Sunday, October 4, 2015


Come see Kevin Hardcastle read with Jess Taylor in the ebar Thursday October 15 at 7:00pm.

Full disclosure: I got to know Kevin Hardcastle a little bit in late 2012 when we were both shortlisted for and did not win that year's Journey Prize. He was the only other person at the fancy dinner and glitzy ceremony who seemed as uncomfortable as I was. It was the first time I'd donned the Ritz since some wedding I'd been to as a toddler and I got the same impression from Kevin. Afterwards, we got our commiseration on and on account of how much we drank – we were younger back then and the world was slated to end that December, so... – I don't remember all that much about the time we had. But I liked the guy. He was warm dude, passionate about his work, and equal parts nervous and chuffed about having that work recognized. I liked him even after catching him trying to secret an expensive bottle of bar wine out of my hotel room at the end of the night. 

The three years between Kevin almost swiping a swanky wine and the release of Debris feels like too long, but the wait was worth it. In those three years, Kevin's been polishing his prose, building up visibility, plugging holes in just about every lit mag in the country – he even lost the Journey Prize a second time. The refinements aren't astronomical, or even glaring – he had he knives pretty sharp back in 2012 – but Debris reads all the better for time taken with it. There's a confidence and a consistency in the stories that's rare for first books. In a genre where it's easy for less-experienced, less-involved writers to hide behind the laconic cruelty of the subject matter – that genre being GritLit, or HickLit, or whatever you want to term stories about rural people and places – Kevin smokes an impressive amount of nuanced flavour into these tough, gritty strips of stories.

The fringe grittiness – shotguns and fistfights and lawns strewn with debris and detritus – will likely be the dominant talking point with Kevin's writing. Yet the refinement and delicacy of the seeing and telling that goes on makes for a stoic beauty that's the real success of Debris, is what seriously sets the work apart from whatever generic comparisons it will inevitably attract. The rural settings are not the mopey, lonely, objective correlative wildernesses described by Survival. Yes, all the fences are a bit busted and need painting, but that disrepair is just daily fact, not a metaphor for anything. The self-segregated isolation here is a sort of a proud heritage. Most importantly, Kevin's characters are not simply brutish dumb misfits, but men (mostly) and women driven by love and loyalty and duty in such a clear, unconflicted way that conflict is inevitable and intense. All of which is to say that, while the stories in Debris might seem like bummers on the surface, you'd be hard-pressed to find stories this loving, hurt, and alive in anything else coming out lately.

In a different world where Kevin had gotten away with that bottle of room wine and left me with a stupid expensive hotel bill, I'd still have to admit that he's a good guy who's written a great book.

- Andrew

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Photo by Jaime Hogge

Historically, I haven’t seen eye to eye with Gregory Pepper. It could be that his hair is always blocking the view. Or maybe we began to look past each other that time a houseguest spilt red wine over all his homemade merch at a houseshow I was co-presenting. But more likely our overall divergence stems from when we almost came to sitcom quick blows over Seinfeld at the ebar one primetime summer’s night. If pressed – and Pepper presses – I would say everyone’s beloved show about nothing is a misanthropic tautology of irony better left in the 90s with Jerry’s jeans and its theme song’s synth slap bass. Pepper, for his part, thinks so highly of the show that he even cites it in this very important and exclusive interview. Not one to extensively pick at old wounds, I suggested we meet in the cold comfort of the internet to discuss the succinct pop of his new record Chorus! Chorus! Chorus! and to promote his upcoming show at the ebar. He generously agreed. Proceeding in this seemingly necessary spirit of small city reconciliation may have been an oversight.

- Brad de Roo, who forgives almost everything in the name of well-made music.

Your newest record Chorus! Chorus! Chorus! is short short short. What’s the appeal of short songs? What do they do that longer tracks don’t? Do you have any favourite short songs? Short albums? What does the diminutive form offer you?

I'm not really trying to make the songs short so much as economical. Like how you probably could have boiled that question down to a single sentence and still basically said the same thing: “How does the temporal length of a song influence you, both as a writer and a listener?” See? Much better!

Did the songs start off with the intention of being shorter? Were they edited down form larger ones? Is it common for you to start a song in short form?

Remember in Amadeus when Mister Rooney starts giving Mozart shit for using “too many notes”? And then dude is like, “There are just as many notes, Majesty, as are required. Neither more nor less.”

Shortness of song calls to mind jingles. Are you readying yourself for a career of ad music work? What would be your dream ad project? What product best suits your music? What product defines Gregory Pepper, the man?

