First appeared in CNQ Magazine I went to Library and Archives Canada recently to do some research. Entering the building on Wellington Street in downtown Ottawa I was struck by how Soviet-like the place looked. Devoid of colour and joy, it seemed dead; absent of people, books, life; the grim closets that pass for exhibition […]

The literary tourist is a multi-colored bird. One species likes to visit places that help get them closer to characters or places found in novels. Another plays the pilgrim, paying respects to admired authors – contemplating in front of gravestones, touring childhood homes and museums, walking footpaths that inspired favorite poems. Others pay little mind […]

First appeared in Ontario Travel Magazine Literary Tourists are a hard breed to define. Some like to visit places that appear in novels, others to walk along the footpaths that inspired great poems. Some go on pilgrimages to honour their favorite authors. Others seek out the book itself. They go to rare book libraries and […]

The Pilgrim Reader, Combermere This oasis in the wilds of Eastern Ontario contains a great selection of books, old and newer, rare and popular. Particulary strong in religion. Instead of investing their money in the stock market, the owners built this store next to their home, and are very glad they did so. Book Bazaar, […]

First appeared in The Globe and Mail Opaque “sung therapy” is what, for the most part, played at the Alanis Morrisette concert I attended recently, save for when the hard, memorable edges of her early, affecting anthems jutted and rang out. During the long gaps between them, a weedless haze seemed to hang over me, […]

In a recent article entitled ‘Two Paths for the Novel’, Zadie Smith praises what requires criticism, and criticizes what deserves praise; erects straw men in order, simply, to blow them over, and presents arguments, which, when valid, are so for the wrong reasons. Her thinking is convoluted and self contradictory. Smith starts off her highly […]

Most of us, through a combination of personal experience, education and advice from others, cultivate and try to follow as best we can, a set of values, ‘final narratives,’ beliefs, or central convictions about politics, love, sex, money, religion beauty, justice…in order to live a life we deem worth living. Great works of literature, when […]

First appeared in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal The following is based on a series of separate audio interviews conducted with writers Rebecca Rosenblum, Nam Le and Anne Enright for The Biblio File, a radio program/podcast hosted by Nigel Beale. During each interview three people were in the room: the writer, the host, and Flannery […]

In literature vulgarity is preferable to nullity, just as grocer’s port is preferable to distilled water. — W. H. Auden In his recent book On Criticism, Noel Carroll informs us that the goal of criticism is to discover what is valuable and worthy of attention, and to provide compelling reasons why. Evaluation presupposes comparisons which […]

Last month I visited my brother in Cape Town. He put together the most amazing itinerary: the ‘big five’ in Kruger National Park, then, closer to town, lounging on the beach and watching the cold surf in Kleinmond, seafood on the sea shore in Hermanus, wine and escargot for the price back home of burgers […]