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Author Spotlight: Bill Gaston
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Author Spotlight: Bill Gaston

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Gaston's latest book is A Mariner's Guide to Self-Sabotage, following on his GG-nominated Juliet Was a Surprise. Here, we take a look back at his impressive and wide-ranging career.
A Mariner's Guide to Self Sabotage

A Mariner's Guide to Self Sabotage

Stories
edition:Paperback

"In this new collection Gaston's range is so wide, his technique so masterful, his tenderness, humour and intelligence so finely measured that he stops my heart."

--Barbara Gowdy

A Mariner's Guide to Self Sabotage is populated by the lonely and alienated, holders of secrets, members (or would-be members) of shadowy organizations, screw-ups, joyriders and runaways.

Architects of their own destruction, Gaston's characters provoke an almost mythic response of simultaneous disbelief and recognition, a …

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Juliet Was a Surprise

Juliet Was a Surprise

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : literary

Gaston’s characteristic keen insight and wit dazzle in this new collection. Readers will see the world through the prism of unfamiliar perspectives: a bank executive whose excellent sex life might in fact be killing her, an amorous tree surgeon better attuned to the values of his “patients” than to other people, a vacationing schizophrenic, a pizza-delivery boy convinced he’s witnessed magic—all struggling with the world as they see it.
 
This versatile collection—at times darkly pl …

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Gargoyles

Gargoyles

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Here is the best of Bill Gaston's stories since the publication of his Giller Prize nominated collection, Mount Appetite (2002). In this extraordinary work, Gaston crafts his fiction around the idea of the gargoyle -- the concrete representation of extremes of human emotions.

In Gaston's marvellous, riotous, Rabelaisian world, Gargoyles are physical manifestations of the disfigurements and contortions to which we human beings subject ourselves. Indeed, as Gaston wrote each story, he sketched out …

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Just Let Me Look at You

Just Let Me Look at You

On Fatherhood
edition:Paperback

From a Giller-nominated, multiple award-winner, here is a tender, wry and unforgettable memoir of all the things fathers and sons fail to say to each other, for readers of Plum Johnson's They Left Us Everything, David Adams Richards's Lines on the Water, and Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk.

Bill Gaston's relationship with his father was stormy. Sons clash with fathers, particularly with towering, authoritarian figures like Gaston Senior. Fairly or unfairly, sons look for reasons to rebel, partic …

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Midnight Hockey

Midnight Hockey

All About Beer, the Boys, and the Real Canadian Game
edition:Paperback
tagged : hockey

From Giller-nominated author Bill Gaston, proof not only that hockey players can read, but that some of them can even write.

Midnight Hockey tells the story of Gaston’s final season, as he contemplates hanging up his skates, and looks back on the sport that has meant so much to him.

Sometimes lewd and hilarious, sometimes (though not as often) reflective, Midnight Hockey is a portrait of Canada’s fastest-growing athletic phenomenon: beer-league and oldtimers’ hockey. Gaston spills the beans …

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Excerpt

A Few Words about This Book

One of my favourite writers is Annie Dillard, despite what she once said about writers who write books designed for specific audiences or markets, which is: “It amounts to a wasted and sad life.”

Well, I wasn’t sad, or even all that wasted, while writing this book. Though writing a book for hockey players does sound a little iffy. I mean, the suspicion is not only that hockey players don’t read, it’s that they probably can’t. But my equally strong suspicion is that this won’t deter them. So if this applies to you – that is, if you can’t read but have gotten this far – I salute you for helping me prove Annie Dillard wrong.

That rumour’s all nonsense, that hockey players are dumb. I know of several hockey players who read really well. And Eric Nesterenko, while playing with the Chicago Blackhawks, actually published a book of poems. (To my knowledge he was never beaten up for it – at least not by his own team.) During Hockey Night in Canada interviews, Ken Dryden’s lawyerlike mouth almost single-handedly succeeded in putting an end to that dumb-rumour, but it only half took hold. What I’m getting to in my roundabout way is that oldtimer hockey players only act dumb for a few hours a week, and they actually lead other lives. I’ve played oldtimers with truckers, doctors, mail carriers, chicken farmers, Buddhists, retirees, dirt hippies, preachers, dot-com millionaires, policemen, wood cutters, drug dealers, sea captains, witches, and eighteenth-century explorers. I’ve never played against an all-gay team – that I know of – but that’s probably coming. So, while as hockey players we may in fact not know how to read, in our other life we probably do.

This Season So Far
September

In life, nothing is so delicious as anticipating that next hockey game.

