Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Chekhov's Birthday

Today is the birthday of Anton Chekhov, born in 1860. Here's a quote from the master:
"Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out."

I hear ya Anton.

Monday, January 28, 2008

When to Walk by Rebecca Gowers

I finished the novel When to Walk by Rebecca Gowers and have to say, I really enjoyed it. It's told in first person narrative which works wonderfully well if you love the character, which in this case I did. I loved Ramble. If Ramble was a real person I would definitely want to be her friend, but that isn't likely as Ramble herself knows. Book people have a hard time finding each other, their natural habitat being behind the covers of whatever they are currently reading. The blurb on the front cover describes When to Walk as "Tristam Shandy meets Bridget Jones" which is just some book reviewer trying to be clever (what is the obsession with people describing things as this meets that, anyway?). But When to Walk did put me in mind of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. So if you liked that, you might like this as well. Or if you are a bookish sort of person, feel a wee bit anti-social, have loads of weird facts stuck in your head and easily get off topic, this might be the book for you, too. In a nutshell, it's one week in Ramble's life - the week after her husband has left her. The week when Ramble tries to figure out what to do with the rest of her life, or at least with the rest of her day.


So, Saturday night I was cruising the shelves of one of my favourite used bookstores and found a copy of The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean. I knew about this collection of essays (mostly New Yorker pieces) but had never seen a copy before. I am also a big fan of The Orchid Thief, also by Orlean. Anyway, this copy didn't look like it had even been read and after opening it, I found an inscription on the inside cover. I like inscriptions, I know they make booksellers and collectors shudder, but hey, I'm neither. I'm just nosy. This inscription reads:
Hope you enjoy this as much as I did!
Love, Meredith
Happy Birthday!

Then I found the bookmark (one of those freebie ugly ones from a large chain) stuck about midway through. I'm betting this wasn't such a hit as a birthday present, but I'm glad to have it. And hey Meredith, if you're reading this I like your taste in books and I have a birthday coming up. Wanna be friends?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Holy Birthdays!

Not only is it Robbie Burns Day (Oh, my love is a red, red rose) but it is also the birthdays of Somerset Maugham and Virginia Woolf. That's a lot of literary birthdays to celebrate in one day. Good thing it is a Friday! I cannot believe I didn't know that about Virginia Woolf. Wait until hub get home, his small drop of Scottish blood afire, and tells me it is Robbie Burns day and I say, "Actually it is Virginia Woolf day."

I''ll leave you with this quote from Room of One's Own as a tribute to the great Virginia Woolf:

"So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery, and the sacrifice of wealth and chastity, which used to be said to be the greatest of human disasters, a mere flea-bite in comparison."

Zine Talk

This caught my eye and looks interesting:

Sunday, February 3rd. 1:30pm
Please join us for a talk with long-time zinemaker and vegan foodie extraordinaire Siue Moffat at the Toronto Zine Library. Siue is best known for her self-published masterpiece of a cookbook Lickin' the Beaters, a self-published vegan dessert book which will soon be re-pressed by PM Books, an imprint of AK Press. Her second book- of vegan chocolate and candy recipies- is due out this spring on PM Books as well. In her talk, Siue will talk about her various projects involving punk rock, zines, food, and self-publishing. Snacks will be served!! Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!
A talk with Siue MoffatBrought to you by the Toronto Zine Library Collective,Toronto Zine Library at the TRANZAC 292 Brunswick Avenue, 2nd floor, Toronto.

I didn't even know there was a Toronto Zine Library. How cool is that? Last year I was experimenting with making handmade books and from there got interested in zines as well as altered books. I've not seen that many actually zines though. Guess I know where to go now, don't I?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Writer's Almanac

Gee, I told you about The Writer's Almanac site and then didn't give you a link, didn't I? How rude. Actually it was laziness. Please accept my apologises. So much for that New Year's resolution to stop being so lazy. But check it out here. I usually stop by for a daily fix of poetry.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Literary and Historical Notes

It was on this day, in 1952, that William Shawn succeeded Harold Ross as the editor of The New Yorker magazine.

I just read that over at the Writer's Almanac site and it reminded me if you're a fan of The New Yorker and you've never read The Years With Ross by James Thurber track down a copy. I'm not sure if it is still in print (I found my copy in a used bookstore years ago) but is is worth the hunt.

Blaming by Elizabeth Taylor

Blaming is the second novel by the English writer, Elizabeth Taylor that I've read. Though I didn't like it quite as much as I did Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, I still recommend it. While on holiday in Istanbul Amy's husband suddenly dies. Martha, a younger woman from the tour, kindly abandons her holiday to accompany Amy back to England. Once home, Martha continues the friendship which is not what the ungrateful Amy wants.

