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The Chat with Carol Bruneau

Carol Bruneau by Nicola Davison(2)

For anyone who adores the work of famed painter Maud Lewis and has wondered about her life, Carol Bruneau’s new novel Brighten the Corner Where You Are (Vagrant Press/Nimbus) is for you. In the book, she imagines Maud’s life, first as a child, and then through the tumultuous years of her marriage and her eventual discovery as a beloved and eccentric folk artist.

In a starred review, Quill & Quire calls it “a welcome addition to the Lewis legacy.”

Carol Bruneau is the acclaimed author of three short story collections, including A Bird on Every Tree, published by Vagrant Press in 2017, and five other novels. Her first novel, Purple for Sky, won the 2001 Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and the Dartmouth Book Award. Her 2007 novel, Glass Voices, was a Globe and Mail Best Book and has become a book club favourite. Her most recent novel, A Circle on the Surface, won the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award. Her reviews, stories, and essays have appeared nationwide in newspapers, journals, and anthologies, and two of her novels have been published internationally. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with her husband and their dog and badass cat.


Trevor Corkum: Brighten the Corner Where You Are is a fictionalized account of the life of Maud Lewis, one of Nov …

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TreeTalk-ing or, "How I Became a Serial Poetry Monogamist"

Ariel Gordon, award-winning poet, brings things together—people, ideas, forms and genres, and more. She is author of essay collection Treed: Walking in Canada's Urban Forest, and her latest release is TreeTalk, her third poetry collection.


It was a midnight proposal.

I was a long-time admirer of Synonym Art Consultation’s residency program, which took place at The Tallest Poppy, a Jewish diner/hangout in Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood.

One night, after a good half hour of browsing SAC’s website like it was a dating site, all I could think was: “I want to do one of those!” And: “But what could I do?”

At that point, I was halfway through the writing of my collection of essays, Treed: Walking in Canada’s Urban Forest, which means I was (and still am!) obsessed with all things arboreal.

And while I was officially working on Treed, I am a serial poetry monogamist, which is to say that I’d published two collections of poetry (Hump and Stowaways) and generally made it my mission in life to convert non-believers to poetry.

At events, I’d shamelessly try to steal prose-writers’ audiences. My favourite thing, afterwards, was to hear people say, “You know, I don’t read poetry usually, but that was really interesting…”

(And yes, if you …

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5 Singular Summer Reads

So, have you read the one about the missing woman with the unreliable narrator where it turns out that things aren't exactly as they seem? Sure you have—five times at least. And while these well-worn tropes can be pretty nice to get lost in, we'd like to suggest some books that will shake up your summer reading a bit. Here are five books that aren't like the others, all of them terrific. 


At This Juncture, by Rona Altrows

About the book: Alarmed that Canada Post keeps losing money, Ariadne Jensen, a woman in her fifties, pitches the CEO with a scheme to save the corporation: she will get people to start writing and mailing letters again. As an inspiration to others, Ariadne writes bundles of letters for all to see; some are historical fiction, while others are drawn from her own correspondence. Each letter itself tells a story, while together they form a bigger story—about Ariadne, her determination to set wrongs right, her sly humour, and her loyalty to her best friend Leo, a gay man in his early twenties—that leaves the reader of At This Juncture informed, educated and, most importantly, entertained.

Why we're taking notice: This one is a MUST for epistolary fiction fans and anyone who appreciates the joy of reading and writing good old-fashioned letter …

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Dazzle Patterns: The Books Behind the Book

A poet and non-fiction writer, Alison Watt makes a splendid debut as a novelist with Dazzle Patterns, a beautiful and vivid novel set against the backdrop of the Halifax Explosion. In this list, Watt shares the books behind the book, the works she drew on to bring her historical period to life. 


Dazzle Patterns begins in Halifax, on the day of its famous Explosion. The novel follows the stories of three people, whose lives are braided together: Clare, a flaw checker at a glass factory, Leo, her fiancé  fighting in France, and Fred, a German immigrant and master glassmaker at the factory.

