Three Must-See Plays in Toronto This Week

Prince Hamlet

PrinceHamlet

On stage till April 29 at the Theatre Centre. General admission seating, pay what you can afford ($5, $25, $50, $75). Buy tickets online.

The most visceral, emotionally powerful take on Shakespeare I’ve ever experienced, Ravi Jain’s ASL/English production Prince Hamlet is a must see. The stark set design compels us to keep our gaze fixed on the actors, and the dynamism of their movement through the space. The piles of dirt around the stage provide opportunities for fraught, highly symbolic engagement by the actors, and the mirrors on the far wall create moments of self-reflection done very well, as characters like Claudius and Hamlet deliver monologues not to the audience but to themselves.

The key to this play’s success in my view lies in the masterful performance by Dawn Jani Birley who plays Horatio. Tasked with telling Hamlet’s story after his death, Horatio narrates the events of the play in ASL. Birley also interprets much of the spoken dialogue into ASL, yet remains present in the scene, her gestures conveying emotions writ large. Birley’s performance is most powerful when she’s alone on stage, either signing a speech before another character delivers a monologue, or delivering her own monologue as Horatio. The scene where she narrates Ophelia’s death is heartbreaking, and the final scene of the play, where Horatio dissembles with grief at Hamlet’s death is beyond words. I try to write in more detail about the experience on this blog, but really, that final scene just about broke me. I’m usually too self-conscious to give a standing ovation when I’m as close to the stage as I was at Prince Hamlet (second row), but this performance brought me to my feet. It was incredible.

Banana Boys

Banana Boys

On stage till May 14 at Factory Theatre. General admission seating, Tickets $25, $20 for seniors, students and arts workers. Buy tickets online.

Raw, irreverent and surprisingly poignant at times, Banana Boys is a brash take on Asian-Canadian masculinity. The title is from a derogatory term to describe someone “yellow on the outside and white on the inside,” and the play tells the story of five Asian-Canadian men who are exploring their identities and navigating adulthood.

The story begins at the funeral of one of the men, Rick (Jeff Yung), a wealthy consultant who lived with drug addiction and the ability to time travel, and who was found with a mirror in his chest. The time traveling conceit sets the stage for a frenzied series of vignettes from the characters’ lives, as Rick pops in and out of various time periods in an attempt to find some potential for posterity.

For a show about death and drugs, it’s remarkably hilarious. I particularly loved a game show scene that mimicked the cheesy variety show formats on Asian TV, and Matthew Gin as Mike had to choose from four “acceptable” career options as his mother cheered in the background. Another favourite scene was a guerrilla warfare sequence where the characters were confronted with the landscape of being a “banana boy”, such as that white guys get girls from various backgrounds and banana boys are left with video games and bubble tea.

At other times, the play is in-your-face about its darker themes. For example, Oliver Koomsatira as Dave narrates an incident of racial violence from the stage, and his cast mates walk into the audience, look audience members in the eye and show images from the story on their phone screens. It was uncomfortable, and consciously so; we as audience members are forced to confront the reality that Dave had lived through. Dave struggled with anger management issues throughout the play, beating up white characters for real and perceived racial slights, and his anger becomes a constant reminder of the microaggressions Asian-Canadians face daily, and how all of that adds up inside you.

Banana Boys is raw and powerful and the staging is absolutely masterful. See it.

Little Pretty and the Exceptional

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On stage till April 30 at Factory Theatre. General admission seating, Tickets $45, $30 for seniors, students and arts workers. Buy tickets online.

A Punjabi-Canadian man and his two daughters prepare to open up a sari shop in Toronto as the elder daughter Simran (Farah Merani) deals with mental health issues. I came into this play expecting a family comedy along the lines of Kim’s Convenience, and wasn’t prepared for how harrowing an experience this play would become. The play plunges us directly into Simran’s psyche, beginning with her stressing out over LSATs, and Merani is a tightly coiled spring, jittery and awaiting the slightest touch to explode. Later, she channels her long-deceased mother and walks around the store as lights flicker and sounds come from speakers and it’s just an overwhelming, utterly terrifying scene. I almost clutched the arm of the friend who watched the play with me, and had to remind myself this was fiction, so real did this scene feel. All kudos to Merani for her performance, as I can only imagine how tiring, how emotionally draining it must be to play this part day in and day out; I was exhausted just watching what she went through.

