New Books and Featured Reading Lists

Each week on the 49th Shelf homepage, we highlight new releases. We also make theme-based lists and showcase lists from guest contributors and 49th Shelf members. This page archives these selections so they are always available to our members.

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New Fiction for the week of April 22nd : New in Comics and Graphic Novels
Dear Scarlet

Dear Scarlet

The Story of My Postpartum Depression
edition:Paperback
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Death Threat

Death Threat

by Vivek Shraya
illustrated by Ness Lee
edition:Hardcover
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New Non-Fiction for the week of April 15th : New Food and Drink Books
The Domestic Geek's Meals Made Easy

The Domestic Geek's Meals Made Easy

A Fresh, Fuss-Free Approach to Healthy Cooking
edition:Hardcover
tagged : quick & easy
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The Legend of Gladee's Canteen

The Legend of Gladee's Canteen

Down Home on a Nova Scotia Beach
edition:Paperback
tagged :
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Chop Suey Nation

Chop Suey Nation

The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada's Chinese Restaurants
edition:Paperback
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Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen

Secrets from My Vietnamese Kitchen

Simple Recipes from My Many Mothers
edition:Hardcover
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Excerpt

From the Introduction

The moment you step inside a Vietnamese house, you are bombarded with variations on a single greeting: “Have you eaten?” “What would you like to eat?” “Come and eat.” “Just one little bite.” “The chicken I cooked is still hot.” “Here, try my cream puffs.”

We are not in the habit of verbalizing our joys, or even less, our affection. We use food as a tool for expressing our emotions. My parents don’t say, “We’ve missed you,” but rather, “We’ve made some spring rolls,” knowing that I love to eat them anytime, anywhere. Similarly, when I’m traveling abroad on a book tour, they will report that my sons had three helpings of everything, as a way to reassure me. On our visits to my grandmother in New York, my mother would stuff the trunk with her own mother’s favorite dishes. My father would laugh at her, but he still flies to Washington, D.C., and loads Vietnamese dishes into the trunk of the car that will take him to my uncle’s house in a remote part of Pennsylvania. That ninety-two-year-old uncle is my father’s older brother, who fed and housed him during my father’s time at university. My father considers him a father figure, and he tries to express his gratitude through the best sausage, the best lemongrass beef stew, the best steamed pancakes, the best sticky rice cake, and the best dried shrimp to be found in the Vietnamese markets.

In the refugee camps, my mother and Aunts 6 and 8 would do their best to transform the fish rations we’d receive six days out of seven in an effort to bring a semblance of normality to mealtimes. One day my mother was able to make a thin dough for dumplings. I remember very clearly how she was sitting on the ground with the cover of the barrel that we used as a water tank. She rolled out her dough on that rusty metal plate, which here and there still bore spots of its original yellow paint. The meal that followed was almost beside the point—we were just thrilled to see her cooking something other than rice and fish. It was a moment of togetherness, of celebration.

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Bake the Seasons

Bake the Seasons

Sweet and Savoury Dishes to Enjoy Throughout the Year
edition:Paperback
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This Kitchen is for Dancing

This Kitchen is for Dancing

Real Food, Pure Flavor
edition:Hardcover
tagged : natural foods
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The Little Island Bake Shop

The Little Island Bake Shop

Heirloom Recipes Made for Sharing
edition:Hardcover
tagged : baking
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Oven to Table

Oven to Table

Over 100 One-Pot and One-Pan Recipes for Your Sheet Pan, Skillet, Dutch Oven, and More
edition:Paperback
tagged : quick & easy
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Modern Lunch

Modern Lunch

+100 Recipes for Assembling the New Midday Meal
edition:Hardcover
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Excerpt

From the Introduction

Life is too short to eat a bad lunch. Yet, in our culture, the midday meal is a forgotten opportunity to reinvigorate ourselves with food that makes us happy and energized. It has to be fairly quick and easy, and that often means resorting to convenience foods. There seems to be no middle ground: it’s either buy lunch or pack something sad. So I’m here to help you formulate and practice new rituals (I know some of you are already on your way!) to make homemade, balanced, and delicious lunches materialize. I’m not suggesting that you have to cook a from-scratch, freshly prepared sit-down meal every day—it can be just as special when prepped ahead (your new “leftovers”), especially with a touch more attention and creativity put into the ingredients used, presentation, and packing than what we’re used to. I promise, the reclamation of lunch is simple!

