The Barefoot Bingo Caller

By Antanas Sileika, ECW Press, 228 pages, $19.95

It is common to notice the nature of memoir, to take wrap it in statements and any book purporting to contain the author’s life. Antanas Sileika doesn’t have such thing in The Barefoot Bingo Caller however, as he admits in the afterward, he is not given to the memoir form, not likely to the confessional manner and favors writing books. Now that he has been invited to write these stories he suspects he will be accused of fiction. From growing up in Weston, Ont., (a former city now engulfed in Toronto’s sprawl) in the 1950s and 60s, the son of Lithuanian immigrants; to Parisian literary life of the seventies and eighties; into a short foray in international diplomacy at the end of the Cold War, Sileika, who at July retired from his long-time post as manager of the Humber School for Writers, is first and foremost a storyteller. His memoir doesn’t exude a sense of chronology; exactly what it does do is leave vivid impressions of the author’s life, written unsentimental style, in a wry to the reader. A type of truth.

Cli-Fi: Canadian Tales of Climate Change

Edited by Bruce Meyer, Exile Editions, 304 pages, $19.95

In a summer marked by extreme and unseasonal weather in many regions of the country, this collection might appear too real. Cli-fi is a new sub-genre of speculative fiction imagining the effects of climate change. Cli-Fi collects 17 widely diverse stories that still share several topics. Water: In Rati Mehrotra’s Children of the Sea, water is a source of both death and life — an opening into a tomb and a chance at rebirth. Oil: Geoffrey W. Cole’s Captured Carbon is a spin on the thirst for gasoline; nonetheless, in Peter Timmerman’s Report on the Outbreaks, which occurs in 2060, a movement emerges to seek revenge on long-dead gas and oil executives. Conflict: Richard Van Camp’s Lying in Bed Together develops his past work on the Wheetago Wars. Wheetago/wendigo are global warming releases the Wheetago in their capture in Van Camp’s telling. An imagined message is, like the rest of this collection, presented by the story in the future.

Gentlemen of the Shade: My Own Private Idaho

By Jen Sookfong Lee, ECW Press, 92 pages, $12.95

Indie presses publish series of books on pop culture: There is Invisible series, on contemporary musicians; Arsenal Pulp scholarly Queer Film Classics; and ECW’s Pop Classics, which ranges over genre and medium. Jen Sookfong Lee’s Gentlemen of the Shade, her critical grasp of Gus Van Sant’s 1991 movie My Own Private Idaho, is the seventh Pop Classics name and one of the finest I’ve read one of these series in building a case to a general reader to the pop artifact accessible. Lee invites the reader to talk about her experience of watching the movie in its context, as a direct woman finding something liberating in Van Sant’s queer portrait of hustlers on Portland’s streets. If My Own Private Idaho appears quaint or traditional today, Lee asserts, it is because the movie’s radical depiction of sex, sexuality and class instigated a new aesthetic category of this alternate. Lee is interested in aesthetics influenced a generation’s choices. That should be of interest.

Also on the Planet and Mail

Foundation launches campaign to encourage libraries and literacy in schools (The Globe and Mail)

Review: Jen Sookfong Lee’s Gentlemen of the Shade and Cli-Fi Tales of Climate Change, Antanas Sileika’s The Barefoot Bingo Caller

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