Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

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The War Series: Writers As Readers, with Ted Staunton

Ted Staunton

The WAR Series (Writers As Readers) is our newest interview series at Open Book, and gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Since 1983, Ted Staunton has been a writer for children and teens, with an impressive list of published books that includes Power Chord (Orca Books) and his recent contribution to the Seven series, Jump Cut (Orca Books). Currently living in Port Hope, Ted tells us about his role as a reader by revealing the many books that have made him cry and laugh, the books that he?s re-read countless times and the possible title to his autobiography. The fact that he has a hard time picking just one book in most of his answers attests to his passion for reading.

The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own:
Was probably The Brave Cowboy, a picture book by Joan Walsh Anglund. Mind you, I asked my mom to read it to me so often ?reading? might well have been ?reciting.?

A book that made me cry:
Here are two that floored me at the end: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson and Exit Ghost by Philip Roth. Never schmaltzy, never manipulative, just eloquent, relentlessly honest writing. Try reading Roth?s The Ghost Writer before Exit.

The first adult book I read:
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. First one I bought, anyway. Definitely a game changer.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
Again I can?t narrow it to one, so: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, Three Men In a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor and The Most of S.J. Perelman by (guess who) S. J. Perelman.

Humor writing is the biggie for me, so have I mentioned Twain, Leacock, Quarrington, Peter DeVries, Woody Allen?

The book I have re-read many times:
I do a lot of re-reading. Every summer for a long time I?d re-read, at random, one volume of Proust?s Remembrance of Things Past, as my translation called it, though I?d always avoid The Captive and The Sweet Cheat Gone as way too tedious. They were just the right pace for summer, yet they demanded total attention or you missed a lot. I missed a lot, so there was always something rewarding in the re-reading. Plus, it let me say I was reading Proust.

Also right up there, a somewhat similar but far more accessible series by Britain?s Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, an ornately written and very funny novel cycle that follows a cast of characters from the 1920s to the 1970s as they weave in and out of each others? lives. I?ve been through all of this series several times.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
Anna Karenina

The book I would give my seventeen-year-old self, if I could:
Three this time (sorry): The Cowards and The Swell Season by Josef Skvorecky and Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. All three are about youthful yearning and all three, ultimately, are about persevering in the face of disillusionment.

The best book I read in the past six months:
Only two for this question: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. The first is a warm, funny, insightful novel that?s about baseball but isn?t; the second, also a novel, is more reserved, almost austere in the telling, as an old man in Norway is moved to recount a fateful summer he spent with his father years before.

The book I plan on reading next:
You guessed it. I usually have several on the go: The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell, The Yips by Nicola Barker and The Rape of Europa by Lynn H. Nicholas. Maxwell was fiction editor of the New Yorker for years and wrote wonderful low-key stories often set in the 1920s, and Barker?s is a new, quite loopy, comic novel. I read a lot of non-fiction, especially about history and music. Nicholas? book is about the Nazi looting of art treasures in WWII and Allied attempts to save them.

A possible title for my autobiography:
After re-reading this interview, I?d have to go with He Never Could Make Up His Mind. And I?m not sure about that, either.

Since his 1983 debut with Puddleman, one of Canada?s most perennially popular picture books, Ted Staunton has been entertaining readers of all ages with funny and perceptive stories of childhood, teen and family life in many books. Trained as a teacher, Ted is also a speaker, performer and workshop leader in schools, libraries and venues across Canada. He teaches the Writing for Children courses at George Brown College and the Haliburton School of the Arts. Since 2010, as a volunteer with CODE Canada, he has also travelled to Ethiopia several times to work with English language writers and editors for young people there. Ted and his family live in Port Hope, Ontario. Please visit Ted?s website for more information.

For more information about Jump Cut please visit the Orca Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.


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