Category Archives: Collections

A collection of different topic groupings.

Shapers of Worlds Volume II Edited by Edward Willett

In Shapers of Worlds Volume II, Saskatchewan-based author and publisher Edward Willett packages up 24 speculative short stories penned by writers who have been featured on his podcast, The Worldshapers. Published under the auspices of Shadowpaw Press, Willett’s own imprint, Shapers of Worlds Volume II offers stories ranging from alternate history to science fiction and fantasy. Though six of the tales have been previously published, the majority have not. Included between the pages are elves, mages, detectives, retired henchmen, ancient heroes, commoners, and athletes. Though a variety of characters and settings are employed, one thing is consistent—the stories are both engaging, and engagingly told.

Readers familiar with the Canadian speculative fiction scene will recognize a number of the included authors, including Ira Nayman, Matthew Hughes, Susan Forest, and Candas Jane Dorsey. Forest’s story, “The Only Road,” was one of the standouts. Historical fiction with a fantasy twist, “The Only Road” whisks the reader to India at the time of British occupation. Forest provides a strong description to aid the reader in making the trek. The story opens with the lines:

A tin wind-up drummer marched jerkily in its red uniform along the broad, flat surface of the Thangdu Temple balustrade as Orville waved a handful of the mechanical soldiers and cried out to buyers in the crowd. Above the restless flow of the market, the high, white cliffs of Khangchengyao sparkled in the clear morning air.

“Featuring a wide range of authors and settings, Shapers of Worlds Volume II performs the function of a speculative fiction sampler, offering a taste of different styles and themes.”

Though “The Only Road” reads like historical fiction, there is a mystical twist with references to the mystical land of Shangri, “a land of magic, a land said to perch at the top of a hanging valley, accessible only by no more than a gossamer ladder, a land that touched the realms of the Gods.” “The Only Road” is a backstory to Forest’s Addicted to Heaven series from Laska Media. The first two books in the series won Canada’s Aurora Awards for Best Young Adult novel in 2020 and 2021.

In “The Cat and the Merrythought,” decorated writer Matthew Hughes, author of the novels What the Wind Brings and A God in Chains, spins a tale of an ancient artifact that has more to it than meets the eye. The story, which features two good friends named Baldemar and Oldo, is packed with humour and makes for easy reading. In “I Remember Paris,” James Alan Gardner provides a re-imagining of the events that occurred after Eris, the Goddess of Discord, threw the ill-fated golden apple into the midst of a certain gathering. Entertaining and imaginative, the story is lent greater resonance by Gardner’s ending. In “Message Found in a Variable Temporality Appliance,” Ira Nayman shows the clever humour that is on display in his other works, including the Multiverse: Transdimensional Authority series. “Shapeshifter Finals” by Jeffrey A. Carver offers something of appeal for sports fans, describing a futuristic wrestling match between a human and a shapeshifter. At the same time, the story illustrates how the collaborative comradery of sport might transcend species boundaries. “Going to Ground” by Candas Jane Dorsey is also noteworthy.

One of the stories I found most enjoyable was S.M. Stirling’s “A Murder in Eddsford,” a detective tale set against a backdrop of an alternate-history Earth. In Stirling’s story, events occurring just prior to the year 2000 resulted in the total failure of all machinery: “under the laws of nature as they’d applied since . . . March 17 of 1998, you couldn’t get mechanical work out of heat, not in any really useful amount. Not in an engine, not in a firearm.” Set at a time just over 50 years after The Change, as it is referred to, “A Murder in Eddsford” portrays a world in which wind pumps, thatched roofs, and horse-drawn coaches are ubiquitous. Besides the intrinsic appeal of a well-rendered and familiar, yet different, world, Stirling provides an intriguing mystery as Detective Inspector Ingmar Rutherston attempts to unravel the circumstances behind the death of a much-disliked man named Jon Wooton.

Featuring a wide range of authors and settings, Shapers of Worlds Volume II performs the function of a speculative fiction sampler, offering a taste of different styles and themes. Besides being entertaining in itself, the collection might inspire further exploration of the works of authors the reader finds appealing.

