Off the Page

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

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: On Reopening Schools Without Libraries

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: On Reopening Schools Without Libraries

By Jennifer Byrne

We’ve waited so long for some sense of a return to normalcy. Now, with schools on the cusp of reopening, they do so un …

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Book Cover Gaptoothed

Filling the Gaps, Minding the Gaps: the Unconventional (Mostly) Small Town Girls of CanLit

By Robin Durnford

An amazing recommended reading list by Robin Durnford, whose new poetry collection is Gaptoothed.

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Book Cover Kid Sterling

Kid Sterling: Books on Jazz and Justice

By Christine Welldon

Christine Welldon introduces her debut novel, Kid Sterling, and she marks its release with a list of inspiring books tha …

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book cover eat salt/gaze at the ocean

Most Anticipated: Our 2020 Fall Poetry Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

Our Fall Preview continues with poetry, an intriguing selection of debuts, collected works, and excellent new releases.

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Shelf Talkers: Books for Summer 2020

Shelf Talkers: Books for Summer 2020

By Robert J Wiersema

Here are our booksellers’ picks for your endless summer days. And if you exhaust this list, remember, more recommendat …

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The Chat with Madhur Anand

The Chat with Madhur Anand

By Trevor Corkum

Our first conversation this month is with writer Madhur Anand, whose brilliant experimental memoir This Red Line Goes St …

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Awesome August Giveaway

Awesome August Giveaway

By Kiley Turner

We hope you've had some wonderful summer escapes by now – we all deserve some magic this season! Today, we're highligh …

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Book Cover Blue Sky Kingdom

Let's Get Out of This Town: Literary Travel

By Kerry Clare

Journey through place and time with this collection of new and forthcoming travel books, spotlighting some of the best t …

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Book Cover Bird's Eye View

Ann Eriksson Launches BIRD'S EYE VIEW

By Kerry Care

"Anyone, young or old, who wants to learn more about the birds that live in their neighbourhood or on the other side of …

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The Chat with John Elizabeth Stintzi

The Chat with John Elizabeth Stintzi

By Trevor Corkum

Writer John Elizabeth Stinzi has the distinction of publishing two fabulous debuts a week apart this past spring. On The …

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Art Critic and Writer David Balzer believes everything needs to be made just a little bit strange.

Contrivances, by David Balzer. (Cover art: Janet Werner)

Art critic David Balzer is the author of Contrivances, a debut short story collection available through ECW's digital imprint Joyland.

The collection features a talk-show host and her talking hand, a women’s activity group that writes to prisoners, and a poncho-making nudist. The stories take inspiration from Old Hollywood, Gothic novels, art-world gossip, and "maybe a Lifetime movie or two."

Read an excerpt here.

I met last week with Balzer (@davidkbalzer) in the basement of Type Books to record a podcast I truly hope you enjoy. Balzer is an informed and eloquent speaker with a strong opinion on the nature and function of prose. He's also quite forthcoming about where he sees his place within contemporary fiction, as well as how and why he chose to write the entire collection from the perspective of women.

In this podcast (duration: 20:15), we discuss :

  • how Balzer's career as an art critic informs his prose—"You're hoping for something to be good and looking for why it means something and how it works."
  • how our culture reads acts of analysis as "acts of destruction and dissection rather than acts of curiosity and often enthusiasm and optimism."
  • the distinction between camp and melodrama—"Everything needs to be made just a little bit strange."
  • how writing …
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Tanis Rideout Roughs It: Canadian Adventure Books

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat: It’s a Canadian classic and the kind of tale most people think of when asked about Canadian adventures. Farley Mowat travels to the frozen tundra to track and study arctic wolf populations at the behest of the Canadian Government. Alone. And while the book may or may not be factually accurate, it does paint a visceral, beautiful and, at times, hilarious picture of Canada’s far north—panicked encounters with wolves, the ritual marking of the territory, assistance from local guides and a plea to protect Canada’s resources. Mowat’s tone and characterisations might read a little dated, but his anger and grief about how the government manages our resources sure is resonant today.

Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie: Another classic and one of Canada’s first adventure books—a journal of what it was like to try and tame the wilds of Upper Canada in the 1830s when the Canadian men were boors and the Canadian women were bores. Moodie and her husband face down illness, starvation, fire, failed crops,  and stol …

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Bob Armstrong's Father's Day Books List

Dadolescence by Bob Armstrong: Stay-at-home fathers were all over the TV screen and book shelves last year, including in my debut novel, which featured a trio of them. My protagonist, forty-something Bill Angus, doesn’t think of himself as a stay-at-home father. He’s an anthropologist conducting participatory-observer studies of the phenomenon of stay-at-home fathers, and in the process asking “What is a man when he isn’t going out into a hostile environment to wrest a living for his family?”

Book Cover The Antagonist

The Antagonist by Lynn Coady: At the heart of this tragicomic story of a young man drawn into violence is a fraught but loving father-and-son relationship. Lynn Coady’s 2011 novel, shortlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize. is also an exploration of the impact of the mythology of rock-'em sock-'em hockey on Canadian masculinity.

The …

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New Read Local Summer Theme: The Great Outdoors

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Are you bristling in your desk chair right now just itching to get outside and start enjoying Canada’s awesome summer pastimes? We can think of a few tantalizing ideas to make you even more restless: hiking, canoeing, picnicking, biking, barbequeing, fishing … And that’s a short list, of course.

Until you get a chance to bolt, relieve some of the pressure and pin some local, outdoorsy books to the Read Local Map under The Great Outdoors theme. The basic guidelines for this theme? If the book’s about something you can do outside, and it’s about or set in a specific Canadian place, it should make it to the map.

Click here for more on how to participate in Read Local.

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Samuel Martin: If the Writer Builds a Fire, the Reader Will Come to Watch You Burn

A Blessed Snarl by Samuel Martin (Breakwater Books).

Samuel Thomas Martin is the author of This Ramshackle Tabernacle (Breakwater Books), which was shortlisted for the 2010 BMO Winterset Award and longlisted for the 2011 ReLit Award for Short Fiction, and the novel A Blessed Snarl, also from Breakwater Books, about a man who moves his family back to Newfoundland to start a new Pentecostal church.

Originally from Ontario, Martin now lives in Newfoundland with his wife Samantha and their dog Vader.



Find Martin at his "e-nook out of the pull of the Google slipstream," The Dark Art Cafe.

(Read Sam's post on finding the right book at the right time.)

Julie Wilson: Your collection of short stories, This Ramshackle Tabernacle, is set in and around the fictional villages of St. Lola and St. Olga in northeastern Ontario. Why was it important to locate the stories in a particular kind of place, a recognizable one, while not naming those places as they currently exist?

Sam Martin: In rural communities, people know each other and, at least in my hometown, there is a lot of emphasis on telling stories—true stories—and getting the details right. You can’t have people over for coffee without storytelling and part of that is cutting in and saying, "That’s not how it happened," or "Come on now, get it right." So, to write …

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