The performance standout for me however was Shruti Kothari as younger sister Jasmeet. Some online reviews have called her “effervescent”, and it’s true — she lights up the stage with her quest to become prom queen and her rom com scenes with new boyfriend Iyar (Shelly Antony). But as the story goes on, we realize there’s a strained cheerfulness to Jasmeet’s demeanour, a determination to remain positive and keep her family living as normal a life as possible. For all her love for her sister, she is the last to allow herself to admit that Simran needs help, and for all her desire to keep her family happy, she also harbours major unresolved issues about her mother. The play’s program calls her “the typical hip Toronto teenager”, which I think is a disservice, as to my mind, she gave the most nuanced performance and her character showed the most growth within the story.

Shelly Antony as Iyar is hilarious and charming, but more importantly, as the only character outside the family, he provides perspective and sees things before the family members allow themselves to acknowledge. He’s most fun as comic relief, but when he gets serious, you realize how wonderful he is as a boyfriend, and how much more he is than just the perfect prom king beside Jasmeet’s queen.

Sugith Varughese is fantastic as Dilpreet, the father whose dreams of a new life in Canada are inextricably intertwined with his dreams of creating a family legacy for his children. Dilpreet provides a much needed reality check; while Simran struggles with stress and Jasmeet turns a blind eye to the possibility that things are less than perfect, Dilpreet must keep the family going. He continues with the sari store because he needs to pay the bills. He has to confront his guilt over his wife’s death because he needs to help his daughters. Varughese imbues the character with humour and charisma, and serves as a wonderful foil for both daughters.

This isn’t an easy play to watch, but if you do, prepare to be moved.

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Fun fact: I actually learned of these plays from each other. A friend invited me to see Little Prettyand in the programme I saw a promo for Banana Boys, and when I watched Banana Boys, there was a flyer in the lobby for Prince Hamlet. So many thanks to my friend Tina who started me on this whole series in the first place!

Theatre Review | Prince Hamlet

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Ravi Jain’s ASL/English production Prince Hamlet is the most visceral, emotional experiences I’ve ever had watching Shakespeare. Dawn Jani Birley plays Horatio, the friend tasked to tell Hamlet’s story after his death. A deaf actress, she does so in American Sign Language, with no interpretation. She gives a brilliant performance, and I love how seamlessly the director integrated both ASL and English (or consciously chose one over the other) in the staging of all the scenes.

Much of the success of this structure lies in Birley, who is seamless in her transition from narrating the story to the audience to signing alongside spoken dialogue to participating as a character in the scene. Even when she interprets other characters’ lines, she remains very much present in the scene, somewhat like the speaking characters’ id come to life. At times, her facial expressions reveal emotions that the speaking character struggles to keep in check, and this is most apparent in Hamlet’s scenes with Claudius, as Christine Horne keeps Hamlet’s dislike to a bare simmer in her tone while Birley’s gestures bely the violence kept in check.

I also love where Jain has Birley signing other characters’ monologues in full, before the other actor steps forward and speaks the lines. The most vivid in my mind right now is that of Ophelia’s death, where Birley’s hands set the scene of flowing water, and her gestures convey Ophelia floating, then making some kind of garland, then sinking, struggling and finally giving in to death. Throughout, Jeff Ho’s Ophelia crosses the stage behind her, his steps measured and heavy, and it’s an unforgettable tableau overall. Gertrude’s speech afterward, informing Laertes of his sister’s death, is given added resonance by the memory of Horatio’s version. There’s another scene where this worked very well, with Hamlet and Horatio to one corner of the stage, and Horatio signs a monologue about Hamlet’s father before Hamlet delivers the speech. I don’t remember now what it was about exactly, but I very much remember the darkness and pain and fear that Birley’s performance evoked.

