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Interviews, Recommendations, and More

Quick Hits: From Paradise to Pop Culture

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.

In Quick Hits, we look through our stacks to bring you books that, when they were published, elicited a lot of reaction and praise. Our selections will include books published this year, last year, or any year. They will be from any genre. The best books are timeless, and they deserve to find readers whenever and wherever.




Trauma Farm, by Brian Brett

Genre: Memoir

Publisher: Greystone Books

What It's About

An irreverent and illuminating journey through a day in the life of writer and poet Brian Brett, as he tends a small island farm on Salt Spring Island, affectionately named Trauma Farm, with numerous side trips into the natural history of farming.

Brian Brett moves from the tending of livestock, poultry, orchards, gardens, machinery, and fields to the social intricacies of rural communities and, finally, to an encounter with a magnificent deer in the silver moonlight of a magical farm field. Brett understands both tall tales and rigorous science as he explores the small mixed farm—meditating on the perfection of the egg and the nature of soil while also offering a scathing critique of agribusiness and the horror of modern slaughterhouses. Whether discussing the uses and misuses of gates, examining the energy of seeds, or bantering with his family, farm hands, and neighbours, he remains aware of the miracles of life, birth, and death that confront the rural world every day.

Trauma Farm tells a story that is passionate, practical, and frequently hilarious, providing an unforgettable portrait of one farm and our separation from the natural world, as well as a common-sense analysis of rural life.

What People Say

“Brett's wise and witty meditation on farm life makes a compelling case for a simpler existence in a rural world.”—Globe & Mail

"It's easy to sympathize with Brett's world view. He represents the David of small farms against the Goliath of corporate agriculture." —Winnipeg Free Press

"You can taste the food he describes, feel the cool morning air on naked skin, smell the dogs and feel the mud. Brett reads almost as an invitation, a provocation, to make the natural, rooted, harmonious existence our own in whatever small ways we can." —Montreal Gazette

NB: Brian Brett has a new book out this fall, Tuco: The Parrot, the Others, and a Scattershot World



Paradise & Elsewhere, by Kathy Page

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Biblioasis

About the Book

The rubble of an ancient civilization. A village in a valley from which no one comes or goes. A forest of mother-trees, whispering to each other through their roots; a lakeside lighthouse where a girl slips into human skin as lightly as an otter into water; a desert settlement where there was no conflict, before she came; or the town of Wantwick, ruled by a soothsayer, where tourists lose everything they have. These are the places where things begin. Paradise & Elsewhere is a collection of dark fables at once familiar and entirely strange: Orange Prize-nominated Kathy Page notches a new path through the wild, lush, half-fantastic and half-real terrain of fairy tale and myth.

What People Say

"This vibrant, startlingly imaginative collection reminded me—as few collections have done in recent years-of both where stories come from, and why we need to tell them. Page is a massive talent: wise, smart, very funny and very humane."—Barbara Gowdy

"One of our most daring writers ... If you don't know Page's work yet, she's a find."—Caroline Adderson




This Cake Is for the Party, by Sarah Selecky

Genre: Short Stories

Publisher: Dundurn

About the Book

Sarah Selecky’s first book takes dead aim at a young generation of men and women who often set out with the best of intentions, only to have plans thwarted or hopes betrayed. These are stories about friendships and relationships confused by unsettling tensions bubbling beneath the surface. A woman who plans to conceive ends up in the arms of her husband’s best friend; a man who baby-sits a neglected four-year-old ends up questioning his own dysfunctional relationship; a chance encounter at a gala event causes a woman to remember when she volunteered for a nightmarish drug-testing clinic; another woman discovers that her best friend who is about to get married has just had an affair; a young teenager tries to escape from her controlling father and finds an unexpected lover on a bus ride home; a wife tries to overcome her dying mother-in-law’s resistance to her marriage by revealing to her own strange aural stigmata; a friend tries to talk another friend out of dating her cheating ex-boyfriend; and a superstitious candle-maker confesses to a tempestuous relationship that implodes spectacularly.

