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See, Hear, Read: the best movie, music and book release for May

See, Hear, Read: Room 237, directed by Rodney Ascher (in theatres May 10)This is the kind of buzzed-about doc that sends quivers of delight through lineups at the Lightbox. It’s all about the crackpot theories espoused by obsessive fans of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining. Some believe the movie contains secret messages about Native American genocide, that it proves the lunar landing was faked, that the number 42 is the key to everything. Fair warning: the film goes so far down the rabbit hole that you might find yourself starting to believe.

Room 237, directed by Rodney Ascher (in theatres May 10)

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The List: 10 things singer-songwriter Sarah Slean can’t live without

The List: Sarah Slean

1 | My mini paints
I got these when I was on tour in Stockholm in 2004. They’re the perfect size for travelling. I like to do a quick watercolour to pass the time on airplanes.The List: Sarah Slean

2 | My stage dresses
A good stage dress is hard to find. It can’t be too short, it has to be secure, and it has to survive getting rolled up into a suitcase. When I stumble upon a good one—usually by a Toronto designer—I buy a spare.The List: Sarah Slean

3 | My library
I’ve been building a library of great thinkers—Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Marcus Aurelius, Jane Jacobs, Gandhi—all my adult life. It’s my pride and joy. Science, religion and philosophy all point to the mystery of existence, which is what art is really about.

4 | My vinyl
I used to have a huge LP collection, but as any vinyl lover knows, it’s heavy and hard to store. I’ve only kept the timeless stuff. I love Leonard Bernstein. West Side Story makes a great cooking soundtrack.The List: Sarah Slean

5 | My piano shell
When I toured in the States in the early 2000s, I had to bring a keyboard with me. Compared with a grand piano, a keyboard on a stand looks so sad. My dad helped me make a wooden shell to hide the wires and cables and make it pretty. My friend calls it the “shroud of legitimacy.”

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See, Hear, Read: April’s best movie, music and book release

See, Hear, Read: No, directed by Pablo Larraín (in theatres now)In Chile’s first-ever Oscar nominee for best foreign language film, Mexican hunk Gael García Bernal stars as a hotshot advertising exec who mounts a cheery campaign against General Pinochet’s dictatorship. Shooting on grainy video stock for added authenti­city, director Pablo Larraín turns a goofy historical footnote into the year’s most inspiring, crowd-pleasing political drama.

No, directed by Pablo Larraín (in theatres now)

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The Argument: Bestselling novelist Claire Messud returns with The Woman Upstairs, a book that dares to make art out of middle age

The Argument: Claire Messud

I’m over 40, yet much of my pop culture consumption of late has concerned precocious young people. I am surrounded by half-formed stragglers like Sheila Heti and Lena Dunham—female versions of the man-child, forever coming of age. Where are the women in the age of Girls? Ask any actress: there’s not much work to be had in the void between Katniss and the Dowager Countess. This youth-obsessed culture elides not just characters of a certain age, but many an older audience member looking for her reflection in the art she absorbs.

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Five things you need to know about Andrew Pyper and his hot new horror novel The Demonologist

Bestselling Toronto writer Andrew Pyper’s newest novel The Demonologist, a supernatural thriller about old books and ancient monsters, comes out today (although Hollywood director Robert Zemeckis already optioned it over a year ago). Below, Pyper talks to us about his his fan posse, his brush with Alice Munro and why he hates writing for movies.

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Must-reads: three of this winter’s hottest novels depict Toronto as a city full of freaks, geeks and demigods

Most-reads: Born WeirdBorn Weird
By Andrew Kaufman
The relentlessly imaginative Kaufman writes high-concept modern fairy tales that hit the sweet spot between comic book quirky and genuinely touching. His latest novel follows the five aptly named Weird siblings, all of whom were blessed at birth by their grandmother—one always forgives, one never gets lost, one never loses hope, one always keeps himself safe and one is just a little stronger than any opponent. When the blessings turn out to be curses, the grown-up Weirds must dash across the country to get unhexed. It’s a tear-jerking family drama with a dash of The Incredibles. (Available now)

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See, Hear, Read: our experts pick January’s best movie, music and book release

They love it. We want it. Three red-hot releases

See, Hear, Read: Dowton Abbey, Season 3 (Jan. 6)Downton Abbey is a soapy period drama that pays as much attention to history as it does all the tortured love and intimate accusations. The new season is set during the Roaring ’20s, which means the show is finally taking a step away from the austerity of the war years into luxury. And Shirley MacLaine has joined the cast, so Maggie Smith will have another great old actress to play off of.”
—Amanda Worsley
Manager of Film Buff West

Downton Abbey, Season 3 (Jan. 6)

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GALLERY: The top 10 booths from the holiday One of a Kind Show

The One of a Kind Show gives Canadian artisans the chance to sell their lovingly crafted wares, and panicked holiday shoppers the chance to power-shop at hundreds of different booths in a single shopping session. If you’ve been to the Direct Energy Centre for one of the semi-annual shows, however, you’ll know the array of kiosks inside the sprawling convention hall can quickly get overwhelming. To help, we perused all the goods and narrowed it all down to our 10 favourite booths, which you can visit until the show closes on December 2.

