Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Salma the Syrian Chef

Notes from a Children’s Librarian: Satisfying Endings

By Julie Booker

How do you create a sense of satisfaction in a story’s finale? The following books pull it off!

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49thShelf Summer Reads

Introducing the 49th Shelf Summer Books List: Part 2

By Kerry Clare

Our summer reads extravaganza continues with PART 2 of our Summer Books List, and once again, each and every title is up …

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Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

Inclusive Learning, Diverse Books: Introducing Top Grade 2021

By Spencer Miller

Welcome to the Association for Canadian publisher’s Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom, a blog and preview video seri …

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Book Cover bread and water

Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

New books about everything, including food, beauty, art, travel, singing, healing, grieving, shopping, aging, and so muc …

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Book Cover Unlocking

CanLit Yearning

By Amy LeBlanc

"At the heart of my novella and in each book on this CanLit list is a sense of desire or a yearning (for belonging, iden …

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The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

The Chat with Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo

By Trevor Corkum

This week we’re in conversation with political trailblazer Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, whose memoir, The Queer Evangelist, …

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Book Cover The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour

Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Fall Fiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

With new books by Miriam Toews, Dawn Dumont, Douglas Coupland, Marie-Renee Lavoie, Omar El Akkad, Zoe Whittall, Trudy Mo …

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Book Cover The Quiet is Loud

Speculative Fiction: Vast and Thrilling

By Samantha Garner

"As a reader and a lightly superstitious human, I can’t deny the pull of the unusual, the not-quite-real. I love books …

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Book Cover Travels in Cuba

Writing with Four Hands

By Marie-Louise Gay and David Homel

"That’s what the Travels series is all about: sending a resourceful, observant, unafraid (well, sometimes a little afr …

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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Anne Carson

By Trevor Corkum

“Norma Jeane Baker of Troy leverages a millennia-old story of beauty and war to animate a history of the male gaze and …

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"I Am Not At Peace": Ghosts and Haunting in Canadian Fiction

Graveyard at night

“There is a sense in which all novels are ghost stories: fictional characters are translucent phantoms, which readers believe in (or don’t); readers lurk in the presence of characters, spying on their most intimate moments, eavesdropping on their innermost thoughts. And however thoroughly the novelist establishes her characters’ motivations, however robustly she forges her chains of cause and effect everything that happens ultimately does so at the whim of the writer. Certain things have to happen for the narrative to progress… Every novel is haunted by a tyrannical poltergeist, in the form of its plot.” from “Poltergeist: The Little Stranger” by Thomas Jones, London Review of Books 9 July 2009

In Britain, a civilization so old that it’s nearly impossible not to be walking on a grave, it’s no surprise that fictional ghosts are abundant. From The Woman in White down to the The Woman in Black, the ghost story is a literary staple, and it’s taken comedy turns in novels by contemporary writers including Hilary Mantel and Nicola Barker.

In Canada, however, where bones underfoot are less common and those discovered often hearken back to colonial atrocities, our ghosts are not so playful. Something is extra-unnatural about the supernatural in Canadia …

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Andrew Pyper: Outsiders, Inner Demons, and Satan's Charms

Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

Andrew Pyper grew up in Stratford, ON. The only student from his high school to attend university out of province, he landed at McGill, pursued English Lit, and completed a Master's degree before deciding to put academia aside for practical concerns—it was time to get a job. He turned to law and was called to the bar when for completely unpractical reasons he began to write what would become his first, highly acclaimed novel, Lost Girls. Pyper embarked on a curious though successful trajectory: he was a literary writer moving in the direction of genre fiction. Now, with The Demonologist (Simon & Schuster), Pyper makes his first unabashed leap into horror writing. But he doesn't leave his lit cred far behind.

Julie Wilson: In The Demonologist, your protagonist, Professor David Ullman, is an expert on Milton's Paradise Lost, described in your novel as "blank verse that seemed to defend the indefensible," which is great. How did you prep to become as familiar with Paradise Lost as Ullman?

Andrew Pyper: I had read Paradise Lost with great haste the night before the exam for some Intro to Literature course in first year university. In other words, I barely read it at all. But I took with me the impression left by the star of the show (intended or otherwise), namely Sa …

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Totally Disgusting: Nick Cutter (Craig Davidson!) on The Troop

Book Cover The Troop

The worst-kept secret in Canadian publishing is the identity of Nick Cutter, author of The Troop. Though Cutter won't confirm it himself (see below), his name is a pseudonym for Craig Davidson, who was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2013 for Cataract City.

Nick Cutter was kind enough to talk to us about his latest novel, which is a fantastic read and getting a lot of buzz. 

About The Troop: Once a year, scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a three-day camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story and a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—stumbles upon their campsite, Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. An inexplicable horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival that will pit the troop against the elements, the infected...and one another.

Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness and close to the edge of sanity.

*****

49th Shelf:  So, what happens when you write a horror nov …

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CanLit Is Terrifying

Book Cover Book of Tongues

Fear not! (Or at least, fear less.) Because here is your guide to a most Canadian bookish Halloween, serving to guide you through the spooky day ahead, and provide great suggestions for appropriate seasonal reading. 

CanLit Zombie expert, Corey Redekop, can hook you up with a good read via The Canadian Weirdscape, made up of selections of the nation's most outlandish, strange, and mind-boggling fiction.

Book Cover The Thirteen

Check out The Fright List for some terrifying titles, including books by award-winning horror masters, Andrew Pyper, and Susie Maloney. 

How to Kill a Vampire

Are you in the unfortunate position of the monsters in your life being not-so fictional? To that end, you might appreciate our excerpt from Liisa Ladouceur's How to Kill a Vampire, part culture guide and all practical guide. Find out how useful your handy crucifix or holy water really will be once you're fa …

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Andrew Pyper: Crossing Borders

Book Cover The Damned

His new novel, The Damned, is Andrew Pyper at his finest. It's a gripping, terrifying read about Danny Orchard, a man who's famous for a memoir recounting his experience having briefly died and returned to life. His memoir doesn't tell the whole story though—that when he came back to life, he brought the spirit of his psychotic twin sister back him, and that she haunts and torments him in death as she did while she lived.

But now Danny has fallen in love, and finally has a reason to live—which makes his sister all the more determined to destroy his chance at happiness. And so the siblings are forced to meet again in a spectacular showdown between good and evil, heaven and hell, set against the fascinating backdrop of modern-day Detroit. 

Andrew Pyper answered our questions about this setting, how The Damned fits into his oeuvre, and about just what mysteries might be waiting beyond heaven's door. 

*****

49th Shelf: Detroit, in your novel, is literally a level of hell. Can you tell me more about the city as your muse, and how the city’s history connects to the themes in The Damned?

Andrew Pyper: In a way, The Demonologist and The Damned are novels connected in the way they are projects of reimagining ancient mythologies—demons in the case of the former, and th …

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