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Rattling Books

Rattling Books is a Canadian Audio Book publisher based in Newfoundland and Labrador. Adult Fiction, kids fiction, adventure non-fiction and poetry audiobooks.

Narrated by Frank Holden.

by Robert Bartlett
Listening Time: Approx. 7 hours
10-digit ISBN: 0-9734223-5-1
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9734223-5-1

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

This is Captain Bob Bartlett’s version of the controversial loss of the Karluk, the flagship of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s Canadian arctic expedition of 1913-1916. Bartlett played Chopin’s Funeral March as the ice claimed his ship, then lead his crew to Wrangell Island where they awaited his return. Bartlett left them, walking some 700 miles across the frozen Arctic Ocean and down the coast of Siberia to get help.

Read by Frank Holden
Acting Direction Janis Spence
Recorded and produced by Janet Russell
The recording of Chopin's Funeral March was kindly provided from the Victrola collection of Bill Marshall.

Audio Book Reviews:

From Publishers Weekly:

In this tale of Arctic exploration, narrator Frank Holden turns in a masterful performance as Robert Bartlett, captain of the ill-fated Karluk , which sank off the Siberian coast in 1914. From the Newfoundland accent to the fortitude of a polar adventurer, Holden inhabits his subject. Some, including expedition leader Vilhjalmar Stefansson, later blamed Bartlett for the disaster that left 11 dead and dozens stranded on Russia's Wrangell Island. Defending his competency, Bartlett delivers painfully detailed accounts of food stores and physical conditions, especially during his 700-mile trek for help across the frozen ocean and Siberian coast. Holden handles this subtle defensive posturing with aplomb, keeping the tone even and matter-of-fact. Holden manages to render fresh Bartlett's descriptions of igloo building, dogsledding and polar bear hunting. Rattling adds nice atmospherics, too - the crunching of ice and snow bookends the tale. Bartlett played Chopin's Funeral March as the ice claimed his ship, and the music accompanies Holden's recounting of the event. The narration soars as the typically reserved Bartlett reunites with his rescued crew, an emotional breathiness imbuing Holden's voice. Based on the 1916 book.

From Robin McGrath, Northeast Avalon Times:

…. loaded to the gunnels with adventure, excitement, amusing anecdotes and details of adaptation and innovation that read like a modern-day Robinson Crusoe. For those hooked on the “Survival” fad, there can be no better account of a real-life gamble with life and death than The Last Voyage of the Karluk.

…Holden’s voice is deeper and more educated than Bartlett’s was and, thankfully, he does not attempt an imitation of Bartlett’s famous Pathe News style, so he is a real pleasure to listen to. His reading is intelligent, apparently effortless, and low-key without being boring…anybody who has even a passing interest in Arctic travel, Inuit culture, Newfoundland history, sailing, survival stories, dog sledding, adventure or a rollicking good tale, will find that after the first 20 minutes it is impossible to stop listening to The Last Voyage of the Karluk.

From Jennifer Niven, author of The Ice Master:

For years, I have been immersed in the story of the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-1914. Through my research, I have grown to know and love the staff and crew of its doomed flagship Karluk, most particularly its brave and somewhat enigmatic captain, Robert Bartlett. One of the world’s greatest ice masters, Bartlett enjoyed a highly esteemed career. He was revered by the men who worked on his ships, admired for his strength, honesty, and candor. He was a man’s man, yet he had a passion for poetry and music. He could be elusive and was intensely private. The dramatic and tragic story of the Karluk's last voyage, as told by Bartlett, is as no-nonsense and unapologetically matter-of-fact as its author. But it is also every bit the gripping, rousing suspense thriller.

In Rattling Books' The Last Voyage of the Karluk, Frank Holden does an exceptional job channeling Bartlett and capturing his frank, straightforward tone so expertly that I quickly believed I was listening to Bartlett himself. By the time the captain reunites with his shipwrecked crew—people he did not know if he would ever see alive again—his famous restraint breaks and his deep, unreserved emotion (courtesy of Holden) is heartbreaking and real. Thank you to Rattling Books and Frank Holden for retelling this important and inspiring tale, and for creating this moving, enthralling time machine, which transported me to another time and to another place with an extraordinary hero. As intimately as I know this story, I found myself completely swept away by it, as if I was hearing it for the first time.

The Last Voyage of the Karluk by Captain Bob Bartlett is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books )for the world.

Listen, a way to read more.
The Last Voyage of the Karluk (Captain Robert Bartlett) unabridged audio book edition
unabridged audiobook edition of a Christmas classic for the young and young at heart
by David Weale
Listening Time: 22 minutes
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-5-1
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-5-8

Winner AudioFile Earphones Award

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

Eckhart, the hero of our story, is a tiny young mouse. He and his family have just moved inside for the winter. It's dark and cold in the walls of their farmhouse. But all of a sudden every year in late December their tummies are filled by a mysterious abundance of delicious crumbs. The mice celebrate with feasting and call it Crumbfest. No one knows why it happens until Eckhart solves the mystery.

In 2001 a five year old Antonia Francis performed Crumbfest for her Mom's community radio show Christmas special. The irrepressible energy and charm of Antonia's narration made it a perennial Christmas favourite. This is the original radio broadcast, recording flaws and all. The roughness of the recording sets off brilliantly the perfection of Antonia's performance. Here is The True Meaning of Crumbfest, told as only a five year old Antonia Francis could tell it. An underground classic of childrens christmas literature and a perennial favourite among kids christmas audio books.

Originally published by Acorn Press in 1999 A classic of children's christmas stories and a very special kids christmas audio book.

Winner of the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature, 1999

Performed by Antonia Francis
Acting Direction Janet Russell
Recorded and produced by Janet Russell

Winner AudioFile Earphones Award

Audio Book Reviews:

From AudioFile Magazine:

Are you ready for a special treat? Not only is this a quaint tale of the joy that is Christmas, it also offers a remarkable narration. Ignoring his grandfather's advice to let well enough alone, Eckhart, a new mouse born in the summer, is on a quest to find out more about the special winter day when delectable crumbs abound in the house. The story's narrator is 5-year-old Antonia Francis, who recorded it for her mother's radio program. How refreshing her narration is! Miss Francis's enthusiasm abounds as she elongates words and hesitantly approaches "big" words in the tale. Her voice rises and falls with exaggerated suspense and wonder. The combination of Francis's heartfelt empathy for Eckhart and her youthful, earnest presentation captivates. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

From the Ottawa Citizen:

.... One of the most engaging such recordings is the work of a small company in Tors Cove, N.L., a short drive out of St. John's. Rattling Books produces a variety of engagingly unusual Canadian titles, many of them with a Newfoundland-Labrador connection, in unabridged audio format. (And unapologetically, too. Says founder Janet Russell to anyone who thinks audiobooks "are some form of cheating: If you want to be like that about it, writing it down in the first place was cheating. What's wrong with you, can't tell a story or what? In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was Spoken.") One of the most engagingly unusual of its titles is a kids' audiobook with a festive-season theme. And it has recently been honoured with an Earphones Award from the U.S. magazine AudioFile. The True Meaning of Crumbfest (22 minutes unabridged/1 CD, $9.95) Written by Prince Edward Island history professor and storyteller David Weale, this story has become very popular since it first appeared in print seven years ago. It is the adventure of a small mouse who tries to discover why something wonderful happens once a year, after the extended mouse family moves from their beloved Outside to the between-walls darkness of the Inside. Sweet and delightfully tart at the same time, and perfect for kids four to nine, the story is narrated by Antonia Francis. And that's one of the surprising appeals of the recording. At the time the story was recorded -- in 2001, for her mother's community radio show -- Antonia was only five years old. Young Antonia turns her little voice to a genuinely impressive range. She is as cheery, apprehensive, sad or triumphant as the narrative occasion demands, and she is eminently listenable. The 22-minute recording is the original radio presentation, rough around the edges, but still a joy. AudioFile called Crumbfest a "special treat." And so it is.
Janice Kennedy

The True Meaning of Crumbfest by David Weale is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books )for the world.
The True Meaning of Crumbfest (David Weale)
Narrated by John Steffler and (in order of appearance) Frank Holden, Janis Spence, Deidre Gillard-Rowlings and Darryl Hopkins.

by John Steffler
Listening Time: roughly 2 1/2 hours
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-0-0
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-0-3

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

Soundscape recordings made on islands off the coast of the island of Newfoundland.

