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New Books from Authors You Know and Love

By kileyturner
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There's nothing better than that moment when you realize that one of your favourite authors has a new book out in the world. These books by some of Canada's foremost writers are out this fall.
All Things Consoled

All Things Consoled

A daughter's memoir
edition:Hardcover

From Elizabeth Hay, one of Canada's most beloved novelists, comes a startling and beautiful memoir about the drama of her parents' end, and the longer drama of being their daughter.

Jean and Gordon Hay were a colourful, formidable pair. Jean, a late-blooming artist with a marvellous sense of humour, was superlatively frugal; nothing got wasted, not even maggoty soup. Gordon was a proud and ambitious schoolteacher with a terrifying temper, a deep streak of melancholy, and a devotion to flowers, ca …

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Excerpt

     My mother came home the next day. The residence doctor dropped by in the afternoon, sturdy, energetic, reassuring. We had learned he was from Aberdeen, a fact that only endeared him further to my parents, for the Hays traced their origins back to the same part of Scotland. My mother greeted him cheerfully, and he said, “So you’ve come back.”
     She had. She had come back to us.
     Then once again, around the middle of March, she lost her words and twenty-four hours later showed no signs of recovering them. “I’m thinking—throne—thinking—th.” Starting on a word with an opening sound like “th,” she could not escape it, any more than a month earlier she had been able to escape “window—whether.”
     After I got her lying down, I went into the living room to talk to Dad, who was staring out one of the windows that overlooked the road and the canal beyond. Without turning, he said, “I don’t think she’s suffering, she’s just lost.” He choked up, as he did so very easily, before going on. “We just have to hope, or maybe hope is the wrong word. If she doesn’t make it, maybe it’s for the best.”
     The next day, “It’s snowing snowing snowing snowing,” she said, as we sat on a bench in the glowing sunshine.
     Certain words were no problem for her: yes, okay, right, super, thank you, well, son of a gun, really. Over the telephone, I told Sochi about the automatic responses that still issued loud and clear from her grandmother. Sochi laughed and remarked that they were all affirmatives; someone else’s might have been shit, goddammit and fuck. My mother’s “son of a gun” was as close as she came to an expletive and it was always said with good humour.
     Then the next morning, when I walked out of the late-winter sunshine into their living room, exclaiming what a beautiful day it was, my mother stopped me in my tracks by replying from the chesterfield, “Yes, it is a beautiful day.”
     Lazarus was back from the land of the mute. Open in her lap was the book I had brought to them several days before about Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition, and now she said how interesting she thought it was. Sitting beside her, washed over by relief and excitement, I flipped to the page with the photograph of ice flowers, delicate white rosettes blanketing the surface of newly frozen sea water on February 16th, 1915—four years before she and my father were born. I told her about seeing them in patches on the canal last winter and on a pond at the arboretum. And we made conversation. “Your words have come back!” She nodded and smiled and talked, and everything she said made sense.
     But Dad was less excited by her recovery than he was upset with her for having wet the bed. “And who is going to wash the sheets?” he wanted to know. I asked him what happened to the diaper I had helped her into before leaving the night before. Well, in getting her into her nightgown, he had taken it off. Then immediately on the offensive again, he lit into me about her bone-strengthening medication. Had she had it or not?
     “A nurse is supposed to give it to her early Sunday morning,” I said, “which is today.”
     “You haven’t answered my question!” he thundered, only to back off a heartbeat later. “All right,” he admitted. “Somebody came in and gave it to her.” Only to blast me again, “But then she fell asleep! She’s not supposed to fall asleep after she gets it!”
     He took things hard and he made them harder. There would come a day when he declared that the nursing care in this place wasn’t “worth coon shit.”
     I liked “coon shit.” Never in a million years would I have imagined those words coming out of his mouth. We went down for coffee, and then Mom and I went outside into the open air and abundant sunshine while he remained behind in the library reading Maclean’s.
     In the flooding light we walked to the corner. “Did you have wrens nesting in the garden in London last spring?” I asked her.
     “I am forced to confess that I do not remember,” she said, speaking in her old formal way. Her teachers at Renfrew Collegiate had been sticklers for grammar and well-formed sentences, and my mother had been an excellent student.
     “What was it like for you, the last couple of days, when you couldn’t find your words?”
     “It was unsettling. But it’s been unsettling for a while.”
     We walked on. I asked her what she was thinking about.
     “I’m thinking about what the future holds.”
     “Are you worried about that?”
     She said something vague about no one knowing what the future holds, or perhaps I said that.
     I had pulled from the wastebasket in their rooms another of her efforts at a letter, one she had been working on somedays before, wanting it, she said, to be “a reasonable letter from a reasonable person.” She intended to have it do yeoman’s service for all of the friends she hadn’t yet written to.

