Theatres and bookstores abound in Peterborough, Ontario

I’ve been focusing attention on Peterborough, Ontario lately, scouring the ‘bushes’ for local literary ‘things to do and places to visit’. First point to make is that there are way more theatre companies here than you might expect, four at least. One of them, the Peterborough Theatre Guild has in fact been entertaining local audiences since 1965. The only troupe in the region to own its own building, the Guild traces its roots back to the work of Robertson Davies and his wife Brenda. According to Michael Peterman, professor emeritus at Trent University, the two were theatrical power-houses in the community during the 50s and 60s, writing, directing, and performing in many stage productions. Sometimes they even did makeup!

Another company, 4th Line Theatre, presents Canadian plays, “written by and about Canadians, from small town stories to Continue reading “Theatres and bookstores abound in Peterborough, Ontario”

Literary Tourism in the air

Literary tourism is nothing new. Socrates, who trekking out to Delphi a millennia or two ago looking for truth, could be called a literary tourist; the beardless young Greeks who went to book discussion circles to hear him denigrate the Gods could also be called literary tourists. As could those who attended gigs by Homer, or poets like him, who recited crazy stories of sirens and men being turned into pigs.

More recently, in Victorian times especially, besotted fans would pilgrimage to favorite authors’ houses to soak up the vibe, introduce the imaginary to the real, or simply pluck a leaf from the garden, as George Eliot – or was it Virginia Woolf – once did from Wordsworth’s Rydal Mount.

Regardless, the pastime has long been popular. No more so, it appears, than right Continue reading “Literary Tourism in the air”

Literary South Africa

Some years ago I visited my brother in Cape Town. He put together the most amazing itinerary: the ‘big five’ in Kruger National Park, then, closer to town, lounging on the beach and watching the cold surf in Kleinmond; seafood on the sea shore in Hermanus, wine and escargot for the price back home of burgers and coke, in Franschhoek; Table mountain, flowers and weddings in the Company Gardens, and hiking up Lion’s Head. This however is not what I am to him most grateful for.

Rather, it’s the tireless manner in which he drove me to every bookstore I could find in the country, and his patient waiting as I pored fiendishly over miles of shelves full of new and used books. After which, I can happily report that Cape Town and environs is home not only to the world’s Continue reading “Literary South Africa”

Ontario is home to many great used bookstores. Here are five favourites:

The Pilgrim Reader, Combermere

This oasis in the wilds of Eastern Ontario contains a great selection of books, old and newer, rare and popular. Particularly strong in religion. Instead of investing their money in the stock market, the owners built this store next to their home, and are very glad they did so. Found a couple of early Irving Layton titles here. Contact Press editions.


Book Bazaar, Ottawa

Wide selection spread over two floors includes many interesting, unusual titles; massive music section downstairs; several cases of collectibles and a very strong Canadian fiction section on the main floor. Many more on-line.

Berry and Peterson, Kingston

Very pleasing shop with lots of character, stone walls and a good selection of books both on the ground level (nautical, fiction) and one flight up (literary criticism). Don’t miss The Wayfarer used bookstore either, it’s only a block away, around the corner on Princess Street. I’ve pulled some lovely early Coach House Press books out of there.

Ten Editions, Toronto

As the owner says: “a little bit of most things.” Shelves all around reach up to the high ceilings. Good Canadian fiction and poetry sections in the back. The store, incidentally, was named by the current owner’s mother: an edition for each of her ten children!

Attic Books, London

Generous selection of books – from bargain reading copies, to ‘really old books’ behind glass – should please all but the crankiest. Sections meticulously labelled by category. This downtown shop also carries ephemera, sheet music, postcards, maps, prints and ‘eccentric antiques’. They move books here, so there’s good turn over in stock. Two or three other stores within a block or two, should make for a fruitful stop.