I don't know if you're picking up what I'm putting down, man. The “ten songs on a seven inch” thing may seem like a gimmick, but they're actual songs. You know, themes, momentum, tension, release, etc. I feel like I put more concerted effort and thought into ninety seconds than most of these unkempt garage rockers put into the A side.

Would you ever consider doing an album of exceptionally long songs – with every song over 10 mins? Or maybe with one album-length song?

I'm always game for a lengthy, pot-fueled jam session but I think it would be pretty self indulgent to formally release any of that delay-soaked madness. 

The lead off single to Chorus! Chorus! Chorus! is ‘Welcome To the Dullhouse’. Do you live in a dullhouse? If so, is its dullness at all integral to getting creative work done? How does it differ from a dollhouse? Would you every consider scoring a Todd Solonz film? How important are puns to your lyrics?

What's your record for consecutive questions asked? Let's see: No, N/A, N/A, sure, very.

The second release is ‘Come By It Honestly’. Did you come by music honestly? How important is honesty in music? What are the biggest lies of the Canadian indie music scene?

Yeah, like a lot of people I started flipping through my parents’ records when I was a young shorty and really got turned on by the poppy stuff. Well, mostly just The Beatles, really. As far as honesty in music, that's kind of hard to say. “Just remember: It's not a lie if you believe it.

Besides making music, you are a visual artist. How linked are these pursuits? Do you notice aesthetic commonalities? Would you ever consider making a graphic novel concept album or an animated music video?

These pursuits have lots of links. HERE'S a link to a rotoscope animation I did for Common Grackle a few years ago. 

You’ve made some videos for this release.? Were you active in their inception? Is this a fun or tedious process? How many videos will you make for Chorus! Chorus! Chorus!?

“Dullhouse” was a really fun. We just drank beer and horsed around outside all weekend. “Come By It Honestly” wasn't so much tedious as torturous. I had to cram Vaseline drenched cotton swabs up my nose to keep the water out and simultaneously hold my breath and lip-sync for a minute and a half. I think we're gonna do one more video which, god willing, I won't have to appear in. 

You’re pretty independently prolific. Do you have a Prince style vault over at Camp Pepper? Are there any projects or recordings that will forever go unreleased?

I've got a few hard drives stashed away for sure. Madadam and I recorded some hyper-sexual jams while were making the Big Huge Truck album that I don't think the world will ever be ready for.

You seem to like collaborations too. What’s the attraction? How problematic are the Problems? Do you have any dream collaborations that you’d double-mortgage Camp Pepper to make happen?

Not sure if I like the collaborative process so much as the human company. Though now that I think of it, most of the collabo work I do is via the internet so it's still a pretty lonesome pursuit. And no, a second lien on the compound is not worth the privilege of compromising my brilliant ideas.

Do you have any causes you’d like to champion here?

The Human Fund.

Are there any general statements you’d like to make?

A little self promotion never hurt anyone. Local album release Oct 2nd at the ebar. New album is available on vinyl and digital formats.

Besides this interview, is there anything you’d care to regret in public?

Probably my “40oz. To Freedom” backpiece.


Sunday, September 20, 2015


The Book Bash festival is an annual celebration of Guelph books. It’s a relaxed afternoon of music and prizes and fun that features recently published books by more than twenty local authors and also music by Ian Reid. The Bookshelf will be on hand to sell local books, and there will also be tables by Guelph micro-publishers.

The 2015 edition of Book Bash is being held from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the Red Papaya (55 Wyndham Street North) on Sunday, September 27th as part of Culture Days.

There is no cost for the event, but donations will be accepted for Action Read, a charity that provides literacy programs in the community.

The host of this year's Book Bash is Valerie Senyk, a Guelph-based performance artist, actress, visual artist and poet. She presented her debut book of poetry at last year's Book Bash event, and she agreed to answer some questions about her experience.

- Jeremy Luke Hill

What were your impressions of Book Bash last year?

Book Bash was a remarkable celebration of Guelph area authors in particular, and books and writing in general. It made me feel that Guelph is indeed a very literate city. 

Why should people bother coming to Book Bash? What makes this festival unique?
People should come to see what was brought out in publishing this past year, to see the diversity of talent in and around Guelph, to get to know their local authors... and to talk books.

What would you like to see Book Bash become? 

