Meet the Massey Lectures App

Hello world.

Uncover the full legacy and history of the Massey Lectures Series, from 1961 to today. Learn more about selected Massey authors, their lives, achievements, and beliefs. Explore the complex web of themes within the Massey universe, and hear unique thoughts and insights from the lecturers themselves. And then contribute to the conversation yourself.


Download the Free Massey Lectures App


 “The Massey Lectures series is so unique and special. The Massey Lectures iPad app further engages with the audience and livens up the conversation, supporting the original format beyond what it was capable of before.”

— Renowned author Lawrence Hill, 2013 Massey Lecturer

For more than 50 years, the annual Massey Lecture series, broadcast on CBC Radio’s IDEAS, has brought contemporary thinkers with unique perspectives and experiences to a national and international audience. Notable Massey Lecturers include Northrop Frye, Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood, Doris Lessing, Stephen Lewis, Thomas King, Margaret Somerville, and Wade Davis to name but a few.

During the week of the rebroadcast of Lawrence Hill’s Massey Lectures, Blood, on CBC Radio’s IDEAS, House of Anansi in co-operation with the CBC and Massey College, and with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation, unveils its first iPad app. Now available for free in the iTunes App Store, the Massey Lectures iPad app lets readers explore some of the most complex and thought-provoking topics of our age, and reveals the depth and breadth of Canada’s preeminent public lectures series in a totally new way. The app includes nearly 200 hours of text, audio lectures, interviews, talks, and exclusive footage.

Massey Sets

For the first time, the audio and text of selected lectures are brought together in one specially priced package available for purchase within the app. Each selected Massey Lectures e-book is illuminated with vibrant images and videos and includes the five-hour audio lectures. At launch, the app adds nearly 40 pieces of additional video and audio content. Also available for the first time are curated bundles of books and lectures that are divided by connected ideas across lectures called “themes,” such as “Constructing and Deconstructing Identity” and “Rationalizing the Truth.”

Watch the app in action


About the Massey Lectures Series


The Massey Lectures Series was created in honour of the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, former Governor General of Canada, and was inaugurated in 1961 to provide a forum on radio where major contemporary thinkers could address the important issues of the day. Each year a noted scholar or public figure is invited to give a series of topical lectures. The Massey Lectures are co-sponsored by CBC Radio, House of Anansi Press, and Massey College in the University of Toronto. For more information, go to


The Massey App is created by House of Anansi in co-operation with the CBC and Massey College, and with the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation. The Massey Lectures iPad App was concepted, designed and developed by Critical Mass, a global digital marketing agency.


Listen to this while you read Serafim & Claire – guest post by Mark Lavorato

Serafim & ClaireAside from my writing, I’ve also done work composing music for a few film projects over the years. While doing so I came to realize that I loved the process, and that mixing images with my music felt like a really good fit. So I recorded an album that would act as a kind of portfolio for potential film-score/documentary work. Below are two tracks from that album which I thought might be of interest to Anansi readers.

What You Do Not Understand

The first I composed while I was writing Serafim & Claire. I was living in Brittany at the time, housesitting a white mansion on a hill with a massive bit of land that I was left to take care of. I set up my writing desk right in front of this unloved grand piano. It hadn’t been tuned in years, and I didn’t have the money to pay to do it myself, so I found a wrench that sort of fit the piano pins and tuned it as best I could (which wasn’t fantastic, let me tell you). It was while steeped in the story of Serafim & Claire that I wrote the song.

Last Train

Train sounds create all the percussion in this song. It’s sort of an era piece. I think there are elements from the story that definitely come through in the music here.

Serafim & Claire was published today. Get it on our website or at your favourite bookstore.

You can buy Mark Lavorato’s album In Autumn on iTunes or at

Read what Mark has to say about stealing moments, fielding death threats, and writing about what you don’t know in his blog post Learning how to steal.

THE DRAGON HEAD OF HONG KONG: The Ava Lee Prequel [guest post by Ian Hamilton]


“Every hero has an origin story — this is the one Ava Lee fans have been waiting for!”

— Robert J. Wiersema, author of Before I Wake

I’ve always had a story arc in my mind for Ava and Uncle, but it was one that moved their lives forward, never back. It was never part of my plan to write a prequel. Then in September 2012, at the Kitchener, Ontario literary event called Word on the Street, I was approached by a man who had read all the books in the series.

“Have you ever thought of writing a prequel?” he asked. “I’d love to know how Ava and Uncle first connected.”

“That’s a great idea,” I said.

Then I began to remember other readers at other events asking similar questions. The idea of a prequel took root.

In the winter of 2012–2013, as I was finishing the edits to The Scottish Banker of Surabaya and writing The Two Sisters of Borneo, I found myself distracted by thoughts about Ava’s early life. She was in her mid-twenties, just out of school, living in a tiny apartment in Richmond Hill, and struggling to establish her career. Then dialogue began to pop into my head as I was driving or lying in bed. Uncle and Ava were speaking to each other for the very first time. It was their initial meeting and conversation, and they were feeling each other out, tip-toeing towards the formation of a partnership.

Continue reading

Get a Little Summer Lovin’ From Pasha Malla [Anansi Digital]

To Sweep the Light by Pasha Malla - Anansi Digital


House of Anansi is proud to announce the first digital release of our seasonal reading list. It’s a summer love story entitled To Sweep the Light by Pasha Malla. To Sweep the Light follows two lonely people who spend a summer in the North not finding each other. In typical Malla style, the story’s spare prose is complemented by lush and complex emotions. It’s about solitude and companionship, proximity and distance, and the quest for intimacy between a boy and a girl.