About the Editor

EDWARD WILLETT is the award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages, including the Worldshapers series and the Masks of Agyrima trilogy (as E.C. Blake) for DAW Books, the YA fantasy series The Shards of Excalibur, and most recently, the YA SF novel Star Song. Ed won Canada’s Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English in 2009 for Marseguro (DAW) and for Best Fan Related Work in 2019 for The Worldshapers podcast. His humorous space opera The Tangled Stars comes out from DAW in 2022. He lives in Regina, Saskatchewan. Find him at or on Twitter @ewillett.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Shadowpaw Press (Oct. 28 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 544 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989398286
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989398289

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Bright with Invisible History: A William Bauer Reader edited by Brian Bartlett

William Bauer (1932–2010), was born and raised in Maine, and completed degrees in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and North Carolina. In 1965 when the University of New Brunswick hired him to teach, he and his writer wife, Nancy, moved to Canada. Over the next thirty years, Mr.Bauer taught many fields of Literature at UNB, with a specialization in 18th-century British Prose. Also a teacher of Creative Writing, he worked as both Poetry and Fiction editor for The Fiddlehead.

As I was reading Bright with Invisible History, I had a feeling that I had encountered William Bauer’s writings before, as in forty-some years ago in a high school English class. This sent me searching for my English textbook (which aside from my Physics and Biology books were the only ones I kept over the years) and to my dismay, there wasn’t a mention of Mr. Bauer, although there were other Canadian authors in that ancient text of short stories and essays (it was published in 1967). So, despite the sense of familiarity or deja vu, William Bauer was a personage that was hitherto unknown to me. Perhaps that puts me in a better place to comment on the book, as well as Brian Bartlett’s editing of Mr. Bauer’s extensive works of poems, short stories, essays and book reviews from his archives.

The contents are arranged as:

I. Poems 1968-1978
II. Short Stories
III. Other Prose
IV. Other Poems

There is an abundance of wit and humour in Mr. Bauer’s writings, which I found quite entertaining. His hapless Everett Coogler character who has a roadside fruit and vegetable stand is quite the character:

Everett Coogler Turns Back Rumors

I am well aware of
What they always say
About me behind my back.
See if I'm not right;
They say something like this,
"That crazy old fool
Talks to the vegetables
Just like they were
I'm here to tell you
That's a lie
And not even a very good one
At that.
Why all these years
I've stood firm
According to the saying that
My father said and I say too,
"It don't pay to
Be familiar
With the
Hired help."

You get the idea of Everett’s state of mind and his situation in life as Mr. Bauer relates his trials as a roadside vendor, as a husband to Josie, and as a member of the Hampsterville community. Mr. Bartlett has chosen a good amount of Everett Coogler poems so that we get a familiarity with the man. As Mr. Barlett comments in the introduction: “More than a colourful eccentric, Everett represents the defensiveness, fragility, pride and stubbornness most of us possess to some degree.”

Having enjoyed his poetry, I certainly looked forward to Mr. Bauer’s short stories. For this section, Mr. Bartlett has chosen two uncollected stories, “Pig of the Wind: A Figment from the Archives” and “Never Bet on a Dead Horse”. The other three stories are from the 1979 collection A Family Album. All three were enjoyable. “This Story Ends in a Pinegrove”, is the story of a young Lothario who is thwarted in amorous pursuits, a St. Bernard mix named Fern whose existence borders on the mythological, and the final “What Is Interred with Their Bones” a pastiche of Poe-meets-Twain-like story reconstruction of two women found dead in a shared bathroom. All three demonstrate Mr. Bauer’s wonderful turn of phrase and his mastery of language and style.

If like me, you are unfamiliar with William Bauer, I highly recommend getting a copy of Bright with Invisible History. While his writing comes from a vastly different time than today’s, it is refreshing to read and this collection is a welcome tribute to the man by Brian Bartlett, who was a student and a friend of Mr. Bauer’s.

