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Vancouver Literary Bookmarks

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Set in Vancouver, where you can physically stand in the place the character is describing. Inspired by Project Bookmark Canada
Steveston

Steveston

by Daphne Marlatt
illustrated by Robert Minden
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian

Ronsdale Press offers a new edition of Steveston, this much loved work by two of Canada's finest poets and photographers. For this edition, Daphne Marlatt has written a new poem, never before published, to offer a postscript from 2001 on the original 1974 undertaking. At the publisher's request, Robert Minden has returned to his photographic archive bringing 9 additional images of Steveston and New Denver to light.

In addition, Marlatt and Minden have rethought their decision to interleave poems …

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Vancouver Stories

Vancouver Stories

West Coast Fiction from Canada's Best Writers
edition:Paperback
tagged :

The city of Vancouver means different things to different people, but it is as revered and beloved by its residents as it is by the millions of people who visit every year. It's a diverse, thrumming metropolis and a calm and beautiful recreation destination; it's a young city still striving for identity and a storied settlement rich in legend. And it has been both the inspiration and setting for some of Canada's most interesting fiction.

Framed by an incisive introduction from West Coast literary …

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The End of East

The End of East

edition:Paperback

A moving portrait of three generations of the Chan family living in Vancouver’s Chinatown
Sammy Chan was sure she’d escaped her family obligations when she fled Vancouver six years ago, but with her sister’s upcoming marriage, her turn has come to care for their aging mother. Abandoned by all four of her older sisters, jobless and stuck in a city she resents, Sammy finds herself cobbling together a makeshift family history and delving into stories that began in 1913, when her grandfather, …

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Excerpt

Prologue
At first, what frightened her about this place was the drizzle – the omnipresent grey of morning, afternoon, nighttime too. She was afraid that she would slowly be leached of colour and that, one day, while she was combing her hair in the mirror, she would see that her reflection was as grey as the sky, sea and land that surrounded her. Everything she saw as she moved about the city was filtered through the mist – dampened, weighed down, burdened.

She would come home after a day in Chinatown and find her wool pants covered in tiny drops of water – cold, as if no human being had ever touched them before. If she didn’t brush them off, they would seep into the fabric until they chilled her skin and she shivered into the night, long after the dishes were washed and everyone else had gone to bed.

In the summer, the sun finally emerged, dried up the puddles, opened flowers that had cowered in the rain. Buttercups shone in the light and multiplied in the lawn faster than she could dig them out. Children spat watermelon seeds over the porch railing, laughing at the squirrels who scurried across the lawn in fear. But every year, as winter returned, these days slipped from her memory. Too good to be true, perhaps. Too few to be important.

One morning, she woke and realized that she had come to accept the drizzle, that she had grown resigned to the squelch of rubber boots, the smell of damp wool on the bus. She walked around the park in the mornings, a film of fine water on her cheeks and eyelashes. Soon, she could not start her day without washing her face in the mist, letting the coolness do away with the bad dreams from the night.

And the half­light that lingered throughout the day let her believe that she was somewhere else, a dream-like netherworld in which anything might happen. Men could become lovers again. Women could be ageless. Children might even come back home.

But what she settled for was the cool, wet breeze that came in through the windows, the air that straightened her spine as she walked. The way the drizzle stayed with her, soaked into her hair, her clothes, her sheets. It pushed itself onto her skin, huddled with her when she cried, remained cool even as she cooked at a blazing stove. Unshakeable. Like family.

One

Stanley Park

"It is time," my mother says as she pulls me from the cab, "to run that old­man smell out of my house."

As I haul my luggage out of the trunk, the smell of smouldering dust and gas fills the air, burning my nose and mouth. I follow my mother’s rapidly retreating body around the side of the house to the backyard, wondering if she has finally snapped and set one my sisters ablaze.

In the driveway off the lane, she pokes angrily at a crackling fire with a metal garden rake; I catch my breath, holding my suitcase in front of me like a shield. Piles of my grandfather’s old, woolly clothes line the backyard and spill into the gravel alley, waiting to be tossed into the gassy flames. A light rain begins to fall, generating puffs of smoke that blow into my face. I cough, but she doesn’t seem to hear me above the snap and sizzle.

Waving the rake in my direction, she shouts, "Take your suitcase upstairs and go help your sister." As I turn back toward the house, she slaps down a stray spark that has landed in her permed, greying hair.

Once inside, I scan the front hall. The same rubber plant behind the door. My old slippers by the stairs. I breathe out, and cobwebs (suspiciously familiar) sway in the corners.

