Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover Out of Old Ontario Kitchens

Books for the Holidays

By [Kerry Clare]

Cookbooks, art books, books on gardening, and flowers: gorgeous books make great gifts. 

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The Chat with Alex Leslie

The Chat with Alex Leslie

By [Trevor Corkum]

We All Need to Eat is a spectacular collection, full of powerful stories that centre around Soma, a queer woman on the W …

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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Jillian Tamaki

The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Jillian Tamaki

By [Trevor Corkum]

Jillian Tamaki is the winner of this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award for Literature for Young Peopl …

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Book Cover Homes

2018 Books of the Year: Nonfiction

By [Kerry Clare]

Stories from home and abroad, books about the past, the present, and the future, and something for every kind of reader …

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Book Cover Owls are Good at Keeping Secrets

From A to Zed: Sara O'Leary on Canadian Alphabet Books

By [Kerry Clare]

A recommended reading list by author of new book, Owls are Good At Keeping Secrets

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Book Cover In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo

2018 Books of the Year: Fiction

By [Kerry Clare]

"It is no exaggeration to state that 2018 was an outstanding year in Canadian books..." 

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The Chat with Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott

The Chat with Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott

By [Trevor Corkum]

The 2018 Governor General’s Award for Translation was awarded to the team of Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott for Desc …

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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Darrel J. McLeod

The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Darrel J. McLeod

By [Trevor Corkum]

Today we're pleased to share this interview with Darrel J. McLeod, who won this year’s Governor General’s Award for …

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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Jonathan Auxier

The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Jonathan Auxier

By [Trevor Corkum]

Ever wonder about the life of a young Victorian chimney sweep? Jonathan Auxier is winner of this year’s Governor Gener …

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The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Jordan Tannahill

The Chat with Governor General's Award Winner Jordan Tannahill

By [Trevor Corkum]

Jordan Tannahill is no stranger to the Governor General’s Awards. Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom marks his s …

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Celebrating Poetry & Asian Heritage Month: Sheniz Janmohamed's Meetings With Remarkable Women

book cover The Body of My Garden

In celebration of Asian Heritage Month, I revisited my bookshelves, desk, bedside table and floors (my room is small and my books are many) to uncover some of my favourite books by South Asian Canadian authors. While I was rummaging, a question arose in my mind: How can I possibly choose a handful of authors from a vast array of books?

Inspired by Natalie Zed’s recent blog post about the lack of reviews for poetry books by Canadian women, I decided to compile my own list of South Asian Canadian female poets (that was a mouthful). What began as a list of scribbled names slowly turned into a recounting of memories.

The heart dreams you
reads you thick like honey
spreading amber fragments of light
upon the page.

-Rishma Dunlop, The Body of My Garden

The first poet I discovered in undergrad was Rishma Dunlop. Her book, The Body of My Garden, became a constant companion- on subways, streetcars, long walks and “study” dates. I came back to her poems when I was unsure of myself—when I needed the voice of a poet who had memorized the sea in her fingers to metaphorically splash some salt water on my face.  When I met with her for the first time, I handed her a pamphlet of poems that would’ve been tossed in the garbage if I found them today. She was gracious and recept …

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The Right Book at the Right Time: Samuel Martin Reads Russell Wangersky's Whirl Away

Whirl Away

You know that feeling when a book comes to you at just the right time, when you need it most? That’s how I feel about Russell Wangersky’s new story collection Whirl Away. It’s a book about people whose lives are in tailspin: people trying to see straight through the blinding vertigo of change.

I can relate to that. Over the next few months I will finish a three month writer residency on Fogo Island (off the north coast of Newfoundland), launch my first novel A Blessed Snarl, edit and defend my Ph.D. dissertation, pack up my home, and move from St. John’s to the States for a new job. I’m a creature of habit, so change rocks me like the great gusts of wind that shake my studio here on the hill up from Deep Bay.