Like most kids, I found discovering what was in my packed school lunch a thrill. My parents would send me to school with sandwiches of iceberg lettuce, cheddar cheese, and mayonnaise on squishy whole-wheat sandwich bread, alternating only with peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and banana (which I still really enjoy). After the main course, there was always a treat of some kind, usually a small bag of cookies or chips, and a piece of fruit. And it was all stowed away in worn (clean yet always oddly cloudy) plastic containers that circulated between my older brother, me, and finally my younger sister, until they were retired to the recycling bin when they became officially too warped to snap shut.

As my eating preferences have changed, so have my lunches. However, the midday meal continues to have a hint of delicious nostalgia for me, not simply for the food but for the community it builds. Breakfast and dinner are often family affairs, while lunch is a break in our day when most of us are connecting with friends, colleagues, or someone who happens to be enjoying their meal on the same park bench. I’ve made friends with strangers by simply asking, “What’s for lunch?”

Lunch is a meal that needs a fresh coat of paint, a meal that deserves the same respect dinner receives, while still embracing the casualness of breakfast. To me, the story of lunch as it’s enjoyed today has yet to be told. Yes, it’s a break in the day to replenish the body and mind, even if you’re devouring a cup of noodles “al desko,” an Oxford English Dictionary-defined word (you’re welcome!). It’s a way to travel and taste a range of global flavors, all without a plane ticket. A homemade lunch saves you money, helps you eat healthier (made easier still with the recipes in this book), and gives you a swift boost to reenergize your day. And it’s a meal where the lighting is just so perfect for capturing a photo to share on Instagram (I do, @allisondaycooks). But it can be more than this, too. I’d like to introduce you to the “modern lunch.”

A modern lunch is special, simple, (mostly) make-ahead, healthy, share-worthy, community building, money saving, colorful, and delicious. It culls inspiration from world cuisines, is adaptable to your personal taste and pantry, and is always satisfying. It can be enjoyed at your desk, in the lunchroom, on a bench outside, at home, on the road, on a picnic blanket, in the car, at a set table, or on your lap in front of the TV. A modern lunch can be about connectedness: it’s a time to put yourself out there, socialize, and make new friends or bond with old ones. Done with intention and meaning, the modern lunch should get you excited about a quality midday meal!

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Vegetables First

Vegetables First

120 Vibrant Vegetable-Forward Recipes
edition:Hardcover
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Excerpt

From "Back to My Roots"
Throughout my career of promoting the importance of cooking together and eating together, the taste of those first summer vegetables and the joy of planting and harvesting food for the table have inspired me. My television and magazine work has evolved into a brand built on a modern vision for the art of family living. So, when we set up our new office headquarters, flagship boutique, and café on Montreal’s South Shore, I made sure the roof was reinforced so that it could support a thriving garden of eighty planters and two beehives. I enjoy seeing the plants grow, be shared among colleagues and used in our test kitchen.

For me, the power of vegetables is linked with memories and family stories. And that’s what I want to share with you: how fantastic vegetables can taste and how they can connect us to our roots. Finding it tough to get your kids to eat cauliflower or peas? It happens to the best of us. The important thing is to plant a seed for the future, by serving vegetables in smart, well-prepared dishes. Some life lessons take time, but in the end, we reap what we sow.

Like a vegetable garden, I hope this book becomes part of your daily life and grows with you and your family as you create your own memories.

