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80 years of Q&Q: notable titles, from cookbooks to LGBT classics



Douglas Coupland’s debut novel wasn’t an instant hit when it was published in the spring of 1991, but it didn’t take long before critics and media saw the appeal in combining the author’s views with grunge music and a burgeoning slacker culture. Before the year was out, the book’s title would permanently brand a generation (and trickle down to the one that followed it, eventually dubbed “Y”), despite Coupland’s protests that the term was meant to symbolize an attitude, not a chronological age.


Canada does not have an extensive tradition of publishing pulp fiction, despite being the birthplace of Margaret Millar, one of the 20th century’s great mystery writers. Toronto’s Harlequin effectively cornered the market in mass-market romance publishing, but the dingier forms of crime and thriller writing have flown largely under the radar in this country. Which doesn’t mean these books don’t exist. Early postwar noir novels set in Montreal, with titles like Sugar-Puss on Dorchester Street and The Crime on Cote des Neiges, had a small but devoted following, and are now being brought back into print by Ricochet Books, an imprint of Quebec publisher Véhicule Press.

“What I find most fascinating and valuable in these books is that they’re set in worlds that were all but ignored by the major houses and writers of the day,” says Brian Busby, series editor of Ricochet. “For example, 1940s and ’50s Montreal – the exciting, open city Bill Weintraub documented so well in his non-fiction – isn’t anywhere to be found in the novels of Hugh MacLennan and Constance Beresford-Howe. But it is there in pulps by Ted Allan, David Montrose, and Martin Brett.”

Not all the books of this type were written by authors with minimal literary credibility: Governor General’s Literary Award winner Hugh Garner authored several pulp novels, including Murder Has Your Number and Waste No Tears, a pseudonymous thriller set in Toronto’s Cabbagetown.

Nathan Myhrvold and Alison Fryer

Nathan Myhrvold and Alison Fryer


What if there were no cookbooks, or recipes for that matter? Would the seminal oozing, runny butter tart from Kate Aitken’s Canadian Cook Book (1945) still be with us today? Would we be so in tune with our health if not for Anne Lindsay’s Smart Cooking (1986)? Would a generation of students have learned life skills without Nellie Lyle Pattinson’s The Canadian Cook Book (1923) in their schools? Would the muffin have been elevated to coffee-shop staple if not for the self-published Muffin Mania (1982)?

Our tables are laden with remarkable ingredients from all across Canada. But without authors such as Jehane Benoit, Marie Nightingale, Helen Gougeon, Elizabeth Baird, Anita Stewart, Jamie Kennedy, and Vikram Vij, without their cookbooks and recipes, those ingredients would remain just that – ingredients.

Cookbook writers force us to engage like no other authors – read yes, but also explore, probe, shop, discuss, cook, eat, share, and then repeat. No passive, one-time engagement. We sense the author standing quietly beside us in the kitchen, looking over our shoulder to make sure we add, stir, shape, and prepare the recipe just right, gently nudging us back when we veer off track.
We are blessed that today’s technology allows us to produce the most stunning cookbooks in order to tell the stories behind the ingredients, the recipes, the people, the culture … the butter tart. The ability to pass on these living histories through food, all the while creating new memories, is why cookbooks matter and recipes endure.  – Alison Fryer, manager for 31 years of Toronto’s now-closed Cookbook Store



body001Scott Dagostino – writer, journalist, and manager at Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop – selects the top five Canadian LGBT titles, based on bestseller status, critical response, and historical importance.

Flaunting It! by Ed Jackson; Stan Persky, eds. (New Star Books, 1982)
“The rise of queer rights in Canada is told through Ed Jackson’s collection of still vital and provocative articles from The Body Politic newspaper.”

Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule (Macmillan Canada, 1964)
“Jane Rule’s groundbreaking 1964 lesbian romance was turned into a 1985 film, both adored by two generations of women.”

Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai (McClelland & Stewart, 1994)
“Shyam Selvadurai’s 1994 novel about a Sri Lankan boy’s coming-of-age won multiple awards and is now considered a modern Canadian classic.”

One in Every Crowd by Ivan E. Coyote (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012)
“Picking just one book from brilliant trans writer Ivan Coyote is tough but this, their first collection aimed at queer youth, is both terrific and life-saving.”

Boys Like Us by Peter McGehee (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1991)
“Peter McGeehee’s 1991 novel about a group of Toronto gay men dealing with life and loss in the AIDS era is now out-of-print and nearly forgotten. This is typical of many great queer writers of that era and frankly, a crime.”