Off the Page

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

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Image of pumpkin pancakes, accompanying the recipe

First We Brunch: The Summit Restaurant Pumpkin Pancakes

By [Kerry Clare]

"This recipe puts me in mind of cool, sunny autumn mornings, but using canned pumpkin purée makes these pancakes easy t …

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Giller Prize Special: The Chat with Michelle Winters

Giller Prize Special: The Chat with Michelle Winters

By [Trevor Corkum]

To kick off our Giller Prize special edition of The Chat, we’re in conversation with Michelle Winters, author of I Am …

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Book Cover Hunting Piero

Elephants, Bears and Birds: Animals in Canadian Literature

By [Kerry Clare]

"Animals contribute immeasurably to our lives, aesthetically, emotionally and spiritually." 

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So Many Writers, All in One Place

So Many Writers, All in One Place

By [Kiley Turner]

One of the best things we ever did on 49th Shelf was asking Trevor Corkum to join our team to lead the interview series, …

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Why Recreate the Woolly Mammoth?

Why Recreate the Woolly Mammoth?

By [Kiley Turner]

Jurassic Park meets The Sixth Extinction in Rise of the Necrofauna, a provocative look at de-extinction from acclaimed d …

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Book Cover Pictographs

Pictographs, by James Simon Mishibinijima

By [Kerry Clare]

"Mishibinijima’s art reflects a lifelong search for ways in which past and present, the spiritual and human, the anima …

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Book Cover Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead

Arab Cooking on a Prairie Homestead

By [Kerry Clare]

"Salloum’s book helps us remember what being Canadian means, that we have always been a pluralist nation." 

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Book Cover #NotYourPrincess

#NotYourPrincess

By [Kerry Clare]

Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale's new book provides insight into the lives and experiences of Indigenous women …

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Shelf Talkers: Thanksgiving 2017 Edition

Shelf Talkers: Thanksgiving 2017 Edition

By [Rob Wiersema]

"One thing that I’m thankful for (and I’m sure I’ve said it before), is that every month I get to spend some virtu …

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Book Cover The Scarlet Forest

Reading England in Through Historical Fiction

By [Kerry Clare]

A list by the author of new book, The Scarlet Forest: A Tale of Robin Hood

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The Best Book Trailers We've Seen Lately

When creating a book trailer, it certainly helps to have a good book to start with, not to mention a friend with strong video-editing skills. But otherwise, there really is no formula when it comes to making a book trailer great, although it seems the great ones have no truck with formula in the first place.

All Jessica Westhead has to do is read her book, and the story sells itself. With the assistance of some 1960's stock footage of a hotdog casserole, of course. From And Also Sharks:

 

Vintage footage is also used to great effect in the trailer for Mark Lavorato's novel Believing Cedric:

 

The trailer for Suzette Mayr's Monoceros is a less formal affair, but underlines the truth that we've all suspected for some time: it is impossible to have too much kitsch.

 

Erin Bow's award-winning Plain Kate has a spectacularly animated trailer whose music and images create a perfect atmosphere for the book:

 

Put two writers together in a car and keep them there for a couple of months and it's more than likely that you'll get a book. And a book trailer too, for Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds' fabulous Breakfast at the Exit Cafe:

 

And it's good music coupled with a nice dose of self-deprecating humour that makes the trailer for Doug Harris' YOU comma Idiot.

 

Any other great trailers we missed? Tweet us your favourites @cdnbookshelf with the #booktrailers hashtag.

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Hockey Bums and Hockey Novels: Guest Post by Jamie Fitzpatrick

Book Cover You Could Believe in Nothing

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, around the time W.P. Kinsella was causing a sensation with baseball sagas like Shoeless Joe, folks were asking why Canadians didn’t write about hockey the way Americans write about baseball. (I still recall an essay published in The Globe and Mail under the headline, “A Cry for Puck Lit.”)

