Pure Baseball
DriverWorks Ink / 27 August 2015

Pure Baseball: The Carl Jaxsom Legend by Ryan Thaddeus Published by DriverWorks Ink Review by Keith Foster $9.95 ISBN 978-0-9940720-0-9 First came baseball. Then came pure baseball. That’s where the top slugger squares off against the very best pitcher. This ultimate challenge is where Ryan Thaddeus’s Pure Baseball: The Carl Jaxsom Legend takes readers. The story is related by a grandfather telling a bedtime story to his grandson huddled under the covers next to an old, worn teddy bear named Roosevelt. Gramps tells the incredible tale of a ball player named Carl Jaxsom who retired with a batting record of one thousand – one thousand hits at one thousand times up to bat. This is the stuff legends are made of, and this fictitious account reads more like a fantastical fantasy. Gramps speaks of his experience as a ten-year-old in Boston, teaming up with his pal Sal to hawk newspapers. “Locals called us the Pepper Salt twins and for good reason,” he says. “Partly because Sal was black as a burnt match to my Irish turnip-white skin, but mostly for the stinging way we seemed to rub folks.” They witness Jaxsom’s remarkable feat in 1904, the second year of the…

The New Wascana Anthology
University of Regina Press / 27 August 2015

The New Wascana Anthology Edited by Medrie Purdham and Michael Trussler Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $49.95 ISBN 978-0-88977 The beauty of an anthology – and particularly a multi-genre example, like the The New Wascana Anthology, is that readers can sample from a veritable banquet of hand-picked work. This book represents a “best of” combination of two earlier “Wascana” anthologies (poetry and short fiction), plus other important and entertaining work. Editors Medrie Purdham and Michael Trussler’s intent was “to preserve the strengths of the earlier anthologies” and “add a variety of new selections to make a textbook that would be especially amenable to the twenty-first-century classroom.” Within these 551 pages you’ll discover popular works from the canon (American, British, and Canadian) sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with pieces by contemporary Canadians, including many of Saskatchewan’s finest (current or former residents), including Lorna Crozier, Patrick Lane, Gerald Hill, Karen Solie, and newcomer Cassidy McFadzean, b. 1989. You may find yourself remembering poetic lines from Shakespeare, Wordsworth or Dickinson, and then be pleased to shake the metaphorical hand of contemporary short story writers like Eden Robinson, Dianne Warren, Rohinton Mistry, Alexander MacLeod (his “Miracle Mile” is placed next to…

Ghost Most Foul
Coteau Books / 27 August 2015

Ghost Most Foul by Patti Grayson Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $10.95 ISBN 9-781550-506143 I was able to devote almost unbroken hours to reading Ghost Most Foul by Manitoba writer Patti Grayson, and good thing: I was so swept up in this compelling juvenile novel I wanted to charge through it like an athlete storms through opponents to win a game. For starters, Grayson really knows how to begin a book. The brief prologue hints of a plane crash, a basketball game, and a disruptive ghost. How’s that for disparate elements? My interest was immediately piqued. The credibly-voiced protagonist, Summer, is a rising basketball star at her junior high school. She’s perceptive, caring, and enjoys a pleasant home life, but we learn that Summer has also experienced pain. She was an “easy target” for jeering bullies in elementary school due to a “crazy growth spurt” which put her a head taller than some of her classmates. Summer loses sleep over hurtful comments like “‘How’s the weather up there?’” Like many who are bullied, she tries her best not to attract attention. Summer both idolizes her inspirational coach and feels a very strong connection to her, as…

The Tongues of Earth
Coteau Books / 27 August 2015

The Tongues of Earth by Mark Abley Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $16.95 ISBN 9-781550-506105 A swallow’s “Cirque du Soleil”. Prairie fowl “swimming over their reflections”. The belief in “a skinny horse\the colour of burnt almonds\frying in the noonday sun”. If you are a master poet and thus possess the literary chops, numerous book publications, and the lifetime inquisitiveness that’s required, one day a publisher may honour you by releasing your “New and Selected Poems.” This is the pinnacle, and I commend Coteau Books for recognizing that Montreal poet, journalist, editor and non-fiction writer Mark Abley is worthy of such a title. The Tongues of Earth represents the best of what poetry can do: enlighten, entertain, empathize, and lift us from our familiarity for moments at a time to offer a bird’s eye view – or an insider’s view – into what it might be like to live a different life. This is a large, sweeping map of a book. Abley transports us to disparate locations that include the caves of prehistoric art in Chauvet, France; a cathedral in Girona, Spain; Montreal’s Chinese herbal shops “with powdered\centipedes and gallbladders in jars;” and to Banff’s towering Mount…