Taddle Creek does not publish book reviews. However, all of the following books were written by contributors to the magazine and are, thus, highly recommended. Cover prices and publishers were correct at the time of first publication. (A • indicates books containing work originally published in Taddle Creek.)
Nathaniel G. Moore’s Savage: 1986–2011 (Anvil, $20), a book whose tumultuous creation is a tale on-par with any W.W.E. storyline, is now available. Catherine Graham’s latest book of poetry, Her Red Hair Rises With the Wings of Insects (Wolsak and Wynn, $17) is also available, and is quite a beautiful book. Sara Heinonen’s debut collection of stories, Dear Leaves, I Miss You All (Mansfield, $20), featuring two stories originally published in the magazine, is now on shelves. Stacey May Fowles questions societal norms in her third novel, Infidelity (ECW, $18.95). Jennifer LoveGrove relates the story a Jehovah’s Witness family’s splintering belief system in the novel Watch How We Walk (ECW, $18.95). Clive Thompson challenges the common conception that technology is making us dumber in Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin, $29.50). Jeet Heer offers a fascinating look at the life of the New Yorker art editor and Raw co-founder Françoise Mouly with In Love with Art (Coach House, $13.95). Cary Fagan’s latest novel is A Bird’s Eye (Anansi, $19.95). Robin Richardson’s latest collection of poetry is Knife Throwing Through Self-Hypnosis (ECW, $18.95), while Julie Cameron Gray presents her poetry debut with Tangle (Tightrope, $19.95). Peter Darbyshire takes on a nom de plume with The Mona Lisa Sacrifice (ChiZine, $18.95), the first book in a terrifying trilogy penned by “Peter Roman.” Joe Ollmann tells a science fiction tale with a twist in the still-aptly titled Science Fiction (Conundrum, $18). And Amelia Kahaney, one of Taddle Creek’s very favourite contributors from south of the border, has a new novel for teens, The Brokenhearted (HarperTeen, $23.99).
Marguerite Pigeon follows up her debut collection of poems with Open Pit, her debut novel (NeWest, $19.95). Tamara Faith Berger’s long-out-of-print first two novels, Lie With Me and The Way of the Whore, are available once again, now in a single volume titled Little Cat, thanks to the good people at Coach House ($19.95). Kelly Ward’s debut collection of short stories, Keep It Beautiful, is now on sale from Tightrope ($21.95). Ania Szado sets a fictional tale of the real-life author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry against a nineteen-forties Manhattan backdrop in her second novel, Studio Saint-Ex (Viking, $30). Peter Norman returns with a new collection of poetry, Water Damage (Mansfield, $17). Andrew Pyper’s fame continues to grow to frightening heights with his latest horror story, The Demonologist (Simon and Schuster, $29.99). David Collier examines everyday life in his adoptive town in Hamilton Illustrated (Wolsak and Wynn, $19). And Michael Boughn touchingly says goodbye to his late friend and mentor, the poet Robin Blaser, in Nine Blue Moments for Robin (BlazeVox, $10).
Until Taddle Creek can figure out a better way to convey such information, it continues to discuss recently published books in boring, unreadable paragraph form. The magazine’s new B.F.F., Nina Bunjevac, proves herself to be Robert Crumb’s long lost love child in her debut collection of comics, Heartless (Conundrum, $20). Emily Schultz stands up for dark-haired women everywhere with The Blondes (Doubleday, $29.95). Cary Fagan’s My Life Among the Apes (Cormorant, $22) is jam-packed with stories originally published in Taddle Creek, which may explain why it seemingly was long-listed for the Giller Prize before it even launched. Matthew Tierney’s third collection of poems, Probably Inevitable, is now available from Coach House ($17.95). Ethan Rilly keeps the old-school comic book (don’t call it a “floppy”) alive with the third issue of Pope Hats (AdHouse, $6.95). And Jason Kieffer returns to please all takers with his second meticulous self-published graphic tale, the biographical Zanta: The Living Legend (Old Boot, $15).
Hopefully the rest of the world has as high a Grace O’Connell tolerance as Taddle Creek does, because aside from her above-mentioned award nominations, her long-awaited Random House New Face of Fiction debut novel, Magnified World ($22.95) is now available. Also: Julie Wilson turns her on-line literary voyeurism into a collection of micro-fiction in Seen Reading (Freehand, $21.95). Featured way back in Taddle Creek’s Christmas, 2009, issue, Michael Cho’s drawings of hidden Toronto finally see the light in • Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95). Shawn Micallef contributes the text portion to Patrick Cummins’s photographic look at the city’s changing streetscape in Full Frontal T.O. (Coach House, $24.95). Two of Joey Comeau’s novellas get the collected treatment in The Complete Lockpick Pornography (ECW, $14.95). Contrary to what Taddle Creek is told, it’s a big fan of Lynn Crosbie’s work and is glad to see her back after such a long absence with Life Is About Losing Everything (Anansi, $24.95). Alex Boyd releases his second collection of poetry with The Least Important Man (Biblioasis, $17.95). Stuart Ross gets really surreal in his latest poetry collection, You Exist. Details Follow (Anvil, $16). Kevin Chong explores one facet of his would-be-perfect life in My Year of the Racehorse (Greystone, $22.95). George Murray gives you poems, poems, poems in Whiteout (ECW, $18.95). And Tamara Faith Berger makes her anticipated return to smut with Maidenhead (Coach House, $18.95). But most exciting for Taddle Creek this time around is the publication of Dave Lapp’s • People Around Here (Conundrum, $17). The book not only features Dave’s full-page installments of the strip of the same name from Taddle Creek, but also the monthly strip versions that long graced the pages of the Annex Gleaner—all painstakingly reformatted to perfection. As with all books that collect a large number of pieces from Taddle Creek, the magazine will probably buy two. But don’t feel you have to.
Keeping up with his Niedzviecki-like publishing schedule, Gary Barwin co-authors two new books, The Obvious Flap (BookThug, $18), a collaborative poetical jam, and Franzlations: The Imaginary Kafka Parables (New Star, $19), the title of which describes its contents better than Taddle Creek ever could. Pascal Blanchet releases the French edition of his new graphic novel, Nocturne (Pastèque, $34.95), a book so mind-blowing Taddle Creek may not wait for the English version. The illustrator Gary Taxali and his little monkey friend return with I Love You, OK? (TeNeues, $19.95), a non-linear examination of life’s paradoxes. Seth stays nerdy with The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95), another affectionate tribute to the author’s obsessions, this time with a Canadiana bent. Dani Couture wins this year’s Taddle Creek award for best book cover with Algoma (Invisible, $19.95), her first novel, which is not entirely about ships. Michael Boughn unleashes his long-worked-on mystery novel, Business as Usual (NeWest, $22.95). And finally, Taddle Creek is especially excited about two new works by the Daves it knows. David Whitton’s much-awaited debut, • The Reverse Cowgirl (Freehand, $21.95), is a collection of short stories, many of which appeared in these pages (though one story from these pages does not appear). You’re welcome, world. Also, Dave Lapp’s People Around Here strip from issue No. 24 of Taddle Creek appears in the 2011 edition of The Best American Comics (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28.95). It is the second year in a row Dave appears in the anthology, as well as the second year in a row a story from Taddle Creek is included.
New books by Taddle Creek contributors abound. Bucking the supposed industry “wisdom” that no one wants to buy a book of short stories, Jessica Westhead presents her debut collection, • And Also Sharks (Cormorant, 2011; $21), while Hal Niedzviecki proves short on story, long on title with • Look Down, This is Where It Must Have Happened (City Lights, 2011; $17.95). Michael Christie takes a safer route with his debut, • The Beggar’s Garden (HarperCollins, 2011; $24.99), burying the word “Stories” on the cover in such a way that you’ll fall in love with the book long before you realize you’re supposed to hate it. Bucking this trend, longtime short story writer Stuart Ross releases his long-awaited first novel, Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew (ECW, 2011; $19.95). And for those who find even short story collections too long, Zach Worton and Joe Ollmann both have new graphic novels on the shelves with The Klondike (Drawn & Quarterly, 2011; $25.95) and Mid-Life (Drawn & Quarterly, 2011; $20.95), respectively. If that’s still too many words for you, perhaps Rose Hunter’s debut poetry collection, To the River (Artistically Declined, 2010; $9), or George Murray’s self-explanatory Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms (ECW, 2010; $16.95) will suit your short attention span. Finally, if it’s thrills you’re looking for, Andrew Pyper’s The Guardians (Doubleday, 2011; $29.95) and Tony Burgess’s Idaho Winter (ECW, 2011; $16.95) surely won’t disappoint.
Two books Taddle Creek neglected to mention last issue came to the magazine’s attention at this spring’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Jim Munroe teams up with the illustrator Shannon Gerard for • Sword of My Mouth (No Media Kings/IDW, 2010; $15.99), a quasi-sequel to 2007’s Therefore Repent!, and the collage artist Sonja Ahlers finally returns with a new collection, The Selves, and a new publisher (Drawn & Quarterly, 2010; $20.95). More recently, Camilla Gibb’s novel The Beauty of Humanity Movement (Doubleday, 2010; $32.95) sports one of the most appealing book covers Taddle Creek has seen in some time. Catherine Graham and Gary Barwin are both back with new poetry collections, Winterkill (Insomniac, 2010; $11.95) and • The Porcupinity of the Stars (Coach House, 2010; $16.95), respectively. Michelle Berry follows up her recent book of short stories in record time with This Book Will Not Save Your Life (Enfield & Wizenty, 2010; $29.95), her first novel since 2005. Those with Sheila Heti crushes will be excited to know the front cover of her new book, How Should a Person Be? (Anansi, 2010; $29.95), features a duotoned photo of the author. Evie Christie makes the jump to fiction from poetry with her debut novel, The Bourgeois Empire (ECW, 2010; $18.95). And Tony Burgess releases two new books to scare and delight: Ravenna Gets (Anvil, 2010; $18) and People Live Still in Cashtown Corners (ChiZine, 2010; $17.50). Finally, a big congratulations to Ian Phillips, proprietor of Taddle Creek’s favourite tiny press, Pas de Chance, on twenty-five years of publishing the most beautiful, most interesting, most noteworthy handmade books around. Pas de Chance celebrated on October 7th, at Naco, in Toronto, with the launch of three new chapbooks by the one-time Taddle Creek Out-of-Towner Elissa Joy, and yet another bizarre objet d’art collaboration with Derek McCormack, containing the chapbook The Count. It’s only nineteen pages of text, but that’s nearly a full-sized book for Derek.
Children of the Atom, by Dave Lapp (Conundrum, 2010; $17). Many of the recent books below are being published close to Taddle Creek’s press date, and, thus, were reviewed by the magazine from advance review copies. But despite being a regular contributor to the magazine, ol’ Dave didn’t want to let Taddle Creek have a peek at his new collection of previously published (yes, that’s right) work. Some jazz about superstition. Thankfully, the magazine has seen these strips before and has no problem recommending D.L.’s fine collection. (Dave...)
• The Reinvention of the Human Hand, by Paul Vermeersch (M. & S. 2010; $18.99). Paul’s suite of poems about Looney Tunes is genius. Anyone who dedicates a poem to Mel Blanc is all right in Taddle Creek’s book. But Paul: where was “Boys Who Envy Werewolves” when Taddle Creek put together its Halloween issue?
