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The Proust Questionnaire, with Adam Nayman

Film critic Adam Nayman is the latest author to join ECW Press' Pop Classics imprint, which publishes books discussing why a particular pop phenomenon is worthy of further attention.

Adam's choice may seem like a surprising one for a film critic — his It Doesn't Suck: Showgirls is an examination of the surprising depths of one of the most expensive modern cinematic flops. Showgirls was the 1995 winner of the Razzie Award for Worst Picture, but in It Doesn't Suck, Adam takes readers on a surprise journey through the so-called trainwreck.

POP

Kimmy Beach knows her way around pop culture. She’s written books about James Cagney, Paul McCartney and, most recently, “The Last Temptation of Bond” where she delves into the world’s favourite secret agent’s sexual magnetism. More fingers are slid inside more women than in a Henry Miller novel. But just in case you mistake this for some kind of girls’ circle jerk, Bond’s women ultimately have the last word. When I mention that this is one of my favourite poetry books from last year, some of the looks I’ve received have been a combination of confusion and condescension.

PUZZLE

At the suggestion of a friend, I gave my students a Seamus Heaney poem, “A Personal Helicon,” cut up into a puzzle of words, running the gamut from eight “a’s” to one “you” and “your” apiece. Put together as Heaney had it, the poem told the story of a dry well discovered in childhood, ending with a dark metaphor that came equipped with a shiver. It’s such a clear, masterfully detailed poem that I didn’t have a clue how my students could make something new of it.

Open Book Recommends: Children's Poetry Books

April is National Poetry Month, presenting a perfect opportunity to introduce young readers to the world of Canadian poetry. Last week we shared a list of recommended poetry collections for adults and this week, we've put together a list of some excellent poetry for young readers.

Don't forget to visit our event pages at Open Book: Toronto and Open Book: Ontario to find National Poetry Month events happening throughout the month of April.

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Sonja Greckol

In Skein of Days (Pedlar Press), poet Sonja Greckol uses the lives of women in the 20th century as a narrative jumping off point for a collection that is by turns playful, moving and witty.

Today we speak with Sonja as part of our The WAR Series: Writers As Readers, which gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Sonja tells us about being terrified by poetry, the magic of cottage reading and the lessons she's learned from workshopping with writer friends.

Crime Writers of Canada Announces the Arthur Ellis Longlist for Best Novel

The Crime Writers of Canada have announced the Longlist for Best Novel in the 2014 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing.

The 2014 Best Novel Longlist is as follows:

John Brooke, Walls of a Mind (Signature Editions)
Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk, The Wolves of St. Peter's (HarperCollins Canada)
Sean Haldane, The Devil's Making (Stone Flower Press)
Lee Lamothe, Presto Variations (Dundurn Press)
Michael McCann, The Rainy Day Killer (Plaid Raccoon Press)

THE BEST WORDS

Sometimes I’m haunted by Coleridge’s nifty definition of a poem as the best words in their best order. If I try to say it quickly several times in a row, “order” starts to sound like “odour.” Sniff, sniff, this particular word stinks to high heavens, but that one smells like a rose after rain. A bit of fun, though the word “best” can become bothersome, the knowledge that somewhere out there looms the one and only word that will do. After awhile, you start not to trust language. “Seep” is a good word, for example, but isn’t “leach” even better. And what about “ooze?” Nothing is ever quite good enough. The possibility of a higher rung keeps me searching until I realize that I can’t get past the first word.

Video of the Week: Lawrence Hill on the Massey Lecture App

The Massey Lecture, which for 50 years has been a cornerstone of intellectual discussion in Canada, has tackled subjects as diverse as the environment, the global AIDS epidemic and the role of myth in history. Past lecturers include Jane Jacobs, Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing, Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood and Martin Luther King, Jr., amongst many other acclaimed intellectuals.

Now the Massey Lectures have even more to offer, with the development of the Massey Lectures iPad App, which offers nearly 200 hours of video and audio content, as well as additional text and image content, in one place. The app is available for free from the iTunes App Store.

IDEAS

I keep a list of things I think I want to write about. Back when the list was a more manageable size, I’d tackle my ideas at enough of a distance for me to have processed the simple stuff, the details, and to be ready to make new discoveries. But as ideas are known to do, they began to multiply. It could be years before I actually get to an idea. Writing a poem about Lou Reed’s death, for example, might have to wait so long that, for a moment, I’m liable to forget, not Lou Reed, of course, but the connection to him that I’d wanted to explore when I first wrote down the idea.

Oh, Suspense!

In some literary circles, "suspense" is a bad word. Some feel that rich language and interesting characters should be enough to engage a reader's attention, and those who need a little pep in their fiction are lowbrow types. While it’s all lovely to enjoy the poetry of the words and observe interesting characters, you are not serving your reader if you don’t offer at lest a nominal amount of suspense.
 
At its simplest, suspense is built when a character wants something, but a forces or circumstances impede his ability to achieve it. Will he or won't he succeed?

Video of the Week

Video of the Week: Lawrence Hill on the Massey Lecture App

The Massey Lecture, which for 50 years has been a cornerstone of intellectual discussion in Canada, has tackled subjects as diverse as the environment, the global AIDS epidemic and the role of myth in history. Past lecturers include Jane Jacobs, Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing, Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood and Martin Luther King, Jr., amongst many other acclaimed intellectuals.

Now the Massey Lectures have even more to offer, with the development of the Massey Lectures iPad App, which offers nearly 200 hours of video and audio content, as well as additional text and image content, in one place. The app is available for free from the iTunes App Store.

The Massey App was created by House of Anansi in co-operation with the CBC and Massey College, and with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation. The Massey Lectures iPad App was concepted, designed and developed by Critical Mass, a global digital marketing agency.

Award-winning author Lawrence Hill, the most recent lecturer in the series, introduces the app in this video. He praises the storied series saying, "The Massey Lectures series is so unique in so many ways. It's absolutely unbelievably rich and special and Canadian."

You can also see a video demonstration of the app in action on YouTube, courtesy of House of Anansi Press.

Writer In Residence

April 1, 2014 to May 1, 2014

Barry Dempster »

Barry Dempster, twice nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, is the author of fourteen poetry collections, two novels, two volumes of short stories and a children’s book.

Whazamo: May 1st to May 31st on Open Book: Toronto

Random reads

Come Like Shadows by Welwyn Wilton Katz

Come Like Shadows

Sixteen-year-old Kinny O'Neil thinks she's landed the job of a lifetime as the assistant to the director of a play at the famed Stratford Festival, but the dream rapidly becomes a nightmare.

Humber

Forest Reading Festival of Trees

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Poll

My Reading Resolution for 2014 is...: