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Ten of the best alt-lit reads from Canada right now

A thriving literary community has emerged in the Great White North – get to know

Literature-wise, people know Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Sheila Heti, but as the Internet makes it easier to close the huge gap that separates Nova Scotia and Vancouver, it seems a thriving literary community has emerged in the Great White North. There’s a lot more to the country than ‘some of them speak French’ and ‘like America but…’


A magazine falling under the ‘Literature +’ category, Toronto’s Little Brother devotes space to detailed examination as well as attention to smaller works of fiction, non-fiction, photography and whatever else their very cool editor, the writer Emily M. Keeler, feels.


One of the editors of Alt Lit Gossip, Morissette and his searingly deadpan cultural critique are popping up more and more lately, not least because his debut novel, New Tab, came out last month. While its themes will remind you of certain other alt lit figures, the book moves beyond disaffection to actually say something profound about the kind of post-college person/lifestyle about whom/which you thought nothing more could be said. Read an excerpt here


A fashion/art/photography magazine based in Montreal and published quarterly, the Editorial is beautifully curated and provocative without being overt or heavy-handed. Knowing Editor Claire Milbrath’s work– photography and otherwise visual – the magazine’s style makes a lot of sense: I’d call it sexual/intellectual.


In 2012, the artist Georgia Webber lost her voice—for a long time. After sustaining a vocal injury, doctors told her she should stay as silent as possible for six months, and she began documenting the struggles, questions and frustrations of being rendered voiceless (“From this point on, everything is an experiment.”) in a comic book series now in its fourth and fifth issues soon after. Despite the forced silence Webber had to endure, her voice on the page is elegant and clear. 


With poems in Shabby Doll House, Pop Serial and Illuminati Girl Gang, Opheim writes from a distant first-person POV that float close to personal experience before reflecting on the ‘tragedy’ that is ‘’ Montreal-based collective Metatron published her chapbook, I Am Here – which is ‘wrought with a depth of feeling that is honest and curious’ – in March.


The artist’s ‘Wendy’ comic series has generated buzz for its funny fictional depiction of ‘a young woman living in an urban centre, whose dreams of contemporary art stardom are perpetually derailed.’ Often published at Hazlitt (see below), Scott’s snarky snapshots into the art world and the people in it are sharp: ‘I feel like her reputation is more propulsive to her career than her actual creative output.’ 


It could be said that many magazines are ‘founded on the premise that anything can be interesting’; few actually follow through on the implicit promise to make it. A flat-out brilliant online magazine/platform run by Random House Canada, Hazlitt publishes a lot of the authors/artists written about here, and if they’re writing/drawing about something everyone else has written/drawn about, it’s always from a new angle.


Toronto-based writer’s short story collection Pauls is a meditation on searching that also manages to question ideas about perspective, identity, connection and relationships via sometimes-interlinked stories about protagonist(s) named Paul. Little Brother published one in its third issue.


Some fiction writers eschew the present-day in hopes of attaining some kind of timeless reverence, as if others write about YouTube and Matthew McConaughey. For fans of the latter, Gordon’s short story collection Cosmo has earned the writer comparisons with David Foster Wallace and Bret Easton Ellis for his emphasis on form, sentences, and waxing philosophic on pop culture phenomena.


While some might consider him the de facto Canadian outpost of the Boost House-esque alt-positivity movement, the prolific social media presence has a voice of his own. Unpredictable delights show up in the middle of his poems just as they do in the middle of a series of random retweets, and his illhueminati website will launch in June.