There must be a way in the English Landwich to say to
your English speaking friends a great deal more emphatic?
I’ve tried many ways but the best I’ve managed is

Thank you so very much from all of us
The Hays

     Around this time, I remember her taking several bananas—the three on the counter and the one from inside their little fridge—and lining them up on the seat of her walker, then pushing her walker into the living room. I didn’t follow for a moment, washing dishes in their kitchenette. Then when I went into the living room, the bananas were nowhere in sight. “Where are they, Mom? Dad, did you see what Mom did with the bananas?”
     “Sure I did.”
     “Where are they?” Looking around.
     “Well, just don’t sit on the chesterfield,” he said.
     I checked under the cushions and there they were: fourbananas lined up in a row.

They reminded me of characters out of Beckett. A pair of solitaries who had always headed out to the studio, in my mother’s case, or downstairs to his study, in my father’s (each to his own lair) were now sharing two rooms. They were like the aged parents trapped in dustbins in Endgame. Like Laurel and Hardy in another fine mess. Or like old Joshua Smallweed in Bleak House throwing cushions at his imbecile wife.
     “Oh the weather,” my mother said to me, “the weather now is the pits of wet roses.” She had been reading in the newspaper, she said, about a woman in her thirties “who came down under the overburden of blankets and probably isn’t going to live.”
     Her turns of phrase rather confirmed my view that poetry issues from the holes in our head, that whatever faculty produces the startling contractions and coinages and leaps in logic that we call poetry is also available on an unconscious and uncontrollable level to someone suffering dementia. One morning on the telephone, ever solicitous about my sleep, she asked, “How did you severe the night?” Blending the words “fare,” “survive” and “persevere” so deftly that a lifetime of labour in the sleep mines got summoned up and summed up. “Dad’s behind a shave,” she added, “but I think he’ll come to the phone.”
     Later, when I went over to see them, “Do you know what I had for breakfast?” she said to me.
     “What?”
     She leaned forward. “Too much.”
     But that was her sense of humour. Like her abundant hair, it was her lasting glory.

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A Noise Downstairs

A Noise Downstairs

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

The internationally bestselling author of No Time for Goodbye returns with a haunting psychological thriller that blends the twists and chills of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe with the driving suspense of Dennis Lehane and Harlan Coben, in which a man hears sounds that quite possibly emanate from the dead.

Paul Davis is hearing some very strange noises in the night. He hears the clickety-click of a manual typewriter--as if someone is vigorously tapping the keys. The eerie sounds began soon aft …

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Theory

Theory

edition:Hardcover

A smart, sensual and witty novel about what happens when love and intellect are set on a collision course. This compact tour de force affirms Dionne Brand's place as one of Canada's most dazzling and influential artists.

Theory begins as its narrator sets out, like many a graduate student, to write a wildly ambitious thesis on the past, present, and future of art, culture, race, gender, class, and politics--a revolutionary work that its author believes will synthesize and thereby transform the …

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Excerpt

Selah
 
In retrospect, I loved Selah for reasons anyone can understand. First, she loved herself more than she loved me. And this led me to think that I would get some respite from the world, and at the same time receive the little affections I required to complete my life’s work: my dissertation.
 