There is a line from near the end of the novel I particularly liked: "She talked mostly of painters who were dead, or people in books who were never alive."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sick Day

I'm feeling a cold coming on so am taking it easy today. Mostly hanging around on the sofa with a book. I'm currently reading Evening by Susan Minot. As ever the book is way better than the movie. Can anyone think of an instance when the book was actually better? I can't, but then my head is stuffed up and I can't think of much anything.

Late Fragment

Late Fragment

And did you get what
what you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on this earth.

~Raymond Carver

You hear so much about Carver's short stories (especially lately) but I've always been a big fan of his poetry too. It is so overshadowed by the stories I think it often gets overlooked.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremount

"Mrs Palfrey first came to the Claremont Hotel on a Sunday afternoon in January." So begins Elizabeth Taylor's enchanting novel Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont. Mrs Palfrey joins a small band of elderly residents living at the Claremont, who are, for the most part, alone in the world and trying to avoid the nursing home. Their days are struggles against boredom with only the daily posting of the menu in the lobby to look forward to. Mrs Palfrey bravely accepts her circumstances, believing life to be all but over for her, when she meets Ludo, a charming young writer and suddenly has things to look forward to again.

This is a wonderful story filled with eccentric characters, witty dialogue and a few surprising plot twists. I love the kind of story for lack of a better word I think of as "bittersweet". The kind of novel that makes me laugh as well as cry. They seem the most like life to me. And though Mrs Palfrey at the Claremount didn't move me to tears, it certainly had sad moments as well as funny ones. Overall, a great read! And I'm looking forward to reading more by Elizabeth Taylor.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Free Canadian magazine subscription

Genuine Canadian Magazines (a not-for-profit organization that promotes Canadian magazines) has a great deal going on. Until March 14 you can subscribe to 3 magazines and only be charged for the price of 2. The lowest priced mag is free!! Good deal huh? Check out the 175 magazines on offer and sign up here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Latest Additions

Well, the holidays are over and everything is settling back down to normal. Not a bad thing really. My best sale book finds after Xmas were at the University of Toronto bookstore. They had 20% off the entire stock which was wonderful, but I was very restrained and only bought The Poetry of Pablo Neruda. Just as I was silently congratulating myself I happened to notice a few staff members busily setting up a clearance table. Of course, I couldn't resist taking a peek. Within moments I was holding an armful of books and swatting other holiday shoppers out of the way. I may have even growled at a few. If you were among them I sincerely apologize. I walked away with three novels by Elizabeth Taylor ( someone was blogging about her recently and piqued my interest, plus I tend to like things published by Virago), Cold Mountain (yes, I probably am the only person on the planet who hasn't read that yet) , The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (shortlisted for both the Booker and the Orange prize), Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres and Pecked to Death by Ducks by Tim Cahill. Seven books and they only charged me $5.00!!! That is crazy cheap. I was so thrilled I didn't even mind lugging them around with me for the rest of the day while I looked for other bargains.

I had another interesting find the following day at BMV. BMV is a used bookstore in Toronto with three locations. They are quickly becoming my favourite place to shop. Here's why. While at U of T bookstore I had been hemming and hawing over buying When to Walk by Rebecca Gowers. I'd read a review of it a few weeks before in the Globe and Mail and had jotted down the title. Ultimately I didn't buy it, then regretted it, of course. So the next day while at BMV I had a look for it, not expecting anything since it was so new. Well, they did have a copy for $11.99, but even better they had a review copy, plain white and black cover, that was only $3.99! What a deal! I can't wait to read it.

I also swung by the Pages sale (which it on until Jan 13 - 20% off everything) and got a super cute book called Alternation by Shannon Okey and Alexandra Underhill about DIY fashion projects. I've already made myself a cool shrug from a scrap of polar fleece I had in my fabric stash. So if you bump into me anywhere, be sure to mention how cool I am looking.

And after complaining I never get books for Xmas my honey gave me Mary Oliver's New and Selected Poems Volume Two and Veganomicon, the fabulous new vegan cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. He's such a sweetie, and I'm not just saying that because he might read this.

All this means I have even more books overflowing my shelves and for the umpteenth year my New Year's resolution is to give more books away!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Favourite Novels from 2007

Here are my five favourite novels from 2007 in no particular order:

- The Lost Garden by: Helen Humphries

- Rebecca by: Daphne DuMaurier

- The Sea by: John Banville

- The Fountain Overflows by: Rebecca West

- Charming Billy by: Alice McDermott