Reminiscent of early Atwood, with echoes of Lisa Moore and Barbara Gowdy, these absorbing stories are about love and longing, stories that touch us in a myriad of subtle and affecting ways.

What People Say

"Selecky harbours deep affection for her characters, combined with effortless grace; there is truly not a weak link to be found. She has a keen ear for understated dialogue, and a gift for unusual description..."—Winnipeg Review

"From the first page, This Cake buzzes with casually great dialogue, and in every story, on every page, Selecky meets the fundamental requirement that fiction be multitasking. Her alternately comic and serious stories are inventive and honest..."—Canadian Notes and Queries




Elle, by Douglas Glover

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Goose Lane Editions

About the Book

Imagine a 16th-century society belle turned Robinson Crusoe, a female Don Quixote with an Inuit Sancho Panza, and you'll have an inkling of what's in store in this outrageous novel. Elle is a lusty, subversive riff on the discovery of the New World, the moment of first contact. Based on a true story, Elle chronicles the ordeals and adventures of a young French woman marooned on the desolate Isle of Demons during Jacques Cartier's ill-fated third and last attempt to colonize Canada.

Of course, the plot is only the beginning. The bare outline is a true story: the Sieur de Roberval did abandon his unruly young niece, her lover, and her nurse on the Isle of Demons; her companions and her newborn baby did die; and she was indeed rescued and taken home to France. Beyond that, Glover’s Rabelaisian imagination takes over. What with real bears, spirit bears, and perhaps hallucinated bears, with mystified and mystifying Natives, with the residue of a somewhat lurid religious faith, and with a world of self-preserving belligerence, the voluble heroine of Elle does more than survive.

Elle brilliantly reinvents the beginnings of this country's history: what Canada meant to the early European adventurers, what these Europeans meant to Canada's original inhabitants, and the terrible failure of the two worlds to recognize each other as human.

What People Say

"A magnificent hail Mary of pure imagination ... a ribald, raunchy wit with a talent for searing self-investigation ... Glover's prose throughout, while being consistent in voice, is also a rich blend of elegance and punch, raw affect and slippery allusion." —Globe and Mail

"Lascivious, bizarre, entertaining ... Glover has a wonderful facility for imagery, language, farce, and the grotesque."—Quill & Quire

NB: Also check out Douglas Glover's critically acclaimed short story collection, Savage Love.



Earworm, by Nick Thran

Genre: Poetry

Publisher: Nightwood Editions

About the Book

Earworm, the second book from acclaimed poet Nick Thran, expertly combines wicked cleverness, adept craftsmanship, and a uniquely insightful perspective in an entertaining yet substantial tour de force. Building on the success of his debut, Thran has enhanced his compelling pop culture rhythms and distinctive voice with bolder formal experimentation and greater poetic maturity.

This eclectic collection takes in topics ranging from cartoons to Caravaggio to cicadas, expressed in a comparable variety of poetic forms. Despite this diversity, the book is unified by its perfectly balanced blend of thoughtful observation laced with Thran's characteristically whimsical sense of humour.

Earworm is also interspersed with several poems inspired by works of art in a variety of media. Whether he's reinterpreting Picasso's Blue Period, encapsulating a moment from The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, or lending a narrative to one of Dennis Oppenheim's conceptual sculptures, Thran is able to distill the essence of the original while adding a fresh twist.

What People Say

"I submit to the fair-minded reader that coolness ... has never really been a going concern for Canadian poets. In recent years, there have been a modest clutch ... who really pull it off. Nick Thran is one of them. His poems are cool. Genuinely, impossibly cool."—Michael Lista, National Post

"Side-stepping the more likely subjects, Thran’s poems freewheel through a rangy lyricscape of our urban, cultural life, from Picasso to Jessica Rabbit, from the Smurfs to Barry Bonds. Sprawling, irrepressible, Earworm darts with wild control and energy, like a skateboard in a car park, taking the reader along on its engaging ride."—David O’Meara

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