Off the Page
A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between
Kathleen Winter invites us to take a peek at her personal library.
Robin Spano's got a new Clare Vengel book out: Death's Last Run. Here she talks about constructing Clare: sexual appetit …
Journalist Wade Rowland proposes radical reform to save the CBC from certain fiscal crisis.
The author of new novel Every Happy Family with a special guest-post for Mother's Day.
Our coast-to-coast guide of literary festivals to look forward to this spring.
All the best books for teens and young readers in Spring 2013.
Incidental Music (Inanna Publications) is the Lambda Literary shortlisted debut novel by journalist Lydia Perovic. Perovic has written for many Canadian, UK and U.S. media, including The Awl, n + 1, openDemocracy, Opera Canada, Xtra!, and Toronto Standard. She grew up in the Communist Yugoslavia and moved to Nova Scotia in 1999. Toronto has been her home since 2005.
49th Shelf talked recently with Perovic about writing her own artistic, intellectual and sexual queerdom into the kind of book she'd been craving to read; art as integral to a sense of civic well-being; and, the writer she claims made her gay.
Julie Wilson: Incidental Music centres around three generations of women—Romola, once a famous Hungarian opera singer; Martha, a married, historic preservationist; and Petra Veselinovic, who has immigrated to Canada.
This novel contains a lot of your own personal tapestry. You, too, immigrated to Canada and share a love of artistic and intellectual pursuits, and women. You've said elsewhere that you were craving more contemporary literature that features this aesthetic. With this work, were you endeavoring both to write such characters into being as well as your experience into the queer or contemporary literature canon?
Lydia Perovic: You know that thing that writers often sa …
The bus from the airport, hissing through the rain, stopped across from a large glass-fronted building. Through its giant window, bright, high-ceilinged rooms lit up the dark streets. The people reading and browsing, visible to the outside world, seemed like extras in a film. You’ve Got Mail, perhaps. In the days before online book-buying, this seemed the height of glamour. With just two books in my rucksack—Malcolm Bradbury’s Eating People is Wrong and The Rough Guide to Canada—I was glad to know where to go for more. I assumed, since this was my first visit to Canada, that there would be a fantastic French section. I knew BC was not French-speaking; nonetheless I fondly imagined Canadians spending their leisure time reading literature in the two languages.
What I knew of Canada’s two solitudes came almost entirely from the Rough Guide and discussions of Quebec separatism in university French courses. I had not expected it to translate quite so rigidly into linguistic isolationism that seemed far worse than that in England (as I’ve never lived in the other countries of the UK I won’t speak for them). If you’d ever travelled abroad from England, it was likely you’d been to France and had been forced to dig out at least a few phrases. “Oon chombruh por dur person …
One of the best things about literary fathers is they make most real fathers look good by comparison. King Lear, for example, wasn’t a great dad. Nor was Duddy Kravitz’s father, or Huckleberry’s Finn’s father Pap, who was a mean drunk. But it was Pap who provided the impetus for Huck to run away. He starts the adventure in motion.
The first page of Jim Harrison’s novel True North contains this line: “My father was so purely awful that he was a public joke in our area.” In Martin Amis’s book Money, John Self’s father Barry invoices him for childhood expenses and takes out a contract on his life. Though it turns out Barry is, in fact, his stepfather (and literary stepfathers are generally even worse than literary fathers). But John’s real father, Fat Vince, is no prize either.
Literature is filled with bad fathers. One reason for this is they are much more entertaining than good fathers. Dramatically, you can only go so far with Ward Cleaver. But Ward Cleaver with a mistress, a drug problem and a gambling addiction could sustain a novel. For every Atticus Finch-style dad (the wise and brave father in To Kill a Mockingbird) there are two Harry Wormwoods (the wildly appalling dad in Roald Dahl’s Matilda).
In my book Mount Pleasant, the central character, Harry Salte …
Memoir is huge. Whether it will be forever, or for much longer, is up for debate. For now, memoir is hotter than a snake's belly caught in a wagon rut!
In this podcast, we talk with author Julie Rak whose latest book is Boom! Manufacturing Memoir for the Popular Market (Wilfrid Laurier University Press). We discuss the book that signalled the birth of memoir mania and attempt to answer the question "Are all memoirists narcissists?" Of course, we'll chew on why Oprah needed so badly to throw James Frey under the bus, and more!
Julie Rak is an associate professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. Her current research is about autobiography and biography for mass markets.
The contenders for Ontario's 2013 Trillium Award—Ontario's leading literature award, with past winners including including Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Timothy Findley, and Anne Michaels—are formidable.
Any one of these books would demand top billing on your nightstand and an indulgent evening or two in to take them in, but the Ontario Media Development Corporation has given us permission to post a contest today in which the winner will receive the entire English-language 2013 shortlist; please see the full list here with all the details on the books. You just need to guess which finalist will win the award!
Just click on the "Pick a Winner, Be a Winner" tab in the top, right-hand corner of this page. Click on that tab to open the poll and enter to win. The contest closes at 5:00 pm ET, Tuesday, June 18.
We will draw for the winner June 19, and announce him/her shortly after that. Good luck!
NB: For those in Toronto, several of the shortlisted authors will be reading on the evening of June 17, 2013, at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street. There is no admission fee or RSVP required to attend—it is first come, first seated. Doors will open to the public at 6:30 pm, and the readings will commence at 7:00 pm. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.