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This week's recommended reading lists

Flowers and Showers

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Frog Books

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New Non-Fiction for the week of April 8th : New Books on Education
The Attack on Nova Scotia Schools

The Attack on Nova Scotia Schools

The Story Behind 25 Years of Tumultuous Change
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Course Correction

Course Correction

A Map for the Distracted University
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook
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Excerpt

Preface

 

Perhaps, like me, you remember the first time you visited a university with the thought that you might study there. I was near the end of high school, on a road trip through parts of the province of Quebec. As we drove through one town a small university came into view, the summer sun on its buildings, promising the prospect of an undergraduate education that might be had at some fabled Oxbridge college. Prominent were the Gothic chapel and the adjoining hall with academic offices. Classrooms and laboratories, residence halls, and the library completed the main quadrangle. A few months later I sent in my application, applying as well to the university in my home city. When comparable offers came for admission to the large urban university and to this little collegiate place, I chose the small. Partly I wanted to leave home for my university years; but the collegiate architecture also played its part in my decision. I wanted to live and study in a place that looked and felt like a university. I didn’t realize then that I’d spend my whole life in universities. I moved from study at the small collegiate undergraduate place to graduate work at the large urban university, then taught at a newly established college on the outskirts of the city before moving back to the urban campus of the largest university in the country, ending up at a smaller federated university.

 

Over the course of my academic career, there have been large changes in the look and life of universities – not just in their size and number, but also in what’s expected of them, with attendant changes that can affect the core of the institution. The university hopes to remain true to its calling, while having to listen to competing and countermanding voices that distract, threaten, and sometimes entice in other directions. I’ll say more about these distractions in the Introduction, but let me prepare the way for what follows by offering a short account of what I’m up to.

 

When you’re distracted, something unimportant (or worse, harmful) has captured your attention. You’re thrown off course. To regain focus, you need to remember what’s central to your enterprise and very existence. What’s been happening with the university over the past four or five decades has sometimes clouded that focus, so I want to recall the university to its fundamental vocation. That means exploring the nature and functions of the university, along with the requisite values and commitments for doing well what it is supposed to do. I’m interested in explaining how the university should go about its business, the reasons it acts the way it does, and the sense of place in which it should operate. And I’ll examine some of the twenty-first-century challenges to the university’s identity, life, and work. I’ll say a little more shortly about the approach I take in this book, but first let me point out what I don’t do.

 

You won’t find much of a historical perspective here. I don’t explain how universities got to be, or how they have developed over the centuries, or what they have contributed to society. Other people have done that well. Nor is there a broad global perspective, comparing what universities are like in Europe with North American institutions, or with universities in China or India or the global South or Africa. For a time in my administrative career I belonged to an international association of university presidents, and there’s much to be done in this area. But I don’t do it. Instead my experience is largely, though not narrowly, Canadian. I do, however, draw on material from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Europe. We’re fortunate in the quality of the Canadian university system, but although good practice has been a valuable teacher, we are not immune to our own illuminating distractions.

 

Several eloquent voices have been raised in defence of liberal education, as universities struggle to meet the expectations of society and students for more technical training. Although I do comment on the kind of knowledge that should form an undergraduate education, the main focus of the book is more generally about the university and knowledge – not just the knowledge that might make up the content of a liberal education.
Other advocates for universities have written about funding, often making government the object of their concern. They argue persuasively about the benefits of supporting universities, and engage in critiques about the lack of understanding of the academy among politicians. There is much to what they say, but it doesn’t turn up often in this book.

 

Those looking for brand-new ideas about universities will be disappointed if they keep reading past this Preface. I don’t think I ever use the word “disruptive” (I just mentioned it here, but didn’t use it). In periods of accelerated social and technological change, things get broken apart, and that can be cause for excitement and celebration in the hope that something fresh and new will emerge. But one has to be a peculiar sort of prophet to predict what new thing will work and what won’t – prophets typically discern the seeds of disaster rather than of hope. I mention as an example without comment the optimism about efficiency and efficacy that initially surrounded massively open online courses. I have no prophetic qualifications, and do not set out a vision for the university of the future that should or will emerge from the present.

