Friday, November 28, 2008
Thanks and happy reading!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I'm a big Margaret Drabble fan so it is hard for me to say I was disappointed by The Sea Lady. Humphrey Clark and Aisla Kelman met as children by the seaside in England. Now in their sixties they are on their way to meet again - one of them unwittingly - by the same seaside.
They were very different sorts of children and, unsurprisingly, became very different sorts of adults. Humphrey grew up to be a marine biologist, while Aisla became one of those people well-known through their books and television appearances but famous for their shocking opinions and flamboyant publicity stunts. This is the story of their two lives, the ones they lived between the two bookend meetings of this novel.
Drabble told the story she set out to tell quite well, as she always does. The trouble was it wasn't the story this reader most wanted to read. I was more interested in what would happen to Humphrey and Aisla now that they had met again, rather than all that preceded this meeting. Unfortunately I wanted this story to begin right at the spot it ended.
First line of The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble: "The winning book was about fish, and to present it, she appeared to have dressed herself as a mermaid, in silver sequinned scales."
Monday, November 3, 2008
I found this to be a beautifully written story about the secrets and betrayals and love within a family. The language was lyrical and original, the story compelling. I felt is deserved the 2007 Man Booker Prize and look forward to reading other novels by Anne Enright.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Earlier this year I read an interesting book called How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore. One of the topics covered was self-publishing so I was excited by a book sent to me to review that took that route. (I could very easily get way off topic now and start preaching about the wonderfulness of the DIY movement but I'll save that for another time.)
The book is a short story collection called Down to a Sunless Sea and was written by Mathias B. Freese. Nine of the fifteen stories in this slim volume have been published in literary journals so this book nicely straddles the two worlds of publishing. As well as being a writer Mathias B. Freese is a psychotherapist and it shows in many of these short stories. Freese is most interested in the inner workings of his characters and deftly handles examinations of their thoughts and reasonings. He is particularly gifted at inhabiting the minds of those who feel on the margins of society, such as the crippled narrator in "I'll Make It. I Think."
The strange and universal land of childhood is also richly explored in this collection, sometimes by narrators who are children, such as Herbie, the wannabe shoe shine boy desperately trying to please his father in the story "Herbie" or by adult narrators remembering incidents from their childhoods, as happens in "Alabaster" the story of a man recalling his meeting with a concentration camp survivor years previously. Freese understands the allure and mystery of childhood. As the narrator of the story "Echo" states: "In hindsight, which is how we live our lives, not how we make sense of them..."
In case you can't read the stickers on the book jacket in my photo, Down to a Sunless Sea was awarded an Editor's Choice Award from Allbook Reviews and was a finalist for the Indie Excellence Book Awards. Wow! Congratulations to Mathias. If he keeps this up he'll be a famous writer before he's dead! To learn more about Mathias B. Freese and his books visit: http://www.mathiasbfreese.com/
First line of Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese: "While a young child growing up in Brighton Beach, Adam would go shopping with his mother on Brighten Beach Avenue."
Monday, October 20, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. Set in 1903, Adamson's compelling debut tells the wintry tale of 19-year-old Mary Boulton (widowed by her own hand) and her frantic odyssey across Idaho and Montana. The details of Boulton's sad past—an unhappy marriage, a dead child, crippling depression—slowly emerge as she reluctantly ventures into the mountains, struggling to put distance between herself and her two vicious brothers-in-law, who track her like prey in retaliation for her killing of their kin. Boulton's journey and ultimate liberation—made all the more captivating by the delirium that runs in the recesses of her mind—speaks to the resilience of the female spirit in the early part of the last century. Lean prose, full-bodied characterization, memorable settings and scenes of hardship all lift this book above the pack. Already established as a writer of poetry (Ashland) and short stories (Help Me, Jacques Cousteau), Adamson also shines as novelist. (Apr.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I just found out about a novel I think may be very funny. Anybody else a fan of the movie Withnail and I? Well, the man who wrote the screenplay for that - his name is Bruce Robinson - has written a novel. It's called The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman and I want to read it.
Thanks to the people who left comments about their favourite funny books. All suggested titles have been added to my "I want to read this list." A list I would share with you except it is so long I fear it may crash the Internet.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Question: How many Ikea Billy bookcases can you fit in a Honda Civic?
