Off the Page

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

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Book Cover County Heirlooms

Summer Eats: Kohlrabi Slaw, from COUNTY HEIRLOOMS

By Natalie Wollenberg and Leigh Nash

"I’ve always been impressed that seeds will produce all the food you need to live. It’s miraculous."

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Book Cover Cedar and Salt

3 Great Recipes from the 2020 Taste Canada Awards Shortlist

By Kerry Clare

Foodies, take note! Great recipes from celebrated cookbooks.

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Book Cover On Nostalgia

Launchpad: On Nostalgia, by David Berry

By Kerry Clare

"Berry’s subject is a wide-ranging one, but he pulls off the impressive feat of covering plenty of ground in a concise …

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Literatures, Communities and Learnings

Literatures, Communities, and Learning

By Kerry Clare

9 conversations with Indigenous writers about the relationship between Indigenous literatures and learning, and how thei …

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The Chat with Faye Guenther

The Chat with Faye Guenther

By Trevor Corkum

Swimmers in Winter (Invisible Publishing) is Faye Guenther’s debut collection of short fiction. These six stories expl …

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Book Cover Little Secrets

Summer Reading Starts Here

By Kerry Clare

Summer is not cancelled, and summer reading isn't either. We've got thrillers, epics, drama, historical fiction, and so …

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Cover Summer Feet

Picture Book Sneak Peek: Summer Feet, by Sheree Fitch and Carolyn Fisher

By Kerry Clare

Summer starts HERE with this glorious celebration of childhood...and filthy feet.

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Book Cover Mr. Frank

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Texts on Textiles

By Julie Booker

Exploring the art of sewing? Here are some tales to comfort and inspire.

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Pondering the “What If” with Shari Green & Caroline Pignat

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Pondering the “What If” with Shari Green & Caroline Pignat

By Erika MacNeil

During this time of self-isolation and social distancing, books can sometimes be our only companions as the days stretch …

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Book Cover Good Mothers Don't

Launchpad: Good Mothers Don't, by Laura Best

By Kerry Clare

"An unlikely page turner replete with hushed surprises, unexpected crescendos, endless love and boundless vitality."

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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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Penguin author Peggy Blair on rejection, persistence, and how Ian Rankin changed her life.

The Beggar's Opera by Peggy Blair (Penguin).

Peggy Blair was a lawyer for more than thirty years. A recognized expert in Aboriginal law, she also worked as a criminal defence lawyer and Crown prosecutor. Blair spent a Christmas in Old Havana, where she watched the bored young policemen on street corners along the Malecón, visited Hemingway’s favourite bars, and learned to make a perfect mojito. A former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Peggy is named in Canadian Who's Who. She currently lives in Ottawa where she works in real estate. Visit her online at www.peggyblair.com.

About The Beggar's Opera: In beautiful, crumbling Old Havana, Canadian detective Mike Ellis hopes the sun and sand will help save his troubled marriage. He doesn’t yet know that it’s dead in the water—much like the little Cuban boy last seen begging the Canadian couple for a few pesos on the world famous Malecon. For Inspector Ricardo Ramirez, head of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police, finding his prime suspect isn’t a problem—Cuban law is. He has only seventy-two hours to secure an indictment and prevent a vicious killer from leaving the island. But Ramirez has his own troubles to worry about. He’s dying of the same dementia that killed his grandmother, an incurable disease that m …

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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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The Recommend: Summer 2018

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Ian Hamilton (The Imam of Tawi-Wawi), Sam Wiebe (Cut You Down), Dave Butler (Full Curl), Mark Lisac (Where the Bodies Lie), and Dietrich Kalteis (Ride the Lightning).

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Ian Hamilton recommends Paul William Roberts' The Demonic Comedy

I'm a huge fan of the travel/memoir genre. To my mind, writers like Bruce Chatwin, Eric Newby, Pico Iyer, and Norman Lewis who can weave history, personal stories, geography, politics, culture, and social mores into wonderfully complex stories are to be treasured. All of those writers have British roots, and so does another of their ilk: Paul William Roberts. But since Roberts has lived almost his entire adult life in Canada, and identifies himself as Canadian, I have no trouble claiming him as one, and I have no trouble choosing his book The Demonic Comedy as one of the best Canadian books I've ever read.

Roberts—who has a doctorate in ancient Middle Eastern history—writes about Iraq pre …

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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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