Dave Bidini: My life in books
Dave Bidini is a singer-songwriter, author and friend of CBC Books — he's been both an author and a panellist on Canada Reads. We asked him to share a few books that have shaped his life and work. Here is Dave Bidini's life in books.
The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
"Not books, but comics. The writing in early Marvel Spider-Man strips was the first time I understood dialogue, or at least an elevated sense of it. I learned that you could make people sound real; like they were living in a true world as opposed to one trapped in a book. The dialogue was funny and biting and cynical and angry, too; elements that were missing from the 'children's' books I'd read. There was also pace: accelerated, quick-witted, energetic. Really, for me, the art was second to the writing. It sparked something in me that probably played out later and taught me the importance of the spareness of dialogue — how a lot could go a long way."
Jack in the Box and Fata Morgana by William Kotzwinkle
"While on tour, I discovered the books of William Kotzwinkle. They were always in abundance: cheap pocketbooks in the back sections of used book stores in new cities that I was visiting for the first time. I think Kotzwinkle, having sold a kajillion copies of the novelization of the movie, ET, was, at one time, regarded as a writer of popular fiction, but he is much stranger, sharper, sicker, sadder than what that genre implies. He is also the most original writer — book to book to book — that I've ever read, never once repeating himself. The books I encourage people to read are Jack in the Box — about growing into a teen in the 1950s — and Fata Morgana, which I wish readers of steampunk and magic realism would discover, but probably won't. Fata Morgana, a novel about magic and spirituality, has more heart, more body and more secreted life messages than any book I've read, all of it shroud in Transylvania smog and the blood of war and espionage."
La Guerre,Yes Sir! by Roch Carrier
"Whenever I'm asked what I'd select, were I asked to defend again, I'd maybe look to La Guerre, Yes Sir! by Roch Carrier (translated by Sheila Fischman), which is about post-WWII Quebec: hilarious, sad, strange, comic and dark, in its own way. It shows Quebec to the rest of Canada, at least that swath of our country that knows nothing about French-Canada. It's a loving, clear, exact, yet funny, portrait of a generation and of people, trying to figure out who they are moving in to the modern world. It's precise setting and particular sense of language and regional habit has as much in common with Shaun Majumder as Stephen Leacock. It's both very modern and of a particular time."
The Answer to Everything by Elyse Friedman
"I read The Answer to Everything by Elyse Friedman after a year of wanting to. It was worth the wait. It's a great book. Elyse creamed me at ping pong at a Harbourfront writers' event: 4 games to 0. So I worked and worked on the old table in our garage, and, twelve months later, we met at Pongapalooza. The matches were long and close — we found a table at the back of the room, away from everyone — and I took 3 of 4 games, even though the greatest margin of victory was, maybe, 3 points. Elyse brought me a copy of The Answer to Everything and I was finally able to attack it. I'm usually not drawn to books about my city, but this one was easy to fall into."
Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent by Andrew Nikiforuk
"I think there should be a copy of Andrew Nikiforuk's Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent in every bedside table drawer in every hotel in Canada. It's a bible about deception and greed and propaganda and is written with such force of clarity. There's nothing transparently persuasive about the book. It rests on facts instead of poetry, although there's a kind of poetry in the stories that play out: the doctors who were blackballed out of the process after revealing the truth; the working conditions for drivers and labourers and the people of Fort McMurray; the defiling of native lands and rivers and lakes; the psychopathic wheel-handling of the Stephen Harper government over the future of Canada's economy. It didn't change my mind about the tar sands, but it confirmed all I'd suspected. Necessary reading, this one."