One Bloody Thing After Another, by Joey Comeau (ECW, 2010; $14.95). Not that Taddle Creek wasn’t expecting a quality book from Joey, but One Bloody Thing was pretty awesome, right down to the secret small-type sentences between chapters on the book’s blank pages.
• The Warhol Gang, by Peter Darbyshire (HarperCollins, 2010; $29.99). Rightfully described as Fight Club meets The Office, but with an additional dose of Symbionese Liberation Army meets Crash (Cronenberg’s, not that thing Tony Danza was in), The Warhol Gang is a unique look at a dangerous, offbeat future. The excerpt Taddle Creek ran a while back doesn’t even begin to set the tone.
• I Still Don’t Even Know You, by Michelle Berry (Turnstone, 2010; $19). Another brave short-story collection for a world that (apparently) refuses to buy short-story collections. Don’t give up the fight, Michelle. Taddle Creek loves short stories, especially yours.
• Sweet, by Dani Couture (Pedlar, 2010; $20). “More zombies, please.” It was a simple request. Dani said she’d make it happen next time around. Got to say, you came up a little short on that promise, kiddo. But Taddle Creek loves you to death, so you get a pass. (Seriously, more zombies next time, O.K.?)
Ronald Reagan, My Father, by Brian Joseph Davis (ECW, 2010; $17.95). Taddle Creek can’t say too many good things about Brian’s work. If you’re a fan of his previous books, the magazine has no doubt you’ll enjoy his latest collection of stories too.
• A Good Time Had by All, by Meaghan Strimas (Exile, 2010; $18.95). If this collection of poetry is at all autobiographical (which Taddle Creek assumes most poetry is), it sounds like Meaghan leads exactly the kind of life Taddle Creek feels a poet should lead. The collection’s title says it all.
The Rabble of Downtown Toronto, by Jason Kieffer (Old Boot, 2009; $10). Ah, the book everyone’s loving to hate right now. Taddle Creek has had a front seat for the controversy surrounding this cartoon guide to the city’s street “characters,” and it’s been quite the ride. It’s always fun watching people who don’t realize that trying to censor something is a surefire way to give it more attention than it ever would have gotten otherwise. Well played, Mr. Kieffer, well played.
Wrong Bar, by Nathaniel G. Moore (Tightrope, 2009; $18.95). There’s a really douchey literary magazine described in Wrong Bar that sounds suspiciously like Taddle Creek, but the magazine likes this book anyway. Although it’s more than just a fun takedown of the Toronto literary scene, that’s really the aspect Taddle Creek enjoyed most: “There’s no way that sixteen of the city’s twenty literary magazines are, just by coincidence, having sea-themed escape issues.” No, but Descant probably is.
Valentine’s Fall, by Cary Fagan (Cormorant, 2009; $21). Taddle Creek isn’t sure how much attention Cary Fagan’s adult novels get, but it can’t help thinking they don’t get as much as some books by younger, small-press, quirk-without-substance authors. If that’s the case, it’s too bad, because this is a damn good book.
Holding Still For As Long As Possible, by Zoe Whittall (Anansi, 2009; $29.95). Finally! A book that uses the em dash as it was meant to be used and doesn’t substitute an en dash in its place for “optics.” (Yes, the book’s great in general, but Taddle Creek really was most excited about the em dash thing.)
Animal, by Alexandra Leggat (Anvil, 2009; $18). Alexandra’s stories are usually not for the emotionally squeamish, but the characters in this collection really raise the bar on reader discomfort—in the best possible way. Excuse Taddle Creek’s lack of elegance, but this is a damn fine book.
The Peep Diaries, by Hal Niedzviecki (City Lights, 2009; $18.95). Oprah likes to peep. Who knew? Hal’s latest Everyman cultural examination (in this case of society’s voluntary and involuntary loss of privacy in a technology-laden world) ended up getting the attention of O magazine, which named it one of its “bounteous books of summer.” It’s only a matter of time before Hal reaches local-celebrity-who-punches-the-button-to-make-the-lottery-balls-drop-on-TV-level fame.
22 Skidoo/SubTractions, by Michael Boughn (BookThug, 2009; $18). Mike Boughn’s an old-school beatnik type of poet and, like most of his ilk, has a sense of humour that many modern poets lack. That humour is all over this book, in the writing, the cover, and the sticker proclaiming it the winner of the Friggin Prize.
George Sprott: 1894–1975, by Seth (Drawn & Quarterly, 2009; $29.95). George Sprott has that certain Sethness fans of the illustrator’s work really love. George Sprott is a beautiful, oversized book (measuring twelve by fourteen inches) and one of Seth’s better and less linear stories.
Inventory, by Marguerite Pigeon (Anvil, 2009; $15). Finally, a poetry collection as obsessed with cataloguing and cross-referencing as Taddle Creek is. The magazine feels much less alone.
Pure Product, by Jason Guriel (Signal, 2009; $16). This book contains poems titled “E.g.,” “I.e.,” and “Etc.” Poetry about en dashes and double-spacing after periods can’t be far behind. Pure Product represents a giant leap for poetry.
• Heaven is Small, by Emily Schultz (Anansi, 2009; $29.95). Heaven’s jacket copy calls it an “immensely readable ... novel.” Taddle Creek thinks that’s selling it short. Like when you say an unattractive friend has a good personality. It’s more than readable—it’s fun, entertaining, playful, and determined, worthy of the hardcover treatment Emily has once again managed to obtain.
• Buying Cigarettes for the Dog, by Stuart Ross (Freehand, 2009; $19.95). Taddle Creek can’t believe this is Stu’s first fiction collection since 1997. Where his last book of poems, Dead Cars in Managua, showed a different, more serious side of Stuart Ross, this collection is Stu at his surreal finest.
The Hayflick Limit, by Matthew Tierney (Coach House, 2009; $16.95). According to the back cover of this poetry collection, the Hayflick limit “sets an unsurpassable lifespan for our species at just over 120 years,” based on Leonard Hayflick’s determination that healthy human cells can only divide so many times. For some reason, Taddle Creek is now afraid to go to sleep.
Overqualified, by Joey Comeau (ECW, 2009; $14.95). Jim Munroe did the letters-to-corporations thing pretty well a few years ago, but Overqualified is a different beast: a collection of (one assumes) unsent cover letters to a variety of businesses, from I.B.M. to Greenpeace, each one more honest and blunt than the last. Overqualified is funny, but its underlying (and sometimes overlying) subject matter concerning a dead brother makes it sad as well.
• Drop-In, by Dave Lapp (Conundrum, 2008; $17). It’s hard to know how a book about working with underprivileged kids will read and how it will be received. Drop-In is uncomfortable, a bit naïve, and brutally honest. And it works. Dave is finally getting his due, and Taddle Creek couldn’t be happier for him.
All Our Grandfathers Are Ghosts, by Pasha Malla (Snare, 2008; $10). This book of poetry got little play, overshadowed by Pasha’s short story collection, The Withdrawal Method, which is too bad, because it’s actually one of the funnier, better, collections of poetry Taddle Creek has seen in some time.
The Man Game, by Lee Henderson (Viking, 2008; $32). There are a number of clichés Taddle Creek could use to describe this full-length debut, and they’d all be valid. The Man Game is a triumphant page-turning tour de force that Taddle Creek could not put down. This story of a former vaudevillian who recruits two down-on-their-luck lumberjacks in 1886 to help her invent an artistic new sport is the kind of first novel that sets the standard for debut novels.
• The Show That Smells, by Derek McCormack (ECW, 2008; $19.95). What better way to kick off the Halloween installment of this column than with a scary new book by Derek McCormack, this issue’s guest editor. Derek has out-gayed himself again with this companion volume to 2003’s The Haunted Hillbilly. The gussied-up cowboys and vampires so prevalent in that book are this time joined by images of Coco Chanel, Vogue magazine, and more fashion-world jargon than you can shake a runway at. The scariest thing about Derek’s work is that it isn’t read by every last person—living, dead, or undead alike. It’s been a pleasure, Derek. Associate editor Daley says he can’t wait to work on a Christmas-themed issue with you.
The Killing Circle, by Andrew Pyper (Doubleday, 2008; $29.95). Another excellent book for the Halloween season. Andrew has written a page-turner of a thriller, about a serial killer who appears to be targeting the members of an amateur writing circle. Taddle Creek can’t think of a better place to scout for murder victims. As some advance reviews for this book have pointed out, Andrew doesn’t always get the respect he deserves, straddling genres and taking brave chances with plot. Well, count Taddle Creek as a fan. Its respect for Andrew’s work oozes like worms from a rotting grave.
• I.V. Lounge Nights, edited by Alex Boyd and Myna Wallin (Tightrope, 2008; $21.95). (Hmm. Not much of a Halloween angle here except for having “night” in the title, and that’s when Halloween takes place. Good enough.) For Taddle Creek’s money, the I.V. Lounge Reading Series was far and away the best reading series in town during its ten years of existence. Unfortunately, since this book was published, the owner of the I.V. Lounge has closed the bar, and the reading series is no more. But how many other series had such longevity and spawned not just one, but now two anthologies? The end of the I.V. Lounge Reading Series is a major loss to the Toronto literary scene, and Taddle Creek tips its hat to the host Alex Boyd and his predecessor, Paul Vermeersch, the series’ founder, who gave everyone a reason to go out on Friday night.
The Red Element, by Catherine Graham (Insomniac, 2008; $11.95). Taddle Creek was hoping, given its title, that this was a book about blood. It’s not, but it’s still a lovely collection, with a bit of a focus on childhood, and contains a poem called “His Birthday Falls on Halloween,” so Catherine gets a pass.
Dead Cars in Managua, by Stuart Ross (DC Books, 2008; $16.95). Ah ... another book about death, even if it’s just cars. This book feels a bit different from most of Stu’s books. Taddle Creek hates to say it has a more serious tone, because not all of Stuart’s work is funny by any means. But something about this collection is even more serious, more grave than his previous serious work. The title section’s inspiration—a series of trips to Nicaragua, both during and post Sandinista rule—certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s nice to see Stu continuing to search for fresh subject matter this far into his career.
• Revolver, by Kevin Connolly (Anansi, 2008; $18.95). (Revolvers? Very scary.) What’s the deal with Mclusky? Kevin and his better half, the author Gil Adamson, both have mentioned the band in recent work, including in this excellent new collection of poems. What’s Taddle Creek missing out on here? Anyone?
• Troubled, by R. M. Vaughan (Coach House, 2008; $16.95). What Troubled lacks in Halloween scariness, it more than makes up for in real world scariness. This tale of a psychiatrist-patient relationship gone horribly wrong is a freakin’ nightmare!
• What If Red Ran Out, by Katia Grubisic (Goose Lane, 2008; $17.95). Another book not about blood ... But that’s O.K., because Taddle Creek enjoyed the launch of this book simply to death. It was held in the Hart House Library, minutes from Taddle Creek World Headquarters, so the magazine did not have far to go. Plus, the room has exactly the kind of old-school Agatha Christie–style stuffiness Taddle Creek so loves for a book launch. The readings began fairly promptly, and Ms. Grubisic was in fine form, as was her co-launchee, Naomi Lewis. Speeches were at a minimum, and Taddle Creek was home within an hour, door to door. Best. Launch. Ever.
Taking the Stairs, by John Stiles (Nightwood, 2008; $21.95). Taddle Creek almost thought it wasn’t going to be able to make a cheesy Halloween joke about the title of this one, but then it realized taking the stairs is exactly what all the slutty soon-to-be-dead girls do in slasher movies! Perfect. Following two collections of poetry, Taking the Stairs is Stiles’ first novel since 2001’s The Insolent Boy, and it’s a very interesting, seemingly personal work. It’s nice to have John back on the page, even if he personally remains a continent away.
