Off the Page

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

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The Chat with Anthony De Sa

The Chat with Anthony De Sa

By Trevor Corkum

We continue our summer edition of The Chat in conversation with Toronto writer Anthony De Sa. His new novel, Children of …

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Book Cover The Work

Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Fiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

The novels, story collections, and drama that readers will be loving in the second half of 2019. 

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Shelf Talkers: Marilyn Monroe, YA Romance, Magic Basketball, and More

Shelf Talkers: Marilyn Monroe, YA Romance, Magic Basketball, and More

By Rob Wiersema

In a lot of ways, reading is the perfect summer reading project: you get to accomplish something AND you don’t have to …

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Book Cover Seaside Treasures

Books Beat Boredom: 8 Things for Your Kids to Do this Summer

By Kerry Clare

Engaging titles that also suggest amazing ways to engage with and have fun in the natural world. 

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Book Cover Simon and Louise

Super Summer Reading Guide

By Kerry Clare

20 titles that are sure to delight you. 

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Logo Read By the Sea Festival

Your 2019 Guide to Summer Literary Festivals

By Kerry Clare

Good things are happening across the country! 

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Leading Students on a Path of Self-Discovery: Sadia by Colleen Nelson

Leading Students on a Path of Self-Discovery: Sadia by Colleen Nelson

By Geoffrey Ruggero

As a fifteen-year-old adjusting to life in high school, Sadia begins to realize that growing up in Winnipeg brings many …

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The Chat with Kris Bertin

The Chat with Kris Bertin

By Trevor Corkum

Kris Bertin is back. The Halifax-based writer’s highly anticipated second collection of short fiction, Use Your Imagin …

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Book Cover The Little Hummingbird

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Text to Text

By Julie Booker

As part of the Language curriculum, primary readers are asked to make connections between books, identifying similaritie …

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That Trying Genre: Guest Post by Susan Olding

Susan Olding

Pity the essay—so undervalued that nobody recognizes it. We pass it by without a nod, or imagine we see it in a dozen other faces. “Ah, there you are! I’ve been looking for you! We must catch up,” we say, pumping a hand or slapping a rounded shoulder, all the while checking our watch in anticipation of our next appointment. Nobody wants to read the essay. Nobody wants to buy it. It’s so unpopular that in the 2012 Canada Reads—the first nonfiction edition ever—books of essays are explicitly ruled out.

But why? What makes the form so dismissible? Traditionally, the essay has been considered a minor genre, a species of “belles-lettres.” Pretty, perhaps—but useless. Lightweight. Like a lavender-scented lace handkerchief hidden in a great-aunt’s attic. At the same time, we associate it with those silly five paragraph stumps of thought that we were made to write in school. Not to mention the fact that when we hear its name we tend to imagine a tract or a sermon or a rant—all worthy literary forms in their own right, perhaps, but no more relation to the essay than a terrier is related to a cat.

Maybe that is the real, the deeper problem. Like a cat, the essay wants to go its own way. In an unstable world, we want to know what we’re getting, and wi …

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Excerpts from The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2011, guest editor Priscila Uppal, series editor Molly Peacock

The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2011 is published this month by Tightrope Books.

From Priscila Uppal’s opening essay:

Cover Best Canadian Poetry 2011

“If I have a critical bias, which I suppose everyone does as much as we try to remain as objective as possible, I admire poetry that surprises and challenges, that offers a new perspective or piece of wisdom I haven’t previously considered, that interrogates and innovates poetic conventions and genres and reverses the expected, either in terms of subject matter or language or form, or provokes unconventional emotions, that welcomes other fields of knowledge and art forms and methodologies, that reminds me of something important I seem to have forgotten or puts an entirely new thought in my head, that stuns me with exquisite beauty or sadness or profundity or ecstasy, poetry with a vision—whether pessimistic or idealistic—with something at stake, something to prove, something to lose, something to gain.”

From Molly Peacock’s Introduction:

All poets are asked to define poetry—by students, by mystified readers, and by poetry initiates as well—and all poets muster their own ways to describe their own art. Yet many of us feel that the way we describe the art we practice is inadequate to the enterprise itself. The poem is a hint, a cha …

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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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