Category

Reviews

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Finding the Enemy: Plaza Requiem, by Martha Batíz

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Few happy endings take place in Plaza Requiem, the aptly titled short story collection by Mexican-Canadian author Martha Bátiz, recently published by Exile Editions, but a lucidity exists in Bátiz’s writing that buoys the reader through her most gruesome tales. Bátiz, a Mexican writer now living in Canada, is the author of several books in Spanish, both fiction and non-fiction. She now teaches at...

Portrait of an Invisible Artist: Transit by Rachel Cusk

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Only one book I read last year rivalled Rachel Cusk’s Transit, the sequel to her 2014 novel Outline. That other book was Outline. Transit won’t thrill everyone: it will enrage those expecting plot, and it may unsettle those expecting a straightforward depiction of family drama and self-discovery. But many will read it with the breathless exhilaration it deserves. Like Outline, Transit is a series...

The Geography of Desire – A review of Siren by Kateri Lanthier

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If you wanted to find a daughter abducted by a powerful man, you might need to cover a lot of territory. The earth mother Demeter gave wings to young women singers willing to search, but when they failed to find the man, she left them stuck on the rocks, singing to men who would be seduced. Kateri Lanthier’s second collection of poems, Siren, also covers a lot of territory, and although, like...

“Rosily I Will Squander Myself”: A Review of 3 Summers by Lisa Robertson

Bear with me while I tell you, briefly, about Epicureanism: a philosophy about a world without divine judgment, where nothing you are or do in your lifetime is anything more than what it is. This is a world without sin but also without transcendent meaning. There are definitely gods, as befitting an idea forged in ancient Greece, but there is no grand, God-given plan. Amanda Jo Goldstein calls...

Bromance Revisited: A Review of Fugue States, by Pasha Malla

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If there is one aspect of Pasha Malla’s new novel, Fugue States, that will linger in the mind long after you’ve finished the last page, it will be the book’s supremely rendered portrait of an obnoxious friend from the past. Have we all not had someone like this in our lives before? A person whom we’ve known for years, even decades, and maintained a relationship with out of a dyed-in-the-wool...

Nuannaarpoq: Thomas Wharton’s Every Blade of Grass

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

Bina Shah’s A Season for Martyrs

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

After the Prophet: Leigh Fondakowski’s Stories from Jonestown

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

Newfoundland Off the Map: Michael Crummey’s Sweetland

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

Geoffrey Farmer Makes Moore Dangerous Again

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

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

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

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

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