My mother steps through the door after me, her hands on her wide hips. "What’s taking you so long? I thought I told you to run upstairs."

"I’m jet­lagged," I mutter, kicking off my shoes.

She inspects my face closely, staring at me through her thick glasses. "Jet-lagged? Montreal is only three hours ahead. Go. Penny is waiting." She spins me around with a little push and pokes me in the back with one sharp fingernail.

I trudge up the stairs to my grandfather’s bedroom, where my sister is on her hands and knees, ripping out the nubby red carpet he brought over from his small apartment in Chinatown. Her long black hair drags on the sub-floor.

"Samantha," Penny says, pushing her bangs out of her eyes. "I feel like I’ve been waiting for you forever."

My hands shake. I try to tell myself that it’s only the dampness in the air that’s causing this deep bone shiver. But, really, I am simply afraid. When I was sitting in the airplane, the idea of coming home didn’t seem so real or so final, and I could pretend that I wasn’t passing over province after province. Standing here, in my grandfather’s old room, with my mother’s footsteps coming up quickly behind me, I know that I have irrevocably returned.

"We have to get rid of your grandfather’s junk before the wedding. We’ll need his bedroom for the tea ceremony," my mother says, pushing me aside to inspect the closet. She turns to Penny: "I don’t know why you have to get married so fast. I’m too old to run around like this. Inconsiderate girl." She lets out a loud breath, punctuating her rapid, angry Chinese with a huff.

"Grandfather’s been dead for ten years, Mother," Penny says quietly in English, as usual. "And we’ve been engaged for almost a month. You’ve had plenty of time."

She waves her hand. "Why do I think you’ll understand? I’ve had other things to do, like look after all you girls by myself."

Penny looks at me with her round, seemingly innocent eyes and shrugs.

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The Beggar's Garden

The Beggar's Garden

Stories, The
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize

Critically lauded, The Beggar’s Garden is a brilliantly surefooted, strikingly original collection of nine linked short stories that will delight as well as disturb. The stories follow a diverse group of curiously interrelated characters, from bank manager to crackhead to retired Samaritan to web designer to car thief, as they drift through each other’s lives in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. These engrossing stories, free of moral judgment, a …

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A Walk with the Rainy Sisters

A Walk with the Rainy Sisters

In Praise of British Columbia's Places
edition:Hardcover
tagged : essays

This book is a lyrical testament to a great love affair between the writer and his region. In A Walk with the Rainy Sisters, one of British Columbia's favourite authors writes with passion about his favourite topic--the geography of British Columbia. Stephen Hume guides readers through the natural world, moving from the thin, cold air of British Columbia's high country to the fecundity and silence of the deep rainforest. He writes of the iridescence of dragonflies dancing out brief lives above s …

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Dilettantes, The

Dilettantes, The

edition:Paperback

The Peak: a university student newspaper with a hard-hitting mix of inflammatory editorials, hastily thrown-together comics and reviews, and a news section run the only way self-taught journalists know how'sloppily.

Alex and Tracy are two of The Peak's editors, staring down graduation and struggling to keep the paper relevant to an increasingly indifferent student body. But trouble looms large when a big-money free daily comes to the west-coast campus, threatening to swallow what remains of their …

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Jericho

Jericho

edition:Paperback
tagged :

Vividly conjured out of the hustle and crime of Canada’s poorest neighbourhood, this poetic and picaresque novel stakes a new claim on the fictional territory of Don DeLillo and Chuck Palahniuk.

Bishop isn’t a man most women would find attractive: a middle-aged marijuana dealer who owes his ponytail to hair transplants, and his twisted knowledge of books to the reading he’s done in rehab. But for one brief moment he catches the eye of Beth, an innocent from rural Alberta — who, at that sa …

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Excerpt

ONE

• Now that the whole story is over, the question everybody keeps asking me is the same one I’m still asking myself: How did I get involved with a man like that? Or didn’t I have more sense in the first place than to run away with someone I didn’t know? I can’t explain, I can only tell you what happened, the same way I told the police and the lawyers. That’s the easy part.