Here’s a fine obituary of William Bauer over at the New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia: William Alfred Bauer | NBLE (

Brian Bartlett, born in 1953 in St. Stephen, NB, has published many collections and chapbooks of poetry, including The Watchmaker’s Table, The Afterlife of Trees, and Wanting the Day: Selected Poems. His other publications include two books of nature writing, and a compilation of his prose on poetry. He has also edited many books, including selections of New Brunswick poets Dorothy Roberts and Robert Gibbs, and Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan. Bartlett taught English and Creative Writing at St. Mary’s University in Halifax for nearly thirty years before his retirement in 2018.

  • Publisher : Chapel Street Editions (Dec 29 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 238 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1988299349
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1988299341

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In Maine: Essays on Life’s Seasons by John N. Cole

Since moving east almost twelve years ago, Maine has been one of my yearly destinations for a vacation. I have visited the coast (“Down East”) as well as the western mountain and lake districts and enjoyed it all. I have also reviewed many Islandport Press titles over the years and they never fail to impress me. In Maine by the late John N. Cole is no exception and it fits in nicely with Islandport’s unflagging love for its home state. Equally in love with Maine was Mr. Cole, (who passed away in 2003), an avid sport fisherman, amateur naturalist, and honoured journalist.

“I have not always lived all my life in Maine, but Maine is the only place I’ve lived my life.”

John N. Cole

Having come from the big city, he immediately took to Maine and lived there the rest of his life. “I have not always lived all my life in Maine, but Maine is the only place I’ve lived my life,” he tells us in the Introduction, written in 2001. The essays in In Maine are a selected collection of columns he wrote for the (now defunct) Maine Times over 30 years and are here organized into chapters with titles such as “Beginnings,” “Seasons,” “Home Front,” “Wildlife,” “Reflections,” and a brief Afterword. Mr. Cole lived on the Maine Coast so the majority of his essays deal with life on the coast, whether it is fishing (commercially or for sport), farming, or just observing the seasons and the wildlife in the area. His reflections have a wistful and romantic tone to them, but he is not blind to what Maine once was: a thriving state of farms and fisheries that have all but disappeared.

Here’s a brief excerpt from “Seasons:”

If ever there a fine season for a farmer, spring it would have to be, especially in Maine. With the long winter gone, the cows coming to calf, and the fields soon ready to turn and sow, past springs have come as a blessing to every empty place I passed. This day it came as a medium. calling for a visit from the souls of the departed farmers, begging for their return to shore up the sagging buildings, to fix the torn and leaking roofs, to build a fire in the cold and rusted stoves, to clear the bull briars from the barnyard, to move the ancient farm machines . . . to restore a life and purpose to the once lovely, carefully crafted places that now stand alone, decaying in the solitary wind like some untouchable marooned on a deserted island.
These gray and lonely farms were once the strength of Maine, now they are nothing but so much rotting wood, land gone fallow. homes without inhabitants. The fields once cleared with a blister for every fencepost and a year for every five acres are still cleared, but the pines are taking hold, slowly, the way people fill a church for the earliest service. Soon the trees will take it all, and Maine will have forgotten the lives of dignity, independence and grace once lived on these fine farms.
But they cannot be forgotten yet; not when they scream so in the bright spring light. They shout that lives were once fulfilled on these farms, and never more fulfilled than in the spring. Farther down the road, a man rakes the yard of his mobile home, or trims the fence in front of his one-story ranch-style. He is happy for the end of winter, but if he looks up and sees the derelict places, he must also weep for Maine’s loss of its farmers’ spring.

He certainly has an eye for the natural world, and in this respect reminds me very much of Miramichi’s own Wayne Curtis, whose own fictional and non-fictional writings harken back to a more simpler (but not necessarily easier) way of life in my part of New Brunswick.

In Maine is an exceptional revised edition of one of Mr. Cole’s best books, that can be picked up and read again and again. It deserves a place in every Maine enthusiast’s home and camp, and it makes a great souvenir for visitors to the state. I know they will come back again, just like I do.