Originally published in 1985 by McClelland and Stewart. Now published in print form by Brick Books.

A novel in the form of poems, a physical exploration of Newfoundland’s past, a search for ghosts in an abandoned settlement on an abandoned island, this is the story of a come-from-away determined to immerse himself in the physical reality of Newfoundland in an abrupt and inescapable way.

Indisputably a modern classic of Canadian poetry, The Grey Islands is one man’s mediation on the interplay between nature and human society in the rugged setting of coastal Newfoundland. The boats and houses of those who tried to live on the Grey Islands have disappeared, but their stories survive in the neighboring settlements – stories of treks on the sea ice, of near-starvation, of hunting ducks at night with muskets loaded with everything from nails to the parts of a gold pocket watch

Book Reviews:

This is a book of such excellence that someone in future is liable to say about the author: "Steffler - Steffler? - oh yes, he wrote The Grey Islands, didn't he?”

Al Purdy, Books in Canada

In taking in all of them - the ghosts, the stories, the family - The Grey Islands becomes a book of praise for a place and a people. Entering this world with John Steffler, hearing the voices through his finely tuned ear, is "like standing inside the head of someone who knows" - a clear-eyed, intense and compassionate place to be.

Lorna Crozier, Journal of Canadian Poetry

Steffler has charted in The Grey Islands a rich, elaborate personal odyssey. Watch for him in the future.

Andrew Brooks, Canadian Literature

Steffler is a distinguished poet - his semi-autobiographical book The Grey Islands is, I suspect, one of the finest long poems written in thelast 10 years.

Mark Abley, Montreal Gazette

I have just re-read The Grey Islands. I knew, and thought I knew well, this story of a man's self-selected (I want, almost, to say self-inflicted, the ensuing weeks are so stripped of any familiar face or comfort) journey to and isolation on a small island off the far-north coast of Newfoundland - and I have for all the years since its first publication in 1985 felt it to be one of the very few really-and-truly original works of that decade in this country. And of all of the next decade too, it's now possible to say. Reading it again this week, front to back, not just the browsing that I've often permitted myself, I find myself moved not merely by the pristine nature of the language - this I hadn't lost touch with at all, I doubt if any reader does - but by, and to say this is to say something different, the integrity of the enterprise. And yes, I do mean both enterprises here: that of the narrator, reporting on his journey, and that of a man standing behind, farther back than, that narrator. This being John Steffler, who somehow, hard to feel sure how, must have kept his very clear eyes on almost every minute and every page of the enterprise, must have known with alot of certainty what he wanted and needed to say and, no less important, known what he wasn't going to allow himself to get even close to saying. If you think about it, you'll know how much that last matters. Accounts of solitary travellers, wanderers, men or women testing themselves against Nature, against desert or floe or mountain, abound. Some of these glow against whatever their background is and outlast their generation. Many more, though, many many more, in my reading experience, sooner or later fail to remember where they are, forget what images their pages and their narrating sensibilities will always, if they are truthful, stay very close to, and begin to find themselves interesting in ways that sure enough are a real part of their wider lives, but that have very little - nothing, to be blunt -- to do with the purity of what they tell us they're engaged in. Easy enough to name names here, but since it's easy why bother. I think I've said what I needed to say. Steffler and his narrator do what each of them separately set out to do. They head off into an almost archaic place with its own completely convincing palette of acts and colours and sounds. They inhabit this place for the entire length of their stay without striking a single faux-noble attitude or uttering the kind of familiarly plangent epitaph for the rest of us that a reader, this one anyway, feels such limitless gratitude for the absence of. And all of this in a text that is so rifted with the "ore", as Keats said, of real poetry that I hours ago gave up the thought of proving this through quotations. It's very, very easy to find.

Don Coles.
Audio Book Reviews:

From Library Journal

In these narratives, which mingle poetry and prose, the listener hears the enchanting accents of voices that infuse the language with rhythmic beauty. A ghostly tale of a wife’s death, a mock census read like an obituary, a fisherman teaching his son to fish—these and other stories evoke Newfoundland’s spirit and the history of its people. The individual voices are framed by the tale of a young man, his marriage nearing shipwreck, who comes as an outsider and describes what he sees in modern Newfoundland. The text is accompanied occasionally by the sounds of coastal birds, the sea washing onto the shore, the sounds of life lived close to the land, sea, and wind. The narrative voices (the author and others) vary with the mood and subject matter, a resonant male voice telling of a young wife’s death long ago, another delivering with religious fervor a history of Newfoundland’s people and the sins for which they have been punished by being delivered to this harsh environment. Vivid descriptive details create an unforgettable sense of life in that place, starkly beautiful and hauntingly remote. Highly recommended.
—Bernard E. Morris

From Audiofile Magazine

Poet John Steffler crafted this novel from a series of narrative poems that related his experiences in Newfoundland. The work is delivered by the author, along with a selection of expert narrators including Frank Holden, Janis Spence, and Darryl Hopkins. The readings are precise and captivating, each offering a slightly different perspective on Steffler's work. The mix of narration mingles nicely with background sounds such as seagulls' caws along the coastline and the endless clattering of cup and saucer in a roadside diner. These help to set the time and place and create a memorable experience for listeners.

From the Ottawa Citizen

And those imaginative folks at Newfoundland’s Rattling Books have released another gem, perfect if you can’t get to the Rock this summer but still need to smell the ocean, feel the fog and hear the startling cries of the gulls. John Steffler’s The Grey Islands is Steffler’s account of the time he spent two decades ago on a deserted island off Newfoundland’s wild northern coast. A newcomer from away, alone in a place no longer inhabited, he explores the island’s ghosts, its unforgiving landscape and the unknown regions of his own soul — and he does it in poetry. Steffler is Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate. But if poetry is not usually your thing, don’t let that put you off. The book is a long poem the way Anne Michaels’ Fugitive Pieces is a novel — rich in narrative, stunningly beautiful and still accessible. Steffler does his own reading, his voice curiously detached but effective, and the whole is enhanced by a haunting coastal soundscape, along with native Newfoundland voices in character roles.
- Janice Kennedy

From the Scope

The Brutal Mechanics of Having a Wish Come True Jonathan Adams listens to John Steffler’s long poem The Grey Islands.

New this month from Rattling Books comes a lovingly produced, unabridged, two-disc recording of John Steffler’s long poem The Grey Islands.

First published in 1985, The Grey Islands has come to be regarded as a classic of both Newfoundland and Canadian literature. It has earned the praise of as finicky a critic as the late Al Purdy, who trashed the later work of his friends Charles Bukowski and Irving Layton but remarked of The Grey Islands:”This is a book of such excellence that someone in the future is liable to say … Steffler?–oh yes, he wrote The Grey Islands, didn’t he?” Portions of the poem were also set to music by the composer Michael Parker.