I wanted Selah to spare me only a few glances and gestures while she took care of her most singular concern—her body. I imagined her thoughts passing over me briefly while she did her eyes or painted her nails red. I believed this oblique affection, like the affection one has for landscapes or animals, would be sufficient for my needs.
 
I don’t require much in the way of attention, you see. All my life I’ve sat at an angle, observing the back and forth of other people’s lives. Even as a child I found myself on the diagonal to events in the living room and the kitchen. I used to sit crouched with my arms around my knees, trying to watch and listen and not be noticed. I used to summon all my stillness to do this because if I were observed, all events would cease and I would become the object of commands to do some job like cleaning a shoe or finding a book to read. Or worse, I would be upbraided for listening in on conversations beyond my years, which it seemed was a sign of immorality. My childhood was spent inhabiting this angle nevertheless, at the risk of beatings and other sanctions. I enjoyed this vantage point because it provided me with a view of the tumult of people’s lives without the involvement. And so I perfected this geometry, I excelled at finding just the right distance from actions and conversations. From there, I learned a great deal about human beings, first at home and then in the world where, I discovered, it was much easier to conceal oneself.

Anyone would be forgiven, I think, for loving Selah. After all, in this world there is a shared aesthetic, however oppressive, however repetitive, of loving a certain manifestation of a woman, and Selah inhab­ited that manifestation. One finds oneself compelled to take part in the aesthetic, no matter the tedium of its repetitions. It is so anaesthetic—well, actually, it is like a hammer and a crowbar, opening your skull and your heart. You can see its manifestation all over the world on billboards—interpretations of a certain symmetry, or to be exact, an asymmetry. Although Selah, I must admit, was not an interpretation; she was the object, the object of interpretation. She was voluptuous, truly. That word—Selah was its owner. A smooth, sumptuous human being. Even-fleshed, tall, athletic, bracing, supple. Her skin, a burnt almond, yet smelled of cinnamon. I do not mean here to invoke the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado’s Gabriela, Clove, et cetera. And I don’t mean to dissociate Selah, the body, from Selah, the intelligence, in the way that most people do. We are mainly body after all, and the body is intelligence. We turn it into this petty panto­mime of gender, so its beauty is lost on us. I try every day to break out of the pantomime. Nevertheless, I spent hours smelling Selah’s right shoulder. Her skin is so smooth there. She didn’t appreciate my dog’s nose sniffing her, but the cinnamon is most noticeable there, warmed in the bowl of her clavicle. I asked Selah if she rubbed herself in cinnamon. Did she roll around in cinnamon powder each morning, or did she walk through burning branches of cinna­mon trees at night? She looked disgusted with me. Of course not, she said.

Back to the body as intelligence: the body is, after all, a living organism—with its own intention, sepa­rate from the parsed out, pored over intentions that one can say come from the mind. The mind’s inter­pretation of the body is irrelevant. The body pursues its own needs and its own desires with fibre optic precision not even yet detailed by scientists. Selah’s body, for example, has decided on cinnamon and it has, to my way of thinking, synthesized all of the atmosphere around it to the smell of cinnamon. Or let me withdraw that previous statement. Perhaps it is my body, my olfactory nerve, that decided on cin­namon at the appearance of Selah, and so it collected the smell of cinnamon around the presence of Selah. On the other hand, there might be a third theory unknown to both Selah and me that accounts for the cinnamon. Whatever the truth of this, Selah smelled of cinnamon.

Let me say at the beginning that I do not know anything about Selah. I do not know where she was born, I do not know about her upbringing or her schooling. Nor do I know any detail about her father or mother. Selah kept all this a secret from me—or not so much a secret as she thought it was none of my affair. I would pry and poke around, asking her about her life before me—to which she would give elliptical answers, not filling in the true details. When I inquired further, in that way I have of forecasting that I am trying to dig out a secret, Selah immediately grew suspicious and stared at me like a star from a distant constellation. It was as if she already saw my plan for superficial analysis and found it boring. Selah also did not care that I analyzed her silence in this same pathetic way. At least, she said, there was nothing in the silence except my imagination, so I could specu­late all I wanted.