Well, okay, let’s not exaggerate, there’s that anticipation when, well, remember when you were nineteen and half the buttons were undone and your hands, hers too, were shaking and moving faster? That and, sure, I guess there’s also the anticipation of food, when you’re starving and the waiter slides that steaming plate of grilled garlic prawns under your face and you make an involuntary noise, and people from other tables look.

So sex, food, and maybe also shelter during a storm. But a hockey game is right up there.

Sitting in a schoolroom in Winnipeg, every Monday morning I would begin daydreaming about Saturday’s game and I would not stop. That next game was basically all I looked forward to in life. (No sex yet, and I doubt there were prawns in Winnipeg in those days.) In the meantime I would read my Hardy Boys books, and go to Cubs, and watch black-and-white TV, and hang around doing stuff, but all I was really doing was biding time. Physically inert but mentally on fire, I was scoring goal after goal in my imagination.

Same when I started playing oldtimers, I would go to work, stay interested enough to not get fired, and feel a constant pull in my gut about the game that night. Home from work, I’d bounce a kid on my knee, and he’d ask me what I was staring at, and I’d say, “Nothing, Connor,” and he’d say, “I’m not Connor, I’m Lise.” My gear would be bagged and waiting by the door an hour early. I remember once I had a game and my wife, the tardy FeeFee, was late coming home. I recall pacing, and shooting fierce glances at the clock every ten seconds. She didn’t show up with the car, didn’t show up with the car, didn’t show up with the car. She’d forgotten about my game completely and eventually it was too late for me to make the game at all. When she did finally get home, she said I looked as if someone had died.

So, after a whole summer off, anticipation of the first game of the year, well, that’s usually a pretty fine bit of excitement too.

But not this year. I’m not sure why.

I got the call from Lyle yesterday. I was at the kitchen phone, standing in the open door to the deck. Outside, the warm September sun shone and the evening birds chirped in that melody we assume has something to do with human happiness. It seemed far too early in the year for this particular phone call, but apparently we have a practice next week, then our first game the week following.

I picture the practice. It’s always the same. This single practice, which we humorously refer to as our training camp, will begin with a few three-on-twos. That’s to make it seem like a practice, which is where you do drills to “make you a better team.” Everyone will look horrible. Hardly any passes will connect, even from ten feet away. After five minutes of this ragged fiasco, Lyle will interrupt things and we’ll split in two and have a scrimmage. We won’t look any better, and passes still won’t connect, but a scrimmage is more fun. Which of course is the whole point.

So another season begins, but not for me – not yet, if at all. Which likely explains my dramatic lack of enthusiasm.

I’ll be missing this year’s training camp, and the first games. My back just doesn’t seem to be healing. I own a two-man kayak, a hog of a boat so big and stable you could probably stand up in it, throw your head all the way back and chug a beer. That information alone should explain the state of my back, but I’ll supply a bit more detail. Camping the past summer with my family, I was on the beach and the tide was coming in, and in order to keep my kayak from being swept away I had to haul it up one hundred yards of sand single-handedly. Picture a guy digging in his heels, reefing on a twenty-foot craft that is sticking to the sand like Velcro. The guy is greying and paunchy and has no discernible muscles, but he’s acting like he thinks he does.

From the Hardcover edition.

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The Good Body

The Good Body

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary, sports

The Good Body is a triumphant blend of mordant humour and heartbreak. It tells the comic and poignant story of a retired pro-hockey ruffian named Bobby Bonaduce who is stubbornly ignoring a disease - multiple sclerosis - that may be killing him. Bobby returns to his hometown and scams his way into university in a misguided attempt to redeem his messy past and lay emotional claim to a son he abandoned twenty years earlier.

With this terrific novel, Bill Gaston demonstrates yet again that he is "a …

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The Order of Good Cheer

The Order of Good Cheer

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook

Indian summer, 1607. Intrepid explorer and map-maker Samuel de Champlain has founded a new and precarious settlement in Annapolis Royal, New France (present-day Nova Scotia). As winter looms, two threats emerge: boredom amongst the men and the deadly sickness scurvy. Champlain hits upon the idea of a moveable feast -- an order of "good cheer" -- where nobles and men can enjoy good local food, excellent wine, and camaraderie.

Separated by the breadth of a continent and exactly four hundred years i …

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The World

The World

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : literary

A recently divorced, early retiree accidentally burns down his house on the day he pays off the mortgage, only to discover that an uncharacteristic oversight has pitted him against an impassive corporate bureaucracy. An old friend of his, a middleaged musician, enters into a final negotiation with the pain of esophageal cancer. Her father, who left his family years ago to practise Buddhism in Nepal, ends his days in a facility for Alzheimer’s patients. These three are tied together by a book c …

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