Steffler is in some ways the human bookend to E.J. Pratt, in the sense that Pratt was a Newfoundland-born poet who for familiar reasons moved to Ontario and there wrote something like the national epic in Towards the Last Spike—while Steffler was an Ontario-born poet who for perverse reasons moved to Newfoundland and wrote something like the quintessential CFA narrative in The Grey Islands. The book’s value lies in the truthfulness and lack of sentimentality with which that story is told.

Loosely based on Steffler’s own experience, the protagonist and principal narrator of The Grey Islands is a man from Ontario who leaves behind everything and everyone he knows, including a wife and two children, to spend a summer on the northern peninsula’s Grey Islands. He’s never entirely certain what has compelled him to do this beyond a vaguely expressed desire for “a way to corner myself … Some blunt place I can’t go beyond. Where excuses stop.”

Once he arrives and settles, the book becomes a record of the speaker’s encounters with both the geography and the people of Grey Islands. He quickly becomes obsessed with the image of a man named Carm Denny who lives completely alone out on one of the islands and is thought mad by everyone in town. For me, the most vivid and arresting sections of The Grey Islands are those in which Carm himself is the speaker.

Listening to Rattling Books’ edition of The Grey Islands may even be the ideal way to experience the poem. Steffler’s poetry usually takes the form of soliloquies or interior monologues and it is always rooted in the unadorned, everyday language of his individual speakers. Hearing Frank Holden and Darryl Hopkins read the parts of the townsfolk reveals just how well Steffler has managed to capture the natural cadence and poetry of ordinary Newfoundland speech.

There are still a few points, however, when you will want to have a copy of the book close at hand, since the absence of visual punctuation creates unforeseen ambiguities. At a crucial juncture in one poem Steffler intones, “I start to think it’s a person outside squatting to shit I’m nervous with all the leaping and battering going on” and it’s impossible for the listener to intuit exactly who is squatting to shit (turns out it’s actually the speaker).

Nevertheless, the sound design on the recording is quite superb. The noises of birdsong and waves that hum just beneath the actors’ voices were recorded especially for the album and while it would be very easy to overdo it with such things, the production is for the most part beautifully restrained. There is a magnificent point on the second disc, though, when a torrent of gull squawks reaches such a frenzied pitch I thought of one of my all-time favourite pieces of music—Cantus Articus, Einojuhani Rautavaara’s concerto for birds and orchestra, which itself has always reminded me of the ineluctable beauty of this province we belong to.

The central riddle that haunts The Grey Islands is why anyone would choose to live in this place at all. But taken as a whole and in several particular places the poem also supplies its own answer: “[T]hese people don’t measure by what you see. They carry the world around in their heads. All this rock and water is only a backdrop.”
- Jonathan Adams

The Grey Islands by John Steffler is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books )for the world.

Listen, a way to read more.
The Grey Islands (John Steffler) unabridged audio book edition
Narrated by Margot Dionne
Listening Time: 47:52

"The Chosen Husband" is from Montreal Stories, a collection of short stories by Mavis Gallant, available as an MP3 audio book CD and an MP3 download.

"The Chosen Husband" appeared in The New Yorker, April 15, 1985. The following is an excerpt from the story:

Mme. Carette was a widow who lived in Montreal with her two daughters, Berthe, who was twenty-two, and Marie, who was twenty. When she inherited eighteen thousand dollars from her brother-in-law, Mme. Carette moved to a better address. She was barely forty-five, but worried about dying and about what would happen to Marie. Berthe had a good job and was stronger. Carette's old Uncle Gildas, a Catholic priest, lived in retirement in a home run by nuns. Mme. Carette asked him for advice when Marie fell in love with a Greek. Uncle Gildas arranged for her to meet a Catholic Canadian man named Louis Driscoll. Louis called on Marie for the first time on April 12, 1950. He was twenty-six, and Mme. Carette and Berthe examined him closely to make sure he was suitable for Marie, who, with fair hair and dark eyes, looked like an angel. Louis started calling on Marie three times a week, and they began inviting him to meals. Marie dreamed that she'd become a nun. Louis was afraid of Marie, and suddenly stopped calling. Marie found a job as a receptionist in a beauty salon. Then Louis showed up one day, ringing the doorbell. He said there was a war in Korea and he thought he would be drafted. Marie had not understood that the mention of war was a marriage proposal, but her mother had grasped it. They arranged to be married in August. Berthe cried at the wedding. Marie had always looked up to Berthe. The two sisters went upstairs. "I'll call you tomorrow morning," said Marie. Berthe thought of blaming Uncle Gildas. Then she thought, why blame him? She and Marie were Montreal girls, not trained to accompany heroes, or to hold out for dreams, but just to be patient.
The Chosen Husband short fiction single (Mavis Gallant)
Narrated by Robert Joy.
Listening Time: Approx. 11 hours
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-3-5
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-3-4

by Michael Winter

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

The Big Why was originally published in print in Canada by House of Anansi Press and in the US by Bloomsbury.

The Big Why is both Michael Winter's dazzling reinvention of the historical novel and a passionate and witty faux memoir of Rockwell Kent, the famous illustrator of Moby Dick.

Focusing on the year Kent and his family spent in Brigus, Newfoundland on the eve of the First World War, Winter offers up the private emotions of a man whose outer ambitions betray his inner feelings. Kent vows to be faithful to his wife, to live close to the sea, and document, through paintings and woodcuts, a picturesque land and society. But he also desires everything, including the young woman who cares for their children. His friend, the explorer Bob Bartlett, explains how the artist's beliefs and way of life run drastically against those of this small seafaring community.

Funny, surprising, and thoroughly honest about our desires and contradictions, The Big Why bares all: it is about a man who was not fully understood or accepted in the time and place in which he lived. And it is about how we all try to find our place in the world, to gain wisdom, but in the end must humbly accept the transcendent fallout of our actions.

With The Big Why, the historical novel Gabriel English worked on in Michael Winter's This All Happened is complete!

Drummer General's Award
Winner (2004): The Big Why by Michael Winter

Trillium Book Award
Shortlisted (2005): The Big Why by Michael Winter

Thomas H. Raddall Prize for Fiction
Shortlisted (2005): The Big Why by Michael Winter

What The Media Have to Say About The Big Why

"...a book that contains some of the finest writing we are likely to read this season."
- Vancouver Sun

"One of this fall's most anticipated novels....a witty celebration of what makes extraordinary men who they are."
- Flare

"Winter is at his best when he writes a passage -- many of which are read-again beautiful -- that has nothing overtly Newfoundlandish about its vocabulary but that could only be written by someone who has the poetry of that sad and beautiful place running through his veins."
- Globe and Mail

"Winter is an enviably skilled craftsman who is always seeking to further sharpen his prose....it is great to read the work of a writer who has given every last sentence the full weight of his intelligence."
- Saturday Night Magazine

"...it's Winter's phrasing. His prose is both sheet metalled and lyrical and soaked in truth: You can read for hours without a single false quantity."
- Toro

What Other Writers Have to Say About The Big Why

Winter's writing blows my mind--it's sharp and hard and beautiful and so completely original. I love thinking about the big why of The Big Why, the profoundly simple central question at the heart of this great novel.
- Miriam Toews, bestselling author of A Complicated Kindness

"Michael Winter's The Big Why is a superb novel with grandeur of emotional dimension. This is an important book nearly to the point of cruelty wherein the struggle between an individual and his wife and the larger community remind us again of the immense value of literature."
- Jim Harrison, author of True North

Audio Book Reviews of The Big Why

From Audiofile Magazine

Michael Winter's second novel adopts a historical figure as its narrator--Rockwell Kent, the New York artist whose illustrations revived interest in MOBY-DICK in the 1920s. The story is inspired by Kent's move to Newfoundland before WWI. Listeners who know THE SHIPPING NEWS will not only notice the similarity in premise (though the styles of the two books are entirely different), but will also recognize narrator Robert Joy, who read the audio edition of Annie Proulx's novel. Joy's facility with turning on and off his Newfoundland accent and his imbuing of each character with a unique voice bring the world of the novel to life.

