Two new don’t-miss Toronto books launch this week—including one from The Grid’s own Edward Keenan.
Like Toronto? (Yes.) Like books? (Yes.) Like some historical context and exhaustive reporting about Toronto…in books? (Yes!) Two events happening this week are working for you, then. (And full disclosh, I’m in the tank for both of them.)
The first, on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor St. West) (and it’s freee) is the release of Some Great Idea: Good Neighbourhoods, Crazy Politics and the Invention of Toronto ($14.95, Coach House Books) by The Grid’s own Edward Keenan. I’ll spare you my overview; you can read an excerpt in PDF form via the Coach House site, here, instead, but the new book is “about a decade-long narrative of Toronto’s ascendance as a mature global city” and ooooobviously about mayor Rob Ford. You also can/should catch Keenan’s stuff in his column, and on The Keenan Wire.
At the launch, Keenan will speak on stage with former Toronto mayor David Crombie, after which special guests (Chris Ryan Graham, Arianne Schaffer, and Dan Yashinsky) will tell their “best Toronto stories,” and journo-DJs Track Meet will follow for a politics-nerd dance party the likes of which you’ve never seen. Until then, check Corey Mintz’s latest “Fed” column, about a dinner party attended by Keenan (and sort of about Keenan?); check National Post books editor Mark Medley’s list of “The most anticipated books (of the first half) of 2013,” which includes Some Great Idea; and check Keenan talking to Hazlitt about his bookshelves and literary influences.
Then, on Friday at 7:30 at Double Double Land (209 Augusta Ave.), there’s the book-release party for J.B. Staniforth’s history of the band of an earlier era of downtown Toronto. The Deadly Snakes: Real Rock and Roll Tonight ($12.95, Invisible Publishing) is about “the rise and gentle fall” of the Snakes, who made four diamond-hard, diamond-bright, dirty-garage albums and who were also deeply uninterested in success; Staniforth says “I think they had absolutely no commercial impulse at all.” Montreal-based journalist Staniforth—a.k.a. Jesse—acknowledges that the Snakes have inspired (and maintained, years after their breakup) a “strong and abiding love for the band” felt especially by musicians, artists and writers; I’d add that it’s shared by anyone who caught one of their typically chaotic, and occasionally fist-fighty live shows, even an especially shambolic-cum-shitty one. I loved the Snakes because I felt threatened by their music, like I was in some kind of trouble. Staniforth concurs: “At first I was attracted to the volatility, the real thrilling verve of the early records, which are wild, and they’re loud and they almost sound dangerous. As they developed, they started to represent far better the way that I felt getting into my mid-twenties and late twenties. They really reflected a certain demand for something more.” The book started out as a way-long journalism project, but expanded. “I did too many hours of interviews because I cared too much about the band,” he says. After Staniforth’s reading from the book, Snakes influencer Chris Trowbridge will DJ at the space in Kensington.
“There’s no more of a Toronto band than the Deadly Snakes,” says Staniforth. Both books are, of course, explicitly about Toronto (the Snakes were always specific and intentional about their Toronto roots), and implicitly and importantly about trying to build something here. And, of course, that’s what—at least throughout the past ten-ish years—Toronto has been all about.