An Orphan’s Song: Ben Walker Sings Stuart Ross (CD), by Ben Walker (Peak/Proper Tales, 2008; $15). Ben Walker really must love Stuart Ross’s work because, unless you’re Leonard Cohen, releasing a CD of poetry set to music is a commercially risky venture, to say the least. But it’s obvious there’s much love in this collection of tunes appropriated (with a bit of editing) from four of Stu’s small-press poetry collections, with the U.K.-based Walker lending not only vocals but also acting as a one-man band. Stuart often seems perplexed when people say they find some of his surreal poetry funny. Well, funny a lot of it is, and many of the poems are even funnier when set to music. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Ron Padgett” is pure genius. No. 1 with a silver bullet.
GreenTOpia: Towards a Sustainable Toronto, edited by Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio, and Jonny Dovercourt (Coach House, 2007; $24.95). If only the planet could keep itself from dying the way Coach House’s uTOpia series has. This third volume in as many years focuses on that latest of crazes: the environment. Remember back in the early nineties when the environment was all the rage? Whatever happened to that? Taddle Creek sincerely hopes things are taken more seriously this time around. Keeping Taddle Creek World Headquarters air-conditioned in the summer isn’t cheap.
• Long Story Short, by Elyse Friedman (Anansi, 2007; $29.95). Even though Elyse was kind enough to send Taddle Creek an advance reading copy of her latest collection of stories, the hugeness of this tenth anniversary issue prevented the magazine from getting very far into it before press time. But based on the stories it contains that originally appeared in these pages, and based on all the other fabulous books Elyse has written, Taddle Creek has no hesitation in recommending Long Story Short to its readers. And, more importantly, by talking about not having read the book, Taddle Creek has filled a paragraph’s worth of space.
• I, Tania, by Brian Joseph Davis (ECW, 2007; $19.95). I, Tania is a slim volume. With a few pages removed, it could easily be a lengthy short story. In any case, it’s a humourous, pop-culture aficionado’s dream, and equally as enjoyable as B.J.D.’s debut, Portable Altamont. Nice poster campaign too.
Pulpy and Midge, by Jessica Westhead (Coach House, 2007; $19.95). It seems Jessica Westhead has become one of those instantly famous authors. With, Taddle Creek believes, only a handful of zines to her name, she not only managed to pack the Gladstone Hotel ballroom for Pulpy and Midge’s September launch, but also to send her publishers scurrying back to the office for more books to sell before she even took to the stage. You go, girl.
• Therefore Repent!, by Jim Munroe and Salgood Sam (No Media Kings, 2007; $16). Good ol’ Jim has gone and written the comic-book equivalent of one of his novels. Jim has a knack for depicting somewhat depressing sci-fi futures, but the future presented in Therefore Repent! is quite possibly his most depressing to date, especially when mixed with the bleak, blue-grey tones of the artist Salgood Sam.
The Outlander, by Gil Adamson (Anansi, 2007; $29.95). Taddle Creek is usually a self-admitted non-fan of the period piece, especially those set in turn-of-the-century (last century) Canadian wilderness. At the same time, Taddle Creek’s previous exposure to Gil’s fiction was no more than the delightfully witty short story presented in these pages some issues ago. So the magazine didn’t know what to expect when it cracked open The Outlander. Taddle Creek may sometimes be glib with cliché praise, but it literally couldn’t put this book down. It is enjoyable from start to finish (thankfully, it actually has a laudable finish, something so many novels lack). Do pick up this book and see why the literary press was hinting it will be this year’s winner of everything before it even hit bookstores.
• Tell Your Sister, by Andrew Daley (Tightrope, 2007; $18.95). After ten years of publishing exclusively in Taddle Creek, Andrew is moving on with this, his debut novel. Taddle Creek remembers publishing Andrew’s first short story like it was yesterday. And though he strayed once and published a story in Kiss Machine, Taddle Creek gladly forgave him and welcomed him back. “Summerland,” “Sunken Treasure,” “Prosperity” ... so many fine stories. And now, Taddle Creek must share Andrew with the world. Don’t let the girly title fool you—Andrew’s book is manly to a big, manly T (yet also touching enough that sensitive types of both genders will enjoy it). Good luck, Andrew. Don’t forget Taddle Creek! Especially since you’re still on staff.
• I Cut My Finger, by Stuart Ross (Anvil, 2007; $15). After a lengthy gap since his last full-length collection of all-new material, Stuart Ross is back. Stu’s last couple of books looked good, but I Cut My Finger’s cover and overall design aesthetic truly capture the bizarre mood of Stuart Ross. A damn-fine book in every sense of the word. (If you buy it at This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, try to get a free Band-Aid out of them.)
• All in Together Girls, by Kate Sutherland (Thistledown, 2007; $12.95). Speaking of lengthy absences, Taddle Creek was but a gleam in a typesetter’s eye when Kate Sutherland last published a collection of short stories (1995’s Summer Reading). Is it any wonder she launched her book in conjunction with Stu? Which reminds Taddle Creek: Kate and Stu are running a fab reading series, called Fictitious. Young as it may be, in Taddle Creek’s opinion it’s already one of the finest series in town. (Free snacks!)
• Songs for the Dancing Chicken, by Emily Schultz (ECW, 2007; $16.95). Every once in a while a poetry collection comes along that makes Taddle Creek swoon, and this is certainly one of them. In part a love letter to alleviate Emily’s mad crush on the filmmaker Werner Herzog, Songs for the Dancing Chicken is a delight, from its charming smaller-than-a-45 size to its groovy cover still from Herzog’s Stroszek (Taddle Creek really wants to rent office space in that town). What’s not to love about a guy obsessed with midgets who hypnotizes his actors, Taddle Creek asks?
• Making Bones Walk, by Alex Boyd (Luna, 2007; $15). Taddle Creek has a soft spot for Alex, given that he not only appeared in the magazine’s debut issue, but is in fact the author of the very first piece of fiction ever to grace its pages. (The only articles that came before it were Alfred Holden’s fine essay on Taddle Creek—the creek, not the journal—and a very bizarre editor’s note that future historians of the magazine should most certainly ignore.) But none of that clouds Taddle Creek’s judgment when it says rush out and buy this debut collection by the host of the I.V. Lounge, Toronto’s best reading series. (Nothing against Fictitious. It’s great too. Again: free snacks.)
The State of the Arts: Living with Culture in Toronto, edited by Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio, and Jonny Dovercourt (Coach House, 2006; $24.95). Even though no Taddle Creek staff members were involved in this, the second volume of Coach House’s uTOpia series, there are still plenty of interesting things to read and look at within its pages. Whereas the first volume of uTOpia was a general Toronto love-in, this follow-up focuses specifically on the city’s arts scene. As with the original, not every essay contained within is equally solid, but the editors have wisely made sure their contributors run the gamut on what defines art in twenty-first-century Toronto. Taddle Creek’s personal faves: Kate Carraway’s “The Secret Capitalist,” and the second-last panel of Brian McLachlan’s illustrated “$5,” which frighteningly reminds the magazine of a certain art director it knows: Pay full price for once in your life, cheapskate!
• Good Meat, by Dani Couture (Pedlar, 2006; $20). Pedlar publishes such nice books, and Dani’s is one of its nicest-looking yet. You just can’t beat a duotone cover for Taddle Creek’s money. Unfortunately, this collection doesn’t include the magazine’s favourite poem of Dani’s, “Dawn of the Dead, Revisited,” originally published in these pages. One might argue that a poem about a zombie movie doesn’t fit with a book of food-based poems. Hello? Zombies eat brains. Is that any more sickening than the poem “Mystery Meat,” included in this collection? Taddle Creek thinks not. More zombies, please.
Types of Canadian Women, Volume II, by K. I. Press (Gaspereau, 2006; $19.95). K. I. Press’s books just keep getting cooler. Types of Canadian Women, Volume II is more of a response to the 1903 Volume 1 than a long overdue follow-up. Whereas the first book was an illustrated biographical dictionary of notable Canadian women of the day, Press’s book collects poems inspired by the “boring” original. The collection is presented with a good-natured sense of humour about itself and its subject matter, something especially refreshing in the world of poetry. Taddle Creek anxiously awaits Volume 3.
• You Speak to Me in Trees, by Elana Wolff (Guernica, 2006; $15). Elana Wolff keeps a low profile, but she’s extremely consistent in both her output and her quality, and this, her third collection of poems, is as delightful as the others, if not more so. It’s not always easy to find Guernica books, so if your local bookseller doesn’t have this one in stock, tell them to reorder Guernica No. 151.
• Technicolored, by Jason Guriel (Exile, 2006; $14.95). Given this book’s film theme, Taddle Creek was sure zombies were going to show up at some point, but, alas, Jason is more a fan of the arty classics. That said, if you like old-school Hollywood, you’ll like this collection—even if you don’t like poetry.
• A Thousand Profane Pieces, by Myna Wallin (Tightrope, 2006; $14.95). An early Taddle Creek contributor, from the magazine’s Annex years, Myna Wallin has been churning out the chapbooks for some time now. Here at last, her début collection—a sexy new book of poems from a sexy new publishing house.
• The Uninvited Guest, by John Degen (Nightwood, 2006; $20.95). John Degen swore up and down this wasn’t a book about hockey. Given the hockey-heavy excerpt Taddle Creek ran two issues back, the magazine simply didn’t believe him. Upon reading the first few chapters of the book, Taddle Creek was sure it had caught John, if not in a lie, then in a serious case of denial. Long story short: if you keep reading, you’ll eventually see it’s really not a book about hockey. Who knew? Like Alex Boyd, whose début book of poems didn’t quite come out in time to get mentioned in this issue, John is a founding contributor of Taddle Creek who dabbled in prose many years ago. John went on to great success in the world of poetry—notably in his 2002 National Magazine Award nomination for a poem appearing in a certain literary journal of some renown. But here he has returned to the world of fiction. Taddle Creek is thankful for this, otherwise this entire column would be about nothing but poetry, and the magazine often has a hard time coming up with funny things to say about poetry collections. (This time around was especially trying. Thankfully it had that flash about zombies.) A side note: Taddle Creek’s records show that John now stands alone as having made the most contributions to the magazine in its nine-plus years. But don’t get too comfy, John Degen—Stuart Ross, Paul Vermeersch, Elana Wolff, and Chris Chambers are all only one submission behind, and the magazine has it on good authority that Chambers is after your crown.
Joyland, by Emily Schultz (ECW, 2006; $24.95). As the legendary Gene Shalit might say, it was a joy to read Joyland. The dark mood of Emily’s debut novel is offset by lots and lots of fun references to classic eighties arcade games. The only way the book could be better would be if an entire chapter had been devoted to Mr. Do! Oh, the hours Taddle Creek spent in Andrew Gordon’s basement playing Mr. Do! on the Colecovision. At least there’s a chapter named after Venture. (Hmm, Taddle Creek just went and looked Mr. Do! up on-line, and it now looks kind of dull. How can that be?)
• Creamsicle Stick Shivs, by John Stiles (Insomniac, 2006; $11.95). Taddle Creek originally thought this book was about video games too, given the mention of Dig Dug four pages in, but it turns out Stiles was talking about actual digging. Taddle Creek should have known. At least the book includes a nice balance of poems set in Stiles’ new home of London. (Mr. Do! was kind of a Dig Dug rip off, wasn’t it? What a stupid game. Damn it! All those wasted hours!)
