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The Red List

By 49thShelf
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Happy Valentines Day!
The Red Word

The Red Word

A Novel
also available: eBook

Winner of the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

The battle of the sexes goes to college in this nervy debut adult novel by a powerful new voice

A smart, dark, and take-no-prisoners look at rape culture and the extremes to which ideology can go The Red Word is a campus novel like no other. As her sophomore year begins, Karen enters into the back-to-school revelry — particularly at Gamma Beta Chi. When she wakes up one morning on the lawn of Raghurst, a house of radical feminists, …

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BOOK ONE: Strophe / (Circling)


1. invocatio / (calling on the muse)


Sing, O Goddess, of the fury of Dyann Brooks-Morriss, teller of unbearable truths. O sing of the rage that kindled one young woman’s heart and the next until it drove us together from our homes, battlethirsty, into the secret places of the enemy. Sing how the young men scattered and fled as before the thunderbolt that lashes the sky. The storm is not appeased until the green leaves are torn from the trees, until even the great pines are uprooted from the mountainsides and lie down for the shipwright’s axe. It does not stop until bodies are rent and scattered as easymeat for curs and crows.

I receive two bits of news less than thirty minutes apart:

It is eleven-thirty in the morning, September 20, 2010. Here on the eighteenth story the sun trampolines off Lake Ontario and strikes both the floor and ceiling. I’ve just made my breakfast, squinting against the glare on the kettle, and I am back at my desk in the bedroom with the blackout drapes pulled tight. I am pretending to work, but the image I’ve got open in Photoshop on my monitor screens is not for work. It’s an arrangement of hydrangea and coneflower in a tarnished silver vase. They are two images, in fact, shot at two slightly different exposures. I am toggling back and forth, fiddling with saturation levels, when the first news arrives. It’s an email message from Annabeth Lise with the subject line Karen I am so so sorry. Her nanny’s mother has died in the Philippines.

I scroll through three quarters of Annabeth’s frantic, rambling message before I grasp her point. Her point is the International Conference on Lifestyle Photography, three days away: She is so, so sorry but there is just no way she can swing it; I will have to give our “Domestic Dreams” presentation on my own; she could send me what she’s written so far but it’s so rough at this stage; I’m so good on my feet that she knows it’ll go great; the photos are the best part of these things anyway, right? Annabeth really is so sorry.

She owes me big-time, she says.

I delete the message and stumble out of the bedroom. Sun-blinded, heart racing, I pace a few lengths of the kitchen and living/dining room. I have never been to a conference before. I’m fairly sure I made that clear to Annabeth when she asked me to go with her. I am no writer, certainly not a public speaker. All I was supposed to do was cue the slideshow.

If all this blood is your blood you’ll be dead soon. If not not. This is what runs through my mind when Jen Swinburn calls me — twenty-four minutes later — to give me the second piece of news: that Stephanie McNamara has passed away. As I sit there on the phone at my desk in my office in my apartment in Toronto, with my feet in slippers and with the taste of cheddar-on-toast on my tongue, I do not think of poor Steph at all but of myself. If all this blood — it’s a memory.

I look up and, on the heels of the memory, I spot the detail I’ve been searching for in the twin images on my screens. An overripe melon lies next to the tarnished vase, its seeds sliding onto the tabletop. The tabletop itself is scarred like a butcher’s block, and there is a divot at the spot where the seeds are oozing against the wood. The light meets the slime and slows down, bends, pools. A tiny wrinkle in the visual plane.

On the phone Jen says she had access to my phone number because she’s on the Alumni Relations Board. We small-talk a bit: I say I enjoyed that piece she wrote a few years ago for the alumni magazine about journalism after 9/11. She says she saw my byline in Covet My Home while on a cruise with her in-laws and couldn’t help googling, and “who would have thought a militant anarcha-feminist like yourself would end up employed in the Martha Stewart sector, ha ha.”

And then she tells me about Steph. She received the notice at the alumni office. “I remembered you two were close, but I didn’t know if you’d still be in touch,” she says. “It’s just not the kind of thing you’d want to read in the back of an alumni bulletin.”

“Are you calling anyone else?” I ask. It isn’t quite the right question. It sounds like I think Jen has been nosy or presumptuous. I try to fix it: “I mean, in case you need updated contact info for anyone.” Not that I would have updated contact information for anyone. I was one of the first to leave — back home to Canada even before my student visa expired — and fifteen years later everyone else is more or less scattered across the United States.

