Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Deepening Community Author Paul Born Appearing at The eBar June 2nd at 6:30 PM

What’s the most important thing you can do to make a difference in the world?
“Bring chicken soup to your neighbour.”
Yup. You read it correctly.

In the recently released book, Deepening Community: Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times, author Paul Born says the answer to this tough question is to bring chicken soup to your neighbour.

“The answer is simple,” Born says, “But the act of bringing soup…well, that takes work. It requires that you know your neighbour. It requires that you know they are not vegetarian and like soup. It requires that you know them well enough and communicate regularly enough to know they are sick. And you must have enough of a relationship to know what they prefer when they are sick, whether it is chicken soup, pho, chana masala, or even ice cream.”

Join us for a FREE evening event of sharing stories, experiences and food in community.

Monday, June 2, 2014 from 6:30 - 8:30pm at the
eBar above the Bookshelf. All are welcome, so bring your friends, neighbours, family members, and colleagues!

RSVP today so we have a sense of numbers for food.

We will have books for sale and Paul will be on hand to sign your copy.

We look forward to seeing you there,

Paul and the Deepening Community Team

Monday, May 26, 2014


This spring, it was announced that the Constantines were sort of getting back together. If this announcement means anything to you, then it means a lot to you. Especially here in Guelph, where in the early noughts this power outage love-child of Fugazi and Springsteen gave a playful but meaningful shot in the arm to the local music scene, and quickly went about chucking everybody everywhere on the bicep. The quiet declaration a few years ago that they were not going to be a band anymore was a a bummer, but now they're sort of back and reissuing a cherry version of bonkers second album, Shine A Light. Good for the Constantines, and good for everyone who loves the Cons.

Now that that's out of the way, Bry Webb has a new album out, you guys. The announcement of the Cons reunion dropped around the same time as news that the follow-up to Webb's first album, Provider, was imminent. The Cons coming back is a big deal, but so is the release of Free Will, and these big deals should not compete. One is the celebration of an old important thing, the other is a celebration of a new important thing.

For all the Constantine's joyful havoc, maybe the deftness of songcraft might've been lost on some kids. Webb's solo work--as well as fellow Con Steve Lambke's Baby Eagle stuff--makes that prowess clear, laying out the clarity, caring, and intelligence that always thrummed under any flexing the Cons did. In this way, Provider was not really a surprise to anyone who had been paying attention, but a soft and strong affirmation of Webb's chops. These were the songs of a new father, a new provider, and the songs sound hushed, as though they're being played to get a child to sleep or in the other room, careful not wake one up.

As a sophomore solo release, Free Will, is the proof-ful pudding of a twenty year career. If Provider was a new voice with an old confidence, then Free Will is all the way assured. The advances made from that first album are not outrageous, as there wasn't a whole lot to improve on, but they are important. Maybe the best example of this gentle shift is the amount of softness and care Webb's allowed into his voice. His gravel road is naturally curving into a green space where we're all welcome to come hang out. 

Webb's allowance of fragility and lightness into a notoriously burly vocal complements the small, casualness of his subject matter. It's biographically convenient to drag fatherhood into talking about Free Will, but in some ways Provider does sound like a guy carefully and proudly learning to be a father--or a guy learning to be alone with his voice--while Free Will sounds like a man comfortable with his fatherhood, comfortable with how he sees the world (which, of course, includes concerns about the world) and how he and his fit into that place.

That's great that the Constantines are playing some shows again, but holy hell, don't let that get in the way of what an accomplishment Free Will is.

Andrew Hood is the author of the short story collections Pardon Our Monsters and The Cloaca and a forthcoming book about Jim Guthrie, Who Needs What.


After first reading Salzberg’s Lovingkindness, I thought it was okay—another decent spiritual book. However, after working with the ideas and techniques for many years, it has become one of my favourites. Again and again, I return to her practical advice and insights that have emerged over decades of study, meditation and teaching. Lovingkindness is an exploration of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity, and how to actually cultivate these in your own mind and heart. The instructions are impeccable. Highly recommended to just about anyone.