“as lyrical, witty, and moving as anything E. B. White ever wrote.”
––Down East Magazine

In Maine by John H. Cole
Islandport Press

This article has been Digiproved © 2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Best Canadian Essays 2018 by Christopher Doda (Series Editor) and Mark Kingwell (Guest Editor)

Essays. The word still makes me cringe for it produces a flashback to my high school days when the teacher would assign the class to write up an essay on some subject or other, usually something you were not interested in. Essays meant research. It meant time spent in the library (no Internet then). It meant writing. And writing to get to the necessary word count. In short, essays were boring. So when Best Canadian Essays 2018 (Tightrope Books) arrived in my mailbox, I cringed. Well, I needn’t for these essays are definitely not like the rambling, long-winded essays I was used to reading.

When Tightrope Books claims these are the “best” essays written in the 2018 calendar year, they are not just blowing hot air. There are seventeen skillfully written essays on all sorts of topics here. In the Preface, Series Editor Christopher Doda outlines the process he and Guest Editor Mark Kingwell undertook to get down to these few gems out of the many to be considered. After dividing up the journals to be considered for material, they begin reading. Mr. Doda states: “We do the majority of the reading in January – March, in an intensive burst. I like to joke that during this period I know everything; no matter what topic of conversation I’m around I will have a legitimate opinion. In short, I become Google.”

The collection bursts out of the gate with Peter Babiak’s “The Future is the Period at the End of a Sentence” in which he as a teacher of English Literature decries his student’s lack of knowing the basics of grammar: “Just as we shouldn’t learn how to drive without knowing traffic rules, we don’t know language without understanding even at the simplest level that sentences are made of subjects, verbs and objects.”

Omar Mouallem’s “Homeland for the Holidays” documents his three-week journey to Lebanon, the country of his parent’s birth. His route takes him through London, Salzburg, Krakow, Tel Aviv and finally, Bethlehem. “..during this year’s sesquicentennial celebrations I felt only a twinge of pride for my homeland [Canada] and nothing resembling the romance my parents feel for theirs, however flawed it was.” The conclusion he comes to after his sojourn was enlightening. This was for me one of “best of the best” essays contained in Best Canadian Essays 2018.

Two other thought-provoking essays stand out: “Post-Heroism?” by Richard Teleky and the brief, but direct “Stuck in the Moment” by Clive Thompson. The former addresses the idea of what the term “hero” actually entails in this post-modern, even post-human age. The latter looks at social media (such as Twitter) that employ reverse chron which Mr. Thompson says is “sucking us into the day-to-day drama of whatever’s blowing up online right now.”

These are just a few highlights from this deeply thoughtful publication that was thoroughly enjoyable to read from cover to cover. Some may refer to essays as “creative non-fiction” which I think is a more friendly (and marketable) term. I just wish this term existed when I went to school; perhaps essay-writing would have been more enjoyable.

Best Canadian Essays 2018 by Christopher Doda (Series Editor) and Mark Kingwell (Guest Editor)
Tightrope Books

*Please note if you choose to purchase this book through Amazon using the link below I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you cannot see the Amazon ad below (if you are using an ad blocker, for instance) here is the link:  Thanks!

This article has been Digiproved © 2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Two New Short Story Collections from Tightrope Books

One thing is definite about Toronto’s Tightrope Books: they know a good short story when they see one. In 2016, they published Danila Botha’s excellent collection of short stories For All of the Men (and Some of the Women) I’ve Known which met with great success. Now I have just finished reading two more fine collections, Barry Dempster’s Tread & Other Stories and Rebecca Higgins’ The Colours of Birds. Both books contained some great stories, so I decided to review them together. First, Tread & Other Stories.

Tightrope Books has a propensity for publishing good short story books, and these two titles are no exception.

Tread & Other Stories

Barry Dempster might be best known for his many award-winning works of poetry and literature (he was twice nominated for a Governor General’s Award) and his award-winning 2014 novel The Outside World. Tread & Other Stories was my first introduction to Mr. Dempster, so I was curious as to how he handles the short story format. I so enjoyed Mr. Dempster’s writing style and his character creation (and the situations that confront thme) that I would like to read more of his back catalogue.