I'd like to see it encourage what I once witnessed in St. Petersburg, Russia... I was there as a visitor in 1990. I was in the core city area, and I saw a long line-up of people on the street – the longest I'd seen so far. I tried to find someone in the line who could speak English, and when I did I asked him what they were lining up for. He told me that one of their writers had just published a new book, and they wanted a copy. When I expressed my astonishment, he told me: "Writers are the soul of our country!"

Why is book culture important to a community? What role does it play? 

Book culture is important to any community. It's from books we learn about life, about what it means to be a human being.

The Book Bash festival is presented by Friends of Vocamus Press, a non-profit community organization that supports book culture in the Guelph area. For more information about the festival please email or phone 226-500-7301.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


It begins with a hand beating rhythmically on a mattress. Lisbeth Salander is back. The outlandish heroine of the famed Millennium Series, part computer genius, part anti-misogynist avenging angel, the girl with the dragon tattoo is once again caught in a complex tale of computer hacking and murder, leading directly to the arch institution of criminal malfeasance, the US National Security Agency.

All our favourite characters are back as well: Michael (Kalle) Blomkvist, once again fighting to keep his crusading magazine, Millennium, from corporate takeover; Inspector Jan Bublanski, leading the investigation into the murder of Sweden’s top Artificial Intelligence researcher; Salander’s comrades from Hacker Republic and Holger Palmgren, Lisbeth’s former guardian and the only person who knows the full details of her upbringing. All the tropes of the Millennium novels are here as well – the incompetent police forces, petty minded bureaucrats who mistake Michael and Lisbeth for the real villains and the deep link between criminals and the highest offices of the Swedish and American governments.

I will be honest; I was ambivalent about reading this new book. The story of Steig Larsson’s untimely death – the battle over his estate and disinheritance of his common-law wife based on archaic Swedish law by his father and brother who have commissioned this book – itself has the intrigue of a Scandinavian thriller. What enamored 80 million readers (yes, really) to the original books was their uncompromising exposure of how pursuit of power and profit leads admired exploiters into criminality and corruption. Not to mention our heroes’ relentless efforts to tell the truth and right the wrongs, at the risk of their lives. After a slow start, this novel lives up to its predecessors’ fame. David Lagercrantz's The Girl in the Spider's Web is a taut drama unfolding over barely a week in bleakest November, with a back story that encompasses decades. Remember, blood is thicker than water.

- Brian

Sunday, August 30, 2015


The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival has a great track record of bringing in your favourite authors. This year they’ve got the likes of Naomi Klein, Lawrence Hill, Elizabeth Hay, and Ann-Marie McDonald. But as much as Eden Mills is a place to see your tried and true favs, it’s always been where you discover new favourite authors. Here’s a certainly small, incomplete list of writers that we, in our humble opinion, think you should make a point of checking out at this year’s festival.

Craig Davidson (AKA Nick Cutter)

After cutting his teeth and knuckles on a decade’s worth of gritty realism (The Fighter, Rust and Bone, Cataract City), Craig Davidson, writing as Nick Cutter, has in the past year published some of the most visceral, tactile, and flat-out fun genre fiction I’ve read in a while. The Troop was hailed by Stephen King as “old school horror at its best”, The Deep was wonderfully claustrophobic and twisted, and his most recent, The Acolyte, drops James Ellroy into a dystopian future of religious fanaticism. Of course there’s no shortage of deft genre writers, but hopefully Davidson’s pedigree as a writer of so-called “serious” literature will hold the hands of readers reluctant to return to the sort of crackerjack fare that, if we’re being honest, turned most of us into readers in the first place.

- Andrew

Madhur Anand

There is a reason that we have asked Madhur Anand to facilitate the evening of November 25th which features Margaret Atwood. She has just been chosen by the CBC as one of the 16 writers to watch this year for her first book of poetry New Index For Predicting Catastrophes. Madhur is a professor in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph. Like Atwood, she is a true renaissance woman and navigates emotional realms with the language of the sciences and the world of science with an ironic blend of skepticism and wonder. Her grand vocabulary will open up your boundaries!

- Barb

Plum Johnson

Plum Johnson was a 68 year old first time writer when she won the prestigious RBC Charles Taylor Prize for They Left Us Everything. The book had received very good reviews in the fall and had sold moderately well for someone most readers had never heard of. But after she won the prize, the book took off like a rocket with her in it. I’m sure that it has been a splendid but wild media ride as she seemed to be everywhere at once. One of the reasons for the book's popularity is the subject matter. She helped care for her elderly, quirky parents for twenty years and then after their death she and her siblings had to declutter a home that had accumulating history for 50 years. This is an inevitable human experience and she gives us a sweet and touching glimpse of our own futures. My guess is that her reading will be packed!

