Off the Page

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

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The Chat with Krista Foss

The Chat with Krista Foss

By Trevor Corkum

With Half Life (McClelland & Stewart), Krista Foss has delivered a spectacular sophomore novel, one that entangles compl …

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Book Cover The Memory Collectors

8 Books for Fans of Fabulism

By Kim Neville

A recommended reading list by Kim Neville, whose debut novel is The Memory Collectors.

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Book Cover The Octopus Has Three Hearts

Exciting Fiction to Read This Spring

By Kerry Clare

New books by Camilla Gibb, Marissa Stapley, Wayne Grady, Uzma Jalaluddin, and more! Sme of the novels and short fiction …

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Book Cover Outside You Notice

New Picture Books for Spring

By Kerry Clare

A selection of gorgeous new picture books celebrating new life, hope, nature, and mindfulness.

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Book Cover Half Life

She Blinded Me With Science

By Krista Foss

When wonder and inquiry are subverted and held up to the light by these writers, the results are often uncomfortable, al …

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Book Cover Fairy Science

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Celebrating STEM

By Julie Booker

This list includes all kinds of STEM’ers—science enthusiasts, builders, inventors, real life engineers—in both fic …

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Book Cover The Hill

Pairs Well: Ali Bryan's Awesome YA Reading List

By Ali Bryan

Celebrated novelist Bryan shares great titles to complement her latest book.

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Book Cover Glorious Birds

Why Is Harold and Maude Considered a Cult Film?

By Heidi Greco

The critic Roger Ebert dismissed it with a measly one and a half stars. Variety claimed that “It has all the fun and g …

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Book Cover New Girl in Little Cove

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Reader

By Damhnait Monaghan

An expat reading list by the author of new book New Girl in Little Cove

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The Chat with Carol Bruneau

The Chat with Carol Bruneau

By Trevor Corkum

For anyone who adores the work of famed painter Maud Lewis and has wondered about her life, Carol Bruneau’s new novel …

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Video: @BookMadam's Hands On Holiday Book Recommendations #GiveCDN #HolidayGift

Rememberer by YORODEO (Invisible Publishing).

Rememberer by YORODEO (Invisible Publishing).

This time of year, maybe it's the anticipation of mangling every gift-wrapped item, but I get excited about a hands on holiday. Perhaps it's because we carry more, cook more, put up more—put up with more—that I get a little giggly at the idea of myself as an elf in Santa's workshop—busy, busy, busy. True, in my vision, it's also a reality show in which the elf who finishes the most toys with grace and charm is crowned the winner. But, I digress.

Hands on, doesn't have to equal mad frenzy. Or a circular saw. Me? I like to colour. I like to sit down with a child—cue imaginary friend—and let rip. It's the perfect zen activity for someone who doesn't consider herself an artist. In Lynda Barry's book Picture This, she asks why it is that we don't consider colouring an art form when to sing another's work is still song. Is it all about the act of creation? Or is it about the impulse to use something other than words and language to express ourselves? And that a template is outlined for us has little to do with how we fill that space.

So, this holiday, when I have some time to myself, I'm going to take a colouring book to my favourite cafe, order myself the largest hot chocolate on the menu and bust out my crayo …

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Mary Pratt: Monumentalizing the Stuff of Life

Mary Pratt Cover

The new book Mary Pratt is a retrospective of the life and career of the renowned Canadian painter. The book accompanies the travelling exhibition of Pratt's work, and includes images of her luminous paintings, a chronology of her life, and five critical essays which place Pratt's work in a wider context. One of these essays is "Vanitas" by Sarah Fillmore, which we are pleased to be able to share with you here. 

*****

I first met Mary Pratt at her home in St. John’s. She served pecan bars and they looked, as you would expect, perfect. White china teacups were nestled inside one another on a tray set on the kitchen counter. Tulips sprawled in a cut-glass vase on a white lace tablecloth. It all made sense: Mary Pratt’s home serves as inspiration—why look any further than the world around her? In her home we are faced with the real thing: the “real” bowl of fruit, the “real” jar of jelly or the “real” sink full of dishes. (Though let’s be clear: there was no sink full of dishes on the occasion of my visit.)

Smears of Jam, Lights of Jelly

MARY PRATT Smears of Jam, L …

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Art Begets Art at the Vancouver Writers’ Fest, a Guest Post by Dina Del Bucchia

Dina Del Bucchia, a Vancouver writer and poet whose first book is Coping With Emotions and Otters, reports from the Vancouver Writers' Festival, where she attended an event featuring Wayne Grady, Rachel Kushner, and Cathy Marie Buchanan. In all three writers' latest works, art is a preoccupation and serves to highlight other elements in the cultures in which the books take place. 

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The always lovely Bill Richardson charmed audience and authors as he took us through the ekphrasis of Art Begets Art, an event at the Vancouver Writers’ Festival that brought together three writers whose current novels are inspired by forms of art: Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers has the New York art world of the 70s, Wayne Grady’s Emancipation Day features a musician who hides who he really is, and Cathy Marie Buchanan’s novel The Painted Girls is about a young dancer who inspired Degas’ Little Dancer Aged 14.

Though art was the unifying factor, personal inspirations were significant to the creation of these novels as well. Grady’s Emancipation Day was in …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Art Books

Each month, our resident Children's Librarian, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks. 

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Story and visual art are intertwined in the following titles. Whether fiction or non-fiction, each appeals to the young artist in different ways.

Mr Gauguin's Heart

The picture book Mr. Gauguin’s Heart, by Marie-Danielle Croteau, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, reveals a crucial moment in the life of a young Paul Gauguin. When his family moves, taking an ocean liner from Denmark to Peru, Paul is comforted by his imaginary dog. But on the journey, his father is “carried away,” his tearful mother explains. Paul pictures him floating away holding onto a balloon. The mother tries to explain further by showing him the setting sun, slipping into the ocean. But each day Paul waits with his imaginary pup at the ship’s bow for sunrise. He meets an artist who, when they reach Peru, teaches him to paint his father in a way that he’ll always be remembered.

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, also illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is told from the point of view of Virginia …

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Carmen L. Robertson: Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau

Book Cover Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau

Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau: Art and the Colonial Narrative in the Canadian Media examines the complex identities assigned to Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau. Was he an uneducated artist plagued by alcoholism and homelessness? Was Morrisseau a shaman artist who tapped a deep spiritual force? Or was he simply one of Canada’s most significant artists?

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“Native artists had to know how to play the white man’s game, they had to be able to work the media and the market, or they weren’t going anywhere.”—Sarah Milroy, Globe and Mail, 7 February 2006

With the 2006 opening of Norval Morrisseau: Shaman Artist at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, two of Canada’s leading newspapers, the Globe and Mail and the Ottawa Citizen, characterized the Anishinaabe artist’s retrospective as a “taming of demons.”

While each paper acknowledged Morrisseau as a pivotal artist in Canadian art history, both stories attributed demons to Morrisseau, when in actuality it was the Canadian nation and its colonial arm of nationalism, the media, that were the primary source of the many demons attributed to Morrisseau. As the first Indigenous artist in Canada to break into the mainstream art world, Morrisseau had entered an exclusive and elitist club wi …

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