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The Incident Report

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  272 ratings  ·  55 reviews
In a Toronto library, home to the mad and the marginalized, notes appear, written by someone who believes he is Rigoletto, the hunchbacked jester from Verdi’s opera. Convinced that the young librarian, Miriam, is his daughter, he promises to protect her from grief. Little does he know how much loss she has already experienced; or does he?

The Incident Report, both mystery a
Paperback, 195 pages
Published April 22nd 2009 by Pedlar Press
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3.55  · 
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 ·  272 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Sep 24, 2016 added it
Recommended to Teresa by: Lyn Elliott
4.5 stars

Such an affecting work of minimalism, and so hard to describe without giving away what should be experienced directly. The darkness of working in what I imagine must be a large urban library and the tentativeness of falling in love are juxtaposed in such a way that the climax, though perhaps a tiny bit predictable, hit me in the gut and had me rereading and rereading one rather short ‘incident report’ to see if I was, nevertheless, wrong about what I was reading.

It’s also an impressive-
Lyn Elliott
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This extraordinary little book will live in me for some time, I suspect.
The apparently simple format of a Toronto librarian's short 'Incident Reports' is a brilliant device that allows Baillie to present cameo after cameo of people and behaviours outside the square, people who don't fit into or actively reject social norms and structures. Libraries are usually seen as places where system unobtrusively prevails, and people quietly adhere to the expected norms.
Here, in scene after scene, we meet p
Glenn Sumi
Mar 01, 2015 rated it liked it
You won't enter a Toronto public library in the same way after reading Martha Baillie's haunting new novel, set in a fictional branch in Allan Gardens.

The Incident Report consists of 144 reports, some long and detailed, others haiku-like in their suggestive minimalism. They're all filed by Miriam Gordon, a librarian in her mid-30s whose cautious and detached demeanour make her an objective report-taker. Initially, that is.

Then she meets Janko, a mysterious cab driver/artist from Slovenia, who be
Amanda Vance
Sep 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
"Many incidents occur in public libraries,
and when one does the librarian in charge
is required to fill out the necessary forms..."

The Incident Report begins with this quote along with an example of a library incident report, setting the tone for the rest of the story. The book is broken up into individual incidents, which taken together, tell the story of Miriam's life. Library incidents intertwine with incidents within her life, past and present to give a feeling of who Miriam is and how seemin
Jan 26, 2011 rated it liked it
I discovered this book when meeting Baillie at our local farmer's market, which we attend each Saturday. Baillie had the only 'wares' that were in book form, and was a total quirkball delight to chat with.

Toronto's Pedlar Press is run by one woman in her house, and sheesh, does she ever create elegant books - the paper weight on this one was lovely.

Anyone who's ever worked in a public library must read this book to find solidarity and deep humor. Anyone who hasn't ever worked in a public librar
Jason Pettus
Jan 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

This is now my second book from the exquisite small Canadian publisher Pedlar Press, after Jacob Wren's Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed; and this is just as impressive as that one, a poetically beautiful text but with quite a dark streak as well, in this case centered around a Toronto pub
Aug 03, 2010 rated it liked it
I picked this up at the library firstly because of the fine paper it is printed on (a rare delight), and secondly because of its novel concept of telling the story. The book uses 144 incident reports like the ones which Toronto Public Library workers fill out to report notable and questionable incidents at the library (like patrons who remove all the books off a shelf, or men who beckon to patrons from outside the library’s windows).