Both Clare and Fred begin studies at the Victoria School of Art, under the direction of Arthur Lismer, who would go on to be a member of the Group of Seven, and found a new school of Canadian painting. Leo is captured and held behind German lines.

The novel is as much about art as war and the following books speak these two themes, as well as the historic Halifax explosion. Their riches lie among the everyday details buried in text and photos, which I could draw on to try to bring that faraway time and place to life for the modern reader.


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Elephants, Bears and Birds: Animals in Canadian Literature

Book Cover Hunting Piero

The latest by Wendy MacIntyre, whose books for young people include the acclaimed Apart, is Hunting Piero, a novel that moves between the 15th-century and the present day to blend issues of art and animal rights activism.  


The young activists and the Renaissance painter in my novel believe animals contribute immeasurably to our lives, aesthetically, emotionally and spiritually, and they are dedicated to protecting them from harm.

It was a pleasure to revisit the following Canadian novels that make the lives and fates of animals and birds, and human/animal relations, central to their storylines. 

Last of the Curlews, by Fred Bodsworth

This moving elegy to a bird nearly extinct after centuries of callous human slaughter follows the journey of a lone curlew in search of a mate and a fellow member of his species. Bodsworth takes us inside the curlew’s experience as he braves North Atlantic gales and hunters on his 9,000-mile migratory flight from the Arctic to Patagonia. Verbatim excerpts from scientific reports document how hunters killed hundreds o …

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Pictographs, by James Simon Mishibinijima

In Pictographs, Ojibway artist James Simon Mishibinijima brings to life the legends passed down to him by generations of Elders. In this collection of drawings, each image tells a story, silently communicating lessons of harmony, interconnectedness and peace.

We're pleased to feature five images from the book, as well as an excerpt from the introduction by Curator Tom Smart. 


At the heart of Mishibinijima’s pictographic art is a conviction that the images painted on rock faces across the Canadian Shield and incised on sacred birch bark scrolls of the Grand Medicine Society are repositories of the religion, ethics and history of the Anishinabek people. Mishibinijima’s art reflects a lifelong search for ways in which past and present, the spiritual and human, the animate and inanimate can, and do, comingle in phenomena both seen and sensed.

Mishibinijima has spent much of his life exploring the islands and waterways of Manitoulin Island, the shores of Birch Island, the La Cloche mountains and the northern edges of Lake Huron. Contemplative, and patient, Mishibinijima’s purpose on his journeys of discovery has been to attune himself to the spiritual energy that radiates from any specific place, from the land and the water and from the souls that have lived a …

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Carmen L. Robertson: Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau

Book Cover Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau

Mythologizing Norval Morrisseau: Art and the Colonial Narrative in the Canadian Media examines the complex identities assigned to Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau. Was he an uneducated artist plagued by alcoholism and homelessness? Was Morrisseau a shaman artist who tapped a deep spiritual force? Or was he simply one of Canada’s most significant artists?


“Native artists had to know how to play the white man’s game, they had to be able to work the media and the market, or they weren’t going anywhere.”—Sarah Milroy, Globe and Mail, 7 February 2006

With the 2006 opening of Norval Morrisseau: Shaman Artist at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, two of Canada’s leading newspapers, the Globe and Mail and the Ottawa Citizen, characterized the Anishinaabe artist’s retrospective as a “taming of demons.”

While each paper acknowledged Morrisseau as a pivotal artist in Canadian art history, both stories attributed demons to Morrisseau, when in actuality it was the Canadian nation and its colonial arm of nationalism, the media, that were the primary source of the many demons attributed to Morrisseau. As the first Indigenous artist in Canada to break into the mainstream art world, Morrisseau had entered an exclusive and elitist club wi …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Art Books

Each month, our resident Children's Librarian, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks. 


Story and visual art are intertwined in the following titles. Whether fiction or non-fiction, each appeals to the young artist in different ways.