 

What, then, is this book? It’s an attempt at explanation. To explain is to describe, but also to provide reasons for, the way something is or the kind of thing it is. If we don’t fully appreciate the why, we can end up messing about with something, misunderstanding or devaluing it. Explanation demands attentiveness and patience. It isn’t served by snap judgments, platitudes, or witty comments. The book arises out of the conviction that the university does need explanation these days. Or, rather, we need to understand again what the university is – what it’s for, how it works, and why it works the way it does. And in a world so altered by technology, we need to figure the place of the university, both in geographical and in human terms.

 

But “the” university? Shouldn’t one really speak of universities in the plural instead of using the grand singular? After all, they come in so many different shapes and sizes, under significantly different kinds of governments, and with widely different educational missions. Well, sometimes I do use the plural, for substantive as well as stylistic reasons. But my interest is indeed an institution called the university. What I want to explain is that institution – what all things that are properly called by that name have, or should have, as distinguishing features. Even if it’s not fashionable to assume that objects have fixed essences, the university is a human construct, created by society, and we can indeed ask whether a particular institution shares sufficiently in the features that mark off a university from other institutions.

 

In one way, then, asking the question I raise is like asking a question about comparative anatomy. There are many different-looking bodies of primates and members of homo sapiens. But they have in common brains, spinal columns, eyes, hearts, and so on. We can describe how their organs function and what they are for, and come up with an account of the basic features of a primate body. It’s not quite the same, however, with universities: we aren’t trying to classify objects in the world, but societal organizations. So, by thinking of the intended purposes for and the functioning of these institutions, we should be able to arrive at a decent description of their defining features. How we decide exactly what those features are is not a matter of authoritative stipulation. The decision arises from deliberation among those who are interested, knowledgeable, and committed to good reasoning. In other words, an entity can’t simply declare, properly, that it is a “university” just because it wants the label. Nor can a political or religious authority properly dub something it creates a “university” if it doesn’t have the features a university should have. Conversely, changing or denying the name doesn’t erase the features of a properly constructed university. Of course, words can be pressed unwittingly into the purpose that their users want to accomplish; many entities call themselves universities without any warrant at all. You can find on Wikipedia a long, long list of such places under “unaccredited institutions.”

 

Another way of stating the aim of this book, then, is to offer an account of what makes an institution a proper university, undistracted by the demands of myriad voices. It’s an offering, not a pronouncement, and the issues it raises are open to debate by those with an interest in universities – politicians, policy makers, parents, board members, faculty, administrators, students, and, again, that fabled general public. The kind of deliberation invited here is an instance of what has come to be known as public philosophy. Public philosophy can be characterized in two ways, either as concerned with a particular set of questions or as a way of doing some thinking. The set of questions has to do with issues of public significance because they affect everyone or because they have been overlooked by those who decide what’s important. To do public philosophy as a way of thinking is to engage in discussion and debate in order to clarify positions, understand objections, and advance good thinking. That way of thinking is, broadly speaking, philosophizing, even if it’s not done by people with degrees in philosophy. In fact, professional philosophers can find their work improved by such interactions.

 

That the nature and function of the university has great public significance needs no further argument, I take it, for anyone who has read this far. To describe and justify the functions of the university, then, requires clarity of thought and argument – the kind of philosophizing that may be carried on by anyone with the patience and attention to follow and assess an explanation.

 

This book is an invitation to that exercise.

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Am I Safe Here?

Am I Safe Here?

LGBTQ Teens and Bullying in Schools
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover Paperback
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Captive Audience

Captive Audience

How Corporations Invaded Our Schools
edition:Paperback
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The Slow Professor

The Slow Professor

Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover Paperback
tagged : higher
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This Too is Music

This Too is Music

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged :
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Homophobia in the Hallways

Homophobia in the Hallways

Heterosexism and Transphobia in Canadian Catholic Schools
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook
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Watch Out for Wolves

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New Fiction for the week of April 1st : New Fiction
Bad Ideas
Excerpt

Why do they do it?

 

Why do they do it? What makes them drive their fists through walls, through windows, into each other’s faces? What makes them press the burning ends of cigarettes into the backs of their hands while staring into each other’s eyes? Why do they ride wild horses, bucking bulls, motorcycles, whatever crazy, dangerous, stupid thing they can climb onto? And when they are thrown, trampled, broken to pieces, what in God’s name makes them get back on?

What makes a man imagine that he can drive a car up a ramp and fly over bales of hay, buses, creeks, canyons and forget that he will break his ankles, his ribs, puncture his lungs, bounce his brain off the inside of his cranium when he lands. If he is lucky. If his sorry life is spared one more time.

And why are these the ones? The ones making noise, wasting space. The ones that are covered in scars, that should be dead. The ones with less than half a brain inside their heads. Why are these the only ones she ever loves?

And here comes another one, sad story and all. His jeans riding so low, his T-shirt so thin, his eyes so dark. Jesus Christ. She’s a goner.

Again.

 

Because the air became water

 

That first spring evening seemed like a long time ago now. A lot can happen in seven months. A lot can fall apart. Trudy would say that it was like a scene in a movie except no movie she had ever seen was set anywhere that looked anything like Preston Mills, Ontario. Scrubby shit-town clinging to the bank of the cold grey St. Lawrence River.

Eight hundred inhabitants, one grocery store, one gas station, one corner store called Smitty’s where you could fill tiny paper bags with stale penny candy. Swedish berries, toffee nuggets, black balls, licorice nibs.

One pool hall no female would dare to enter and that hollering, fighting men tumbled out of at hourly intervals each evening.

Six churches, one of them Catholic, one evangelical – complete with snake-handlers and speakers of tongues – and four barely distinguishable flavours of Protestantism: Presbyterian, United, Lutheran, Anglican.

A mile east of town, one massive set of locks that hugetankers eased into, then were slowly lowered and released to continue along the river to the ocean.

And there was a mill, WestMark Linen Mill, that employed Trudy and her mother, Claire, as well as most of the other working adults in the town.

There must have been other mills at some point, at least one other, to justify the town’s name. Maybe a long time ago, when it was Preston Mills, the first. Because this was Preston Mills, the second. Preston Mills, the ugly.

In the 1950s the town had been taken apart and reassembled between the river and the railroad tracks when the Seaway had gone through. Highway H2O, they called it. The way of the future. Higgledy-piggledy little Preston Mills – with its winding streets and courtyards, its barns and chicken coops and crooked lanes, its docks and boathouses and pebble beaches, was taken apart and put together again in straight lines. Houses jacked up, wrenched from their foundations, lifted onto trailers behind trucks, dragged back from the water and deposited on dirt lots along a grid of new streets. Schools and churches were taken down brick by brick and built again. The scar of the old town was still there, at the bottom of the river: the streets, the sidewalks, the rectangular concrete foundations, the fence posts. A map-like outline of the whole town imprinted on the riverbed. And every day giant ships passed overhead, casting shadows over the sunken town like long, black clouds.

Graveyards were moved, too. Coffins dug up and tombstones moved to flat, treeless fields. People worried that the workers had lost track, that the bodies no longer matched the names on the stones. But how would they ever know? They wouldn’t. The empty graves were flooded along with everything else. Slowly erased by silt and stones and shells and waving fields of seaweed.

(There were still bodies under there, though. Everyone knew it. For some graves, living relatives could not be found. Or there were people who were too squeamish or too superstitious to have their loved ones disturbed. Slabs of stone were placed over the graves to ensure the coffins didn’t float up to the surface after the flood. A sad fleet of haunted little boats bobbing around here and there on the surface. Not good, thought Trudy. That would not have been good at all.)

