Culture & Conversation

Posts by Elise Moser


A collection of chance events

BOOKS: THE WIND IS NOT A RIVER by BRIAN PAYTON (HARPER COLLINS). When John disappears, Helen hatches an improbable plan of her own. She talks her way into a USO troupe and sings and dances her way to Alaska.

Lion heart

The Lion Seeker is a great big story, bursting with messy, vivid life, thick with the blood and dust of history. Isaac Helger’s family emigrates from…


Ambitious past

FICTION: THE ORENDA, BY JOSEPH BOYDEN (PENGUIN CANADA). An ambitious novel of a turning point in the history of the North American continent, The Orenda takes rare multiple perspectives of individuals from several Aboriginal nations, as well as a European newcomer.

A love of the sea

Lorne Elliott’s Beach Reading displays the wit the author became known for on his CBC radio comedy show, “Madly Off in All Directions.” It is gentle and sweet without being sappy, and demonstrates a lively affection for the natural charms of Prince Edward Island.

Girls gone wild

The Black Roses is a girl gang. The members ply their trades – ATM scams, car theft, drug sales – on Vancouver’s gritty Downtown Eastside (with a little high-end shoplifting downtown thrown in). Mac and Mercy were working for the Vipers, but when Mercy gets beat up while hooking on the corner, they decide to go out on their own.

Stuck in the attic

The phrase “the woman upstairs” is Nora Eldridge’s personal shorthand for a sort of forgotten woman, the well-behaved spinster who suppresses her rage at everything she has been denied or has lost, through her own timidity or others’ low expectations of her. It seems a bit of an old-fashioned stereotype; the woman upstairs is stuck mopping the kitchen floor, never mind worrying about the glass ceiling.

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Hell of a good book

Kushner paints a vivid panorama that stretches from an alcohol-soaked, promiscuous mid-70s New York, where the art world rubs more than elbows with an underworld of violent revolutionaries, to the salt flats of Nevada where the fastest land vehicles in history skate across the thin white crust as ambulances wait on the sidelines, to the emotionally abusive tension of an Italian villa, where bad wine is drunk even as thousands riot in the streets of Milan.

Emigration Blues

Honor is a thoroughly global novel, spanning not only decades but cultures, continents and ways of life. It also attempts to bridge the gap – sometimes wider or narrower, sometimes a bottomless abyss – between the experiences of the two sexes in a world where men control women’s lives to everyone’s detriment.

Gods of War

The cover of this evocative novel is note-perfect: on one side, a panel of colourful flowered textile that would not look out of place in an American living room or a Japanese inn. On the other, a girl walks past an artistically bare tree and a pagoda-roofed building, her lacquered-paper parasol open above her Western schoolgirl’s plaid skirt. These images beautifully demonstrate the greatest strength of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment: the integration in one complex story of diverse points of view — American, Japanese, and others — of a war of unprecedented destruction.

Yoga for the Masses

When was the last time you went to a festival that included a session on Standing Upside Down? Or Breathing, Bananas and Barnyard Animals? No, it’s not Juste Pour Rire. Welcome to the Yoga Festival Montreal, organized by the dynamic Yocomo, the Yoga Community Montreal.

Hail Mary

Some stories are told countless times, like threads woven into the fabric of a culture. At first they are retold because they have such imaginative power that people want to be engaged by them. After a while, they acquire a ritual power and people want to be bound by the threads – to their places in the world, to each other, to certainty. Eventually, it requires an enormous act of imagination to haul a story out of the deep grooves of ritual and back into the riskier realm of human emotion. Leave it to Colm Tóibín to unearth for reconsideration the tale of Mary, mother of Jesus.

The Real Fight Club

A couple of summers ago, during one of those climate-change heat waves, I went to sleep in my apartment in Villeray with the sliding glass door open but the screen door locked. At about 5 a.m. I was jolted awake by a sound at the door. I knew one of my cats was out; maybe it was him. I got up and walked into the kitchen. It was not the cat. There was a large man on my balcony, leaning over to peek in as he jiggled the lock.