Monday, May 21, 2007

Halifax Chronicle Herald Review of Right Away Monday by Joel Thomas Hynes

Novel a gritty look at insatiable need

Chronicle Herald, Monday, May 21, 2007

"I still struggle with a certain spiritual emptiness myself because of that thing — that beast that’s inside that just wants to be fed, that just wants to be soothed, somehow, by whatever measures possible, sometimes, you know?"

Joel Hynes has been talking with me for about 20 minutes when he names the beast. Hynes, a novelist, actor and playwright, speaks of dark and dangerous things in a soft, slightly weary voice. He is very busy rehearsing his one-man play, Say Nothing, Saw Wood, which is scheduled to open in St. John’s just days after our conversation.

The ""beast" is central to all Hynes’ work. His characters are almost consumed by the "thing that just wants to be fed" — that needs to be fed rivers of alcohol, that needs to be drowned in drugs, anesthetized by sex, shocked still by violence.

Whether in his first novel, Down to the Dirt (Harper Collins $19.95) or his raw new novel, Right Away Monday (Harper Collins $29.95), Hynes takes us to the dark side and doesn’t let us look away.

But somehow he does make us laugh and laugh. Hynes explains that "with Right Away Monday, I didn’t sit down to write a funny book deliberately.

"I just really believe that comedy has to come from a very organic kind of place."

Hynes goes on to say that he never writes "to get a laugh, because obviously I’m more drawn to that darker thing, that tragic side of it.

"And I think what’s funny in Right Away Monday is just the ridiculousness of the self-abuse and the lifestyle and the choice we make. It’s ridiculous."

Hynes knows first-hand. He is very upfront about his own lost years. No boasting, no glory stories, just an admission that he finds it hard, even now that he is grounded and sober. "Just because I’m up and out of it — it’s still going on with people," he tells me, and then continues. "And I’m still walking that fine line myself, you know. I kind of like deal with everyday — the choice between having a good life and moving forward and being healthy and that sort of thing — as opposed to just letting go and going back to that place that almost killed me. You know. It’s a fine line."

What is a fine line is every line that Hynes writes, whether prose or thea-tre. He is a gifted writer; his dialogue so natural as to place you in the middle of a bar brawl, a lover’s quarrel, a head-splitting hangover or a memory.

Here’s Clayton Reid, our anti-hero of Right Away Monday. He’s drunk and stoned and at a beach party outside St. John’s when he decides to go skinny-dipping. He stands, naked, in the cold water.

"I have a vague sense of my legs but it’s like they’re melding with the water and the black, black night, and then that emptiness coats me over and that sound again, that nothingness, that hard disappointing sense of silence like dust settling on a playground after all the children just abandoned their rides at once cause they knew I was comin’. "

to read the whole article click here.

The unabridged audio edition of Down to the Dirt by Joel Hynes, narrated by Joel Thomas Hynes, Sherry White and Jonny Harris is available here from

Friday, May 18, 2007

Shore Pebbles from Author David Weale: Two Porpoises and a Moose

Two Porpoises and a Moose
by David Weale

It was one of those rare crossings on the Wood Islands Ferry where I hadn’t met anyone I knew very well, so was passing time in the lounge area with my head stuck in the morning paper, but looking up from time to time to be sure I didn’t miss anything. At some point I became aware of a general stirring among the other passengers, and observed that most everyone was scurrying outside, to the port side of the vessel.

I had a pretty good idea what was happening, and, sure enough, when I joined the others at the rail I saw two acrobatic porpoises cavorting playfully in the water near the boat, sliding in and out of the water to the beat of some inaudible rhumba. I’m not sure they were meaning to entertain the humans, but that’s certainly what it looked like, and soon there were so many spectators on that side of the boat I feared it might list. Suddenly, a rather uneventful ferry crossing had been transformed into a festival. Small children squealed with delight every time one of the graceful performers reappeared on the surface, and the adults were pointing and laughing -- sharing their high spirits unabashedly with perfect strangers. Indeed, within moments there were no strangers in the crowd, and I realized the people on the crossing were more familiar than I had thought. It lasted only a few minutes, but when the show ended the effects of the sighting lingered for the remainder of the trip. Thanks to the two porpoises the ferry had become a different, more congenial, and more enchanted place.

That experience at the rail was, for me, a revelation. In experiencing the grace and freedom of those two sea-creatures it seemed we all had touched somehow the deep-down beauty and freedom in ourselves. We became, for a time, unbuttoned and unblocked, and went our separate ways rejoicing, newly glad, and grateful for the day. Further, for the brief time we had stood together, watching the porpoises, there was a powerful feeling of solidarity: a sweet experience of shared discovery and delight, and of being fellow travelers, sharing a common Life. We were many eyes, seeing as one, and many hearts, beating in unison, and as I drove off the ferry at Caribou and continued on my way to Cape Breton I found myself lonesome, not so much for the other passengers, or even for the porpoises, but for that part of myself which had come swimming to the surface, but was already headed back under.