Christine Horne was very good as Hamlet as well. I was never quite sure if Hamlet really was going mad, or if he was scheming throughout. There are moments where she delivered her lines with a manic playfulness, and I wondered if perhaps Hamlet’s heart wasn’t completely set on revenge after all, if part of him just wanted to have a normal life and forget his promise to his father’s ghost. Then other times, Horne stalked around the stage with steely eyes fixed on Claudius, and I felt sure Hamlet was a hairbreadth’s away from committing murder. It’s a very nuanced performance, and often very much enhanced by Birley’s interpretation.

I can go on for ages about everything I loved about this play, but instead I strongly urge you to go see it for yourself. I love the gender bent casting — only Claudius and Ophelia are played by male actors — and the fact that there are many persons of colour in the cast. I also love that it’s a fully bilingual play with many scenes in both languages, but also some scenes solely in one or the other. Though all the other actors speak most of their lines, some of them sign parts of their dialogue as well, and I particularly love when Horne signed her lines (sometimes without speech) when in conversation with Horatio. I’ve seen ASL interpreted events before, but this was my first experience of a bilingual performance, and I was impressed.

The final scene was particularly powerful. All other characters having died on stage, Horne faces the audience delivers Hamlet’s final monologue, entreating Horatio to be his voice and tell his story. Birley doesn’t even attempt to interpret these lines. Overcome by grief, she stretches out a hand as if she could pull her friend back from death. And as Horne crumples to the floor, Birley is just about ripped apart by her grief in the middle of the stage. Her hand is shaped in what I think is the sign for the letter “P” and she whips it across her body in multiple directions, and I wonder if that’s the sign for pain or if her pain has gone beyond words. Her hands form the shape of a heart in front of her chest and then breaks apart. Her face crumples, and she signs what I recognize from earlier in the play as “good night,” and I remember the line from Shakespeare, “Good night, sweet prince.” And it’s just the most poignant moment ever. Part of me wishes I knew ASL so I could fully appreciate her performance, another part of me is moved with the experience of understanding her without quite knowing the words.

Prince Hamlet is onstage at The Theatre Centre until April 29. Tickets are available online. The best part is that Why Not Theatre tickets are ‘pay what you can afford’, with four ticket options from $5 – $75 and general admission seating.

For other perspectives: this Toronto Star article gives a great overview of the play, and this Globe and Mail review credits the signing narration as the highlight of the play and was what convinced me to see the play for myself.

TIFF Books on Film 2017

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Carol (2015), Credit: Courtesy of eOne Entertainment
A Room With A View (1985), Credit: Courtesy of The Film Reference Library
Queen of Katwe (2015), Credit: Courtesy of Disney

One of my absolute favourite programs in the city is TIFF’s Books on Film. I love books, my sister loves film, so this series is a perfect combination for a girls night out for both of us.

Hosted by Eleanor Wachtel, and scheduled on six Monday nights at 7 pm, Books on Film features a screening followed by a discussion about the art of adaptation and the sometimes challenging passage from page to screen. A personal highlight for me was the screening and Q&A with Mohsin Hamid about The Reluctant Fundamentalist — such a powerful, moving film!

This year’s line-up has me geeking out for all sorts of reasons!

March 13
Zadie Smith on A Room With A View

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A Room with a View (1985), Credit: Courtesy of The Film Reference Library

My Thoughts:

It’s Zadie Smith!!! I haven’t had a chance to read White Teeth yet, but I absolutely, positively adored Swing Time. As if this alone isn’t enough to get me fangirling, I also happen to be a sucker for E.M. Forster books and Merchant Ivory films. So, um, OH MY GOD!

About the Event:

Man Booker Prize nominee Zadie Smith (White Teeth) discusses James Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s classic novel about a young woman’s emancipation from the repressive cultural and sexual mores of Edwardian England.

