my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

I have to tell you I'm reading Timothy Findley's The Wars. I have to tell you this because it is all I really have to say about books today. I'm awed by Findley's circuitous, romantic storytelling. His heavy-handed foreshadowing.

(As I continue to read the works of Important Male Authors, I'm struck by my repetitive use of "heavy-handed" as a description of narrative style. Perhaps this is something that sets men and women writers apart. Women want to show you, while men are just letting you know. Or maybe not. Unless is a rather blatant essay on feminism, isn't it?)

I'm talking in circles. It wasn't a very good day. Please excuse my awful grammar. (See? I am a woman, and I can foreshadow in a heavy-handed way.)

There have been much worse days than mine. The Romanovs, for example, had much worse days. Also, a friend of mine is getting increasingly pregnant. Thus, she is getting increasingly hormonal and cranky. I have to say, while the end-product of a pregnancy is pretty awesome (Exhibit 1: my friends' eight-month-old daughter, who can now stand on her own), the interim sounds like it sucks. Did you know you can't eat sushi? This might not be true, I've never discussed it with a doctor or anything, but my pregnant friends avoid the stuff. And it's good stuff. Sad.

In other worse days, another friend was returning from a trip to Florida when her flight was laid over. For, like, a million years. She spent a night sleeping at an airport in Chicago, because in the United States flights never actually end. Or maybe planes just don't take off? It took 24 hours to get back to Edmonton. She still doesn't have her luggage.

So really, my day was not so bad. And it ends with me sitting on my couch and drinking a glass of white wine and listening to Billie Holiday. This is quite soothing. Outside, it's raining. Not too hard, or anything. At least it's not snowing.

The thing is, my apartment smells funky. I think it smells like wet copper. But more accurately, it smells like broken pipes because my upstairs neighbours' fan coil did something crazy. Like explode or something, I'm not sure. Whatever it did, it sent water spraying everywhere in their apartment. Which I'm sure super sucks, since they were not home at all today. (Don't worry too much, the building manager went into their place and mopped up as much of the wet as he could.) Thankfully I was home, just in time for everything to smell bad and discover a leak coming through both my closet and the ceiling above my bathtub. Most of my clothes are soaked through, but key things like my books and bed are safe.

This wasn't really the worst part of my day. That had to do with the office. Some of it was my fault -- after a midnight shift, I dragged my sorry self back to work at 9:30 a.m., all bleary, and didn't escape until noon, when I discovered Leak 2008 -- and some of it was not. Then Starbucks ran out of lemonade. I know this is a really ridiculous complaint, but you know when you start to let things get to you, and then you can't stop? And maybe then you get all teary-eyed because you notice the front of your pants split at work, and you don't have a sewing kit, but thank goodness you're wearing a long top and maybe no one will notice?

It really was just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. And I'm such a whiner! So I bid you good night, folks. Tomorrow will be a better day, right? Fiddle-dee-dee?


diaspora en vogue

Not to get too dramatic about it, but every month I slowly pore through Vogue. I study the shoes I can't possibly afford (unless I want to forgo rent, or become Bloomwoodially useless), and read the nostalgia pieces that actually do make me think differently about classic jewellery, or pictures of 60s-era rockstars, or even my own body. I ponder the political stories that manage to have this really fashion-related bent, and I wonder if these pieces have anything to do with feminism, and then I wonder if it's un-feminist to question that....

Anyway, April's issue of Vogue had a treat for anyone who loves to read, and specifically anyone who loves to read Jhumpa Lahiri's work.

As written by Megan O'Grady:

"Jhumpa Lahiri was flying home from a book tour when the inspiration for the title story of Unaccustomed Earth (Knopf) struck. 'I was 30,000 feet in the air, looking out the little window at the clouds,' says the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, whose enormous eyes, the color of a slightly oxidized penny, give the impression of taking in the larger view. 'Suddenly I had entered the mind of a character: a man going to visit his daughter and grandson after his wife's death.'

"It's a fittingly lofty point of origin for these peripatetic, sweeping stories -- Lahiri's best yet -- which move from Boston to Bombay and back again to evoke intricate topologies of emotion and characters who often feel more at home abroad. As in her previous work -- the extraordinary debut story collection The Interpreter of Maladies and her heartfelt novel The Namesake (which was made into a film by Mira Nair) -- the dislocations between Indian parents and their American-born children come under scrutiny, but now those children are adults having children, like Lahiri herself, the mother of Octavio, five, and Noor, three."

fist shaking and other venom

Sorry -- this is another really short post. And I know you've all been waiting for my brilliant, witty comments on something or other, so I have to apologize for disappointing.