A few years ago, Sharon released Real Happiness, a simple introduction to the nuts and bolts of meditation. It is intended for beginners, a general audience, and is decidedly humanist. Real Happiness is laid out as a 28 day program which you can follow or not, and includes plenty of FAQs, scientific evidence, and a CD with guided meditations. In my opinion, this book covers all of the essentials required for a personal practice at home. Strongly recommended to any beginner whether you are an atheist, religious or Buddhist.

Finally after years of research, Sharon’s Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace was published this March. Here she takes on the often formidable obstacles to being happy at work multi-tasking, distraction, conflict, compassion for self and colleagues, integrity, meaning and balance. With rising work demands, job insecurity and burnout on the rise, it is becoming critical for almost everyone to change their relationship to work.    

I hope you can join us in June, and listen to one of North America’s leading meditation teachers! Salzberg rarely makes Canadian appearances, so get your tickets soon!  


The Bookshelf presents Sharon Salzberg at St. Georges Church, Saturday June 7at 1pm. Tickets are $10 and available in the bookstore.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Junior Bookshelf correspondent Brad de Roo spoke with celebrated comics gentlemen Marc Bell (Vice, Drawn & Quarterly) and Mark Connery (Exclaim!, about Rudy (2D Cloud), an anthology of  Mark C’s mini-comics and miscellanies compiled by Marc B.

First he gabbed over beers and records with Marc B, editor in chief (

BdR: What excites you about Mark [Connery]’s work?

MB:I like everything about it. The wonky drawings. It looks fairly simplistic (and it is easy to read) but it is also highly sophisticated and still fun. It makes me think of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse/Gary Panter/J. Bradley Johnson/Mark Beyer. I put his work up with that stuff which I regard very highly. It also makes me think of early 20th century Dada and Surrealism. I can imagine it being a classic comic strip that the Surrealists were into. Also, I enjoy the brevity of Mark’s work. Great little pieces adding up to a greater, crazy whole.

Why should folks pick up this book, instead of, say, a superhero saga or a totally 'realistic' graphic novel?

If it appeals to them they should pick it up. If they are freaked out or confused by it maybe they should get it and try to unravel it. It seems to me that Rudy could appeal to almost anybody. Hopefully it will make it to libraries.

What do the metaphysical tales of Rudy the cat, Ken the fish with legs, and Phil the living triangle, give them that other comic genres do not?

Well, I don’t know if this answers that question, but there is a tradition to Mark’s work. I guess, essentially, it is a funny animal comic with a set cast and other minor characters. I have heard the term “floating world” to describe this kind of set up. It works very well in comics: Nancy, Krazy Kat, Popeye… All the really good ones.

Corner Gas (the Canadian television show) is also a good example of the "floating world" format. I wanted to mention Corner Gas because often people cannot believe or stand that I like that show.

I've read, and you've told me, that much of Mark's work first appeared in minicomics that he often distributed for free. What kind of places did he leave them? Did this kind of transient approach cause any aesthetic or practical problems in getting the book together? Could a complete collection of his work exist?

He would give them out at small press fairs and leave them in places to be discovered and mail them around. He visited me during the Kazoofest (2014) and I was a little ill and we didn’t feel like attending the zine fair that weekend (which is a good fair btw) and so he went over the walking bridge from my house and stuffed a bunch of his books into the sandwich board advertising the fair (for people to find). He was going to put them on the stairs leading down to the event but then figured they probably would have been trampled and made a giant mess. So, he likes to keep it fun. Rudy Comix and Fun #4507, 18,000 too many Rudys.

I did manage to get my hands on and look at most of the Rudy material (I think) so it wasn’t too much of a problem given that Mark usually shares the work amongst his friends that he knows care to see it. And I did leave out a bunch, it was just a matter of trying to determine the “essential” material for the book. I did not count some of his other work: he also has made a great deal of other small self-published books that stray a little more from the comics format. I tried to stick to comics here to give the reader something to read. I would assemble another book of some of the other stuff if I had the chance and the time

Being an illustrator and comics artist yourself, did your past experiences with editors influence how you chose to edit or how you chose not to edit? Did you learn anything new about your editorial process this time around?

