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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...

Gathering Around Books in Karachi: The Sixth Annual Karachi Literature Festival

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The 2015 Karachi Literature Festival runs the 6th, 7th and 8th of February. A dedicated group of Pakistanis have set out to prove that security concerns should not trump a love of literature. Next week they will host the sixth annual Karachi Literature Festival (KLF). The festival is reclaiming space for books in a city where, despite a small but vibrant arts scene, cultural dialogues are often...

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...

Revisioning Craft: A Creative Writing Workshop

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Our own Kelli Deeth, acclaimed fiction writer and Senior Editor here at The Toronto Review of Books, is inviting registrations for a creative writing workshop that she is co-leading with Sandra Campbell.  Revisioning Craft: Setting, Plot, Memory and Imagination This innovative workshop allows you to study two core elements of craft while also exploring the dynamics of memory and imagination. As...

Geoffrey Farmer Makes Moore Dangerous Again

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The explanatory text at the entrance of Every day needs an urgent whistle blown into it at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) reminds us that British sculptor Henry Moore originally intended to bequeath his works to the Tate. When a letter writing campaign caused the London gallery to refuse to build a suitable space, he chose Toronto and the AGO instead. We can remember this as Toronto’s...

Pretenders and Holy Fools: E. L. Doctorow’s Andrew’s Brain

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Reviewed in this essay: Andrew’s Brain by E. L. Doctorow (Random House, 2014) Andrew, the cognitive scientist-narrator of E.L. Doctorow’s latest novel, is endearingly clumsy—he knocks drinks into laps, drops bottles on toes, and litters the floor with books. For his ex-wife’s new husband, these slapstick misdemeanours betray a sinister connection to the tragic deaths of Andrew’s first daughter...

Nuptial Bibliocide: Veronica Spencer’s Pop-Up Wedding Books

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At a recent Toronto wedding, between green-silk placemats, flowers and vintage cutlery, sat a novel wedding guest, an open book with faded edges and delicate paper, and the words, “A Love Story,” popping up from its centre. Veronica Spencer has used books that were once gathering dust at a bookstore, or being sold at a garage sale, to make hundreds of wedding decorations like this one. Her...

Digital Humanities and the End of (Close) Reading: A Review of Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading

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Last year in a post titled “Why Teach English?” Adam Gopnik offered one reason why not to teach English studies: as a discipline it does not give students basic research skills since research in English amounts to “archival futzing.” And scrounging a library for out of print books is “not really research.” Research involves looking for new knowledge within clear boundaries, or within a science...

On Wanting The Goldfinch: Donna Tartt’s Book of Cravings

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Shortly after finishing Donna Tartt’s masterpiece, I stepped into a bookstore eager to buy another book but immediately spotted The Goldfinch on a table. All sorts of novels lay around it, but I thought, petulantly—No! Only The Goldfinch! The book had made me hungry to keep reading, but I wasn’t ready to leave its story behind. Since it appeared last fall, efforts to find comparisons for Tartt’s...

Concerning Violence by Göran Hugo Olsson

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This post is the last in a series on Hot Docs 2014 films that reorganize and reimagine the limits of documentary. Viewers familiar with Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson’s 2011 The Black Power Mixtape will be already acquainted with three of the narrative and formal tropes also present in his follow-up film, Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defence—racialized...

Out of Mind, Out of Sight by John Kastner

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This post is the third in a series on Hot Docs 2014 films that reorganize and reimagine the limits of documentary. Like John Kastner’s 2013 documentary NCI: Not Criminally Responsible, his follow-up film, Out of Mind, Out of Sight, is also a powerful reminder of what a traditional, made-for-television film can do without experimentation. It can haunt, and it can devastate. It can also leave us...