• Apostrophe, by Bill Kennedy and Darren Wershler-Henry (ECW, 2006; $19.95). Jiminy Cricket, don’t even try to read this book in one sitting. Taddle Creek recommends no more than ten pages at a time. Every “automated poem” within Apostrophe is the literary equivalent of one of those 3-D art posters (though less of a sham—Taddle Creek has never actually seen a clear picture in one of those damn things). If you have a coffee table, put it there and pick it up every so often. If you don’t have a coffee table, pick one up while you’re out at the bookstore buying Apostrophe.
• Liar, by Lynn Crosbie (Anansi, 2006; $18.95). Reading this hundred-and-forty-page breakup poem, you’ll both feel you lived through Crosbie’s relationship and be glad you didn’t. The whole thing sounds quite awful. But Lynn and her unidentified (!) ex’s misery is the reader’s gain, as the book really is a fascinating read. Don’t listen to Quill & Quire. Self-indulgence rocks. Just look at all that blathering about Mr. Do!, above. That’s good stuff.
The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting, by Darren Wershler-Henry (M. & S., 2005; $29.99). Before reading this book, Taddle Creek thought it loved typewriters—those wonderful pieces of machinery that, like the dial telephone, no one under the age of twenty-five understands how to use anymore. Turns out Taddle Creek only kind of likes typewriters. Although, the magazine did come away amazed and baffled at just how much time, energy, and money have been spent over the years trying to get monkeys to type. Cure cancer already. Everyone knows monkeys are good for two things: smoking and roller skating.
Frogments from the Frag Pool, by Gary Barwin and Derek Beaulieu (Mercury, 2005; $17.95). As much as Taddle Creek loves Gary Barwin, it recommends this book with slight hesitation, for no other reason than that it includes a multitude of shaped poetry, something the magazine usually finds quite icky and distasteful. It’s pretty much all shaped poetry, in fact. At least there’s not a poem in the shape of an apple formed from the letters a-p-p-l-e, with a w-o-r-m coming out of the top. Taddle Creek really hates that one. No, Frogments from the Frag Pool is pure Gary (half of it anyway), and a book fans of his work should enjoy.
Blind Crescent, by Michelle Berry (Penguin, 2005; $22). Taddle Creek is glad to see moving to Peterborough hasn’t drained all the life out of Michelle Berry. Her latest novel, about a group of neighbours living in a cul-de-sac, is quite enthralling. The magazine is embarrassed to admit it didn’t even hear about its being published last year. It took Michelle’s return to the magazine’s pages in this issue for Taddle Creek to discover this modern masterpiece. More time at the bookstore, less time searching Coleco fan sites, Taddle Creek guesses.
Christmas Days, by Derek McCormack (Anansi, 2005; $24.95). Taddle Creek literally had to chase Derek McCormack down Bloor Street to get him to finish fact-checking the lost chapter to Christmas Days found in this issue. Derek called Taddle Creek all kinds of names and swore he’d never write for the magazine again, though the magazine is sure he was at least half kidding. That said, Taddle Creek didn’t actually get to see this book before press time. But it saw the galleys and read some passages and is convinced the finished product is (by now) another feather in Derek’s big feathery cap. (Don’t stop loving Taddle Creek, Derek.) Derek’s first non-fiction book—a reminiscence of Christmastime in Canada, from the country’s very early days on up—is also quite amazingly illustrated by Seth, Taddle Creek’s second-favourite illustrator, after Ian Phillips. Why can’t every book be like Christmas Days?
Faux, by Derek McCormack (Pas de Chance, 2005; $25). Speaking of Ian Phillips, he and Derek have collaborated on this Christmas Days side project in their own special way, namely a handmade glittery clay snowball that, when broken, reveals a Cracker Jack–prize-size twenty-eight–page booklet featuring a slightly altered version of Christmas Days’ chapter on fake snow. If you thought asbestos was dangerous before, you’ll develop a whole new fear after reading this book. Be sure to buy two: one to break and one to keep.
Utopia: Towards a New Toronto, edited by Jason McBride and Alana Wilcox (Coach House, 2005; $22.95). Even though this collection is edited by the two-time Taddle Creek contributor Alana Wilcox and friend of the magazine Jason McBride, Taddle Creek must admit its big reason for recommending this book is the chapter written by the magazine’s editor-in-chief—a conversation with Taddle Creek’s resident essayist, Alfred Holden. Which isn’t to say that this collection of fine essays on Toronto revitalization by a big group of city lovers isn’t great for a number of other reasons. It’s a big Toronto love-in, and there’s nothing Taddle Creek loves in more than Toronto. (A side note: the book’s title is actually uTOpia—get it?—but Taddle Creek refuses to start a sentence with a lower-case letter, so following Coach House’s style would have resulted in this paragraph starting with the word “UTOpia,” and that’s just wrong.)
• Showbiz, by Jason Anderson (ECW, 2005; $18.95). Taddle Creek declares the September launch of Showbiz the book launch of 2005. Though it was another of those Pages This is Not a Reading Series things—which, following an uncomfortable introduction by Marc Glassman, always somehow manages to involve people reading—Jason and co-launchee Brian Joseph Davis (Portable Altamont, Coach House—also recommended) delighted the crowd by—yes!—not reading, opting instead to discuss Buffy fan fiction and the quarter-century transformation of Burt Reynolds’ face. Jason also discussed and played snippets from Showbiz’s inspirations: the comedian Vaughn Meader and the reluctant pop group the Shaggs. A nerdfest supreme. Stuart Berman was onstage, too.
• Gutted, by Evie Christie (ECW, 2005; $16.95). A lovely poetry debut from Evie Christie, with tales of love, lust, vice, small towns, and jerky travel companions who don’t know when to shut the hell up and who should probably apologize.
• Iron-on Constellations, by Emily Pohl-Weary (Tightrope, 2005; $12.95). Non-fiction, anthology, fiction, and now poetry—Emily Pohl-Weary conquers yet another literary style with this, her fourth book in as many genres. And all while publishing a small magazine to boot. Is there no stopping her? No, there is not. Go ahead, try to stop her. You can’t do it. What’s next, children’s literature? Taddle Creek wouldn’t be surprised. Another flawlessly copy-edited book by Ms. Pohl-Weary.
Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer, by Stuart Ross (Anvil, 2005; $16). Someone’s a Gloomy Gus (or a Sad Stuart in this case). This collection of Stu’s Hunkamooga columns, originally published in Word, should serve as a horrifying lesson for anyone under the age oftwenty thinking about throwing away a promising career to become a writer: even the most successful small-press authors end up embittered and angry after twenty-five years in the biz. At least ol’ Stu still has a sense of humour about it all. And thank God someone finally said something about Insomniac Press’s typos—a major pet peeve of Taddle Creek’s. Speaking of Word, what’s the deal with turning it into an on-line–only monthly? Taddle Creek wants to get its listings on the street, damn it!
• I Should Never Have Fired the Sentinel, by Jennifer LoveGrove (ECW, 2005; $16.95). Taddle Creek misses Jen’s pirate poetry, but her new stuff more than makes up for the loss. The Beauty Killer Poems section is especially entertaining/disturbing. If you like high-school proms, hockey, and bad office politics, you’ll love this book.
Funeral, by Ian Phillips (Pas de Chance, 2005; $25). The Ian Phillips lovefest continues. Funeral is another of Ian’s stream-of-consciousness picture-and-texture books, made up entirely of material found in a dead neighbour’s garage. Delightful, as always.
The City (CD), by Fembots (Paper Bag, 2005; $15). Keep your Dearses and your Broken Social Scenes—Fembots are the true kings of Canadian indie rock. The group’s third album is by far its best—Taddle Creek would go so far as to call it the local (and perhaps beyond) album of the year—with a sound more traditional than the band’s previous efforts, yet still unmistakably Fembots. If hit records were actually based on talent and not ability to dress like a whore, “My Life in the Funeral Service” would be No. 1. The City is the Fembots album that finally makes Taddle Creek cease to lament the absence of Teddy Ruxpin from the group’s live shows.
• Drift, by Kevin Connolly (Anansi, 2005; $16.95). Reading this delightfully amusing collection makes Taddle Creek sad that Kevin Connolly only gives the magazine a poem once every five years. Sigh. Get to know Kevin Connolly! He’s profiled elsewhere in this issue. Then track down his E-mail (with a capital E) address and tell him how much you’d love to see more of his work in Taddle Creek.
Sweetness in the Belly, by Camilla Gibb (Doubleday, 2005; $32.95). Taddle Creek will refrain from any humorous remarks surrounding this book, as its subject matter—the life story of an Ethiopian woman torn by political upheaval in both her native land and her adoptive home of London, and the hardship and loss she endures—is quite serious and the result of many years’ work on Ms. Gibb’s part. Fans of Camilla Gibb seem to agree Sweetness in the Belly is her strongest work to date.
• Between the Walls, by Paul Vermeersch (M. & S., 2005; $17.99). Paul Vermeersch’s poetry finally gets the big-press treatment with this, his third collection. Taddle Creek admits it was a bit worried to see Pauly leave ECW for M. & S., but everything seems to have turned out just fine, as this is simply an excellent collection. And my, how he enthralled the collected mass at his launch party. (Though Taddle Creek would like to point out that, while Paul complains every summer that the Jet Fuel is too far to go for the magazine’s summer launch party of free beer and food, his launch party was at the Dora Keogh, which is much, much further east, and Taddle Creek didn’t complain once.)
The Program, by Hal Niedzviecki (Random House, 2005; $29.95). My, how Taddle Creek has been enjoying Hal Niedzviecki’s fiction of late. His previous novel, Ditch, despite some passages being written in E-mail form, which the magazine finds a bit too gimmicky, was simply a delight. Word on the street is Hal will be refraining from publishing non-fiction books (which have been outnumbering his fictional ones of late) for a while and focusing on his fiction. Nothing against his last book, but Taddle Creek would trade ten Hello, I’m Specials for another of Hal’s fine novels any day. Thankfully, at least he seems to be putting his work on that Cyborg book he ghostwrote for Steve Mann to good use in The Program. Pick it up and find out how.
Ticknor, by Sheila Heti (Anansi, 2005; $19.95). Taddle Creek couldn’t help but have a chuckle when University of Toronto Magazine printed an interview with Sheila Heti earlier this year mentioning she was leaving town for a secret location, only to have Eye nonchalantly reveal weeks later the she was moving to Montreal, no secret implied. Oh, University of Toronto Magazine....(Oh yes—Ticknor’s a cute little book. And it’s only a hundred and nine pages, so if you don’t like it, no time lost.)
• Surreal Estate, edited by Stuart Ross (Mercury, 2004; $17.95). Not one for extended readings, when Taddle Creek arrived at the launch party for Surreal Estate and found out it would feature readings by virtually every one of the book’s thirteen contributing poets, it tried to crawl out the window, before being stopped by the fact the party was on the second storey. But hot damn, what a party! The magazine can’t recall a more enjoyable evening of readings. If you missed it—and shame on you if you did—redeem yourself by rushing out and picking up this collection immediately. If all poetry were surrealist, Taddle Creek firmly believes the genre as a whole wouldn’t have such a bad rap.