I am always learning. I love putting together books. It’s nice working with other people’s material, you can have a bit of distance that way. I really like to figure out how to do this or that and the other thing design-wise, so this book, and putting together my own books, is always a learning experience. The good thing in not knowing exactly what you are doing is that you have to try to keep things simple. I look at Nog A Dod from 2006, though, and that thing is very full (which, I guess works for what I was trying to do there). I like rescuing stuff that I admire from possible obscurity. In the case of Rudy, Mark is usually getting his work out there in interesting ways (including using the internet, currently) but this is a great way to make the past work readily available to a general audience.

We spoke before about the active drawing collaborations within your group of pals as collected in the book Nog a Dod (which you also put together). Have you ever collaborated on drawings or strips with Mark? If so, did you learn anything surprising or helpful from his approach?

I haven’t made any actual comics with Mark that I can recall but we have made a bunch of little books together. Books of drawings. About 6 or 7 issues of P.M.F. (with Amy Lockhart as a special guest in a few). And other things here and there. There is a new issue we drew of P.M.F. and I handed it off to Mark to put it through the shredder. He is very good at manipulating material in an analogue way on the photocopier. The old ways are still very effective and immediate. My comics style and methods are a little conservative, kind of uptight, but my freeform drawing style jives OK with Mark’s. I was a thesis adviser for a student at the Center for Cartoon Studies (in White River Junction, VT) and I introduced him to Mark and they have been making a great series of collage books. Put through the shredder. They are called Stuff To Look At (by Mark Connery and dw*).

Could you give an example of one of your favourite comics in this anthology? What does this piece do to you, for you? Why does it stick out?

I love it all, particularly the run of  “Ken” strips in there from Exclaim! (pages 58-83) but I will pick “Phil and Rudy” from page 114. It is credited to “M. Connery, G. Hollings, and T. Murphy). I suppose they must have been sitting around and talking and Mark came up with this strip based on that. OK, and how about the strip on the top of page 50? That is pretty to the point. It is hard to pick just one.

Have you got any new projects, editorial or artistic that you would like to let us in on?

As I leave by the hook I will say: “I am getting a new Graphic Novella of my own work ready for next year…also, I am compiling a book of classic comics by Joey Haley……”

Next, he corresponded with Mark Connery via email. There were intermittently beers and records on his end, but he can not confirm what Mark was doing at the time. He likes to think he was typing, while making new comics.

BdR: How was Marc as an editor? He told me, in my own words, that he was a friend and a pest? Is it helpful or problematic to have a fellow illustrator/comics artist compile your work?

MC: I was blessed to have Marc edit my work. He was deeply involved in the work and at times I was annoyed by his questions or ideas. Mostly that had to do with me being stressed out about other things and not being able to focus on the point he was trying to get at or remember what it was he was asking about. It's extremely helpful having another artist perform that role. Marc Bell has a great gift at bringing a sense of groove and rhythm on a design level while respecting the integrity of the source material.

Where does Rudy sit in the storied evolution of cartoon cats? Is he like his peers? Does he purr in a different register? Are there glints of his feline cousins in his black and white eyes? Would he get along with Garfield or Fritz or Krazy Kat? Or does he shit in his own litter box? In your opinion, why do cats keep rubbing up against the comic form?

Rudy's more like Felix and Waldo than any others, though Krazy Kat -- the strip, not the character -- is a huge influence on Rudy. I think cats function as some basic archetype of the urban wild or some kind of semi civilized pyschopathy. I've been kind of interested in cat imagery lately... A lot of people also think Rudy is a dog which is kind of fine with me.

Is there such thing as a comics metaphysics - a way of being or a world that comics express better than other mediums? Does the shapeshifting nature of your characters in Rudy reflect this metaphysical realm?

Like a comics ontology? I dunno. I guess. I'm interested in the strange place between image and word, symbol and scrawl, and themes of transformation run through works of these sorts. Big influences on me are Taoism, alchemical illustration, Blake, Stein, concrete poetry, Surrealism, and Gysin and Burroughs. I was a very poor Philosophy student because I was precisely interested in what wasn`t true -- I loved reading Wittgenstein for all his weird things about having two bodies and used to play around with that.

Marc has told me (and shown me) that you worked mostly in a mini-comic form, examples of which you would often distribute for free in untraditional places.  What do you like/dislike about the mini-comic form? Does releasing a book in anyway complicate what you are going for? Do you have a political or aesthetic motivation for giving your comics away to unsuspecting readers?

