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Bon Appetit: Food in CanLit

We all have our favourite food scenes from books and movies. Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega bonding over a $5 milkshake in Pulp Fiction. The poor lobsters in Annie Hall. Lady and the Tramp’s romantic spaghetti and meatball dinner. Butter beer and Cornish pasties in Harry Potter. Loretta telling Ronny how he’ll eat his steak in Moonstruck. Every single meal in Louise Penny's mysteries. Key lime pie and potatoes in Nora Ephron's Heartburn. The list is endless and adding to it is completely addictive. You could lose yourself for hours just by clicking on this link.
 
The best food writing defines characters and crystallizes their challenges and desires, allowing readers and viewers into a fictional world that is both familiar and surprising. When we “read food,” we automatically put ourselves into the scene and imagine how we would feel. Loved. Hated. Shocked. Enraptured. Pretty much any emotion can be summoned through food—and immediately, in very few words—if the writing is brilliant enough.

Food plays a key role in Trevor Cole’s Hope Makes Love. In the novel, the female protagonist, Hope, has suffered a terrible trauma. She is functional, but just, and fearful of intimacy. She meets a man named Adnan, and he is gentle. So as not to give too much away, here’s an excerpt from the book. The context: an email from Hope to Adnan, recalling a night they spent together.

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We made—or you made and insisted it was “we"—tarts with roasted cherry tomatoes and onions and …

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Visceral: A Book List, Part I

The word "visceral" originated in the 1500s, and it was defined vaguely as "affecting inward feelings," with these feelings said to stem from our "gut."  In modern times, the interpretation of visceral has extended beyond our bellies to encompass other parts of our bodies: the hair at the back of our necks, a shiver running down our spines, deep physical reactions to feeling unsettled, enlivened, repulsed, electrified, aroused.

Some books, more than others, affect readers via the extraordinarily powerful images they bring forth and the way they speak to every sense. These are books we feel in our bodies as much as our brains, and they can span a wide range of focuses, from hard-hitting stories of war and other miseries; erotic passages; razor-sharp, evocative poetry; shocking challenges to the status quo; sensual descriptions of food, land, bodies, etc.; and of course, stories of love and loss. Not surprisingly, these are some of the books we remember most.

Here are a few favourites including excerpts from jacket copy and reviews, with thanks also to Vicki Ziegler, Dee Hopkins, and Steph VanderMeulen for their ideas. But there are more: wait for Part II later this week.

*****

Vs., by Kerry Ryan: Ryan has a fairly rare distinction (we think?) of being a writer who's a …

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Dear Toronto Readers: Hit the Road

Ontario road trip.

If you're a reader, to live in Toronto is an embarrassment of riches. We have access not only to year-round literary events, many of which are free, but to many authors themselves. Publishers, as well. Enough so that it becomes easy to forget just how much there is to see and do. It's not to say that we don't revel in our fandom; but, how we invest in our community is, perhaps, a little strategic. Who. When. Why. How. I'd wager to suggest that we're not as open to surprises as we are to supporting our own. Which is to say that to thrive in the trenches of the Toronto lit scene is to limit your view of the larger battlefield. (I think it's safe to say we're at war with ourselves, yes?)

At some point, I started to pay closer attention to attendees. While many were fans of one author or another, it seemed just as many were using events as an audition in order to determine whether or not to invest in the purchase of an author's book, or which book should there be a variety of authors on display. We've become too familiar with our community, perhaps in the same way a Los Angeles native thinks nothing of standing in the line at Anthropologie behind an actor at The Grove. True, writers are just people. But, actually, no, they're not. They're rock stars. They move and in …

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