Category

Books

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Nuannaarpoq: Thomas Wharton’s Every Blade of Grass

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In all of his literary fiction, Thomas Wharton speculates on one question: what is a book? Answers are as various as books themselves. Wharton imagines fantastic books: books as pinwheels and books nested inside books until they were too tiny even to read. Audio-books and graphic novels stretch books in the direction of the purely acoustic and the primarily visual. In e-formats, a book no longer...

Death is Not the End: A Review of Patience by Daniel Clowes

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Few artists have done more to elevate the status of comics in the public imagination than Daniel Clowes, and Patience, as befits a graphic novel billed as “a cosmic timewarp deathtrip to the primordial infinite of everlasting love,” is his longest and most ambitious work yet. It opens in 2012, as underemployed schlub Jack Barlow finds his pregnant wife Patience dead in their apartment, brutally...

Bina Shah’s A Season for Martyrs

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The funeral congregated in Liaquat National Bagh park. Angry clerics denounced the government for allowing the execution to proceed, and an ambulance strewn with flowers carried Mumtaz Qadri’s body slowly through the crowds. When Qadri was executed for the murder of Punjab governor and Benazir Bhutto loyalist Salman Taseer on February 29th, Pakistan’s sharp ideological divisions and complexities...

The Talk of the Canadian Writers’ Summit

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Last week at the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto many people who work with words walked around blearily, carrying canvas bags, seeing old friends, wilting in the heat. Things are tough for us writers, publishers, and editors. There is great gloom, there is despair! Gentle reader: there is also hope. The Canadian Writers’ Summit is a superconference intended to bring together people who would...

After the Prophet: Leigh Fondakowski’s Stories from Jonestown

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The paradox of utopias is that while their failure is assured, their appeal is eternal. 800 years ago, tens of thousands of ordinary people left their homes, their families, and the innumerable small ties which made up their lives to march on Jerusalem and retake it in the name of God, in the deadly mass migration known as the Children’s Crusade. Today, would-be jihadists make the dangerous...

What is What is Man? On Mark Greif’s The Age of the Crisis of Man

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Few recent works of academic cultural criticism have received such rapturous, widespread, and indeed almost universal acclaim as Mark Greif’s The Age of the Crisis of Man has over the last several months. Lorin Stein in The Paris Review calls it “exhilarating.” Adam Kirsch, in The Tablet, says that it’s “a brilliant contribution to the history of ideas, one of the rare books that reshapes the...

Three Generations of Magic Between E. Nesbit, C.S. Lewis, and Lev Grossman

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As I read E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet, a tale of children’s magical adventures, a feeling of familiarity came over me. This 1906 book seemed to anticipate C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew, published almost exactly half a century later (1955) but, unlike the rest of the Narnia series, set back in the era when Nesbit herself was writing. It’s well known that Nesbit influenced Lewis’s...

Being Harmless: James Grainger on Horror, Fiction, and Toronto

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Toronto author James Grainger’s debut novel, Harmless, reveals the potential for horror in everyday life when a weekend in the country among old friends turns into a search for their daughters who’ve vanished in the nearby woods. TRB sat down with Grainger to situate his new book in the haunted landscape of Canadian horror. TRB: How do you think horror fiction fares in Canada? JG: It’s an...

Costume and Bone and Thirty Years in Literature: a Chat with Lucinda Johnston about her First Book

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Writer, bookseller, anti-censorship advocate, and longtime Parkdale resident Lucinda Johnston worked at Queen Street West’s legendary Pages Books and Magazines from 1989 until its doors shut in 2009. TRB had a few questions for her as her newly published first book, Costume and Bone, inaugurates a new stage in a thirty-year career in the literary arts in Toronto. TRB: For decades, Pages Books and...

Newfoundland Off the Map: Michael Crummey’s Sweetland

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The demographics don’t lie. In a couple of decades, a generation at most, dozens of Newfoundland communities will have disappeared, and there seems to be no way to reverse the flow. Soon, all that will remain will be a ghostly assembly like the one that closes Michael Crummey’s Sweetland – a scene reminiscent of some of David Blackwood’s bleaker prints, first understood as...

The Unfinished Story of the Love Canal

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Reviewed in this essay: Penelope Ploughman’s Love Canal (Arcadia, 2013) “Ninety-ninth Street looks serene in these summer 1978 photographs,” writes Penelope Ploughman in Love Canal (Arcadia Publishing, 2013). “Children are walking on the sidewalk, the trees are full, lawns are mown, American flags are flying and flowers are in bloom.” It’s an ominous description of the neighbourhood later...

Under the Radar: An Interview with Olivier Matthon

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Olivier Matthon, itinerant labourer and ethnographer, is the author of  Under the Radar: Notes from the Wild Mushroom Trade. It tells the story of the seasonal migrant labourers who harvest wild mushrooms in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, and is out now from Pioneers Press. Dylan Gordon caught up with Olivier between wild harvests for an interview. Your bio reads a lot like a mushroom...