From the Ottawa Citizen

"Note-perfect" and "memorable" are adjectives you'll also want to use to describe the audio version of Michael Winter's The Big Why, from the little Newfoundland company that could, Rattling Books.

Winter's haunting 2004 novel, a faux-memoir of real-life American artist Rockwell Kent's brief sojourn in Brigus, Nfld., just before the First World War, is a thoughtful reflection on the nature of art and the role of artists. But, plunked down squarely into the bustle of Manhattan and then the hard beauty of coastal Newfoundland, it is also a narrative that thrums with vibrancy and provocative colour.

Another veteran Canadian actor, Robert Joy (you can catch him on CSI: New York) deftly handles Winter's words and his characters, whether world-weary New Yorker or Newfoundlander with a poet's soul and a pragmatist's impatience with nonsense. Joy was born in Montreal but lived and worked on The Rock for years, so he has the voices down exactly right.

From The Scope

So, you know Michael Winter’s Gabriel English character from The Architects Are Here, right? And you know how, in Winter’s earlier novel, This All Happened, Gabriel goes off to Heart’s Desire to write a novel about American artist Rockwell Kent? The Big Why is that novel. In Rattling Books’ unabridged audiobook version, the accomplished Robert Joy (most recently of CSI: NY fame) brings Winter’s Kent – lusty, inquiring, ambitious, misunderstood – to life. Joy navigates Winter’s at-times difficult prose style – his quotation-mark-free dialogues – with grace, moving fluidly from voice to voice. The Big Why is some of Michael Winter’s best writing and one of Rattling Books’ most beautiful releases.

The Big Why by Michael Winter is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books )for the world.

Listen, a way to read more.
The Big Why (Michael Winter)
Narrated by the author
Listening Time: Approx. 78 minutes
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-9-4
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-9-6

The work of much-loved Canadian poet Don McKay, Songs for the Songs of Birds celebrates the way birds "articulate the air" and considers what the world would be without them. Many of the poems have appeared in printed collections of poetry, notably Camber (McClelland & Stewart, 2004) and Strike / Slip (McClelland & Stewart, 2006). A few make their first appearance in this audio collection.

Library digital download of this audio book is available from Overdrive.com.


”These exuberantly musical and shrewd poems are ecological in the fullest sense of the word: they seek to elucidate our relationships with our fragile dwelling places both on the earth and in our own skins.”
— The New York Times Book Review

"If you're a poetry-loving bird-watcher, this is for you."
— AudioFile magazine

”This CD would be entirely worthwhile if the goal was merely to collect all of the poems about birds Don McKay has written over the years. What is lovely about the CD is that it does collect McKay’s bird poems in one place and allows us to hear them read in the author’s own musical voice (think Dylan Thomas without the accent and all the booze); it is also augmented with the actual songs of birds recorded in situ by Dave Fifield. . . . Some of the most valuable bonus features are the comments McKay makes between poems. “We love [birds],” he sys, “because they are intimate with the air . . . Birds make us sense how crucial [air] is; they articulate the very atmosphere around us.” The attention these poems pay to birds is also attention to the world and in that way, the Songs for the Songs of Birds encourages our own attentiveness to all things. Put the CD on and “Let’s go. / For we shall be changed.”
— The Malahat Review

Songs for the Songs of Birds (Don McKay)
Narrated by the author
Listening Time: Approx. 25 minutes
10-digit ISBN: n/a
13-digit ISBN: 978-1-926919-05-8

At the centre of Sea Legend and Other Poems is a sequence of nautically themed pieces in which images of mermaids recur, suggesting a tension between the immortalizing capabilities of legend and the finite nature of life. Like the giant squid in a museum case from the poem “Kraken,” their presence and passing function as memento mori.

Mark Callanan is one of Canada’s “best young and established writers” (Daniel Wells, Canadian Notes and Queries). Sea Legend and Other Poems includes poems originally published in Callanan’s chapbook Sea Legend (Frog Hollow Press, 2010), which was shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Poetry Award and won an Alcuin Society award for book design, and a selection of previously unpublished poems.

Whitbourne's Mermaid

She was visible for a moment only,
long enough the captain knew
for certain that he’d seen her,

her breasts like delicate sand dollars,
a wake of hair trailing down her neck;
more girl in form than woman, really.

But that beauty, that rare creature
must have recognized something
wolfish in his gaze, for she turned

tail and buried herself beneath
the waves. Rumour has it
he followed and caught her, emerged

stark naked and dripping water,
praising sea legends
and the siren’s element.

Though, once, while liquored up
on heavy grog and singing
every ballad we could think of,

he confessed the seam of her dive
was a quiet furrow, a locked oyster shell
and other veiled analogies.

Sea Legend and Other Poems (Mark Callanan)
unabridged collection of short fiction
Listening Time: Approx. 6.5 hours
10-digit ISBN: 0-9734223-86
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-5-8

Narrated by Lisa Moore, Holly Hogan and Mary Lewis.

by Lisa Moore

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

Scotiabank Giller Prize - Shortlisted (2002)
Winterset Award for Excellence in Newfoundland Writing - Shortlisted (2003)

If You're There narrated by the author
The Stylist narrated by Holly Hogan
Mouths, Open narrated by Mary Lewis
The Way the Light Is narrated by the author
Azalea narrated by Holly Hogan
Natural Parents narrated by Lisa Moore
Melody narrated by Holly Hogan
Craving narrated by Lisa Moore
Close Your Eyes narrated by Holly Hogan
Grace narrated by Mary Lewis

The soundscape, trombone and accordian recordings that preface the stories were recorded in a bicycle repair shop in Old Havana, Cuba with Greg Furlong playing bikes, horn and accordian.

Lisa Moore's Open makes you believe three things unequivocally: that St. John's is the centre of the universe, that these stories are about absolutely everything, that the only certainty in life comes from the accumulation of moments which refuse to be contained.

Love, mistakes, loss -- the fear of all of these, the joy of all of these. The interconnectedness of a bus ride in Nepal and a wedding on the shore of Quidi Vidi Lake; of the tension between a husband and wife when their infant cries before dawn (who will go to him?) and the husband's memory of an early, piercing love affair; of two friends, one who suffers early in life and the other midway through.

In Open Lisa Moore splices moments and images together so adroitly, so vividly, you'll swear you've lived them yourself.

That there is a writer like Lisa Moore threading a live wire through everything she sees, showing it to us, warming us with it. These stories are a gathering in. An offering. They ache and bristle. They are shared riches. Open.

Audio Book Reviews:

From AudioFile Magazine:

This short story collection takes the listener to Moore's native Canada for glimpses at the extraordinary as found in everyday life. She shares scenes from marriages and friendships, putting the spotlight on pivotal moments when life truly happens. Following each tale are interesting musical and sound effects interludes, such as bells, trombones, and even sounds from a Havana bike shop. Each of the 10 stories is read by a single narrator, the best of whom is Mary Lewis. She brings gentle charm and subtle feeling to the collection's longest story, "Grace." Masterful at articulating dialogue without employing different voices, she lends appropriate emphasis to the serendipitous moments explored in the story. The stories are a great choice when listening time is limited.