“Just a small list,” she says. “It’s not normally our role.”

“Thank you for calling, Jen. I appreciate it.”

A quick search reveals there is to be a campus memorial service for Dr. Stephanie McNamara this coming Friday. It’s the day after the panel presentation, in the very same US city as the photography conference. I know that Steph teaches — that Steph taught — in the Women’s Studies Department in that city, but I haven’t thought of her through my travel preparations. I haven’t thought of Stephanie McNamara, period, in years. The coincidence seems important in a spooky, literary way, like tragic destiny. Her college isn’t far at all from the Ivy League school where, in 1995–96, my sophomore year, Steph and I and three other girls were housemates.

If all this blood is your blood you’ll be dead soon. If not not. Everyone knows the trouble with myth. The trouble with myth is the way it shirks blame. It makes violent death as unavoidable as weather. All that tragic destiny lets everyone off the hook. Some bored god comes kicking up gravel and, just like that, a noble house explodes into carnage.

But then, I photograph interiors for a living. Myth is what I do. I mythologize.

O soulwithered Stephanie, keeper of all our sorrows. You tried again to open your eyes to the dark and this time it must have worked.


2. exordium / (urging forward, introduction)


I squinted up at a shadow blocking out the sun. A man was standing over me. He wore faded jeans and a huge oval belt buckle etched with a triple X. I lifted my elbow to my brow and the man became a woman, a girl my age. If I’d learned anything last year at college, I’d learned that just because someone was wearing a military crew cut and a white T-shirt tight across her flat chest and had a pack of cigarettes folded into the sleeve of the T-shirt like James Dean, it didn’t mean you went and assumed she was male. Some of my education seemed to have worn off over the summer.

“Are you okay?” the girl asked.

I turned my cheek to the grass in an effort to mute the stereophonic whine of cicadas and grasshoppers. I was lying in somebody’s backyard. Gray fencing teetered overhead, but the only shade on me fell from the massive, hairy leaves of some kind of vine I was curled beside. Slug trails dazzled the undersides. “What is this plant?” I asked.

“Um, pumpkin,” the girl said. “Last year, after Samhain, we couldn’t fit all our jack-o’-lanterns into the composter, so we dug a big hole back here and buried them.”

“Samhain?” My voice cactused my throat.

“Halloween. Look, are you okay? What happened to you?” she asked.

“I had sex with somebody,” I said. The uprush of memory, and the shock that I’d spoken it aloud, made me retch a little. I rolled over and sat up in the grass.

“You had sex with somebody,” she echoed. “On purpose?”

I waggled my head side to side, testing my headache. The yard kept swinging when I stopped moving. “There was a frat party,” I explained.

It came back to me now with another lurch why I’d walked all the way from the fraternity house to this particular spot, early this morning before I’d passed out. “Oh,” I said. “Oh, damn. Is this 61 Fulton Ave?”

“Yes. Well, at the moment we’re standing in 63,” she said. “Our backyards are connected.”

I looked around. There was a line where the neat lawn became a jungle, and this was the jungle side. “I came about your ad for a roommate,” I said.

The girl crouched beside me, barefoot in the grass. She held a mug of coffee and a lit cigarette. She offered them both, reaching out one hand at a time and pulling it back to indicate she’d make either substance disappear if it proved offensive to my hangover.

“Thanks.” I took a sip of the coffee, heavily sugared, and then a drag from her cigarette. I brushed at the ants crawling over my bare legs.

The girl was a few years older than me, I guessed, maybe twenty-three or twenty-four. “You’re a little early for the room thing,” she said. “Some of us have class this morning. Didn’t whoever you spoke to tell you that on the phone?”

I held out my hands to show the girl my dirt-ringed fingernails. “Well, I wanted to make a good first impression, you know?” I laughed, but misery poked its black fingers all through the laughter. I was making it worse. I was making her feel sorry for me. “Look, let’s just pretend I was never here.” I heaved myself to my feet — if I didn’t notice then maybe she wouldn’t either, how my knees and shins were smeared with green, how I must have been crawling on all fours that morning by the time I reached the back fence.