I love the idea of people discovering the work by chance and seeing it with different eyes.  There`s nothing I dislike about the mini-comics form, it is economical and forces a conciseness. I don`t see this book as complicating that -- it`s largely a compilation of those, but not exclusively so. I spend a lot of time in public transit and moving through relatively `dead`public spaces and anything that livens that up is welcome. I don`t expect any particular results.

Marc mentioned that you work as a youth worker. In the past, I spent a lot of time working with kids and teens with disabilities. I often found this world to be radically imaginative and full of all sorts of magically weird images and jokes. Has your work in this field influenced your art? Do you see any continuity between the two vocations?

I totally get you on that. I think there`s a lot of overlap in terms of the skills and head spaces required.  I`m less sure that it`s the best job for someone who actually wants to make art.  I find myself drained a lot of the time and think maybe a job that required less emotional and intellectual involvement would be better.  I`m trying to figure that one out.

What is your opinion of other comic genres? Do you ever find yourself reading superhero comics or manga or more 'realistic' autobiographical stuff? Do such genres ever unexpectedly influence your work? Or do you find most of your influences outside of comics?

I read some comics, I feel like I should read more. I just read Photobooth: A Biography by Meags Fitzgerald and loved it.

It seems that both correspondence and collaboration play important roles in the comic circles that you and Marc turn around in. Do you enjoy drawing and writing with other artists? Is there anyone you would like to correspond or collaborate with that you haven't yet?

There`s a bunch of people I`d love to collaborate with. My ongoing collaboration with dw is a real hoot and a half. I`ve a couple of others in process but don`t want to jinx them.

What's the future hold for Rudy and World? Will there be another book be forthcoming? Are you working on something else you'd like to discuss? Is there anything else you'd like us to know about anything else on your mind?

I`m pretty excited about some of the writing I`ve been doing -- not sure where that will go -- and some of the GIF animations I`ve made which made up in a longer video -- with long being a minute or so... I also contribute to and will be doing stuff for the 2D Cloud site on some kind of regular basis.

* BdR: As far as I can tell dw is a comics artist/editor too

Sunday, May 18, 2014


I’m sure that you’ve heard this before: The book is almost always better than the movie. But have you ever heard anyone say, the book is always better than the play? You’ll have your chance to decide this Friday May 23 at the eBar when Alison Wearing will perform her award-winning one woman show Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found myself remembering my past because of how perfectly Wearing captures language and idioms. She also has a knack for remembering the behaviours and little obsessions that make her characters, particularly her dad, jump to life right there on the page. I feel like I know her academic dad, who sang Gilbert and Sullivan songs in his French silk pajamas and read Julia Child’s Mastering French Cooking while trying to make a soufflé.

Although humour runs through much of the book, there is also sadness and discomfort as the family struggles to find its way through the coming to the surface of a gay parent. Wearing's parents never really fought, retreating instead, and she found herself hiding the truth about her dad for years. In one particularly poignant passage, she remembers when she was quite young how her dad cried while reading Anne of Green Gables with her. One of the character’s fathers had died and it was here that her father broke down. She knew that her father’s father had also died young and she realized then that her father was not just a father, but a person with a life beyond her. 

Seeing a parent as a person with foibles and history and heartaches does not come easily. Alison Wearing has created a powerful story in the book. I have the feeling that she will do the same in her play.


Alison Wearing performs Confession of a Fairy's Daughter, presented by The Bookshelf and Eden Mills Writer's Festival, in the eBar Friday May 23 at 8:00pm. Tickets are available in the bookstore. Adults $15; Students and Seniors $12. Full event info can be found HERE.


Responsibility, Complexity and Abortion provides a refreshingly honest, passionate, and scholarly analysis of the experiences around abortion—including pregnancy that is wanted, unwanted, coerced, uncoerced, and always uncertain. Houle observes that abortion affects everyone, and that only through thinking differently, individually, and culturally can we begin healing the pain around aborted pregnancy.

Houle offers a method for thinking differently about abortion, but also more importantly about ethics. This method is built into her writing, and so it is through reading that one is transitioned into this space where ethical thought is more possible. The book opens spaces that were always there, but perhaps out of sight; it suggests other ways of being in the world, without getting too attached to any one in particular, always being aware of the potential for other possibilities.  