A new, arrow-straight highway bordered Preston Mills to the north. The old highway was under water about a hundred feet from the shore. In a couple of places, it rose out of the water and dipped back in, like the humps of the Loch Ness monster. Enough grass had broken through the asphalt and grown weedy-high that the hills looked like small islands. But if you swam out to one, you could see it was a road. There was a faded yellow line down the centre and you could walk along until the road sloped back down under water. In some places you could walk for half a mile before you lost your footing and started floating above the road.

That was how Trudy had felt when she first saw him: like the ground was suddenly dropping away beneath her feet, like the air had become water and she was floating up toward the bright blue sky.

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Shut Up You're Pretty

Shut Up You're Pretty

edition:Paperback
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The Melting Queen
Excerpt

(1) Dulled by the wearisome sameness

I go to the river every day to see if it's finally free.

Before the sun rises--before daylight comes to illuminate a miserable world, before dawn chases away the endless possibilities of night--I shuffle out onto the barren streets of this godforsaken city.

Edmonton. A prairie town, crushed flat by huge, heavy skies. A northern outpost, encased in ice for months on end. Its houses huddle together against the cold wind, which digs its claws under doors and around window frames. Its roads are lined with mountain ranges of dirt-encrusted snow, painted orange by weak sodium streetlights. Its people sleep, dreaming of summer. Dreaming of somewhere far away.

I dream of green grass and running water as I walk to the river. My boots crunch on the salt-stained sidewalks. The dry air scratches at my skin, flaying my nostrils for daring to inhale, trying to force me back to bed. But I bow my head against the winds and soldier on, driven by the tiniest ember of hope.

When I reach the stairs that lead down into the river valley, I close my eyes and look out at the landscape. I let my desperate dreams flare up, projecting my desires onto the world. I imagine myself looking out on a shattered river, freed from its icy prison. I say a prayer to all the ancient gods of the earth and the river:

Please. Let it be today. Let the ice break. Let winter end.

But every day for the past six months I've been disappointed. The world defies my dreams. I stand on the top step and open my eyes and see a solid ribbon of dead white ice. The river is held captive, its waters locked in place. The skeletal trees along its banks stretch their brittle branches toward the sky. Tufts of blanched grass poke up through heaped snowbanks. The whole river valley--emerald green in summer, golden yellow in fall, blossoming pink in spring--is trapped in grey stasis.

I swallow my disappointment and start down the stairs, to search the ice for signs of fracture.

Edmonton is a typical grid city. It sprawls out over the flat, wheat-stubbled prairie like a smashed egg oozing across a crumb-covered kitchen floor. Its perfect, rectangular blocks are completely interchangeable. They stretch to the horizon like the world's easiest and most boring jigsaw puzzle. Apartments and restaurants and office blocks. Schools and houses and strip malls. Every part of this city looks the same: short, squat, and square.

But the river valley is different. The river rips this city in two. It carves a winding path through the heart of Edmonton, pulling the paved-over prairie down into a deep crevasse. The orderly grid of streets unravels into nonsensical curves. The structured metropolis gives way to a wild urban forest. Two dozen bridges stretch across the river, pulling the two halves of the city together like stitches trying in vain to close a wound.

I've walked across each of them, inspecting the ice from above. I hunt for some hint of a crack, some hope of an imminent collapse. But the ice is flawless, pristine, spread from shore to shore like a starched white sheet. It's just as strong today as it was yesterday, and it was just as strong yesterday as the day before that. And the day before that. And the day before that.

It's been six months since the First Snow fell. Six months since that grim fall day when frosty lily pads started to clog the river. The longest winter in living memory. It should've been spring weeks ago, but still the ice locks the river in place. It's the middle of May, and there are still no signs of summer.

After a while, my inspection of the ice becomes too depressing. The sun comes up, my dreams of spring are burned away by the pale white light, and I start to believe that the river will never be free. Winter will last forever.

I stand on the High Level Bridge, stare down at the thick white ice, and wonder what it would take to break it. Would an object, falling from a great enough height, have enough force to shatter the river and free us all from the tyranny of winter? I've flirted with the idea--hauling a bunch of rocks up to the bridge deck and throwing them down with all my strength. Or dragging one of the historical cannons from the Legislature grounds and tipping it over the railing. Or just taking a tiny step forward...