Anansi Digital will publish a piece of fiction and non-fiction each month. Following the release of Malla’s To Sweep the Light, we’ll release political thinker James Laxer’s timely essay A House Divided: Watching America’s Descent into Civil Conflict. In July, we have Last Ham, a piece of short fiction by Gemini Award-winning filmmaker Joel McConvey, followed by Travels Through the Golden State, a second nonfiction work by James Laxer.


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Cover reveal: Lisa Moore’s CAUGHT

Drum roll please . . .

Caught by Lisa Moore

Internationally acclaimed author Lisa Moore offers us a remarkable new novel about a man who escapes from prison to embark upon one of the most ambitious pot-smuggling adventures ever attempted.

Available June 2013.
Find out more about CAUGHT.

What do you think of the cover? Let us know in the comments!

Guest post: Uma Krishnaswami, author of The Girl of the Wish Garden

Please join us in welcoming Uma Krishnaswami to the blog! Uma’s new picture book, The Girl of the Wish Garden, is out now from Groundwood and has just received a starred review in Kirkus.


The Role of Energy, Narrative, and Dream in Writing The Girl of the Wish Garden

Uma KrishnaswamiI’ve always been interested in what drives a story — where the energy comes from within the pages and how it manages to connect with the interest, curiosity, and energy of a reader. What is it that drives that, especially in a picture book? I’m always looking for that, for a moment of engagement that occurs when you absorb text or image or when some emotional response arises from some space in between text and image. Sometimes it occurs in the action of the page turn. Sometimes it’s a surprise, sometimes it’s pleasurably predictable, and sometimes it’s both at once.

In many ways this was a dream project for me, being invited to write text in response to Nasrin Khosravi’s beautiful pictures. I approached it, oddly enough, by writing nothing at all in the bGirl of the Wish Gardeneginning. Nan Froman (Groundwood’s Senior Editor) had sent me scans of the 1999 Farsi edition, Dokhtare Baghe Arezoo.  I read the Erik Haugaard translation of the original Thumbelina story, and about a hundred other Andersen tales in Haugaard’s Hans Christian Andersen: The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories. I read the 1872 H.P. Paull translation. I read an English translation of the Farsi book. By that time, my head was swimming, so I ended up just putting the pictures up in my office and looking at them for a really long time. Several months, as I recall.

Over time, I began to feel as if I was absorbing the colors and shapes in those beautiful images. They were beginning to be part of my visual consciousness.

There’s a physiologically grounded explanation for dreams called the activation-synthesis model, which suggests that during REM  sleep there are circuits in the brain stem that get activated. These in turn stimulate areas of the limbic system that have to do with emotions, sensations, and memories. So we may be asleep but there’s all this activity going on, with the brain trying to create meaning from a whole range of suddenly freed-up stimuli. Therefore, we dream. Makes sense, no?

In a way, at its best, crafting a story should feel a bit like dreaming. The story emerges only when I can get my active, managerial, daily self out of the way. But I experienced a rather more direct example of activation-synthesis toward the end of my work on this project. Nasrin’s pictures feature a host of little animal figures that occur throughout. They almost seem to inhabit a kind of parallel world beneath the story’s surface. One night I went to sleep thinking of those little figures, troubled by the fact that my text didn’t address them at all. I awoke the next morning still not knowing how to fix that, but with a vivid dream in my mind in which those rock art-like figures were running. I felt compelled to take yet another look at the pictures.

When I did, I stopped at this image:

Girl of the Wish Garden Interior Spread
I knew where I needed to place a very small reference to these magical creatures. I am convinced that my sleeping mind sorted this out for me. I love Lina’s energy here, and the playfulness of chasing the “small ghost creatures/ That skittered through the undergrowth.”

For this story, narrative depended on giving Lina agency, making her the one whose actions drive the story. I remember at one point when I was trying desperately to stay true to the Andersen story, and grossly overplotting the whole thing as a result, Patsy Aldana (Groundwood’s founder and former Publisher) wrote this to me: “The writing here is beautiful but it doesn’t fit the pictures.” Of course. It was the permission I needed to let go my reteller’s mindset and draw once again from the art.

The most amazing thing about the pictures is their otherworldly, dream-like quality. It feels fitting that an actual dream might have played a role in writing some small part of the text.

Our thanks to  Uma Krishnaswami for this very thoughtful post. The Girl of the Wish Garden is available now in fine bookstores and online.

Introducing Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein: a multimedia Atwood Pachter project

In 1966, before they were international sensations, Margaret Atwood and Charles Pachter teamed up to create Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein — now a unique piece of cultural history and available for the first time as an enhanced eBook for iPad.

In this imaginative work, only existing as an artist book of fifteen copies until recently, Charles Pachter set the poetry of Margaret Atwood to his beautiful and whimsical artwork. Produced originally on handmade paper made with materials found around his house, this is a rare work of art that should be read by anyone interested in the origins of these two great artists. This work is now exclusively available for the iPad as an enhanced eBook, and features an introduction by Margaret Atwood, video interviews with Charles Pachter, and an audio narration of Margaret Atwood reading the poems.

Download the press release introducing Frankenstein
More about Anansi Digital

Watch the Speeches for Doctor Frankenstein book trailer: