Off the Page

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

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The Chat with Steven Heighton

The Chat with Steven Heighton

By Trevor Corkum

This week, we’re in conversation with author Steven Heighton. His memoir, Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and …

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Launchpad: knot body, by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch

By Kerry Clare

"Readers may sit and ruminate on the sharp and sensual inquiry offered by each individual letter, or read cover-to-cover …

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2020 Poetry Delights

By Pearl Pirie

A list by the author of new collection footlights. These books turn and explore, question and listen.

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The Chat with Zsuzsi Gartner

The Chat with Zsuzsi Gartner

By Trevor Corkum

Zsuzsi Gartner’s debut novel, The Beguiling (Hamish Hamilton), is a stunner. It was a finalist for this year’s Write …

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Book Cover Loss Lake

Launchpad: LOSS LAKE, by Amber Cowie

By Kerry Clare

"Sentence by gorgeous sentence, Cowie reveals an intricately woven, powerful plot, unveiling the depths of the character …

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Hope Matters

25 Reasons to be Hopeful

By Kerry Clare

The following books are infused with hope—that what we do and who we are really matters, that second chances are possi …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Money Money Money

By Julie Booker

Financial literacy is part of the new math curriculum for grades 4-6. But why not start even sooner, as young as kinderg …

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Book Cover You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked.

Launchpad: YOU ARE EATING AN ORANGE. YOU ARE NAKED. by Sheung-King

By Kerry Clare

"This novel ...gives the cold shoulder to the dominant gaze and its demands to control the Asian body, carving out a thr …

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Book Cover The Way Home

Books for University Press Week

By Clare Hitchens

“Raise UP” is a particularly apt theme in a time when information moves at faster speeds than ever before across a m …

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Books Your Dad Will Love

wild geese

What dad doesn’t like a bit of plot? For Father’s Day this year, may we suggest Martha Ostenso’s Wild Geese, which portrays the very worst father in all of CanLit? It’s a great read, but more than that, the tyrant Caleb Gare will make your own dad look really good in comparison. Another creepy dad reigns in Jonathan Bennett’s Entitlement, which is a fun, twistily-plotted novel that your dad might enjoy reading at the cottage this summer. (Or he might like any of the books recommended in Bennett's Power and Politics reading list).

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So creepy, we’re glad he’s not anybody’s dad is the protagonist of Tony Burgess People Live Still in Cashton Corners, a perfect gift for the father who likes to blur the lines between true crime and disturbing fiction. And how about a couple of legal thrillers: Robert Rotenberg’s Old City Hall, and also his latest novel, The Guilty Plea? A father/son relationship is at the heart of Andrew Pyper’s terrifying novel The Killing Circle, and also in Thomas King’s just-as-mysterious Truth and Bright Water.

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We think we know them, but we have no idea

Freehand Books Logo

Sure, we think we know them. Sarah Leavitt, author of the graphic memoir Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me. She’s the curly-haired cartoon narrator of her own book, which documents her mother’s decline and death from Alzheimer’s Disease. And then there’s Andrew Westoll, primatologist-turned-animal-rights-activist. Though his book The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, he’s brought the world the story of his experiences at Quebec’s Fauna Sanctuary, where traumatized chimpanzee victims of medical experiments receive rehabilitation.

But of course, readers have no idea, a reality addressed by both writers in a conversation at Ben McNally Books in Toronto on July 19th. “You Think You Know Me, But You Have No Idea” was presented by Freehand Books, our own Bookmadam, and also Canadian Bookshelf. (A similar event was held on July 20 in Kingston with Leavitt and essayist Susan Olding.) Leavitt and Westoll told the stories of their stories, compared notes, discussed the ethics of memoir and nonfiction, and shattered some illusions about the nonfiction writer’s adherence to truth above all.

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In Conversation With: Brian Busby on John Glassco and the Pleasures of Reviving Forgotten Literary Traditions

Brian-Busby-A-Gentleman-of-Pleasure

Recently, I was visiting a friend. It was getting late in the day and she offered to make us dinner.

"What would you like to eat?" she asked.

"Whatever you put in front of me," I replied.

The same can be said of my gig as Host at Canadian Bookshelf, the foreknowledge that my reading interests are going to expand in ways I can't begin to imagine, and that's just how I like it.

Case in point, I was thrilled when McGill-Queen's University Press responded to our initial call for author interviews with the suggestion that I might like to chat with Brian Busby, curator of The Dusty Bookcase: A Very Casual Exploration of the Dominion's Suppressed, Ignored and Forgotten and author of Character Parts: Who's Really Who in CanLit and A Gentleman of Pleasure: One Life of John Glassco, Poet, Translator, Memoirist and Pornographer. The more I read, the more I thought, "I can't wait to see what ends up on my plate."

Feast!

Julie Wilson: In a recent interview with Trevor Cole about his podcast performance archive AuthorsAloud, I asked if he had a compulsion to both collect the voices he curates for the project. There's a pride in having all those recordings in one place and it serves a unique purpose by housing short readings by Canadian poets and fiction writers. Your blog—The …

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Robert J. Wiersema on the Springsteen songs that don't appear in his mixtape-memoir Walk Like a Man.

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Please join Canadian Bookshelf host Julie Wilson (aka Book Madam) in conversation with her chum Robert J. Wiersema as they talk about coming of age and the soundtracks of their youths. Rob's mixtape heavily features Bruce Springsteen, the subject of his latest book Walk Like a Man (D & M Publishers); Julie realizes she has a lot of Enya on vinyl and a worn out cassette of Bronski Beat's The Age of Consent.

When: Tuesday, September 13, 7 p.m.

Where: Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay St., Toronto, ON

RSVP on Facebook

And now, a few words from Rob:

I've come to realize over the past couple of books that writing is at least as much about what you cut out, and what is not written, as it is about what actually appears on the printed page. Suffice it to say, I learned this the hard way.
I don't feel so bad about writing long and editing back, though, when I remember that Bruce Springsteen wrote and recorded more than seventy songs for the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. He left sixty plus on the cutting room floor; the remaining ten songs comprise what might just be a perfect album.


With my book Walk Like a Man, I didn't overwrite. (Well, no more than normal, I suppose. After all, what's twenty thousand words between friends?) Given the nature of the book—short es …

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Gerry Fostaty on reliving a youthful trauma in his memoir As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier

Julie Wilson: The tragedy of which you speak in your book, As You Were: The Tragedy at Valcartier occurred in 1974 on a Canadian Forces Base in Valcartier, Quebec. During a routine lecture on explosives safety, the pin was pulled on a grenade thought to be a dud. Six teenaged boys died and fifty-four were injured. One hundred and forty boys survived, but were left traumatized. You've noted surprise that so many people remained silent in the aftermath, some who have since come forward to talk more openly after having read your book. Can you share some anecdotes?

Gerry Fostaty: I initially thought I was the only one to remain tight lipped. I was wrong. Only a few of the boys, who are all now in their fifties, have broken the silence, and even then, only to those they feel they could trust. Most didn’t even speak to their families about the explosion for years: not their parents, siblings, nor even their spouses later in life. It was just too painful to focus on the memory, much less to recount it to someone else. So much energy was spent avoiding the memory of the trauma that it seemed counterproductive to revisit that which we would have gladly escaped.

We would all like to position ourselves as strong, and a first response is to “man up, brave it out, suck it up and walk it off.” Not many men are immune to the cultural conditioning and the media influence that promotes the image of the strong silent male. There are men with visible scars on their bodies, who still refuse …

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