"Adam?"

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Vita

Vita

edition:Paperback
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Only Pretty Damned
Excerpt

It's been three years since Wally Jakes died, and not a day goes by that I don't think of the old bastard.

The other chumps around this place, well, I'm sure they think of Wally often too--at least the ones who were around during the infamous Jake-obean era--but not as often as I do. And certainly not in the same way as I do.

See, Wally had a personality that was an acquired taste in the same way that sucking vinegar from a mangy sponge is an acquired taste. Nobody could stand the guy. Nobody except me. But then, I have a high tolerance for all things acidic.

I respected Wally, though I could sure see why others had a hard time digesting him. He was loud-mouthed, crass, insensitive, and horribly opinionated. He rarely shaved or showered, and dental hygiene mattered to him about as much as arithmetic mattered to a snowman. And if all that weren't enough, Wally Jakes was also uglier than a couple of rats fucking on top of a pile of trash, which was partially due to a horse booting him square in the kisser when he was a kid, and partially due to him just being Wally Jakes. He was a natural pariah, born to be detested.

But as I said, I respected the guy. He wasn't a performer, like me, but I think that once you got right down to it, he and I were pretty much the same. Now, I don't mean to say that I'm a walking aerosolized can of human-repellant, like Wally, but on the inside, on the inside where it really mattered, we were the same. If you were to take a blade and carve us both down to our respective cores, once you scraped off all the pulpy muck and rinsed away the blood, you'd be staring at a matching set. Two of a kind. You see, like me, Wally did whatever needed to be done to keep things running around here. One day you'd see him tearing tickets, the next you'd see him cramming a suppository into an elephant's ass. Whatever the task, if it needed to be done, Wally would do it. He knew damn well that the show mattered more than anything. More than anything at all.

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Quill of the Dove
Excerpt

Hoda walks toward her parents' house. The main street is now pitch-black. She sees a lighted cigarette several metres in front of her. A dark shape in a dishdasha is pulling down the metal door to a shop. It's the olive oil shop, Akil's shop. She moves to the other side of the street to avoid him. Too late. He calls out to her. "Wait, I want to talk to you."Hoda hesitates. Should she make a run for it?"Sharmouta--whore, how dare you speak to my uncle!"Hoda freezes. She doesn't know how to answer the angry young man.He's now facing her, a padlock in his left hand. He grabs her arm."Come with me.""Stop, Akil! You're hurting me!""I'll teach you a lesson."Hoda swings hard at Akil. He blocks her blow. Intense pain shoots up her forearm. Then she feels the padlock in his fist strike the side of her face. When she comes to, he has dragged her back to his shop. She looks up. The place is crammed with bottles of olive oil and barrels of olives in brine. An old oil lamp on the counter offers a dim light. Beside it is the padlock. Akil paces in front of her. It is clear he doesn't know what to do next. He has struck a woman who defied him, but whose cousin is a Palestinian commander. Hoda feels for her hijab. It's gone. It must have fallen off in the street. Her hair tosses wildly on her shoulders. Her skirt is torn. Her legs are exposed. She desperately tries to cover herself."Akil, listen. I won't say anything. Just let me go.""Quiet!"The shop's door is still open. Hoda scrambles to her feet and begins running toward it. Akil grabs her shoulders and throws her back onto the floor."Sharmouta, you will pay for trying to dishonour my family."He leans over her. His eyes burn with rage. She whispers, no, Akil, no. He pins her arms down. She screams. He clamps his right hand over her mouth. Her left arm reaches out searching for a weapon. Nothing. He yanks her over onto her stomach and presses one hand against the small of her back, pinning her to the ground and forcing the air from her lungs. She wants to scream again but she can't. She tries futilely to push away from the ground, but Akil's hand on her back forces her down. This time with such force, she hears one of her ribs crack. His other hand is fumbling to pull up her skirt. His knee pries her legs apart. Her mind races to find some means to defend herself as fear cuts through her like a razor.

