Posted on July 16, 2014

friendshipWhat does it mean to be an adult? It’s a tough question, as the trappings of adulthood (marriage? kids? not living in your parents’ basement?) become less defined, and people compensate by declaring whatever decade they reluctantly inhabit “the new 20”.

It’s also the question at the heart of Emily Gould’s first novel, Friendship, which follows two of New York’s sad young literary women from their friendship’s rosy beginnings in their 20s to their beyond-the-pale 30s.
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How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?

Posted on March 26, 2014

bladeofgrassSure, Canada is home to an above-average pool of talented writers—but self-serious CanLit, with its stoically rugged terrain and small-town immigrant stories, can sometimes be a little, oh, predictable, leaving it open to criticisms like the dig from Gary Shteyngart on Vulture in January (“people just don’t take the same damn risks!”) that raised the hackles of our country’s Net-savvy literati. But it doesn’t have to be that way. For proof, just look to Vancouver writer Doretta Lau’s debut, How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?: a wildly creative, irreverent, and pleasantly weird collection that absolutely refuses to be boring—yet somehow remains unmistakably Canadian (and sports one of Shteyngart’s cult-venerated blurbs on its cover, to boot).
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One More Thing

Posted on March 18, 2014

onemorethingB. J. Novak is best known as an actor, writer, director, and producer on The Office, a show beloved for its sweetly awkward humour and deadpan dialogue. But like many a screen celebrity these days (see: James Franco, Ethan Hawke), Novak has decided to bring his talents to literature. Who could blame publishers for welcoming him (and them) with open arms? The Office luminary, Inglourious Basterds star, and Mindy Kaling’s sometime boyfriend, Novak is going to move more copies than some unknown schmuck who does nothing other than write.
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Mezcal in Mexico

Posted on February 5, 2014

agave2Rain clatters on the metal roof above me, my boots are muddy, and I’m clutching a jicara, a small cup made from a gourd. My companions and I have spent the last four hours careening down the highway from Mexico City in a little sedan to get to this farm in the remote hills of Guerrero, close to Acapulco. We’re here for one reason, and one reason only: to drink mezcal. “Drink it,” Israel, our somewhat-English-speaking guide says, gesturing to my cup. When I ask for some particulars on what I might be drinking, he just repeats his command, so I take a sip. The liquid in my mouth is fruity, smoky, delicious – and strong. “Mezcal con Jamaica!” he announces, triumphant, expecting that I’ll enjoy the hibiscus-infused version of the agave liquor. And I do. read more

Anatomy of a Girl Gang

Posted on October 29, 2013

It’s sometimes difficult to see through the blinding mist, but Vancouver isn’t just famous for its enviable bounty of condos, yoga pants, and artisanal doughnuts. The City of Glass has problems, too, and back in 2010, our coastal utopia was named the Gang Capital of Canada (an honour that drifts from place to place like the guilty conscience of the Economist’s “most livable city” ranking). The ensuing media frenzy inspired Ashley Little’s third novel, Anatomy of a Girl Gang, which offers a brash, no-holds-barred portrayal of gangster life—in a gang of teenage girls.
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The Residue Years

Posted on October 9, 2013

Portland-born writer Mitchell S. Jackson’s debut novel The Residue Years plays a pretty smooth game. It draws you in with its easy, compelling prose, and then once you’re comfortable, it devastates you. But the heartache’s worth it: this is an ambitious book that tackles some difficult questions (Are we really free? being the biggest one) without offering too-easy answers.
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The Dilettantes

Posted on October 2, 2013

Back in April, the Guardian called for the death of the campus novel, claiming the genre has become too crowded, too well-trodden, with writers like Chad Harbach, Bret Easton Ellis, Jeffrey Eugenides, Donna Tartt, and Don DeLillo all shoving each other on the way to the literary rez caf. But six months ago the Guardian didn’t have its hands on Georgia Straight reviewer Michael Hingston’s satire The Dilettantes, a very funny debut that explores a whole, ridiculous new facet of the academic world: a university newspaper.
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Posted on June 13, 2013

In mid 2011, I unfollowed Internet celebrity-slash-novelist Tao Lin on Twitter due to a deluge of intensely annoying tweets (he hit peak inanity when live-tweeting the movie X-Men: First Class). Reading Lin’s much-hyped novel Taipei, his first with a major publisher, made a couple of things clear: first, that he was on a toxic brew of drugs during most of his binge-tweeting (Xanax, Adderall, heroin, and marijuana, among others), and second, that his writing has become significantly more sophisticated since his 2009 novella, Shoplifting From American Apparel.
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The Love Song of Jonny Valentine

Posted on March 28, 2013

“Whither Justin Bieber?” one might wonder these days, as the publicly shirtless pop princelet late-night rage-tweets about his “worst birthday” (the third most retweeted tweet of all time, apparently). Where that kid is going is anybody’s guess. But if you wonder where he came from, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine may hold some clues.
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