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Funny Books Lit Wish List

By 49thShelf
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Started with great suggestions by Canadian authors, with suggestions from our community of readers.
Love Monster, The

Love Monster, The

A Novel
tagged :

The Love Monster is the tall tale of one woman's struggle with mid-life issues. The main character, Margaret H. Atwood, has psoriasis, a boring job and a bad attitude. Her cheating husband has left her. And none of her pants fit any more.
Marston takes the reader on a hilarious journey of recovery. Hope comes in the form of a dope-smoking senior citizen, a religious fanatic, a good lawyer and a talking turtle (not to mention Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Warren Zevon, Neil Armstrong and a yogi bur …

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Li'l Bastard

Li'l Bastard

also available: Paperback
tagged : canadian

Finalist for the 2012 Governor General's Award for Poetry


David McGimpsey's fifth collection of poems takes to new levels the melding of the deeply personal and the culturally popular that drove his acclaimed book Sitcom (nominated for the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry) – this is confessional poetry as written by a chronic trickster and a committed liar.

Written in part as an homage to the poetic idols of his youth, John Berryman and Robert Lowell, Li'l Bastard is a collection of 'chubby sonnets …

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Hard Core Logo

Hard Core Logo

also available: Paperback
tagged :
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Why it's on the list ...
Suggested by Anakana Schofield
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Norman Bray, In the Performance of His Life

Norman Bray, In the Performance of His Life

tagged : literary, humorous

Finalist for the Governor General’s Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Canada and Caribbean region)

A Globe and Mail Notable Book of the Year

For years, Toronto stage actor Norman Bray has renounced all responsibility in the name of his “art.” Now, middle-aged, teetering on the edge of financial ruin, and clinging to the faded light of his career, Norman must answer to the bank, to the adult children of his recently deceased common-law wife, and, most of all, to …

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“You’re fucking late, Norman.” Robert Chenowirth, bald, lacquered with sweat, and aggressively unshaven, sits in front of an aging control panel on a swivel chair so flimsy that its ability to withstand his enormous bulk defies logic to the point of sorcery. His vast T-shirted belly (the T-shirt, black, features a startling woodcut of Liza Minnelli) is pressed into the ledge of the switching board, billowing above and below, but even so he has to extend his arms to rest his hands next to the yellowed controls. He is famous within his industry largely for having not yet died.

Kitty-corner to him the studio technician, Bink Laughren, glances over the top of his Dick Francis novel at a green oscillating-wave monitor. Norman hears Penny come up behind him.

“I’m sure you said two o’clock, Robert,” implores Norman. “I’m positive. Whatever Penny says, I don’t miss my call times. You know that. I’m a goddamn professional.”

Chenowirth turns his head, an oiled ball dipped in metal filings, towards Norman for the first time, his threatening glare undercut just slightly by the feathery catch in his voice. “You missed this one.”

“But not —”

Robert swings his fists as if he’s pounding two sturdy lawn ornaments into the earth. “Oh Jesus Mary, Norman, just get into the booth. Somebody give him his fucking script.”

It is unfairness to such a degree that Norman considers walking out in protest. It’s what he should do. But instead — because he is a goddamn professional, and to some lesser extent because he needs the money — he takes the pages Penny hands him and makes his way back along the hall. He wrenches open the sound booth’s outer door and pushes on the inner, which gives with a slurp of air, and he enters a tiny room fronted by a large glass window looking out into the control room.

“Hello, Judith.” Norman nods at the actress already seated at one of two microphones and smiles to suggest that nothing is wrong, that he has had a perfectly reasonable conversation with Robert, an eminently reasonable man. Judith Fenwick, a matronly sort of woman smelling of hand cream and tea, regards him overtop pewter reading glasses tipped with tiny wings.

“I’ve had a very nice time going through this week’s papers, Norman, which someone was kind enough to leave on the floor.” She speaks with the vestiges of an elusive English accent, like so many other moderately talented actresses of middle age whom Norman has encountered. “I was about to start balancing my cheque book.”

Norman nods distractedly and emits a short humming sound, because he is essaying the role of an actor concentrating on his script. It is, just as he expects, the script for episode #001 of Tiny Taxi, a fifteen-minute children’s show produced on a delicately small budget for the new digital cable channel KidSpot. In concept and execution it is identical to Timmy Taxi, which Chenowirth produced over the previous two years for another channel (and for which Norman provided the lead character’s voice for all forty-two brief and brightly lit episodes) until Robert discovered an unnoticed clause in his contract that required him, after ten years, to relinquish his residual rights. Because he had planned to retire on the steady earnings of Timmy Taxi, and because the broad­caster’s lawyers would not bend to his protestations that the contract was void because he’d been hopelessly adrift over a failed affair — and very likely drunk on gin toddies — when he’d signed it, Robert folded his company, established another one, acquired a new cable partner, and resumed taping in the same studio, with the same set, after only a month’s delay. (Penny, whose employment contract calls for her to share in a percentage of the residuals in lieu of a decent salary, had tears in her eyes when she gathered the cast and crew to present Robert with a small celebratory taxi-shaped lemon cake.)

