be still, my beating heart

Sorry, one more link to share. Nothing to do with books at all, unless perhaps Sliding Doors was a book?

(Nope. Looks like an original screenplay. There must be a book about finding love on public transit. I've just got to find it.)


I've been side-tracked, of late, by projects at work and an (ill-fated?) attempt to write some fiction of my own.

In the meantime, take a look at this. For the next six weeks or so, until it is pulled in time for the writer to return home, I expect this blog to be a very interesting read. (Note, for example, the author's attention to detail when it comes to the smells of Kandahar Air Field.)

The book Cryderman points to looks really interesting -- if only for its behind-the-scenes look at the Liberals making their decision to go to war. (Really? Paul Martin, a man who strategized for years and years, who literally put Canada's economy back on track in the 90s, didn't understand we were at war? With battles? Don't tell me he thought, somehow, Canadians were in Afghanistan for peace-keeping reasons?)


let's dialogue, shall we?

This is sort of a cop-out entry. A call for attention. A call for comments.

What do you, dear reader, run your eyes along during your time on the treadmill? Or the stationary bike? Or the elliptical whats-it-do?

I went to a gym tonight, and I was surrounded by people reading Us or whatever cheap mag they picked up in the grocery line before going to the gym. That is, if they weren't staring vacantly straight ahead.

(It's the vacant starers, the ones hooked up to their iPods, who freak me out most at gyms. I'm not going to pretend they are the reason I avoid gyms or anything. I avoid gyms because I don't particularly like to work out. But I always get a titch paranoid and wonder if the vacant starers are laughing on the inside at my total misuse of the spinning bike. Or if they somehow know I'm lolling my time on the stepper at level 2 rather than 12 or 16 or 20.)

When I was in university, I spent hours at the gym reading excellent texts for my English classes. (Okay, one hour. A week. And it was just one first-year English class, so.....)

Today, I brought a Philippa Gregory novel -- the book is a welcome break from the last book club book I didn't finish. And a welcome break from the real world, which, as the days get shorter and I find myself going to work and coming home in the dark, is very necessary.

But I'm thinking it just doesn't look right to haul around a fat romance novel at the gym.

(Side note: I think I didn't enjoy The Tudors as much as I expected because the mini-series is not nearly as rich as Gregory's books covering the same period. Also, I have to agree with my father -- Jonathan Rhys Meyers doesn't really have the gravity necessary in Henry VIII. Now, if he would only be cast as another Henry altogether....)


shared addictions

I'm not the only one.

yet another book club


Thanks to a friend for pointing out this link.... Now we can all take a moment to wonder at the effects of celebrity on private radio broadcasters listened to mostly by people who drive trucks. (At least it's not Rutherford? Whose first book, I assume, would be The Prince, and whose follow-ups might include the latest Harper biography?)

"Adler nation." ".... truly privileged in being part of something new and very special." (Because no one has ever come up with this broadcast-book concept before. Not some lady in Chicago and certainly not a national public broadcaster.) ".... one of the planet's top publishers."

Sigh. Okay, I'll stop picking now. Turns out yesterday was Grouch Day. But today I have no excuse.

(Top 5 books I would list should I ever become a radio personality/minor celebrity in charge of a book club and somehow bettering the nation's literacy:
  1. Lady Oracle, Margaret Atwood -- hah, you thought I'd pick Handmaid's Tale, eh? Too obvious. This tome is a better think piece on femininity.
  2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen -- super obvious. After asking people to read Persuasion last autumn, I'm afraid of further ruining Austen for anyone who's never read her.
  3. The Stone Carvers, Jane Urquhart -- a romantic, startling reflection of First World War-era Canada.
  4. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle -- an excellent children's novel, possibly my all-time favourite. Publishers turned down the novel several times, making L'Engle re-write it and re-write it, honing it to perfection.
  5. A new entry, and, I think, a starting- or end-point for a paper on the Jewish-American woman's experience in literature. I'm not sure if it's the start or end because, frankly, I'm not overwhelmingly familiar with how much Jewish-American women's literature there is out there. The Guy Not Taken, Jennifer Weiner.

