Off the Page

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

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The Chat: A Griffin Poetry Prize Special With Canadian Finalist Hoa Nguyen

The Chat: A Griffin Poetry Prize Special With Canadian Finalist Hoa Nguyen

By [Trevor Corkum]

We are delighted to partner with the Griffin Prize in celebrating the three Canadian finalists over the next week. First …

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Book Cover Town is By the Sea

On Our Radar

By [Kerry Clare]

Books With Buzz Worth Sharing

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Book Cover Sputnik's Children

Great Companions

By [Kerry Clare]

If you're going to read one book this summer...why not read two? 

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Shelf Talkers: Mysterious Disappearances, Bad Endings & Utopia in BC

Shelf Talkers: Mysterious Disappearances, Bad Endings & Utopia in BC

By [Rob Wiersema]

Including a Canadian icon, a hot new must-read, a business visionary, a stunning short story debut, and utopian inspirat …

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Book Cover The Stamp Collector

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Integrity

By [Kerry Clare]

Julie Booker on characters with a strong moral code, those who find a way to stay true to themselves and the things they …

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The Chat With Michael V. Smith

The Chat With Michael V. Smith

By [Trevor Corkum]

Today I'm in conversation with Michael V. Smith, author of a brand spanking new collection of poems, Bad Ideas (Nightwoo …

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Book Cover So Much Love

Rebecca Rosenblum: Good Books for Hard Times

By [Kerry Clare]

Titles that provide a little levity. 

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Book Cover Just Jen

20 Life Stories Rocking Our World This Spring

By [Kerry Clare]

This month we're curling up in our proverbial chairs with life stories, biography and memoir, stories that run the gamut …

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Enter to Win! Join Kerry at IFOA

By [Craig Riggs]

Our very own Kerry Clare is appearing May 10 at IFOA in Toronto, in conversation with Rebecca Rosenblum. 

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The Chat With Catherine Hernandez

The Chat With Catherine Hernandez

By [Trevor Corkum]

We start off May in conversation with Catherine Hernandez, a multi-genre artist whose savvy debut novel Scarborough (Ars …

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Slow Down, We Move Too Fast

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That Shakespearian Rag’s Steven W. Beattie wrote a nice post Jan 4th, A TSR reading challenge for 2011, that identified and challenged a certain part of the literary zeitgeist we’ve been noticing as well: literati counting and publicizing how many books they’ve read over the year. Whatever the intention, the effects of this trend can be to make other readers cast doubts about their own dedication to books and/or to provoke a competitive spirit and sense that more reading = better reader. Neither is particularly positive, and both feel like unfortunate symptoms of the pressure-cooker, media-gobbling culture we work and live in today.

Reading used to be an escape from the daily grind, not an additional to-do, and Beattie proposes a lovely challenge to readers in 2011 that aligns the habit again with this rightful function:

“Instead of pledging to read more this year, why don’t we all try to read better: to be more sensitive, expansive readers, to enter more deeply into the text, to actively engage with books on an intellectual, aesthetic, and linguistic level. Let’s try to focus less on the quantity of our reading and more on the quality. Who knows? By slowing down a bit, you might even find you’re enjoying yourself more.”

One commenter to the post, B. …

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The BC Award and Rocking Subtitles

tagged : books

We haven’t yet read any of the ten books on BC’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction longlist, but four books are already winners in the category of subtitles:

  • Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training (Tom Jokinen)
  • The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delaney Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 (Molly Peacock)
  • The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival (John Vaillant)
  • The Wave: In the Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (Susan Casey)

#1? Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training. The wry contrast between “adventures” and “undertaker,” not to mention the intrigue of “in-training,” seal the deal.

The great subtitles challenge the dry, even humourless reputation non-fiction as a genre tends to have vs. fiction (just think of how the media reacts to non-fiction awards compared to more fiction-heavy counterparts). All four of the BC Award's subtitles suggest inspired writing, and make cemeteries, later-life creativity, man-eating tigers, and big-ass waves seem like pressing things to know about.

For other musings on subtitles, check out the Guardian’s faves (love their background on Twelfth Night’s “What You Will”) and a blog called Exploring Our Matrix’s collection (one commenter offered Your Ass and a Hole in the Ground: A Comparative Study). For great titles, period, Goodreads has a fun bunch including:

  • The Hollow Bunnies of the Apocalypse (Robert Rankin)
  • Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (Chelsea Handler)
  • An …
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Calling All Readers: Where Are Canada’s Literary Landmarks?

tagged : book news

We had the pleasure of attending a great Ottawa literary event in October: the unveiling of the Project Bookmark Canada plaque commemorating Elizabeth Hay’s Garbo Laughs. Hay read a scene from her book—alternating with a friend who read a beautiful French translation—in the exact spot it took place (Old Ottawa South by the Rideau Canal). The group of us who clustered by her to listen experienced the narrative in an entirely new way.

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Elizabeth Hay reading from Garbo Laughs at her Bookmark unveiling in Old Ottawa South

“Commemorating” is not exactly the right word, in fact, summoning as it does notions of the past and the finished. While Project Bookmark Canada celebrates writers’ works and offers them an enduring place in the landscape, it is very much a present sort of thing. As the website explains:

“Project Bookmark Canada [brings] written narratives beyond the page and into our physical spaces. Through a series of permanent markers bearing a fragment of text, Project Bookmark Canada reveals where our real and imagined landscapes merge, allowing the writers’ words, images and characters to stir us (residents and visitors, pilgrims or passersby) in the very locations where the stories take place.”

So far these are the writers and places honoured by …

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Canada Reads Top 40 List and Literary Memory

The list is out, the list is out … and there are some awesome books on it. Are there critics of the process—upset about the perils of crowdsourcing and the myriad ways of introducing bias into the list? Of course, and many are completely justified. But any list-making exercise invites criticism, simply because no human-based selection process is going to be impartial.

In fact, we performed a highly complex mathematical analysis on the list to test out a hypothesis about a certain slant we thought we’d find: that of time, of recency to be exact. The list criteria stipulated books from the past decade. So we counted the number of books published before and after 2005 (it was arduous).

Findings: Two-thirds of the books on Canada Reads Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Past Decade were published after 2005.

Conclusion: Readers are substantially more likely to vote for books they have just read than books they read a while ago.

Comments: No huge surprise. However, it does underline how short our literary memories are, and that there are probably a few more “essential” books from 2000 to 2005 that would have made it onto the list were this not the case.

Our little analysis made us think about what ways there might be to cast a stronger light on older—but just as brilliant—books written further back in time. One Twitter commentator exclaimed, “They should do a Canada Reads for every decade going back to Confederation. Bring on the pioneer diaries!” (via @la_pan …

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Giller Shortlist Shines a Light on Smaller Publishers

From left to right: David Bergen, Alexander MacLeod, Sarah Selecky, Johanna Skibsrud, Kathleen Winter.

The Scotiabank Giller Award shortlist came out yesterday, and as happens every year, a megawatt media spotlight appeared immediately to catapult the finalists into the reading public’s consciousness. The finalists are:

The Giller effect is always thrilling, but there’s a heightened sense of surprise and discovery this year since the four of the five shortlisted books hail from smaller presses. Two are debut story collections (Light Lifting and This Cake is for the Party) and two more (The Sentimentalists and Annabel) are first novels.

Smaller presses are incredibly important to our literary culture in large part because of the role they play in finding new literary talent and helping emerging authors find an audience. We’ve included links to the Giller authors’ presses in …

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