Back again to the idea of the body itself as intelli­gence: when I made love to Selah—for that is what she said I did—Selah’s body was discerning in every (for want of a better word) touch. In those moments she could tell if I was sincere or not in my life and in my intentions. In those moments life is truthful, it has a core, an honesty; it is a plain act and there is no deception. The body then is like a surveillance machine with nerve endings and light scanners, sound detectors and particle analysis. Whatever is transmitted cannot be reinterpreted or taken back. Selah pointed out to me that it was on her body that these acts took place, not on mine. That is, I made love to her, she did not make love to me. This euphemism, make love, is not how she put it. She said, “It is my body that is at work.” This statement was at once stunning for its clarity; somewhat embarrassing for me, as it pointed out an unobserved tendency on my part; and truthful. My embarrassment at these words is still present even a decade later. Selah’s body was the body at work. I preyed upon Selah’s body. Her body was the central terrain and I, like some bird with taloned feet and beak, attacked her flesh and bones. Or I was like a forensic scientist, but a scientist of love, or an undertaker or a surgeon of love—whatever I may call it, I was dissecting her muscle from her blood vessels in my experiment of love.

I thought Selah liked my lovemaking, my atten­tions to the most minute areas of her skin. It had seemed this way to me until her declaration. I said as much to Selah, in an unavoidably wounded tone. I did not catch myself before that tone emerged and so I foreclosed whatever else Selah had to say. I regret this, but her declaration had confirmed a doubt I always had, namely, What did Selah see in me? Why had she acquiesced to being with me at all? Still to this day I cannot fathom why Selah took me on as a lover.

I am not avoiding the question of why Selah rarely made love to me, but there is so much more to say about her and about our life together that it would be unworthy to dwell on that or to suggest that it was in any way pivotal to the outcome. Selah always told the truth. That is certain. I, however, never truly listened to her until I was faced with my self-delusion. And meanwhile, I always lied to Selah. I thought I was saving her from the harshness of situations. She, to her credit, never believed me. She went on in her own reality. Selah was much better at being in the world than I was. She knew and assumed the conventions of normalcy that I only paid lip service to, which brings me once again to the question of why I was in love with Selah. I cannot confirm that Selah was in love with me; I could never tell. Sometimes she dis­played a great warmth for me. She would leave off her preening and embrace me, especially when I brought her a gift of some kind, or when I suggested, desper­ately, we go on a trip to a warm place.

Once we went to Seville in August. Selah fought me the whole month, but she also picked figs in the mornings and walked through the Sierpes in the late afternoons looking gorgeous. In Seville, we house-sat for a professor of mine, a professor of philology with whom I had taken a graduate course and had become quite close. Selah and I would emerge each day from our house-sit at the wrong hour—the hour when the sun was strongest and all of Seville was asleep. We drifted through the orange-hot streets trying to find a café, the sun baked us, we felt glorious and invin­cible. Then, finding a shaded resto, we would eat pes­cado a la plancha and I would drink a beer while Selah examined her skin. I would try to engage Selah in some talk about Spanish colonialism, or the obvi­ous Arab qualities of Seville, and she would barely respond, as if to say, What does that have to do with my holiday? Selah, of course, was right: it had noth­ing to do with it. My overbearing teaching often leeched the pleasures of the moment. Selah merely wanted to “be.” And how could I blame her? I wanted to “be” also.

Selah had a beauty that was unanswerable, unlearnable. After all, what is the response to beauty? I had nothing to offer in response to this beauty. How do you answer the smell of cinnamon? How can smoothness have a reply? What do you do when you glimpse Selah in a far-off store window crossing a cobbled square with a gnome beside her? You see Selah, she is wearing black, she has dark glasses, she is carrying a bag, she is like a sharp dagger or a bolt of lightning striking the air and you are struck in the forehead, you lose sight in one eye. And then you observe the gnome beside her, the gnome who is you, and the gnome is arguing with Selah. “One month,” the gnome is saying, and the sight makes you shut up. But the gnome goes on nevertheless, “One month, you cannot give me one month of peace!” The gnome is haranguing Selah and Selah is indifferent, so the gnome shuts up and creeps along beside Selah. Why is Selah walking with that gnome, you remark out loud to no one. Our days in Seville invariably con­tained a moment like this. Selah had the dissatisfac­tion of beauty, because of course beauty can never be satisfied and can never be satisfactory to the beauti­ful. The imperfect is always more rewarding, more active, since it is striving for perfection. So Selah always seemed dissatisfied to me. Though I could be wrong and perhaps it is my probing personality that casts a doubt on beauty. Yes, my own dissatisfaction infected Selah’s contentment.

