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Cigar Box Banjo

Notes on Music and Life

Regular price $14.95 CAD
  • Sold Out! - Paperback / softback
  • ISBN: 9781553658276
  • Tags: Biography & Memoir, Music & Performing Arts, Paul Quarrington, Roddy Doyle,
  • Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5
  • Published On: 3/14/2011
  • 256 Pages
  • ISBN: 9781553656296
  • Tags: Biography & Memoir, Music & Performing Arts, Paul Quarrington, Roddy Doyle,
  • Published On: 10/01/2010
  • 256 Pages

An award-winning author, musician, and screenwriter, Paul Quarrington was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in summer 2009. Looking death in the face, he decided to go out singing, throwing everything he had into his work and demonstrating a creative energy that belied his illness. He was recognized with the Matt Cohen Award for his distinguished body of work, performed with his band, Porkbelly Futures, and recorded two new albums.

He also finished Cigar Box Banjo, his bestselling and highly regarded memoir—reflections on his music, life, and death. The biographical documentary film Paul Quarrington: Life In Music, following the themes in Cigar Box Banjo, aired in spring 2010 on CTV Bravo. Also available in hardcover.

Paul Quarrington won numerous awards for his work, including the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour and Canada Reads 2008 for his novel King Leary. His Governor General's Award-winning Whale Music was made into a critically acclaimed feature film. He also won awards for his writing for the television series Due South and for his screen play for Perfectly Normal. On January 21, 2010, he succumbed to lung cancer and died at his home surrounded by friends and family. He is missed.

Roddy Doyle is the author of eight novels, a collection of stories, and a memoir. He won the Booker Prize in 1993 for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. He lives and works in Dublin.


"Cigar Box Banjo is a book almost utterly free of sentiment, regret or anger. First and foremost, it is funny, perceptive and sometimes, oftentimes, blushingly self-deprecating. In this it is Quarrington . . . at his essential, bull-free best." -Toronto Star

"Cigar Box Banjo is full of those qualities that aroused such love for Quarrington; the good humour, the lack of pretentiousness, the warmth, the generosity, the grit he demonstrated in pursuing his art." -National Post

"Paul Quarrington focuses on his subject (music) without wavering, even though death's waving at him through the peephole. He writes an unabashed, unsentimental and beautiful treatise on how a life spent dabbling, experimenting is still a life spent in study and devotion, a life well lived." -The Coast

"Quarrington's memoir is an elegant eulogy for deep culture. Without ever losing the same light tone, he sketches a vivid picture not only of his own eventful life but of an entire generation of 20th-century rebels whose accomplishments, like his own, are becoming clear only as they disappear." -Globe & Mail

"Prior to his death, Quarrington wrote his final book, the engagingly ruminative Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life. No literary reflective, this is a memoir powered by a love of music." -Toronto Star

"Cigar Box Banjo is the work of passion, of a writer trying to defy the odds of time to make one last trip to the well . . . It's a rollicking ride across musical genres and time, one that shows its author trying to squeeze every ounce of life onto its pages. One couldn't have asked for a nicer ending . . . for a guy who was seemingly as nice as Paul Quarrington."

"Cigar Box Banjo: Notes on Music and Life . . . is a celebration of those things [Quarrington] valued most: music, friends, food, travel, and writing. While etched with sadness, it is nonetheless a joy to read . . . Cigar Box Banjo is the perfect testament to the man, and to his work. He will be missed." -Georgia Straight

"Paul Quarrington's final outing is a delightful memoir and an uplifting epitaph . . . Rich with an acerbic wit, The Cigar Box Banjo is a treat. Self-effacing and humble, and never maudlin or self-pitying, Quarrington peppers his pages with wonderful anecdotes of his musical coming of age, and the trials, tricks, and trauma that come with being a travelling band in a broad country." -Winnipeg Free Press

"Quarrington's honesty, candour and willingness to share this unalterable part of his life is remarkable, resulting in a documentary filled with sweet, bitter and poignant moments." -Bravo

"Among his final projects were three music CDs; a memoir, Cigar Box Banjo . . . that charts his life in song; and a documentary that follows him on tour to his final months. These threads were interwoven in the way his projects had always been, as if he conceived of culture not as something set apart but as the living, breathing texture of daily life. Something that meant simply being alive to your own story, and being willing to tell it whatever way you could." -Nino Ricci, Quill & Quite

"An enthralling read, a wonderful mingling of musicological musing and personal memoir, made more poignant as we are aware of the ending before we begin." -Wholenote

"It's doubtful we will see a better memoir this year than Paul Quarrington's Cigar Box Banjo . . . He doesn't shy away from exploring in detail his own dark journey toward death, but the path is illuminated with humour, courage, [and] generosity." -Waterloo Region Record

"The book Paul Quarrington produced as a last gift to his many fans is in a category of its own, a layered, rambling, deceptively casual mixture of music history, coming-of-age narrative and reflection on mortality." -Globe & Mail, Top 100 Books for 2010

"The 'Life' sections of the book . . . explode with Quarrington's personality and include road stories as he travels from one gig to another." -Ottawa Citizen

"This final work from the late, beloved and multitalented Quarrington (writer, musician, fisherman, trivia maven) focuses on his life as experienced from inside the music. Facing death with great courage, Quarrington just kept on rocking." -Globe & Mail

"Quarrington died in the early days of 2010. It'll take years to fully appreciate his contribution. Start now, with this excellent memoir on his musical life first, his approaching death second." -Telegraph-Journal

"This is a rich and life-affirming story that will please avid music fans and anyone who is interested in learning about living a life of joy in the face of death." -Diane Prokop, Portland Book Review