Book details

Publication date: January 2018
Features: Foreword/liminaire, introduction
Series: CLC Kreisel Lecture Series
Keywords: Canadian Literature / Essays
Subject(s): BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Literary Figures, Creative Writing, Creative Writing / Literary Nonfiction, Creative Writing, Creative Writing / Essays, Creative Writing, Creative Writing / Auto/biography & Memoir, Canadian Literature / Essays, LITERARY COLLECTIONS / Essays, Canadian Literature / Essays, Literary essays, Biography: literary, Biography, Bestseller
Publisher(s): The University of Alberta Press, Canadian Literature Centre / Centre de littérature canadienne

Heather O'Neill. Heather O’Neill is a novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Her work, which includes Lullabies for Little Criminals, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, Daydreams of Angels, and The Lonely Hearts Hotel, has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, The Orange Prize for Fiction, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and has won CBC Canada Reads, The Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, and the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. She lives in Montreal.

Kit Dobson. Kit Dobson is Professor of English at Mount Royal University. He teaches and publishes in the areas of Canadian literature, film, and globalization studies.

"[Heather O'Neill's] father shared hard-earned wisdom culled from early years as a petty criminal through to his work as a kind of philosopher-janitor. Unfortunately, his enthusiasm for dispensing life advice was in direct opposition to its practical application. But it certainly makes for good reading.... [This] collection, like all of her work, is filled with humour, moments of joy, sudden bursts of deep emotion and heartbreaking sincerity... The lesson in Wisdom in Nonsense is how a writer uses autobiography to inform fiction."

Michael Melgaard, National Post

# 7 on Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers list, April 15, 2018

...a warm and funny collection of memories of O’Neill’s dad, a single parent. Look up Wisdom In Nonsense. Buy it. Give it to your own father. He will understand, and it will bring you closer.

Holly Doan, Blacklock's Reporter

"Wisdom in Nonsense offers up a selection of life lessons given to O’Neill as a child which come to act not as hard-and-fast rules but as guideposts to an occasionally odd-ball yet always sincere process of reflection on childhood, writing, and the father-daughter bond.... Reading about her connection with her father and the way in which they lived on the margins of society comes to illuminate O’Neill’s ability to depict the strange, perhaps even unexpected beauty of such bonds in her fiction." [Full review at]

Erin Della Mattia, Prairie Fire

"Heather O’Neill’s Wisdom in in some ways strange. Strange because it reads less like a biography of the late Buddy O’Neill, which it is, and more like an absurd instruction manual for living. Stranger still is the wisdom shared; although Buddy’s advice is never categorically wrong, it is often preposterous and abstract. Despite the strangeness of it all, O’Neill generously translates her father’s eccentricities and antics into a reflection on how much and how little one can learn from a parent, and how that learning is complicated by class and circumstance.... O’Neill elicits belly laughs and makes space for the quiet sadness of loving parents who will always be complicated to learn from and to remember." Canadian Literature, October 9, 2018 [Full review at]

Gabrielle Mills

"Bestselling novelist Heather O’Neill’s book is a slim, funny and moving account of childhood and her experience of being raised by a colourful—and criminal—father. In this tender volume, O’Neill shares the life lessons she learned from her father and his eccentric friends."

Matthew Stepanic & Jason Purcell, Edmonton Journal

Cover Design of the Year | Alberta Book Publishing Awards, Book Publishers Association of Alberta, Canada
Prelude 1
Lesson 1 | Never Keep a Diary 3
Lesson 2 | Learn to Play the Tuba 5
Lesson 3 | Never Share Your Scientific Research 7
Lesson 4 | Make Friends with Jewish Kids 9
Lesson 5 | Accept That You’re Ugly and Move On 11
Lesson 6 | Never Tell Anyone What Your Parents Do for a Living 13
Lesson 7 | Know About Art History 15
Lesson 8 | Crime Does Pay 17
Lesson 9 | Enjoy a Fondue Dinner 19
Lesson 10 | Respect Old Timers 23
Lesson 11 | It’s the Thought That Counts 27
Lesson 12 | Never Watch a Paul Newman Movie 31
Lesson 13 | Beware of Clowns 35
Coda | Sometimes There Is Nothing to Be Learned 39

ISBNs: 9781772123777 978-1-77212-377-7 Title: wisdom in nonsense ISBNs: 9781772124002 978-1-77212-400-2 Title: wisdom in nonsense ISBNs: 9781772123999 978-1-77212-399-9 Title: wisdom in nonsense ISBNs: 9781772124019 978-1-77212-401-9 Title: wisdom in nonsense