A Girl Like Sugar, by Emily Pohl-Weary (McGilligan, 2004; $22.95). A Girl Like Sugar’s protagonist, Sugar Jones, has sex with a ghost several times during the course of this story. Thankfully, there’s nary a pottery wheel to be found, which makes the sex a lot hotter than in that Patrick Swayze movie. Emily Pohl-Weary actually makes sex with a dead person seem cute, as only she could. A tale of girl-power life-awakening, Sugar’s charm is matched only by its damn fine copy-editing.
• Doctor Weep and Other Strange Teeth, by Gary Barwin (Mercury, 2004; $16.95). That Gary Barwin’s one crazy mofo. Mickey Mouse heart surgery? A talking Sigmund Freud action figure? How does he come up with this stuff? Doctor Weep and Other Strange Teeth is, as it rightfully says on its back cover, both comic and magical. So it’s really two books in one.
Proof of a Tongue, by Sandra Alland (McGilligan, 2004; $16.95). Although Taddle Creek was disappointed to see that this book doesn’t include that poem Sandra reads about all the evil words that start with “man-,” it enjoyed her debut collection of poetry nonetheless. And such nice glossy paper! If you get the chance to hear Sandra read from this book, check it out. It’s entertaining stuff.
Fatal Distraction, by Sonja Ahlers (Insomniac, 2004; $21.95). Ah, to be a fly on the inside of Sonja Ahlers’ mind. Hmm, maybe that could be better phrased. Be that as it may, Ahlers seems an interesting girl, to say the least. Fatal Distraction is her long-awaited follow-up to 1998’s Temper, Temper and contains even more strange thoughts, witticisms, clip art, and line drawings, often in the form of those adorable, disturbed-looking bunnies. Interesting indeed.
• Ruined Stars, by R. M. Vaughan (ECW, 2004; $16.95). If it’s ... a day of the week, it must be time for another R. M. Vaughan book. Seriously, this guy gives Hal Niedzviecki’s output a run for its money. (Take a lesson, Derek McCormack!) R.’s lucky he’s so damn funny (not to mention a natty dresser). The “Performance Poems” section is a riot, especially “7 Steps to a Better Artist Statement.” It’s about time someone said it. The book is marred (no pun intended) only by the misspelling of Morrissey’s name on page seventy-two. (But if you didn’t get the potential pun, you probably didn’t notice the misspelling either.)
• Spine, by K. I. Press (Gaspereau, 2004; $18.95). A simply stunning book of poetry, in both content and design, K. I. Press’s second collection, Spine, is even more accomplished and enjoyable than her first. Along with a mix of “girly” fixations, such as Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, there are several poems dedicated to—if you can believe it—typography. This is the book of poetry Taddle Creek has been waiting its whole life for.
Hello, I’m Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity, by Hal Niedzviecki (Penguin, 2004; $25). Hal Niedzviecki—the real Naomi Klein—has an early mid-life crisis all over the pages of Hello, I’m Special, a look at the fall (i.e., public acceptance) of the non-conformist. Unlike Klein’s second book (what was it called again?), Hello, I’m Special isn’t a rehashing of Niedzviecki’s first alt-culture textbook, 2000’s We Want Some Too, nor should it necessarily be considered a follow-up. Hello, I’m Special breaks new ground for Niedzviecki, who examines how the mass market co-opted his easygoing slacker image, leaving him a man out of time.
An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil, by Jim Munroe (No Media Kings, 2004; $20). Jim Munroe takes a detour—though not too far—from the world of sci-fi in his latest novel, An Opening Act of Unspeakable Evil, the tale of two roommates caught up in a trilogy of horror: the occult, heavy metal, and go-go dancing. Most frightening of all, the story is spit like fire through a hell mouth via the embodiment of true terror: a personal blog. (Evil!)
Here Is My Street, This Tree I Planted, by Jonathan Bennett (ECW, 2004; $16.95). Jonathan Bennett’s poetry debut, Here Is My Street, This Tree I Planted, invokes a striking poetic language in constructing the urban and natural landscapes of Canadian and Australian culture. Bennett roots his reader firmly in location in order to explore familiar themes of displacement, identity, and “home.” The transition of locale offers further considerations of these constructs as shifting esoteric spaces we occupy. Beyond the lyrical language, regard for form, and cultural insight of this collection is the humour, tragedy, and aesthetic triumph that furnish both everyday life and good poetry.
Drinking Songs, by Elissa Joy (Pas de Chance, 2004; $15). With titles like “On the Eve of My Divorce,” “I Thought You Might Be the Father of My Children,” and “Wench,” the poems in Drinking Songs quickly live up to the collection’s name, evoking the hurtin’ songs of a Johnny Cash or a Loretta Lynn. The poems themselves are only vaguely hurtin’, written in Elissa Joy’s usual sparse style—not that that’s a bad thing by any means. One is tempted to say Joy is long overdue for a major collection, but it’s doubtful a bigger press would do her work the justice Pas de Chance does with its always original and intriguing designs.
• The Way of the Whore, by Tamara Faith Berger (Gutter, 2004; $17.95). Tamara Faith Berger’s second novel, The Way of the Whore, compels, challenges, and titillates through a modern retelling of the story of Mary of Egypt. Part porn, part tale of strength and survival, The Way of the Whore immerses the reader in the life of Mira, a smart girl blessed with major sexuality, who finds her own way in a world of strip clubs and johns.
• Meet Me in the Parking Lot, by Alexandra Leggat (Insomniac, 2004; $19.95). Alexandra Leggat’s latest collection of short stories, Meet Me in the Parking Lot, is a richly compelling book linked by the thematic use of the automobile. Yet the car in these stories is more than just metaphor—it is also setting, character, and narrative force, driving a chilling and psychologically unsettling set of tales that examine troubled humans making troubled choices. Expectations in Meet Me in the Parking Lot are twisted, and twisted gracefully, by a redemptive voice.
Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Mutants, Slayers and Freaks, edited by Emily Pohl-Weary (Sumach, 2004; $26.95). In Girls Who Bite Back, contributors such as Mariko Tamaki, Sonja Ahlers, and Eliza Griffiths take turns defining, analyzing representations of, and teaching girls how to be superheroes. A consistently thoughtful treatment of the subject matter makes this a good read, particularly if you’ve ever watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and thought, “Wow, I love this show, but it would be so much better if ...”
Beginning of Was, by Ania Szado (Penguin, 2004; $24). A beautifully written and richly textured debut novel, Ania Szado’s Beginning of Was follows Marta Fett, a young woman who flees her small-town Ontario home following the deaths of her husband and daughter, to find she can only deal with her grief by facing it head-on instead of running away.
• Mask, by Elana Wolff (Guernica, 2003; $12). In Mask, her second collection of poetry, Elana Wolff creates both an homage and a response to the work of the Berlin-born artist Charlotte Salomon. Wolff combines elements of her own life experiences with those of Salomon to create an evocative, thought-provoking collection.
Sub Rosa, by Stan Rogal and Jacquie Jacobs (Wolsak & Wynn, 2003; $20). A collaboration of lyrical poems by Stan Rogal matched with—and inspired by—a series of abstract paintings by Jacquie Jacobs, Sub Rosa can be viewed as an interesting experiment: what meaning does a poet cull from an artistic work without knowing the artist’s intent?
The Monster Trilogy, by R. M. Vaughan (Coach House, 2003; $16.95). The ever-prolific, genre-bouncing R. M. Vaughan returns to the theatre with this collection of three plays, originally produced between 1996 and 2002. In The Susan Smith Tapes, Vaughan riffs on the public’s obsession with unwarranted celeb-rity. A Visitation by Saint Teresa of Avila upon Constable Margaret Chance examines a middle-aged police officer obsessed with race, bloodlines, and genetic determinism. Finally, Dead Teenagers is a monologue told by a reverend addicted to funerals for murdered children.
Spells, by R. M. Vaughan (ECW, 2003; $19.95). Poor Andy Loch. Instead of being that sexy outsider, he’s the fat, pimply kid reviled and feared by the people of his hometown. Motherless and hating his father and his life, he turns, like any young angst-filled teen, to witchcraft. R. M. Vaughan immerses the reader in the world of the occult, while writing about the adolescent search for identity. Filled with gross-out images like severed heads, bilious, blue vomit, and sudden death, Spells may seem like a genre book, but it’s really about growing up and being misunderstood.
• The Haunted Hillbilly, by Derek McCormack (ECW, 2003; $18.95). After years of obsessing over cowboys, country music, and monsters in the short story form, Derek McCormack makes his novel debut with The Haunted Hillbilly, a humourous—and fictitious—retelling of the quick rise and fall of the singer Hank Williams. Unlike the real Williams, McCormack’s anti-hero meets his end at the hands of Nudie, a gay vampire rodeo tailor obsessed with Hank’s perfect ass. A lengthy tale by McCormack standards, but an all-too brief-read for fans of his sparse, witty prose.
• Verandah People, by Jonathan Bennett (Raincoast, 2003; $19.95). Jonathan Bennett follows his 2001 debut novel, After Battersea Park, with a collection of loosely connected short stories of Australia’s “verandah people.” Unlike their derogatorily named North American counterparts, the porch monkeys (or honkies), Bennett’s characters use their shelters as “a retreat from hostile bushland or city street and a seductive barrier to participation in the wider world.”
• Hey, Crumbling Balcony!, by Stuart Ross (ECW , 2003; $24.95). Available at last in one collection: the best of Stuart Ross! All of Ross’s hits from his three ECW books (Razovsky at Peace, Farmer Gloomy’s New Hybrid, The Inspiration Cha-Cha), along with long-lost works from twenty-five years of self-published chapbooks, postcards, and leaflets. Plus—twenty-eight all-new bonus poems, never before available! Order today! ... But seriously—if anyone deserves a retrospective anthology, it’s Stuart Ross. The lengthy afterword detailing Ross’s career from his teen years to the present day is worth the cover price alone and, on top of that, a quarter of this collection is new work, making it, as they say, a “must-have.”
Dislocations in Crystal, by Michael Boughn (Coach House, 2003; $16.95). That Dislocations in Crystal is sprinkled with quotations from the likes of William Blake, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Samuel Beckett suggests that Michael Boughn is a poet rooted in the traditional. While this is true to a large degree, he also isn’t afraid to reference such modern topics as Mr. Potato Head, Star Trek, or Wal-Mart. The result is a thought-provoking, deeply intense read that can alternate between the serious and the humourous (or sometimes both at once).
Missing Children, by Lynn Crosbie (M. & S., 2003; $16.99). Missing Children is a daring and innovative collection of new poems by the controversial author of Paul’s Case and VillainElle. Here, Lynn Crosbie creates a bold fusion of genres by taking traditional elements of the novel—dialogue, plot, and description—and weaving them through a series of narratively linked poems. Centring on a man and a woman obsessively drawn to each other, Missing Children unfolds around a forbidden relationship and a series of letters, written by the protagonist, to the parents of missing children. Infused with psychological insight, rich in culture iconography, and written in spare, clear language, Missing Children takes us to the mortal fringes of society and challenges us to judge what we find. Crosbie breaks new stylistic and dramatic ground in this compelling, original collection. (From the book jacket.)
The Original Canadian City Dweller’s Almanac, by Hal Niedzviecki and Darren Wershler-Henry (Viking, 2002; $25). As the title suggests, The Original Canadian City Dweller’s Almanac is a guidebook to the hip and happening in Canada’s biggest cities, from Adbusters to Moses Znaimer. Learn the difference between Saint John and St. John’s, find out whatever happened to your favourite Degrassi kid, and discover how using an A.T.M. can potentially kill you. Best of all, you can read an interview with Taddle Creek’s own Alfred Holden.