From Library Journal:

This collection of ten unusual short stories, short-listed for the Giller Prize, peers into the lives of Newfoundlanders as they try to understand and manage their lives. Moore probes into her characters' psyches with a stream-of-consciousness style that reveals their inner experiences. Her sentences and images tumble out in a rapid-fire prose, imitating the flash of thoughts triggered by present experience. In "Melody," a 40-year old widow, now unhappily remarried, anticipates her college friend Melody's visit. While preparing, she reflects on her college years, her first husband's death, and the time she accompanied Melody to have an abortion. At times Moore's style hinders understanding as in "The Way the Light Is," where the images of a film script and the internal narrative come so fast and are so tightly interwoven that the thread is difficult to discern. "Grace," however, excels in its portrait of a marriage coming apart. The author reads three of the stories, while Holly Hogan and Mary Lewis read the others. All convey Moore's text with clarity and authenticity; recommended for large public libraries.

Praise for Lisa Moore

"An accomplished, polished collection. . . .Over and over Moore expands the universe, then shrinks it back to a beat of individual consciousness. . . . She has mastered the short story."
Quill and Quire (starred review)

"Dazzling . . . daring . . . [Moore] has a genius for nailing the physical world on the page. One image after another is a feat of seeing, of waking up the senses."
Globe and Mail

"The stories are full of nerve and verve. They brim with an irresistable mix of adrenaline, compassion and insight. They laugh and cry and rage. . . . Open is like this from start to finish: perceptive and wonderful."
National Post

"These are stories to lose yourself in, and maybe find yourself in, as well. [These are] stories that'll knock you flat."
Vancouver Sun

Open by Lisa Moore is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books)for the world.

Listen, a way to read more.
Open (Lisa Moore)
unabridged audio book edition; originally published in 1905 by Fleming H. Revell, New York
Listening Time: roughly 9 hours
10-digit ISBN: 0-9734223-9-4
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9734223-9-9

Narrated by Jody Richardson.

by Dillon Wallace

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

By a campfire in southern New York in 1901, Leonidas Hubbard Jr. put the question to his friend: “How would you like to go to Labrador, Wallace?”

By 1903 the plans were laid and Hubbard confided: “It will be a big thing, Wallace. It ought to make my reputation.”

The two set out with their guide, George Elson, to canoe up the Nascapi River to Lake Michikamau in the interior of Labrador and make new maps, meet Indians, and run with caribou – all fodder for famous magazine articles Hubbard would write. But alas, they took the wrong river and Hubbard’s reputation was made instead through his death by starvation on the Susan River. A hundred years later the tale of his folly is no less poignant.

Read by Jody Richardson
Acting Direction Janis Spence
Recorded and produced by Janet Russell

Audio Reviews:

"Read clearly and faithfully by Jody Richardson, this is a straightforward reading of Wallace's first book. It tells the tale of Wallace, Hubbard and legendary guide George Elson's futile attempt to cross Labrador after taking the wrong river. Though quite familiar with the work it seemed to have had fresh air pumped into it and was more eloquent than I recall from my own, silent, reading. There is something more searing about the words when read aloud. The brutal weather and unrelenting hard work is sobering to say the least."
--Che-Mun: The Journal of Canadian Wilderness Canoeing

Book Reviews:

"The Lure of the Labrador Wild is a tale of 'last places,' endurance, and human devotion. A bestseller in its own day, it continues to engross readers from one generation to the next."
--James W. Davidson and John Rugge, authors of Great Heart and The Complete Wilderness Paddler.

Lure of the Labrador Wild on Myspace.com

Lure of the Labrador Wild by Dillon Wallace is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books )for the world.
Lure of the Labrador Wild (Dillon Wallace)
a collection of interconnected short stories
Listening Time: roughly 4 hours
10-digit ISBN: 0-9734223-0-0
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9734223-0-6

Narrated by Janis Spence.

by Janis Spence

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

on the beach in spanish room by Janis Spence is a collection of six previously unpublished inter-connected contemporary short stories that follows the lives of a group of friends from early childhood through a rebellious and sometimes catastrophic young adulthood and on into an unsettled middle age. With a cast that includes Father Joe, who can no longer remember when he became a bishop, how he fell in love with a stray cat or whose child he gave away, to Spider LaPlante, tattoo artist and sometime drug dealer hired to do an unusual job, these stories are peopled with characters struggling to comprehend the cruel and funny vagaries of life and love.

Winner AudioFile Earphones Award

Audio Book Reviews:

From AudioFile Magazine:

What an unassuming but brilliant little gem this recording is. Set in Newfoundland, all six stories stand proudly on their own, but together they have the sweep of a novel. The reason is Janis Spence’s marvelous characters, “who wore their lives as casually as big sweaters.” She gives them added dimension by bringing them back at various times in their lives. In “Life With the Barons,” for example, listeners meet Nina, the adopted daughter of a well-off couple. Two stories later, the truth about her parentage is revealed in “Father Joe.” An experienced actor and stage director, Spence gives a masterful performance of all the roles she’s created—and it doesn’t hurt that she’s got that incomparable Newfoundland accent.

From StoryTeller Magazine:

This reviewer is a long-time fan of talking books, especially those that benefit from being read aloud: a creepy ghost story, for example, or one whose characters have accents, or, as in my personal experience, one about upper-crust Brits, whose sarcasm was lost when read on the printed page, but understood when the reader put it in their voices. Unfortunately, most talking books are taken from best-seller lists, so a CD of a lesser-known writer is a pleasant find. When everything’s done right, talking books can be a unique pleasure. And, fortunately, Rattling Books—in the case of On the Beach in Spanish Room—has done everything right.

From Robin McGrath, Northeast Avalon Times:

On the Beach in Spanish Room takes place in St. John’s and Toronto, and it follows the lives of a variety of interconnected characters, including the various members of the McMaybe, Beatty, Baron, and Mills families. There is a liberal sprinkling of oddballs, like Spider LaPlante the tattoo artist, Oink the gourmet biker (he learned to cook in “Con College”) and Shelly the transsexual drug dealer, but most of the people we encounter here are just ordinary folk.

These ordinary folk are very familiar – they live on Colonial Street or Circular Road, they teach or run a business, are married, go to church, have jobs. Bit by bit we get to know more about them, their drinking habits, their affairs, who is bonking the maid and who smacks his wife, who has moved into the guest room or onto the sofa in the living room. As the young ones grow up and their parents grow old, we see them struggle with divorce, infidelity, forgetfulness and forgiveness.

One of the most extraordinary things about Spence’s characters is that they are not particularly likeable, yet by the time we have finished with them we have enormous sympathy for their faults and failings. Sometimes she manages this by letting us view one character through the eyes of another, as when Margaret McMaybe looks at her husband Vern and sees not the fifty-year old failure but the seven year old boy he once was. It isn’t that they have changed, but that we have matured and learned to tolerate their shortcomings.

The CD cover tells us we are listening to six short stories, but On the beach in Spanish Room is really more like a novel in that all the various strands weave in and out, in surprising and ultimately satisfactory ways. Various themes – daughters becoming slaves to their parents, cats filling the void that humans have left, pregnancies that may or may not have happened – appear in a multitude of guises. The Baron baby might be any one of several babies, real or imagined, while barrens as a geographical feature become a scene of birth and rebirth.

One particularly poignant story-line follows the life of the much-married Edna Mills. As it opens, she is coming to the end of a week-long drunk; out of booze, out of pills, out of food and out of money. “This is how the homeless become homeless,” she thinks. By the time we know why she is on tear (her long-time married lover has unexpectedly died and she cannot even attend the funeral), we have been given a wonderful description of life in a low-end apartment building and discovered the extraordinary kindness of the disadvantaged towards one another.