It was difficult to pick out a few stories to highlight, so here are two that I particularly enjoyed:

Who? Am I? is the story of a man looking for his birth mother. I’m sure most, if not all persons, upon discovering they are adopted wonder why? So does Kevin:

At first, all he could think of was why? Had his mother been shamed by a religious family, or was she living a post-sixties, no-strings-attached life where a baby would be a drag or was it simply a case of not being ready: no money, no partner, no hope?

When a woman mysteriously approaches him and tells him that she may have given birth to him, Kevin is unnerved. She gives very few details and is even reluctant to give her full name lest they get too involved. Eventually, he gets her name and tracks her down to a cemetery that she visits regularly. A man working at the cemetery directs him to Chestnut Lane:

It sounded like he was going to a bungalow rather than a gravesite. He thought of lawn chairs and an unfamiliar family – grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, perhaps even brothers and sisters – sitting around a circle of tombstones, chatting with each other and the dead.

Half a Man is the story of a couple, Charlie and Nessa, who from their wedding day, seem to be a perfectly matched couple, although they are both very different. In their later years, a stroke leaves Charlie ‘half a man’ with one side of his body paralyzed. While Charlie is discouraged, angry and depressed, Nessa continues to care for him, and he thinks of their wedding vow: “in sickness and in health:”

So this was sickness, he thought. This was what a vow looked like after thirty years of knowing it was there but thinking it might never have to be used. It was like a backup generator in case the power went out.

These two stories are representative of the other thirteen in Tread & Other Stories. There are young people, older ones, some living aimless lives until something or someone awakens some unseen meaning in their lives. The Red-Framed Glasses is an incredibly told story of a young man who drinks too much, blacks out and awakens in a woman’s apartment. Shamed, he leaves and never sees her again. Later he wonders if he raped her. Then somewhat humorous is the story of a female prison guard who likes bad boys (“Bad Boys”). All of Mr. Dempster’s stories are very real; the people as well as the scenarios of each tale. As such, they make for some very good reading.

“Barry Dempster writes stories of the everyday that are not everyday stories. They release depth charges of feeling, unease, and strangeness too powerful for that. They take us to places we’ve known but never so vividly.” —Greg Hollingshead, author of Act Normal and Bedlam

The Colours of Birds

Mimosa Pudica

The Colours of Birds is Rebecca Higgins’ first book of short stories, and its pages contain a varied collection of approaches to creative fiction, slightly different from Tread, but with the same familiar types of protagonists that we may encounter (or have encountered) in daily life. There are twenty-three short works here, some of just a page, others only slightly longer. One of the first stories is Sensitive, in which Olive, a single woman, is mirrored in Mim, her mimosa pudica plant (from Latin: pudica “shy, bashful or shrinking”; also called sensitive plant, shy plant) that she was misguidedly told was easy to care for. Olive doesn’t watch the news (“it makes her feel very stressed out”) or engage in any discussion of current events, folding up and withdrawing like Mim’s leaves when touched. She is reluctant to have her sister Harriet visit with her two-year-old son Jake. Jake is loud, and always yelling and banging into things, which upsets Olive. She also fears for Mim around Jake, as you can well imagine:

Behind him [Jake], near the window, Mim’s leaves are closed even though it’s the middle of the day. Olive doesn’t blame her.

Charlene at Lunchtime continues with the sensitive theme, this time in an office setting where Charlene will eat her lunch in the bathroom once the lunch table talk turns to “what comes out of pets and kids.” She is OCD (she likes to line her pens up on the desk, which she finds relaxing) and decides for the office Christmas exchange to make a Gingerbread House for Jerry, a co-worker even though she didn’t draw his name. She meticulously constructs the house, including melted blue Jolly Ranchers for the stream behind the house. She is sure Jerry will like it. He just has to. The outcome is surprising!

This is a charming, unsettling, and splendid debut.” —Jessica Westhead, author of Things Not to Do and And Also Sharks


Tightrope Books has a propensity for publishing good short story books (as I write this, Aaron Kreuter’s You and Me, Belonging is on my TBR stack) and the above two are no exception. Lovers of the short story genre will undoubtedly these two titles, as I indeed have.

