A simultaneously gorgeous and gut-wrenching tribute to a lost companion.

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DEAR RAY

A LOVE POEM FOR RAYMOND SOUSTER

A sharp outpouring of grief in free verse.

Dunlop is a Canadian poet, novelist, and singer/songwriter based in Toronto. In this single, long poem, she reflects on the passing of fellow poet Raymond Souster, the precious time that they spent together during the last decade of his life, and the deceased poet’s painful absence, which is, paradoxically, a kind of presence. The book’s open structure, including sporadic empty spaces, allows Dunlop to trace the nonlinear, fragmented paths of mourning. As she asserts in her customarily plain yet evocative language: “Your many last words / are memory maps.” Addressing Ray directly, she shows how his verbal legacy remains a part of her life in the form of reclaimed speech: “ ‘Carry On Canada’ / I heard myself say today, / your phrase, your voice / giving you back to me.” Likewise, visual reminders can catch her off guard, as seen in the breathless quality conveyed by these short lines: “Today it was / an old man / bundled against / the cold March wind / in his wheelchair / being pushed / across the intersection / that took me by the throat / as I sat safely / inside the hard shell / of my car.” Everyone has emotional defense mechanisms, Dunlop implies, and no one is immune from sorrow. She’s able to balance these universal themes with elements that are particular to her lived experience, as in how she refers to Ray as “little sparrow” or “tender sparrow” throughout the text. At the end of the poem, she suggests that writing is not just a way to memorialize, but also an act of survival. Dunlop envisions her own mortality (“the big silence / will swallow me whole”) as a way to reunite with Ray in some form. Anyone who’s watched a loved one fade away will be able to connect with this accessible, plainspoken poetry.

A simultaneously gorgeous and gut-wrenching tribute to a lost companion.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9938210-2-8

Page Count: 87

Publisher: Contact Press Toronto

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A slender, highly satisfying collection.

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LET ME TELL YOU WHAT I MEAN

A dozen pieces of nonfiction from the acclaimed novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter.

In an appreciative introduction, New Yorker theater critic Hilton Als praises Didion as “a carver of words in the granite of the specific.” Stylistic precision (“Grammar is a piano I play by ear,” she writes) and the “energy and shimmer” of her prose are fully evident in this volume of previously uncollected pieces, written from 1968 to 2000. Although Didion portrays herself as a diffident, unconfident writer as a college student, she learned “a kind of ease with words” when working at Vogue, where she was assigned to write punchy, concise copy. The experience, she recalls, was “not unlike training with the Rockettes.” Several pieces were originally published in magazines, and two were introductions: one, to a volume of photography by Robert Mapplethorpe; another, to a memoir by director—and Didion’s friend—Tony Richardson. All reveal the author’s shrewd, acerbic critical eye. In “Getting Serenity,” she reports on a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous, where, she notes sardonically, one woman “adapted her mode of public address from analgesic commercials.” William Randolph Hearst’s “phantasmagoric barony,” San Simeon, “seemed to confirm the boundless promise of the place we lived,” but, she decided, was best admired from afar, like a fairy-tale castle, “floating fantastically.” Didion’s rejection from Stanford elicited an essay about college as consumption, and her skewering of consumption and artifice recur as themes—for example, in her observation of the ways women stage themselves for portrait photographs. Several particularly revealing essays focus on writing: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,” she famously admitted, a statement often misattributed to others. Writing, for her, is “the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act.” As these pieces show, it’s also an accomplished act of seduction.

A slender, highly satisfying collection.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31848-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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