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Mark Sasso of Elliott Brood's recommended read

Mark Sasso of Elliott Brood's recommended read

on
May 5th, 2020

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Mark Sasso of Elliott Brood's recommended read

Today’s guest curator is Mark Sasso (pictured above, centre), lead vocalist of Elliott Brood. The Juno Award-winning roots rock band puts on the kind of high-energy live show that’s made for spirited sing-alongs and joyous group dancing, as seen at Canada’s top music festivals and on their tours with bands like Blue Rodeo and The Sadies. Example: this excellent performance at Toronto’s historic Massey Hall. Like so many musicians, Mark has had his tour dates postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. For now, he offers a recommendation for a great Canadian novel to get you through your time in isolation.

Mark's pick: French Exit by Patrick deWitt

I came back from vacation in March and went straight into self-isolation, with the added bonus of a COVID-19 swab test. Happily, I tested negative! Just like many of you, I have now been sitting at home, wondering what to do with myself everyday.

While I was away, I dove into a great novel by West Coast author Patrick deWitt called French Exit. It was short-listed for the 2018 Giller Prize, and is a great read.

First, a bit of history: a few years back, I read one of his previous novels, The Sisters Brothers, on recommendation from my bandmate Casey. Casey had actually written to deWitt about his love for that book, and to let the author know that if he ever was thinking of making The Sisters Brothers into a movie, our band would love to do the soundtrack. The book has since been adapted for the big screen, but we never got a response. Oh, well.

This latest deWitt effort is a stellar, brilliantly written novel about a wealthy New York widow, her live-in adult son and their cat. What follows is a quirky, cleverly sparse yet descriptive account of their travels via ocean liner to rough it in Paris with their meagre and dwindling funds. Begrudgingly, the mother and son allow a quirky cast of characters to help them and their cat as they journey to rectify their past mistakes and personal flaws.

If you’re in need of some quirky folks to hang out with right now, please do yourself a favour and read French Exit. Like me, you might find Patrick deWitt to be your new personal national treasure. — Mark Sasso

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Staff pick: The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Continuing with the theme of fictional sea voyages, I'd like to recommend Lawrence Hill's award-winning 2007 classic The Book of Negroes. The novel is rich historical fiction based on the real Book of Negroes — a 150-page ledger that lists the names of Black Loyalists who fled to Canada to escape slavery. Stories about early Black settlers in Canada are hard to come by; Hill's intricate narrative through the eyes of his protagonist Aminata Diallo powerfully illustrates the emotional, psychological and generational impact of slavery. — Shazlin Rahman



More exclusive recommendations by Canadian artists:
Staff pick: A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Demonstrating the inter-generational impact of residential schools in Canada is no easy task. Most Canadians are still grappling with the fact that this dark part of our history even exists. For me, Alicia Elliott's personal memoir provides a roadmap that connects the challenges I see effecting Indigenous communities today to the country's colonial legacy. Be warned: this is not an easy read. But it is a beautifully written narrative connecting the personal to the political, and one I would consider essential reading for all Canadians. — Shazlin Rahman

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