Patrick deWitt dreams up the past in black comedy Undermajordomo Minor

Posted on October 14, 2015


Sometimes you’ve gotta give up to get ahead. Just ask Patrick deWitt, the Sidney, B.C.–born author of the massively popular novel The Sisters Brothers. Nominated for multiple awards (including the Booker and Giller), optioned for a movie by John C. Reilly with Jacques Audiard tapped to direct, and topping just about everyone’s list of the best reads of 2011, it was a monumental book to follow up. And deWitt’s first attempt at doing so just wasn’t cutting it.
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Posted on June 17, 2015

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Often, first books are proclaimed an “experiment” with literature, but for scientist/writer Irina Kovalyova, it’s truer than for most.

A senior lecturer in the microbiology department at SFU, Kovalyova turned to writing after claiming a couple of graduate degrees in chemistry and microbiology, interning for NASA, and working as a forensic analyst (which all sounds easy-peasy in comparison to the gruelling labour of writing).
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The Making of Zombie Wars

Posted on June 10, 2015

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The Making of Zombie Wars, MacArthur “Genius Grant”–winning author Aleksandar Hemon’s third novel, opens on an ominous note: with quotations from rationalist philosopher Baruch Spinoza (on the nature of being) and George W. Bush (on us versus them).

From there, it leaps right into the mind and dubious creative process of one Joshua Levin, the dissipated antihero who blazes a haphazard trail through the novel. Juxtaposing seriousness with levity and pitting rational against irrational, Hemon creates a hilarious caper that also happens to be a dark reflection on violence.
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The Unbearable Triteness of Being

Posted on April 1, 2015

A defense of normality, and sweatpants

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For some people, university is a debauched rumspringen, a dizzying four-year drug-and-alcohol fueled mission of self-discovery after finally escaping all the things holding them back. Parents, boyfriend, dubious career as an artist at Subway: all in the past. Finally, they think. Finally, I can be ME. ME: person with their very first tattoo; a person who sleeps three hours a night, with three people a week. An individual.

I was not that person. And you don’t have to be either.

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If I Fall, If I Die

Posted on January 21, 2015


There’s a lot out there in the world that can hurt us, and that pain is the current running through Galiano Island–based writer Michael Christie’s debut novel, If I Fall, If I Die. A complex book exploring mental illness, mother-son relationships, and the freedom of skateboarding, it’s also a coming-of-age friendship story that could be filed next to Stephen King’s The Body (the basis for the 1986 film Stand by Me).

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Fashion That Changed the World: excerpt

Posted on October 18, 2014


The introduction from Fashion That Changed the World, which publishes October 25, 2014.

Two people sitting in a café or restaurant, wittily speculating on the life stories of other patrons: it’s a cinematic trope that may or may not be a real people-watching game. But it certainly has its basis in real life—we constantly make assumptions about who people are, what they do,and where they’re from simply based on the way they dress. It’s nothing new, either. Four hundred years ago, society’s fashion biases prompted Shakespeare to include in Hamlet this piece of advice in Polonius’s famous speech to his son Laertes:
“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy / But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy / For the apparel oft proclaims the man.” In other words: dress well, because people are going to judge you for it.

Of course, fashion choices are dictated by more than just the desire to look good. Our wardrobes reflect a lot about us: what country we live in, how much money we make, what society expects from us. In this way, it’s easy to read history through fashion. As time passes, situations change: the world economy booms and busts, empires rise and fall, wars flare up, technology advances, culture becomes more or less conservative. All of these things affect the way people dress. Clothing becomes more or less ornate, uniforms turn into streetwear, trends spread at different speeds, hemlines rise and fall. Possibly more than any other cultural artifact, fashion is a sensitive measure of what’s going on in society at the time, and a widely inclusive one, too—unlike art, which is only pursued by a few, or even democratic voting, which captures a disappointing percentage of public sentiment, fashion is a system that everybody takes part in. Everyone, after all, wears clothes.

But fashion isn’t simply about blending in with the people around us; it’s also about self-identity, and it’s very much about choice. Beyond simply revealing who we are, fashion allows us to declare who we want to be. Through fashion, people rebel, challenge assumptions about their station in life, or traverse boundaries set by class, race, or gender, all by simply grabbing something different from the closet in the morning. Many fashion trends have sprung from individualistic or rebellious sartorial choices, and over time those trends have become the norm—giving future generations new ideals to either accept or reject.

Fashion That Changed the World digs into a multitude of social, economic, and cultural factors that
have pushed fashion this way and that over the last few hundred years. Mostly covering the era from
the Industrial Revolution onward, when the modern fashion industry took shape, this book considers a wide range of influences on fashion, including wars, sports, gender politics, media, culture, and entertainment. Over twenty concise chapters, it offers a historical snapshot of what we used to wear, and why we choose the clothes that we do today.

Excerpted from Fashion That Changed the World by Jennifer Croll, published by Prestel.

Women in Clothes Vancouver Launch

Posted on October 9, 2014

Women in Clothes Vancouver launch

Organizer Doretta Lau holds up a copy of the book. Photo by Vera Poliakova.

Over the month of September, I was meeting regularly with Doretta Lau, Jaclyn Bruneau, and Zoe Welch to plan a party: the Vancouver launch of Women in Clothes, a truly eclectic and insightful book about women’s relationship to style, to which we all contributed.

The panel, with Jaclyn Bruneau hosting. Photo by Angela Fama.

The panel, with Jaclyn Bruneau hosting. Photo by Angela Fama.

We rounded up a panel of interesting and stylish local women (Mina Shum, Joy Pecknold, Alex Quicho and Cynara Geissler), a bookseller (Kim from The Paper Hound), a photographer (Angela Fama) and a venue (Cavalier jewelers). We chose a date (September 29.) We told people to come ready to talk about clothes, and to bring an item with a story attached to it to swap.

Swap stories. Photo by Angela Fama.

Swap stories. Photo by Angela Fama.

After all that work, I’m so glad we did it. It was so awesome to see such a great bunch of people gather together and connect over stories, clothes, and a little bit of wine.

The happy crowd. Photo by Angela Fama.

The happy crowd. Photo by Angela Fama.

You can find a full photo gallery from the event here.


Posted on September 3, 2014


Nobody would accuse literary fiction—the unrivalled territory of bookworms and librarians and nearsighted people in general—of being extroverted. But in her debut collection, Wallflowers, Vancouver-born, Victoria-raised emerging literary star Eliza Robertson creates such a peculiar and pretty world of misfits and loners that one could imagine her work being filed on the shelves of some magical, imaginary bookstore as “introvert fiction”.
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Women in Clothes

Posted on August 26, 2014

Women in Clothes

So, this is fun: I participated in the book Women in Clothes, a book synthesized from in-depth questionnaires filled out by tons and tons of (okay, 639) women. I was one of the chosen 639. You can find my answers inside the book, which is out in September—or in the September issue of Glamour, which excerpted some of the book, including my little blurb about my mom. It’s on page 351, if you’re looking.