Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

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The Chat with Richard Van Camp

The Chat with Richard Van Camp

By Trevor Corkum

Author Richard Van Camp is a celebrated and beloved storyteller who has worked across many genres. His latest offering, …

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Book Cover In Praise of Retreat

Why We All Need Breathing Space

By Kirsteen MacLeod

"Retreat is an adventure, and it involves uncertainty. Whether we go to the quiet woods to rest or make art, walk a pilg …

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Book Cover What the Kite Saw

What the Kite Saw: Stories of Children and Crisis

By Anne Laurel Carter

"Children have their own unique ways of facing a crisis. Yes, they need protecting, but they are also resilient. They ha …

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Shelf Talkers: Spring 2021

Shelf Talkers: Spring 2021

By Robert J. Wiersema

One of the best pieces of news in an otherwise dark year was the word that, despite the growth of online giants during t …

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Book Cover The Shadow Life

My Drifter Reading List

By Jen Sookfong Lee

A poetry list by the author of new book The Shadow List.

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Book Cover Fuse

Persian-Canadian Writers You've Got to Read

By Hollay Ghadery

So, where were all the Persian Canadian writers? It turns out, here all along, but not as represented as one might hope; …

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Tough Like Mum: An Essential Picture Book for Kids *and* Adults

Tough Like Mum: An Essential Picture Book for Kids *and* Adults

By Geoffrey Ruggero

Picture books are often written with young children as their intended audience. In Tough Like Mum, Lana Button provides …

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Book Cover We Jane

Aimee Wall on The Great Canadian Abortion Novel

By Kerry Clare

"I didn’t want the plot to turn on an abortion or the decision to have one. Any conflict or tension is rooted elsewher …

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Book Cover Because the Sun

Poetry That's Going to Grab You

By 49thShelf Staff

Great books to read before for National Poetry Month is out.

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The Chat with Christopher DiRaddo

The Chat with Christopher DiRaddo

By Trevor Corkum

Christopher DiRaddo’s sophomore novel, The Family Way, is a dynamic and rich exploration of queer family, parenthood, …

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Gillian Wigmore: Writing into the Western Canadian Canon

I started to cry, sitting in a third year English class, listening to Smaro Kambourelli introduce the central BC setting of Sheila Watson’s The Double Hook. I tried to hide it, but I hadn’t known I was missing my own landscapes in Canadian literature so badly. It was that day, that class, and that incredible academic who introduced me to the canon I wanted to write toward, but it was further reading into these books that convinced me that the best books are ones that require work, that engage the imagination and don’t fill in all the blanks. These are the books that make me want to write into and from the west.

Tay John by Howard O’Hagan: Tay John dropped kicked the novel and turned it inside out—post-modern before post-modernism, it subverted the form and absolutely enchanted me. A novel set in northern Alberta written in biblical tones with a word-of-mouth protagonist who never gets to tell his own story?  Yes, please.

Book Cover the Double Hook

The Double Hook by Sheila Watson: The Double Hook meanders up and down a small creek in the central BC interior.  Holey and …

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Seeking Certainty in Uncertain Worlds

**Win a copy of Night Watch, one of the great books of fiction we've got up for giveaway this week! Don't miss  your chance to get a free copy of this book!**

Somewhere along the way I got the impression that the fundamental property of a novella isn’t its brevity, or that it’s stuck somewhere between a story and a novel, but that it’s this: a novella wrestles with the worst day of a protagonist’s life. I like the German tradition in novellen that the story comes to a surprising but logical end, which for me as a writer means I need to convince the reader there is no other possible outcome than the ending we arrive at together.

You’ll read a lot of different definitions of novellas, mainly about word length (10,000 to 50,000 words by some accounts, shorter or longer by others), but for me, the novella, like a poem, loves a turn, tastes its words as it delivers them, and lasts in the mind long after the book is closed.

This selection of Canadian works is short on novellas but each one is novella-ish in its love of language, its unforgettable characters, or its inarguable nature—some of these read like ur-texts, like they’ve always existed and we were lucky enough to find them washed up intact onshore.

One aspect or another of each of these books echoes a …

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The Recommend: February 2018

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Carrianne Leung (That Time I Loved You), Sharon Butala (Zara's Dead), Dimitri Nasrallah (The Bleeds), Kim Clark (A One-Handed Novel), and Naben Ruthnum (Find You in the Dark).

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Carrianne Leung picks Catherine Hernandez's Scarborough

Catherine Hernandez's Scarborough is a love letter to the underrepresented folks and communities that are so marginalized that they are often erased in public discourse, let alone in literary fiction. Scarborough tells stories of everyday people in a pocket of a suburb. Through multiple characters across a linear timeline, Hernandez leads us through one year in their lives. These are little stories told through the eyes of children, single mothers and Ms. Hina, a city worker who tries to do these families justice. I admire Hernandez's delicate attention to these characters. They are fully realized, fully fleshed, complicated characters for whom we ache and cheer on. Hernandez reminds that e …

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