Answer: Three. (In the interest of science and the readers of this blog we tried our best to cram in a fourth but all our attempts failed.)
Sooner or later every reader comes to the same realization: there will not be enough time to read all the books you want to read. After unpacking my books, even a mathematically challenged person like myself, could see there were more volumes than I could possibly read before I die, even if I sat down now and did nothing else but read for the rest of my days. And I've got this funny feeling I'm probably going to acquire more books in the next forty or so years. Isn't that sad? It almost seems unfair. If I could interview God (or whoever is running this odd little show called life) that is what I would like to ask. Why so many books and so little time? (As the tote bags, bookmarks and mugs say.) Someone once suggested to me that heaven will be what you want it to be (or was that a Nick Bantock book? I really need some sleep.) Meaning if swimming is your thing, heaven will be a giant pool. Or if reading is your thing, heaven will be an endless library. Isn't that a wonderful thought? I'll leave you with that dreamy image.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
My favourite funny books:
~ A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
~ Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
~Plan B by Anne Lamott
~ Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott
~ The Years With Ross by James Thurber
~ Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Monday, September 15, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
Vita Sackville-West's novel All Passion Spent begins with the death of former British Prime Minister, Henry Holland, first Earl of Slane. This leaves the newly widowed Lady Slane free to retire from public life and, for the first time in her life, do whatever she wishes. Being eighty-eight years old, she is not able to do much but luckily she doesn't want to scale mountains, take up surfing or drive race cars. She simply want to live in a small house in Hampstead and pass the rest of her days quietly away from society, her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. And so she does.
Very little happens in this book which is not a fault in this case. It is the story of an old woman taking stock of her life and attempting to make sense of it, as much as that is possible for anyone. It is a novel of ideas, rather than of action. And most of these ideas are about the roles of women.
As Lady Slane sifts through her memories, she contemplates all she sacrificed, and all she gained, by devoting herself to her husband, his career and their six children. She also thinks about her secret ambition, the one that remained unfulfilled all her life, to be an artist. This was actually the weakest bit of the story. Because Lady Slane never actually painted, ever, I had difficulty taking her ambition seriously. Otherwise I enjoyed the book and enjoyed thinking about the issues it raised and how they compare to the challenges women face today.
This is the only book by Vita Sackville-West I have read. I admit I was interested in her mainly because of her relationship with Virginia Woolf (they were lovers). Many of the ideas in this novel mirror those in Woolf's A Room of One's Own, a favourite of mine. I suspect it would have been wonderful to eavesdrop on the conversations between these two fascinating women.
First line of All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West: Henry Lyulph Holland, first Earl of Slane, had existed for so long that the public had begun to regard him as immortal.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
In other, non-book related news, tomorrow we are sanding the floors so if anyone has ever sanded floors before I'd love some tips.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I'm slowly making my way through duMaurier's novels. Last week I finished reading Jamaica Inn: Mary Yellan's mother's dying wish was for her daughter to go live with her Aunt Patience after her death. Little did Mary's mother know that Aunt Patience was now married to Joss Merlyn, an outlaw who ran the forbidding Jamaica Inn on a lonely stretch of the Cornish coast. Soon after arriving Mary realized mysterious things happened under cover of darkness at Jamaica Inn. Things she was warned to ignore, but couldn't. Toss in a band of criminals, an albino vicar and a handsome stranger Mary is not sure she can trust and you have the page-turner that is Jamaica Inn.
Incidentally if you are interested in reading a Daphne duMaurier novel and aren't sure where to start, I'd recommend her best known novel, and the one I read first, Rebecca.
First line of Jamaica Inn by Daphne duMaurier: It was a cold grey day in late November.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
For myself, I've noticed I'll soldier on through all sorts of boring plot shenanigans and awkward writing if I love a character, but if I don't like the characters the book usually get puts down and never picked back up.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Of course, nothing compares to the book. But I knew you knew that.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn't it? But to be fair, it sounds like the author took care of all the really important stuff first. Meaning she wrote a good story. From the reviews I've read it seems this is a hard-to-put-down sort of tale, with a great surprise twist near the end. It also seems that when the Barrys were promoting their self-published baby they sent it out to book bloggers. I wasn't sent the book, and I have no idea how big of a role bloggers played in getting the word out about this book, but it is an avenue of promotion that I don't think is being used as much as it could be by publishers, large and small. Maybe in the future. In the meantime, congratulations to Brunonia Barry!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The same unnamed narrator from her previous short story collection Do the Windows Open? and her novel The Unprofessionals is back again in these new stories. She is still unnerved by aging, still frustrated and mystified by the modern world. Her strategies for survival remain the same: herbal remedies, veganism and avoiding people as much as possible. This collection may be a bit darker than her other works but then the world has been darker these past several years. I'd estimate that darkness to have lasted almost 8 years now, as would Hecht.