This would have been a good place to live, too. The roommate-wanted ad had stood out from the others at the Student Housing Office, where I’d been browsing yesterday for an alternative to my on-campus housing placement. The ad was much wordier, for one thing. Committed feminists only, it read. Vegetarian/vegan/macrobiotic meal-sharing, and Queer-friendliness a must. That last phrase had stuck in my head because I wasn’t sure exactly what it was supposed to mean. “Queer” was a slur against gays, I’d always thought. An insult, not something friendly. It was something the rednecks in northern Ontario were fond of shouting at tree planters on our days off, when we dressed up in thrift-store tuxes and dresses to go dancing at the Valhalla Hotel bar. Buncha queers.

The contact name on the ad had stood out for me too: Dyann Brooks-Morriss. Dyann had been one of the only sophomores in my freshman Great Writers class last year. I was impressed by her vocabulary and the boldness with which she would interrupt the professor with questions about things like “patriarchal assumptions” and “ideological blind spots.” I came home once after hearing Dyann speak up in class and looked up “hegemony” in my dictionary. Dyann sat in the front, and I was in the back, so I’d never really had a look at her up close.

I wobbled across the lawn behind the girl. “Hey. Give my apologies to your next-door neighbors too, okay?” I said.

Her smoke huffed out in a laugh. “If they noticed, which I’m sure they did not, I don’t think they’d mind. Look, why don’t you come in for a coffee.”

“That’s okay.”

“Please, come on in for a minute. I’m Steph, by the way.” She steered me to the deck on the tidier side of the yard, where the patio doors stood open. “This is Marie-Jeanne” — she pointed at a blond girl peeling an egg at the table, and the girl gave me a quizzical wave — “and over there is Dyann.”

The living room was shadowy after the bright backyard. Dyann was a silhouette on the couch. “I’m Karen,” I said. “Would you mind if I just used your washroom a sec?”

Steph pulled the string on a bulb over the basement stairs. “It’s down to the left,” she said. “Charla’s room and mine are down there. The other three bedrooms are up on the second floor.”

I had been looking forward to meeting Dyann Brooks-Morriss face-to-face. And I’d been planning to dress a bit like this girl Steph — in jeans and maybe my army-surplus boots. I’d definitely have worn my plaid shirt, the men’s worsted-wool Pendleton I’d found at a logging camp during the spring planting contract, the shirt I’d fallen in love with because it reminded me of the one Sal goes back for, in Kerouac’s On the Road. I had a feeling Dyann would approve of that shirt. I’d planned to impress her with exaggerated tales of environmental destruction and workplace discrimination in the Canadian tree-planting industry.

Instead I was wearing a pair of men’s boxer shorts, one turquoise jelly sandal, a pink T-shirt with a sparkly palm tree on the front, and no bra. My hair in the bathroom mirror was dew-frizzed and studded with bits of dead grass. An inchworm made its way across my breast, down a frond of the sparkly palm tree. I stank of booze and, probably, sex.

When I came back upstairs Steph said, “Do you take milk and sugar?”

“I should go,” I said. “You’ve been really nice.”

“We figured we may as well not make you come back again this afternoon,” she said. “Why don’t we all just talk for a minute now instead.” She hovered the milk carton over the mug until I nodded, then she poured and stirred. Steph’s face was kind: a full-lipped smile, freckles, light brown eyes with dark lashes. It wasn’t a soldier’s haircut after all — more like a little boy’s, with soft brown bangs cut straight across but ruffled out of place.

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Blue River and Red Earth

Blue River and Red Earth

also available: eBook

These eleven short stories cover a wide range of territory - from Toronto to Cuba to Eastern Europe. And, wide-ranging over geography as they are, they also cover an array of characters and situations that can only be situated in the twenty-first century.

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Me and You and the Red Canoe

Me and You and the Red Canoe

by Jean E. Pendziwol
illustrated by Phil
also available: eBook

In the stillness of a summer dawn, two siblings leave their campsite with fishing rods, tackle and bait, and push a red canoe into the lake. A perfect morning on the water unfolds, with thrilling glimpses of wildlife along the way.

The narrator describes the experience vividly. Trailing a lure through the blue-green depths, the siblings paddle around a point, spotting a moose in the shallows, a beaver swimming towards its home and an eagle returning to its nest. Suddenly there is a sharp tug and …

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Flying a Red Kite

Flying a Red Kite

by Hugh Hood
series edited by Michael Gnarowski
also available: Paperback eBook

A beautiful new edition of Hugh Hood’s debut story collection.