Father Joe, promised to God when he was ill at the age of seven, is not a particularly spiritual man, but is fated to be a priest because his mother has decided he will be one. When he is bullied by a superior into going on a camping trip where he inevitably gets lost, he doesn’t even ask God to help him as he knows he’s not worth God’s attention. His vision quest is a bust, but through sheer doggedness he ends up a Bishop. He’s a complex character, easy to despise, yet you just feel pity for him.

Janis Spence is well known in Newfoundland as a talented actor, playwright and director. If these stories were in a book, she would now be known as a talented fiction writer also. But the great, added gift she gives us here is her reading of the text. She is a wonderful actor, and without sounding the least bit over-the-top, she shifts from hearty priest to ancient crone to drugged-out con artist in the blink of an eye. And she is funny! On the Beach in Spanish Room is a wry, witty, humorous, compelling narrative that will stay with you for years.

From Sheilagh Walsh, The Current:

If Janis Spence was a painter, she’d specialize in portraiture. On the Beach in Spanish Room is wonderfully painted with unforgettable characters. Real people, crashing through life often inflicting suffering, revealing themselves blotchy, acne-prone, wart-covered and then occasionally surprising you with rivulets of kindness in polluted rivers of love.

Spence is well known for her work as an actor – “Gullage’s”, “Up at Ours”, “Codco” – and as a playwright – “Catlovers” and “Walking to Australia”. More recently she read the “Shipping News” for CBC Radio and “Donovan’s Station”, Robin McGrath’s award-winning novel for Rattling Books. Now she has recorded her own unpublished stories on CD for Rattling Books as well. Some stories read as through she wrote them for the genre, the songs and ditties her characters sing, the insistent soft knocking at a door, the character that, “sucks in air with queer strangulated howls.”

A narrative thread runs through all the stories, following a group of characters from early childhood through middle age and doing it in much the same way a one-man stage performance turns in and back on itself, slowly revealing its insights and truths.

Oh, it’s black. And sometimes bleak, yet amazing in its ability to lift the characters above it through irony, humour and the character’s own sense of the absurd. Spence’s stories are never short on irony. That’s particularly true of the first two stories, “Naked Ladies” and “Life with the Barrons,” my favourites. It’s as if the characters, well-defined and distinct as they are, come with an automatic default, a funny-bone, that trips when the situation is blackest in order to survive. And so they can poke fun at a grotesque old goat of a man who “keeps their revulsion alive” or the saintly lace-curtain townie bitch. They are givens that must be accepted and contended with. The humour is partially due to their youth. We see characters age and shade.

The title story, “On the Beach in Spanish Room” is bleakest and most ambitious as though the language of the dull, mainland setting mutes the peaks and valleys of Spence’s vibrant writing. She paints powerful images – the priest who “can no longer taste the doctrine he soaked in all his life” – the religious mother who “looks like a garden crow”, and the couple who “wore their luck as casually as big sweaters”.

Spence shows the savagery in relationships but there’s no question that unexpected acts of kindness are the blessed shafts of light in her world, reminders of the ying that goes with the yang.

on the beach in spanish room by Janis Spence is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books)for the world.

Listen, a way to read more.
On the Beach in Spanish Room (Janis Spence)
Narrated by Margot Dionne.
Listening Time: approx. 11 hours
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-4-3
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-4-1

by Mavis Gallant

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

Named by AudioFile Magazine as one of the 12 Best Fiction Audio Books of the Year!

This collection of short stories by Mavis Gallant was selected by Russell Banks and printed in Canada by McClelland and Stewart Ltd. in 2004 under the title Montreal Stories and simultaneously in the United States by The New York Review of Books under the title Varieties of Exile. Thirteen of these fifteen Mavis Gallant stories first appeared in The New Yorker. The exceptions are "1933" which originally appeared as "Déclassé" in Mademoiselle and "The Fenton Child".

Mavis Gallant is widely respected by writers the world over. Some hail Mavis Gallant as the greatest master of short fiction writing of our time.

The Fenton Child / The End of the World / New Year's Eve / The Doctor / Voices Lost in Snow / In Youth is Pleasure / Between Zero and One / Varieties of Exile / 1933 / The Chosen Husband / From Cloud to Cloud / Florida / Let it Pass / In a War / The Concert Party

TELEMAN, Twelve Fantasias for violin without bass performed by Angèle Dubeau, CD # FL 2 3048 Courtesy of Groupe Analekta Inc.

Winner AudioFile Earphones Award

Audio Book Reviews:

From AudioFile Magazine:

To call the families in these 15 stories dysfunctional would be an understatement. Gallant's characters are misplaced even in location--not French, British, or American, they always seem uncomfortable in their surroundings. The tension can be heard in Margot Dionne's smooth narration, conveying frustration without the contrivance of stilted accents. Gallant (who has lived in Paris since 1951) deftly conveys innocence through the child's or grown child's perspective. The first story, "The Fenton Child," immediately grips listeners, and the rest of the book doesn't release its choke hold. Various stories focus on the same characters, but these aren't cyclical and at times contradict previous relationships (again, perhaps part of the total sense of displacement). Listening to Dionne's voice, you almost forget this isn't her own life she's describing. R.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Montreal Stories by Gallant, the Montreal-born writer who has lived most of her life in Paris, is sheer perfection. The audiobook (Rattling Books, 11 hours unabridged collection/MP3 CD, $29.95) recently won an Earphones Award from the U.S. magazine AudioFile, and it is easy to understand why. Gallant's brilliant stories (of grim relationships and the Montreal of her 1930s and '40s youth) in the rich, modulated narration of actor Margot Dionne stay with you long after the recording has finished.

Praise for Mavis Gallant

"One of our era's masters of the short story."


"Gallant's subject is the comic opera of character...Before we know it she will have circled a person, captured a voice, revealed a whole manner of a life in the way a character avoids an issue or discusses a dress."

Michael Ondaatje

Praise for Montreal Stories

"You can't go wrong with any Gallant collection-Overhead in a Balloon has some of her best European stories, Paris Notebooks has an unforgettable street-level account of May '68, the colossal Collected Stories is a one-stop argument for ranking her with Chekhov-but I'll give Montreal Stories the nod. Not only is it a little more user-friendly than Collected but it's the one place where all the Linnet Muir stories are gathered. This loosely autobiographical suite about the literal and symbolic emancipation of a girl growing up in the stifling provincial atmosphere before, during and after World War II. It's a world Gallant recalls in such detail, and evokes with such emotional exactitude through the eyes of one of the many underdogs to whom she has given voice, that the stories inadvertently cross the line between literature and social history. Read Montreal Stories and you'll get as complete a look into a lost world a you'll get from War and Peace; you'll also be left in no doubt as to why the Quiet Revolution had to happen. "

Ian McGillis, Montreal Review of Books

Montreal Stories by Mavis Gallant is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books )for the world.

Listen, a way to read more.
Montreal Stories (Mavis Gallant) unabridged audio book edition
Unabridged audio book edition of Merrybegot (Véhicule Press, 2004).
Listening Time: 60 minutes
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-1-9
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-1-0

Performed by Anita Best (narration and song) with Patrick Boyle on trumpet and flugelhorn.

Born of a cultural tradition rooted in story and song, Mary Dalton’s Merrybegot celebrates the poetic cadence and phrasing of the Newfoundland vernacular through a series of short dramatic monologues. These poems reel like an outlandish jig or spark and smoke like dry boughs flung upon a fire. They are impassioned, sullen, outspoken or conspiratorial; each voice is arresting in its idiosyncratic delivery, each story is an element in the creation of a vivid and distinctive portrait of a people and a culture.

Merrybegot was the winner of the 2005 E.J. Pratt Award for Poetry, and was shortlisted for both the Pat Lowther Award for Poetry and the Winterset Award.