Like all of Julie Hecht's work the charm is in the telling rather than in what actually happens in these stories. If you are a fan it is because of the narrator's unique voice. Of course, that means the converse also applies. I confess I did a bit of snooping around the Internet to find out what other people had to say about Hecht. Largely they're not saying much which makes me think she's not being read as widely as she deserves to be. I also found a few people who did not enjoy her writing. At all. But that is often the case with humourous writing. People feel strongly both ways.
In these dark days of nervous publishers and countless writing programs unique voices in literature are getting harder to find. For that reason alone I think Julie Hecht deserves more attention. If you are interested in her, I'd suggest trying to track down a copy of one of her books and reading a few pages. If you like it, you'll probably like the whole book. If not, well, she's not for you. But she is definitely for me.
First line from Happy Trails to You by Julie Hecht: I owed my neighbor a visit.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Anyway, I've been thinking lately that I'd like to get more CDs like this, of poetry being read or actors reading Shakespeare. So, if you know of anything like this please leave me a comment and I promise to always return your calls.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
You may remember me urging readers of this blog to cast their vote for the Best of the Booker awhile back after hearing through the grapevine (or webvine as it was in this case) not many people were voting. Apparently only around 7,800 readers worldwide cast a vote. I find that such a tiny sad number, compared to, say, movie-goers, TV viewers, or people who attend rock concerts. I know, I shouldn't dwell on it, it is just a recipe for depression. But really, why do so few people read? And of those few lovely souls, why do so few care about literature? I don't get it. I really don't. (She wanders off sadly, shaking her head.)
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Almost all of the other main characters are women: the beautiful Tory, her best friend and neighbour Beth, Beth's teenage daughter Prudence, old Mrs Bracey the nosy invalid and Mrs Wilson, the lonely widow who runs the shabby Wax Museum. All the expected themes of such a set up are here, but at its heart I think it is a novel about women's lives. There is a character to represent every age and stage of a woman's life: from the child Stevie to the dying Mrs Bracey. The unwed, married, divorced and widowed are all accounted for. There are women with children and women without. There are those who dream of getting married and those who don't; those having affairs and those drowning in loneliness. There are secrets and surprises.
I liked this book but as I have already said, I like Elizabeth Taylor's novels. I like the subtle humour and the tinge of sadness she brings to her books. The edition I read had a introduction by Sarah Waters and in it she names Elizabeth Taylor as one of the great under-read and under-appreciated British authors of the twentieth century. She speculates this may be because she shares a name with a famous actress. I suspect this is true. Imagine writing serious fiction today with the name Angelina Jolie. It is, of course, a silly reason, but many things in life are silly. Only time will tell which Elizabeth Taylor is remembered best.
Monday, July 7, 2008
This morning I found a copy of McSweeney's in the lobby. It is issue 13, filled with cartoons, comic strips and graphic art. Looks fun, even though I know nothing about this sort of thing. Wait I did recognize something. I like the artist Seth and there is something by him. Strange fact: I once saw Seth on the streets of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Which is where he lives, I believe. I recognized him from a profile I'd read in Toronto Life magazine. He's a very cool guy and always dresses in 1940's garb. This made him quite easy to pick out. He was the only person wearing a fedora. He strolled by a shop I was in but I was too shy to chase him down and tell him I'm a fan of his work. So I'll tell you and maybe it will get back to him.
Friday, July 4, 2008
It did seem a bit odd to find Edmund White tucked in amongst all that religious stuff though.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
It's no secret John Cheever was an alcoholic and the excerpts I read were filled with one sad anecdote after another detailing his out of control drinking. I come from a family of Olympian-class alcoholics myself and even I, who have witnessed every kind of binge, heard every pathetic excuse for having a drink, seen real car wrecks, and stood by hospital beds watching family members detox, was impressed/appalled by Cheever's drinking.
