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Dundurn Fall 2013 Trade

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Festival Man
By (author): Geoff Berner
9781459707245 Paperback, Trade English General Trade FICTION / Literary Alberta Oct 12, 2013
$17.99 CAD
Active 5.5 x 8.5 x 1 in | 200 gr 160 pages Dundurn

Maverick music manager Campbell Ouiniette makes a final destructive bid for glory at the Calgary Folk Festival.

Travel in the entertaining company of a man made of equal parts bullshit and inspiration, in what is ultimately a twisted panegyric to the power of strange music to change people from the inside out.

At turns funny and strangely sobering, this “found memoir” is a picaresque tale of inspired, heroic deceit, incompetence, and — just possibly — triumph. Follow the flailing escapades of maverick music manager Campbell Ouiniette at the Calgary Folk Festival, as he leaves a trail of empty liquor bottles, cigarette butts, bruised egos, and obliterated relationships behind him. His top headlining act has abandoned him for the Big Time. In a fit of self-delusion or pure genius (or perhaps a bit of both), Ouiniette devises an intricate scam, a last hurrah in an attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of his girlfriend, the music industry, and the rest of the world. He reveals his path of destruction in his own transparently self-justifying, explosive, profane words, with digressions into the Edmonton hardcore punk rock scene, the Yugoslavian Civil War, and other epicentres of chaos.

Geoff Berner graduated from the University of British Columbia Creative Writing Program, where he received the Harry and Hilda Smith Foundation scholarship for top undergraduate student. He has written TV scripts for Sesame Street. Signed to Mint Records, he is an international touring singer/songwriter/accordionist who has played in eighteen countries. He lives in Vancouver.

The best rock 'n' roll novel since Whale Music.

- Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, author of Ghosted and Down to This

I've known Geoff Berner was one of Canada's best writers since discovering his deliciously twisted, sobering, smart smart smart, and whiskey-soaked lyrics years back. In Festival Man, he cuts a swath through the music scene with an antic and destructively hilarious scythe. This novel is so subversively good, so profanely sacred, with its global savvy and deluded genius anti-hero, that I'm torn between hiding it from my 13-year-old son (a Berner fan) or propping it up against his cereal bowl.

- Zsuzsi Gartner, author of the Giller Prize-nominated Better Living Through Plastic Explosives

Spare and pointed, yet willfully ticklish, Geoff Berner's fictional debut chimes with summer truths and rock and roll lies. A great companion to any Canadian road trip going from here to there.

- Dave Bidini, author of Writing Gordon Lightfoot: The Man, the Music, and the World in 1972 and On a Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock

A blind sleigh ride through more of the music business – with a side of Canadian-eh? good-natured desperation – than most decent readers might be bargaining for. Warning, amid the fun and frolic there is much to fear here!

- Dennis. E. Bolen, author of Anticipate Results and Kasploit!

A demented part of me hopes the suction cups hanging Mr. Geoff Berner to the side of the planet will lose their grip and that he, and his manuscript, will hurl off. Because then I can steal a bunch of his lines – lines I would have written if only I'd thought of them myself. (I'm a huge fan. I was laughing out loud even before I started reading his book – and he hasn't disappointed me.)

- Susan Musgrave, author of Kiss Tickle Cuddle Hug and You’re in Canada Now, Motherfucker

If I ever rise up out of prison, the first thing I am going to do is buy Geoff Berner's book. Well, maybe the second thing...

- Stephen Reid, author of Jackrabbit Parole and A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden

Geoff Berner's debut novel is a fun, fast read. Berner's career as an international touring musician undoubtedly provided a wealth of experience to pull from. Filled with rock'n'roll misadventure and emotional debris, Campbell's speed- and booze-fuelled ramblings reflect — accurately and often hilariously — the unconventional characters who exist within the music industry.

- Quill & Quire

... Berner employs his unreliable narrator as effectively as Paul Quarrington's Whale Music, or, say, Keith Richards's Life – each of which, page for page, Berner can match with both anecdotal hilarity and razor-sharp Richler-esque satire. Festival Man is required reading for anyone who's ever played, worked or fallen down drunk at a folk festival.

- Maclean's

You should read this ... it's short, fun and hilarious.


Berner's debut novel, Festival Man, pays brilliant homage to that [folk festival] background. It's an absurdist, sort-of-based-on-real-life, snarky tale primarily based at the Calgary Folk Music Festival ...

- FFWD Magazine

It's a picaresque little tale indeed, full of pitfalls, pratfalls, sex, and drugs, but then so's the business in which Festival Man is set. So be warned: If it's The Sound of Music you're after, this one's definitely not for you.

- New York Journal of Books

This mighty book is much like a festival in many ways: it throws in a dash of the unexpected – unruly, unlikeable yet endearing characters, life-changing musical interludes and conversations – and it ends much too quickly... A remarkably unique tangent of a tale, Festival Man is a riotously funny, heartfelt and honest portrayal of life on the Canadian festival circuit.

- The Coast

There's a sweetness to Ouinette's story that underpins the sardonic, cynical masterminding of Festival Man's main character, and Berner writes the story as Ouinette in first-person mode with a delightful wit that makes the book hard to put down ... It's a story about how, despite all the shady dealings behind the scenes, people's lives are saved by music.

- Vancouver Sun

... one of the most truthful accounts ever published on life as a touring musician.

- Georgia Straight

[Berner has] created a hilarious book in which laughter and outrage mix in equal parts to paint a portrait of mayhem in the Canadian folk world that the reader won't soon forget. His prose is both tight and brilliantly's a wicked bullseye of a book.

- Penguin Eggs Magazine

...Berner/Ouinette's prose can be as effusively engaging as it is scathing and vitriolic...these pages sidestep cliches and comparisons and get at the heart at what the music sounds like and what it does to the listener, an extremely hard thing to do, effectively showing, not telling, the reader what 'real' music sounds like.

- National Post

...our friends are here too, in the underground Alberta that Berner has inexplicably nailed, despite not being of the Prairies himself. That is one of his many gifts. Another is his third act: near-imagist in its precision, making up for functionally concluding what feels like a long night of talking with long-missed and beloved friends by relating something that feels like it's true.


A searing, side-splitting book with charm and character, painting a vivid picture of the Canadian music landscape in all its grand bamboozlery.

- Vancouver Sun

Filled with dark humour, staccato storytelling and alcohol-soaked momentum...Festival Man is for any wayward music lover, washed up wild card or religious festival attendee. It's a tour de force of the grit and seedy underbelly of the music industry, and lands somewhere between self-indulgence and redemption.

- Telegraph-Journal

If you want a truly illuminating look at the music industry, this is it. It's a fantastically hilarious read. - Vish Khanna, CBC Radio

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