Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Whale Music

Celebrating Short Books

By [Kerry Clare]

An excellent chance to meet your reading goals , or to score a Book Club pick that everyone stands a chance of actually …

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Book Cover Black Women Who Dared

New Books on Black History

By [Kerry Clare]

About Black artists, writers, civil rights activists, athletes, heroes, and more. 

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Book Cover Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club

Megan Gail Coles: Writing Through Risk

By [Kerry Clare]

Books that challenge  literary expectations and community norms while demanding artistic honesty and human compassion

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The Chat with Shauntay Grant and Eva Campbell

The Chat with Shauntay Grant and Eva Campbell

By [Trevor Corkum]

This week we’re in conversation with the creators of Africville, a picture book nominated last year for the Governor G …

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Book Cover There Are Not Enough Sad Songs

Most Anticipated: Our 2019 Spring Poetry Preview

By [Kerry Clare]

Post-Groundhog Day, we're looking forward to spring with our Poetry Preview, featuring new books by established poets an …

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Book Cover Sugar and Snails

On Our Radar

By [Kerry Clare]

Books with buzz worth sharing. 

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Shelf Talkers: Books to Get You Through February

Shelf Talkers: Books to Get You Through February

By [Rob Wiersema]

Think baggy sweaters and hand-knit slippers, think warm baths and hot drinks, think, of course, of books. (And if your s …

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Book Cover Happy Parents Happy Kids

Happy Parents, Happy Kids: Ann Douglas on Building Your Online Village

By [Kerry Clare]

"It's all about being more mindful about your use of technology and consid­ering both what you stand to gain and what y …

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Book Cover Suki's Kimono

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Get Dancing

By [Kerry Clare]

These picture books can’t teach you how to dance, but they can inspire you.

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The Chat with Nilofar Shidmehr

The Chat with Nilofar Shidmehr

By [Trevor Corkum]

Nilofar Shidmehr’s short fiction collection, Divided Loyalties (Astoria/House of Anansi) is a rich and compelling coll …

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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

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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.

haysolo

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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