25th Trillium Award

Focus On: Niagara - Recommended Reads

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by Erin Knight and Philip Miletic

It could be the wine, the mild winters, the great waterfall or the rich history, but the Niagara region inspires more than its fair share of poets, fiction writers and historians. In our Recommended Reads for Niagara, you'll find a selection of great books for readers of all ages and interests. And although we don't like to brag (about ourselves, that is), you'll find that it's worth discovering the creative side of your Open Book editors!

The Obvious Flap (BookThug), by Gary Barwin and Gregory Betts

Writer, composer and performer Gary Barwin and poet, editor and professor Gregory Betts collaborated to produce The Obvious Flap (BookThug). The Obvious Flap is a musical, poetic flux of recurring and recursive images that explore the luminous fringes of language. The text weaves a variety of thematic threads of humour, literary allusions and narrative into a fabric that spreads into an open, proprioceptive linguistic environment. The result is a stimulating book of poetry that contains multiple voices (and can be read with multiple readers!) sifting through the (in)stabilities and ghosts of language and grammar. An excerpt from Gregory Betts's forthcoming collection, Boycott (Make Now Press) can be found at Geist Magazine.

Gregory Betts was Open Book's June 2008 Writer in Residence. Visit his WIR page to read his blog.

Acts of Courage: Laura Secord and the War of 1812 (Pajama Press), by Connie Brummel

Connie Brummel brings to life one of Canada?s great historical figures, Laura Secord, for young readers in Acts of Courage: Laura Secord and the War of 1812 (Pajama Press). In her fictional twist of this Canadian legend, Brummel chronicles the heroic life of Laura Secord and the 19-mile journey to inform Canadian troops of an American surprise attack that led to the Canadian?s victory at the Battle of Beaver Dams. Brummel?s historical fiction take on Secord?s story is a great way for young readers and students to learn about the politics of the period and the relationship between the United States and Canada during post-Revolutionary War times. Acts of Courage: Laura Secord and the War of 1812 has been heralded for its ability to create both a fascinating and educational historical story.

Nothing Could Be Further (Emmerson Street Press), by Tim Conley

In his latest collection of short fiction, Nothing Could Be Further (Emmerson Street Press), Tim Conley presents a ?a book of games and guesses.? Described as ?clever? and ?fabulous and fable-like,? the 30 stories of Nothing Could Be Further range from traveling silverware and a nightmarish tale of potatoes to a village that can suddenly fly. Published by Emmerson Street Press, whose stated goal is to "make beautiful literature," Nothing Could Be Further is, indeed, a beautiful book both in content and its format, and provides a collection of stories that are exceptionally unique and intellectually stimulating that demands to be re-read. Don't miss Tim's new collection of poetry: One False Move, published with Quattro Books.

Simultaneous Translation (Signature Editions), by Terence Cox

Terrance Cox?s CD Simultaneous Translation (Signature Editions) is a collection of spoken word accompanied with music. Featuring 16 poems, written and performed by Cox, Simultaneous Translation also features Matthew Poulakakis, Beth Bartley and Mark Clifford (who are the internationally touring duo, Vox Violins), and the "Aztec" composer, Rafael "Gato" Fuentes. Newcomer contributions come from Bill Roberts and Steven Sauve, musicians, both, of wide experience and considerable repute. Cox?s spoken word transmutes text to voice and the composers make words ?something else.? A simultaneous experience of translation.

Chaser (House of Anansi Press), by Erin Knight

Open Book's Erin Knight, a St. Catharines resident, had her second collection of poetry published this spring. Chaser (House of Anansi Press) examines the cultural history of tuberculosis, or consumption, by looking at how the experience of illness applies to individuals, communities, economic systems, and travel between nations. The book?s three threads — one following a group of patients and a character known as Invalid, one examining a scientist?s study of tuberculosis, and a third examining the language of manic economy — explore different notions of consumption, wellness, discovery and growth.