Sometimes I think there’s just too much on the go: too many emails to answer, too many forms to fill out for moving companies, immigration, real estate, insurance, etc. But so far so good: I’m holding it all together. Or, rather, Samantha, my wife, is holding it all together and I’m hanging onto her organisational skills for dear life. Most days, I feel like Dennis Meany in Wangersky’s story “McNally’s Fair,” test-running a rickety, old rollercoaster that could collapse on its next run.  Everything could skid off the road like the ambulan …

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George "Book Ninja" Murray talks chaos, poetry and living a public life in tight-knit St. John's.

George Murray, author of Whiteout (ECW Press)

Whiteout is George Murray's sixth collection of poetry (ECW Press.) On the heels of Glimpse, the successful and playful book of aphorisms, Whiteout is decidedly more pensive, the result of change and chaos in Murray's own life.

We'd planned to meet in Trinity Bellwoods Park for a coffee and chat, but were forced indoors by the rain. The door that greeted us was Type Books where we holed up in the basement and talked, fittingly, about how the choice to let chaos exist often leads to the form out of which one makes sense of disorientation.

During the podcast, you'll hear the rumblings above us. Those would be customers coming in and out of the store, a most happy intrusion!

Other intrusions include: Did you know George Murray was once an actor? He talks about this, how he eventually came to be a writer and how he performed for years as "Book Ninja". Did you also know that George Murray is an amateur psychologist? I ask him to interpret me as his reader based on my favourite poem, and, boy, did he nail me!

 

 

From the podcast:

The World Goes Out Like an Old Television

It’s nothing so sudden as power loss—
you’ve turned this set off each night for years,
the picture always returns in the morning.

No, it’s something subtler, more natural,
a darkening under the skin— …

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Meditations on the Medicine Line: Naomi McIlwraith on Writing a Book at the Boundary Between English and Cree

Book Cover Kiyam

Historically, Aboriginal peoples called the 49th parallel the “Medicine Line” for its peculiar ability to stop American troops pursuing Natives heading north, so I find my current task to write a blog for the 49th Shelf about what it was like to write a single book in English and Cree a sweet and ticklish irony. I am a proud and defiant Canadian, yet I smile knowingly because language does not stop conveniently or obediently at an imaginary boundary. And the 49th parallel thrives in our minds’ eyes, so I appreciate the challenge to share my experience at the border between language and perception.

Twice this past week I approached a Cree-speaking person in my subconscious desire to bridge the deep chasm dividing Canada’s mainstream culture and Aboriginal people. That’s what I tried to do in writing the poems that form the collection kiyâm. I remember purposefully hefting this strangely abstract weight as if I could write all the wrongs of our collective Aboriginal history, as if I could convince all non-Aboriginal Canadians that they might take an interest in our First Nations and Métis history, as if I could convince all Aboriginal people that not all white Canadians are to blame. As if. How naïve I was to think that I could wield the political and soc …

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Finally, a Diet to Love … Read Local: The 100-Mile Book Diet

Update: The Read Local map is now live! Find books connected to places across Canada. Add your favourites, too.

Have you ever fallen so in love with a Canadian town, village, or landscape described in a book you had to visit it yourself? Has it ever felt like you’ve been somewhere you actually haven’t, simply from having read about it? Have you ever used a guidebook or reference book to help you get the most out of a road-trip or vacation?

Of course you have, and it goes to show how important Canadian place-based books are to our identity and our experience of our country. We want to celebrate these books—and we need your help.

We have launched a very cool new feature called Read Local: The 100-Mile Book Diet. Central to this is the Read Local Map on 49th Shelf, which is a map of Canada with a difference: it is populated by books either set in a certain place (fiction) or about a certain place (non-fiction). And, it's populated not just by the editorial team here but by readers’ suggestions.

Through the summer, we’re going to announce special themes for the map. Obviously, we have to have an Eat Your Way Across Canada theme (how could we not? it’s barbeque season! it’s corn and tomato season!). But there will be more … some obvious and some more obscure and off-the-wall. Again, we want you to help us put Canadian books on the map.

As we go along, Read Local is going to get more and more layered. And more and more beautiful.

There are only three ground rules:

  • Book …
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