The Book

Imagining Toronto book cover

Imagining Toronto (Mansfield Press, fall 2010) is available at most bookstores and online through Mansfield Press, Amazon or Chapters.

Imagining Toronto was shortlisted for the 2010 Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian literary criticism and won the Award of Merit, the highest honour given to a book at the 2011 Heritage Toronto Awards.

Upcoming Events

25-26 February 2012: "Going Native: Reclaiming Aboriginal Identity in Toronto Literature," “Landscapes of Difference, Espaces de Difference, Raume der Differenz” conference (Session: The Politcs of Place: Urban Sites of Contestation), Canadian Studies Association in German-speaking countries (GKS). Grainau, Germany.

Thursday 15 March 2012: Guest lecture, "The Imagined City," ARC 120, Contemporary Architecture. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, University of Toronto; Isabel Bader Theatre, 9:45-11:00 am.

Wednesday 4 April 2012: "Representing Toronto: Mapping the Role of the Artist in the Contemporary City. Panel discussion. Presented by Koffler Gallery in partnership with Diaspora Dialogues. 80 Spadina Ave., Suite 503; 7:00 pm.

Sunday 22 April 2012: Reading from Acts of Salvage at the Draft Reading Series. Details TBA.

Thursday 3 May 2012: "Literary Bodies." Panel discussion as part of Bodies in the City, a symposium of the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto.

Thursday 17 May 2012: "Imagining Toronto the Wild" at the Toronto Botanical Garden. Inaugural lecture of the TBG's new HortiCULTURE salon series.

Recent Events

Tuesday 18 October 2011, 7:00-8:30 pm: Will the Real Cabbagetown Please Stand Up?: Regent Park, St. Jamestown and Cabbagetown in the Literary Imagination. Parliament Branch (269 Gerrard St. E.)

Saturday 1 October 2011, 2:00-3:30 pm: The Masseys and the Masses: Social and Spatial Ascendency in Rosedale and Forest Hill. Forest Hill Branch (700 Eglinton Ave. W.)

Tuesday 27 September 2011, 7:00-8:30 pm: From Streetcar Suburb to Multicultural Community: Riverdale in the Literary Imagination. Riverdale Branch, Toronto Public Library (370 Broadview Ave.)

Click here for past events.

Imagining Toronto wins at the 2011 Heritage Toronto Awards

I’ve been so busy lately I’ve not had a chance to update here until now, but am delighted to announce that Imagining Toronto has won the Award of Merit, the highest honour given to a book at the 2011 Heritage Toronto Awards.

The award was actually shared among three books: Imagining Toronto, Shawn Micallef’s wonderful book Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto (Coach House, 2010) and Ross King’s intriguing Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven (Douglas & McIntyre, 2010). I already have (and refer often to) Shawn’s book, and have put Defiant Spirits on my wish list and will pick up a copy soon.

I was also very pleased to see my emeritus York University Geography Department colleague John Warkentin win an honourable mention for his groundbreaking book Creating Memory: A Guide to Outdoor Public Sculpture in Toronto (Becker, 2010).

In a few days it will be a year since the Imagining Toronto book first came into print. In that time the book has significantly exceeded my expectations of it, especially since it was my first book. It’s been shortlisted for one literary award (the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Canadian literary criticism), won another (the Heritage Toronto Award), has been reviewed wonderfully (most notably in Quill & Quire and the Literary Review of Canada) and continues to sell well in both major and local bookstores. It has also led to wonderful opportunities, chief among them the chance to speak about Toronto literature to local audiences as well as scholars in Spain and (next February) Germany. Not to mention the continuing pleasure of reading Toronto literature!

The Imagining Toronto project is far from complete. Since the beginning I’ve had in mind a second volume, exploring representations of Toronto in film [Geoff Pevere’s superb book, Toronto On Film (TIFF, 2009) is a must-read for anyone interested in the surprisingly large number of films not only filmed but set in Toronto], television, music and art. While researching and writing the Imagining Toronto book I amassed a considerable volume of material on all of these other media, and have begun watching some of the many Toronto-set television series of the past and present, collecting music references and learning about some of the city’s wonderful painters and sculptors. The second volume will probably differ from the first in the sense that it will be much lighter in tone and argument. This time I’d like to focus more on the people and their work. I’ve also enjoyed Geoff Pevere’s superb book, Toronto On Film (TIFF, 2009), a must-read for anyone interested in the surprisingly large number of films not only filmed but set in Toronto. Stay tuned for updates!

I’m also working on a fiction project that has been on the back-burner since 2005 or so. Most of my work is scholarly (or, perhaps more properly, pseudo-academic) and appears as non-fiction, but several years ago I composed a vignette that (after lurking in the back of my mind ever since and undergoing considerable transformation) is now rapidly turning into a novel called Acts of Salvage. No one will be surprised to hear it is a Toronto novel, one that explores what the contemporary city compels us to cling to or discard. Its protagonists include dumpster-divers and urban scavengers, a cat lady and a carpenter who discovers a mummified baby in the attic of a house. The text is moving along rapidly, and by next spring it should be ready to share (in April I’ll be reading at the Draft Reading Series and may consider trying out the text elsewhere). As for publishing news, I can report that there’s been sight-unseen interest (which is actually both unexpected and delightful), but I want to see where the novel goes before deciding what — if anything — to do with it.

Someone who interviewed me about the Heritage Toronto Award asked what winning the award meant to me. At the time I didn’t have much of an answer. Since avoiding her question, however, it has occurred to me that the most important thing an award does is not honour an accomplishment as much as offer encouragement for the next project and the one after that.

A popular quotation attributed variously to a World War 1 song, American poet Carl Sandburg and (perhaos erroniously) Carl Sagan reads “I don’t know I’m going but I’m on my way.” I first saw these words on a wall poster in a high school math classroom, and they’ve stuck with me much longer than Calculus ever did. Perhaps because I was born on a Thursday, I have needed to travel a particularly long distance to get here. I am happy to report that I’m still on my way.

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