This biography, simply titled "Cheever" by Blake Bailey, appears well-written but I worry every time this kind of thing comes out that the life of the artist will begin to overshadow the work. Which would be a shame in this case because Cheever was truly a wonderful writer. I plan over the next few weeks to reread some of his stories, dip into his novels, maybe even reread some. I want to fix his prose in my memory again, want to replace gossip with art.
First line for The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever: "St. Botolphs was an old place, an old river town."
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
The Unprofessionals, her novel, is told by the same narrator as Do the Windows Open? and also has a character from that collection, but this is a darker book. This time the story centers on the friendship between the photographer, now in her late forties, and a young man she has known since he was a boy. They share a dismay about the way the modern world is. Both get through the day with the help of drugs: prescription in the case of the narrator, heroin in the case of the young man. It's a funny, sad, profound book. Julie Hecht is a unique, and I think, brilliant writer. I will definitely keep searching for her new book.
First line from The Unprofessionals by Julie Hecht: It was the second month of living without a soul and I was getting used to the feeling.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
"Really." (I was intrigued.)
"Yeah, it was years ago at a party. There were lots of book people there. It was loud and I didn't realize until afterwards his name was John Robbins, not Tom."
How do you respond to that?! So I said, "Better luck next time." Then I moved on to the letter S.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Time for another confession: I really hate writing book reviews. I hated writing them in school and managed to forget that until I started this blog. I don't even like reading book reviews. Bores me to tears to read someone suck the life out of a book by writing ridiculous things they hope will make themselves sound smart and perceptive. I have not yet resolved how I am going to tell you about the books I read without writing a book review but I'm working on it. About The Maytrees let's just say the characters did some wonderful things that made me want to reach out and hug them and they did some not so wonderful things that made me want to slap them. Let's add that the passages about the dunes on Cape Cod (a place I have never been) seemed so real I could smell the salt air and when I put the book down I had to shake out my socks to shed the sand between my toes. Saying those sorts of things will get you a failing grade on a book report in school, but will make an author float away on a cloud of happiness. Lord only knows what it will do for a blog reader.
The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. First line: The Maytrees were young long ago.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Monday, June 2, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Where: Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre, 750 Spadina Avenue (corner of Spadina/Bloor). Hours: 12pm-5pm
Don't miss it. There's going to be loads of great magazines and cool stuff!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Probably because I was too busy to write anything else, I started writing haikus in my head and then jotting them down later in my moleskine. Years ago I went through a phase where I wrote a haiku a day. It's actually kind of fun. I like the restrictions of the 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable format. It's like exercise for your brain. I've decided to keep it up for a while. I may even share some of them here. If you feel like taking the haiku-a-day challenge then please join me!
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
This reads like an adventure story and if you are interested in learning more about Tibet I'd recommend the book. However if you are interested in the bits about the Dalai Lama be warned, he doesn't come into the story until the last fifty pages or so. I learned quite a bit from Heinrich Harrer's book and feel even more strongly that the Chinese should leave Tibet.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Sorry for the rant but I just had to get that out!
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
Aren't fictional friendships wonderful? Only true book lovers understand them. For only true book lovers know the comfort of these friendships which are steady, dependable and unchanging, as real life friendships rarely are.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Rules of the Dance by Mary Oliver is about reading and writing metrical verse and includes an anthology of 50 poems. Confused by all those "old-fashioned" poems? Spend not a moment longer in poetry induced frustration. This book will sort you out.
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver is more of a general guide to poetry, covering the more
traditional forms as well as modern ones, like free verse. It includes several poems as well as advice for the practising poet.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
So much has been so beautifully said in those mere fourteen lines by great poets like Donne, Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley and, of course, Shakespeare. Shakespeare even used the sonnet in his plays. The first fourteen lines of conversation between Romeo and Juliet are a sonnet. I may be the only person in the world that finds that kind of cool.
