Penumbra Press is new to this column.
Founded in 1979 by an Islander living away, the press itself still functions in Ontario, while the founder and publisher now lives in Charlottetown.
Its typical productions seem to be beautifully presented biographies, chiefly of artists - in the widest sense of the word - and collections of poetry.
Here are three recent publications:
Remembering Glenn Gould: Twenty Interviews With People Who Knew Him by Colin Eatock, the well-known journalist and composer, is unusual in its format. It appears that everyone who had any dealings with the famous pianist saw him differently. Nevertheless, each one of those interviewed remembers him well, even though 30 years have passed since his death. And through them we meet a fascinating, complex man.
Here are a few of the people interviewed to show the variety in their lives and, consequently, why 20 interviews about the same person aren’t repetitious: Ray Roberts: the Loyal Assistant; Anton Kuerti: Pianist to Pianist; Vincent Tovell: Gould on TV; Robert Fulford: the Boy Next Door; and William Littler: the Critic Downstairs.
Not all of these were lifelong colleagues; Gould sometimes broke off a friendship without explanation. All in all, it’s a good way to portray anyone’s life, especially someone as gifted and enigmatic as Gould.
At the Table, by T. A. Keenleyside, subtitled Nourishing Conversation and Food is an unusual book, a blend of autobiography and recipes, most of which you’ll not see anywhere else in print. However, take note. The author, who was in the foreign service for some years, has lived in Thailand, Indonesia, England and France, winding up in Toronto with summers of Georgian Bay - and shorter stays at other places in other lands. The result: a lot of the recipes have a lot of garlic in them.
However the outstanding quality of the book is its charm. Almost everyone can enjoy its sense of family, time passing pleasantly, fun, rugged country, water and conversation (as opposed to chitchat) round a series of tables. It’s highly recommended.
Finally, The Narcoleptic Madonna by Kim Fahner (69 in the Penumbra Press poetry series) is a collection like few others. The poems occur everywhere from St. John’s, Nova Scotia and Winnipeg to Manhattan and the Himalayas. And they contain a large Christian element.
Such ordinary subjects as death and loss are treated, too, though with these distinctive flavours. If you care for poetry at all, this is not a collection to miss.
Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at 111 Sydney St., Apt. 17, Saint John, N.B., E2L 2L8, or call her at 506-693-5498.