First Volume in Early Canadian Literature Series

The Foreigner, by Ralph ConnorI’m pleased to announce the publication of the first volume in the Early Canadian Literature series by Wilfrid Laurier University Press: an edition of Ralph Connor’s 1909 novel The Foreigner, with an afterword by Daniel Coleman. Several more volumes will follow later this year.

First published in 1909, The Foreigner comes from the pen of bestselling author Ralph Connor, the pseudonym of Presbyterian minister and missionary Charles W. Gordon. The novel opens in Winnipeg, where Kalman Kalmar, a young Eastern European immigrant, is growing up under the shadow of his father, whose allegiance to the customs of the Old World has caused him to become a fugitive in Canada. After a violent encounter with his father’s sworn enemy, the adolescent Kalman is sent to a ranch in rural Saskatchewan, where, in learning the ways of the land, he must also reconcile the customs of his ancestors with the possibilities available to him in the New World. Part adventure story, part allegory for a vision of a culturally assimilated North West, the story features a form of male maturation and muscular Christianity recurring in Connor’s popular Western tales. Daniel Coleman’s afterword considers the text’s departure from Connor’s established fiction formulas and provides a framework for understanding its depiction of difference.

Home to Little House

Little House on the Prairie title cardBack in mid-January, TVShowsonDVD.com announced that the first season of Little House on the Prairie would be rereleased on DVD and BluRay, with sets expected to be available on March 25, 2014. In subsequent posts on that website, the project was briefly rumoured to be discontinued immediately before they posted the official press release and cover art. This announcement was followed a month later by news that the second season would be released in the same two formats a mere six weeks after the first season, on May 6, along with one or two additional posts with the second season cover art. Judging by the fact that the first season contains part one of a six-part documentary about the series, it seems pretty likely that the remaining seasons will follow at a steady clip, especially given that the pilot telefilm aired forty years ago on March 30, 1974, and that the ongoing series premiered forty years ago on September 11, 1974.

Comparisons between Little House on the Prairie and shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, and Dr. Who are obviously slight as far as content is concerned, but Little House remains in many ways a cult favourite: with all four shows, the line between “fan” and “fanatic” is often a blurry one. So the news about this DVD rerelease is exciting—perhaps literally breathtaking—for two reasons: the first, because both the picture and the sound have been substantially cleaned up (apparently it looks even better than it did in 1974); and second, because unlike the first set of DVDs released a decade ago, these sets will contain the original network broadcasts. With a lot of older shows, the versions that become the basis for DVD sets are the ones that were made for syndicated reruns, which have to be trimmed to make room for more commercials. This means—wait for it—that each episode of Little House on these DVDs will contain two to three minutes of footage that I have never seen. With 205 episodes in total (including the two-hour pilot movie, three two-hour post-series telefilms, and a three-hour retrospective special), that’s four hundred to six hundred extra minutes. In total, that’s the equivalent of FIVE OR SIX NEW EPISODES.

Now, I’m not anticipating that we’re going to discover a new character who was ritually cut out of the syndicated versions or subplots that alter character development in a radical way. It’s entirely possible that the new footage in question consists almost entirely of establishing shots and bumpers, along with extra bits of dialogue that don’t add anything substantial to the content, or more extreme close-ups of Michael Landon crying. In other words, it’s entirely possible that the editors who trimmed the original broadcasts for syndication did so pretty judiciously, even though the way they did so (abrupt fades and cuts) is jarring to watch.

The copy I ordered is still in transit and will take a while to get here, so I have a bit more waiting ahead of me. But I’m really looking forward to taking another look at a TV show that I’ve been watching, off and on, all my life. I like to think that, for me, revisiting these episodes with so much extra footage will be a lot like discovering a stack of extra photos of my family when I was a child that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it into my mother’s albums: familiar but new at the same time. In fact, I so much enjoyed writing about the pilot movie in my book Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature that this might be the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to write about the overall series in a more intentional way—not only to speculate about what made it an unexpected hit in the 1970s but why it continues to endure forty years later.

Launch for The L.M. Montgomery Reader 1

There will be a launch for my new book, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, on Wednesday evening, 12 February 2014, from 6 to 8 PM at Ben McNally Books in Toronto. Please join us!

