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Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice…
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Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies,…

by Douglas Gibson

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Addendum: Tonight I was delighted to listen to Doug Gibson's stage show, Stories about Storytellers, a fundraiser in support of the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity, a newly created chair at University of Western Ontario.
If any of you Canadian Goodreaders get a chance to see this, do take it. It's a lovely funny tour of CanLit.
*******************

It turns out that the editor and publisher of one of Canada’s biggest publishing houses is a pretty good storyteller himself. Over his 40 year career he has worked with our best and most famous authors and politicians. He was the one that promised Alice Munro that he would never pressure her to write novels, and that he would like to promote and publish her short stories as major fiction. He was the one that brought Mavis Gallant’s works home to Canada. She had long ago moved to Paris, and was well known in Europe and America, where she published numerous short stories in the New Yorker, but she wasn’t getting published in Canada until Doug Gibson stepped up. He describes with great delight and a bit of nostalgia his relationships — which frequently evolved into close friendships — with a wide range of authors such as prime ministers, athletes, radio celebrities and the cream of Canadian literary writers such as Hugh MacLennan, Morley Callaghan, WO Mitchell, Robertson Davies.

Although each chapter is titled by the name of one of the authors, that really only serves as the nidus for a particular collection of anecdotes, only some of which are about the named subject. Other writers, politicians, publishing industry people make their appearances too as part of the rippling pool of Gibson’s Canadiana lit. And Gibson also meshes in snippets of his own life. He is generous in his praise, kind to his subjects, and does his utmost to find the good and positive in his clients (he seems to genuinely like Brian Mulroney!). He seems to know everyone. I suspect one could randomly point to a spot on a map of Canada and he could come up with an anecdote about it.

It is a delightful read, highly recommended for anyone interested in Canadian literature. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
It turns out that the editor and publisher of one of Canada’s biggest publishing houses is a pretty good storyteller himself. Over his 40+ year career he has worked with our best and most famous authors and politicians. He was the one that promised Alice Munro that he would never pressure her to write novels, and that he would like to promote and publish her short stories as major fiction. He was the one that brought Mavis Gallant’s works home to Canada. She had long ago moved to Paris, and was well known in Europe and America, where she published numerous short stories in the New Yorker, but she wasn’t getting published in Canada until Doug Gibson stepped up. He describes with great delight and a bit of nostalgia his relationships — which frequently evolved into close friendships — with a wide range of authors such as prime ministers, athletes, radio celebrities and the cream of Canadian literary writers such as Hugh MacLennan, Morley Callaghan, WO Mitchell, Robertson Davies.
Although each chapter is titled by the name of one of the authors, that really only serves as the nidus for a particular collection of anecdotes, only some of which are about the named subject. Other writers, politicians, publishing industry people make their appearances too as part of the rippling pool of Gibson’s Canadiana lit. And Gibson also meshes in snippets of his own life. He is generous in his praise, kind to his subjects, and does his utmost to find the good and positive in his clients (he seems to genuinely like Brian Mulroney!). He seems to know everyone. I suspect one could randomly point to a spot on a map of Canada and he could come up with an anecdote about it.
It is a delightful read, highly recommended for anyone interested in Canadian literature. ( )
1 vote BCbookjunky | Mar 31, 2013 |
A lovely book by a pioneer Canadian publisher about the writers he published and guided. Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Mavis Gallant . . . they're all here.

A wonderful read for fans of good literature, full of lively and poignant anecdotes. ( )
1 vote Laurenbdavis | Jan 1, 2013 |
Anyone who thinks Canadians are all dull, lackluster and very, very polite, needs to read this book. In fact, if you're the slightest bit interested in Canadian literature, the publishing business or even just bizarre stories (such as publisher Douglas Gibson's deadpan description of witnessing Farley Mowat, on his hands and knees, in a kilt, crawling along a table top at a dinner; or hearing Roddy Doyle, at a conference at the Banff Centre, spotting seasonal warnings about not getting in the way of elks rutting, that the dangers facing a touring writer had never before included "being f**** by an elk", with the relevant Irish accent to the asterisked word...) you'll want to insist your library buys a copy or beg, borrow or steal one for your own personal collection.

At its core, this gem of a book is a literary memoir by one of the deans of Canadian publishing, shaped around chapters devoted to some of the notable authors Gibson has worked with over many decades. You won't find Margaret Atwood here, but you will learn more about Robertson Davies, Alic Munro and Mavis Gallant. Gibson also writes about his relationship with authors who have fallen from the public eye, including Hugh MacLennan, Morley Callaghan (a friend of Hemingway's from their days in Toronto and Paris) and Barry Broadfoot. (The latter, Gibson writes, typed a history of Canada's Depression years on paper Gibson hypothesizes could have come from a Russian tractor factory, making the manuscript "arguably the ugliest ever submitted in the history of Canadian publishing", although it smelled good as it was shipped in apple carton boxes!) Some authors, like Peter Newman or Peter Gzowski, are likely to be unfamiliar to non-Canadians, but that doesn't make the glimpses of the editing process any less intriguing. Gibson's digressions -- into hockey and politics, for instance -- are just as interesting as his recollections of the authors with whom he has worked.

Above all, you may end up with a better understanding of what makes Canada tick than you would by reading a book ostensibly about Canada. Mavis Gallant, for instance, discovered that when she moved to Paris, she had found a place where she could describe herself as a writer and not be asked for three months' rent in advance, Gibson writes; he also pokes fund at the Canadian propensity for refusing to be impressed by accomplishment. It also shows just how small Canada really is: Charles Ritchie, diplomat, diarist and sometime lover of Anglo-Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen, was the godfather of both Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae, sometime rivals for the leadership of Canada's Liberal Party. This is a great book for bibliomaniacs to pick up and read, perhaps one section at a time. I'd be very surprised if anyone finished the whole opus without discovering at least seven books that they felt the urge to read Right Now. (For me, some of those are by Hugh McLennan; I remember reading one of his some 30 plus years ago, then never picking up another one.)

Full disclosure: I obtained a review copy of the book from NetGalleys; I'm planning to pick up a copy for my library, however; in this case, the price is worth it to me. ( )
1 vote Chatterbox | Feb 26, 2012 |
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Spotlighting an extraordinary career, this autobiography reviews the authors accomplishments working-and playing-alongside some of Canadas greatest writers. These humorous chronicles relate the projects he brainstormed for writer Barry Broadfoot, how he convinced eventual Nobel Prize contender Alice Munro to keep writing short stories, his early morning phone call from a former Prime Minister, and his recollection of yanking a manuscript right out of Alistair MacLeods own reluctant hands-which ultimately garnered MacLeod one of the worlds most prestigious prizes for fiction. Insightful and entertaining, this collection of tales provides an inside view of Canadian politics and publishing that is rarely revealed, going behind the scenes and between the covers to divulge a treasure trove of literary adventures.… (more)

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ECW Press

2 editions of this book were published by ECW Press.

Editions: 1770410686, 1770412093

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