Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The TRB: A Torontonian Take on Books and Culture

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Launching this fall is The Toronto Review of Books. If it sounds like The London Review of Books or The New York Review of Books, it’s because that’s where editor Jessica Duffin Wolfe found her inspiration for the Toronto-based project. “The title is a pointed tribute to the New York and London Review of Books, so maybe deep fandom and a sense that Toronto deserved its own beacon were important motivators,” says Wolfe. Similarly, earlier this year, Los Angeles also followed in the footsteps of the LRB and NYRB, creating The Los Angeles Review of Books, though Wolfe adds, “Of course, we’re also really going to be our own thing — quite different from those publications.”

Wolfe explains that the online quarterly is more than just a response to other review publications. “The sense that small bookstores are dying, and that public spaces, either in libraries or in print, in which to talk about ideas are vanishing is a major inspiration for the TRB,” she says. “We need places to go to be exposed to things we didn’t know we were looking for.”

The publication plans to feature reviews, essays, creative pieces, a blog, podcasts, recordings and more. Wolfe describes it as, “A Torontonian take on books and culture of all sorts that combines new and old critical approaches and media, and the perspectives of academics, journalists, authors, readers, filmmakers and other artists.”

Such varied coverage of the literary scene is fitting coming from Wolfe, considering the varied background she comes from herself. While studying literature at the University of Toronto, she was also on the university’s Arts Council. She’s taught the history of typography, printing and printmaking at the Ontario College of Art & Design, and she's also written a novel and created a short film. She’s also the former Arts and Books Editor at Spacing magazine, a publication that focuses on discussion of urban issues, and now, she’s ready to head the small masthead at the TRB. “My work with Spacing magazine definitely convinced me of how much Torontonians can accomplish, and how valuable it is to become more self-conscious about the city,” she says.

Although we will have to wait until September 20 for the publication’s launch, Wolfe gives readers a heads up on what’s to come in the first issue: poems by Damian Rogers and Birgitta Jonsdottir and reviews by Toronto journalist and author Shawn Micallef and filmmaker Brett Story. “We’ll have lots of reviews of the internet, as well as books and other things, and we’ll be open to unconventional formats for reviews,” she says. “Readers can expect extreme flexibility and openness from the TRB, and ongoing experimentation.”

As for the growing divide between perspective on print and digital media, Wolfe says, “I’ve gotten a little impatient with discussions about the value of digital versus paper texts. I’m far more interested in promoting, preserving, celebrating and talking about reading.” The Toronto Review of Books is definitely a step in that direction.

Michelle Medford is a journalism grad and was an intern at Open Book for the summer of 2011. She has written for TV Guide Canada, Glow magazine and other online publications. She’s also an avid blogger and film reviewer at Cinefilles.

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