I found this format perfect for the main character Miriam’s de
Kit A.
Jan 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: library staff
Required reading for anybody who has worked or is currently working in a library! The narrative is told through a series of numbered incident reports, which are structured more like mini chapters. While I agree that the main character, Miriam, an employee at the Allan Gardens branch of the Toronto Public Library, can seem emotionless at times, I found her dry and subtle humour added so much to the challenging and absurd situations at the library. Her patience and diplomacy in handling difficult ...more
Jun 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Anyone who currently works, wants to work, or has worked in a public library needs to read this book. Entirely made up of "incident reports," this is the story of Miriam Gordon, who works at the service desk in the Toronto Public Library. Miriam's reports chronicle her day-today encounters with customers, which encompass the hilariously inappropriate, disturbing and the poignant. From the man who sits on the floor and obsessively stacks books, to the Lavendar Woman who rants to Miriam about Amer ...more
David Dacosta
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
What constitutes a novel? Well, Martha Baillie has constructed something that shatters that traditional notion. The Incident Report reads like a series of diary entries by a peculiar librarian. Four plus years ago, a favorable review of this book appeared in an alternative Toronto weekly – Now magazine – and piqued my curiosity. Shortly thereafter, I searched the library database with no luck. The title hadn’t been purchased yet, so I settled for Baillie’s previous novel The Shape I Gave You. I ...more
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-we-love
Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): Martha Baillie’s novel The Incident Report is structured as brief reports written by Miriam, a librarian in Toronto. The plot involves romance and mystery, but so far the most compelling bits are Miriam’s descriptions of the library’s odd patrons, which remind me (for better or worse) of my twelve years as a clerk in a small-town bookstore. [Editor's Note: Matha Baillie's upcoming novel The Search for Heinrich Schlogel will be published by Tin House in September, 2 ...more
Corinne Wilson
What an odd little book. At first I was confused by the poetic language and personal tone of the security incident reports, until I figured out that the librarian is using them as a sort of private diary, recording past memories, snippets of her time with her lover, and daily interactions with colorful patrons and keeping these "incidents" in her desk. One of the library's regular members is convinced that he is the opera character Rigoletto and that the librarian is his long lost daughter, whom ...more
Jun 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It would not do to go into too much detail, as much of the joy of The Incident Report comes from placing the pieces together, getting a picture of Miriam's fragility and strength only through glimpses into her reactions. The rest of the novel's delight lies in Baillie's precise construction of sentences, her wordplay and imagery delicately balancing Miriam's wistful view of the world with its harsher realities. Phrases such as "I lowered my eyes to the computer screen and read, but the words had ...more
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
1. pedlar press 2. a novel made of library incident reports 3. 5 star cclap review
you tell me what's not to like?
clever, affecting novel of a women taking the chance to reach out to other people, specifically taking a lover after many years a solitary. Intertwined with her story are incident reports she has made at her job as a librarian, reports of all the crazy, nice, vile, and ridiculous people who use public libraries. The ultimate question i see author is asking is if we reach out to other
Jim Puskas
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: prose-poetry
Most of this book is poetry masquerading as prose. No matter, it's utterly unique, whatever you name it. Baillie recounts a host of bizarre "incidents" at the library where she works, involving a number of very strange "patrons" many of them clearly nuts, others just lost souls. Some are hilarious, some simply droll while others are sad and pitiful. Meanwhile Miriam, the narrator lets us into her developing relationship with Janko, an immigrant who, unable to make a living from his talent as an ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Emotion wells up quickly from the supposedly dry and clinical reports of day-to-day occurrences at a downtown Toronto library. Written by a frustrated and depressed but conscientious young woman, the ostensible reports trace both fond and troubled memories from her childhood, and bring her to the awakening and possibilities of happiness in her present life. Longlisted for the 2009 Giller Prize, Baillie's novel is populated by fleeting but poignant portraits of people finding solace and sanctuary ...more
May 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a very clever book, probably 3.5 stars but I decided to be generous and round it up. The author uses a gimmick to tell the story but she does it in such a way that the gimmick does not overshadow the narrative. The narrator works in a public library in Toronto and tells the story through a series of "incident reports" that reflect the day-to-day weirdness of working in this environment. She also uses these "reports" to tell the story of her love affair which she obviously would not incl ...more
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who like books that are downers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 20, 2009 rated it liked it
It's hard not to like a book set at a library and made up of incident reports that librarians have to follow. It should be handed out to all SILS entrants as a deterrent and warning as to what serving the public really means...
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful little book with poem like episodes/ incidents that happen in a Toronto library. With just a few words- she captured a life of each person.
It's a book that does not aim to preach or educate, just observe. Sometimes funny sometimes sad.
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
This wasn't what I expected. I'd read reviews saying it was the (fictional) record book of a librarian writing up reports on various incidents taking place in the library, but the tone and the direction the story took were quite a surprise. Because the main character is a female librarian I was thinking it might have a "Miss Read" or "Anne of Green Gables" feel to it. Wrong. It started out with a couple of funny incidents but the stories get much more serious as it continues. This is an edgy lib ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Miriam, a thirty-something librarian in a dodgy part of Toronto, compiles reports on her life and the activities of the library’s patrons, who are a seedy group of alcoholics, perverts, madmen and thugs. One of the patrons is leaving her long letters in the children’s section and believes she is the daughter from the Verdi opera Rigoletto. She never sees who is leaving her these creepy notes. She is lucky enough to connect with Janko, a taxi driver, whom she finds reading in the park. They begin ...more
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to JacquiWine by: Max Cairnduff
One of the things I enjoy about following other bloggers and reading their reviews is the discovery of ‘new’ things, interesting books that I might not have heard of otherwise. A case in point is The Incident Report (2009), an excellent novella by the Canadian author, Martha Baillie, which I bought after reading Max’s review. I very much doubt that I would have stumbled across this book had it not been for Max’s blog, and that would have been a shame as it’s a little gem.

