Off/Kilter: Weird Lit Road Trip

July 19, 2022 by Tan Light

Pack a cooler and rev up your Google Maps. Let these quirky, literary itineraries inspire you to get out and about this summer.

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The book: Take the Long Way Home by Jon Claytor (Conundrum Press)
The journey: Cross Canada, East to West

The cover of Take the Long Way Home, featuring a watercolour painting of a rabbit mid-run.

A classic road trip memoir about love, family, and Canadian wildlife. In Take the Long Way Home, Claytor explores alcoholism, love, and relationships through heart-rending vignettes and expressive linework. As Jon drives, he makes frequent stops to visit exes and children, old friends and new, and attends meetings to support his sobriety. He sorts through memories of his past, reconciling them with his present—and makes amends, seeks wisdom from wildlife, and learns the value of getting lost along the way. This is the story of a man who unpacks a difficult past, only to discover that even at his lowest point, he was never truly alone.


The book: Fortune of Wolves by Ryan Griffith (Playwrights Canada Press)
The journey: Cross Canada, East to West 

The cover of Fortune of Wolves. A white line illustration of a wolf stands out against a blue background that looks as though its been aged or weathered.

Lowell sets off on a road trip across Canada with a tape recorder, capturing something from every person he meets and his observations along the way. But as he drives, strange occurrences and mass disappearances imply that something terrible is happening, and Lowell begins to realize that time for humanity may be running out. Written as transcriptions of now-disintegrated cassette tapes, and meant to be read in random sequence, this engrossing apocalyptic adventure is a self-guided tour into the belly of a deafening silence.


The book: West of Wawa by Lisa de Nikolits (Inanna Publications)
The journey: From Ontario to the West Coast

The cover of West of Wawa. The title stands among a flock of seabirds in flight.

Cutting all ties, Benny leaves her job and sets off on a road trip adventure across Canada, hoping she will discover who (and where) she wants to be. Funny, aggressive, fearless, and vulnerable, Benny is a road warrior with a backpack of opiates, a map, and a guileless sense of naiveté. 


The book: Days by Moonlight by André Alexis (Coach House Books)
The journey: Southern and Central Ontario

The cover of Days by Moonlight. The background is of dense greenery, which envelops some of the letters and evokes an otherworldly, magical feeling to the plants.

Complete with drawings of plants both real and implausible, Days by Moonlight is a Dantesque journey through Central Ontario, taken during that time of day when the sun is setting and the traveller can’t tell the difference between dog and wolf. And it asks that perpetual question: how do we know the things we know are real, and what is real anyway?


The book: In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo by Claire Tacon (Wolsak & Wynn) 
The journey: From the GTA to Chicago

The cover of In Search of the Perfect Singing Flamingo. The font is reminiscent of marquee text, and a tall flamingo holds a gift tag in its beak, standing before a clouded, peaceful background.

Told from multiple points of view, we hear from Henry, a father and animatronic repairman; Darren, Henry's young co-worker; and Starr, Henry's daughter, as they try to find their place in the world, and the perfect singing flamingo. As tensions mount at home for Henry, Darren reveals he needs to get to Chicago Comic-Con to win back his ex-girlfriend. So, Henry packs Starr and Darren into the van for a road trip no one was prepared for.


The book: Document 1 by François Blais, translated by J.C. Sutcliffe (Book*hug Press)
The journey: From rural Quebec to Pennsylvania

The cover of Document 1. An illustrated car drives around a thick road, with houses along the path.

Tess and Jude live in small-town Quebec and spend their time travelling all across North America—using Google maps—which provides them the luxury of adventure while remaining in the comfort of their own home. But Tess and Jude are dreamers, and their online adventures eventually give rise to a desire to actually travel somewhere. Funny, smart and wonderfully human, Document 1 is a tragicomic tale of two dreamers and their quest for adventure, as well as a satirical take on the world of letters


The book: Cadillac Cathedral by Jack Hodgins (Ronsdale Press)
The journey: Through the Vancouver islands

The cover of Cadillac Cathedral. A vintage Cadillac hearse sits in profile, with chickens along its roof.

When news arrives that one of their oldest friends has died, Arvo and his friends decide to drive down island to pick up the body and give it a decent send-off. A road trip ensues, but this is not just any road trip, for it takes place in a refurbished Cadillac Cathedral, a remarkable hearse built by Cadillac in the 1930s and which has been discovered in the hills where it has been used as a skidder for pulling logs. The journey ends back in Portuguese Creek, with a party that brings the entire community together in a wake to end all wakes. 


The book: All the Animals on Earth by Mark Sampson (Wolsak & Wynn)
The journey: Across America

The cover of All the Animals on Earth. Two kitten heads on human bodies raise a toast of a dark-liquor drink.

HR manager Hector Thompson is sure of two things: he hates change, and science fiction. But then an escaped experiment on birds and animals begin to change and grow. It's an apocalypse. Or is it? Now detail-oriented pigeons are project managers and dependable dogs build housing. In a mix of imagination and wry social commentary, Sampson takes his Everyman on a road trip across a remarkable vision of America as he finds his role in this strange new reality


The book: Lullabies in the Real World by Meredith Quartermain (NeWest Press)
The journey: Cross Canada, West to East

The cover of Lullabies in the Real World. The title text sits over an iridescent cloud made up of thick, evocative brush strokes.

If you're not down with driving but still want to armchair travel, Meredith Quartermain’s Lullabies in the Real World is a sequence of poems about a train journey that invokes a patchwork of regions, voices and histories. Her language zings with train rhythms as she unfolds a complex conversation with poets from the past, like bpNichol and Robin Blaser.


What literary road trip were you inspired to take this summer? Let us know in the comments, or at @alllitupcanada.


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