Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
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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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).

city

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.

Book Cover

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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