UPDATE: There’s also a Facebook event for the launch, for those of you who are so inclined.

Invitation to Launch for LMMR1

Early Canadian Literature Series: Forthcoming Titles by Parker and Harrison

parker-seatsofthemighty harrison-forestofbourgmarie

Wilfrid Laurier University Press released earlier this week their Spring–Summer 2014 catalogue, which includes the fourth and fifth books in the Early Canadian Literature series: Gilbert Parker’s The Seats of the Mighty, with an afterword by Andrea Cabajsky, and S. Frances Harrison’s The Forest of Bourg-Marie, with an afterword by Cynthia Sugars. These will be released later in 2014, after the publication of the first three books in the series, by Ralph Connor, George Copway, and Nellie L. McClung.

Amazon.ca Ranking: The L.M. Montgomery Reader 1

Decided to check Amazon.ca just now to see if copies of The L.M. Montgomery Reader 1 were in stock, only to make a startling discovery:

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Of course, it’s actually #1 in Canadian History & Criticism, which is something else entirely. Still, it’s currently the top seller in three categories:

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These Amazon.ca bestseller ranks are quite unpredictable, though. Just a few weeks ago I discovered that the book was ranked around 4,200 in the list of overall bestsellers, only for it to drop to 16,000th place a few hours later. And, of course, the fact that Amazon.ca received stock just today after taking pre-orders for the book for half a year accounts for this sudden spike. Still, this is a very pleasant surprise.

From Proofs to Book: The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: Final proofsI was thrilled to receive, last Friday afternoon, a padded envelope containing my first author’s copy of my new book, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, published by University of Toronto Press. I’m always rather in awe of the transformation from a PDF of proofs to a physical book, and this time was no different. I’m enormously pleased with how it turned out, and I do look forward to hearing the reactions of those who read it.

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: Final bookWhat is especially gratifying, of course, is that it’s taken six years to reach the point where I could hold the book in my hands as a tangible object. Between August 2007 and July 2009, I held a postdoctoral fellowship (funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, otherwise known as SSHRC) at the University of Alberta while living in my current hometown of Waterloo, Ontario (it’s a long story). My project was entitled “Branding a Life: The Case of L.M. Montgomery™” and my plan was to write a book-length study about Montgomery’s body of work, leading up to her final work, The Blythes Are Quoted, which at the time remained unpublished). Although I did a lot of researching and writing during those two years, I also spent a fair bit of time travelling to libraries and archives in order to track down Montgomery’s short stories, serials, poems, essays, and interviews, including a good number that are not listed in Lucy Maud Montgomery: A Preliminary Bibliography (1986). Initially my plan was to introduce all of this little-known material in the book, but then two things happened: first, Penguin Canada accepted The Blythes Are Quoted in March 2008, and second, I realized that I now had so many essays and interviews for a book of their own. Initially my plan was to put together a volume entitled How I Began: L.M. Montgomery’s Essays and Interviews 1910–1939. But then, somewhat inevitably, I kept finding material that I found just as fascinating—early scholarship, entries in reference works, profiles, and book reviews—and started to think of ways to place all this work in the context of Montgomery’s publishing history within her lifetime and in the seven decades since her death. And soon, the book-length study that I had originally planned got shelved, and the three-volume L.M. Montgomery Reader emerged. Like most big projects, this one has been several years in the making and it has evolved considerably as time went on, but I am very happy with the final shape of each of the three volumes.

Speaking of the three volumes, I’m pleased to announce that Volume 2: A Critical Heritage will be published in May 2014! And who knows? Maybe at some point I’ll be able to resume work on the book-length study that I had originally planned!

More on Textual Transformations

Benjamin Lefebvre at Campus Author Recognition, University of Guelph Library, 7 November 2013. Photo by K. Jane Burpee.

I’ve been meaning to mention that my collection of essays Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature has received a number of great reviews since it was published about a year ago—in journals such as Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, Choice, International Research in Children’s Literature, and Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. The book was also included at the 2013 Campus Author Recognition event at the University of Guelph Library, which I attended a month ago as an alumnus of the University of Guelph (I did my M.A. in English there over a dozen years ago). This annual event is open to authors, editors, and translators who have or have had some affiliation with the university. Here’s a photo of me—and the book!