I'll leave you with this, one of the most famous sonnets by Shakespeare.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
This got me thinking about favourite spots to read. When I was a kid we had this ugly armchair, but its one redeeming feature (for me anyway) was that it fit me perfectly when I sat in it sideways, my legs dangling over one overstuffed arm. I would happily spend hours reading in that chair. And there have been other park benches over the years (I'm a big fan of park benches - they are right up there near the pinnacle of civilization for me.) But my all time favourite spot to read is in bed, especially in the morning. Is there anything better than being left alone on a weekend morning to read in bed for as long as you like? Now that's civilized.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
The next day was sunny and warm and the love of my life proposed we take a drive to a nearby city where he would buy me lunch and let me browse around one of my favourite out of town used bookstores. How could I refuse? After some delicious vegetarian Chinese food I was let loose to roam among the shelves. You know what's coming next - I found the missing numbers 2 and 4 of the White quartet: The Lost Traveller and Beyond the Glass. The best part is the two books at the library set me back a whole $2 and the other two books were priced at $4 each, so for only 10 bucks I bought the set! Now all I need is the time to read them.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Beginning of spring -
the perfect simplicity
of a yellow sky
the cardinal's call
drills a row of scarlet holes
in the summer air
a fingernail moon:
all that is left in the sky
after the blizzard
~ Perdita Finn
If you are interested in writing haiku I recommend Seeds from a Birch Tree by Clark Strand.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
In The Fountain Overflows we meet Rose Aubrey and her family: sisters, Mary and Cordelia, brother Richard Quin and her parents. Together they form a poor, bohemian household in London, England. Growing up in the years before World War 1 it is a magical life, but made unstable by their father's gambling. In This Real Night the children are coming of age. Rose and her sister Mary are both studying to be concert pianists, Cordelia is struggling to find her place in the world after failing as a violinist and Richard Quin is hoping to get accepted to Oxford. Then war intervenes. Cousin Rosamund (which I have only just started) picks up the story in the 1920s, after the war has ended. Both Rose and Mary are now successful pianists. I'll write more about it when I've finished it. Today is such a warm, sunny day I think I might just sneak out and find myself a park bench to read on for a while.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
The radius of the bomb was twelve inches
And the radius of its effective force seven yards
Containing four dead and eleven wounded.
And around those, in a wider circle
Of pain and time, are scattered two hospitals
And one graveyard. But the young woman,
Buried in the place she came from,
Over a hundred kilometers from here,
Widens the circle quite a bit,
And the lonely man mourning her death
In the provinces of a Mediterranean land,
Includes the whole world in the circle.
And I shall omit the scream of orphans
That reaches God's throne
And way beyond, and widens the circle
To no end and no God.
~ Yehuda Amichai
(translated by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav)
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
~ "I love you."
~ "Let me do the dishes tonight. You sit down."
~ "Your hair looks great."
~ "I'm just going to pull over and ask for directions."
What would the perfect man say to you? You can leave a comment or email me. Thanks!
Friday, April 4, 2008
Dive in. Read some poems, them read some more. Don't worry if you don't understand them. Keep going. It's like learning a foreign language: immerse yourself deeply enough and, miraculously, one day you'll understand what the waiter is saying.
Forget about "getting it." If the poem has meaning for you, if it reminds you of the time your Aunt Alice got drunk at your wedding and took off all her clothes, making you realize for the first time how sad and lonely she was, terrific! Even if the poem appears to be about flowers, it spoke to you, reminded you of your Aunt Alice and loneliness. All your responses, all your interpretations are valid. There is no "right" or "wrong" among poets - only among teachers and literary critics. Forget them!
If the poems that are considered great don't make your heart leap in recognition and say yes, forget them. Move on, read other poems until you find the ones that do. Poetry is the language we use to express the deepest, truest, scariest, most boring and most wonderful things about being human. You do understand poetry, you wouldn't be human if you didn't.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
I found it easier to recall wonerful titles. Here are a few of my favourites:
~Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint Exupery
~ Wisdom of the Sands by Antoine de Saint Exupery
~ Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
~ The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Sunday, March 30, 2008
A few of my other favourite books on writing:
~ The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
~ Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott
~ A Passion for Narrative by Jack Hodgins
~ On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Flannery O'Connor, (books by this author) born in Savannah, Georgia (1925), the only child of a rare Catholic family in the Protestant Bible Belt. When she was five, she became famous for teaching a chicken to walk backward; a national news company came to town to film the feat and then broadcast it all around the country. She said, "That was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. It's all been downhill from there."
Her father died of lupus when she was 15 and she rarely spoke of him afterward.