• Please, by Peter Darbyshire (Raincoast, 2002; $21.95). Please examines the day-to-day minutia of a young man’s lackadaisical life. Obsessed with the loss of his ex-wife to the point that his days become almost dreamlike, he encounters many absurd people and situations. Peter Darbyshire’s skillful writing, however, keeps the story believable, without losing any of its sharpness or humour.
Scouts are Cancelled, by John Stiles (Insomniac, 2002; $9.95). John Stiles’s look at life in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley might be considered offensive if it wasn’t so dead-on. An examination of the life of a farm community corrupted by a greedy developer, Stiles’s poems are presented in a regional dialect that is humourous yet frighteningly accurate. While the full effect of Stiles’s poems can only be felt by hearing him read in his equally unique manner, Scouts are Cancelled remains thoroughly enjoyable.
• Excessive Love Prostheses, by Margaret Christakos (Coach House, 2002; $16.95). The jacket copy for Excessive Love Prostheses claims the book “takes the confessional lyric poem and runs it through Kathy Acker’s Cuisinart,” which turns out to be a very accurate statement. Margaret Christakos’s fourth collection of poems runs the stylistic gamut from fiction-formatted pieces to traditional poems, from bizarre lists to works that consist of only a single letter. It’s also one of the most visually attractive books of poetry in years.
Small Town Murder Scene (CD), by FemBots (Independent, 2002; $14). If Harry Smith had made his field recordings of folk-roots murder ballads sometime in the future rather than the past, it may have sounded like Small Town Murder Scene. The FemBots’ sophomore disc is a twisted, jerry-rigged assemblage of deconstructed country blues, built upon a guitar and keyboard base. From the opening screams of what sounds like an analogue robot trapped in a toy shop, to the fading of the “Outro,” these songs are strung together with an assortment of hisses, ticks, sirens, clipped phone messages, and other found-sound fuckery.
The Petty Details of So-and-so’s Life, by Camilla Gibb (Doubleday, 2002; $32.95). Camilla Gibb’s much-anticipated second novel chronicles the turbulent lives of Emma and Blue Taylor, the children of dysfunctional parents. Simultaneously heartbreaking, hilarious, and grotesque, The Petty Details of So-and-so’s Life explores the emotional terrain of Emma and Blue’s separate adolescent lives through to their respective adulthoods, as they struggle to redeem and fully discover themselves. Hard-core and vulnerable, Blue obsessively seeks his awol father, while bookish Emma continually reinvents herself.
Lost: Lost and Found Pet Posters from Around the World, by Ian Phillips (Princeton Architectural, 2002; $24.95). Dogs, cats, birds, cows, ferrets, rabbits, hamsters, and snakes—they’re all here in this collection of handmade lost pet posters, some funny, some sad, some bizarre. With Lost, Ian Phillips’s unique hobby, which he perfected in several earlier collections through his small press, Pas de Chance, finally gets the big press treatment it deserves.
The Notebooks, edited by Michelle Berry and Natalee Caple (Anchor, 2002; $25.95). This insightful and dynamic anthology of diverse contemporary Canadian authors pairs a piece of fiction, whether a polished story or an excerpt from a work-in-progress, with a generous in-depth interview. For readers, The Notebooks offers a fascinating window into the writers’ creative processes, as well as the various issues, hurdles, triumphs, and influences that comprise the writer and the writing. For writers, The Notebooks is an invaluable resource to learn from and be inspired by.
Everyone In Silico, by Jim Munroe (No Media Kings, 2002; $20). Jim Munroe’s latest and most skilled novel is a futuristic race through corporatized Vancouver, set in the year 2036. In order to prolong youth, people with money can upgrade to newer, better, virtual selves. People with no credit are left behind. The bizarrely interrelated characters include an aging marketer, an octogenarian assassin, and a genetic artist. Everyone In Silico is a romp through underground culture and the superficial—if not emotional—things that make people tick.
Happyland, by Kevin Connolly (ECW, 2002; $15.95). Kevin Connolly’s exhilarating second collection of poetry balances the cerebral and the sensory with startlingly inventive imagery and juxtapositions. His poems are disturbing and disruptive, yet beautiful and redemptive, particularly those in the book’s middle section, “Midnight on the Moon.” Happyland is distinctly contemporary, referencing a range of pop culture and world events with wit, menace, and beauty. While Happyland is a challenging read, its levels of meaning will impact repeatedly.
The Dagger Between Her Teeth, by Jennifer LoveGrove (ECW, 2002; $15.95). Images shoot through your mind like a burning cannonball: female pirates with a flair for killing kitchen maids and keelhauling; biblical heroes Lilith and Judith conducting bloody births and murders; crazed children running amok in the wilds of small-town Southern Ontario. An incredible debut poetry collection, visceral and sexy. It will leave you reeling like you’ve drunk a bottle of wine and smoked a hundred cigarettes.
• The Fat Kid, by Paul Vermeersch (ECW, 2002; $15.95). In his second collection of poetry, Paul Vermeersch tackles an issue normally reserved for women—unhealthy body image—from a male point of view. What could be an uncomfortable read from another author, The Fat Kid is entertaining and thought provoking, thanks to Vermeersch’s trademark style of intertwined humour and sadness.
Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, by Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary (Between the Lines, 2002; $29.95). Better to Have Loved isn’t a complete account of the world of science fiction writing in the second half of the twentieth century—nor is it meant to be. It’s the account of a life, and a fascinating one at that. Judith Merril’s autobiography comes across just as those familiar with her and her work might expect: frank, brash, opinionated, and painfully—refreshingly—honest. Better to Have Loved is not just about science fiction, but also politics, society, family, friendship, love, and motherhood, making it an entertaining and interesting read for both sci-fi and non-sci-fi fans alike.
• Killing Things, by John Degen (Pedlar, 2002; $19.95). John Degen’s beautiful collection of urban poetry shows the big city as more than the sum of its stereotypical parts. Degen’s Toronto isn’t just busy streets filled with cars, concrete, and workaholics; it’s also rain, bicycles, mist, dogs, holding hands, and stealing kisses. Killing Things is a departure from Degen’s first collection, Animal Life in Bucharest, but just as enjoyable, if not more.
• 13, by Mary-Lou Zeitoun (Porcupine’s Quill, 2002; $14.95). According to Marnie Harmon’s mother, she is nothing but “miserable.” But trying to find her way through the Ottawa suburbs in 1980 is hard for the thirteen-year-old Marnie—her parents don’t understand her, she’s growing apart from her friends, and her teachers are sexual predators. One could say Mary-Lou Zeitoun’s coming-of-age story is a girl’s version of Catcher in the Rye, but it’s much more fun than Salinger’s magnum opus. Within pages, Zeitoun’s zippy and conversational style draws you into Marnie’s mind and world.
Blur, by Michelle Berry (Random House, 2002; $32.95). Berry follows her debut, What We All Want, with Blur, a cunning neo-noir embrace of celebrity culture and broken dreams. Tired of writing profiles of boy bands and starlets, Bruce Dermott, a down-at-the-heels entertainment journalist, stumbles across lost Hollywood legend Emma Fine, a screen siren whose star set with the discovery of her lover floating face down in her swimming pool. Digging into old case files, Dermott slowly pieces together the tragic story.
The Nightingales, by Patricia Seaman (Coach House, 2002; $18.95). It’s summer, 1989, and as an insufferable heat stalks the city of Toronto, Julie and Alex fall madly in friendship. Alex wants nothing more than languorous nights of gin, pool-hall confidences, and loyalty, but Julie wants something else—love. Enter Luc. Sexy misadventures and labyrinthine passions scorch the night as Julie looks for life in all the wrong places. Entangled in Alex’s affections and jealousies, Julie’s innocence becomes a luxury she can’t afford. Sensual and textured, The Nightingales hits the jackpot on the ante of the female heart. (From the book jacket.)
Black Coffee Night, by Emily Schultz (Insomniac, 2002; $19.95). A postscript to the 1990s, Emily Schultz’s stories feature male and female narrators exploring issues of fidelity and sexuality, the meaning of art, love and work. In the eleven stories that make up Black Coffee Night, a small-town superhero puts on his female counterpart’s costume, the midnight Laundromat beauty queen ages as surely as her sweaters collect more dog hair, and the little red-haired girl leaves before you can tell her you love her. Twin sisters look at life from the sidelines of the soccer field, and the future prom queen is deflowered two years before the twelfth-grade formal, while the rest of the characters desperately search for dance partners for “Stairway to Heaven.” Black Coffee Night is a gritty, sexy and urbane collection that marks the appearance of an exciting and original voice in Canadian fiction. (From the book jacket.)
Raising Eyebrows, by Gary Barwin (Coach House, 2001; $16.95). The surrealist antics of Gary Barwin will run the predictability of your universe through a particle accelerator. Watch as your right eyebrow turns into you as a child. Watch Jeff connect the mower to the internet to cut other people’s lawns. Hear the sploosh as Barwin drops some extra syllables in Basho’s frog pond. Raising Eyebrows is divided into four mind-boggling sections—dirty dogs, my life in the salad spinner, Ukiah poems: frogments from the frag pond, and bassoon throng blues. Raising Eyebrows will make you do just that. (From the book jacket.)
After Battersea Park, by Jonathan Bennett (Raincoast, 2001; $21.95). In a twist on the twins-separated-at-birth story, After Battersea Park narrates the lives of twenty-seven-year-old brothers Curt and William, the former a jazz musician living in Sydney, the latter a visual artist in Toronto. The brothers, unknown to each other yet leading parallel lives haunted by the absence and the need for escape, are drawn inexorably toward a reunion after a suicide begins to unravel the identity of their true parents and the wrenching events in London’s Battersea Park twenty-three years earlier. (From the book jacket.)
Lie With Me, by Tamara Faith Berger (Gutter, 2001; $18.95). An unnamed woman narrates her lust and shame. Unnamed men describe their erotic encounters with her from their unique perspectives. Like Teiresias, the blind seer who has been both man and woman, the reader experiences both sides of her dizzying story—a pure howl of ecstasy and pain, a rhapsodic examination of the love in degradation and the hatred in desire, and a parody of the pornographic imagination that informs it. One part Jean Genet, one part Molly Bloom, one part Penthouse Forum, Lie With Me is ultimately a love story. (From promotional material.)
Postcard Fictions, painting by Andrew Valko with fiction by Michelle Berry (Key Porter, 2001; $35). Since the nineteen-thirties, the friendly glow of a neon motel “Vacancy” sign has signaled a long anticipated break for the road-weary motorist. The essential aim of the motel is to provide convenient, comfortable, and affordable accommodation for exhausted travellers. Yet despite their image as places of wholesome reliability, run by proprietors of strong moral fibre—with a courtesy bible in each room—motels have earned a reputation as the venue of choice for people seeking a discreet rendezvous. With advertisements declaring the availability of “hourly rates,” J. Edgar Hoover, in 1940, labelled motels as “dens of vice and corruption.” In Postcard Fictions, Andrew Valko captures this seamier side of motel life in vivid detail. In this series of paintings, hyper-realistic images of motels glow and beckon eerily from the side of the highway. In Valko’s motel rooms, people are engaged in various solitary activities: a scantily clad woman watches TV while her companion sleeps; another woman takes nude pictures of herself, scattering Polaroids all over the bed; still another sits in her lingerie with her back to the viewer as she watches Snow White on the TV. A disturbing psychological undercurrent inhabits Valko’s motels both inside and out. The alienation and loneliness of Valko’s paintings is captured strikingly in the accompanying short story by Michelle Berry. Known for her complex psychological narratives, Berry weaves a disturbing tale of two motel inhabitants that captures the unsettling events of life at the side of the highway. (From the book jacket.)