Taking this ethical position is a lot like looking at the stars: if you don’t look directly at anything, but let your eyes wander and blur, sometimes you suddenly see something in 'empty' spaces. You can only see what is there, those distant stars, if you look just to the side of the space they are in. You realize that in all the ‘empty’ spaces you can see there must be many more stars, hidden or barely visible, and that there are even more spaces than you could possibly ever see or imagine. The fullest understanding is one which is always aware of its incompleteness.

This book discourages the standard method of moralizing that emphasizes taking up a ‘position’ on an issue. Instead, Responsibility, Complexity and Abortion acts as a tool which allows us to be ethical in a much more compassionate way. Houle’s strength as a feminist author is expressed through her sharing of real-life experiences, which attract readers to reconsider and re-imagine ethics as much more situated and vulnerable than they are perhaps comfortable with, but which is necessary for the change they are seeking. Both real-life accounts and theoretical analyses are important for Houle as she works through defining and creating a new ethicality.  

As a whole, this book is rich enough that it eludes idiom—it dances around playfully and assertively, always challenging the norm. Yet, it is bound together by a strong cohesive force. Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, totally feminist or afraid of feminists, this book will do something important to you.

-- Mercedes Pisano

Monday, May 12, 2014

Q&A: Karen Houle

On Tuesday May 20th at 7:30, Karen Houle will launch her new book Responsibility, Complexity and Abortion in the eBar. Readings from each section of her book will be followed by karaoke, hosted by Golden Throats Karaoke. You can find the full-on info HERE.  

We did our best to nick the surface of the book and it's ideas by lobbing a few questions Karen's way.

In your introduction, following a few anecdotes, your thoughts on the abortion fish kettle are complicated by the film Vera Drake. "For over two decades," you say, "I had been working with a convenient caricature about a complex social, emotional, psychological, intellectual, and material phenomenon, a caricature that had kept many of those dimensions out of sight." What was the process of fleshing out the dimensions of this caricature? At what point did your individual ruminations turn to cultural ones?

I first had to find a methodology that would enable me to engage with the topic from a concrete embodied position & yet also very critically: without requiring a position at the outset, or a conclusion that the methodology was going to be aiming to achieve. I got that through Foucault (discourse analysis) and critical theory. 

Discourse analysis and critical theory mean that individual ruminations, insights, experiences can and need to be framed in terms of wider cultural themes and tendencies. As a feminist theorist, my "personal" ruminations had always felt cultural, or political. But I didn't find that a recognizable feminist approach was letting in enough of the dissonance. 

I had also always taught Social and Political Issues, as a phil. prof. Through cultural voices but never my own. And what my students read, and argued, also felt like it was dishonest, or, that the insights about the abortion fish kettle which might have come up through more honesty (or a wider angle lens) were also being silenced or squished to the margins, or left entirely to the personal (i.e therapy groups, girlfriend chats). Feeling the personal and concrete within me (and, over time, an increasingly complex set of ideas and feelings I had about abortion)...pushing out against cultural spaces with little or no tolerance for that ambiguity, was the main impulse to write this book.
My background in science, and involvement with scientists who work through complexity and systems theory was also a big breakthrough in offering me a framework, and intellectual *permission* to pursue that line of thinking (about post-normal science) into the domain of ethics. People who love systems theory and complexity theory (could be a physicist, could be a Buddhist) and who have been scratching their heads about values and *thorny* ethical problems will find something of interest in what I did here.

Most mainstream discussion of this, as you say, "complex 'fact of life,'" seems to be polarized by outrageous conservative misunderstanding about what a woman actually is and how one works. Is it at all possible, do you think, to have an informed, nuanced discussion about abortion without absurd clutter getting in the way.


But we need a map for how to do that since the one we work with is oversimplistic. 
Not an easy task. 
Need new vocabulary, concepts and even a modality for thinking about ethics & value. 
I am trying with this book to provide a map of that very possibility... And to make the reader have to use that map too.
(The work with my seminar and students proved it actually can work as that kind of a map).
The launch will feature readings of all sections by students from your Advanced Feminist Theory seminar. What is the process of introducing these ideas from academia to everyday? Is a clean transition possible, or are there elements you touch on in the book that you can see being lost in translation/transition?