- Barb

Norah McClintock

Norah McClintock's newest book, My Life Before Me, is her third contribution to the enormously popular Seven Series; a well-written, gripping read set during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Before Me is a tautly-paced murder mystery, featuring an intelligent and courageous heroine who is equal parts Nancy Drew and Hermione Granger. Following a devastating fire at the orphanage where she has grown up, Cady Andrews is given a mysterious envelope containing a single clue about her origins. An aspiring reporter and natural skeptic, Cady decides to view the contents of the envelope as a journalistic opportunity, but it isn't long before her personal world and professional ambitions overlap in surprising and terrifying ways. Highly recommended.

- Steph

Check out the panoply of great authors descending on Eden Mills this year at See you September 10 - 13th!

Sunday, August 23, 2015


You like to stay in and sip herbal tea, to eat a strong variety of chips and play dancing games of Twister on Friday nights with a few grounded pals. Who doesn’t? But you’re motivated and seriously plugged into the thrilling grid of the upward corporate world as well. You’re not stingy with your business acumen. You portion it out like a suddenly relocated bag of late get-together salty vins. Your strategies are tangy yet full of deeply crystallized grit. Who is going to give the mild party PowerPoint presentation, if you don’t, you always expertly syngerject? Who is going to keep our soiree in line with our long-term business goals, you tell us all on the sunken crumb couch of capitalistic repose.

Still, on profitable occasion a Friday on the town calls out to you like a spark in a hydrogen-powered dream, like a whirring guitar riff from the old future of rock. Business and pleasure blur like a clean burning fuel of buoyant propulsion. And so you doubly dream. And your dreams get lofty, so lofty that they hover over iconic bodies of water cradling mixed drinks, so efficiently afloat that their merger requires the smooth lift of a summer’s festive blimp to take purchase. You don’t need to land, dear dream-investor. You needn’t reengineer the general thrust of your ambitiously relaxed plans. Just float down to the eBar this Friday at 9pm, after all of your meetings have run long into an industrious dinner of fine chips and table wine. Blimp Rock is raising your dream one well-costed spark after the next with a vinyl/video release in the well-researched name of quiet combustion. Blimp Rock is setting down with their songs of staying-in and cheering up to make some dollars for their dreams.

 - Brad de Roo, who should mention that, stalwart Captain of Industry, Wax Mannequin will join the Blimp Rock crew in having a gas. 

For those unfortunate souls who don't have a bit of blimp in their lives, could you succinctly explain the historical origins, name etymology, musical mythology, aerodynamic specifications, long-term fiscal outlook, PowerPoint fluency, and floating motivations of Blimp Rock?

Thank you so much for that 7 part question! For the sake of avoiding a blimp-sized paragraph, I will break it down.

Historical Origins: Blimp Rock is a band hired to raise money for a music festival in a blimp floating over Lake Ontario through album and merchandise sales. On behalf of parent corporation Blimp Rock Enterprises, we are hoping to raise the $700 000 required for the festival to be fully realized.

Musical Mythology: Blimp Rock writes simple tunes that hearken back to a simpler era – a time when hydrogen was loved and not feared for its combustible properties. Our new album Sophomore Slump features songs about boys who cry during movies, conflict resolution over stolen pizza and a tribute to homebodies called “Let’s All Stay In Tonight.” Essentially, we are trying to capture the odd sides and emotional ends of real life while raising venture capital.

Aerodynamic Specifications: The blimp for Blimp Rock Live (name of the festival) will be quite well rounded. It will feature 1) Wood Paneling 2) Fancy Mix Drinks and 3) The Finest Cover Bands. We are also currently working on a plan to expand the number of fire exits from 0 to 1.

Long Term Fiscal Outlook: Due to unforeseen economic sluggishness in the music industry, Blimp Rock has yet to meet its goal. However, given that we are now only $-2100 in debt to various payday loan companies, it is safe to say that we are closer to our goal than ever before.

PowerPoint Fluency: In today's modern business era, PowerPoint has usurped English as the first language of business, and it is for that reason that our live show is accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation on our marketing plan for the aforementioned festival.

Floating Motivations: Listening to a cover band while sipping on a mix drink and leaning against wood paneling 2500 feet above Lake Ontario. 

You've Blimped the eBar in Guelph before. Would you ever consider taking this metaphor into literal territory and converting the whole Bookshelf complex of bookstore, cinema, bar, and restaurant into a Blimp passenger deck? What movie would you show on your inaugural flight? Where would you dock it? Could so much culture actually take to the Guelph air? 