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Fatboy Fall Down
Excerpt

When he was fifty- eight years old and preparing for his retirement in a slumberous cocoa village nestled within a valley’s crook, Orbits would look at the parakeets, so tiny and green they could be mistaken, from a distance, for skittering leaves and he would recall his dream of reading the weather report with a macaw perched on his shoulder. The bungalow, its walls wrinkled by vines that trailed from the lemon and guava trees and seeming to glide into the open windows, he had coveted for half his life and his ease in acquiring it at an affordable price, encouraged him into speculating about other long-delayed pursuits.

He would visit his daughter whom he had not heard from nor seen for over a decade. He would populate the pond at the back of his house with red tilapia and augment the yard with fruit trees -- cashews, mangoes, golden apples, cherries and plums. He would attend to his growing vision problems and finally finish his meteorology course. All of this, he mentioned in letters to Wally, his old friend from the Ministry of Agriculture. It was Wally who, before his relocation to Toronto, had introduced him to life in the capital and who had explained how aspects of the island’s past had engrained themselves into a culture of lime and unexpected generosity always twinned with reproach. Wally, too, had noted that the faddishness of the boom years did not completely displace the old way of thinking: the refusal to be persuaded, the childish presumptuousness, the nursing of grudges, the fear of competition, the absolute dread of being ignored.

Wally’s heart attack had preceded Orbits’ by a few years and in a letter, Orbits had joked about both men resting side-by-side on hospital beds. But Wally had survived his heart attack.

In the evenings, Orbits walked across the yard of the old shop where tufts of knotgrass sprouted from concrete and asphalt and he mentioned his plans to the sceptical shopkeeper. “Just a few months again for my pension,” he told the shopkeeper. “I have my bucket list.”

The shopkeeper, offended by Orbit’s optimism, replied, “Careful the bucket don’t tumble down the hill and take you with it. Remember what happen to Jack and the other miserable little one.” The shopkeeper knew Orbits only as a local politician of negligible importance, an unremarkable man trying to be remarkable. If Orbits, in an uncharacteristic burst of candour, had described the torment that marked his childhood and which had left both scars and a faltering imagination; if he had spoken of the events that had forced him to return to his parent’s house following his brother’s suicide, only to witness the life squeezed out of both; if he had mentioned that for most of his life, always expecting rejection, he was forever preparing for it; if he had confessed any of this, the shopkeeper, a tiny man with an unevenly shaped moustache and bristly eyebrows that gave him a harried and reflective look, would not have seen Orbits as any different from anyone in the island.

But Orbits had grown to see himself as different, and separate. For most of his life he had little idea of what the future might bring; he never planned for anything and when a little slice of luck fell his way, he briefly imagined it was the world settling itself, balancing the turmoil of his early years.

Yet, at the beginning of his life, before the birth of his brother, he never suspected there was anything unusual or shameful about himself. There was nothing unnatural about the rolls of supple fat that hung from his waist and which his mother pinched and tickled whenever he fell from the sofa or the front stairs. Or with his father’s amused comment, “Clear the road, Mamoose. The steamroller coming through.” He assumed the responses of his parents to his weight and clumsiness were normal and that in every house in the village, there were little fatties like him rolling around to the amusement of the adults.

Then, a few months prior to his fifth birthday, his slim and perfect brother was born. And shortly after, he was sent off to school. He expected he might find there some variation of his parents’ jolliness but he discovered that school was a place of hardened bullies and frustrated teachers waiting patiently for students like him while they nursed their hangovers. He also learned quickly that it was a bad idea to run away from the other boys because invariably he tumbled on the road, drawing even more ridicule. One day while he was trying to pull himself from the slippery mud, a group of boys pretended to be applauding his effort. As he rolled back and forth to get some traction, one of them said, “It look like Fatso rocking himself to sleep.”

“Like a little piggy.”

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The Fools of Can-Lit

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