Category Archives: Canada

The Most Canadian Music Video Ever

Every Canada Day, I try to post a new music video that will show a little something about Canada to my friendly friends and neighbours here in the States. Every year I think I am not going to find something new (or at least new to me), and every year I am wrong. This year is no exception. It begins and ends with a loon call, and features a song sung at a cottage by Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, written by his brother, who also joins him. Enjoy and have a great day, eh?

Canada, by Canadians

In my tradition of annual Canada Day videos, this is a kind of cool little video that I first saw shared by another Canadian expat friend on FB. The Canadian Tourism Commission asked for footage from Canadians about their country which they then strung together in a short promotional film. It may or not be a representative image of Canada — what it certainly is, is a representative image of how Canadians see their own country, which is even more interesting, to my mind.  I think it is worth asking my American friends, as your big day comes up on the 4th, if there were a such thing as a United Stated Tourism Commission (which there isn’t, of course) and it asked its citizens to come up with a video showing off your country, what would that look like? And anyone elsewhere who would like to play.


Judith Merkle Riley dies at 68

I was very sad to learn this morning of the death of Judith Merkle Riley from ovarian cancer. When her A Vision of Light, about an unusual medieval mystic in the tradition of Margery Kempe, came out in 1989, it was a groundbreaking work, fitting an imagined character into a convincing and well-realized medieval setting. The last of her books I read was The Oracle Glass, about poisoners and witchcraft in seventeenth-century France. Like her first book its main charm was the compelling character of her female lead.

Here is her obituary in the Los Angeles Times. Sixty-eight is much too young.

An Interview with Alison Pick

I am very excited today to be able to bring you an interview with my very own cousin, Alison Pick, about her most recent novel, Far to Go, published just recently by House of Anansi Press. It can be ordered from Canada, and will be released in the States by Harper Perennial in summer, 2011. Don’t sorry, I will be reminding you when it comes out in the States! Far to Go, inspired in part by the lives of my grandparents and my father, is the story of one Jewish family’s experiences during the lead-up to the Nazi occupation in 1939 in Czechoslovakia. Paul and Annaliese Bauer are affluent, secular Jews whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of the German forces. Desperate to save themselves, they manage to secure a place for their six-year-old son, Pepik, on a Kindertransport to England. Far to Go is also the story of how what happened to the Bauers is remembered by those who survived, and the stories that are told about them.

The events of 1938 and 1939 unfold through the eyes of Marta, the governess, a woman uncertain of her own origins.  Why did you decide to make her the viewpoint character?

Good question. Truthfully I can almost never remember why I did anything in a particular way, beyond the fact that it felt intuitively right. But the idea of an unreliable narrator was appealing. I often turn to Jack Hodgins’ ‘A Passion for Narrative,’ – my novelists’ bible – and I think it was his suggestion to view the main characters, in my case Pavel and Anneliese, through outside eyes. That said, through the process of writing Marta grew to become a main character herself. She is a liminal character, not Jewish but close with Jews (and, as you point out, unsure of her origins, so with the possibility of being one); not the mother of a child sent away but close enough to understand a mother’s perspective. She is both on the Bauers’ side and, if only accidentally, against them. I wanted this tension to work in concert with the plot so the reader wouldn’t be certain what they could trust. The desire to keep reading would be to discover how the story turns out but also how Marta—who is still young and naïve—resolves as a person.
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Happy Birthday, Canada

A lot of friends say to me, in moments of darkest despair, “Wow Lucy, you’re so cool. I think that’s because you’re from Canada. Can you tell me how to be Canadian too?” Friends, here is your chance. The hat is optional.

ETA: If the video doesn’t tell you enough about What it Means to Be Canadian, you might want to check out this post by the Yarn Harlot. Fun fact: she quotes someone I went to university with. Because everyone in Canada knows everyone else. True.


Porter, Streetcar, Bathurst and College, Crown and Tiger, Cloak and Dagger, Iranian Kebabs, up at dawn, Future Bakery, Liber testamentorum ecclesie ovetensis, Flip Toss and Thai, Burry and David, Cora’s, Harbord Bakery poppy seed danish, the Kitchener Picks, Indian food, the Roxton not the Rushton (or is it the other way around?), Ezra’s Pound and Alison, Polish sausage on the street (a big mistake), lots of Rachel, Monkey’s Paw, Ossington between Dundas and Queen, RCMP paper napkins (wish I had bought them now), Foxley (arctic char ceviche and lamb duck prosciutto dumplings), Clinton’s, cider all over my sweater the floor and everything, Stanley Cup, Carin and her Mum, Bar Mercurio Espresso, carrot cake, Kensington Market, Lettuce Knit, Romni Wool, hempathy, Subway, Streetcar, Porter.


Alison Pick has Far to Go.

After sales in Canada, Italy, and the Netherlands (am I forgetting any?), Alison has cracked the U.S. market. From Publisher’s Marketplace this morning:

Alison Pick’s FAR TO GO, an epic historical novel set during the lead-up to Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia and the fate of one Jewish family, to Claire Wachtel at Harper Perennial, in a good deal, by Barbara Howson at House of Anansi Press.

Can a U.S. book tour be far behind? Here’s hoping for Chicago.

Manners and the Queen

(No, I’m not going to talk about The Hug) When I saw this photo on the newspapers this morning, it reminded me of when I was a little girl. Whenever the table manners of my sister and I left anything to be desired (which was often), my mother would chide us by asking how we thought the queen would respond to our disgusting habits. “Would you eat like that if the queen were here?” she’d ask when we switched our fork from hand to hand. “What if the queen came to tea?” she’d say when we buttered and jammed a whole piece of bread in one go, instead of just the part that was about to go into our mouths. And the worst threat of all: “What if you get invited to Buckingham Palace some day? Will you behave like this there?”

I always thought this was just a special little behavioural modification strategy of our family, maybe shared with a few other British ex-pats with a longing for the good order of the home country. But to my great surprise, when I was working my way through the Yarn Harlot’s archive, I found the following quotation (you’ll have to scroll down a fair way through the link I provided, just past the photo of the —erm— sock photographed in front of the monument to Queen Victoria to find the bit Im citing):

The flag was flying, so I know the Queen was home, but I didn’t see her, but I stood there in the rain, thinking about all the times [my grandfather] reminded me of my manners, saying “Careful now, or you’ll never be invited to the palace” and I remembered how as a little girl, I thought that was an entirely possible thing.

So it wasn’t just my mother! Because I thought being invited to the palace was an entirely possible thing for me too. Is this perhaps a broader Canadian phenomenon? I started to wonder.

And then I began to wonder about Americans. Whom do their parents hold up as paragons of good behaviour? Presidents? Somehow I can’t quite picture it (“Eat your broccoli! Ronald Reagan loves broccoli!”), and that difference may explain a lot about a lot of things.

But who knows? I think back to a conversation I had with my son a week or so ago, when I drove him and some of his friends to an academic olympics competition at a school in Englewood. “We’re going to be the only white kids there,” my son said worriedly, though I don’t know exactly what he was worried about. “That’s okay,” I said, “It might be a good experience for you to see what it feels like to be in the minority.”

“Besides,” I continued, “Think of what it must have been like for Barack Obama at Harvard Law School.”

Bonus Joke Content, also from the Yarn Harlot: How do you get 50 drunk and rowdy Canadians to get out of your pool.”
Say, “Would you please get out of my pool?”

Or, I suppose, tell them that the queen is turning up.