All these students are everyday people too. As am I. Everyone one of us, of them, has an example of an everyday story about rape or birth control or abortion or miscarriage or impotency or etc etc etc. It is *there* all the time, and academia can be a place where all of that variety can be translated into a common idiom or space, so shared well. Concepts are beautiful and academia works in concepts very very well. But mostly academia drops the affect. Drops the ways that the details are different and matter. So, there is a loss in translation from the everyday to the academic, and also, from the academic to the *everyday*. I had thought about writing this in so many different styles or ways. Ultimately, I wrote a book of ethical theory (not easy reading, not everyone will be able to read it... that makes me a bit sad)...but when I was writing in a more colloquial non-philosophical way, I felt the nuance and capacity that high thinking opens up, was dropping out too. 

The combo I ended up trying (maybe a disaster!) is a highly intimate exposed very real voice and body (mine, my medical records, naming dates etc) that people would read and always know I was a me. Not just a disembodied blab blab. And that voice would be there, guiding through the arcane twists and tough spots. Trust? I wanted the reader to be able to trust me. I never trust a writer of, say, ethics or art or religion who speaks in the Universal voice. Or only in that voice. We live our lives as individuals, not types. 

What're your top jams for Don't-Be-Afraid-of-Feminists-Karaoke?

I think I will hum some Lhasa. 
Rickie Lee Jones if I am feeling pop n bluesy. 
And maybe some Martha Wainwright if I am feeling scrappy.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Management Opportunity for The eBar and Greenroom at The Bookshelf

After 5+ years of service at The Bookshelf eBar and Greenroom, our manager has decided to pursue other goals--we wish her all the best and thank her for an exemplary effort.

As such, we are searching for someone with management experience in the food and beverage industry. The ideal candidate will be organized, hard working, and have a passion for music, culture, and the arts. Excellent customer service skills are a must. Someone with an entrepreneurial spirit and the drive to execute their ideas would be of great benefit.

A dynamic individual looking for equal parts responsibility and fun will be well rewarded in this role.

Please email applications to or drop off a resume in The Bookshelf bookstore.

Monday, May 5, 2014


For the life of me, I can't recall what I was doing in Montreal in the summer of 2009, or what show I had originally gone out to Casa del Popolo for, but I sure as hell remember having my hair blown back by this woman with a drum or two, a ukelele, a loop pedal, and this huge, weird, versatile voice. I bought the cassette she had for sale (don't worry, guys: it had a digital download code with it) and listened to it all seven hours driving home the next day.

That first tUnE-yArDs's album, BiRd-BrAiNs was recorded mostly on a dictation machine and, sonically, may not be for everybody and so may take a little while to be your favourite album. But for those with a predisposition to a certain amount of lo-fi scruffiness, you can go to the front of the line. While the heartiest tracks sound like African-influenced summer camp chants, there are enough moments of torchy fragility that listeners put off by the bolder, more cacophonous elements have something sturdy to grasp onto initially.  The gusto of the live show isn't on full display, but there's enough yodeling, screaming, and beating to give you a good idea of what the ensuing stink that was made about Merrill Garbus's infuriatingly-lettered tUnE-yArDs was all about.

2011's w h o k i l l goes a little way to clean some of the dirt off the sound, but what grime remains is there by choice, not necessity. A rampant interest in violence thrums beneath tracks that ups some of the funkier inclinations in BiRd-BrAiNs. Addition of bassist Nate Brenner gives Garbus a sturdy base to flail around on and the inclusion of a horn section both fleshes out and elevates some of the grander inclinations. w h o k i l l was just familiar enough and weird enough and all around exciting that tUnE-yArDs rose pretty high in the ranks of indie visibility.

With Nikki Nack, tUnE-yArDs make good on the promise of the previous albums. Garbus has mostly left behind the uke, leaning heavily and confidently on percussion and voice, and Brenner's rhythm work becomes a stronger, organizing presence in songs that have a tenancy to spill and burst with aplomb. It's the kind of album I wish I had a seven hour car ride to spend with.

- Andrew