Selah was content, I realize now. I came home sometimes to find her singing along with the radio, the sound of some inane popular song booming against the walls. Ashanti, Mary J. Blige and Nelly. Selah would be cooking one of her specialities—the pots bubbling on the stove, the smell of smoked corn, fried grouper, all the aromas I loved—yet I could not help myself, the stupid songs dominated my atten­tion. They annoyed me immediately and I could not resist asking Selah how old she was, and when would she let go of that teenage stuff? Clearly I loved Selah much more than I loved her ways. Though, to take that back, I loved Selah’s ways, despite my objections to them. I loved how Selah remained attentive to pop­ular things while I made up theories for them. Selah ignored me. She said how old-fashioned I was, how out of time, how queer. She was right. I know I am out of time. Everything about our different tastes made me question why we were together, but I still ignored this question.

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A Circle on the Surface

A Circle on the Surface

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

It's 1943. Enman and Una Greene are newly married. Each is haunted by their respective pasts, and each harbours secrets. They have hopes of a happy life together—though they have little idea how to create such a life.

Enman brings Una to his childhood home in rural Barrein, Nova Scotia, where he hopes they will stay. Una is restless and feeling increasingly trapped, and longs for the city life she once had. Una meets a mysterious man, and then a body washes up on a beach. There are rumours of G …

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A Tiding of Magpies

A Tiding of Magpies

A Birder Murder Mystery
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

It is in the silent spaces between the facts that the truth often lies.

When his most celebrated case is suddenly reopened, Detective Chief Inspector Jejeune‘s long-buried secrets threaten to come to light. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Lindy, faces an unseen threat of her own, one from which even Jejeune may not be able to protect her. Between fending off inquiries from the internal review and an open murder case that brings more questions than answers, Jejeune will have to rely on the help of th …

