Culture & Conversation

Canary in a coalmine

In issue 84 of Canadian Notes and Queries, Patricia Robinson addresses the literary trend of domestic realism in Canada. According to Robinson, our country suffers from a literary landscape that is overpopulated with stories (both short and long) of a certain readily recognizable type. They are stories that “have no resonance beyond the personal lives of their characters,” about people who “ruminate rather than act,” and focus largely on their sex lives, social missteps and sibling rivalries. Stories by Alice Munro and Norman Levine may immediately come to mind.

Going home again

Travelling Light is a collection of short stories by Peter Behrens, the winner of the 2006 Governor General’s Award for fiction. Arranged more geographically than chronologically, his collection contains some of Behrens’ earliest pieces as well as some more recent stories.


All dressed up

NEIGHBOURHOOD. When we walk along the street it is impossible to know who is Catholic, who practices yoga regularly, who speaks Spanish, who listens to heavy metal, or who’s thinking about becoming vegetarian.

Carb free adventures

So I’ve been trying to get into shape since 1993 and it’s not working. Do you know that they fry chocolate bars now? As if the chocolate bar needed alterations to its already irresistible package. I’m never going to be skinny.

Savoy steps out

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was one of the greatest Jazz royals. Emerging amidst a bevy of honorifically titled musicians such as “Count” Basie, “Earl” Hines, “Baron” Mingus and of course Nat “King” Cole, his swing big band dominated the field for 50 years before his death in 1974.

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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.


Bertrand Montpetit

How many of us in Quebec are still eating from our gardens in the month of December? Global warming aside, I would hazard very few. One such fortunate man is Bertrand Montpetit, a market gardener for over thirty years, organic for the last four.

Angels in Toronto

The Soulpepper theatre production of the Pulitzer prize winning play Angels in America has won superlative plaudits from all the leading Toronto critics. Richard Ouzounian (Toronto Star), Richard Cashman (National Post), Jon Kaplan (NOW magazine) and Martin Morrow (Globe &Mail) all vied with each other to proclaim it the best Toronto production ever. To the voices of those four critics I must now add that of your visiting Rover Arts guy.

Blues get their dues

I found myself reviewing a lot of musicals this past year but felt like an imposter. I’m sorta tone deaf — chords, keys, sharps and flats lost to me. Yet Beethoven went deaf and produced great music. So why not B. Toben churning great reviews?

Word up!

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the Middle East has been imploding (and exploding) for a few years now. One day it’s Arab Spring and we’re all yay! But the next day it’s all civil war and coups and the high price of hummus.

Secrets for Living

To convey dire stories without a touch of gloom is a gift. For George Saunders in Tenth of December, his first book in six years, this particular gift comes wrapped in an economy of language tied up with a ribbon of dark humour.

5 Songs: Covers

Around the time I worked at HMV, Quebec “superstar” Slyvain Cossette released an album called “70’s”. It was a collection of him singing some of his favourite songs from that decade. It was a smash hit. We couldn’t keep copies in stock. He made two follow-ups that I can only assume were equally popular. Because of this, we had to play it pretty much non-stop. After hearing Cossette’s version of “Hotel California” for what I estimate was the 532,203,879th time, I started to think, “why is this happening?”

Artists get to work

Although the dog days of summer in Montreal can dull the appetite for cutting-edge, contemporary art, dockside snoozers beware. True, August is traditionally a quiet time in most galleries, with vernissages few and far between. However, for those who want to keep up with the vanguard of the young Canadian art scene, heed this call: drop that third glass of sangria, and head over to Galerie Art Mûr molto pronto. Until August 31st, Peinture Fraîche et Nouvelle Construction offers a remarkable showcase of emerging artistic talent from across Canada.