The Hypotheticals (Coach House Books), by Leigh Kotsilidis

Poet and graphic designer Leigh Kotsilidis grew up in Niagara Falls, a town that invites the imagination to consider the hyperbolic and the hypothetical. Whimsy, investigation and intelligence work together in Leigh's first collection of poetry, The Hypotheticals (Coach House Books). With her truly unique voice, she brings our assumptions about science and the scientific method under the microscope in poems that delight the senses at every level.

Tecumseh and Brock (House of Anansi Press), by James Laxter

Bestselling author and scholar James Laxter presents a vividly rendered, passionately depicted and impeccably researched historical account of a story of the War of 1812 in Tecumseh and Brock (House of Anansi Press). The heart of this story is the unlikely friendship and political alliance of Tecumseh, the Shawnee chief and charismatic leader of the native confederacy, and Major-General Isaac Brock, defender and protector of the British Crown. Together, these two towering figures secured what would become the nation of Canada. Tecumseh and Brock successfully delivers a powerful work of history that documents the native peoples? Endless War to establish nationhood and sovereignty on their traditional territories and the American campaign to settle its grievances with Britain through the conquest of Canada.

On Common Ground: The Ongoing Story of the Commons in Niagara-on-the-Lake (Dundurn Press), by Richard Merritt

Richard Merritt wrote On Common Ground: The Ongoing Story of the Commons in Niagara-on-the-Lake (Dundurn Press) from his 18th century home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which happened to be used as a British military hospital during the War of 1812. Inspiration was quite literally all around him, allowing him to bring historic events into vivid detail for war history buffs and casual readers alike. In fact, Richard's collection of stories about the lives that unfolded in the area known as "the Commons" will fascinate anyone who has visited the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Read Richard Merritt's At the Desk feature on Open Book.

I Can Say Interpellation (BookThug), by Stephen Cain and Clelia Scala

Clelia Scala, Open Book's Editorial Director, is a talented visual artist whose collage illustrations were recently published in I Can Say Interpellation (BookThug), a collection of satirical "children's" verse written by Stephen Cain. Clelia's beautiful illustrations capture the playful incredulity at work in poems like "The Very Hungry Capitalist," "Hopped on Pot" and "Goodbye Moon."

View Clelia Scala's illustrations in Stephen Cain's Poets in Profile interview.

Falling (McClelland & Stewart), by Anne Simpson

Niagara Falls isn't all water and wax museums. Griffin Poetry Prize-winner Anne Simpson turned her considerable talents to Niagara when she wrote Falling (McClelland & Stewart), an affecting novel about a mother and her son, Damian, who spend a summer in Niagara Falls after the drowning death Damian's sister. The city of Niagara Falls creates the background for the rush of emotions that Anne's compelling characters struggle through, each in their own way.

The Tanglewood Murders (Dundurn Press), by David Weedmark

David Weedmark's absorbing crime novel, The Tanglewood Murders (Dundurn Press), is set in a fictional vineyard in Niagara. Ben Taylor is a former RCMP officer hoping to lose himself in the menial work of the vineyard, but the murder of an employee's daughter and a shoddy investigation drag him back into the role of detective. David Weedmark's own experiences working in the vineyards of Southwestern Ontario proved rich territory for the writing of this true-to-life mystery.

Read David Weekmark's Ten Questions interview with Open Book.

Mr. Shakespeare?s Bastard (HarperCollins Canada) by Richard B. Wright

Award-winning author Richard B. Wright has a brilliant eye and ear for the Elizabethan era and brings to life an Elizabethan London to tell the story of Aerlene Ward in Mr. Shakespeare?s Bastard (HarperCollins Canada). As the title suggests, the novel follows a housekeeper by the name of Aerlene Ward who finds that it is time to confess that she is the illegitimate child of William Shakespeare, England?s most famous playwright. With a blend of invention and historical detail, Richard B. Wright creates an unforgettable novel that confirms Wright to be one of Canada?s finest writers.

Buy these books at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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