Elisabeth DeMariaffi, How to Get Along with Women, Invisible Publishing (2012) Elisabeth De Mariaffi’s short stories focus on female characters and seemingly innocuous moments in their lives that may or may not be pivotal — the author is never explicit about this. Everything Under Your Feet features Lydia Strunk running up a mountain, every day. The character [...]
Wayne Johnston, The Son of a Certain Woman, Alfred A. Knopf Canada (2013) Having loved The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, I would be remiss not to warn potential readers that Wayne Johnston’s new novel, The Son of a Certain Woman, is a very different kind of book. In place of the sweeping descriptions of Newfoundland, [...]
Joseph Boyden, The Orenda, Hamish Hamilton (2013) Orenda is the power in all things, the life force present in humans, animals, plants, and earth. In the context of indigenous and settler-colonial relations, the word represents a fundamental difference in understanding. While Christophe, the Jesuit missionary in Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda, sees only the human soul, his hosts [...]
Louis Hamelin, October 1970, House of Anansi Press (2013) “October 1970 is a work of fiction,” writes the book’s author, Louis Hamelin. It is “a reconstruction in which imagination took the place of historical investigation. The unofficial history was the novelist’s mortar when faced with the patchy official version, which barely stands up to the slightest prodding.” [...]
Lisa Moore, Caught, House of Anansi Press I have to admit, having never read a Lisa Moore book before, Caught was not what I expected. The jacket cover promised me “undercover agents,” “adventure” and “many, many bales of marijuana.” Conditioned to believe undercover agents lead to high-stakes shoot outs and drugs to battles between good [...]
Hellgoing, Lynn Coady, House of Anansi Press Well-being is a happy state of contentment and acceptance that the characters in Lynn Coady’s Hellgoing, a finalist for this year’s Giller Prize, would find unfamiliar. As the title of her engaging and highly enjoyable collection of short stories suggests, the fate of these characters — mostly, but [...]
Canadians across the country have poems in their pockets, from a pretty little haiku to historical epics to the latest pop earworm. Every year new poets give us wonderful and engaging works. But we can’t forget the strong Canadian poetic tradition captured by, among others, Bliss Carman’s romantic odes to landscape, Stephen Leacock’s biting satire, [...]
The end of the year: a time when people reflect on the most significant developments in their field, and, honestly, on myriad unrelated occurrences and happenings as well. Where are we going and what have we done? This year, I think the conversation about literature in Canada belongs to Canada’s female readers and writers for a few key reasons.
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.
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
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.