Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category

Set in and around “a small-town, subarctic dive bar,” The Pit is a superb debut. It’s a book of poetry that finds impressive focus in spare, precise language that leaves implied connections hanging in the air. A church key quietly carried around is a source of comfort and “secret to speed,” while working. In a poem about […]

I’m a little torn about horror. There’s something magical about the old Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff films, and I like the Hammer horror films that came later and were elevated by actors as credible as Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. But I discovered all that after growing up on a series of empty-feeling 1980s […]

I remember hearing the idea that the rise and continued popularity of video games is connected with current generations living under the shadow of nuclear annihilation.  The theory goes something like this: a generation that could have the rug pulled out from under it (at any time, no matter what they do) will eventually gravitate […]

Revised since publication in The Danforth Review, 2004. It’s a curious modern epidemic — and possibly something of an intellectual shortcut — to describe something new using several previously existing things, but despite that, I’ll say The Town that Forgot how to Breathe captures a distinct Canadian flavour but feels like it has dashes of Edgar Allan […]

Originally published in The Danforth Review, 2004. A butcher pulls himself from the grave every night, habitually serving the village he knows. A hanged man describes the moments after the event, not the moments leading up to it. A man separated from his wife becomes a crow and sits on a nearby tree watching her. […]

Originally published in The Danforth Review, 2002 The first sentence in How the Blessed Live stretches out like a cat: “Beyond a winding ribbon of sand, the water of English Bay supports mammoth bellies of cargo ships.” The first novel by Susannah M Smith is a carefully crafted book. Her main difficulty, as is the […]

Originally published in The Danforth Review, 2005. American writer Barry Yourgrau begins his stories as concisely as “I go to sea.  For various reasons, I fall overboard.”  His modern fables are sharp and amusing, but suffer a little from a kind of self-conscious cleverness.  Alayna Munce, in writing When I Was Young and In My […]

Essays by Jonathan Franzen Originally published in Books in Canada, 2002. In How To Be Alone, Jonathan Franzen begins with a title that, were it not for the addition of Essays, would sound like some kind of guide to anti-social behaviour.  But what Franzen wants is to be out of step in a world where […]

Originally published in The Danforth Review, 2006 Editor Kevin Smokler explains in his introduction to Bookmark Now that the voices behind these essays were encouraged as a response to Reading at Risk, a National Endowment for the Arts report that warned literary reading is in sharp decline in favour of the internet, TV and video […]

Originally published in The Danforth Review, 2007 Nobody can accuse Nick Horby of failing to be himself.  A collection of fourteen months of his essays from Believer magazine, The Polysyllabic Spree is honest, smart, and down to earth.  Every month he lists what he bought, what he read, and everymonth the list of what he […]