Christmas holidays: the perfect time to find another reason – if one is ever needed – to settle into a warm corner on a winter’s night with a book. Perhaps with the wood stove on, the tree lights glinting in the corner and a warm mug at my elbow. I’ve been mulling on “the classic” Canadian Christmas story, and have found myself surprised, and then unsurprised, by the difficulty of locating one.
Congratulations are due to the winners of the major literary prizes of the season. Not only will their publishers sell copies – increases from the thousands to the, well, dozens, depending on the genre – but their names will circulate more freely in the public sphere, their reputations increase substantially, and so they will find and delight more readers. We readers are, ultimately, the beneficiaries of these prizes when we find a new author to love, when we are introduced to a new genre we may investigate and savour for decades to come, when we introduce other readers in turn to books that please them.
Canadian literature has long had a thematic interest in the uncanny, the strange, the frightening, the unknown. From the magical and sometimes terrifying inhabitants of First Nations myths and legends, to the paranoiac claustrophobia imbuing early literature, identified by Northrop Frye as the “garrison mentality,” to the continued dread within contemporary literature of the myriad options for death and damage both Canadian wilderness and urban jungle afford, Canadian literary output can seem fixated on terror. And it’s certainly not the only artistic medium with such a focus – the Canadian film world has David Cronenberg, of course, and a new film festival called Blood in the Snow. Read More
It’s that time of year again: autumn is upon us, with the tang of decay in the air and the scent of paper burning in the woodstove. And paper, bound into books and printed in interesting and artisanal fonts, is the order of the day for lovers of Canadian literature in autumn. Forthwith: the shortlisted nominees for the three principal English-language fiction prizes of the season, for your readerly delectation, and possibly a quick trip to the local bookmaker on the corner.
The Patriation Agreement of November 5, 1981 was a historic event for at least three reasons: it meant that Canada could amend its constitution without any reference to the British Parliament as had been the requirement before this agreement; it introduced a Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and various important additional amendments were accepted.
The process by which the Agreement happened, especially the evening/night of November 4th and 5th, has been inaccurately described almost from the time the agreement was announced.
“He drank like a fish.” “The early bird gets the worm.” “It’s raining cats and dogs.” “You can’t get blood out of a stone.” “As quick as a wink.” “Six of one and half a dozen of the other.” “There’s many a true word said in jest.” These, and many other expressions, colour our vernacular without our being aware that the satiric voice behind them belonged to Thomas Chandler Haliburton, a prominent Nova Scotian.
Haliburton was born on December 17, 1796 in Windsor, NS, the son of a judge and grandson of a lawyer. An upper crust Tory, he was also a successful lawyer and businessman and was appointed to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. He held office in England after his retirement from the bench. He was wealthy, respected and influential, but, despite his accomplishments, he was deeply frustrated.
Congratulations to Ken Babstock , who last evening won the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize for a Canadian poet, for his fourth collection, Methodist Hatchet. Babstock was in the running with much-respected poets Jan Zwicky (for Forge, and whose Songs for Relinquishing the Earth won the 1999 Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry) and Phil Hall […]
The sinking of the Titanic has resonated now for 100 years in the consciousness of Canadians. The grief, wonder, and curiosity the disaster continues to inspire has been the impetus for countless literary works. While the majority of these are factual or biographical, significant imaginative works of poetry and prose have been produced, works that strive to understand the psychological, social and personal effects of the disaster. Here, then, is a survey of some of the most important works of poetry produced on the subject of the sinking of the Titanic, poetry read and loved by, and for the most part produced by, Canadians.
Last year the literary folks at CBC introduced the Bookie Awards, a people’s choice forum for the year’s best-known Canadian and (as of this year) international books. This year it returns: cast your vote and peruse the categories. Place another few books on your reading list.
As a teacher of literature, I don’t spend time in university classrooms picking favourites or moderating a “did you like this book?” discussion. This is not to say there’s no place for readerly reaction in the classroom: Read More
“To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list.” – John Aiken
To Canadians, censorship may seem like a thing of the past, associated with book burnings and fascist regimes, but the truth is that freedom of expression is an ongoing battle. Books as recent as The Golden Compass, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mocking Bird, and Of Mice and Men have appeared on Canada’s list of challenged books and magazines. Considering that these titles have become celebrated classics in the modern canon, John Aiken’s pithy epigram appears more true than ever.