THE BIBLIO FILE is one of the world's leading podcasts about "the book" and an inquiry into the wider world of book culture. Hosted by Nigel Beale it features wide ranging conversations with authors, poets, book publishers, booksellers, book editors, book collectors, book makers, book scholars, book critics, book designers, book publicists, literary agents and other certified bibliophiles.
Tom Devlin on the rise of Drawn and Quarterly, and Graphic Novels
Tom Devlin is a key figure in the world of graphic novels. His career mimics the evolution of the genre. As founder of Highwater Books, a publishing house he set up in the early 2000s, he treated alternative comics audiences in North America to their first book-length exposure to future star cartoonist/authors John Porcellino, Marc Bell, Ron Rege Jr., Brian Ralph and others - many of whom subsequently joined him at Drawn and Quarterly, the Montreal-based publishing house founded by Chris Oliveros. Tom now works at D&Q as executive editor (and co-owner) alongside his wife, publisher Peggy Burns. His early work - its high production values, thoughtful design and 'bookshelf-ready' formats, plus experience earned as a comics retailer and distributor - presaged, one could say, an explosion in the popularity of graphic novels, one that was amply fueled by the impressive stuff he put out with various artists over the years at D&Q.
I talk with Tom about his early love of comics, his work in comic book stores and his experiences publishing graphic novels; about his life with cartoonists and his work helping to build D&Q, plus the struggle experienced by the medium itself to be taken seriously. Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels serves as our guide.
We met underneath the well-walked wooden floors of La Petite Librairie D+Q, the company's children's retail bookstore outlet in the Mile End district of Montreal.
Shannon DeVito on her role as 'Director of Books' at B & N
Shannon DeVito is Barnes and Noble's 'Director of Books.' We met via Zoom to discuss the roles and duties associated with this intriguing-sounding position. I discovered that they include co-ordinating the relationship between national and local book-buying teams; 'assortment' work; creating initiatives - including prizes ( e.g. the Discover Prize; most recent winner: The Rabbit Hutch, a debut novel which I'll shortly be 'book-clubbing' [having bookclub-type discussion, so to say] with James Daunt), book clubs, monthly book picks, etc. - for the company's promotional book strategy; developing campaigns with the publishing industry for important releases; negotiating 'exclusive' opportunities. Creating buzz basically, plus adding value to the experience of visiting a physical bookstore while taking market share away from Amazon without caring what they're up to. We look at B&N's pro-active influencing of taste and the leveraging of its role as big-time book recommender; plus there's a tiny bit of politics - the ethics of selling and profiting off stuff that might adversely affect democracy (only a tiny bit) - AND we discuss the recent explosion of Manga.
As promised during our conversation, here are Shannon's top recommendations of the day:
FICTION The Marriage Portrait
Lessons in Chemistry
The Rabbit Hutch
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow,
Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence
Turkey and the Wolf: Flavor Trippin' in New Orleans
Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us
Revolutionary: Samuel Adams
Prisoners of the Castle
Dan Paisner on being the voice of Ivanka, Serena, Whoopi, Denzel and Steve Aoki
Where does editing leave off and ghostwriting begin? How cool is it to pass yourself off as the writer if you haven't done any of the writing? How much recognition do "collaborators" deserve? Should ghostwriters be completely anonymous? When should they refuse assignments? How does one work with a person whose views are opposed to yours? Where does craft end and art take over? What explains a successful collaboration? Is this whole business ethical?
I ask these and other bumptious questions of seasoned, successful ghostwriter and novelist Dan Paiser, plus I pose a few from interested party David Mitchell whose first novel, Ghostwritten, embroils us in a cacophony of narrative voices.
Dan also delivers some excellent stories about Ivanka and The Donald, and Whoopi, and others, and we spend a bit of time talking about creativity, and Dan's latest novel, Balloon Dog.
Valerie Picard on winning Best Children's Publisher at Bologna
Earlier this year a tiny Quebec-based children's publishing house, Monsieur Ed, won the prize for Best Children’s Publishers of the Year in North America at the Bologna Book Fair. It won, judges said, for being at the forefront of innovation in the creative nature of its editorial choices during the past year.
I thought this was a big deal so I contacted publisher and creative director Valérie Picard. She told me (well, actually, it's written on the website), that Monsieur Ed "favors stories set in peculiar worlds where reality and fantasy coincide. He feeds on compelling tales with the power to transcend the ordinary, arouse laughter or bring tears. Universal stories that can inspire introspection and contemplation. Although fiction is at the heart of his publications, Monsieur Ed is also interested in documentaries, graphic novels, and even your favorite kind of tea."
Monsieur Ed lives in Montreal, Quebec, and so does Valerie, and, for the time being, so do I. So I went over to her place to interview her, and her little dog Benjamin, about the creative choices she's made over the past year, indeed the past five, and to get at the reasons she thinks explain why she won at Bologna.
Martha Fleming on Canada's greatest graphic designer
Allan Fleming (1929 – 1977) was a Canadian graphic designer best known for having created the Canadian National Railway logo, for designing the 1967 book Canada: A Year of the Land and for "revolutionizing" the look of scholarly publishing in North America in the 1970s with his work at University of Toronto Press.
In 1953 Allan moved to England to work as a graphic designer, and to learn about the practice from eminent English designers and design historians such as Stanley Morison, Oliver Simon, Herbert Simon, and Beatrice Warde. In 1955 he returned to Toronto where he landed a job as director of creative services at the typographic firm Cooper and Beatty Ltd. In 1962 he was appointed art director at Maclean's magazine. From 1963 to 1968 he was director of creative services at MacLaren Advertising and from 1968 to1976 he was chief book designer at the University of Toronto Press.
Throughout his career, Allan designed or consulted on the creation of many iconic Canadian images for clients including Canada Post, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Liberal Party of Canada, the Hudson's Bay Company, Ontario Hydro, and the Canada Council.
His daughter Martha Fleming, a museum professional and academic, wrote and edited two issues of The Devil's Artisan in 2008 which were devoted to Allan's life and work. We met via Zoom to discuss them and the many achievements of this extraordinary Canadian.
Nora Krug on vigilantly illustrating Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny
I first became aware of the graphic edition of Timothy Snyder's book On Tyranny during a visit to the National Socialist Documentation Centre museum in Munich about a year ago (revel in the backstory here). I bought and read a copy of the original edition shortly thereafter. It's a powerful book, full of important, actionable lessons. This past Summer I picked up a copy of Nora Krug's illustrated version of the book. Reading it was revelatory. I simply had to interview her.
So I contacted the person who knows every graphic designer in the world, Steven Heller. He'd just, of course, participated in a presentation with Nora. And yes, was happy to put us in touch.
Listen here as Nora and I go about reviewing the serious thought she put into illustrating On Tyranny, starting with the cover. Topics touched on include: the importance of small talk; the influence of illustrators; shedding light on the human character; origami; painting with blood (okay, paint that looks like blood); little feet; fire and smoke and war; moral questions, smudges, and the traces of history; big dumb hands; depicting fear; snooping around flea markets; salvaging found objects, photo albums and scrapbooks; how illustrations bring books into different realms, adding new emphases and layers of meaning, contradictory and otherwise; empathy and history; the importance of personal narratives; emotional entry points into war; dissecting history; vigilance, and the responsibility that each of us has to fight against the rise of tyranny.
Photo Credit: Nina Subin
Excellent podcast! Worth your time!
It’s a great podcast about all things books and publishing. Really insightful topics, sometimes episodes are about things I didn’t even know I was interested in.