Unique side of Toronto on dis­play in three new nov­els

Find out what it was about their fave lo­cales that in­spired these writ­ers to put pen to pa­per

Thornhill Post - - Arts - By Ron Johnson

Toronto has a long his­tory of lit­er­ary works that cel­e­brate the city, from Michael On­daatje’s In the Skin of a Lion to the more re­cent Fif­teen Dogs by An­dre Alexis. This fall, three very dif­fer­ent nov­el­ists were in­spired to use three unique Toronto set­tings in their new works. We asked them why and what they loved about these neigh­bour­hoods.

DAVID CHARIANDY, BROTHER, SCAR­BOR­OUGH’S ROUGE VAL­LEY

I tried to cap­ture the beauty of the Rouge Val­ley, and this is the thing about Scar­bor­ough. It’s of­ten un­der­stood to be a very dense, al­most ur­ban space, but snaking through­out Scar­bor­ough is this ex­tra­or­di­nary val­ley of green. And it’s just in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful. You can walk down there and imag­ine for a mo­ment that you’re not in the Scar­bor­ough of traf­fic and con­ges­tion and all of these sorts of things. And for the broth­ers in the book, it is very important that there is this other Scar­bor­ough that ex­ists within walk­ing dis­tance of their homes.… I think, in cer­tain ways, it’s a place of es­cape from the streets of Scar­bor­ough, and for them, the streets are at times dan­ger­ous or places where they have to per­form cer­tain identities or pos­tures of tough­ness, and in the Rouge Val­ley they can sim­ply be, dif­fer­ently.

LINDEN MACINTYRE, THE ONLY CAFÉ, 972 DANFORTH AVE.

I started going to the Only in the early ’90s be­cause it was a cool place. It was casual and, in those days, a lit­tle dark for read­ing, just a beer par­lour, and it was noisy with mu­sic and stuff. I liked it, the sort of weird am­bi­ence, and it was the kind of place where you actually got to know the per­son behind the bar.… There was this young Is­raeli-Cana­dian fel­low that showed up there and for many years was a fix­ture behind the bar, and we be­came friends. I wasn’t a habitué.

I would go there pe­ri­od­i­cally, and I just found it a com­fort­able place. And then I noticed a strange anom­aly: this funky 1970s bar in an area that was becoming in­creas­ingly Is­lamic and in fact was a half block away from a large and grow­ing mosque, and I just found that all in­ter­est­ing, and chat­ting with the Is­raeli bar­tender, things started to jell in my mind.

It turned out he’d been in Le­banon. I had been there a lot. He had served in the Is­raeli de­fence force, and he was an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer at one point, a highly un­likely in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer who was deeply into mys­ti­cism and phi­los­o­phy and stuff like that. I then re­al­ized, at one point, the very best in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers are the ones that seem the least likely. The whole thing started to jell, and so I started to write.

MICHAEL REDHILL, BELLEVUE SQUARE, KENS­ING­TON MAR­KET

I set Bellevue Square in Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket be­cause that was where the story came to me, and the set­ting was a huge part of the in­spi­ra­tion. It also al­lowed me to re­turn over and over to the same space and deepen my connection to it while imag­ing the story. My Toronto is a cross­roads as well as a van­ish­ing point, and it’s a log­i­cal set­ting for ghost sto­ries.

Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket is lay­ered with his­tory and phan­toms. I still love be­ing in the mar­ket, al­though they closed and dug up Bellevue Square re­cently, and I’m a hopeless cof­fee ad­dict, so ev­ery visit in­cludes a stop at ei­ther Jimmy’s or Pa­me­nar.

And I’m crazy for pu­pusas and em­panadas and arepas.…

Linden MacIntyre was in­spired by his local wa­ter­ing hole, the Only Café

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