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category: Biography & Autobiography
published: Nov 2018
publisher: Talonbooks

He Speaks Volumes

A Biography of George Bowering

by Rebecca Wigod

tagged: literary, cultural heritage, canadian

This biography of George Bowering, first Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate, reveals the intimate, intellectual, and artistic life of one of Canada’s most prolific authors, offering an inside look at the people and events at the centre of the country’s literary and artistic avant-garde from the 1960s to the present.

A distinguished novelist, poet, editor, professor, historian, and tireless supporter of fellow writers, two-time Governor General’s Award winner George Bowering was born in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. After serving as an aerial photographer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Bowering earned a BA in English and history and an MA in English at the University of British Columbia, where he became one of the co-founders of the seminal avant-garde poetry magazine TISH. He has taught literature at the University of Calgary, Concordia University, and Simon Fraser University, and he continues to act as a Canadian literary ambassador. Bowering has authored more than one hundred books, including works of poetry, fiction, memoir, criticism, and youth fiction; his writing has also been translated into multiple languages. He has been shortlisted for the Griffin Prize for Poetry, the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, and the BC National Non-Fiction Award.

Starting in 2011, this legend of Canadian letters allowed former Vancouver Sun book pages editor Rebecca Wigod to interview him more than twenty times, even lending her his extensive diaries. She gives this account of his life and work twenty chapters – Bowering’s preferred length for a book – and structures it in “slices” (chapter titles include “The Varsity Man,” “The Husband,” and “The Sports Fan”), as he might.

As a writer and as a person, Bowering is so prolific and so complicated that without a primer, it’s easy to misunderstand him. But now you have one: He Speaks Volumes will be an indispensable guide to the life, work, and community of this multifaceted writer.

About the Author

Rebecca Wigod

Contributor Notes

Rebecca Wigod was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and came to Vancouver, British Columbia, as a child. Her father, Jacob, began teaching in the University of British Columbia’s English department. Warren Tallman, who ignited a love of poetry in George Bowering, was one of his colleagues.

Wigod has a bachelor’s degree in German and a master’s in linguistics. Her thirty-three-year career in print journalism began in 1977. She worked briefly at the New Zealand Herald, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Vogue Australia. She wrote features at Victoria’s Times Colonist and then spent twenty-two years at the Vancouver Sun. Best of all was editing its books pages from 2000 to 2010. She had the pleasure of interviewing such writers as Julian Barnes, Oliver Sacks, Helen Dunmore, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She first met Bowering in 2005, after he’d finished his term as Canada’s first Parliamentary Poet Laureate. Something about his style and manner piqued her interest.

She is married, lives in Victoria, B.C., and has two grown children.

Editorial Reviews

"Wigod offers a readable yet compelling window into Bowering’s life and work ... managing to capture his complexity and something of the thrilling yet conversational tone of his work. As many who know Bowering have testified, it’s hard not to feel a kinship with the writer after even a brief meeting, a sensation that Wigod’s biography makes a strong effort to replicate." —Zane Koss, filling station

“He Speaks Volumes commendably meets the always-daunting challenge of appealing to a diverse readership, whether it be the literary crowd, the academic community, or the general reader simply desiring a good story. It cannot have been easy to sort through a long and complex life and personality, or to absorb so many “volumes” of writing as well as the voluminous correspondence and archival material. But Wigod has succeeded admirably, producing an enjoyable biography, one of the few capturing the working and creative life of a west coast writer. Let us hope this is the beginning of a trend.”
—Kathy Mezei. BC Booklook

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