Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative


Friends with Books

May 18, 2022

No point in having a blog if you don't use it to promote your friends' books.

Jim Marsh and I met at Carleton University in 1973; he was working in book publishing and I was doing a graduate degree. Not long after, Jim became the founding editor of The Canadian Encyclopedia, a hugely ambitious and hugely successful project initiated by Edmonton publisher Mel Hurtig.

Jim has now written his memoirs, Know It All (available from Durville Books). The book reveals all the behind-the-scenes drama associated with seeing the encyclopedia project through to completion. But it also tells the story of Jim's early life, raised by abusive and neglectful parents in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood in the 1950s. It is a harrowing tale, one that probably deserves a trigger warning, told without self-pity. How he emerged to become a successful author and editor is both a mystery and a tribute to the power of libraries and reading.

Frank Mackey and I go back to 1970 and the newsroom at the Medicine Hat News where he was a reporter and I was the newly-arrived editorial writer. Again, pals ever since. After retiring from a long career in journalism, Frank became a leading historian of Montreal's Black community. His latest book, The Great Absquatulator (available from Baraka Books) takes him a bit farther afield. It is the story of Alfred Thomas Wood, a con man extraordinaire. You can read a recent article about the book here.

Good luck to them both.

May 8, 2022

A very nice review of my new book appears in the May issue of Literary Review of Canada

"As Francis skillfully demonstrates," writes reviewer Marisa Grizenko, "the place called Vancouver has always had a rich story -- if you know where to look and to whom to listen." You can read her piece in the pages of the magazine or it is...

April 14, 2022

I nicked this book from my parents' shelves when I left home back in the Sixties. Don't know why. At the time I had no interest in the subject but I must have known it would come in handy someday, which it has. Anyway, it has stayed with me through many moves.

I was reminded of it when I read Liz Hammond-Kaarremaa...

April 8, 2022

April is National Poetry Month in Canada. Let's celebrate by recalling the Vancouver Poetry Society, one of the earliest arts organizations in the city.

The founding meeting of the VPS took place on the third floor of the Rogers Building downtown on Granville Street on October 21, 1916. It was organized by Dr. Ernest Fewster, physician, theosophist, tireless networker and...

March 14, 2022

Entrepreneur Ben Fox figures he has found a way of recreating online the experience of browsing through a bookstore. He calls it Shepherd.com, where the idea is to put readers in touch with books and authors they might not discover otherwise.

Check out my own page on books...

March 7, 2022

Strolling along Commercial Drive in the weekend sunshine I was pleased to encounter this front window at Pulpfiction. That's me on the top right.

The Drive has become something of a literary precinct with three important independent booksellers in residence: The People's Co-op Bookstore at #1391, Pulpfiction at  #1744 and Spartacus Books at #1983. Plan accordingly.