That Timmy-less month was an awkward one for Norman, who for these last two years has relied on his cheques from Chenowirth Productions more than he would care to admit. It necessitated visiting his sister on at least three occasions (it was four, to be precise, but one of those times she was at the doctor’s seeing to polyps on her colon, so it didn’t count) to negotiate the loan of sums so small they hardly warranted the inconvenience.

But yesterday, the first day in the life of Tiny Taxi, it was as though nothing had changed. The production process was the same: Wednesday afternoon, on a set no larger than an area rug, colourful toy cars with removable headlight eyes and toothy grilles were videotaped being pushed around the snap-together streets of Grandville by wires and unseen hands. On Wednesday evening, from six until midnight, the actors arrived to give voice to their dreams and dilemmas. Having played the robustly cheerful Timmy for so long, Norman adapted easily, he thought, to the demands of playing the equally jolly Tiny, whose only bane in life is the mildly menacing Cab Calladay (formerly Ty Cab), who seems to lurk around every corner waiting to muscle in on his fares. Last night, in fact, Norman was noting to Penny and Judith, and Fred Trumble, who plays Cab, that he really understood Timmy/Tiny, that it was not a stretch to say their essential nature mirrored his own. “Each of us is optimistic at the core,” he explained. “Willing to explore the unknown. Willing to embrace the new.” It wouldn’t have surprised him to find out that Robert had based the character entirely on him. As Timmy, Norman had even contributed the signature line: “Up the street or down the road, it’s all a trip to me!” delivered with the eager chirp he’d perfected after only a few months. (For Tiny, Robert, who writes most of the scripts, had adapted the line to read, “You never know, you know, where the next turn will take you!” which Norman granted was snappy, but seemed to lack the texture of Timmy’s sang-froid.)

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Muriella Pent

Muriella Pent

tagged :

Russell Smith’s highly praised new novel features some typically caustic satire, alongside a deep and melancholy awareness of the force of desire in our lives. The combination of wit and perception in Muriella Pent — and its brilliant dialogue, beautiful descriptive prose, assured handling of racial politics, and exact observation of modern types — underlines Russell Smith’s claim to be one of Canada’s subtlest, sharpest writers.

The book begins with a poem by Marcus Royston (from his " …

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The flotsam of bottletops, glass shards, paper strands like seaweed
washed up on the curb, the receding waves of visitors flash
as whitecaps in the sun. And when the tide goes out
it leaves the concrete dusty. We scavenge what we can,
boys in ragged khaki shorts, looking out to sea.
This is a tide that burns and leaves
the taste of money in the mouth
and bananas in the sand.
A girl sits in shadow, sullen as heat. Her skin
is velvet dust. And although her mouth is tightly shut,
I know it hides a cave of wet, with hidden glints
of metal, flashing like traps. I know her salt already.
I will turn into an arrogant god, metamorphosed
into shepherd, warrior, whatever shape
is primed for rape
by respected purveyors of myth.
I will pay and take her. I will carry her away.
For Jupiter she would kick, shrink from the scratch
of feather and beak (how oily that down, up close!).
For Apollo she would shiver and freeze with fear,
wooden in retreat. For me she is merely cold, silent as a bruise.
A ground that many have trod becomes compact and hard.
We have known so many visitors here,
we exchange the roles of conqueror and slave
like blocks slid around a grimy board,
in the cafés of the port. It is my turn now.