Okay, that's enough for today. Surely all my choices will change tomorrow, or within the hour. Like, immediately I want to switch Urquhart for David Bergen's The Time in Between. Or Richard B. Wright's Clara Callan. And maybe L'Engle should be replaced by The Time Traveller's Wife? And do I really want to end the list off with a group of short stories by Weiner? Even if I did think "Swim" was absolutely gorgeous, does Weiner belong on the same bookshelf as Austen? Even if I was impressed by her notes at the end of the book, which explained how she came to write each piece, and in what year?)


election day

By the end of the day, Edmonton should have its new slate of councillors, etc. And everyone will have forgotten the motley crew of crazies and people-with-good-hearts-but-no-hope who ran against Mayor Stephen Mandel.

I, meanwhile, will remain angry that the only guy who stood a chance had virtually zero substance. Check out his website, and more specifically a link to his appearance on a morning talk show, during which he stumbles over the question of why he's running for office.


(What does this have to do with books, you ask? Nothing. Nothing at all. I just finished reading High Fidelity this morning, and perhaps I feel like being growly and apathetic. I loved the book, by the way. I can't believe one slim novel has so much harsh honesty packed into it.)

gone Hollywood

Here’s my own personal Catch-22 -- I spend concentrated time trying to find book covers that in no way feature pictures of, say, Scarlett Johansson.

If a movie is based on a book, I want to find the book that still has its original art on the cover. I guess it’s sort of like how I want the book that doesn’t have Oprah’s stamp on it. (I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my copy of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina actually had an additional Oprah sleeve wrapped around it when I purchased it. It made me sad a modern day talk show host could somehow claim even a small part of a book that outdates her by a couple centuries.)

At the same time, I’m fairly open to suggestion. And so last night, when I went to Elizabeth: The Golden Age (not good, if you’re wondering, but not exactly bad, either -- if you really want to see this movie, wait for it to come to DVD and in the meantime watch its far better prequel), I was struck by the premise of P.S. I Love You.

The movie, starring Oscar so-and-so’s, is scheduled to come out later this year, I guess. It’s based on a book by Cecelia Ahern, which I bought today in giddy expectation of a love story I will enjoy.

My giddiness is getting out of hand, lately.

While in Ottawa, I went to the movie version of The Jane Austen Book Club.

For the record, I didn’t actually expect to enjoy this movie much. For once, I was bothered, right off the bat, by how young everyone cast is. Because in Karen Joy Fowler’s book, there’s such an emphasis on middle age. I felt like going with Maria Bello and Amy Brenneman (who, by the way, does not look old enough to have a daughter in her 20s) was sort of pandering to our society’s misplaced ideals of beauty, which are linked to youth.

I still think whoever cast the film should have tried a little harder to find older women to play the main characters.

But I sort of easily put my concerns aside during the film’s opening credits. Everyone’s rushing around in today’s LA, no time to think, no time for pleasantries -- and yes, I know many another movie critic before me has discussed these opening scenes. Then, as the movie opens, it really does stay true to Fowler’s excellent book. There’s just enough Austen trivia for those who love the books, but not too much for those who’ve never read them. The story doesn’t rely too fully on the six novels, but you can easily recognize how Bello’s Jocelyn is Emma, etc.

I love, love, loved it. Cross your fingers for future adapted screenplays.


the cool table: we meet again

Cool things I discovered while in Ottawa, thanks to my brother and his partner:
  1. Ted Leo.
  2. A handful of cool, laid-back pubs in the capital.
  3. I like Nick Hornby.

I know, you're rolling your eyes at me. You're thinking that anyone who has the patience to read Helen Fielding probably has the patience for High Fidelity. Turns out you are right.

Sometimes I make quick decisions, quick judgements. (Eh? Emma? Okay, I'll stop.) So if a guy at a bar makes a lame joke, or stares at a girl's breasts for too long, I assume he's an idiot. Similarly, I read the first two or three chapters of Hornby's Fever Pitch, and I jumped to a conclusion about his writing in general....