About the Guest:

Zadie Smith is a London- and New York–based author. Her novels include White Teeth (00), The Autograph Man (02), On Beauty (05), and NW (12), and she has also written a collection of non-fiction essays called Changing My Mind (09) as well as various stories like The Embassy of Cambodia (13). Smith is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has twice been listed as one of Granta’s 20 Best Young British Novelists. Smith has won the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Guardian First Book Award among many others, and been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Baileys Prize. Swing Time (16) is her latest novel.

About the Film:

A Room With A View
dir. James Ivory | UK | 1985 | 117 min. | PG | Digital
Helena Bonham Carter and Daniel Day-Lewis star in this adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel about a headstrong young Englishwoman who discovers love and liberation while on an Italian vacation. (Trailer)

March 27
Sarah Polley on Away From Her

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Away from Her (2006), Source: TIFF.net

My Thoughts:

I’ve heard great things about this movie and Sarah Polley’s work in general, and of course, I love Alice Munro’s writing. This film sounds like it’ll be a very moving, emotional viewing experience.

About the Event:

Academy Award nominee Sarah Polley revisits her celebrated adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story “A Bear Came Over a Mountain,” starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent.

About the Guest:

Sarah Polley was born in Toronto. She has appeared in films by such directors as Isabel Coixet, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Terry Gilliam, Hal Hartley, Wim Wenders and Michael Winterbottom. Her feature films as director are Away From Her which received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Take This Waltz. Stories We Tell is her first documentary.

About the Film:

Away from Her
dir. Sarah Polley | Canada/UK/USA | 2006 | 110 min. | PG | 35mm
An elderly married couple (Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie) face the toughest test of their decades-long relationship when one of them is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, in Sarah Polley’s moving directorial debut. (Trailer)

April 17
David Lipsky on The End of the Tour

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The End of the Tour (2015), Source: TIFF.net

My Thoughts:

I once had a co-worker who absolutely loved David Foster Wallace. I tried reading Infinite Jest several times, but just couldn’t get into it. That being said, I like Jessie Eisenberg and Jason Segel, and think this could be a good film.

About the Event:

Award-winning author and journalist David Lipsky reflects on the 1996 final interviews with eminent American writer David Foster Wallace, the evolutionary literary adaptation Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, and 2015 feature film The End of the Tour.

About the Guest:

David Lipsky’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Magazine Writing, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, and many other publications. He contributes as an essayist to NPR’s All Things Considered and is the recipient of a Lambert Fellowship, a Media Award from GLAAD, and a National Magazine Award. He’s the author of the novel The Art Fair; a collection of stories, Three Thousand Dollars; and the bestselling nonfiction book Absolutely American, which was a Time magazine Best Book of the Year.

About the Film:

The End of the Tour
dir. James Ponsoldt | USA | 2015 | 106 min. | 14A | Digital
This illuminating road film depicts the true and complex story of Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and enigmatic American writer David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) who embark on a tour to promote Wallace’s groundbreaking novel Infinite Jest. (Trailer)

May 8
Phyllis Nagy on Carol

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Carol (2015), Credit: Courtesy of eOne Entertainment

My Thoughts:

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara! I meant to watch Carol when it was first released, and I’ve also been meaning to borrow The Price of Salt from the library. I haven’t gotten around to doing either yet, so this event seems like just the push I needed, as well as a great opportunity to meet the director.

About the Event:

Renowned playwright and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy recounts her two-decade journey bringing Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt to the screen.

About the Guest:

Phyllis Nagy is an award-winning director and screenwriter. She wrote and directed the television movie Mrs. Harris (05), which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, received several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and won a PEN Literary Award for the script as well as a Gracie Allen Award for her direction. Nagy has won New York and Seattle Film Critics Circle awards and also received Academy Award, BAFTA, and WGA screenplay nominations for Carol (15).

