Smith, Russell 1963- (Basil Sage)

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Smith, Russell 1963- (Basil Sage)


Born 1963, in Johannesburg, South Africa; immigrated to Canada, 1967; son of Rowland (a professor) and Ann (an educator) Smith. Education: Attended University of Poitiers and University of Paris; Queen's University, M.A., 1987.


Home—Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Freelance journalist. Restaurant reviewer for journals, including NOW and Toronto Life, 1991-95; restaurant critic (under the pseudonym Basil Sage) for Later the Same Day, Canadian Broadcasting Company; Berton House, Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, writer-in-residence, 1996; author of weekly column on men's fashion for Toronto Globe and Mail for two years, and author of "Virtual Culture," a weekly column for Toronto Globe and Mail; editor of XYYZ.CA, an online men's advisory service. Juror for Governor General's Award in Fiction, 2005.


Trillium Book Award nomination, Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award nomination, and Governor General's Award nomination, all for How Insensitive; White Award, William Allen White School of Journalism, 1995, for article in Toronto Life; National Magazine Award for fiction, 1997, for "Party's Going"; Toronto Book Prize nomination and Danuta Gleed Literary Award nomination, both for Young Men; City of Toronto Book Award nomination and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, both for Muriella Pent.


How Insensitive (novel), Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

Noise (novel), Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

Young Men (stories), Doubleday Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

The Princess and the Whiskheads: A Fable, illustrated by Wesley Bates, Doubleday Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.

Muriella Pent (novel), Doubleday Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.

Men's Style: The Thinking Man's Guide to Dress, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor of prose, poetry, and essays to periodicals, including Idler, Malahat Review, Quarry, Carousel, New York Review of Books, Details, Travel and Leisure, Toronto Life, EnRoute, Toro, and Queen Street Quarterly.


Russell Smith is a Canadian journalist, novelist, and short-story writer, as well as an influential social commentator. According to Robert Murray Davis in Essays on Canadian Writing: "In the larger context of twentieth-century English comic fiction—and Smith admires Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse, and Kingsley Amis—he has an honourable and by no means minor position in a mode that lies uneasily between social comedy and satire."

Smith published his first novel, How Insensitive, in 1994, earning a Governor General's nomination. In his follow-up, Noise, Smith offers a satirical look at Canadian literary culture. "Smith's characters are thinly veiled from those among us," noted Quill & Quire reviewer Catherine Osborne, "which makes Smith's brand of sardonic writing on the hip and jaded appealing to both Toronto's insiders and those who love to hate the vapidness of it all."

Young Men, a collection of eleven interlinked stories, focuses on Dominic, a hip gossip columnist, Lionel, an emerging novelist, and James, a journalist. The characters' "desires and emotions are recognizable, and they are portrayed sharply and economically, with minimal glitz and melodrama," Davis observed in World Literature Today. Bill Richardson, writing in Quill & Quire, commented, "The stories in Young Men are very much of a time and place, and readers with a connection—real or imagined—to the hemi-demi-semi-monde to which they are particular will devour them with a roman à clef enthusiasm."

A stodgy socialite plays host to a feisty, unconventional writer in Muriella Pent, "a social satire of surprising nuance and maturity," remarked Quill & Quire reviewer Nicholas Dinka. When an arts committee fails to garner any serious candidates for their artist-inresidence grant, they reluctantly select Marcus Royston, a celebrated Caribbean poet whose best days are behind him. Royston settles into the home of committee member Muriella Pent, whose racist neighbors quickly become disturbed by the parade of diverse characters who visit the poet, who in turn upsets the liberal media by denouncing their views on literature. "In short, Smith makes fun of everyone," Dinka wrote. "He'll use the non-conformist Royston to make fun of the arts committee's ludicrously rigid politics, but then suddenly undermine the poet's authority."



Booklist, January 1, 2007, Brad Hooper, review of Men's Style: The Thinking Man's Guide to Dress, p. 32.

Books in Canada, December, 1994, review of How Insensitive, p. 15; June-July, 2002, T.F. Rigelhof, "A Dragon and a Princess," review of The Princess and the Whiskheads: A Fable, p. 5; August, 2004, Michael Carbert, review of Muriella Pent, p. 4.

Canadian Literature, summer, 2005, Greg Doran, "Satire, Sex, and Smith," review of Muriella Pent, p. 181.

Essays on Canadian Writing, spring, 2001, Robert Murray Davis, "Everything Old/New Is New/Old Again: The Fiction of Russell Smith," pp. 151-165.

Maclean's, May 10, 2004, Brian Bethune "Books and the City," review of Muriella Pent, p. 48.

New Quarterly, summer-fall, 2001, Heidi Brown, "Russell Smith," p. 44; summer, 2004, Derek Czajkowski, "The Sidewalks Are Always Interesting: The Urban World of Russell Smith," p. 17, and "In Conversation with Russell Smith," p. 47.

Open Letter, summer, 2005, Aaron Schneider, "New Yorker of the North: Russell Smith's Cosomopolitanism," p. 31.

Quill & Quire, December, 1994, review of How Insensitive, p. 28; April, 1998, Carol Toller, "Making Noise: Russell Smith Knows How to Get Attention," p. 1, and Catherine Osborne, review of Noise, p. 25; February, 1999, Bill Richardson, review of Young Men, p. 33; May, 2002, Shaun Smith, review of The Princess and the Whiskheads; February, 2004, Nicholas Dinka, review of Muriella Pent.

Resource Links, October 1, 2000, review of Young Men, p. 50.

World Literature Today, winter, 2000, Robert Murray Davis, review of Young Men, p. 173.


Russell Smith Home Page, (August 15, 2007).

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Smith, Russell 1963- (Basil Sage)

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