It all started toward the end of the 1930s, when the young Hugh Hood serviced a flourishing Saturday Evening Post delivery route with more than fifty weekly customers. That was where the author-to-be first encountered the short story, in the fiction of the famous magazine writers Damon Runyon, Guy Gilpatric, Arthur Train, and the master of them all, P.G. Wodehouse.

Hood would go on to write several novels and short story collections. …

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Brandishing a cornucopia of daffodils, flowers for Gloria, in his right hand, Arthur Merlin crossed the dusky oak-panelled foyer of his apartment building and came into the welcoming sunlit avenue. Grey-green poplars and shining maples leaned encouragingly over him like counselling elder sisters, whispering messages, bough song, bird song, in his responsive ears, in an evening of courtship. He sang softly in stop time:
There’ll be no one unless that
Someone is you.
I intend to be
Blue oo oo oo
Da da da dee dum.
Volkswagens are period pieces, he thought, circa 1954–1958, the sense of period. Thirty years from now Volkswagens will look quaint, fixing a colour page or an old movie as exactly in time as an Apperson Jack Rabbit does now. If I conserve my Volkswagen and drive it ten more years, I’ll begin to be a period piece. He slid back the sunroof and rolled away into the sound of cicadas, the little engine grinding like a coffee mill, energetic, valiant.
Up the avenue and around the corner he surprised his favourite antique, a 1929 Oakland Landaulette, all rich brown body and stiff black leather upperworks, owned by a doctor’s widow, ghosting home from the drugstore, its timeless driver erect on the mohair cushions. She preserved the car in exquisite running order as a memorial; Arthur had often discussed it with her. Tonight, as every time he saw the car, his fancies and recollections merged in a Gestalt that shot him back there when the 1929 Oakland was modish and new. He could be there in imagination in his body, his present age, in 1929, in 1829. My grandmother was born in 1870, he thought amazed, and could have spoken to men who knew Mozart, it’s possible. You can be there. 1929.
My father had a 1929 Essex Challenger, dark blue, with chased imitation silver handles on the inside of the doors, with little window blinds that rolled zipping up and down, with creamy-fringed tassels. It could take Roxborough Road hill in high gear from a standing start. Then he was three-dimensionally in the car, his thirty-four-year-old self, the day they started for the cottage at Rouge Hills in the early summer of 1931. The upholstery, a deep-piled dark blue, exhaled puffs of linty smoke when you bounced on it, motes dancing in the shafts of sunlight. If you drew the blinds, a darkness loomed in the back seat.
His mother said: “Stop for gas, Alex!”
His father said to the garage attendant: “Castrol, please, and put the cap on good and tight.”
They didn’t see him there, thirty-four year-old ghost from 1961, in the little boy squirming on the back seat. He shrank into the little boy and swelled into himself in his coffee-mill Volkswagen, and there were two of him, four years old and thirty-four.
“Put the cap on good and tight.” Alex turned to Margaret. “Did I ever tell you about the man who drank all the liquor?” They nodded their heads and gazed lovingly at each other and (thirty-) four year old Arthur looked on, feeling safe and happy.
Five years later they changed the name and called them Essex Terraplanes and then just Terraplanes and at last they stopped making them. They don’t even make Hudsons anymore but we were able to keep that car until the war was halfway over. The two of him expanded into three — as multiple as he ever became, even with his sense of period. I was learning to drive our old Essex the day I first saw Mrs. Vere in Westport. It must have been 1942 because I got my driver’s licence the next year, in the other car. I might have had the Essex for my own; but it died with sixty thousand miles on the clock the second time around, a bare grey spot that always hurt my eyes on the upholstery in the driver’s seat.
We were by the slips when she came along in the Saturday morning sun. The codgers stared behind her and gossiped as she passed, mourning Lieutenant Vere, hero of Pearl Harbor, and commending his widow’s fair beauty. Her four-year-old trailed behind her and, Heavens, thought Arthur seeing it, relishing it, the ghost of twenty-three-year-old Gloria was in that toddler, and I couldn’t see her. I saw Mrs. Vere, how I saw her in white tennis shorts, mourning behind her, fine gold fuzz on her legs catching the sun. I saw the glint, cowering in my rickety Essex. How she strode, how she put forward her perfect ankles, coming to look at the sunlight on the water. She looked, oh she looked like a girl, like an attainable girl to me at fifteen, and how I loved her as she sauntered along I feel still, all three of us feel, four, fifteen, and thirty-four, comfortably here in my little period piece.
On the other bucket seat the paper cone of flowers moves lazily with the car’s motion, wetness from the leaves shining on the leather, tiny rustle of green leaves, flip of the yellow blossoms catching Arthur’s eye as he rolls along in June, coming for Gloria, thinking of her marvellous mother at twenty-six. She looked like a co-ed, with that funny authority one’s older sister has, that sway compounded of a trifling difference in age and a cloud of otherness, mystery of being a woman. How I adored Mrs. Adam Vere, that golden widow as she said, looking into my Essex: “Where do we swim around here, that’s safe for children?” She listened attentively to my knowledgeable counsel.
Love me or leave me
And let me be lonely.
You won’t believe me
But I love you only.
I gaped, I croaked, I blushed:
“At the Boating Club,” I told her, “afternoons I’m on duty as a lifeguard and I’ll look after your little girl.” I scarcely looked at the toddler out of the corner of my eye, using her as a comic prop, an introduction-arranger, something out of a comic-strip or the opening paragraphs of a Ladies Home Journal story. There are ghosts out of the future, the unborn, as well as the dead from the past. How could I fathom marriageable Gloria, twenty-three, inside a pouting four year old? I looked instead at her unmarriageable mother and yearned and Gloria has her revenge.
She turned away and the back of her knees dimpled at me, her thighs like butterscotch, to the edge of her shorts. Fifteen is hell! I shook all the way home and the knob of the gearshift loosened in my hand. And all that summer I bounced baby Gloria through the wavelets at the water’s edge, on her stomach, on her back, rolled her yellow red blue white beachball along the sand and chased it when the wind caught it and she cried, and Mrs. Vere laughed.
“Get it, Arthur, get it!” they commanded together, their voices blending. That ball took off, sailed, spinning along the tops of the ripples, nothing inside to hold it down. I often chased it a quarter of a mile, coming back digging my toes into the beige sand to lie panting beside Mrs. Vere, while Gloria jumped up and down on my sacroiliac.
“Don’t jump on Arthur, sweetie, he’s winded!” I peeked, pulse racing, through a screen of sand at an expanse of butterscotch flank, and pressed my aching adolescent length flat on the sand’s heat.