About the Film:

Carol
dir. Todd Haynes | UK/USA/Australia | 2015 | 118 min. | 14A | Digital
Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara star in Todd Haynes’ tender adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, about a forbidden relationship between a young set designer and an older suburban housewife in early-1950s New York City. (Trailer)

June 5
Mira Nair on Queen of Katwe

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Queen of Katwe (2015), Credit: Courtesy of Disney

My Thoughts:

I watched this movie with my sister and we both absolutely loved it! It stars David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o, who are both amazing actors, and it’s about chess, which is nerdily awesome. I especially loved the end credits, where we got to see the real people beside the actors who played them. It’ll also be great to hear Mira Nair’s thoughts on the film, particularly since she also happens to be the director of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which I also watched at TIFF and loved.

About the Event:

Following a screening of her new biographical drama about child chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, award-winning director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake) discusses her personal connection with this twist on the classic “hero’s journey” narrative set in her adopted home of Kampala, Uganda.

About the Guest:

Mira Nair was born in Rourkela, India. She studied at Delhi University and Harvard University. Her films include Salaam Bombay! (88), which was nominated for an Oscar, Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (96), Monsoon Wedding (01), The Namesake (06), and The Reluctant Fundamentalist(12), all of which screened at the Festival. Queen of Katwe (16) is her latest film.

About the Film:

Queen of Katwe
dir. Mira Nair | Uganda / South Africa | 2015 | 124 min. | PG | Digital
David Oyelowo (Selma) and Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) star in the true story of a young girl from rural Uganda (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga) who discovers a passion for chess, and sets out to pursue her dream of becoming an international champion. (Trailer)

June 19
Colm Tóibín on Brooklyn

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Brooklyn (2014), Source: TIFF.net

My Thoughts:

My sister watched this movie when it first came out, read the book immediately afterwards, and absolutely loved both. She says that Saoirse Ronan’s performance in the film is amazing, and has been trying to convince me to borrow her DVD so I can watch it for myself. Knowing how much of a bookworm I am, she’s also tried to lend me her copy of the book in case that’s what would work in hooking me on the story. I haven’t quite gotten around to either yet, which has nothing to do with the movie or book themselves, but rather just laziness on my part. But I’ll definitely be giving my sister a heads up about this event as I think she’d love the chance to hear the author’s perspective on the story.

About the Event:

Man Booker prize nominee Colm Tóibín (The Master, Nora Webster) recounts the experience of witnessing his much-loved novel Brooklyn adapted for the screen by fellow author Nick Hornby, which resulted in one of the biggest art-house hits of 2015.

About the Guest:

Colm Tóibín is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning author. His novels include The Master — winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Le prix du meilleur livre étranger, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction — and Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Novel Award. He lives in Dublin, Ireland.

About the Film:

Brooklyn
dir. John Crowley | United Kingdom / Ireland / Canada | 2014 | 105 min. |PG|Digital
In the early 1950s, a young Irish woman (Saoirse Ronan) crosses the Atlantic to begin a new life in America, in this exquisitely crafted adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Colm Tóibín. (Trailer)

 

#BingeReading with Penguin Random House Canada

So I come home on the Friday of a long weekend, and at my door, I find this:

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In the box is an invitation to join Penguin Random House Canada in #BingeReading this weekend. And what a binge this will be!

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For fans of Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy, mark your calendars! Book 3 The City of Mirrors will be on sale this May 24th. I loved the first book so much that I took all 800 pages of its hardcover version around with me on the subway, and I can’t wait to revisit that world and find out what happens next.

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This has also got to be one of the coolest marketing pieces around. What better antidote to a busy workweek than one thousand, nine hundred and thirty-six pages of pure, unadulterated reading bliss?

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And just in case it’s past  my bedtime and I still can’t put the book down, they’ve even included a pretty in pink reading light!

And as if all this wasn’t quite enough of a bookish binge, I also happened to receive this book for review earlier this week:

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I adored the first book in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time (based on The Winter’s Tale), and Shylock’s infamous speech in The Merchant of Venice has long been my favourite Shakespearean monologue, so I’m really geeking out over this. (Also, I just discovered a video of David Suchet as Shylock delivering this very speech, so I’m just in total geek heaven right now.)

Thank you, Penguin Random House Canada for this beautiful #BingeReading package!

Now, if you will all excuse me, I think I’ll spend the rest of this long weekend wrapped up in a warm, cozy blanket, popcorn and candy at arm’s reach, and lost in the world of one among many good books.