In some respects, Bailli
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Actual rating: 2.5.

A strange and rather weird book, comprising a collection of reported library incidents and snippets from the narrator’s own life. The mostly impassive narrative created a surreal atmosphere, tending towards a disconnected apathy that could at times be unsettling.


“My father did not read the books he collected. Whereas many men drink, he eased his anguish by purchasing books. He imagined that his collection might one day acquire an immense value. Not that he planned to se
Dani Peloquin
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
When I first finished this book, I was speechless (which is rare for me). I stumbled upon this novel while in a bookstore in Canada and thought that the premise was interesting so I bought a copy. I had no idea how impressive such a slim book could be. I rarely keep books after I finish reading them, however, this book will have a permanent place on my bookshelf for future re-readings and re-re-readings.

Author Mariam Baillie tells the story of Miriam, a public librarian in the city of Toronto. M
Jeff Raymond
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
My tolerance for experimental fiction is admittedly low, and I didn't know that The Incident Report was that type of book going in. That's okay, though, because it's actually pretty good.

The story follows the life of a librarian through various branch incident reports. Between the tales of different patrons and their activities (man, that takes me back...) is a tale of some creepy, perhaps mentally-imbalanced stalking.

The story is a fairly fast one, a many of the almost 200 pages only have a co
Feb 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This was another random pick-up at my local value village. I'm quite glad I grabbed it though.

The title jumped out at me while scanning the selves. It reminded me of Mr. Ludlums' work. Once in my hands the very fine cover and even greater paper stock stood out as different. The fact that the back cover had nothing about the book was intriguing. Then to find out that the copy was signed by the author....even better.

The format of the book (namely a series of random reports that somewhat tells a s
May 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-libraries, fiction
If you work in a library or any other service-based industry, you are probably familiar with incident reports — detailed written reports that must be completed whenever a disturbance or criminal act occurs during your work hours. This novel by Martha Baillie is narrated by a library clerk, Miriam, in the form of reports regarding both library and personal incidents. Captured in these reports are unruly and ill-behaved patrons of all sorts — and those of you who have worked in libraries can attes ...more
Shonna Froebel
Dec 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: canadian
This novel has an intriguing format. With the narrator, Miriam, an employee of the Public Libraries of Toronto, in the Allan Gardens branch, the book begins with a form used by the library to report on incidents that take place in the library. The rest of the book is in the form of short (sometimes very short) incident reports that consist of descriptions of events that take place in the library, in her personal life, or in her past. It was a very different way to tell a story and yet it worked ...more
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Martha Baillie was born in Toronto, in 1960, and educated in a French-English bilingual school. At seventeen she left for Scotland where she studied history and modern languages (French and Russian) at the University of Edinburgh.

She completed her studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Toronto. While at university, Baillie became involved in theatre.

She continued to act after gr