PQ Weekly Roundup: 15 Feb 2019

Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.



Thanks for stopping by to get a load of this weeks bookish links. Be sure to pick up your copy of The House on Major Street!

Have a great weekend!

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Pulled from the Pages: The House on Major Street by Leon Rooke

I can’t even adequately describe how excited I am for the upcoming publication of Leon Rooke’s The House on Major Street. It is such a brilliant, crazy, surreal novel full of heart—and literary references. I’ve read it a few times by now and every time I do I find something else to enjoy in the story.

The book follows a colourful cast of characters–all neighbours on Toronto’s Major Street in the Annex. One day, Zan accidentally runs over her crush, Tallis, while riding her bike. Tallis ends up in a coma, leaving his parents crushed and Zan full of guilt. What follows is a wicked coma dream, a media circus, a slow descent into madness, and more.

What could be better to explain just how unique and wonderful this book is than an excerpt? Keep reading and you, too, will fall in love with The House on Major Street!

* * *

Early in the morning a lady with a lapdog showed up at the house on Major Street. She said she was looking for a former cavalry officer, Ryabovitch by name, whom she understood had struck up a friendship with a young boy presumably residing at this address. Ryabovitch was in fact upstairs at the time, contemplating flight through a window. He had heard the yapping dog. He could leap to the porch roof, possibly without breaking a leg, and make his escape. Romance had not come easily to him. It surprised him that it had come at all. That Anna Sergeyevna was a glorious woman he had no doubt. But intense, my word!

Emmitt Haley, father of the young boy, answered the woman’s anxious summons. He wore only pajama bottoms, his feet bare, the day brutally cold, boasting a sombre blue cast. Rainfall, intermittent. It took him some time to understand what the harried woman was saying. Her accent was unfamiliar, her manner troubling. Sorry. What? Who?

Ryabovitch. I know the snake resides here.

A snake?

Da, and a snivelling rat.

Finally, Emmitt comprehended that this snake, Ryabovitch, Ryabovitch the pig, had trampled on this woman’s heart. How distressing. But it was difficult to concentrate on her words. An icy wind was blowing. His feet were numb, fingers getting there.

But, but, but. Now rain was falling harder. Icy pellets striking his toes. The visitor appeared not to notice the rain. He was trying to tell this berserk woman that no one bearing the name Ryabovitch lived in this house. Friend of my son? This minute upstairs in bed, comatose, and conceivably never to emerge! Not possible. Lady, you have the wrong house. But his tongue was tied. He ached with cold. He ached to say to the woman, Lady, I am not up to this ordeal: a bad, sleepless night after so many. You come at a bad time.

At that moment the woman let out a shriek. She had seen, inside the house, a speeding blur. Descending the stairs. A speeding blur.

There he is!

Such was her shriek. Shrieks. An instant later, she was scrambling to get past him. To get through the door.


A variety of shouts, random noises—pandemonium—brought Emmitt’s wife, Daisy, to the door. She had been in the kitchen dully watching eggs boil in a pan of water. It could be admitted that she had been watching this boiling water for some duration. Sooner or later those eggs will find their way into the garbage. She was partner to a pill-induced slumber, let’s say. Xanax, perhaps. Lorazepam. What else? She has her secret stash. She has her reasons—her beautiful son may never again waken to the real world.

So here she is, on this cold wet morning, shoving her husband aside. Actually punching him—hair not yet combed, dingy gown about to fall off her—a slattern! What has this once-attractive woman done to herself? A professor of English literature, for God’s sake! On medical leave, just now. Appalling developments here at 2X8 Major. She, too, is yelling: ‘My God, Em, why are you making that woman cry? Have you lost your senses? My God, Em, let the woman come in!’

For some minutes, the dog had been yelping. She was a nervous dog, strongly opinionated. Pomeranian by appearance. Not that Emmitt or Daisy knew a Pomeranian from a sheep dog or any other. The Pomeranian dog could have told everyone the scoundrel Ryabovitch had been in there. She hadn’t seen the blur, but had smelled him. Now he was gone. The whole business had been a waste of time. Her mistress always fell for rotters. Consider that rotter husband back in Russia, for instance. A flunky, a lackey. Consider that dolt Gurov she succumbed to in Yalta. Such has been her whole life’s story. The Pomeranian loved her mistress, but God knows Anna Sergeyevna did not make this loving easy. No more than did that other dolt, Chekhov, when he set out to write the true-life story of a good dog . And got everything wrong. Sitting in Varney’s pavilion, Gurov saw, walking on the sea-front, a fair-haired lady of medium height, wearing a beret, a white Pomeranian dog running behind her. A lie. The few times she’d allowed herself to run behind Anna it was solely so she could nip at her heels. Hurry her along. The time the lazy author was writing about she’d been splashing through blue waves, chasing a seagull. Never trust an author was the Pomeranian’s motto. In fact, in her estimation a wise Pomeranian—herself—while the most sociable creature on earth, trusted no one.

