darbyshire's New Book is Called the Warhol Gang.

Click here to listen to Peter Darbyshire discuss the Warhol Gang.

There’s a scene in the movie Office Space where one of the characters – played by Ron Livingston – has finally had enough of his soulless boss and the mindlessness of his workday cubicle existence.

Stolen power drill in hand, he rampages through the office, tearing down cubicle walls and gutting a fresh fish at his desk (to a Geto Boys soundtrack).  It’s a scene of liberation for the character, a scene where he finally asserts himself and starts to control his own destiny.

This scene is not replicated in Peter Darbyshire’s new novel, The Warhol Gang.


From Harper Collins

The Warhol Gang begins and ends with what seems like death.

The book’s protagonist is given the name Trotsky on page 4 by a man named ‘Nickel’, his new boss.  Trotsky has just been hired at Adsenses, “a neuromarketing company that scans his brain to test new products”.

Trotsky spends his days at work cocooned in a special ‘pod’ where he experiences heightened sensory episodes and imaginary scenarios designed by neuromarketers to test prospective products.

In the pod he may see himself in scented rooms, in his own expensive apartment with beautiful women, wearing designer clothes, with a sense of family, fulfillment and certainty.

Nothing could be further from the reality of Trotsky’s existence.

These holograms reflect a deep loneliness in the character and an abundant sense of absence surrounds him.

He searches for some kind of genuine experience and in the course of doing so meets a woman who dreams of stardom but who makes her living faking accidents for insurance money.

And from there the story continues one surreal inversion of desire after another until the characters’ reality becomes an embodiment of a rebel mythology.

Warhol, Trotsky, Che, Holiday, Thatcher – the names evoke a sense of recent pop culture – and ‘real’ culture – history. Each name signifying real historical people but when overlaid on the book’s characters the names create a surreal and eerie effect.

Truth is that I’m going to have to go back and read this book again.

So many ideas and tangents are coming back to me as I write this and I know that there’s a lot more in this book than I got the first time thru.

Peter is addressing the absurdity and hopelessness of life when it’s met by a world that devours flesh and blood dreams with marketed illusions of reality.

What happens when your dreams come not from within but are insinuated upon you via incessant external stimulus?

What happens when your desires are the desires that others desire for you to have?

What difference does anything make? Why not go in for the kill?


Books on the Radio TV Talks to Hugh McGuire

There’s a whole bunch of transformation happening at Books on the Radio these days.

My exploration of Skype video and Final Cut video editing software is progressing apace as you can see from this clip taken from a conversation that Hugh McGuire – Bookoven, Bite-Sized Edits, Librivox, BookCamp Toronto – and I had recently.

Also, I’m finally being joined by the Books on the Radio Street Team, a loosely organized group of passionate book lovers who will be helping to launch BOTR into its next iteration.

The website will be re-launched in the next few months and will be better able to showcase the many different types of media and storytelling platforms that we intend to use.

Let the Great World Spin: The Colum McCann Interview

Check out my conversation with Colum McCann, plus a reading from LTGWS.


I had the great pleasure of speaking to Colum McCann this past week.

Unfortunately, we only had a little more than 10 minutes to talk as he was ripping thru a media junket in Toronto on his way to meet with the dudes at the Afterword.

It was still an excellent conversation and I’m grateful to the folks at Harper Collins Canada for making it happen.

I have filled out the half-hour time slot on CJSF 90.1 FM (Simon Fraser University Independent Radio) with some found audio of Colum talking about the book and also reading from the first chapter.

Let me know what you think.

Dragon Problems: Hur Publishing vs Books on the Radio

Tracy Hurren and Kathleen Fraser are Hur Publishing

Listen to Tracy and Kathleen talk about Hur Publishing.

The 2010 Cohort for SFU’s Masters of Publishing Program are a stone-cold bunch who have really stepped out and shown the industry that they’re ready to accept the challenges that are affecting publishing.

I have discussed this previously on Julie Wilson’s BookMadam & Associates site.

Dragon Problems detail.

Their collaborative print on demand work entitled Book of MPub is essential reading for anyone interested in discovering new ideas for book/magazine publishing.  The book totally levels the playing field and brings the publishing conversation back to a deep discussion of essential ideas and offers no time for weak fear-based arguments.

Tracy Hurren and Kathleen Fraser are just two of the bright lights from the SFU MPub program who are now spending their summer getting some experience interning at a couple of Canada’s finest independent publishers.

Tracy is ripping it up in Montreal at Drawn and Quarterly while Kathleen keeps it closer to home with a gig at Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

What we’re talking about here is Dragon Problems, the first book to be published by Hur Publishing.

Hur Publishing is a joint conspiratorial effort of Tracy and Kathleen that involves publishing new engaging stories as well-designed books – including some of Tracy’s amazing handmade books.

Dragon Problems is an excellent example of what can happen when you have the convergence of good story + great art + sweet design skills + keen editorial eye.

The story was written by Chris Carrier and the art was created by Stacey Buchanan.

Both Chris and Stacey are lucky to have had their work brought to life by Tracy and Kathleen.  It’s a great first effort and I cannot wait for their next book to drop.

Please check out the Hur Publishing website for more info and also to order your copy of the book.

Also, I believe that both Tracy and Kathleen will be presenting at BookCamp Toronto 2010 this coming Saturday as part of their Book of MPub throwdown.

If you’re attending BookCamp Toronto 2010 then I highly recommend that you attend their session – it’s designed to blow minds and to drag the unwilling kicking and screaming into the here and now.

Check out our interview and let me know what you think.

Go to the Hur Publishing and buy the book. That's all. Just do it.