Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Darren Greer’s Advocate (2016)

“The past presses so hard on the present, the present is badly bruised, blood brims under the skin.”

These lines from Brenda Shaughnessy’s poem “Nachträglichkeit”* fit beautifully with Darren Greer’s new novel, Advocate:

Not only because much of Advocate is preoccupied with memory, with what the characters carry with them everyday which belongs to another […]

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Difficult Stories, Difficult Narrators: Five Novels

Conflicted: that describes my first impressions after meeting Pillow in Andrew Battershill’s Giller-nominated novel of the same name,and it also describes his perspective on the world.

It’s hard to be Pillow, to see all the angles which converge and diverge simultaneously on any single thought he has. For instance: “Pillow was of the mind that […]

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Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People

It begins with something extraordinary.

“Almost a decade earlier, a man with a .45-70 Marlin hunting rifle walked through the front doors of Avalon Hills prep school. He didn’t know that he was about to become a living symbol of the age of white men shooting into crowds.”

House of Anansi. 2016

Readers are […]

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August 2016, In My Bookbag

In which I discuss some of the skinny volumes, which have nestled into my bookbag.

(Meanwhile longer works, like Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber and Greg Iles’ The Bone Tree, were left at home.)

Patricia and Fredrick McKissack’s Best Shot in the West tells the story of Nat Love, who was born into slavery in 1854 and became […]

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July 2016, In My Bookbag

In which I discuss some of the skinny volumes, which have nestled into my bookbag.

(Meanwhile longer works, like Timothy Findley’s The Piano Man’s Daughter and Greg Iles’ Natchez Burning, were left at home.)

Stephen Thomas’ The Jokes is not funny-haha, but funny-hmmm. It’s not meant to be funny-haha either, although many of the stories are designed […]

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Susin Nielsen’s We Are All Made of Molecules (2015)

Henry K. Larsen — star of Susin Nielsen’s last novel — was a savvy young fellow: “I know I can’t change my stupid red hair or my stupid freckles. But I can lower my freak flag.”

Tundra Books, 2015

In contrast, Stewart — star of her most recent novel — flies his freak flag […]

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Countdown: Magie Dominic and Ann-Marie MacDonald

With chapters named for the days of the week in Street Angel and with specific dates in a given week in Adult Onset, these two novels seem to make ideal reading companions.

Ultimately, much of literary fiction is preoccupied with time. Whether it is Molly Bloom’s day in James Joyce’s classic Ulysses or the week […]

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Kim Fu’s For Today I Am a Boy (2014)

For Today I Am a Boy is a very ordinary story, told in a gentle and quiet voice.

Kim Fu’s novel does not challenge vehemently, like Ghalib Islam’s brash debut or Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird.

“My father stood on the step and watched with me. It was the fall of my senior year. He […]

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Greg Kearney’s The Desperates (2013)

In the beginning, Joel gets a new job. It’s a moment that might be filled with potential, promise. He could be the figure on the cover of the novel, leaping into the air.

Alternatively, Joel could be that figure on the cover and be plummeting to the earth, about to land – hard. Or, he […]

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Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird (2014)

Girl Cave Rose. Prince Dark Mirror. Crow Cellar Ring.

One has the sense that Helen Oyeyemi thinks in threes.

Also that she views the world through a slightly skewed lens.

Hamish Hamilton – Penguin, 2014

But Boy, Snow, Bird is not simply a random collection of resonant images and ideas; the book is named […]

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