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Kubrick Red: A Memoir

Kubrick Red: A Memoir

by Simon Roy
translated by Jacob Homel

The Shining by Stanley Kubrick - that strange story in which a writer and his wife and young son with ESP stay in a mysterious hotel in low season - has been fascinating viewers since its release in 1980. Simon Roy first saw the film when he was 10 and was mesmerized by a particular line: "How'd you like some ice cream, Doc?" He has since seen the movie at least 42 times, because "it encompasses the tragic symptoms of a deep-seated defect that has haunted [it] for generations." The painstaking b …

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Red, Yellow, Green

Red, Yellow, Green

tagged : literary

Traumatized by his past as a Bolivian soldier who, in a sudden coup d'etat, was forced to participate in atrocities, Alfredo flees to Montreal, haunted by the dead. He rides the Montreal metro and pours his guilt and shame into his writing, until he falls for a woman without a nation—a Kurdish freedom-fighter trying to blast an independent Kurdistan into existence. As the net of intrigue closes in on his lover, Alfredo is forced to face more fully his own violent past.

In a world where the inti …

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The Red Power Murders

The Red Power Murders

A DreadfulWater Mystery
also available: eBook Paperback

From the bestselling author of The Back of the Turtle and The Inconvenient Indian comes a wry and irreverent mystery

Thumps DreadfulWater has never liked surprises—even the good ones are annoying. So it’s no shock that a string of seemingly random occurrences is causing Thumps some real discomfort. First Noah Ridge, the Red Power Native activist, arrives in Thumps’ sleepy town of Chinook. Then the body of a retired FBI agent turns up at the local Holiday Inn. In the background hovers the gh …

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One Red Button

One Red Button

by (artist) Marthe Jocelyn
also available: eBook

One red button falls off a coat and becomes the cherry on an ice-cream cone, the wheel on a fire truck, the jewel in a necklace, and many other round surprises.

Illustrated using Jocelyn's delightful paper collage, One Red Button is a search-and-find adventure for little ones. This book will encourage the youngest readers to see the assortment of shapes and colors that decorate their own growing worlds.

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