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Biography & Autobiography Literary

Wisdom in Nonsense

Invaluable Lessons from My Father

by (author) Heather O'Neill

introduction by Kit Dobson

Publisher
The University of Alberta Press, Canadian Literature Centre / Centre de littérature canadienne
Initial publish date
Feb 2018
Category
Literary, Essays
  • eBook

    ISBN
    9781772124002
    Publish Date
    Feb 2018
    List Price
    $8.99
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781772123777
    Publish Date
    Jan 2018
    List Price
    $11.95

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Description

I broke all the rules that my dad gave me.

It was he who had given me, in part, the confidence to think of my life as being worthy to mix with those of the geniuses. —Heather O’Neill

With generosity and wry humour, novelist Heather O’Neill recalls several key lessons she learned in childhood from her father: memories and stories about how crime does pay, why one should never keep a diary, and that it is good to beware of clowns, among other things. Her father and his eccentric friends—ex-bank robbers and homeless men—taught her that everything she did was important, a belief that she has carried through her life. O’Neill’s intimate recollections make Wisdom in Nonsense the perfect companion to her widely praised debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals (HarperCollins).

About the authors

Heather O’Neill is a Canadian novelist, poet, short-story writer, screenwriter and essayist. Lullabies For Little Criminals, her debut novel, was published in 2006 to international critical acclaim and won Canada Reads. It was shortlisted for both the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has since published the novel The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and the short story collection Daydreams Of Angels, both of which were shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in consecutive years. The collection was also shortlisted for the Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. Born and raised in Montreal, O’Neill lives there today with her daughter.

Heather O'Neill's profile page

Kit Dobson lives and works in Calgary / Treaty 7 territory in southern Alberta. His previous books include Malled: Deciphering Shopping in Canada and he is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Calgary. He grew up in many places across Canada, but returned again and again to the landscapes of northern Alberta where his family members settled – and that continue to animate his thinking.

Kit Dobson's profile page

Awards

  • Short-listed, Cover Design of the Year | Alberta Book Awards, Book Publishers Association of Alberta

Editorial Reviews

...a warm and funny collection of memories of O’Neill’s dad, a single parent. Look up Wisdom In Nonsense. Buy it. Give it to your own father. He will understand, and it will bring you closer.

Blacklock's Reporter

"[Heather O'Neill's] father shared hard-earned wisdom culled from early years as a petty criminal through to his work as a kind of philosopher-janitor. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm for dispensing life advice was in direct opposition to its practical application. But it certainly makes for good reading.... [This] collection, like all of her work, is filled with humour, moments of joy, sudden bursts of deep emotion and heartbreaking sincerity... The lesson in Wisdom in Nonsense is how a writer uses autobiography to inform fiction."

National Post

"Wisdom in Nonsense offers up a selection of life lessons given to O’Neill as a child which come to act not as hard-and-fast rules but as guideposts to an occasionally odd-ball yet always sincere process of reflection on childhood, writing, and the father-daughter bond.... Reading about her connection with her father and the way in which they lived on the margins of society comes to illuminate O’Neill’s ability to depict the strange, perhaps even unexpected beauty of such bonds in her fiction." [Full review at http://www.prairiefire.ca/wisdom-in-nonsense-invaluable-lessons-from-my-father-by-heather-oneill]

Prairie Fire

# 7 on Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers list, April 15, 2018

"Heather O’Neill’s Wisdom in Nonsense...is in some ways strange. Strange because it reads less like a biography of the late Buddy O’Neill, which it is, and more like an absurd instruction manual for living. Stranger still is the wisdom shared; although Buddy’s advice is never categorically wrong, it is often preposterous and abstract. Despite the strangeness of it all, O’Neill generously translates her father’s eccentricities and antics into a reflection on how much and how little one can learn from a parent, and how that learning is complicated by class and circumstance.... O’Neill elicits belly laughs and makes space for the quiet sadness of loving parents who will always be complicated to learn from and to remember." Canadian Literature, October 9, 2018 [Full review at http://canlit.ca/article/something-to-be-learned]

Gabrielle Mills

"Bestselling novelist Heather O’Neill’s book is a slim, funny and moving account of childhood and her experience of being raised by a colourful—and criminal—father. In this tender volume, O’Neill shares the life lessons she learned from her father and his eccentric friends."

Matthew Stepanic & Jason Purcell