Baseball was assumed to be the great literary game, mined by generations of writers to tell the story of America. Why weren’t we making use of hockey in the same way, exploring its possibilities as myth and metaphor?

The answer arrived in hockey novels by people like Bill Gaston (The Good Body), Mark Anthony Jarman (Salvage King, Ya!), and Richard Wright (The Age of Longing), as well as non-fiction by Dave Bidini (Tropic of Hockey, The Best Game You Can Name), and poetry by Randall Maggs (Night Work).

In this year’s Massey Lectures, Adam Gopnik includes a lecture explaining “why hockey is the smartest game in the world.” So it seems the game has finally achieved respectability in literary circles.

But anyone looking for hockey’s response to a sweeping, dreamy, romantic epic like Shoeless Joe is still waiting.

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Dear Toronto Readers: Hit the Road

Ontario road trip.

If you're a reader, to live in Toronto is an embarrassment of riches. We have access not only to year-round literary events, many of which are free, but to many authors themselves. Publishers, as well. Enough so that it becomes easy to forget just how much there is to see and do. It's not to say that we don't revel in our fandom; but, how we invest in our community is, perhaps, a little strategic. Who. When. Why. How. I'd wager to suggest that we're not as open to surprises as we are to supporting our own. Which is to say that to thrive in the trenches of the Toronto lit scene is to limit your view of the larger battlefield. (I think it's safe to say we're at war with ourselves, yes?)

At some point, I started to pay closer attention to attendees. While many were fans of one author or another, it seemed just as many were using events as an audition in order to determine whether or not to invest in the purchase of an author's book, or which book should there be a variety of authors on display. We've become too familiar with our community, perhaps in the same way a Los Angeles native thinks nothing of standing in the line at Anthropologie behind an actor at The Grove. True, writers are just people. But, actually, no, they're not. They're rock stars. They move and insp …

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The Critical Mind by Ray Robertson

The one thing in the world, of value, is the active soul. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Book Cover Why Not

Edmund Wilson was the son of a Princeton and Columbia-educated lawyer, a man whose tools of trade his son described as “learning, logic, and dramatic imagination and eloquence,” the very same tools Wilson would employ over the course of fifty years of elucidating, advocating, and exposing the books and ideas (good, bad, and inconsequential) of his time. A literature-as-subject-of-study autodidact, I – among many others – owe a great debt to Wilson for not only consistently steering me in the right aesthetic direction, but also for helping to develop my own critical sensibility. Give a person a good book, he’ll have something to read for a week; teach a person how to critically separate the wheat from the chaff, and you provide him with the skills to read well for the rest of his life. Note: read – not study. The most valuable result of the finely tuned critical mind turned toward the world of books is assisting the common reader in reading – and therefore living – better. “Reading,” Bacon reminds us, “maketh a full man.”

Virginia Woolf liked this idea enough to entitle a collection of essays The Common Reader, quoting with approval Dr. Johnson: “I rejoice to c …

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Virtual Voyages: A Reading List by Charlotte Gill

Charlotte Gill

My favourite definition of creative nonfiction comes from Canadian journalist Deborah Campbell, who quotes the late Ryszard Kapuscinski, an undeniable master of the form: “Sometimes, in describing what I do, I resort to the Latin phrase silva rerum: the forest of things. That’s my subject: the forest of things, as I've seen it, living and travelling in it.” There’s a bit of silva rerum in all these books on this list, which is by no means an exhaustive collection. Some are travel books, and some explorations stick close to home. But all these stories took me on journeys. When I closed the covers I felt as if I’d been transported.

Book Cover The Golden Spruce

1. The Golden Spruce, John Vaillant: Perhaps it took a native New Englander to see the magical, mythic potential of a true story set in Haida Gwaii. The book takes place in the temperate rainforest, and it’s a mystery on the surface. Vaillant introduces us to Grant Hadwin, the crazy ex-logger who felled an ancient albino spruce and then disappeared from the face of the earth, seemingly without a trace. Underneath the …

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