Buried in the Crackpot file: a review of The Stonehenge Letters by Harry Karlinsky

In The Stonehenge Letters, Harry Karlinsky gleefully blends fact and fiction into what might be the most original book you’ll read this year.

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“I share in confidence that a year ago I chose to will the bulk of my fortune to the formation of a series of prizes. These will be for worthy individuals whose works have benefited mankind…I now plan to will part of my fortune for the creation of an addition prize—to be awarded to the outstanding man or woman amongst these prizewinners who can solve the mystery of Stonehenge.

– The Stonehenge Letters, Harry Karlinsky

Harry Karlinsky gleefully blends fact and fiction into what might be the most original book you’ll read this year. The Stonehenge Letters seems like a straightforward, serious piece of nonfiction about a bit of unknown history. Our narrator, a lifelong Freudian devotee, is researching why Freud was never awarded a Nobel Prize. In the archives, he comes across the Knäppskalle, or “Crackpot” files. Primarily the home of crazy submissions to the Nobel Prize, the narrator also discovers letters and documents from a secret competition: a quest to solve the mystery of Stonehenge. Which mystery of Stonehenge?, you may ask. The vagueness of the question leads to widely different approaches to and interpretations of the question from no less than Rudyard Kipling, Theodore Roosevelt, Marie Curie, and other great minds of the early 1900s.

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The Event: Emma Healey, Linda Holeman, and Tom Rachman at IFOA

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“It’s really lovely when a character comes into you.”
– Linda Holeman, June 24th, 2014

Nothing can make a cold slog through a downpour more appealing than the thought of three wonderful authors waiting for you in the Brigantine Room at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. Made cozy with candlelit bistro tables instead of row seating, IFOA offers an intimate setting to get to know the authors and their works better. Hosted by Becky Toyne of Open Book Toronto and CBC Radio, the program featured three very different writers: Emma Healey (Elizabeth is Missing), Linda Holeman (The Devil on her Tongue), and Tom Rachman (The Rise & Fall of Great Powers).

Emma Healey began with a reading from her debut novel Elizabeth is Missing, an offbeat mystery told from the first person point of view of an elderly dementia patient. Maud is in her eighties and has a difficult time remembering things moment to moment in her present, relying heavily on Post-It notes. She knows for a fact that her friend Elizabeth has gone missing, but no one will take her seriously. Maud’s search for Elizabeth becomes mixed up with her much more cogent memories of her youth just after World War II, when her sister Sukie went missing. Emma is a lovely reader, soft voiced and passionate. The excerpt she read followed Maud to the police station to report Elizabeth’s disappearance, and showcased not only the frustration of living with a disease that destroys one’s memories, but also Maud’s unrelenting humour in the face of her situation. Emma segued into one of Maud’s remembrances of the search for Sukie, and when she finished, she smiled shyly, inviting applause.

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Blog Tour: a review of Prototype by MD Waters

 

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Prototype

“I want to laugh. Maybe Emma Burke would exit this room without a word, but I am not that woman any more.
Pulling free of Foster’s grip, I spin so fast Noah and Reid stop arguing to stare in bewildered silence.

‘You will not keep me here, Major Reid,’ I tell him, but shift my focus between both men in case Noah decides to join Reid’s crusade. ‘I dare you to try.’

– Prototype, MD Waters

In the follow-up to the dystopian ArchetypePrototype by MD Waters finishes the story of Emma Wade-Burke, a woman on the run in a future version of the United States where fertile women are in scare supply, surveillance is everywhere, and a band of resistance fighters is gearing up for a war against the business elite who are keeping some serious secrets. Told from Emma’s first person present perspective, Archetype had a claustrophobic quality as Emma struggled to regain her memories within the prison of the hospital she awakens in and the home she shares with her husband Declan. Book two opens after Emma has discovered the truth about herself (spoilers after the cut) and the sinister role Declan has played in both her forgotten past and in society at large.

