Off the Page
A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between
Coleman's memoir shows the City of Love like you've never seen it before.
Indigenous writers, artists, and scholars recommend some of their essential reads.
Spring is Canadian poetry's time to shine.
This week on The Chat I speak to Jess Taylor, whose debut collection of short stories, Pauls, has earned rave reviews ac …
Here to help minister to your winter reading needs, our dedicated independent booksellers weigh in with some of their pi …
This week we're pleased to present the picks of memoirist Brian Brett (Tuco); author Amy Jones (upcoming novel We're All …
These are the books that my family has loved until their bindings broke. What are some of yours?
"What is needed is for Canada to transform itself to embrace our true, shared culture and history—to understand that w …
From fiction to poetry and YA, these books deserve a place on your nightstand.
Our children's librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
There are two reasons why right now is perfect time to be telling you about Nisha Coleman's Busker: Stories from the Streets of Paris. One is that we're focusing on oddballs and misfits this month here at 49th Shelf, in this misfit month with its 29 days, and Coleman encounters so many of these characters during her time busking in Paris living on the city's cultural fringes. And the second is that Valentines Day is on the horizon, and Coleman's memoir shows the City of Love like you've never seen it before. Busker is also very much a love story in its own right—just not the kind you're probably used to.
Kerry Clare: There are so many compelling bits of your memoir, and one of them for me is the way you write about loneliness of your life in Paris in the beginning, about your longing for just an ordinary friend. You meet so many characters in your daily life—the man with the moustache, the guy with the sex songs, Michel the kisser. Was there really such a dearth of ordinary folks? Are they just not approachable? Is normal too boring to write about? Is there such a thing as normal at all?
Nisha Coleman: I don't believe in normal! I longed for an ordinary friend, but not a normal one. What I lacked in Paris was the kind of closeness that lets you relax in …
In late December of 2015, Canada's Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, proposed an Aboriginal book club month, creating an opportunity to promote reading indigenous authors. Three such authors (Tracey Lindberg, Lee Maracle, and Drew Hayden Taylor) met the following week to debate the merits of that idea on CBC's The Current, and to discuss the state of indigenous literature in Canada—their conversation was fascinating and you can listen to it here.
In this post, we would like to further the spirit of their discussion with Indigenous writers, artists and scholars recommending some of their essential reads.
Bearskin Diary, by Carol Daniels
Recommended by Richard Van Camp
I believe Carol Daniels is one of the most important voices in Canadian and World Indigenous Literature today. Her novel Bearskin Diary follows Sandy as she reclaims her culture and her spirit after surviving the Sixties Scoop. I wasn't expecting this novel to be so fearless, but it is. I could not put this book down.
I love Kenneth T. Williams' quote: "Bearskin D …
Spring is all about the daffodils, and rain showers, and looking forward to April—otherwise known as National Poetry Month! Here are some poetry titles that we're really excited about.
Injun (May), by the award-winning Jordan Abel, composed of text found in western novels published between 1840 and 1950, creates a long poem about race, racism, and the representation of Indigenous peoples. Tough poems for tough times: Martial Music, George Amabile's eleventh book, explores the relationships between civilization, technology, empire and human violence, theatres of war, the collateral damage of military occupation, the machinations of power politics, oil spills, destruction of the environment, PTSD, and other characteristics of what we call “world events.” Chewing Water (April), by Nelson Ball, represents a landmark event in a six-decade writing career. And House of Mystery (June), by Courtney Bates-Hardy, is a collection of poems about monsters, mothers, witches and mermaids that will tear apart our conceptions of fairy tales.
Slick Reckoning (Apr …
This week on The Chat I speak to Jess Taylor, whose debut collection of short stories, Pauls, has earned rave reviews across the country.
The stories in Pauls explore the lives of young Torontonians looking for love, struggling in dead-end jobs, and working overtime to make sense of their painful pasts. The Star called Pauls “a dark but strikingly atmospheric debut” and praised the collection’s “wisdom and sadness,” while the National Post said the collection is “a cycle of bristlingly good stories...one gets the sense of discovering in her authentic, compelling voice a master-in-waiting, like a young Alice Munro.”
Jess Taylor founded The Emerging Writers Reading Series in 2012 and is the fiction editor of Little Brother Magazine. She's released two chapbooks of poetry, And Then Everyone: Poems of the West End and Never Stop. Her story "Paul" received the 2013 National Magazine Award for Fiction.
[Photo credit: Angela Lewis]
THE CHAT WITH JESS TAYLOR
Trevor Corkum: How was Pauls born?
Winter, with its long nights and its forced sequestration, is a perfect time for books. Whether you take on a big reading project, or use the time to catch up with old favourites, or merely try to keep up with the new releases, winter is ... well, it’s basically peak season for book geeks. None of that feeling “I should really be outside” nonsense.
And here to help minister to your winter reading needs, our dedicated independent booksellers weigh in with some of their picks for the darkest of seasons. Put the kettle on and settle in.
Robert J. Wiersema
The Bookseller: Mary-Ann Yazedjian, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)
The Pick: The Horrors: An A to Z of Funny Thoughts on Awful Things, by Charles Demers
Charles Demers is well on his way to being the King of Comedy in Canadian writing. His razor-sharp, self-deprecating, intelligent humour is such a pleasure to read; I've loved each of his books and this one is no exception. Charlie has the amazing ability to make you burst into laughter while reading an account of him coming to terms with OCD, or having a poignant moment with his brother on the anniversary of their mother's death. This is the dark, funny, perceptive, and poignant book you didn't know you needed.