“These are fast poems. They slip by quickly, yet once gone, still hold hard to the ear and tongue. They’re a mix of curse and blessing, the poems feathered as clean as newborn swallows as they dip and weave in the winsome cadences and idioms of Newfoundland. They are like something overheard in the street or at a table in a bar just after it opens, short as a joke and deep as a charm. [These poems] lift us from the obviously crafted, intellectual poem to an art that echoes the best of William Butler Yeats’s late poems, where he gave up artifice for the simplicity of joy and beauty. —The Globe and Mail

“A real find. . . . Dalton is sharp, insistent and dramatic.
—The Irish Times

“The most original poet whom almost no U.S. readers will know—comes from perhaps the least urban locale: the place is Lake View, Newfoundland, the poet Mary Dalton, whose spiky, dialect-strewn verse animates passionate fishermen, overworked wives, nearly pre-industrial hardships, and striking figures of speech. —The Yale Review

“A marriage of words and music, this collection of poems by Newfoundland author Mary Dalton is performed by two artists, narrator Anita Best and horn player Patrick Boyle. The poems are a fresh experience, a tour of a country told in its language. The lines ring with description—of fish and berry pails; social commentary, jokes, and insults—which is highlighted and punctuated by music. Anita Best has a smooth, deep voice that creates the necessary immediacy for engaging the listener in experiencing each poem. Patrick Boyle is gifted in expressing ideas through trumpet and flugelhorn, sometimes tremulous, sometimes mocking.” —AudioFile magazine

“There’s a bluntness, a beauty and a bawdiness to their stories that reach out to the readers. One wants to invite Dalton’s characters over for tea and listen to them all night long.”
—The Sunday Independent

“Most listeners will simply hear poems being read aloud. But Newfoundlanders, especially people raised in the outports, are more likely to hear some memory of actual everyday speech. To the local ear, these verses will function like Proust’s madeleine, recalling events, specific individuals, snatches of conversation, indeed a whole bygone way of life. . . . Whether Newfoundlander or no, you can choose to listen to the poems one at a time and appreciate the virtues of each. Or, whether Newfoundlander or no, you can set the CD on continuous play, and simply eavesdrop as you putter about. Soon you will find that an entire Newfoundland outport has entered your kitchen—in the traditional fashion, without bothering to knock—and sat itself down for a cup of tea and a long lingering chew of the rag.
—Books in Canada
Merrybegot (Mary Dalton)
Performed by Andy Jones.
Listening Time: 75 minutes
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-8-6
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-8-9

by Andy Jones

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

Between 1986 and 1989 Uncle Val, an elderly outharbour gentleman, wrote nineteen letters from his new home in the suburbs of St. John’s to his old friend Jack back home. Val’s move from the Bay to the ‘burbs' to live with his daughter, her obnoxious husband, their youngsters and two useless poodles, is an uneasy one. His slow adjustment and eventual appreciation for life in town is endearingly revealed through his letters to Jack.

Letters from Uncle Val on Myspace.com

"There are precious few actors who can charm and bind an audience so completely as Andy Jones."
-- Gordon Jones, Telegram, St. John's

Andy Jones is a stage and film actor and writer living in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He performed for many years with the comedy troupe Codco.

Written by Andy Jones with Michael Jones Sr. Performed by Andy Jones Dedicated to the Memory of Francis Colbert

Thanks to Mary Lynn, Louis, and Marthe Bernard, John Disney, John Foster, Flip Janes, Marnie Parsons, Janet Russell, Anita Best, Ella Scott, Bill Squires, Glen Tilley, John Doyle, Mary Walsh, Jim Rillie, Mary Dalton Walsh, Connie Corkum, Cherie Pyne, Nicole Rousseau, Lois Brown, and the members of The Sheila's Brush Theatre Company.

Audio Reviews:

From Audiofile Magazine

Adapted from the stage, and starring the author, this is a memorable one-man performance. Elderly Uncle Al has been forced to trade the city for the suburbs, moving in with his daughter, Margaret; her obnoxious husband, Bernard; three kids, and two poodles in Newfoundland. He confesses all his woes in 18 letters to his old buddy, Jack. As Jones wallows in his misery, his experiences go from bad to worse, building to a hilarious climax. Most rollicking are his letters about Bernard's new business, a tavern Val names Grapnel, which quickly fails. Second best are Andy's account of his bizarre method of babysitting his grandchildren and his thoughts on the plight of senior citizens. While lightweight, this is amusement par excellence. M.T.B.

Letters from Uncle Val by Andy Jones is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books )for the world.

Listen, a way to read more.

Letters from Uncle Val (Andy Jones) as known from radio and the stage
Performed by Frank Holden.
Listening Time: Approximately 72 minutes
10-digit ISBN: 0-9737586-6-X
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9737586-6-5

by Frank Holden

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

Set somewhere in outport Newfoundland in the 1890's, written and first performed in the mid 1980's by Frank Holden, Judge Prowse Presiding brings a vital character and a near-forgotten frontier world back to life.

Daniel Woodley Prowse (1834-1914), police magistrate, journalist, sportsman, historian and champion of the common man, was a "cross between Dr Samuel Johnson and Falstaff." As he rails at both plaintiffs and felons in his jokes and yarns he revives the excitement and the agonies of his time.

“It's title may be dry, but Frank Holden's one-man play is as colorful as can be, an absolute delight with no small measure of wit and a tour-de-force performance.” Times Colonist, Victorica, B.C.

“A transfixing performance – simply enthralling.” Edmonton Journal

Born in Port de Grave, Newfoundland in 1834 Judge D.W. Prowse is best known as the author of A History of Newfoundland, first published in 1895. A History of Newfoundland is widely hailed as one of the finest histories written about Newfoundland and Labrador.

The song and melody "Greedy Harbour, " performed by Frank Holden, words and air composed by Jack Maher and Stephen Mullins, 1929, (Greenleaf's " Ballads and Sea Songs of Newfoundland," Harvard University Press, 1933, page 256, Lib of Congress card catalogue # 68:20767).

Audio Book Reviews:

From AudioFile Magazine:

Frank Holden created a one-act play in 1989 about Judge Prowse, a larger-than-life Newfoundland character from the late 1800s. Holden now adapts and performs that play in a lovely audio production that is both humorous and respectful. The Judge decides local cases with common sense while intermittently regaling his court with alternately ribald and tragic stories. He is also famous for having written A HISTORY OF NEWFOUNDLAND and self-publishing it in 1895. Those dissatisfied with it could give him the unused part of the book back, and he'd give the unused part of their money back. Holden's strong and appealing Canadian accent booms and blusters, matching the archived photograph of the long-bearded fellow on the front cover. A.B.

Judge Prowse Presiding by Frank Holden is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books )for the world.
Judge Prowse Presiding (Frank Holden)
Narrated by Agnes Walsh with music by George Morgan and unaccompanied ballads sung by Simone Savard-Walsh.
Listening Time: 58 minutes
10-digit ISBN: 0-9734223-1-9
13-digit ISBN: 978-0-9734223-1-3

by Agnes Walsh

Library Digital Download of this audio book available from Overdrive.com

In the Old Country of My Heart by Agnes Walsh was originally published in book form by Killick Press, an imprint of Creative Publishers, in 1996. Since then Agnes Walsh and her poems have developed a keen following.

In this recording poems are interspersed with two unaccompanied ballads sung by Simone Savard-Walsh and the pump organ music of George Morgan.