Mr Gauguin's Heart

The picture book Mr. Gauguin’s Heart, by Marie-Danielle Croteau, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, reveals a crucial moment in the life of a young Paul Gauguin. When his family moves, taking an ocean liner from Denmark to Peru, Paul is comforted by his imaginary dog. But on the journey, his father is “carried away,” his tearful mother explains. Paul pictures him floating away holding onto a balloon. The mother tries to explain further by showing him the setting sun, slipping into the ocean. But each day Paul waits with his imaginary pup at the ship’s bow for sunrise. He meets an artist who, when they reach Peru, teaches him to paint his father in a way that he’ll always be remembered.

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, also illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, is told from the point of view of Virginia …

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Art Begets Art at the Vancouver Writers’ Fest, a Guest Post by Dina Del Bucchia

Dina Del Bucchia, a Vancouver writer and poet whose first book is Coping With Emotions and Otters, reports from the Vancouver Writers' Festival, where she attended an event featuring Wayne Grady, Rachel Kushner, and Cathy Marie Buchanan. In all three writers' latest works, art is a preoccupation and serves to highlight other elements in the cultures in which the books take place. 


The always lovely Bill Richardson charmed audience and authors as he took us through the ekphrasis of Art Begets Art, an event at the Vancouver Writers’ Festival that brought together three writers whose current novels are inspired by forms of art: Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers has the New York art world of the 70s, Wayne Grady’s Emancipation Day features a musician who hides who he really is, and Cathy Marie Buchanan’s novel The Painted Girls is about a young dancer who inspired Degas’ Little Dancer Aged 14.

Though art was the unifying factor, personal inspirations were significant to the creation of these novels as well. Grady’s Emancipation Day was in …

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Mary Pratt: Monumentalizing the Stuff of Life

Mary Pratt Cover

The new book Mary Pratt is a retrospective of the life and career of the renowned Canadian painter. The book accompanies the travelling exhibition of Pratt's work, and includes images of her luminous paintings, a chronology of her life, and five critical essays which place Pratt's work in a wider context. One of these essays is "Vanitas" by Sarah Fillmore, which we are pleased to be able to share with you here. 


I first met Mary Pratt at her home in St. John’s. She served pecan bars and they looked, as you would expect, perfect. White china teacups were nestled inside one another on a tray set on the kitchen counter. Tulips sprawled in a cut-glass vase on a white lace tablecloth. It all made sense: Mary Pratt’s home serves as inspiration—why look any further than the world around her? In her home we are faced with the real thing: the “real” bowl of fruit, the “real” jar of jelly or the “real” sink full of dishes. (Though let’s be clear: there was no sink full of dishes on the occasion of my visit.)

Smears of Jam, Lights of Jelly

MARY PRATT Smears of Jam, L …

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Video: @BookMadam's Hands On Holiday Book Recommendations #GiveCDN #HolidayGift

Rememberer by YORODEO (Invisible Publishing).

Rememberer by YORODEO (Invisible Publishing).

This time of year, maybe it's the anticipation of mangling every gift-wrapped item, but I get excited about a hands on holiday. Perhaps it's because we carry more, cook more, put up more—put up with more—that I get a little giggly at the idea of myself as an elf in Santa's workshop—busy, busy, busy. True, in my vision, it's also a reality show in which the elf who finishes the most toys with grace and charm is crowned the winner. But, I digress.

Hands on, doesn't have to equal mad frenzy. Or a circular saw. Me? I like to colour. I like to sit down with a child—cue imaginary friend—and let rip. It's the perfect zen activity for someone who doesn't consider herself an artist. In Lynda Barry's book Picture This, she asks why it is that we don't consider colouring an art form when to sing another's work is still song. Is it all about the act of creation? Or is it about the impulse to use something other than words and language to express ourselves? And that a template is outlined for us has little to do with how we fill that space.

So, this holiday, when I have some time to myself, I'm going to take a colouring book to my favourite cafe, order myself the largest hot chocolate on the menu and bust out my crayo …

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