What might an erudite scholarly wag say of this hodgepodge lacerating 2X8 Major?


Help, help!

Ours is a house occupied by the blind, the deaf, the mute, the totally helpless! We are lame, we are crippled, we are maimed and tormented, socially inept, bunglers of the first rank, mental midgets bereft of hope! We crawl about on hands and knees, we cry out (help, help!). We crouch in dark corners, entreating our captors: What have we done? Why are you doing this to us? Mercy! Mercy!

Hurry, friends, with news of our desperate plight. Inform the police, the military, the press, the very topmost, exalted despots of our great country. Barons of the left, moguls of the right, pillars of the very centre-most centre. Our dye is cast, our pigment set.

Oh, help us.

Forget latitude, longitude, write down this address: two-x-eight (2X8) Major, a stone’s throw from Bloor Street’s best. Heart of the heart’s heart. A scholar’s digs. Known land of the Mississauga Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee and Wendat peoples. Turn where you see the Bloor SuperSave. You have passed Trinity Church. Go back. One two three, how many doors south. Red brick house (renovated not, and no plans to). Lacy windows, how many bodies buried in the basement, beaten shrubs by the front walk, rubbish today swirling, snow a mile high. Rain, intermittent.

You can’t miss it. Extreme measures are called for, don’t even think negotiation. Too late, too late! Beseech our liberators to arrive with tanks, flame throwers, scud missiles, pots and pots of chicken soup; have phantom jets strafe our house and thousands of enraged crusaders lay siege to our door. Be warned, bad news awaits …

Be cool.

Hang easy.

Save us. We perish by the hour.

* * *

PortraitI hope you enjoyed this sneak peek of The House on Major Street. We should have print copies available in just a few weeks, but if you can’t wait, digital editions are available now right here.

Happy reading!Steph

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PQ Weekly Roundup: 08 Feb 2019

Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.



This is one of my favourite bunches of links so far this year. Definitely a lot to sink your teeth into today, so have fun clicking through this bookishness.

Happy Friday!

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Thoughts on the Bookish Sport that is Publishing, or, News for February at PQL

If you care about sports (heck, probably even if you don’t), you know this past Sunday marked the annual sporting/marketing grail known as the Super Bowl.

boys on the playground

Bunch of boys running around chasing each other. Football, yes? Am I close?

Lest you think I actually know what I’m talking about, you can rest assured that I did not watch the big game, not would I necessarily know what I was looking at if I had. But I did realize, somewhat peripherally, that it was going on, and though I wasn’t brimming with blissful thoughts of first downs and passing yards and field goals, the whole brouhaha did make me think for a moment about teamwork.

Publishing is really team sport. In a small house like PQL, every member of the team plays a vital role. We need a full roster to set up a book, to get it into position, to help make sure that it scores. We need someone to draft that unknown manuscript and put it into play. We need someone to guide it down the field—to refine it—before things really get moving and the book goes to print. Then we need someone to take that printed book and to launch it into the hands of potential fans. Those fans, too, are part of the team in a way—they keep the whole game going.

I’m flogging this metaphor to death, but the point is that, though many people maintain this conception of publishing as a solidary activity, it really is a team sport. Anyone working in the industry has probably encountered at least one person who assumes that the job consists of reading all day and maybe fixing a grammar mistake or two. What they don’t think about is the fact books depend on the complex interplay between all the players on the field—between the editor and the author and the designer and the sales rep and the copyeditor and the publicist and everyone in between. How can a quarterback complete a pass with no receivers on the field? How can an author launch a great book with no copyeditor to fix each and every typo?

Even when, as often happens in a small house, several of those roles are filled by one person, there is comfort in knowing that your teammates have your back—that they’ll be with you win or lose, that they’ll help you hone your skills, and yes, that they will catch your embarrassing typo before it goes to press!


What’s happening this month?


The House on Major StreetAfter a surprise reprint of Jan in 35 Pieces in January, after learning it made the RBC Taylor Prize shortlist, we’re pleased that February will finally see the publication of Leon Rooke’s The House on Major Street. I positively adore this surreal, absurd, metafictional story about the unfortunate Tallis Haley, who is mown down by a bicycle as he sits on the stoop of his Toronto Annex street only to find himself in a coma dream populated by fantastical creatures—and literary characters. Free-spirited Zan (the teenager who accidentally did the mowing) must come to grips with injuring her maybe-sort-of-crush, while Tallis’s parents spiral into grief, anxiety and maybe a bit of madness. It is little wonder that the whole neighbourhood gets drawn into the drama! This is a story with a lot of humour and a lot of heart. I definitely recommend it as a strong addition to your to-read list!


