Growing up, Vancouver-born Charles Demers was a politically sophisticated fat kid with a void in sports and cars. These days he's still more widely known as a humourist than as an author due to his CBC Radio stints on The Debaters and stand-up comedy performances in clubs and at festivals.

Charles Demers' little-noticed novel The Prescription Errors (Insomniac Press 2009) was soon followed by a "no-holds-barred look at Lotusland" entitled Vancouver Special (Arsenal, 2009), a critique of neighborhoods, people and culture, featuring photography by Emmanuele Buenviaje. Demers' short essays were born of a friction between estrangement and engagement; his loyalty to the city is ambivalent but inescapable.

Or as his friend Kevin Chong wrote in an endorsement, "It's only fitting that a city with so many unlikely facets--its conspicuous wealth and conspicuously ignored poverty, its inscrutable WASPiness and inscrutable Asian-ness, its left-wing face and right-wing heart--should be both celebrated and excoriated by a writer with such multifarious abilities." Demers' concluding chapter 'Vanarchism' cites his affinities to the likes of philosopher George Woodcock, punk rocker Joe Keithley, labour historian Mark Leier and APEC protestor Jaggi Singh.

In 2010, Demers co-hosted at The CityNews List for television; then he made his debut as a playwright with his "East End Panto" version of Jack & the Beanstalk, staged in 2013 and 2014 as family entertainment--all of which led to a teaching gig at UBC Creative Writing.

Move over Bill Richardson. Having hosted the BC Book Prizes on several occasions, Charles Demers re-entered the literary world with The Horrors (D&M 2015), an A-to-Z compendium of all things awful. Demers gives new meaning to a 26-er by starting with "A" for "Adolescence", recalling his sexless teenage years in a Trotskyist sect. "B" for "Bombing" recalls the sickening sensation of knowing your comedy act stinks. "D" is for "Depression." "F" for "Fat." "J" for "Junk Food." "M" for "Motherlessness." And so on.

Demers is one of the brightest lights to emerge in B.C. literature since Ivan E. Coyote--as likeable as he is clever and socially progressive. Married with a child, Charles Demers co-wrote The Dad Dialogues: A Correspondence on Fatherhood (and the Universe) with George Bowering in 2016--reviewed below.

ARTICLE (2017): City On Edge: A Rebellious Century of Vancouver Protests, Riots, and Strikes (Greystone Books $32.95)

Most of City On Edge: A Rebellious Century of Vancouver Protests, Riots, and Strikes (Greystone Books $32.95) provides images taken by Vancouver Sun and Province photographers of Vancouverites rising up to make their opinions, and often their anger, known to the powers-that-be. An accompanying Museum of Vancouver exhibition of the same name provides greater historical context.

In City On Edge the emphasis is pictorial-it's a parade of images from Squamish Chief Joe Capilano with a delegation of chiefs leaving North Vancouver to petition King Edward VII for First Nations rights in 1906; to the bloodied faces of relief camp workers demanding better jobs in 1938; to Grey Cup rioters in 1966; to pussy-hatted women supporting the Women's March in Washington in response to President Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017.

There's a brief foreword from Charles Demers and a short intro by Kate Bird who helped manage the photo library at Pacific Press for twenty-five years.


City On Edge: A Rebellious Century of Vancouver Protests, Riots, and Strikes (Greystone Books, 2017)

The Prescription Errors (Insomniac Press 2009)

Vancouver Special (Arsenal, 2009)

The Horrors: An A-to-Z of Funny Thoughts on Awful Things. (Douglas & McIntyre 2015) $24.95 978-1-77162-031-4

The Dad Dialogues: A Correspondence on Fatherhood (and the Universe) (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016) with George Bowering $17.95 / 9781551526621

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Vancouver Special

[BCBW 2017]