But High Fidelity is really something special. And not because I feel like I'm hanging out with John Cusack, and he's quietly reading to me, or perhaps we are sitting on a couch together and he is listening to utterly cool indy music on his headphones while I read a novel on which a movie he starred in was based.... (Who wouldn't want to hang out with John Cusack? Honestly.)

To be honest, I have little else to say on this topic -- yes, it's written by a man. Yes, it's popular. Yes, Hornby's actually quite a good writer. But it's still fluff. So I'm not going to bore you with a full-out dissection.

I will bother you with some prose pulled from the pages, however:

"What came first -- the music or the misery?.....

"People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody ever worries about kids listening to thousands -- literally thousands -- of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. The unhappiest people I know, romantically speaking, are the ones who like pop music the most; and I don't know whether pop music has caused this unhappiness, but I do know that they've been listening to the sad songs longer than they've been living the unhappy lives." (p. 25)

*Additional notes: Stay tuned for my giddy, over-the-top, yes-I-clapped-my-hands-all-through-it review of film based on The Jane Austen Book Club. Really. I clapped my hands. Also, I am still reading Blindness. But I was on vacation, you understand.


Street politics.... specifically, politics in front of a bar on Sussex, not more than a couple blocks from Parliament Hill.

From inside the newish war museum:


all that jazz

Anyone else notice I beat a personal best for site updates last month? Seventeen blog entries, people -- I'm sure you noticed, since I am updating the blog for my public.

Oh, the glory.

Anyway, I'm off to visit family and friends out east this weekend, in celebration of Thanksgiving, yadda yadda yadda. (Bagels. Must buy bagels. Also, must stop at Sugar Mountain, more than once.) SO I will not be blogging for a while.

In the meantime, I offer you poetry. Because autumn, my friends, is for poetry if nothing else.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
-- Shakespeare's Sonnet LXXIII
(Why, you ask, is fall for poetry? Because fall reminds me of school, and school reminds me of poetry, in a roundabout way. School also reminds me of math, but no one really wants to read about that.)

Then there were sighs, the deeper for suppression,
And stolen glances, sweeter for the theft,
And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left,
All these are little preludes to possession,
Of which young Passion cannot be bereft,
And merely tend to show how greatly Love is
Embarrassed at first starting with a novice.
-- Part LXXIV from Byron's Don Juan

(What am I reading these days, you ask? Yeah, about that. My attention span is really bad lately. So I'm half-reading Blindness, still. But it's not the kind of book you can put down at a page break because, well, there aren't any. There are chapters, but no paragraphs really. So it's just a dense book one isn't always in the mood for. I plan to take it with me on the road, especially since I don't have an iPod at the moment, so this will keep me busy. I'm also half-reading a collection of short stories by Jennifer Weiner. No point in me telling you about it, since it's really rather like everything else she writes. Kind of like chicken noodle soup for the brain. I don't mean that to sound as insulting as it probably does.)

He showed me Hights I never saw --
"Would'st Climb"--He said?
I said, "Not so."
"With me"--He said--"With me?"
He showed me secrets--Morning's nest--
The Rope the Nights were put across--
"And now, Would'st have me for a Guest?"
I could not find my "Yes"--
And then-He brake His Life,
And lo,
A light for me, did solemn grow--
The steadier, as my face withdrew-
And could I further "no"?
-- Emily Dickinson's [446] -- I like to think it's about pregnancy or illicit love, but let's be honest. It's probably about God.

This is not a poem at all, but something I've had ear-marked forever:
.... as there is private property and while money is the standard of all things, I do not think that a nation can be governed either justly or happily: not justly, because the best things will fall to the worst men; nor happily, because all things will be divided among a few. Even these few are not really well off, while the rest are utterly miserable.
-- Sir Thomas More's Utopia, Book One

And, finally, my favourite poem. This is actually, I suppose, a strange favourite for a modern woman. Written in 1650, there is a soppiness to it. But, to me, it speaks of choice.

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor aught but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
-- To My Dear and Loving Husband, by Anne Bradstreet