Last week on his book agents' blog, Nathan Bransford asked readers to tell him about over-rated classic books written by authors who have long since passed. The responses are worth reading, if only to shake your fist at or nodd your head in agreement with.

(My votes include The Sun Also Rises and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, two books I hated, hated, hated. Hated so much, in fact, that I never finished them.)


the end of an era

I expect this link, from The Edmonton Journal, will only stay live for 30 days.


terminal 5

Right -- this posting has nothing to do with books. If you wished, you could read it to yourself in a bad British accent, like I do whenever I read Bridget Jones's Diary, or even talk about Bridget Jones's Diary. That could help salvage this entry.

Or kill it more.

Regardless, check out this bizarre music video all about Heathrow's newest terminal. I think it's hilarious, but then I have a poor sense of humour and allowed myself a cheap laugh because two men put on women's clothing.


la nature


I'm reading Into the Wild, the latest book club selection picked by my friend Andy. I've included his reasons for this choice below. You know, for the sake of fairness and all that.

Background.... If I like a book, Andy generally does not. And vice versa. This started with the first book club selection (mine), continued with the choice of Catcher in the Rye (his), was punctuated by Judy Blume (still sorry), and now arrives at a book written entirely in magazine style.

Now, let me back up here for a moment. I like magazines. I like magazine style. I'm impressed by Krakauer's intense research and his ability to tell the story straight. I'm a little surprised at how straight he chooses to tell the story, mostly because I was ready for a book that would be written in narrative style. I was prepared to be irritated with the writer's salsa dance with facts.

Instead -- and ironically, given my typical complaints -- I'm almost jarred by the author's decision to pause in story-telling in order to tell the reader where he got his information from.

But that is not what's getting me about this book, as I read through it very slowly. What gets me is this kid, this person Krakauer built his whole story around.

Driving west out of Atlanta, he intended to invent an utterly new life for himself, one in which he would be free to wallow in unfiltered experience.To symbolize the complete severance from his previous life, he even adopted a new name. No longer would he answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny. (p. 23)

Yup. Alexander Supertramp.

This kid reminds me of college guys who take one philosophy course and decide they would like they would like to throw off all the material goods holding their lives together and become homeless. Or go on a worldly adventure with only the items they can carry on their backs. And I think -- yup, this is sexist -- this is a uniquely male idea.

Props, I suppose, to this kid for going through with it. Does it make it "A heart-rending drama of human yearning"? (New York Times) Meh. Or "Compelling and tragic.... Hard to put down"? (San Francisco Chronicle) Huh. I'm definitely with the Los Angeles Times Book Review, though: "With a telling eye for detail, Krakauer has captured the sad saga of a stubborn, idealistic young man."

"I have decided to pick Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer as our book. The book is the story of a young man from a wealthy family on the East Coast of the United States. Who donates his entire life-savings to Oxfam and disappears. He spent several years wandering around the American Southwest before hitch-hiking his way to Alaska. He then decided to hike through the Alaskan wilderness and was eventually found dead.

"(Don't worry that's not a spoiler it is in the first chapter)....

"It was also on the best seller lists for a long time about ten years ago, so I would suspect you could find a copy or two at any of our fine local second-hand establishments.

"Why I am picking it you might ask? I have a number of reasons for picking the book the first of which is that it would, as far as I am aware, be our first foray as a group into non-fiction. I have also been reading off and on a book called The New New Journalism, about literary non-fiction writers and how they approach their craft. Krakauer is interviewed for the book and talks a great deal about how he goes about his writing and I was really intrigued by the way he described his process."

spring in Edmonton

Pretty, no? Happy April 19th, folks.

In other news, a friend pointed this new blog out to me -- interesting. But why no names, I wonder?


thanks to an IMA

Dear Michael Ondaatje:

Where have you been all my life?

Besides, you know, everywhere?

I finished reading The English Patient last night, and my heart swelled on the last lines of the book.

I know. "Heart swelled." What a cliche. You would never write such a thing, Mr. Ondaatje, you Important Male Author you. You would write a sentence that was somehow upside down and sideways, perfect in its poetry, utterly clear in its purpose, absolutely not showy but completely powerful.

You would write dialogue that is at once shadowy and real. Something like this, perhaps:

"You've tied yourself to a corpse for some reason."
"He is a saint. I think. A despairing saint. Are there such things? Our desire is to protect them."
"He doesn't even care!"
"I can love him."

