Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Memoir Conversations and Craft

Dazzling Memoirs

By Marjorie Simmins

Marjorie Simmins, author of MEMOIR: CONVERSATIONS AND CRAFTS, recommends her dream lineup of memoirs.

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For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

By Kiley Turner

Isn't it great when you find a new author or series that fits your reading taste to a tee? Here are a few new books that …

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Book Cover Big Reader

A Taster: Spring 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

Life stories, family, baseball, and retreat. These highlight the nonfiction we're most looking forward to this spring. 

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ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

By Kiley Turner

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our attention spans, making it possible to miss really great fiction. These books caug …

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Book Cover Small Courage

Small Courage: Parenting Memoirs

By Jane Byers

A recommended reading list by Jane Byers, whose new queer parenting memoir is out now.

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The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

By Trevor Corkum

Author Kimiko Tobimatsu and illustrator Keet Geniza have teamed up to create Kimiko Does Cancer, a timely graphic memoir …

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Book Cover Best Canadian Poetry 2020

A Record of Literary History: Best Canadian Poetry 2020

By Marilyn Dumont

An excerpt from Marilyn Dumont's introduction to BEST CANADIAN POETRY 2020.

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Book Cover Book of Donair

The Donair: Canada's Official Food?

By Lindsay Wickstrom

Excerpt from BOOK OF DONAIR explores how a bitter rivalry between Halifax and Edmonton helped propel the donair to be de …

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Book Cover My Ocean is Blue

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Questions, Questions

By Julie Booker

Great picture books that engage with questions and encourage readers to think about answers.

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Book Cover Gutter Child

Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Spring Fiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

Exciting debuts, and new releases by Christy Ann Conlin, Pasha Malla, Eva Stachniak, Jael Richardson, and more.

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The Concept of a Photon: An Excerpt From Boundary Problems by Greg Bechtel

Of the stories in Greg Bechtel's new collection, Boundary Problems, Craig Davidson (Cataract City, Rust and Bone) writes:

“Each ... is a perfect little puzzle-box: one marvels at their perfect geometries while anticipating that dazzling moment where every piece slots flush. These finely-crafted, emotionally resonant tales will stay with me a long, long time.” 

The collection is both speculative and lit fiction, and its stories "push boundaries—into the surreal, into the playful, into the irresistible energy of uncertainty."

We are pleased to present an excerpt from the collection's story, "The Concept of a Photon." Boundary Problems will be published in March.

 

*****

 

“. . . it is better to regard a particle not as a permanent entity but as an instantaneous event. Sometimes these events form chains that give the illusion of permanent beings — but only in particular circumstances and only for an extremely short period of time in every single case.”
— Erwin Schrödinger

 

The Rabbit shudders and the grinding of steel on steel competes with the rising engine roar as I hit the brakes — too late or unnecessarily, I’ll never know. In accordance with some obscure law of inverse proportionality, I have discovered that the engine volume rises as the RPM drops. …

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"Free fall beneath the carpet": David Rotenberg on setting The Placebo Effect in Toronto

Book Cover The Placebo Effect

I directed the first Canadian play in the People’s Republic of China in Shanghai (in Mandarin) when that country was in the massive transition from a profoundly oppressive socialist state to a basically free market economy – a thrilling time and my time there inspired me to write my first novel. I also lived in Manhattan for many years and it still forms the base for some of my work. New York knows what it is. It’s been written about, sung about and mythologized into a state of firm existence. People immigrate to New York from all over the world and become New Yorkers. You peel back the carpet and you find yesterday’s New York, you pry up the floorboards and you get yesteryear’s New York.

Toronto is different – sometimes there’s free fall beneath the carpet.

I was born and raised in Toronto, and retuned to the city in 1987 after living in the United States for the better part of sixteen years. Since I've been back, I've had nine novels published. But The Placebo Effect is the first time I’ve written about my hometown. And I didn’t find it all that easy. Toronto is a city where more than 50% of its citizens were not born in the country. Sometimes there’s “ just no there, there” – to quote Ms. Stein. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing …

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No Solitudes: Leah Bobet on CanLit's genre-bilingualism

book cover above

Dateline, 2008: I'm in my pajamas on a Wednesday night, wrestling with the first draft of the weirdest little novel I've ever tried to write. I tab over to the AOL chatroom where some of my best friends and workshop buddies hang out so we can write together, despite living in entirely different cities, and announce: "358 words of unsaleable book, 358 words of the boooook!"

Austin-based novelist Amanda Downum, then working on the first of a trilogy of second-world fantasy mysteries set in a world that's more Micronesia than medieval Europe, promptly chimes in with "I bet mine's more unsaleable than yours."

--and then we set up a poll on my blog and made them fight (the only rational response!), and got a hell of a laugh out of the whole thing, but that's not really the point. Both those books are now our debut novels: Amanda's The Drowning City made an award shortlist, and the sequel made a few more. My Above is coming out from Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic in March. The point is why we were so convinced, no matter that we loved them and were going to finish them anyway, that those books wouldn't sell. We were both taking some serious leaps with the genres we wrote in, and in my case, you couldn't even say what genre I was writing in. It was a novel that was sin …

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Five Canadian speculative fiction titles for literary readers/ Five Canadian literary titles for speculative fiction readers (by Leah Bobet)

Five Canadian speculative fiction titles for literary readers

Book Cover Someone Comes to Town Someone Leaves town

Cory Doctorow, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town: Alan’s father was a mountain and his mother a washing machine, and he lives in Kensington Market, blanketing the neighbourhood with free pirate WiFi, trying to protect Mimi, the winged girl next door, from her abusive boyfriend, and defending his youngest brother, who is a set of nesting dolls, from their dead, wicked sibling—who’s been resurrected and is coming for him.

And all this, which should feel chaotic and undisciplined and wild, fits seamlessly into one of the most sobering, moving, beautifully crafted books I’ve ever read, rawly, complicatedly emotional and luminous, with a million true and contradictory and conflicted things to say about protection, acceptance, and the past.

Book cover The New Moon's Arms

Nalo Hopkinson, The New Moon’s Arms: Hopkinson’s most recent adult novel — she’s branched into young adult for her latest — is kind of note-perfect. Calamity, who is almost the modern Caribbean equivalent of Hagar Shipley, is going thr …

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Liz Harmer: Books That Ask the Big Questions

The Amateurs is Liz Harmer's debut novel, set in a not-too-distant future where most of the human population has disappeared via Ports, doorways to other times and alternate universes from which travellers should theoretically be able to return—except that no one comes back. Are they unwilling to? Are they unable? Told from the perspective of a small group of people who've remained and created a community in the remains of the city of Hamilton, Ontario, and also from that of a man who has spent his career working for the massive corporate entity that built the Ports, The Amateurs grapples with questions like, "what are we here for?", "how do we know what's real and what isn't?", and "what exactly is the nature of love?". In this list, Harmer suggests other great reads that consider similar ideas.  

*****

This offbeat list of novels and one short story collection include a few speculative works like mine, a few dystopias, an interest in the nature of God and of the human, and, especially, most of them, lovingly rendered character and place.

*

Salt Fish …

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