When she was 25, she was diagnosed with lupus, and she moved in with her mother on a farm in Georgia. The lupus left her so weak that she could only write two or three hours a day. She was fascinated by birds, and on the farm she raised ducks, geese, and peacocks. She traveled to give lectures whenever she felt well enough, and she went once to Europe where, because of a friend's plea, she bathed in the waters at Lourdes, famed for their supposed healing powers.
She wrote two novels, Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960), and two short-story collections, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories (1955) and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965). She died at the age of 39 from complications of lupus.
She said, "The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention."
Monday, March 24, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
"There was no breeze that night. The sea, lit by the full moon, shone smooth and silver; the Southern Cross turned above the ship and below it squid slipped invisibly through the depths. Between sky and sea lay Alec Carriere, sprawled like a starfish in his hammock and imagining how the treasures packed in the holds were about to change his life."
~from Birds With No Feet
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Don't you love that feeling when you can't wait to read a book - to take it all in like one long deep life-giving breath?
Monday, March 17, 2008
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine beans-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evenings full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
~ W. B. Yeats
Friday, March 14, 2008
In Christensen's cleverly structured fourth novel, she writes of New York's art world with high-voltage wit and a keen sense of the power of opposites. The "great man" is Oscar Feldman, a painter of voluptuous female nudes, and his most celebrated work, a diptych portraying a white woman and a black woman, serves as the novel's template. In the wake of his death, two biographers, one white and one black, stir up rancorous memories as they speak with the two very different loves of Oscar's life: his compliant wife, Abigail, mother of their autistic son, and his regal lover, Teddy, mother of their twin daughters. Oscar himself has a double, his sister, Maxine. She, too, loves women, but she is an abstract expressionist working primarily in black and white. As the biographers probe, Oscar's survivors overcome old resentments and forge new understandings through hilariously frank conversations, reawakened passions, and affirmations of truth and beauty. Christensen's arch and gratifying novel (think Margaret Drabble) pairs the ridiculous with the sublime, and reminds us that nothing human is simply black or white.
I love Margaret Drabble, which reminds me, I still haven't read her latest.
Of course, like every kid who loved Harriet I also wanted to spy on people. Trouble was, I lived in the country where the few houses were far, far apart and people could see me coming a mile off. That was frustrating for a wannabe spy. But I did make a belt for myself like Harriet's - remember Harriet's belt? It had a notebook and pencil, a flashlight - I forget what else. Binoculars maybe? I really should get my hands on a copy and reread Harriet. My flashlight was very cool. It was orange and looked like a small hardcover book. I used it to read under the covers when I was supposed to be sleeping. I still love reading in bed, though I don't do it secretly under the covers with a flashlight anymore. That would probably alarm my husband. I also still carry a notebook with me most places I go, and probably record the same sort of things I did as a kid. Since I couldn't spy on my neighbours, I had to imagine their lives instead. That is still what I spend a large part of my day doing: imagining how other people think, feel, act. As a grown-up it's called writing, though I sometimes still think it is really a form of spying.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Have you ever seen
in your life
than the way the sun,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone -
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance -
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love -
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world -
or have you too
~ Mary Oliver
Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Friday, March 7, 2008
Here's the description lifted from Amazon:
“St Paul’s cathedral stands like a cornered beast on Ludgate hill, taking deep breaths above the smoke. The fire has made terrifying progress in the night and is closing in on the ancient monument from three directions. Built of massive stones, the cathedral is held to be invincible, but suddenly Pegge sees what the flames covet: the two hundred and fifty feet of scaffolding erected around the broken tower. Once the flames have a foothold on the wooden scaffolds, they can jump to the lead roof, and once the timbers burn and the vaulting cracks, the cathedral will be toppled by its own mass, a royal bear brought down by common dogs.” (p.9)
It is the Great Fire of 1666. The imposing edifice of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a landmark of London since the 12th century, is being reduced to rubble by the flames that engulf the City. In the holocaust, Pegge and a small group of men struggle to save the effigy of her father, John Donne, famous love poet and the great Dean of St. Paul’s.
