A middle-aged executive goes to Prague with his 18 year old daughter to finalize a real estate transaction. Whilst there he takes a “Kafka” walking tour of the old city. He shows up at the allotted time and, to his surprise finds himself alone with a beautiful young guide. They start walking. It feels like […]

We meet a familiar angst-ridden Russian early in the pages of Jakov Lind’s novel Landscape in Concrete: Dostoevsky’s Underground man surfaces in the guise of Gauthier Bachmann to here tread the desolate earth of the Ardennes during WW ll. No longer confined by inertia to his wretched little room, this protagonist is on the road […]

The best books, Somerset Maugham once quite rightly insisted, are enjoyable to read. By this measure, Arrival: The Story of CanLit is a virtuoso performance. It’s fun, not at all academic. It’s informative – many of the most important works in the Canadian canon are evaluated (all be it cursorily) – it’s also funny, well […]

Oh Grand and Glorious Southern Guru, I am perplexed. What ails thee, my pea-brained little grasshopper? My sleep has been short, my walls have been climbed, my hair has been pulled. I must know the difference between advertising and high art. Oh Great Creator, please give me the answer. Stir no longer, little vacuous one. […]

• What are the non-electronic precursors of book blogging? Short answer: anything that enabled the A) storage and/or B) sharing of ideas. A) Given that I call my site “a commonplace book blog”: “A place to quote, abridge, and commonplace passages of rhetorical, dialectic and factual interest, mix them with comment and reflection, and index […]

Little ducks and tadpoles render large life lessons in Richard Greene’s Governor-General’s Award-winning book of poetry Boxing the Compass. Ducks because of how, with Beckett, unbothered, “They paddle crazily among remnants Of winter, the mud and the rotted leaves, Casually insisting on what comes next” It’s the same casual, unbothered insistence found in Samuel Beckett’s […]

Literary tourism is nothing new. Socrates, who trekking out to Delphi a millennia or two ago looking for truth, could be called a literary tourist; the beardless young Greeks who went to book discussion circles to hear him denigrate the Gods could also be called literary tourists. As could those who attended gigs by Homer, […]

Jburlinson Charles Foran, Mordecai Richler was a person of notable contradictions: a Jew accused of being anti-Semitic; an ‘un-Canadian’ Canadian; a dutiful son who hated his mother. How do you think this kind of ‘definition by opposition’ played out in relation to Montreal, the city in which he grew up? His ardor for Montreal was, […]

When an accomplished poet tells you that he also builds boats, makes guitars, and catalogues micro-organisms it’s pretty hard not to want to connect the dots. But what if the poet tells you there are no lines to be drawn? Bruce Taylor lives with his wife and two teenaged children in a many-roomed wooden house […]

Too many academics have abandoned clarity and enthusiasm for cliquey obscurity Most readers of lit crit would doubtless agree that clear, persuasive, interesting writing is key. Why then are academics so intent on obfuscation? I recently found myself browsing and brooding over some early works by the literary critics Frank Kermode and Harold Bloom (Sense […]

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