Excerpt | The Hunter and the Wild Girl, Pauline Holdstock

25861172Set in 19th century France, The Hunter and the Wild Girl tells the tale of two outcasts: a feral girl who had escaped captivity and was hiding in the woods, and a reclusive hunter named Peyre whose life changes when he encounters the girl. The book has been lauded as a dark fairy tale, and reviewers have described the author’s writing as difficult to get into, but well worth the effort (National Post and Quill and Quire).

Here’s the thing: I couldn’t get into it at all. This is not to say that the writing or the book is bad. In fact, I gave this book a few more attempts than my usual three strikes rule before giving up, and I think it’s because I recognize a certain beauty in its language. The book design is beautiful as well, with a bit of a crinkly cover design that suggests age and roughness, and deckle edge pages within that connote weight, a story beyond the ordinary. I think that the text has a kind of beauty as well, a rather dense and rich rhythm that invites unpacking. It’s not for me, but I think other readers may appreciate what Holdstock has created.

So, decide for yourselves. Below are two randomly selected passages from the beginning of the book, each featuring one of the main characters. I don’t know if these are a fair representation of the book, but I hope they give you an idea of the language throughout. If you find yourself intrigued and wanting to learn more, then do give this book a chance. Perhaps you are just the kind of reader it needs.

Up on the bluff now, the wind finds her as soon as she stands. She runs with it at her back. By afternoon she is far away, at one with the high garrigue, the rough sanctuary of scrub and rock that is her home. She moves with ease along the ridge where there seems no path. At length, seeing a small bush where yellow leaves have withered, she stops. She finds a sharp stone and with her back always to the wind she begins to worry and chisel at the base of her bush. She pinches humpbacked bugs from the crevices between the rotten roots. They try to squirm away as fast as they are revealed, and just as fast she eats them. Bitter and husky they are and not to her taste and she goes on. Her life is returning to her whole and unforgotten, like waking to a day as ordinary as another. [pp. 10]

Peyre wakes not as the fragile toper of yesterday, nor as the uneasy watcher who rose in the night to padlock his chickens and secure his front door. He is restored. His self as returned. Intact, it can steer his dangerous mind through another day, ride it with the reins taut and its vision blinkered, turning it from the boy who lies always at the edge of sight. He starts on yesterday’s list even as he leaves his bed, his body assuming the dreamlike quality of the sleepwalker while his mind engages fully with its subject — the outstretched wing of an owl, its primaries extended like fingers that would comb the air, its markings as if a painter ran a brush of white in bands across the wing half closed. [pp. 48-49]

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Thanks to Goose Lane for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

#CanLit in Mississauga | Coming Soon

Heads up Mississauga #CanLit lovers: some exciting news coming your way this winter/spring!

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Image courtesy of the event website

In conversation with Charles Pachter and Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, March 29, 6 pm, Noel Ryan Auditorium, Mississauga Central Library

Tickets: FREE, book on Eventbrite

First up, Margaret Atwood (yes, the Margaret Atwood!) hits the stage at the Mississauga Central Library on March 29th. I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood’s work, so you can bet I booked my tickets immediately and will be staking out a claim on a front row seat.

Atwood and Pachter will be in conversation about their book The Journals of Susanna Moodie (first published in 1970 and reprinted in 1997). The book features poems by Atwood, taking on Moodie’s voice, about life in rural Canada in the early 19th century, and Pachter’s illustrations of these poems.

The event is organized in line with Mississauga Museums’ exhibition The Journals of Susanna Moodie, featuring prints on loan from the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and can be viewed at the Bradley Museum until April 17, 2016.

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13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Publication date February 23, 2016, YA Fiction

Mississauga will also be getting its time in the #CanLit sun in Mona Awad’s upcoming novel 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. The story is set in Mississauga (or as the book’s protagonist Lizzie calls it, “Misery Saga”), and features an teenage girl’s struggle with her weight and body image. The author will be visiting Montreal and Toronto (check out the full list of publisher’s events for this book), so heads up if you’re interested.