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Excerpt

The hunter was closing in. It had pursued them relentlessly, silently stalking them as they ran, splashing water all around them in their panic. Now it was here; a menacing grey curtain, hovering over the surface of the water, ready to take her. To add her to the victory it had already claimed.
She didn’t know how long she had been standing out here, hunched against the dampness and the cold. She had stopped moving when Monte left, just as he told her she should. I’ll check ahead. Better you wait here. Now, she was frozen in this place. She couldn’t go back, she knew that. But her mind wouldn’t allow her to take even one step forward. The hunter was waiting. The hunter that had taken Monte.
The inexorable approach of the fog had gradually shut down her senses. First, the horizon had dimmed to nothingness, then the waters around her had faded from her sight. Now, even the air itself seemed to have gone. Only this deep, impenetrable greyness remained, surrounding her, filling her world. The sounds had disappeared, too, sucked up into this void until there was nothing. No foghorns, no bird calls, not even the soft lapping of the waves around her feet. It was as if all the voices of the world had ceased. Only the echo of silence surrounded her now. And the terror that came with it.
She felt the life slowly ebbing from her body. She could sense the wet patches on her skin where the thin dress was sticking to it; feel the dampness in her hair and on her bare arms and legs. There were water droplets beneath her eyes, too, and on her cheeks. But those were different. Those had been for Monte, when she could still weep. Now she couldn’t even raise a single sob for him. She had no tears left.
The waves washed over her shoes. The water was deeper than before, cold and cruel. Tide’s coming in fast. We got to keep moving. But she couldn’t. She could only stand here, with the fog and the sea all around her.
It was time. She would sit down and let the rising sea gather her in. It would be a relief, from the terror, the sorrow, the uncertainty. She wondered where she would be found when the fog lifted and the light returned to this place. Perhaps someone would discover her on the distant shore, lying peacefully on her side, looking like she was only sleeping. Perhaps she would drift with the tide and be found miles away, days from now. Perhaps her body would never be found at all. Her poor parents; they would never know what had happened to the daughter they loved so much and who had never really loved them enough in return. The thought pierced her heart with sadness. And it made her stay standing. Not to fight — there was no longer any point — but just to stave off the inevitable, to hold back the insidious creeping advance of death for a few moments more.
The water was at her ankles now. Her feet were aching and the dampness seemed to be seeping inside her. The air was getting colder, but she had stopped shivering. Her body had nothing more to give. Now it was just a matter of time. I’m sorry, Monte. I can’t do this anymore. For it to end like this, after all she had gone through, all they had both gone through, in the past few days. Once, she had believed it would all end well. Monte’s notes had said so. Hold on. Be brave. We’ll make it.
But they hadn’t. You didn’t make it, Monte. And you left me out here alone, far from the shore, with the sea all around me, coming in to claim me, while the fog hides its sins.
Perhaps it would have been better to end it the way Monte had, pushing on into the unknown, the unknowable. But she knew she didn’t possess that kind of courage. So she would wait. It would be over soon. Like him, she would simply disappear into the fog. Or the water. She had heard splashing once, before the swirling grey blanket had stolen the sounds from her. But there had been no calls. Monte had gone without crying out. It was his way. Be brave.
She didn’t know why she looked up. For so long her eyes had been cast down, toward the water she could only feel, toward her feet that had gone numb inside her shoes. But when she stared ahead, a shape coalesced in the fog, slightly darker than the surrounding greyness, almost human in form. And then she saw the arm, extended in her direction as the shape advanced toward her, through the fog, across the water. Sounds were coming from the form, but she couldn’t make them out. She was frightened, confused. It seemed so lifelike, this apparition, she wanted to believe it. The cruelty of her hope stung her. The arm had almost reached her now. It looked real; flesh and blood she could grasp onto. The sounds, too, started to distill into meaning, penetrating the awful silence of the fog.
“Are you alone?”
She nodded, still unsure if this spectre was real.
“There’s no one we should wait for?”
She shook her head dumbly. It was a real voice. She knew that now. But it sounded strange, the words odd and distorted. “We have to start moving. We don’t have much time.”
And then she realized what it was about the voice, and tears started to roll down her cheeks. “It’s you. Monte said you would come for us. He knew you would.”
“Take my hand,” said the voice. “I’m here to take you home.”
She reached to take the outstretched hand.

 

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Chicken

Chicken

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

Set in disparate parts of Los Angeles, Chicken uproariously, grievously, relates the collision and inevitably ruinous paths of two incendiary figures. One is the once beautiful and famous Parnell Wilde, a maverick actor arrogant in his disastrous fall. The other is Annabel Wrath, a much younger, idiosyncratic cult filmmaker with contradictory motives for seeking the older man out.

The two are profoundly altered by their meeting and its harrowing denouement and manage to save each other from their …

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French Exit

French Exit

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Finalist, Scotiabank Giller Prize
International Bestseller
An Amazon.com Best Book of the Month
Frances Price — tart widow, possessive mother, and Upper East Side force of nature — is in dire straits, beset by scandal and impending bankruptcy. Her adult son Malcolm is no help, mired in a permanent state of arrested development. And then there’s the Price’s aging cat, Small Frank, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband, an infamously immoral litigator and world-clas …

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Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Audiobook
tagged : family life

A poignant new novel that combines humour and heartache, from the brilliant mind of Governor General’s Award finalist Claudia Dey

Seventeen years after falling from a stolen car into a remote northern town, Billie Jean Fontaine is still an outsider. She may follow the stifling rules of this odd place, but no one will forget that she came from elsewhere. When Billie Jean vanishes one cold October night in her bare feet and track suit with only her truck keys, those closest to her begin a frantic …

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