Thank you for your 4 part question on converting the Bookshelf into a blimp! We would most definitely consider such a project. Though most modern blimps only have a capacity of 14 people and 1000 pounds, I’m guessing the Bookshelf has more than enough extra cash to research how to fit all of its ventures in a 40x40 blimp gondola. As for the film, I think it would have to be “Around The World By Zeppelin” which is the story of the first airship to circum-navigate the globe in 1929. The logical place to dock the blimp would be The Co-operators building at 130 Macdonnell given its stature; and perhaps they would cut us a deal on insurance in exchange for the publicity (their first quote was surprisingly high). And yes, there is already so much culture on Guelph’s ground level, it’s only a matter of time before it wafts upwards. 

The lyrics of your Blimp torch songs (a sentimentally explosive genre to many) are full of absurdist understatement, satire, and whimsical narrative. How much do you employ literary effects or modes in the Office of Blimp? Do any particular lyricists or writers pilot your wordy airship? Often The Blimp Rock Live Experience, as I am contractually obligated to rebrand it, features presentations of Blimp Rock's business savvy M.O.? Do you see lyrics as distinct from presentation notes or scripts or other combinations of words? Or does voice (in the literary sense) have a wide-ranging, genre-hovering flight path? 

Thank you for your 5 part question of the intersection of literary devices and corporate strategy! Literary effects I often use include rhyme, irony and hiding sentimental messages under a safety blanket of jokes. A literary mode I’ve recently been into is contradiction. Sophomore Slump opens up with a song called “Will It Ever?” that questions whether you can ever live up to profound first time experiences. The next track “Sophomore Slump” is a line-by-line contradiction of that song that champions trying things again. In reality, I think both songs have elements of truth to them and neither is correct. Too many lyricists pilot my ship to list here, however, my current favourite lyrics go to Richard Laviolette’s song “Snailhouse” from the Community Theatre album. And yes! In full embrace of the First Rule Of Business, our show opens with a PowerPoint on our blimp festival, however it only works its way into 2 of our songs (“Blimp Rock Live” and “Blimp Rock Live 2”), so if blimps aren’t your thing, we’ll sing about other stuff too. I think lyrics are distinct from presentation notes and scripts in the sense that it is hard to work graphs and economic analysis into poetry (though we are working on it) however, there can be overlap in areas such as writing choruses and slogans and joke timing.

How important is storytelling to good Blimp-positive music and culture? 

Storytelling is massively important to Blimp-positive culture. We believe that we have been living in a Blimp-negative culture for much too long, as blimps are often being dismissed as unsafe, irrelevant or even a bad idea. We are trying to shift (or ‘spin’ as we say at the office) that conversation in a direction that redefines blimps in an exclusively positive way. Here’s a story for you: Did you know that blimp travel has become much safer since the days of the blimp that shall not be named? In fact, in the last 70 years, there have been just 17 blimp-related accidents, and only one exploded.

Since I balloon on about books all day at a bookstore, I am obliged to enter into a sudden multipart book-melee of questions. Luckily, I think of books as compact blimps of the mind, so moving through the barrage should not be too disaster-connotative for you. Here goes: 

a) If you could bring 5 books (excluding blimp manuals) onto a blimp during a free-float or a super-long circle to land, what would they be? 

- One! Hundred! Demons! by Lynda Barry

- Festival Man by Geoff Berner

- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

- Just Kids by Patti Smith

- Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies by Susannah Gardner

b) You’ve toured around a bit in Europe and Canada. What are your thoughts on travelogues, travel guides, and tour diaries? Have you ever considered penning any of the above? Do you have any favourites in the travel book catchall?

I am a fan of all three. I am interested in writing travelogues on some of Ontario’s overlooked hamlets. Places that may be suburban, small, isolated and trying to find out what people do for a good time. Recently we played in a small town called Maynooth and there’s a great hostel that hosts live bands. There was also a little bakery that exclusively sold different varieties of butter tarts and they were delicious. I was told people also like to hang out at the Legion there, which often hosts cover bands. Perhaps I could also pen a travelogue on seeking Ontario’s finest cover bands. No favourites in the catchall, though the Burning Hell song “Travel Writers” is a stand-out tune on the subject.

c) What are your thoughts on music writing? Do you enjoy music criticism and journalism? Do interviews irk or awe you? Are there any music-themed books you would kick out of your Blimp? 

