Friday, February 29, 2008

Jackfish, The Vanishing Village

I received a press release the other day about a new Canadian novel. Have a look and support small presses!

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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Best of the Booker

I've been rather amused by this latest prize: the best of the Booker. Forty years worth of Booker prize winners and this summer a team of judges is going to name the best of the best. But not without your help (if you feel like tossing in your two cents worth). The public has been invited to weigh in with their choices. And since this is Britain, the betting has already begun. According to the bookies Yann Martel's Life of Pi is leading the pack.

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


I've been spending a lot of time browsing the Etsy site lately. They are primarily known as a great place to buy handmade goods, but there are also a lot of people selling zines, handmade books and journals over there. Check it out!

Monday, February 25, 2008


This was on the Writer's Almanac site today:

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

Am I The Only One?

Is there a connection between being book-mad and stationary-crazy do you think? Or am I the only book lover that also adores stationary stores? That drools over journals (oh, Moleskine!) and pretty papers and funky pens? And I'm not a snob about these things. I love those tiny expensive shops but yesterday I was in Staples and could hardly tear myself away. What was I doing staring at bubble envelopes and post it notes that long? Please tell me I'm not alone here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

W. H. Auden

In honour of W. H. Auden's birthday I bring you the first part of the poem, Two Songs for Hedli Anderson, sometimes called Funeral Blues:

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

Copy Cat Globe

I had a busy weekend so am a bit late getting to the weekend edition of The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper. In the past I've caught the Globe stealing ideas before; sometimes The New Yorker will do a piece on some offbeat subject that will mysteriously be covered by the Globe a few weeks later. This time they stole from a blogger, specifically from Julie Wilson of the Seen Reading blog. For a few years now Julie has been noticing what her fellow transit riders are reading and reporting on it in the most delightful way on her blog. And that's just what the Globe did, minus the delightful part. In a rather dull, newspaperish way they simply stuck in the picture of five subway riders and gave a brief description of the books they were each reading. If you've not yet discovered the Seen Reading blog and want to see this idea done right (and you know you do) click here.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Why is it that even though my tiny apartment is overflowing with books - really they are piled everywhere - do I want more books? Why do I not count cookbooks as books in my strange little mind, so that now they are piling up around me too, having overflowed their drawer and counter space in the kitchen? Why is the library not closer so that I would (though probably not) sign out a book instead of buying it? Why? Why? Why?

Why is it that spellcheck on Blogger no longer seems to be working for me?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

In honour of Valentine's Day I'm going to give you my favourite love poem:

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

A Literary Event!

There's a new Alice Munro short story in the current issue of the New Yorker but you can read it on their website for free, if you're too broke to get yourself a copy. In my world a new short story from Munro is a literary event. Read it here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

For the writers in the crowd

For the writers in the crowd, I picked up a brilliant book over the weekend. It's called How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore. This is not one of those how to get yourself writing kinds of books, it's aimed at people already writing but looking to bust into print and take the world by storm. Ariel Gore has a wicked sense of humour and has written a smart, funny, irreverent book packed with good advice guaranteed to fire you and get you into print. Or at least on the way to your very own collection of rejection slips. But ultimately that's how you get into print. Trust me. And if Ariel's advice is not enough, she has even included interviews with people like Dave Eggers and Ursula K. Le Guin.

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.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

After This by Alice McDermott

I finished reading After This by American author Alice McDermott last night before bed. I did not like this novel as much as I did McDermott's Charming Billy, which I read a month or so ago. That said, After This is the story of Mary and John Keane: their meeting, marriage and four children. McDermott writes beautiful prose - I often found myself rereading sentences, I found them so gorgeous - and these are wonderful characters. And despite the domestic, ordinary feel of the story it is never boring. I guess my problem with it was the ending. The storyline felt a bit rushed near the end to me, things were wrapped up too quickly, perhaps a wee bit unsatisfactorily. Also what was described on the back jacket as a "stunning transgression" committed by their youngest daughter did not feel all that stunning, or much of a transgression, to me. Alice McDermott is definitely a writer I am interested in however, and I look forward to reading her other novels.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Most Romantic Novels

I must really be in the mood for love. Most years I barely give Valentine's Day a thought (marriage will do that for you). Maybe it's the gloomy weather and endless falling snow getting me down this year, but for some reason my thoughts are firmly fixed on love. (And no I'm not having an affair!) So to continue from yesterday's love poem, today I'm thinking of my favourite romantic novels.

Here's my list so far:

Pride and Prejudice by: Jane Austen
Jane Eyre by: Charlotte Bronte
Rebecca by: Daphne Du Maurier
Possession by: A.S. Byatt
Atonement by: Ian McEwan

Feel free to jump in with your own favourites, novels or poems.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

i like my body

Thought I'd send a sexy poem your way since Valentine's Day is on the horizon and all.

i like my body...

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh...And eyes big love crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

~ e. e. cummings

That really is quite sexy!!

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Sterile Cuckoo

My bookshelves are so overflowing they are stacked two deep which means half my books I can't see. But the upside of this is I sometimes stumble across much-loved books I hadn't thought of for ages. Which happened today when I came across The Sterile Cuckoo by John Nichols. I discovered this book one summer when I was in high school. My mum had a few dozen hardcovers on a bookshelf in the basement; they were from a time before she was married when as a young secretary she'd splurged and joined a bookclub. Anyway I read the book and it has been on my bookshelf ever since.

It is the story of Jerry Payne and Pookie Adams and their college romance. Which sounds like a pretty boring, conventional story and maybe would be without Pookie Adams, one of the most original characters ever to spring off any page.

They meet in a bus depot and here's the first thing Pookie says: "You're a kind of shaggy, scruffy-looking, bag of bones - the real cowboy role - aren't you?" she began. "And judging from the intense expression on your incredibly boyish face, you are thinking of either punching a gorgeous naked broad in her big white belly, or else catching a flock or tame canaries in a huge net just before they fall into the Mississippi river. All the same, you don't look bad to me, you know. You look like a grown up version of The Kid in the Charlie Chaplin movie, ever see it? Charlie Chaplin movies get me right here, especially "The Kid," and more especially when everybody is an angel with paper wings, jerking back and forth on wires you can almost-but-not-quite see. After "The Gold Rush" I bought some Brown and Serve Rolls, raided a couple of forks from the silverware cabinet in the dining room, and went upstairs to my room where I tried - on my pillow and without much success - to do thte dance the way he did. I love Charlie you?" When I stared at her exactly as if she were nuts she said, "I'm not a pushmi-pullya, I don't have a goiter, nor am I a died-in-the-wool Kulack-killing Communist. I'm a girl. Going home," she tacked on with a pout, retreating her hands up out of sight into the shaggy sleeves of her grey sweater.

I'm going to have to reread it soon. I've read it a few times over the years. I have no idea whether it is still in print, it was published in 1965, but is worth seeking out. And it has a great ending!


I'm one of those people who really likes quotes, I have a little quote journal and everything. I just found a new one I like:

"I am not what happened to me,
I am what I choose to become."
~Carl Jung