Tread & Other Stories by Barry Dempster
The Colours of Birds by Rebecca Higgins
Tightrope Books

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This article has been Digiproved © 2018-2019 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Ambassador of What by Adrian Michael Kelly

As with any university town, Kingston, Ontario has its fair share of writers that call the Limestone City home: Diane Schoemperlen, Merilyn Simonds, Steven Heighton and many more. Add Adrian Michael Kelly to the list. His newest book, The Ambassador of What (2018, ECW Press) is a collection of stories, some previously published, but many appearing in print for the first time.

The Ambassador of What is full of powerful stories and raw emotion.

Primarily about a father and son relationship, The Ambassador of What is full of raw emotion at moments (“Stragglers”, “It Does Not Control You”) and at other times, Mr. Kelly gently prods at what lies at the basis of a most intimate, yet oftentimes dysfunctional symbiosis (“Private Function”, “Lure”). The dialogues between father and son are kept terse, leaving the reader to discern the underlying emotions of the moment. In the following excerpt from “Stragglers”, the father has been coaching the son as a runner, about to enter the Toronto Marathon. He has been taking pictures of his son running the day before the competition, but instead of doing a relaxing run, the son has run full out, much to his father’s consternation:

Downstairs in the finished room, he pointed to the floor.
I stood where he said and saw it coming. BANG, above the ear.
What in f*** was that?
You said put some umph in it.
Could have pulled a muscle.
We don’t even have a projector.
BANG, opposite side.
It’s true.
BANG, back on the left. Anything else to tell me?
Go and give your face a wash. Comb that hair as well.

I found this type of verbal exchange a little off-putting at first, but after a while, I got into the rhythm of it. Despite the above exchange, it becomes clear throughout the connected stories that the father is always proud of his son, and the son is deeply attached to his father, his shortcomings as a parent and as a person notwithstanding. In “Lure” my favourite story, the father and son (I’m still not sure if they are the same combo as in “Stragglers” or not, but it really doesn’t matter) get up early to go fishing, hoping to get a big Muskie. The father has purchased new tackle for the son (who is eight at the time) and frogs for bait. The son uses a Red Devil lure.

They have left the places that feel like places. Here is like pictures in Art and Geography. Granite. An esker. Jackpines. A river.

After purchasing three frogs for bait, they approach the lake in their car:

His father flicks the blinker, and they turn down a gravel road. Then the gravel stops and there are only dirt and potholes. The birch trees gather in like a crowd round a body. In the side mirror, the boy watches fallen leaves leap and wrestle then fall back to the road. They pass rutted laneways – a crow on a gatepost – that lead to big evergreens with cabins boarded up. Then a dip and a turn and there is the lake. The colour of blackboards. Here and there on the far side a few cottages, but not a boat on it.
Just us, Dad.

Magical stuff. It stopped me right in my reading tracks as I was taken back to my father and I fishing on “our lake” north of Kingston way back in the late sixties and early seventies before I eschewed the call of the wild for the call of the city and romantic pursuits.

The Ambassador of What is full of powerful stories not only of father and son but son and mother and brother and sister (as in Private Function). All are well-written in a sparse prose that reflects well on how estranged family members speak to one another as they try to bridge the years and the opportunities lost by not maintaining closer connections. There is something for everyone in The Ambassador of What, but particularly for fathers and sons, whether they are close or separated by other events beyond their control. The emotionally-charged stories in The Ambassador of What will resonate with those of us who lived in the Pre-Connected Age of family life.

The Ambassador of What by Adrian Michael Kelly
ECW Press

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This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Just…Think About It by Peg Tittle

A few years back, I enrolled in a distance education program that was technology-based. At the last minute, the powers that be decided (likely for accreditation reasons) that they need to give us introductory courses on critical thinking, conflict resolution and so on. I would have been more interested in these subjects at the time had I not been preparing to sit the certification exam for my field of study. Nevertheless, critical thinking intrigued me, likely because I found I was already doing it to some extent.

