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A bird’s eye view

Gary Barwin’s novel displays word-drunk bravado


Yiddish for Pirates

Gary Barwin

Random House Canada

AMONG THE cascading absurdities, ironies, and japeries that attach to Gary Barwin’s debut novel for adults, the most outrageous has nothing to do with the book’s content. It concerns the fact that Barwin – a well-regarded writer with some 19 previous works as author, co-author, or editor – is appearing as part of Random House Canada’s New Face of Fiction program.

Launched in 1996 by Knopf Canada, the New Face of Fiction was designed to spotlight debut novelists who, it was hoped, would become the next generation’s household names. While it is true that other relatively established figures have had their debut works of long-form fiction branded this way (Ann-Marie Macdonald was already a Governor General’s Literary Award–winning playwright when her novel Fall on Your Knees was published as part of the line in 1996), there is something almost wilfully perverse about promoting a writer as experienced as Barwin as the “new face” of anything. After all, his latest collection of short fiction, I, Dr. Goldblatt, Orthodontist, 251–1457, appeared with Anvil Press as recently as last year. Yiddish for Pirates isn’t even technically the author’s first novel: his 2001 young adult novel Seeing Stars was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award.

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About Quill & Quire

Graphic novelist Michel Rabagliati puts his popular character on the shelf – at least for now. Plus, reviews of new books by David Adams Richards, Carmen Aguirre and Dany Vyleta.