Mid-afternoon, the second day of our vacation, we were traveling along a remote section of the highway in the Cape Breton Highlands, somewhere between Cap St. Laurence and Cheticamp. Earlier in the day I had remarked with mock indignation to Andrea, my traveling partner, that I felt teased and sorely vexed by all the moose-crossing signs, with nary a sign of a moose. “Either take down the damn signs, or bring on a moose,” I railed.

Well, it worked. Moments later we drove around a bend in the highway and were surprised to see a very large number of cars, trucks and RVs parked on either side of the road. “Must be an accident,” was my conditioned response, even though there was no sign of a crash. What we could see was a large congregation of people standing on the side of the road, staring off into the distance.

“A moose!” we cried out in perfect unison.

Soon we were standing shoulder to shoulder with the others, peering and squinting at a large bull moose feeding so far upstream he was scarcely visible to the naked eye. It made me wonder how anyone had spotted him in the first place, but even at that distance he had the same magnetic power the two porpoises had demonstrated the day before. The magic was simply that he was there, and we were close enough -- though only barely -- to see him. And, just like the previous day on the ferry, an instant camaraderie emerged among spectators from all over the continent, and beyond.

We struck up a conversation with a young, professional couple from New York City who were on their first trip to the Maritimes, and positively ecstatic about what they were witnessing. The woman, a lawyer, was attempting to take a picture of the moose without a zoom lens, and I teased her good-naturedly, saying the animal would not even show up in the photo, and that her friends back in New York would all give her a hard time about the phantom moose she had spotted in Canada. She laughed, but said even a tiny dot in the picture would help her remember, and then proceeded to shoot away. To everyone’s surprise Andrea then suggested that she take a picture through our binoculars. I had never heard of such a thing, but she informed us that on a previous trip she had taken a picture of a whale that way, and that it had turned out just fine. The woman was skeptical, but decided it was worth a try. Personally, I thought it rather foolish, but like so many other foolish moments in life it had the redeeming quality of providing amusement. If I had been just a little more into the spirit of the moment I would have taken a picture of the woman, as she was taking her picture of the moose, with the camera held up to her eye, and the binoculars, in her other hand, aligned in front of the camera. It was a curious sight, and visual documentation of how separated we are from all that is wild.

The sight of that New York woman, twice removed -- by camera and binoculars -- from the object of her fascination, struck me as a powerful reminder of our alienation from the natural habitat and its creatures, and of how deeply we miss it. And I wondered whether our desire to get close to the wildness “out there” is a symptom of our estrangement from the wildness inside each of us, buried beneath protective layers of conventional behaviour and civilized routine. That, at least, was how I felt as I left the scene. We were a hundred random travelers on the side of a road, and that solitary moose had triggered the same recognition and wistful longing in all of us. We were, however, much closer to our vehicles than we were to him, and when he went his way, we all went ours. We lost sight of him, but it was a strange comfort just to know he was out there somewhere.


David Weale is the author of The True Meaning of Crumbfest (Rattling Books, 2005).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Joel Thomas Hynes launches new novel tonight at Bianca's in St. John's

Wednesday, May 16
8:30 pm
Joel Thomas Hynes is launching his new novel
Right Away Monday
at Bianca's Bar
117 Water St.
St. John's

Joel Thomas Hynes first novel is Down to the Dirt.

The unabridged audio edition of Down to the Dirt narrated by Joel Hynes, sherry White and Jonny Harris is available from

Monday, May 14, 2007

Down to the Dirt by Joel Thomas Hynes on

Joel Thomas Hynes' Down to the Dirt 
is available in unabridged audiobook edition from

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Joel Thomas Hynes on stage now with Say Nothing Saw Wood and on with Down to the Dirt

All this week from the LSPU Hall in St. John's Newfoundland Joel Thomas Hynes will be performing his new one man show Say Nothing Saw Wood.
For show listings check out the new page for Joel's audio edition of Down to the Dirt.
To read an excerpt from Say Nothing click here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Mary Dalton Readings at Atlantic Book Festival


N.B. For full cast of events including many other authors visit the Atlantic Book festival website here.

Tuesday May 8
7pm: Reading: Mary Dalton*, Ami McKay*, Stephen Kimber*, Elaine McCluskey*. Hosted by the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland & Labrador at the Masonic Temple (6 Cathedral St.), St. John’s.

Wednesday May 9
7pm: Atlantic Book Festival Celebrates Poets: Mary Dalton*, Steve McOrmond*, Pete Sanger* will read at the Faculty Staff Club, Ward Chipman Library Building, UNBSJ, Saint John

Thursday May 10
7pm: The Shortlist Sampler: A Joint Reading with Mary Dalton,* Ami McKay,*Linden MacIntyre* and Pete Sanger* at Alumni Hall, University of King’s College (6350 Coburg Road), Halifax
Mary Dalton's book Red Ledger is short listed for this year's Atlantic Book Festival Poetry Award.
Mary's previous book of poems, Merrybegot, is available as an unabridged audio recording narrated by Anita Best with music by Patrick Boyle from Rattling Books.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mary Dalton's Red Ledger on short list for Atlantic Book Awards Poetry Prize

The following is the citation for Mary Dalton on the Atlantic Books Festival website:

Mary Dalton
Red Ledger
VĂ©hicule Press, 2006.
ISBN 1-55065-216-8

Collection number four from Mary Dalton packs tight the tough and visceral with the erotic and the sociopolitical. Writing in The Globe and Mail, author Jane Urquhart, who chose the book among her best of 2006, notes, “It's sensuous, surprisingly lively at times, and sometimes very wonderfully dark; the emotions revealed in these poems taste like atmosphere. Salt, for example, is a recurring metaphor for desire and for the dizzying parade of images that make up the much-loved places ("St. John's as well as "round the bay") where the poet lives.”

Mary Dalton lives in St. John’s and teaches in the English Department at Memorial University. Her outstanding contribution to the arts has been recognized with the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts and Letters Award. Mary’s previous book, Merrybegot, won the 2005 E.J. Pratt Poetry Award and was shortlisted for the Winterset and Pat Lowther Memorial Awards.


Mary Dalton is also the author of Merrybegot. The unabridged audio edition of Merrybegot , narrated by Anita Best with trumpet by Patrick Boyle is available from

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Chronicle Herald article: Jones’s Uncle Val fills audience with joy of storytelling, laughter

(from the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Saturday May 5, 2007)

Andy Jones is so brilliant and heartwarming, you wish you could hold his words in your fingers like a string of worry beads.

The St. John’s, N.L., comic actor and writer kicked off the 14th annual On the Waterfront Theatre Festival to a standing ovation Friday night.

"Geez, he’s something else," one audience member said as he was leaving the packed Alderney Landing Theatre in Dartmouth.

Jones’s show is a wonderful comic meditation on Newfoundland, daily life and everyone’s fear of mortality.

An Evening with Uncle Val, derived from a popular character Jones first created in 1978, interweaves a beloved, aged, outport exile grumbling about life with his grandkids in suburban St. John’s with Andy the actor telling the story of himself as a young townie falling in love with the old rural Newfoundland storytellers.

He and a raft of others sought to study Newfoundland culture, reshape it and share their passion for it with fellow Newfoundlanders and with Canada. An Evening with Uncle Val does exactly that.

At the heart of the show is the beloved character of the widower Uncle Val writing to his friend Jack about his daughter Margaret, his odious son-in-law Bernard, his rhyming grandchildren Kimmy and Jimmy and the poodles, Tiffy and Tuffy.

Val is upset by the newfangled ways in St. John’s and by cable TV, which introduces American soap operas and unhappy Americans into the living room.

"I know why they’re always unhappy," he tells Jack.
"Their liquor cabinets are always full. They got nothing to strive for."

On a set of piled-up boxes, a doll’s house representing Margaret’s home, a desk and a kitchen table for Val’s favourite tea, Jones roams around as both Uncle Val and himself in complete control of the audience, yet seemingly offhand as he addresses the audience directly and ad libs beautifully.

The audience is enveloped in the joy of storytelling, of comedy and of being part of theatre about theatre and about human nature.

Highlights include poodle slippers that move of their own accord when a caped Uncle Val fantasizes he is the household king about to witness the drunken Bernard’s undoing, and Andy the actor’s voice-perfect imitations of Joey Smallwood and J.F.K., who accompany him on the road.

Do yourself a favour and go see An Evening with Uncle Val, which runs roughly 90 minutes and is on tonight at 9:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Alderney Landing Theatre. For tickets, call Ticket Pro at 1-888-311-9090 or go online to


Letters from Uncle Val, the audio CD, written and performed by Andy Jones is available from

Robin McGrath teaching course in North American Aboriginal Literature in Happy Valley - Goose Bay

Starting May 14 for five weeks, Robin McGrath will teach English: 2160 North American Aboriginal Literature, an introduction to aboriginal literature in a social, political and historical context. Beginning with the oral tradition, it will cover poetry, drama, short stories and novels by North American aboriginal writers.
This is the first time this English course has been offered.

The course will be taught at College of the North Atlantic in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. For information contact Martha MacDonald at 896-6213, or at

Robin McGrath is most recently the author of Coasting Trade: a Performance for three voices with soundscapes. Coasting Trade is the product of a collaboration between author Robin McGrath, radio producer Chris Brookes and actors Robert Joy, Rick Boland and Anita Best.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Ottawa Citizen review calls Mavis Gallant audiobook "sheer perfection"

Recent review in the Ottawa Citizen of Montreal Stories by Mavis Gallant, unabridged audio edition narrated by Margot Dionne:

Polar opposites but still two literary delights

Janice Kennedy, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Sunday, April 29, 2007
(Excerpt from a longer column:)

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. (Note: Rattling audiobooks are most easily located and purchased through their website,