Walsh is an example of that rare thing, a poet who not only writes well but also reads their work beautifully. She works from St. John's and Patricks Cove in Newfoundland. In addition to writing poetry Walsh writes plays. She founded the Tramore Theatre Troupe of Cuslett on the Cape Shore of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. Her most recent book is Going Around with Bachelors (Brick Books, 2007).

Book Reviews:

Agnes Walsh’s heart belongs to the Placentia Bay area of Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, but this passion for home ground is only part of what commends her work to the attention of readers everywhere. She writes under the skin; even her smallest poems glow with the mysterious otherness at the core of life.

Stan Dragland

Audio Book Reviews:

From AudioFile Magazine:

The tones and timbre of Agnes Walsh's voice seem to emanate from the heart of North America--from the most ancient parts of the continent. She reads her poetry with maturity, wisdom, and assurance. Like so many good poets, Walsh draws from her native soil, in this case the Placentia Bay area of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula, to discover universal and personal truths. In her final selection, "Oderin," Walsh laments, "There is not enough time to understand all I need to know." Isn't that always the way it is? A number of musical selections for voice and pump organ round out this haunting volume of contemporary poetry.

From Mark Callanan, The Independent:

Walsh, with her rich reading voice and a tongue that tenderly embraces each word in speaking it, makes this collection especially pleasant to listen to. Each poem is delivered with the weight of one who is not merely reading, but rather casting incantations, weaving magic. The result is an entrancing combination of music and spoken word.

From Phil Thompson, League of Canadian Poets:

For nearly an hour (58:04) this CD remains a gentle splendid earful.

Walsh's voice is subtle, sweet and sincere. She waltzes with words like sea mist dancing on the cliffs of Newfoundland, some lines bring a shawl to the shoulders, others a shaft of light.

Recorded in the Roman Catholic Church in Patrick's Cove on the shores of Placentia Bay, the acoustics remind listeners of Judy Collins singing Amazing Grace in another church more distant in time and space.

The 45 tracks are mostly short, crystal clear poems first published as a book by Killick Press in 1996. Copies of the second edition are available from the author at 4 Pilot's Hill, St. John's NFLD A1C 3L9.

Along with the alluring purity of Walsh's ever-so-slightly accented voice, there are several unaccompanied ballads by Simone Savard-Walsh, uplifting and poignant, and delicious pump organ playing by George Morgan...who also excels at playing the "Fisher-Price Roly Poly Chime Bell".

Average length of the poems is just over a minute, and the ballads are twice as long, yet the blend of these two fine arts makes for spectacular entertainment.

My favorites are Breathing Through Walls and At Night the Birds, but there are many others of equal interest and power, all well written and masterfully read.

This is one of the best Poetry CDs I have reviewed so far.

Any writer would be proud to have such high quality of production and design.

From Maria Scala, PoetryReviews.ca:

Agnes Walsh, recently named by the City of St. John’s as their first Poet Laureate, is no stranger to the charms of oral history, since she also works as an actor and playwright, and founded the Tramore Theatre Troupe on the Cape Shore of Placentia Bay. The poems from the CD In the Old Country of My Heart (originally published as a book in 1996 by Killick Press) are thus well-suited to the audio form, as Walsh performs them with the same conviction and precision with which she penned them more than a decade ago. Like one of the more memorable lines of the Celtic ballad about a herdsman’s daughter “Ailili? Na Gamhna” (offered in a sweet rendition by Walsh’s daughter Simone Savard-Walsh) “The magic music of the world / Always around me,” Agnes Walsh imbues the everyday with drama and depth, in poems such as “You Drive the Truck,” “Our Boarder Alfred,” “Tea Ceremony,” “Fiddlehead,” and “Percy Janes Boarding the Bus.”

In the last poem Walsh recalls waiting for the number 5, on her way to the mall for a kettle, and spotting the famous writer trying to catch another bus:

I jumped to life, beat on the bus door,
said to the driver: “Mr. Janes.
Mr. Percy Janes wants to get on.”

He raised a “So what?” eyebrow.

Mr. Janes straightened his astrakhan hat,
mumbled thank you and stepped up.
As the bus rumbled on
I continued under my breath:
“Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Percy Janes,
Newfoundland writer, poet,
just boarded the number something-or-other.”

If this was Portugal,
a plaque would be placed
over the seat where he sat.

As it is, you have me
mumbling in the street
like a tourist in my own country.

The way Walsh delivers that last line—“tourist” sounds like “taurist”—reminds me of an earlier track on the CD, “The Time that Passes.” Here, the poet bemoans the growing homogeneity of the spoken word, but her mother reminds her that even she can’t escape correct speech:

But you watch it, my mother said,
it’s your tongue too that was dipped
in the blue ink, and do go leaking iambics
all the day long.

This is a trademark of Walsh’s writing, this mingling of the lyrical with the conversational, and she does it again in “Storm,” a poem recounting the death and life of her father. In hospital, as Walsh’s father is coming out of the anaesthetic, she finds him making curious movements, his arms stretched overhead. Someone behind her says, “Don’t worry, love. / He’s mending sails and then he’s tacking home” (Track 42; Page 60). As Walsh reaches the sombre conclusion to the poem, the words themselves seem to get caught in her throat, rendering “Storm” that much more affecting:

My father so tiny in the bed. Time stealing him from me.
I sat and listened to him and the captain
talk of weather, fish, and old schooners—
what he had talked of all his life.

He’d call tonight a bad one.
Hurricane Louis would drive him from his bed
send him down the hall in his stocking vamps
checking the stove, the doors and windows
making us warm and watertight.

And tonight
I feel like howling into the fury
to bring him back safe to me.

Similarly, three poems in this collection stood out—the emotionally charged “In The Old Country of My Heart,” “Weather Moving,” and “Oderin.” In these three, Walsh digs deep into her past, exploring her identity as both a writer, and as a Newfoundlander. “Oderin,” the final poem on the CD, is a hauntingly picturesque remembrance from Walsh’s childhood, in which she was “Shipped out to old people who were childish / they didn’t know a five cents from a ten” (Track 44; Page 63). You have to hear Walsh read these sorrowful lines, in that voice that moves seamlessly from dead-pan to tender to ironic, to feel the full impact:

Can I walk anywhere without voices?
Although it is the voices I came here for.
Now they cut too near the bone,
too much inside the soundbone
thump thumping into the blood.

And that other balance upset by coming here
kicking at sleeping dogs, turning over tired bones.
These goddamn ghosts rattling under broad daylight.
Knowing summer is short they
shake their fists both day and night.

The hot potato tossed
from one generation to the next,
burned holes in my palms, left smoulders aching.
I watched tranced by the cult of blood.

I ask strangers: Was she cruel?
They turn away. Stare across the meadow.
Fidget with pipes and bandannas.
Then, finally:
Well, girl, she had a hard life.

So, she was cruel.

There’s another striking voice on this CD—that of Simone Savard-Walsh. She sings a cappella on two tracks, the aforementioned Celtic ballad “Ailili? Na Gamhna,” and the tragic folk song “Fair Fannie Moore.” I would have enjoyed hearing more from Savard-Walsh, in exchange for a little less pump organ and chime bell from George Morgan. While tracks such as “Don’t Know What This Is” and “Melancholic” complemented the mood created by Walsh’s poetry, others like “3 Blind Mice” and “Rodent Anthem” were a bit jarring. Taken as a whole, however, the music and ballads do provide ‘listening room’ between readings, for this is a weighty and dramatic body of work from a poet, who, in my opinion, deserves her own plaque on the bus.

In the Old Country of My Heart by Agnes Walsh is another EarLit audio book title from Rattling Books, Newfoundland publisher of Canadian unabridged audiobooks (aka audio books )for the world.
In the Old Country of My Heart (Agnes Walsh)