Tell It Slant, by Beth Follett (Coach House, 2001; $17.95). Nora and Robin in Montreal? So right it seems obvious when Beth Follett operates this tour de force in her stunning novel. Follett’s projection of Djuna Barnes’s tragic lesbian duo from Nightwood’s Paris streets is sexy, intriguing, and wiser than any first novel should be. Her unmistakably Canadian couple traces a drunken vortex of passion and longing and betrayal in a borrowed plot decked out in a writing style and a take on love that does not pretend to be from anywhere but here. The language is taut and the sex is over the top and there are some of the best winter scenes I have read anywhere. —Gail Scott, from the book jacket.
• The Middle Stories, by Sheila Heti (Anansi, 2001; $24.95). Part Dorothy Parker, part José Saramago, with shades of George Orwell, Sheila Heti’s debut short fiction collection balances wisdom and innocence, joy and foreboding. Each story leads to surprising places and yields unexpected discoveries. (From the book jacket.)
Pull Gently, Tear Here, by Alexandra Leggat (Insomniac, 2001; $19.95). Alexandra Leggat’s first collection of short stories. In these short tales about fitting in, the lives of the characters are pulled in circles as pieces of their identity are torn away by the day-to-day events shaping their lives. Written in a rich poetic style that resonates with a warmth and meaning, Pull Gently, Tear Here allows the reader to peer into the quiet desperation of the characters as they try to keep their lives together. (From the book jacket.)
Western Suit, by Derek McCormack (Pas de Chance, 2001; $20). Yet another to-die-for collaboration from author Derek McCormack and bookmaker Ian Phillips, rivalled only by the duo’s previous Pas de Chance book, Halloween Suite. Packaged as a sewing pattern envelope for a cowboy shirt, the package includes not only an excellent excerpt from McCormack’s novel-in-progress, The Haunted Hillbilly, but an actual shirt pattern and instructions, designed by Phillips. A must-have for any lover of fiction and art.
The Cottage Builder’s Letter, by George Murray (M. & S., 2001; $16.99). With The Cottage Builder’s Letter, George Murray constructs his remarkable stories-in-song around challenges in the lives of people claiming their right to exist in a world seemingly set against them. Highly crafted, generous in tone, and always with a moral authority, The Cottage Builder’s Letter tackles the larger historical issues of Murray’s own Irish background by creating heroes of well-storied, fictional characters such as a nameless Muskoka cottage builder, the singular Seamus Me Fein (Seamus myself), and his parents and his grandparents, vaulting their hard luck and hard work into poetry driven by bardic rhythms. Murray reinvigorates traditional rhythms the same way he surprises us by creating fresh figures from old tales. Whether his subject is a modern-day Damocles, a drowning man waiting for Noah, an Egyptian on the Red Sea, or the Cassandra myth updated to contemporary urban scenes, Murray’s poetry bursts with a protean vigour. (From the book jacket.)
Ditch, by Hal Niedzviecki (Random House, 2001; $24.95). Part love story, part road trip, part cyber-thriller, this intense and original novel explores coming of age in a digital millennium. Ditch is a subversive, compelling portrait of a young man’s plunge into adulthood, set in Toronto, Buffalo, and the suburbs of Maryland. Hal Neidzviecki’s prose quickly dumps you into the head of Ditch, awkward, aimless, endearing—still living with his mom, driving a delivery van to get by—and into the rather more complicated mind, E-mail diary, and Web site of a young runaway who moves into the upstairs apartment. Ditch is a sudden stumble into an instantly recognizable, constantly shifting, unforgettable world where everything happens through the filters of memory and modems. (From the book jacket.)
Pale Red Footprints, by K. I. Press (Pedlar, 2001; $18.95). K. I. Press’s debut collection is loosely based on the memoirs of her grandfather, the material within both interpreted and found, translated from the original French.
• Razovsky at Peace, by Stuart Ross (ECW, 2001; $15.95). In his third major collection of poetry, Stuart Ross blazes new and surprising paths. While Razovsky at Peace showcases Ross’s trademark humour, surrealism, and absurdist take on the banal, it also enters darker, more raw territory. While once again challenging our perception of suburbia, capitalism, and hamburgers, his trembling characters now stumble awkwardly into litter-strewn rural landscapes, emotional rapture, and even terrified, unadvisable love. Accessible, conservational, and tragic-slapstick, Ross’s poems appeal even to people who hate poetry. (From the book jacket.)
Cheez 100, by Fiona Smyth (Pedlar, 2001, $25). The long-overdue debut collection from one of Toronto’s favourite artists, Cheez 100 collects the first 100 strips of Fiona Smyth’s long-running Exclaim! comic.
The Insolent Boy, by John Stiles (Insomniac, 2001; $19.95). What if Anne Shirley, the sweet heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novels, was born in 1970 and decided to join a rock band? Stiles’s wonderful first novel answers these questions, in a manner of speaking. Selwyn Davis begins his eventful life in rural Nova Scotia, an orphan raised by an eccentric minister and his kindly wife. Selwyn manages to conquer childhood, only to go through his high-school years as a misfit. He then falls in love, moves to Vancouver, joins a rock band, tours Europe, and eventually makes his way back to Canada. John Stiles’s prose charms with its ability to describe small-town characters and big-city slicksters alike, with brilliant deadpan wit. His dialogue rings with truth that stays with the reader long after putting the book down. This is a Canadian odyssey with a likeable hero. (From the book jacket.)
• The IV Lounge Reader, edited by Paul Vermeersch (Insomniac, 2001; $19.95). A showcase of new work by thirty-nine of the nearly two hundred authors and poets who performed during the IV Lounge Reading Series’s first three years, helping to make it Toronto’s finest reading series. The book is a broad mix of styles, including work from Lynn Crosbie to Camilla Gibb to Dennis Lee to Derek McCormack to Bill Bissett.
Poor Tom Is Cold, by Maureen Jennings (St. Martin’s, 2001; $23.95). In this third novel, Maureen Jennings once again shows her familiarity with daily life in Victorian Toronto. Whether it is by describing a tooth extraction; the unquestioning prejudice toward the few Chinese immigrants, or the well-intentioned, but bizarre, treatment of mentally ill women, she is able to bring the period vividly to life. (From the book jacket.)
Birdheart, by Elana Wolff (Guernica, 2001; $10). Tracing a summer’s trip across Canada from Toronto to the West Coast and back, this collection of poems can be read like a subtly unfolding narrative. Examined individually, the poems illuminate doubt, loss, and beauty. Though the pieces are short, they assemble a melody of shared summer memories. (From the book jacket.)
Awful Gestures, by Adrienne Weiss (Insomniac, 2001; $9.95). Awful Gestures is a true collision of technical expertise and grace. It is a classically lyrical, deeply subjective examination of the randomness of beauty from a voice sharpened against the edges of love, fear and yearning. Although the poems are largely consecrated in the everyday, their themes transcend the barriers of place. In Awful Gestures, the poet references a strange, scintillant gallery of things and images, the “glitter and waste” from the sacred to the profane—from an aquamarine dress and a cavalier bartender, to the ruins of romance and a horrific revelation at the Anne Frankuis. (From the book jacket.)
Camera, Woman, by R. M. Vaughan (Coach House, 2000; $17.95). “There are no lost women, only women who’ve forgotten their scripts.” R. M. Vaughan’s play about Hollywood director Dorothy Arzner comes off the stage and onto the page. An insightful look at the gender politics behind the cameras and studios of the golden age of cinema. (From the book jacket.)
• The Green Room, by Moe Berg (Gutter, 2000; $16.95). A collection of short stories dealing primarily with urban failures. These are men and women who have been damaged and find themselves without the skills to negotiate their way through the world they have been placed in. Sometimes they are, figuratively speaking, eaten by wolves. More often, they are the architects of their demise through bad decisions and bad attitudes. There is redemption for some of the characters. Other times we are left watching them fall into the hole they have dug for themselves. It is funny and sad and most should be able to identify with the characters. (From the book jacket.)
Charisma, by Margaret Christakos (Pedlar, 2000; $20.95). A mad whirligig of a novel, Charisma is Altmanesque. Margaret Christakos reminds us again and again that what we call love (oh, and hate, too) is a language—a curly, sometimes thorny shorthand of breathing spaces, double takes, blood rushes, musical marks in the air. Anyone who has a heart will enjoy this book, anyone with a head will cherish it. —R. M. Vaughan, from the book jacket.
• Animal Life in Bucharest, by John Degen (Pedlar, 2000; $14.95). Free of cynicism, the poems of John Degen’s debut collection feel old-fashioned. They speak of the wideness of the wide world in an age when we are led to believe the world is shrinking. Striking images in new landscapes observed with a photographer’s eye, these poems make the mind ring. (From the book jacket.)
This is Me Since Yesterday, by Alexandra Leggat (Coach House, 2000; $15). Alexandra Leggat, the author of Moondogging and numerous book and music reviews, puts on the page the remarkable texts that she is renowned for performing at spoken word events all over Toronto. (From the book jacket.)
Angry Young Spaceman, by Jim Munroe (No Media Kings, 2000; $20). Sam’s going to another planet to teach English, where he hopes to earn enough creds to pay off his student loan and maybe buy a jetpack. He’s not entirely comfortable with spreading the English virus, but it beats working for the powerbrokers on earth, and Octavia is a dreamy underwater planet populated by eight-armed beings. Against the colourful backdrop of kitsch science fiction, this novel entwines U.F.O.s with S.T.D.s, androids with androgyny, and youth culture with culture shock. Leave your millennial angst behind—blast off to 2959. (From the book jacket.)
We Want Some Too, by Hal Niedzviecki (Penguin, 2000; $25). In We Want Some Too, alternative culture guru Hal Niedzviecki takes us on a tour of a world inhabited by slackers with bad jobs—a generation for whom cultural expression is central to identity. Never before have so many young people been involved in the consumption, production, and interpretation of culture. Niedzviecki shatters preconceptions of what culture means at the end of the twentieth century and leads a provocative attack on those who believe that art is for the professionals and television is for the rest of us. From punk jazz and performance art to pirate radio and culture jamming, Niedzviecki unearths the underground, making sense of the barbarians massing at the gates of high art and predicting the death of mass culture. What emerges is a smart, funny, accessible—and ultimately uneasy—portrait of the TV generation, and of the millennial youth culture that has been born out of collapsing values, rising tuition fees, and fragmented families. At last, a book that tells the true story of the cultural revolution, redemption, and participation at the heart of the twentieth century. (From the book jacket.)
This Is A Book, by Ian Phillips (Pas de Chance, 2000; $6.50). Another fine collection of found paper-matter from Ian Phillips, including letters, posters, and drawings, along with a bizarre series of notes written on Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation stationary.
• Burn, by Paul Vermeersch (ECW, 2000; $14.95). Burn is an arresting debut. It starts with reports from the war zone of childhood, where casualties are brutal, and merely to bear plainspoken witness stands as an indictment of how the world is. The pain and rage behind these unsparing poems is palpable. As Paul Vermeersch moves on to explore family history and early manhood, his vision continues to sear. But we also hear stories of courage, compassion, and nurture by elders—along with strains of a more freewheeling music, which deepen the emotional truth of these dispatches. Burn is the real thing. —Dennis Lee, from the book jacket.