Making their way through the heat and confusion of the streets, they arrive at Paul’s wharf. Pegge’s husband, William Bowles, anxiously scans the wretched scene, suddenly realizing why Pegge has asked him to meet him at this desperate spot.The story behind this dramatic rescue begins forty years before the fire. Pegge Donne is still a rebellious girl, already too clever for a world that values learning only in men, when her father begins arranging marriages for his five daughters, including Pegge. Pegge, however, is desperate to taste the all-consuming desire that led to her parents’ clandestine marriage, notorious throughout England for shattering social convention and for inspiring some of the most erotic and profound poetry ever written. She sets out to win the love of Izaak Walton, a man infatuated with her older sister. Stung by Walton’s rejection and jealous of her physically mature sisters, the boyish Pegge becomes convinced that it is her own father who knows the secret of love. She collects his poems, hoping to piece together her parents’ history, searching for some connection to the mother she barely knew.
Intertwined with Pegge’s compelling voice are those of Ann More and John Donne, telling us of the courtship that inspires some of the world’s greatest poetry of love and physical longing. Donne’s seduction leads Ann to abandon social convention, risk her father’s certain wrath, and marry Donne. It is the undoing of his career and the two are left to struggle in a marriage that leads to her death in her 12th childbirth at age 33.
In Donne’s final days, Pegge tries, in ways that push the boundaries of daughterly behaviour, to discover the key to unlock her own sexuality. After his death, Pegge still struggles to free herself from an obsession that threatens to drive her beyond the bounds of reason. Even after she marries, she cannot suppress her independence or her desire to experience extraordinary love.
Conceit brings to life the teeming, bawdy streets of London, the intrigue-ridden court, and the lushness of the seventeenth-century English countryside. It is a story of many kinds of love–erotic, familial, unrequited, and obsessive–and the unpredictable workings of the human heart. With characters plucked from the pages of history, Mary Novik’s debut novel is an elegant, fully-imagined story of lives you will find hard to leave behind.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Good Reading Starts Here! News, information and guides to independent bookstores, independent publishers, literary magazines, alternative periodicals, independent record labels, alternative newsweeklies and more.
Check it out here.
Monday, March 3, 2008
This book was set in Fairfield, the first typeface from the hand of the distinguished American artist and engraver Rudolph Ruzicka (1883-1978). In its structure Fairfield displays the sober and sane qualities of the master craftsman whose talent has long been dedicated to clarity. It is this trait that accounts for the trim grace and vigor, the spirited design and sensitive balance, of this original typeface.
Rudolph Ruzicka was born in Bohemia and came to America in 1894.
Sober and sane qualities? In a typeface even. Pity I can't say the same about the majority of the people I meet.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Inanna Publications and Education Inc. is proud to announce the release of a new work of fiction: Jackfish, The Vanishing Village, a novel by Sarah Felix Burns, published under their imprint, Inanna Poetry and Fiction Series.
Jackfish, The Vanishing Village tells the story of a woman unravelling from a traumatic past and her yearning for redemption. When her sister dies prematurely, Clemance-Marie Nadeau leaves her family and village behind, boarding a train bound for Sault Ste. Marie, where she falls under the spell of a charming stranger who promises her a life of adventure, and then holds her captive with her guilt and his threats of violence. Years later, when Clemance moves to the United States, she feels like an outsider, but Clemance is also in exile from herself. Discovering she is pregnant at the age of forty-two sets in motion a series of events that awakens a painful memory, long-buried in her embattled body, and so begins the long and sometimes harrowing
journey back to her homeland, and to herself.
You can order the book directly from the publisher here or go to Amazon.ca
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Now, I must admit to being of two minds about all this. First, I don't quite understand all this competitiveness in the world. And not just in literature, in everything really. What is this obsession with being the best? Can there be a best book? Of course there can't and we all know it. That said, I have been enjoying thinking about it. What is my favourite Booker? I haven't read them all, though I've read a fair number of them. And this has made me want to reread some of my favourites as well as all the novels I've missed. Which I hope is really the point of the contest. If you want to find out more click here to go to the Booker site.
What's your favourite Booker prize winner?
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
It was on this day in 1956 that Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes met in London, (books by Sylvia Plath) (books by Ted Hughes) beginning one of the most famous literary relationships in modern history. Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts (1932), and had studied at Smith College, but she was in England studying at Cambridge on a Fulbright Scholarship.