The book sounds hilarious, and I definitely have it on my TBR pile, so keep an eye out for a review forthcoming on this blog.

PitifulHumanLizardApril2016

Image from Facebook

The Pitiful Human Lizard Issue # 7 by Jason Loo

Publication Date April 20, 2016, Pre-order at your local comic book shop

I’ve long been a fan of Jason Loo’s Pitiful Human Lizard comic book series about a self-deprecating Toronto superhero whose adventures are hilariously endearing.

In issue 7, coming this spring, our hero is stranded in the suburbs of Mississauga, with only his costume and not enough cash for bus fare back to the city. Will he get back home in time for work the next day? Will he discover the seedy underbelly of Square One’s parking lot? And above all, will he team up with iconic former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion? We’ll have to wait until April to find out!

Event Recap | Digital Detox at Penguin Random House Canada

DigitalDetoxInvite

What better way to kick off the New Year than by taking a break from our digital devices and opting to curl up with a good book instead? I unfortunately didn’t take part in Penguin Random House Canada’s #DigitalDetox challenge in January (tip: if you want to detox with books, don’t read on your iPad), but I thought this event would be a great way to relax, treat myself to some time away from the screen, and pick up some yummy, healthy recipes to boot!

The event featured samples from Cook. Nourish. Glow., including a delicious cocktail: cardamom, rose and pink grapefruit gin fizz. Some of the food, including the olive and rosemary chickpea flatbread and millet-sesame croquettes with tamari dipping sauce, were a bit dry for my taste, but I really enjoyed the salmon balls with crunchy white sauce. Amelia was there as well, and she spoke to us about her book and about cooking healthy, delicious meals.

MiniSpa

The event also featured various tables with products and activities that promote health and relaxation, and the stop that immediately caught my eye was the Butter Me Body mini-spa station. Staff were on-hand to demonstrate some sugar scrubs and hand lotions, that were made from all-natural, Canadian-sourced ingredients. I selected the mango-scented products, which smelled delicious, and I loved how soft they made my skin feel without leaving any greasy residue.

MarieKondo

I also really liked the drawer organizing station inspired by Marie Kondo’s book Spark Joy. A floorplaysocks sign quipped that “Happiness is a tidy sock drawer.” My drawers are currently overflowing with hastily crumpled items, so I still have to try out these techniques and let you know if they do indeed cause happiness.

LifeChangingMagic

As an aside, the swag bag we received included a copy of Life-Changing Magic, a journal inspired by Kondo’s book, and it’s my current favourite thing. The journal provides space to record whatever has sparked joy in your life in a particular day, and it has three sections per day, so one journal can last you up to three years. I love the act of taking note of the little joys each day, and I love knowing that, on days when things aren’t quite going my way, I can just look back on these entries and remind myself of all I can be grateful for in my life.

ColouringBooks

The colouring station is another highlight from the event. I now want a copy of that Cats in Paris one, as well as this Paris Street Style colouring book I unfortunately didn’t get in the shot. Other highlights for book lovers and TV buffs include colouring books for Game of Thrones and Outlander

Yoga

I also happened upon a group learning gentle stretching techniques based on the “Essentrics” workouts Miranda Esmonde-White developed and wrote about in her book Aging Backwards.

TinyBeautifulThings

Finally, there was a whiteboard where we could post questions for an upcoming Twitter chat with Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things. If you’re a fan, join in on February 5 at 7 pm EST!

SwagBag

It was great checking out the stations and meeting up with fellow book bloggers. The swag bag handed out at the end of the event was full of treats, including a sample of the Butter Me Body scrub, the journal I mentioned earlier, a signed copy of Cook. Nourish. Glow. and, another personal favourite, a coupon for a free cup of tea at David’s Tea. I also really love the quote on the Cheryl Strayed Post-It pad: “Be brave enough to break your own heart.” And I can’t wait to try out some of Amelia Freer’s other recipes.

Thank you, Penguin Random House Canada, for a wonderful detox event!