Critical thinking has been defined as: “the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.” (from

Well, Peg Tittle wrote the book on critical thinking. Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason is the title of a university textbook she published in 2011. She has also published various collections of her “think pieces” (some may call them emotional rants, but that’s not a true label) in print form, and she has a website where you can see all of the many things she is doing in the field of critical thinking and beyond. I also reviewed her 2016 fiction book What About Tom? here.

Now we have this new collection entitled Just…Think About It. (Ms. Tittle provided a review copy in exchange for a fair and honest review). I’m going to say here at the outset that while I cannot agree or do agree with everything Ms. Tittle says, it did cause me to “think about it” which is all she really asks. It’s my belief that we do not devote enough time in our busy schedule to “analyze and evaluate” our thinking, our beliefs, our way of life. Anything that can help us to do this should be welcome.

Ms. Tittle’s book covers a wide range of topics (too numerous to mention), and she has endeavoured to group them together by subject. Some are only a page long, others cover several pages and are more like essays, but they will all make you think!

Here’s an example on the topic of being functionally illiterate (reprinted here with Ms. Tittle’s kind permission):

Oh the horror.
On yet another occasion during which I was stunned by one of my neighbour’s stupidity and ignorance, it suddenly occurred to me that the person I was speaking with probably hadn’t read a book since high school. [1]
Then it occurred to me that that was probably true for most people.
I tried to imagine what that would be like. What my mind would be like if I hadn’t read a book, not one book, in the last, say, forty years.
Oh the horror.
Because what could possibly go on inside such a mind?
In addition to their high school history and geography textbooks, through which they might have plodded here and there, they might have read, perhaps, a dozen novels, in all. Library books for the annual book review assignment in English class. Who is the main character? Describe the setting. What is the main conflict?
They may as well be illiterate. They are, essentially. They’re functionally illiterate. Because yes, they can and probably do read package labels and price tags, but what else?
The newspaper. Which is pretty much nothing but exposition. Low-level description. No analysis. No critique.
What if everyone read just one non-fiction book a week? What if employers rewarded them for doing so, as many of them do now for physical exercise: in addition to so many points per kilometer, because it reduces their healthcare costs, so many points per page, because – Ah, there’s the rub. What’s in it for them? Nothing. In fact, on the contrary, it’s to their advantage not to have their employees develop knowledge, understanding, critical ability.
Okay, so what if the government implemented such a reward program? Well, it’s not really in their best interests either. Which explains, perhaps, why the education system doesn’t mandate critical thinking courses.
Of course, if parents … But every time they say “Because I said so,” they stomp on critical thinking. It’s just easier that way, I guess.
So in whose interests is it be critical? Our own, of course. Otherwise, we’re suckers to manipulation by media. Corporations. Government. Anyone who puts their own self-interest before yours.
But in our society, the word “critical” has negative connotations. It’s bad to be critical.
Oh the horror.
1. Yes, it then occurred to me that s/he probably hadn’t read a book during high school either.

I believe the above provides a fine example of what you can expect when you read Just…Think about It.

As I mentioned earlier, you may not agree with her viewpoint, and while this is not the type of book you sit down and read cover to cover, you can pick it up and start reading anywhere. Then, just…think about what you read.

Just…Think About It by Peg Tittle
Magenta Publishing

Just..Think About It is available in paperback and Kindle formats (only $3.82 at the time of this post!).

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This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Bag of Hammers by Edward Riche

I‘ve always been a fan of good satire. Back in the late 70’s and 80’s I read National Lampoon magazine monthly, watched Saturday Night Live and SCTV weekly. Read Doonesbury and Bloom County Babylon daily. Then came This Hour Has 22 Minutes on CBC. This show introduced me to East Coast humour and satire, specifically that of Newfoundland origins.

