Off the Page

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

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Book Cover When Raven Becomes Spider

Illustrators' Gallery: When Raven Became Spider

By [Kerry Clare]

On supernatural characters in Indigenous art and modern comic superheroes.

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Book Cover Malaika's Costume

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Respect

By [Kerry Clare]

Books about respecting differences, community, one's own self, and the earth.

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Book Cover A Bird on Every Tree

Carol Bruneau: Change Your Take on Nova Scotia Lit

By [Kerry Clare]

"This is no mere exercise in voice: this is a reflection of a writer utterly in touch with her stories—not only what t …

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The Chat With Naben Ruthnum

The Chat With Naben Ruthnum

By [Trevor Corkum]

We’re leading off the fall in conversation with Naben Ruthnum, author of Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race. Curry is pa …

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Book Cover You Are Not Needed How

Annette Lapointe: How’d We Get All the Way Out Here?

By [Kerry Clare]

The author of You Are Not Needed Now on stories whose characters are found in strange and unexpected places. 

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Book Cover Snacks

YUM! Janis Thiessen on Canadian Snack Food

By [Kerry Clare]

Hawkins Cheezies, anybody? Yes, please! 

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Logo Whistler's Writers Festival

Your Fall 2017 Literary Festival Guide

By [Kerry Clare]

We've been waiting for this all year long...

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Shelf Talkers: Back to School and Beyond

Shelf Talkers: Back to School and Beyond

By [Rob Wiersema]

For possibly the first time in this column’s history, two of our booksellers have chosen the same book.

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Book Cover The Burning Girl

A Conversation with Claire Messud

By [Kerry Clare]

The Giller Award-nominated Messud on her new book, The Burning Girl, plus quarries, teenage time, and her favourite Cana …

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Kidsbooks' Owner Phyllis Simon on Matching Children Up With the Right Books

Visiting a good children’s bookstore, especially but not only when you have kids of your own, is an instant mood booster and occasion for awe. A combination of impressive stock, ingenious store layout including play/explore areas for kids, and friendly, knowledgeable staff can make such a bookstore a favourite family destination for years—a local and cultural institution.

Vancouver is lucky enough to have Kidsbooks, which former librarian Phyllis Simon opened in 1983 in Kitsilano, and which now includes three locations, an online storefront, and a co-partner, Kelly McKinnon.

storecouch

Kidsbooks' lounge area (Kitsilano location)

Kidsbooks is famous for its incredible, elaborate window displays (people still talk about their “Hogwarts” storefront façade that celebrated the release of the fourth HP book) and insightful staff experts who specialize in tracking down exactly the right book for a particular child. This discovery and selection service is an amazingly important service when you consider how one book—or a suite of books—can turn a child onto reading forever, and conversely, how not finding the right reading materials can convince them that they’d rather sleep in an outhouse than curl up with a book.

Canadian Bookshelf asked Kidsbooks’ Phyllis Simon a litt …

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Canadian Comics: War, Hockey, Old Men, and Silence by Sarah Leavitt

SarahLeavitt

We are honoured that our first Canadian Bookshelf guest post is by none other than Sarah Leavitt, author of the much-celebrated graphic memoir Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me (Freehand Books). Sarah is an avid reader of graphic novels as well as a breakout star in the genre, and here she reviews three penned by fellow Canadians.

Canadian Comics: War, Hockey, Old Men, and Silence

This winter I unintentionally took up the Salon challenge mentioned in the post below: to read outside my comfort zone.
 
I’d realized how unfamiliar I was with the cartoonists of my own country; all my idols were foreigners: Lynda Barry, Jules Fieffer, Art Spiegelman, Kim Deitch, Marjane Satrapi, David B, Joann Sfar. Recently I’ve been particularly obsessed with Lynda Barry and Aline Kominsky Crumb, along with Mary Fleener and other women from the Twisted Sister collections. These cartoonists’ books are well within my comics comfort zone: stories about weird outsiders, mostly women, told with panels full of scratchy lines and dark drawings, rants and yells and sound effects.
 
Discovering my Canadian favourites was like leaving a dark, smoky, overheated party and stepping outside into a silent snow-covered night.
 
It’s not like there aren’t any Canadian …

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Slow Down, We Move Too Fast

iStock_000004320069Small

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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