Sylvia Plath met Hughes at a party in a bar, and the next morning she wrote about the encounter in her journal. She spent most of the evening talking to someone else, whom she described as "some ugly, gat-toothed squat grinning guy named Meeson trying to be devastatingly clever." She said the party was "very bohemian, with boys in turtleneck sweaters and girls being blue-eye-lidded or elegant in black." Plath had been drinking a little, and she wrote, "The jazz was beginning to get under my skin, and I started dancing with Luke and knew I was very bad, having crossed the river and banged into the trees..."
Plath said, "Then the worst thing happened, that big, dark, hunky boy, the only one there huge enough for me, who had been hunching around over women, and whose name I had asked the minute I had come into the room, but no one told me, came over and was looking hard in my eyes and it was Ted Hughes."
Plath quoted one of his poems to him, and he guided her to a side room of the bar. She wrote of that moment, "And then he kissed me bang smash on the mouth and ripped my hairband off, my lovely red hairband scarf which had weathered the sun and much love, and whose like I shall never again find, and my favorite silver earrings: hah, I shall keep, he barked. And when he kissed my neck I bit him long and hard on the cheek, and when we came out of the room, blood was running down his face."
Plath composed a poem over the next few days after meeting Hughes. Called "Pursuit," it was a poem about a woman being hunted by a panther and was a response to a Hughes poem called "The Jaguar." Plath spent the night with Hughes and his friend in their London flat right before going on a spring vacation in Europe. When she returned, they spent even more time together, and after seeing so much of each other for a couple of months, they started thinking about marriage.
They got married on June 16th, four months after that first meeting, but it was a secret wedding because they didn't want to jeopardize Plath's fellowship or academic career. The ceremony was in the Church of Saint George the Martyr in London. Plath wore a pink suit, and Hughes gave her a pink rose to hold as she walked down the aisle.
Plath and Hughes spent the rest of that summer in Paris, Madrid, and the small town of Benidorm in Spain. They passed their days swimming, studying, and writing. Plath wrote the poems "Dream with Clam Diggers," Fiesta Melons," and "The Goring" as well as many others while on this honeymoon. Plath told a friend many years later that Hughes had gotten very angry with her during that trip and tried to choke her while they sat on a hill. She said she had resigned herself to die while it was happening, and she worried she had made the wrong decision in getting married so soon after meeting him.
Plath and Hughes decided to separate in 1962, right after they had moved back to England and had a second child. Plath discovered that Hughes was having an affair. She said in an interview that year, "I much prefer doctors, midwives, lawyers, anything but writers. I think writers and artists are the most narcissistic people... I'm fascinated by this mastery of the practical. As a poet, one lives a bit on air. I always like someone who can teach me something practical."
Plath committed suicide in 1963 by sticking her head in an oven. Hughes's mistress would also kill herself years later using the same method. Hughes was left in control of Plath's estate, and he edited her poems and controlled what of hers was published and what was not. He once was met on a trip to Australia by protestors holding signs that accused him of murdering Plath. Plath fans trying to chip away the word "Hughes" from her name on the tombstone have repeatedly vandalized her grave in Yorkshire, England.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
doves, Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Now, for the trivia-minded, which movie was this poem read aloud in?
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Monday, February 18, 2008
Why is it that spellcheck on Blogger no longer seems to be working for me?
Thursday, February 14, 2008
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
~ W. B. Yeats
I love that line, "But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you". May someone find and love the pilgrim soul in you.
Now go spread some love. Happy Valentine's Day!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
There is a rather touching preface, but it was the acknowledgements that really made me want to be Ariel's new best friend. Okay, it is an odd habit of mine but I always read people's acknowledgements in books. Even when all they do is thank everyone they've ever met starting with the doctor who delivered them, I read through the pages and pages of names. I have no idea why. Anyway, this is what Ariel Gore had to say at the end of her acknowledgements:
Most of all, thanks to you, gentle reader: Thanks for picking up this book, and thanks in advance for telling all of your friends about me, because I'd really like to become a famous writer before I'm dead - I even quit smoking to give myself a few more years - and if you happen to know anyone at the New York Times, could you please tell them I'm a genius? It would really help me out. In the meantime, take care, keep writing, keep fighting, and keep putting your work out into the world, okay? Surely we will meet someday.
That made reading through all those other book's boring acknowledgements worthwhile.