Eliza Robertson’s debut novel Demi-Gods is the story of Willa, a girl growing up in British Columbia in the 1950s and ‘60s. In luminous prose, Robertson shows her protagonist’s formation in a world set on teaching her about others’ power to shape her. Willa finds this restrictive power crystallized in Patrick, the son of her mother’s boyfriend and a monstrous presence who slinks into rooms and haunts the summers of the narrator’s childhood. As a parable of the oppressive weight of other people’s desire, Demi-Gods is lush and compelling, however unsettling it may be to read.
What do you get when you take four emerging Edmonton writers and give them each a quadrant of their city to explore? In Project Compass, publisher and editor Jason Lee Norman has assembled a crack crew to take readers on an odyssey through a city that, despite producing its fair share of writers, is rarely the explicit setting of their stories. The result is an engaging and emotionally-arresting collection of four concurrent novellas that all unwind on June 21, 2016. Starting from the north, south, east, and west, we follow four Edmontonians as they wander their way through the longest day of the year and reflect on the paths they have taken.
Review by Peter Takach
You are about to read a review of Thomas Trofimuk’s new novel. Perhaps you’ve seen This is All a Lie reclining against the shelf at your local bookstore, its stark white cover a breath of sanity amidst more lurid neighbours. Hesitantly, you ease it off the shelf, for you’ve been hurt before. Still, you remain optimistic that, somewhere past the bland bestsellers and the remainder bin, the perfect paperback awaits you.
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, artist and member of Alderville First Nation. Her writing extends from scholarly work grounded in twenty years of Indigenous land-based education, and extends to genre-bending creative forms of poetry, song, and short stories. Her debut collection of stories and songs, Islands of Decolonial Love, was chosen by Thomas King for the 2013 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Award. This Accident of Being Lost was released by House of Anansi Press in April 2017 and has just been shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. It is a spell-binding collection that shifts between lyric poetry and short stories using a fragmented, weaving narrative. From PRISM’s Executive Editor, Jessica Johns, are six reasons why reading This Accident of Being Lost will have you openly weeping in coffee shops and ignoring cute dogs at the farmers market.
Are you looking to get into the review game? Are you a seasoned reviewer and want to hone your skills? Wherever you land on the review spectrum, PRISM has put together five simple starting-out steps to make the task of reviewing a book a little less daunting. Additionally, Carleigh Baker, author of Bad Endings and bad-ass reviewer for The Globe and Mail, shares some insider pro-tips.
Review by Annick MacAskill
Last October, my friend David Alexander (Modern Warfare, Anstruther Press, 2016) and I went to an Anstruther Press and Baseline Press chapbook launch to see a few poets we knew. When I heard Aidan Chafe read from his debut chapbook, Sharpest Tooth (Anstruther Press, 2016), I immediately wanted to buy his collection. I was drawn by Chafe’s strong imagery and measured, almost laconic consideration of the destructive ferocity and violence of the natural and human worlds.
When I saw that Chafe had released a second chapbook, Right Hand Hymns (Frog Hollow Press, 2017), I was eager to read his new work. The theme of violence continues in this collection, but instead of exploring this theme in poems about hunting, woods, and wolves, Right Hand Hymns evokes a similar wildness and chaos in poems about family, religion, and mental health.
Review by Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt
It’s tempting to call Next Year, For Sure, a novel about a millennial couple that happens upon polyamory, a “light” read. Because in many ways, it is a light read. Award-winning short story writer and debut novelist Zoey Leigh Peterson’s prose is deceptively addictive, the kind of writing that can easily keep a reader up until two or three in the morning. (I read it twice; I stayed up late finishing it both times.) Her main characters, nine-years-and-still-going-strong couple Chris and Kathryn, are sensitive and self-aware yuppie Vancouverites who verge on being likeable to a fault. The novel opens with Chris telling Kathryn he has a crush on Emily, a woman he met at the laundromat. Kathryn suggests he take her out on a date, the plot takes off at a brisk pace, alternating between Chris and Kathryn’s point of view as they navigate opening their relationship up to a third person over the course of the year that follows.
Review by Will Preston
On a dark night in 1920s Mississippi, the story goes, the bluesman Robert Johnson walked out to the crossroads and sold his soul to the Devil. He was gifted with a preternatural ability to play the guitar in return: the strings bending beneath his fingers, his voice filled with what sounded like the anguish of generations. When he died mysteriously at 27, he left behind almost nothing, just a scattering of records and a swirling fog of myths. Johnson’s songs feel bracingly authentic to this day, filled with the violence and repression facing blacks in the Depression-era South. But the stories told of his life are anything but authentic. Johnson’s identity was hijacked in the decades after his death, largely by white fans eager to spread legends and half-truths about the voice in their record player. This was not an unusual legacy for black, pre-war blues musicians. “White urbanites reshaped the music to fit their own tastes and desires,” the historian Elijah Wald has written, “creating a rich mythology that often bears little resemblance to the reality of the musicians they admired.”
Risk the Essence of Good Theatre: A Review of “Theatre of the Unimpressed: In Search of Vital Drama”
Review by Bryce Doersam Theatre of the Unimpressed: In Search of Vital Drama Jordan Tannahill Coach House Books, 2015 When a particular art form loses its place in the cultural hierarchy, sliding down towards irrelevance, those who still hold...