Music writers have been very kind to me, though I don't anticipate that trend to continue. There's so much good music out there, it's slightly terrifying, and probably impossible for it to get the attention it deserves, which is a sad thing. I can understand the perspective of the music publications that only write about established bands as well as the bands that don't get written about. I like publications that put at least some priority on the former. I like interviewers like I like my people: weird and friendly. I don’t think I’ve read a music book I didn’t enjoy, but for the record, Festival Man by Geoff Berner would be wearing a seatbelt to ensure its place on board.

Maynooth tarts
This upcoming show is with Wax Mannequin. Here’s a guy who’s known to burn candles on his head and release many balloons into the air in a reckless fashion. Is he someone you’d permit to play your Blimp Festival or is a safety risk taken in the name of song? Do you have any dream headliners for your festival?

We are currently in negotiations with Wax and The Co-operators to figure out a way of making this work. There are a lot of logistics to sort out such as whether or not the Wax’s chrysalis (which the balloons are stored in) can fit on board, and how far Wax should play away from it to ensure that it doesn’t catch on fire. We are actually having a meeting on the 28th that should finalize the safety plan for a “Flaming Chrysalis Scenario”. As for a dream headliner, I think it goes without saying that re-uniting Sheezer 2500 ft. above Lake Ontario would be well worth the $700K.

Wax Mannequin
You’ll be coming to this show with some new vinyl and a video reel. Is there anything we should know about these corporate missives?

Yes, more details on both! The vinyl includes a fancy insert of the lyrics, and FAQ on our blimp festival and a download code. The video is for the song “My Mind Is A Shark” and it was animated by Parker Bryant who also made “Lake Ontario Lifeguards.” We’ll be screening the video right before we play.

Would you ever consider crowdsourcing or a TVO Can-rock telethon to get Blimp Rock Live off the ground? 

We would not consider crowdsourcing as we are highly confident in our current plan, however a TVO telethon would pique our interest. Perhaps I could also go on The Agenda and cross-promote my upcoming travelogue entitled “Requesting 'Bobcaygeon' in Bobcaygeon: The Cover Bands of Southern Ontario.”

If you were forced to depart your perceptual blimp to refuel, what questions would you ask yourself? 

1. How did we convince so many people to come to the eBar Aug. 28 that we were able to launch our blimp festival 45 years sooner than anticipated!?

2. How did we Wax the Co-operators to allow that paper-mache chrysalis on board?

Sunday, August 16, 2015


This August we had a wild and wonderful five day kayaking trip along the coast of Georgian Bay’s Franklin Island and then onward to the more remote McCoy’s. Two grandparents, two parents, two boys, nine and 11. Paddling over six hours a day allowed my mind to wander and I often found myself thinking that I was seeing the same sky, water, and rock that paddlers had seen 300 years ago. This made me, a floating fleck in the universe, feel a bit more immersed in the steady stream of history.

The day after I returned home I read an article featuring Joseph Boyden talking about the wonders of a book called Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra de Fuego to the Arctic. He was the guest lecturer of this show’s opening exhibit at the AGO. He described the book as a “bold and massive undertaking to cover two continents of art. Its breadth is phenomenal.” The exhibit encompasses the early nineteenth century to the early 20th – before the takeover of the wilderness by cottagers, companies, and other owners of the landscape. I knew that I had to have a copy.

A major aim of the exhibit was to show how the Americas are so connected. One of the earliest champions of South American art was the Prussian explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. He was struck by how landscape artists in both North and South America were interested in protecting nature and able to push US Congress to create the National Park system. This was a huge influence in the creation of Parks Canada. In the era way before Instagram, paintings were brought in to Congress to impress on law makers the importance of preserving the earth’s beauty.

The chosen paintings are both stunning and interesting. They capture both the quality of light and the rituals and routines of daily life. The sections are not themed geographically but philosophically and each artist has an excellent introduction by someone immersed in the art. Of course Cornelius Krieghoff, Georgia O’Keeffe, Emily Carr, and David Milne are represented but so are many other artists that I have never heard of. I was particularly taken by the Uruguayan artists, Pedro Figari, José Cuneo Perinetti and Pedro Blanes Viale. Their work is definitely as compelling as any Monet or Van Gogh’s that I have seen in books or galleries.

This gathering of artists has inspired me to desire three things: go to the AGO exhibit, which runs until September 20; start planning our next kayaking trip, which next year will include another parent and grandchild; and who knows, maybe even think about taking a trip to Uruguay!

- Barb