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The Event: A Literary Walk along Queen Street with Russell Smith at Luminato

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To wrap up the literary portion of this year’s arts celebration, the Luminato Festival offered up a “day of literary intensity” on Sunday, June 15th. Trinity Bellwoods, the iconic downtown park, played host to A Literary Picnic, which featured a theme of “Toronto, the Unseen.” More than 45 writers took to several stages, and a bookmobile, an Author Confessional Booth for deep, dark reader secrets, and many food trucks spread through the park on the perfect, sunny Sunday afternoon. And three Literary Walks took intrepid readers through different parts of Toronto. Alissa York, author of Fauna, led a group through the Don Valley, Carey Fagan and his explorers tackled Kensington Market, and Russell Smith brought some of us along to chat about his vision of Queen Street West.

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The Event: Toews, O’Neill, Gabriele, Renzetti #ReadWomen2014 at Luminato

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The Luminato Festival has always had strong visual and performing arts components. This year also features a more robust literary program, celebrating the art of the written word. On June 11th, 2014, the Toronto Reference Library’s Appel Salon hosted a unique round-table event: #ReadWomen2014 Luminato.

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The #ReadWomen2014 hashtag for Twitter was created by author and illustrator Joanna Walsh as a year-long celebration of women writers. The parameters are flexible as readers shape what exactly #ReadWomen2014 means to them. The hashtag has been promoted by bookstores, publishing houses, literary critics, and readers. Issues have ranged from the Vida count and CWILA count to the “girly” covers for books that happen to be written by women (See Maureen Johnson’s coverflip challenge from last year), celebrations of women writers’ awards, and recommendations of women writers’ works. Luminato has joined the discussion with its #ReadWomen2014 panel, featuring Lisa Gabriele (The S.E.C.R.E.T. trilogy as L. Marie Adeline), Heather O’Neill (The Girl who was Saturday Night), Elizabeth Renzetti (Based on a True Story), and Miriam Toews (All My Puny Sorrows). A mix of readings, round-table discussions about writing and motivation, and Q&A, the evening was moderated by Luminato’s Literary & Ideas Curator Noah Richler. “So why gather these four great novelists?” Richler asked. “If only for the company!”

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The Event: Literary Luminato 2014

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If there’s one thing Toronto loves, it’s a big festival. If it’s about the arts and outdoors, so much the better. Nuit Blanche, The International Festival of Authors, Caribbean Carnival, Word on the Street, Pride, the Toronto International Film Festival, Buskerfest…Food-driven, music-fuelled, culture-obsessed…we love to celebrate. And we’re about to have a big, diverse, mind-bending party. If you can’t make it, you can follow the fun on my blog this week.

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DeeBrief review: The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals, by Wendy Jones

On a sunny day in a Welsh village in 1924, Wilfred Price finds himself so beguiled by the lemon-curd yellow dress worn by his charming date, he proposes marriage to her—quite by accident.

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“‘He looked at her fingers which were already purple and bloated, and wondered if Howard Carter had had this problem with Tutankhamun.
‘There was a tomb that Tutankhamun had!’ he remarked to Mrs. Howell-Thomas. ‘Absolutely magnificent!’
“what are you talking about in there, Wilfred?’ said his da, who was sitting on the flowerbed wall, drinking his tea. ‘Are you talking to a corpse again?'”

– The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price,
Purveyor of Superior Funerals, Wendy Jones

On a sunny day in a Welsh village in 1924, Wilfred Price finds himself so beguiled by his surroundings, his picnic lunch, and the lemon-curd yellow dress worn by his charming date, he proposes marriage to her—quite by accident. Though Wilfred tries to take it back, events conspire against him. Grace Reese, it turns out, is secretly pregnant and the proposal is a godsend that will save this doctor’s daughter’s reputation. Word gets out immediately of the proposal (and the pregnancy), and she can’t bring herself to tell her anyone it was a mistake. Wilfred, meanwhile, is a newly minted undertaker, trying to establish himself as a trusted name and grow his business. He can’t afford to tarnish his reputation with rumours either. And when the lovely Flora calls on him to bury her father, he finds himself drawn into a triangle that is deceptively complex.

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