In Toronto.

Toronto International Festival of Authors

Here’s your chance to see all the RBC Taylor Prize shortlisted authors talk about literary non-fiction. In a panel discussion moderated by Toronto Star Books Editor Deborah Dundas, Jan in 35 Pieces author Ian Hampton will join his fellow nominees for a panel discussion put on by the Toronto International Festival of Authors. The event will take place at the Lakeside Terrace at Harbourfront Centre on February 28. Be sure to reserve your free ticket at the TIFA website.

In the world.

February 11 is Make a Friend Day. I’m going to unilaterally declare that said friend can, indeed, be fictional if you want.

February 18 is National Drink Wine Day, which sounds delightful.

Febraury 26 is National Pistachio Day, which, I must admit, I find nuts. (See what I did there? Eh? Eh?)

From the porcupette’s corner.

four panels showing the four seasons

Time flies. Even, apparently, when you wish it wouldn’t.

Am I the only one who struggled with what felt like an unproductive January? I don’t know if it was the outrageous cold that gummed up my mental processes or whether it was a looming feeling of deadline creep that stymied me, but it just felt like such a struggle to get things done. Every time I wanted to dedicate time to one task, I got called away by another. Every time I wanted to focus on one to-do item, I got side-tracked by three more. Call it a funk, call it a fluke—whatever you call it, I don’t like it.

Here’s hoping that a sharper mind, a bit of focus—and the fear of missing deadlines—help me reach my February goals!


PortraitThanks for checking in on what’s hip and happening at PQL this month. Hope you enjoyed this little update.


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 01 Feb 2018

Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.



Well, hope you all are staying warm during this deep freeze. Staying inside to read sounds like a great plan to me!


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From the Vault: Coastal Charm

Coastal Charm
’ve never been to Atlantic Canada (a failing I sincerely hope to rectify someday), but there’s something about it that beckons. The natural landscape appears both picturesque and sublime, and the culture, a charming mix of old-world and new. Transplants from the region seem never to forget their roots, and proudly identify with the cultural traditions of their youth no matter the distance in years or kilometres.

In recognition of this unique and captivating region, let’s take a look at some of the best books from the PQL archive published by Atlantic Canadians.

Evidence by Ian Colford

Evidence by Ian Colford

Evidence is a collection of linked short stories by Halifax author Ian Colford. The stories are narrated by Kostandin Bitri, a refugee from Europe who seeks not only a new home in the West, but also an identity within his new society. Bitri is something of a study in contrasts, and his personality and history present a tantalizing riddle for readers.

Thoughts on Driving to Venus by Christopher Pratt

Thoughts on Driving to Venus by Christopher Pratt

Christopher Pratt is one of Newfoundland’s most famous painters. His crystal-clear style and hyper-real depictions of the land are imbued with memory and meaning. Thoughts on Driving to Venus provides a glimpse into the creative process of the talented artist by reproducing entries from his “Car Books,” diary-like entries documenting his trips across Newfoundland in search of inspiration. The result is a series of memories, impressions and reflections on Pratt’s homeland.

The Exile's Papers Part 1

The Exile’s Papers: Part 1 by Wayne Clifford

Grand Manan poet Wayne Clifford is a unparalleled sonneteer. The Exile’s Papers demonstrates his mastery of and experiments in the form, exploring topics of autobiography, fatherhood, existence and many more. This is the type of poetry that will get you thinking—and re-thinking—life, love and the stories we tell about ourselves.

High-Water Mark

High-Water Mark by Nicole Dixon

In her debut short story collection, Nova Scotia poet Nicole Dixon presents sharp, witty, painfully human contemporary women as they discover what they want from sex, love and partnership. The female characters are challenged and changed by the circumstances they face and the people they meet, and the stories in High-Water Mark demonstrate razor-sharp insight into the real issues that women face.

Margin of Interest by Shane Neilson

BONUS: Margin of Interest by Shane Neilson

While Margin of Interest is not yet published, there’s nothing wrong with starting to get a little excited about this unique project! Written by poet Shane Neilson, who grew up in New Brunswick, Margin of Interest considers the question “What is Maritime poetry?” The book examines past, current and emerging writers from the region and tackles a number of stigmas such as regionalism and vernacular. It is fitting, indeed, that such an examination should be undertaken by someone who is, himself, a Maritime poet. Coming soon, in March!

PortraitWhat did you think of this little selection of backlist books from Atlantic Canada? I hope I’ve introduced a little regional diversity into your literary diet today, and maybe inspired you to pick up a new book or two!


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.