Although I’ve never been there (yet), the island of Newfoundland appears to me as a distinct society, as much as Quebec certainly does. I find Newfoundland humour very distinct, too. They can “make fun” of themselves in various ways: as townies or as baymen (or baywomen), and as someone “from there” who can step back and observe it like no other person “from away” could. Edward Riche, the auhor of the acclaimed novel Today I Learned it Was You (2016, House of Anansi Press) fills all those roles equally well, as demonstrated in this Breakwater Books collection of his essays entitled Bag of Hammers.

“We say in Newfoundland “Foolish as a bag of hammers” to mean something or someone ridiculous.”

Edward Riche

The author explains in his Afterword what that term means:

“Bad taste often lends satire vitality. As it can be a knife or a skewer, satire can also be a blunt instrument. It can be a cudgel, a hammer. Thus the title of this collection. We say in Newfoundland “Foolish as a bag of hammers” to mean something or someone ridiculous. In other places, there is “ugly as a bag of hammers” to mean that which is lumpen, misshapen, unwieldy.  All that can be said of comic and satiric prose.”

There is something for everyone in this collection. “Paul Was the Walrus” is a piece about the sealing industry, Paul McCartney, and the eating of seal meat:

Even the freshest seal meat has a pronounced flavour. It is too strong to be matched with any sauce. There is virtually no wine to have “with”. It is best accompanied by strong tea. If one must drink, then dark rum after.

“Best in Show” is a satirical look at that corporate buzz term “best practices,” an open letter to Canada from Newfoundland (“Dear Canada…Signed Newfoundland”), Mr. Riche’s take on texting (“Chatter Boxes”) and the hilarious “March” which any Maritimer can identify with since it deals with the extreme weather changes here:

“Maybe you’re not bipolar, maybe it’s Newfoundland.”

Twenty-nine short essays, plus the aforementioned Afterword fill the 170+ pages of Bag of Hammers. A little bit Leacock, a little bit E.B. White and a dash of H.S. Thompson, this five-star collection of east coast satire by the author of Today I Learned it Was You (2016, House of Anansi Press) will satisfy the most discerning satire enthusiast.

Bag of Hammers by Edward Riche
Breakwater Books

This article has been Digiproved © 2018 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Edward Riche, Breakwater Books

Some Rights Reserved  

Original content here is published under these license terms:
License Type:  Non-commercial, Attribution
Abstract:  You may copy this content, create derivative work from it, and re-publish it for non-commercial purposes, provided you include an overt attribution to the author(s).
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The Malahat Review Issue #200

The Malahat Review is among Canada’s leading literary journals. Published quarterly, it features contemporary Canadian and international works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction as well as reviews of recently published Canadian poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction. Issue #200 also marks the fiftieth issue of this exceptional West Coast-based literary journal. Some excerpts from this issue are available online here:

Of special note:

Emily Carr’s unpublished memoir “Afterglow” in which she relates the “supreme death-beauty” of three individuals she had known, one being her sister Lizzie:

“Lizzie was beyond, beyond, beyond. All those little bothers drowned in a peace so much bigger than anything in life.”

Poetry from Karen Enns, “Changing the Clocks” (an excerpt):

It is enough, she says, not to herself or to me, but to the gods of streetlights
or the souls of dripping trees. Too early for darkness,
but the clocks have been set back an hour,
or a year, or is it years? The sound of rain is decades long.

An eerie short story about a young child pursuing Buddhist enlightenment (and troubling his mother in the process) by Jason Jobin: “Before He Left”:

He didn’t always sit in lotus. Sometimes he would be in regular cross-legged pose or have both legs straight out in front of him. On his head one day, all fours the next, Then in some kind of twisted sideways sprawl. He sat still for so long. My Billy, now a monk, now a garden gnome.

At a little under 200 pages, this issue of The Malahat Review is full of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and book reviews.

Current subscription options for The Malahat Review can be found here:

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This article has been Digiproved © 2017 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: The Malahat Review

Some Rights Reserved  

Original content here is published under these license terms:
License Type:  Non-commercial, Attribution
Abstract:  You may copy this content, create derivative work from it, and re-publish it for non-commercial purposes, provided you include an overt attribution to the author(s).
License URL: