A rollicking memoir through the shifting zeitgeist of the last five decades
In The Barefoot Bingo Caller, Antanas Sileika finds what’s funny and touching in the most unlikely places, from the bingo hall to the collapsing Soviet Union. He shares stories that span his attempts to shake off his suburban, ethnic, folk-dancing childhood to his divided allegiance as a Lithuanian-Canadian father. Antanas has a keen eye for social comedy, bringing to life such memorable characters as ageing beat poets, oblivious college students, the queen of the booze cans, and an obdurate porcupine. Passing through places as varied as the prime minister’s office and the streets of Paris, these wry and moving dispatches on work and family, art, and identity are ones to be shared and savoured.
Antanas Sileika is the author of four works of fiction. His first book, Buying on Time, was shortlisted for the Leacock Medal for Humour and the Toronto Book Award as well as serialized on CBC Radio’s Between the Covers. Woman in Bronze and Underground were both listed among the 100 books of the year by The Globe and Mail, and the latter is in development for a film. An essay of his will be included in Best Canadian Essays of 2016. Antanas is the director of the Humber School for Writers. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.
“The memories have been vividly, deliberately shaped by a master storyteller over a lifetime of telling, to powerful and often hilarious effect. . . This is a memoir with the dull bits removed, and the remaining highlights polished to a bright shine.” — Quill & Quire starred review
“Some essays are quietly humorous; some, particularly toward the end, are melancholy. All are thoughtful and heartfelt.” — Toronto Star
“Sileika, who in July retired from his long-time post as director of the Humber School for Writers, is first and foremost a storyteller. His memoir does not impart a strong sense of chronology; what it does do is leave the reader with vivid impressions of the writer’s life, written largely in a wry, unsentimental style. A kind of truth.” — Globe and Mail
“The Barefoot Bingo Caller is evocative, unfailingly honest, wry and dead-on funny! A masterful piece of writing — like being entertained on a summer night by your closest and most charming friend.” — Miriam Toews, bestselling and award-winning author of All My Puny Sorrows and A Complicated Kindness
“A wonderful book, worthy of Leacock. Funny and wistful, always engaging and wholly original, The Barefoot Bingo Caller charts the geography of belonging from the suburbs of Weston to the streets of Vilnius, from iconic Parisian bookstores to secret fishing holes in the backwoods of Ontario.” — Will Ferguson, Giller prize-winning author of 419 and three-time winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour
“The Barefoot Bingo Caller soars in its descriptions of a boy’s childhood and perfectly conveys with humour and aplomb the push and pull of the identity of an immigrant in a new land.” — Catherine Gildiner, author of Too Close to the Falls
“Risky and refreshing … These days, literary memoirs, in particular, tend to narrow in on a single, significant event or moment in time. The Barefoot Bingo Caller instead provides an overview of its narrator’s entire life and does so to its advantage.” — Literary Review of Canada
“The Barefoot Bingo Caller is such a vivid and surprising look backward; this book is filled with pleasures, and I enjoyed it immensely.” — Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings
“Okay how could I not want to read this book with a title like that? Easy answer — I couldn’t resist.” — DearAuthor.com
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