I didn’t really like him that much, not at first and not afterwards, but only for a while in-between. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I guess I could make a pretty long list of things about him that would turn anybody off. For instance, he didn’t have very good skin. As someone who was a trained esthetician in those days, I always wanted to help him with this, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it without hurting his feelings — back when I didn’t understand this wasn’t the kind of thing he would have cared about one way or the other. Now I know exactly what he would have said: “Ha!” Which would have hurt my feelings. Another thing: his bottom front teeth were stained like those of an elderly Chinese-Canadian man who’d been drinking too much tea his whole life. And most of the time he didn’t make very good eye contact when he spoke to you. In my new career I know how important good eye contact is in dealing with the public. Not that he was a member of the public, of course. He was private. Being with him in those good weeks was like having my own private wild man. He smelled wild. His scent always made me think of a wolf’s den. I don’t mean that I really know what a wolf’s den smells like, but I could guess. When he did decide to make eye contact, though, it was spectacular. His eyes were the same colour as green grapes.

I’d sure never met anyone like him. There may be some others around, but I never met them in Alberta. He’s not the sort of person anyone would meet in Alberta. He was from back east somewhere. He used to talk about it sometimes, and I thought he was making it up or at least letting his own talk run away with him; other times I wasn’t so sure. I’d never thought much about the East. If you blindfold me and spin me around like a bottle, I’ll always wind up facing west. Of course, there are degrees of west, and I suppose there are degrees of east too. He was from someplace that must be pretty old — beaten down and worn down — though my instinct tells me it’s a place that’s not completely explored, maybe a place there aren’t even up-to-date maps of, I don’t know. I was so naive back then, I didn’t even know how naive I was. Bishop was a lot of things, but you couldn’t call him naive exactly.

If when I tell you this story I seem a little distracted, it’s only because I’m thinking of my mother. She’s practically the only one who never asked me why I acted so crazy and got into trouble and embarrassed everybody. But there’s another question, just as big, that hangs over us when we’re in the same room together now. It’s: How could I have made the same kind of mistake she made? I’m pretty much sure that’s why she doesn’t ask me the Question. Mother and I used to think we had the best mother–daughter communication it was possible to have. Now we’re not so sure. Or maybe it’s only that our best communication doesn’t find its way down from our brains to our mouths.

• The wolves have issues with the moon. Sometimes when I’m down really deep I think I hear em. I know I do in my head at least. You don’t need to be able to touch something or even see it before it’s real; a thing can be real in your brain. This usually happens when I’m all stretched out and everything’s ready to go but the mind won’t leave the body in the death-rehearsal that’s supposed to happen every night: it’s like a fire drill only it’s a death drill. Who else except me could wander off in the head when it’s so damn noisy? Then during the day, when I’m so tired I feel like I’ve got a layer of crinkled cellophane behind my eyeballs, I’ll all of a sudden think that I hear the wolves again, only way far off and weak this time. Or maybe they’re just secretive, speaking to each other in wolf whispers, barely working their mouths and with their ears straight up so’s to eavesdrop on us. But I figure out it’s only the heating system or a generator clicking in maybe, something deep inside the walls, and I come to my senses. I say to myself: Honestly, what’s somebody like you know about wolves?

• The first time I ever laid eyes on Bishop he was making trouble outside the Art Gallery on Robson Street. What he was doing was tormenting a mime artist. This strikes me as funny now, because Bishop was a man of words, big spring downpours of talk, sometimes beautiful and sometimes, well, disturbing. The street performer, who I now know was about half Bishop’s age, was doing the standard old-fashioned things that mimes do: man walking against a stiff wind, man in a foot race up steep stairs, man discovering that he’s trapped inside an invisible glass cube. (Why aren’t there more women mimes?) Bishop had obviously picked him out as somebody he could make life miserable for. He was parroting his movements, sometimes running a bit ahead of the poor guy just to confuse him, then putting his own face right up against the mime’s; their noses almost touched. I couldn’t tell from where I was sitting, at my jewellery stand, but looking back now I think Bishop was probably giving him the death’s-eye stare to scare him off. The mime was trying to keep as still as one of those Buckingham Palace guards in the tall fur hats, but Bishop got to him. The guy actually seemed close to sobbing as he picked up his jacket and his collection basket and hurried off to some other good tourist corner. Bishop was triumphant. As the fellow went away, Bishop screamed after him, “First we kill all the mimes! Shakespeare!” That was the first time I ever heard that little snorty laugh of his: “Ha!” People passing by stared at him.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Early in the Season

Early in the Season

A British Columbia Journal
by Edward Hoagland
introduction by Stephen Hume
edition:Hardcover

A great essayist's portrait of British Columbia in the 1960s, following Notes from the Century Before.

 

In 1968 Edward Hoagland embarked on his second trip to British Columbia. The following year he published the journal from his first trip as Notes from the Century Before, a classic that is still in print today. Early in the Season is the never-before-published account of the second journey, a trip that formed the basis for his fourth novel, Seven Rivers West, and was recently excerpted in the H …

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