The Tapeworm Foundry, by Darren Wershler-Henry (Anansi, 2000; $14.95). A remarkable sequence of performance commands, proper nouns, propositions, and productions. Linking them together, a funky new conjunction: one that reimagines bissett’s “am/or” to suggest a variable state of inclusion and choice of exclusion. His cultural reference range rivals that of contemporaries Judith Goldmann and Brian Kim Stefans for breadth. An intelligent “andor” powerful work. (From the book jacket.)
• A Grammar of Endings, by Alana Wilcox (Mercury, 2000; $17.95). A beautiful, passionate fall into helpless love, a love letter to a man whose presence fills the air, the light, and the narrator’s surroundings. Lost pleasures torment her, and only the order of words aids her in finding a way to grieve the man who is gone, and to begin to love another. (From the book jacket.)
• Lake Where No One Swims, by Chris Chambers (Pedlar, 1999; $18.50). Chris Chambers knows the constant inner commentary with which we dramatize our lives; these loopy yarns are among my favourite pieces in the book. He also knows how the heart yearns for what it can scarcely name, and how we keep scanning times gone by for vital meanings. He’s given us a savvy, warm-hearted account of growing up as the twentieth century sputtered to a close. —Dennis Lee, from the book jacket.
Mouthing the Words, by Camilla Gibb (Pedlar, 1999; $21.95). Mouthing the Words presents a surprising voice full of wit, intelligence, and courage. Camilla Gibb offers hoped-for insight into the world of a child, with a great deal that is funny, angry, and important to say. —Jane Rule, from the book jacket.
Lurvy: A Farmer’s Almanac, by Hal Niedzviecki (Coach House, 1999; $16.95). Charlotte the spider, Wilbur the pig, Fern and Avery ... and Lurvy, the hired hand. They and all the other characters from the timeless children’s classic that you remember so well are back, in Hal Niedzviecki’s first novel. A caveat: there have been some rather significant changes in social mores since the first appearance of these jolly folk. Parents of small children may view this book as a refreshingly frank opportunity to instruct their young ones on the subjects of lust, death, despair, neurosis, and other unfortunate but very real facts of life. (From the book jacket.)
• Wish Book: A Catalogue of Stories, by Derek McCormack (Gutter, 1999; $15.95). No other form of amusement has ever been devised that appeals as strongly to the public and raises the excitement to the highest pitch as Wish Book. Popular and fascinating, this book is a high-class article, not a cheap junky affair. A varied collection of the best and latest rube jokes, tramp stories, monologues, funny sayings, etc., Wish Book will attract and hold the reader, and is far more popular than the ordinary book. Order today. This book makes a hit anywhere. A very good souvenir or favour. Always a big seller. Always popular. Collapsible. The author of this successful book is one of the most prolific writers of his generation. (From the book jacket.)
Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask, by Jim Munroe (HarperCollins, 1999; $19.50). Ryan is a university student dealing with the normal problems of a twenty-two-year-old guy—shyness, virginity, weird roommates, and a massive crush on Cassandra, a waitress at his local greasy spoon. (Oh, and a freakish ability to change into a fly.) When he finally gets up the nerve to ask Cassandra for a date, he learns that the two have more in common than they first thought. (Turns out that Cassandra can make things disappear.) Sharing their secrets for the first time, Ryan and Cassandra realize they were made for each other ... and to battle forces of evil! Inspired by Sailor Moon, they team up to fight the villains in their own backyard, taking on cigarette barons, right-wing newspapers, and the overzealous local police. But can the Superheroes for Social Justice transform the world in time? (From the book jacket.)
Farmer Gloomy’s New Hybrid, by Stuart Ross (ECW, 1999; $14.95). In his second major collection of poems, Stuart Ross hones his surrealistic pen to a sharp and dangerous point. The world of Farmer Gloomy’s New Hybrid is one of darkly comic transmutations, wild fights of paranoia, and the occasional refreshing flash of pure bliss. Ross’s energy and unsettling humour imbue this volume, whether he’s writing about the apocalypse at a drive-in cinema, a runaway shopping mall that seeks refuge in a small boy’s bedroom, a tourist in Central America who finds his fate in a bowl of murky soup, or a man who transforms into a cartoon mouse before a job interview. (From the book jacket.)
New Motor Queen City, by Patricia Seaman (Coach House, 1999; $19.95). A shocking stitching of American cultural icons, crude language ... drug culture and promiscuous sex with hard-core feminist theory and writerly dilemmas. —Beehive magazine, from the book jacket.
Invisible to Predators, by R. M. Vaughan (ECW, 1999; $14.95). This personal, intimate collection charts R. M. Vaughan’s two poetic obsessions—quiet, formal confessional poems, and exuberant, mischievous performances pieces. With works dedicated to old boyfriends and one-night stands, French Revolution dictators and Hollywood character actors, an old pair of jeans and a bag of potato chips, Invisible to Predators is a vibrant new collection that dodges, disrupts, and disturbs. (From the book jacket.)
Summer Gone, by David Macfarlane (Knopf, 1999; $32.95). Summer Gone is about that moment when everything stops. Like skilled canoeists, we briefly hold a perfect balance—poised between innocence and experience, life and death, discovery and loss, the promise of spring and the sadness of autumn—and we believe, foolishly, that those perfect days will last forever. Set among the islands and lakes of “cottage country,” this first novel explores the stories of three generations of lost summers. But Summer Gone is primarily the story of a divorced father and a young son separated by the silence of estrangement, and how during one extraordinary night on an ill-fated canoe trip the silence is broken. Yet, as the novel unfolds, tragedy looms over father and son in ways they could never have imagined, and leads to the book’s gripping and startling conclusion. (From the book jacket.)
Temper, Temper, by Sonja Ahlers (Insomniac, 1998; $18.99). With the fearsome eloquence of a shark, Sonja Ahlers prowls the buried regions of art and culture, distressing what is integral and arcane. This unprecedented graphic novel is a fierce, plangent grace note from the underground, the gorgeous and enthralling site of Ahlers’ madly original, purely compelling romance with words and image, the poetics of meaning. (From the book jacket.)
A Quilted Heart, by R. M. Vaughan (Insomniac, 1998; $18.99). When Marsh Cole’s body is found in Samson Brindle’s pool, who’s to blame? Was it suicide, or the vengeful ghost of Sylvian Oulette? A Quilted Heart is the story of three neurotic gay men who fall in love and proceed to torture each other to death—a twisted fable about love, jealousy, murder, and talking back from the grave. (From the book jacket.)
Under the Dragon’s Tail, by Maureen Jennings (St. Martin’s, 1998; $29.95). Women rich and poor came to her, desperate and in dire need of discretion. And though Dolly Merishaw tended to their unfortunate circumstances in secret, her contempt and greed bred nothing but fear and loathing in the hearts of her clients. So it’s no shock to Detective William Murdoch when this malicious woman is murdered. What is a surprise, though, is the young boy found dead in Dolly’s squalid kitchen a week after her demise. Now, Murdoch isn’t sure if he’s hunting one murderer or two. (From the book jacket.)
Wild Mouse, by Derek McCormack and Chris Chambers (Pedlar, 1998; $15.50). A unique collaboration of fiction and poetry by Derek McCormack and Chris Chambers, respectively, exploring the duo’s obsession with carnivals and the gritty romance and freakishness within. Lavishly illustrated with early-twentieth-century photographs of the Canadian National Exhibition, Wild Mouse is one of Pedlar Press’s early classics.
Halloween Suite, by Derek McCormack (Pas de Chance, 1998; $20). The first sizable collaboration between Derek McCormack and bookmaker-illustrator Ian Phillips, Halloween Suite is not only incredibly entertaining any time of the year, but is also possibly the most beautiful book ever made. Words simply don’t do it justice. Buy this book.
Concrete Forest, edited by Hal Niedzviecki (M. & S., 1998; $19.99). In this groundbreaking fiction anthology, the reader will confront the energy and alienation of urban life in all its multiplicity. Encompassing the work of both the pioneers of new urban fiction and an up-and-coming generation of explosive young talents, Concrete Forest is the first collection to explore the poignant immediacies of today’s urban Canadian experience. The result is a tribute to possibility. Includes work by Julie Doucet, Elise Levine, Derek McCormack, and Daniel Richler. (From the book jacket.)
• Smell It, by Hal Niedzviecki (Coach House, 1998; $35). Whimsical, despairing, blisteringly funny, and tragically honest, this collection captures the redundancies and idiosyncrasies of a disenfranchised generation without ever sacrificing the authenticity of the author’s highly personal vision. Exploring the emptiness, desperation, and alienation of desire, Smell It is visceral short fiction that lances the boil of urban life and sticks its nose right up to what oozes out. (From the book jacket.)
A Selection of Dazzling Scarves, by R. M. Vaughan (ECW, 1997; $12). A Selection of Dazzling Scarves is a provocative first collection from one of Canada’s most exciting and controversial emerging writers. Weaving together narratives of love, loss, and anger, R. M. Vaughan draws a politically blunt but linguistically playful portrait of a young gay man’s coming of age. Romantic and erotic, stylized yet truthful, Vaughan’s skillful mixture of confessional and experimental styles creates a passion-charged poetry. (From the book jacket.)
Except the Dying, by Maureen Jennings (St. Martin’s, 1997; $31). Maureen Jennings has written a stunning first mystery. Her voice is unique, her prose is haunting. The richly evocative setting of nineteenth-century Toronto and the exceptionally well-drawn characters remain with the reader long after the book is closed. Jennings’s outstanding addition to the historical mystery field deserves a large audience. —Miriam Grace Monfredo, from the book jacket.
Henry Kafka and Other Stories, by Stuart Ross (Mercury, 1997; $15.50). Stuart Ross follows a path cut by both Gogol and Henry’s namesake, Franz. Edged by humour, these twenty-four stories fearlessly explore the essential, delicate strangeness of being human. (From the book jacket.)
Stupid Boys Are Good To Relax With, by Susan Swan (Somerville, 1996; $24.95). Susan Swan’s book subverts the assumption that it’s only the long partnerships that shape our lives. Instead, she suggests that random encounters often define us in ways we least suspect and point us, for better or worse, in new directions. Populated with characters from age thirteen to ninety-three, these are women and men struggling to master their romantic destiny. In a world where the old rules of sexual conduct have left everyone floundering, the pleasures of intermission are not to be underestimated. (From the book jacket.)
The Inspiration Cha-Cha, by Stuart Ross (ECW, 1996; $12). A child is born with the ears of a rabbit. A serial killer’s home becomes a tourist attraction. A hot-dog vendor awaits the Pope at Paralysis Beach. The Inspiration Cha-Cha is the first major collection of poetry by a longtime veteran of Toronto’s literary underground. The surreal world of Stuart Ross is populated by psychic surfers, Shakespearian apes, vengeful dogs, and conspiratorial potatoes—all depicted in the language of overheard conversation. The Inspiration Cha-Cha is uproariously bleak, deceptively simple ... and thoroughly danceable. (From the book jacket.)
Dark Rides, by Derek McCormack (Gutter, 1996; $12.95). McCormack’s classic debut tells the tale of a gay teenager named Derek McCormack in small-town 1952 who is unable to express his secret sexual desires. Officially a novel, but easily read as a series of short stories, Dark Rides is bizarre, humourous, powerful, and entertaining—the perfect introduction and set-up to McCormack’s later work.