Marcus Royston
(from “Island Eclogues XII”)


It’s almost impossible for me to imagine that a full year has passed since last year’s spectacular and highly successful Trillium Ball. I can still remember the highlights of that night — the fabulous music from the Caramba Tango Ensemble, the stunning performance of an excerpt from the new ballet Rodeo by members of the National Ballet, the hilarious auctioneering style of our resident comedian, Marv Dunleavy (who also moonlights as the President of Dunleavy Goldfarb Investments). In that one night we raised, thanks to the generous donations of all of our corporate sponsors,* as well as by our generous Members, in excess of $300,000 for the Princess Alexandra Hospital Redevelopment Fund. Well, we have had no time for those memories to fade before getting right back into the swing of the preparations for this year’s Ball, and what a preparation it has been! I am pleased to announce that this year’s Ball is on an even grander scale than ever before, and promises to be even more dazzling and entertaining than last year’s — if that’s possible! We are proud to announce the participation, this year, of the Fur Board of Canada, who have donated seventeen luxurious coats for our silent auction, and the generous donations of six of the city’s top chefs (including Damian Buhr of Coterie, Kenneth Woo of Pearl, Bodo Kraftmeyer of Elements, and Ritchie LeBlanc, ex of Mirage) for our Trade Routes Food Stations, plus the usual fun-filled costume parade and steel-drumming by the Caribbean Cultural Society. I have nothing but awe and admiration for my fellow board members, and my vice-chairs Sandy Dunleavy, Gaye Northwood, and Sonia Gjurdeff, who have donated more of their time in putting this massive project together — along with the usual time-consuming obligations of family and demanding husbands! — than I would have thought humanly possible. I have had the honour of working with a board composed of the most dedicated and hard-working volunteers I have ever had the privilege to meet, and so it is with many thanks that I invite you to enjoy the fruits of their labours. This year’s proceeds will go the newly launched Lupus Research Centre of the Princess Alexandra Hospital, and it is an honour for all of us to be associated with this much-needed initiative. And finally I offer my thanks especially to those without whom none of this would occur: the generous patrons who have bought tables. Now sit back and enjoy a well-deserved evening of entertainment, and above all, have fun!

Muriella Pent
Chair, Organizing Committee

*a full list of corporate sponsors will be found on pages 3–5

Photo by Andy Nottingham, styling by Nadir Group. Mrs. Pent’s wardrobe courtesy of the St. Regis Room at the Bay.

A checkerboard of yellow light on the carpet. Her head is on its side. She can feel the pile making an imprint on her cheek: gentle bristles. She can’t at first make out why the light is so perfectly divided in squares. The windowpanes, their leaded squares. There is dust hanging in the shafts like a kind of mist. It is hardly moving, just hanging. From outside, the sound of a lawnmower, incongruous so late in the year. She stretches her hand out and strokes the pile. Her fingertips feel sensitive, as if she can distinguish the floral patterns on the rug by caressing it.

With her nose this close to the rug, she can for the first time discern its dusty smell. It is a bit barnyardy. The rug is wool, and very old, dyed, by no doubt dirty hands, with vegetable extracts. She imagines that it has been carried by a camel at one time. Perhaps this is what camels smelled like.

A sweet smell too, like burning sugar. Spilled brandy, soaked into the rug beside her. It is a little dizzying. It is like something rotten. And there is brandy on her chest: her nipples burn a little where he has dripped the brandy on them, then rubbed it in. Then he filled his mouth with brandy and sucked her nipple into it. “Oh,” she says, as if hurt. It is almost the same feeling: her chest has filled with air. She expels it. “Goodness.” She shivers, rolls over onto him, runs her hand over his chest and soft belly. It is flat, but soft. There is roughness only in the very centre of his chest, a sparse patch like dying grass, a memory of fur. Even this stubble is soft.

He is breathing steadily, not asleep. His eyes half open. She strokes his nipple, which makes him sigh. He smells damp. His skin is salt. She thinks she probably smells stronger than he does. She can smell herself. It is not just perspiration. She has not ever smelled herself like this, or at least can’t remember it.

Her belly is sticky. That is him. She is curious to smell it, but does not want to touch her finger to her nose in front of him. Not that he would be shocked (he seems shocked by nothing), but it would be admitting a naivety.

Her eyes travel the room. She begins to take in minor damage. A smashed vase, thankfully only glass, on the hardwood beside the writing desk, a great lake of water, also soaking into the rug. Yellow lily petals floating in it, soggy stems everywhere. His trousers, twisted inside out, a dam at the hardwood’s edge. An anemone of wet silk: her panties.

Perhaps the fetid water is contributing to the vegetal atmosphere. Red rose petals float too: where did they knock them from? A dark ceramic vase on the mantelpiece stands intact. It is patterned with apples and grapes, and sprouts drooping roses. Her head brushed against it as he pushed her up against the stone, her head stretched back, his lips on her neck, under the portrait of Arthur. She must have been spraying rose petals about with her hair. She reaches a hand behind her head and extracts a few more.

That’s where they started, and then she doesn’t remember hitting the glass vase on the writing desk. She remembers slippping in the water in her bare feet, though, as he pulled on her skirt, and him catching her, his hand tight in the small of her back.

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