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See, Hear, Read: our experts pick November’s best movie, music and book release

They love it. We want it. Three red-hot releases

See, Hear, Read: The Muppet Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Henson (Nov. 6)“Jim Henson was my idol when I was growing up, and since this was the first Muppet movie made after his death and it’s dedicated to him, it’s a big deal for me. Most versions of A Christmas Carol are creepy and terrifying, but this one is really fun, with lots of musical numbers. Michael Caine is brilliant as Scrooge—this is one of his own favourite roles.”
—Anna Oyen
Staffer at Queen Video

The Muppet Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Henson (Nov. 6)

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Best of Fall 2012: After years of playing the reclusive literary genius, Alice Munro is back with a new collection of stories

Best of Fall 2012:  Alice Munro

The 81-year-old Alice Munro has been publishing short stories for nearly half a century, and she keeps getting better, sharpening her focus on the manners and mores of tragically flawed women and men. Every story has a passage (and often more than one) that demonstrates her uncanny ability to see right through vanity, desperation and self-deception. Her favourite subject—the way otherwise intelligent women can fall victim to their own anxieties—dominates her new collection, Dear Life.

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Best of Fall 2012: five of this fall’s best books, from Zadie Smith to Rawi Hage

Best of Fall 2012: Books
MILOSZ, BY CORDELIA STRUBE
MILOSZ, BY CORDELIA STRUBE
Half the fun of this blackly comic novel is finding out what over-the-top punishment Toronto author Cordelia Strube will subject her hero to next. Milo is a middle-aged actor who gets kicked by a deer and almost drowns in a polluted river—and that’s before he discovers that his father, whom he thought was dead, is still alive and on a reality TV show.
Sept. 26

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The Thing: Lago bookshelves from Suite 22 that get kinetic

The Thing

(Image: courtesy of Lago Design)

Bookcases are not supposed to be fun. The good people at IKEA have been reinforcing that idea for years, mass-producing mind-numbing quantities of the humble Billy, which does one thing—holds books—reasonably well. The Tangram bookcase from the Italian furniture maker Lago gives this way of thinking a giant kick in the pants. The shelves, modelled after the ancient Chinese tangram puzzle, come in seven pieces (five triangles, a square and a rhombus) that can be configured in more than 6,500 ways—a cat, a stork, a fish blowing bubbles or a baseball player in mid-slide, to name just a few. And they’re available in 23 colours, from staid taupe to flashy tangerine. They’re brazenly decorative, borderline silly and undeniably awesome. They also hold books. From $2,100. Suite 22, 160 Bullock Dr., Markham, 905-554-6084.

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What are the odds a Torontonian will win the Nobel Prize in Literature? Not great

This year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature doesn’t get announced until October, but London oddsmaker Ladbrokes is already setting off speculation in the book world as to which lucky scribbler will be heading to Oslo in the late fall to collect a medal. Yesterday, Ladbrokes released its list of likely candidates,  and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is the clear favourite, with odds of 10:1.

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K’naan writing his life story as a children’s book

(Image: Manny Moss)

Before Toronto rapper K’naan penned the irrepressible ear worm “Wavin’ Flag” (which went on to be the FIFA 2010 theme song), and even before he became known as K’naan, he was Keinan Warsame, a Somalian resident who fled to the U.S. (and soon after, moved to Canada) just prior to the Somali Civil War in 1991. Now he plans to turn his story of escape, immigration and music into, yes, a children’s book, complete with illustrations by Rudy Gutierrez—not exactly the usual fodder for a kid’s nighttime story, sure, but one that he hopes will speak to those facing similar circumstances. [CBC]

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The Argument: C. S. Richardson’s new novel crowns him the new king of the highbrow Harlequin

The Argument | From Paris, With Love

Left: Photograph by Daniel Ehrenworth; Right: Some of Richardson's best known book-designs

C. S. Richardson is living a double life. As creative director at Random House of Canada, he spends his days fussing over typefaces, margin widths and cover blurbs. He has designed scores of bestselling books. At dinner parties, he often scours the host’s shelves for familiar covers. Given that he’s worked on more than 1,500 books in his three decades as a designer—everything from Giller Prize–winning fiction to volumes of financial self-help—there are always a few. (If he’s had enough to drink and is in a braggy mood, he’ll take some down and show them off.)

In his other life, the 57-year-old Richardson is a rising literary star. His debut novel, 2007’s The End of the Alphabet, about a dying man travelling the world with his beloved wife, was an unexpected international bestseller translated into 12 different languages, and winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best first novel. After a five-year break, The Emperor of Paris, Richardson’s ambitious follow-up novel, hits stores this month.

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