"A twenty-year-old who throws herself out of the world to love a ghost!" (p. 45)

You would also write a sentence as pure and simple as this: Madox died because of nations. (p. 138) And that would honestly not read as silly or even all that simple in the context of a book that is about everything from love to war to tenderness to harsh realism. A book about racism and nationalism and internationalism and lives that shouldn't be so territorial.

Thank you, Sir. Thank you for a book with an ending so symmetrical I don't want to ruin it for anyone else. For a book so good I can't wait to read another. And for fascinating studies in character, of the Girl Alone and the Boy Curious and the Man Erased and the Man Borderless.



guide to life?

Sometimes I don't need to say anything snarky at all. Because you, kind reader, are probably thinking the exact same thing.

no logo

With its famously Size 6 twins, who loved to shop, date and drama-up their lives, Sweet Valley High was never exactly a down-to-earth vision of life among lockers, teachers and text books.

But if the Fug Girls are to be believed (and they are, they always are), life in Sweet Valley got a little bit sadder. Obviously this is an attempt to style-up Jessica and Elizabeth in a world where catty Gossip Girl is cool. But there was something to be said about vintage Sweet Valley, a world where books are for reading, not for catalogue shopping.


"12 per cent too funky"

Todd Babiak is an arts columnist at the Journal. Also, a novelist (immediately after publication, it's endearingly impossible to find copies of his books in Edmonton's independent bookstores that do not have his signature).

Also, apparently, Todd is someone with poor taste in music.

As someone whose colleagues insist on checking her iPod weekly -- to compare and contrast the Boney M single alongside the Moldy Peaches, the Beatles up against the Black Eyed Peas, and other embarrassments barely offset by the cool indy music my brother sends me -- I actually laughed out loud reading about Todd's office tribulations.

Ah.... Smooth Jazz....



Have I mentioned I'm a total airhead sometimes?

In my last entry, I did not actually link to the author's site. So here it is.

For the sake of something new, I offer this link to Bookshelf. I really want a friend to have this in their house so that I'll point at it and say, "Hey, look! It's a.... gosh, what's the word? How do you call it? You know, the thing? That holds? The books?" And then I will laugh at my own joke, much to the amused horror of all who know me.

* Bad college joke. Goes something like this (although feel free to correct me if you remember it better, dear reader): Friend 1 says, "You're such a moron, I'm writing it down." Friend 2 says, "You forgot the 'E'." Friend 1 says, "Oh, yeah," and puts an 'E' at the end of the word. Friend 2 asks, "Now who's the morone?"


Weiner fan

I know, I constantly link to this author's website. But she's hilarious. I really can't help myself.

Today is my day off, so I plan to only think on random things, like what to make friends for dinner tonight and whether we should go to see this movie.

Also, Trashionista has this offering today, which I thought I'd share -- anyone else have any random thoughts on books for art?


two of my favourite things

This essay, written by Margaret Atwood on the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables, is pretty long. And I have to admit entirely worth it because of the second-to-last and last graphs. I, too, always wondered whether Anne actually changed in the first book.... why be quieter? What does that mean? Marilla, on the other hand....

On other books, I'm reading The English Patient, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I've heard it is among a list of books readers are least likely to finish, but I honestly can't understand why. It's pages and pages of poetry, and layers of plot wrapped in characters. Why would anyone ever want to put it down?

And for those curious about the next book club selection, it is Into the Wild. Not, apparently, because of the movie. I haven't yet started it, but it appears to be written by an Important Male Author (or at least a Male Author), so picking it up by the first weekend of May will not lead to me cheating on my short-term resolution.


toil and trouble

R.L. Stine is back, people.

That's right, the king of the blonde-girl-screaming-as-she-runs-away-from-scary-thing-that-could-be-a-ghost-or-could-be-in-her-head story is returning.

Not with the kind of books I used to read, though. I was too old for the Goosebumps series by the time they came along. I read his squat paperbacks for teenagers, feeding off a monthly diet of Sweet Valley High, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, book for school, and back to Sweet Valley High. The thing about the popular, non-school books, was each week a new one arrived at the local pharmacy. (In small towns, one often buys her books from the pharmacy.) It was like Archie's Digest, but with depth. Like, maybe a whole inch of depth.

On nostalgia alone, I have to say I'm pretty excited. Not 90210 is returning excited, or even New Kids on the Block are reuniting excited, but pretty gosh darn excited.

In other news.... um, what the hell?


Lady Jane and John Thomas

"All the great words, it seemed for Connie, were cancelled for her generation: love, joy, happiness, home, mother, father, husband, all these great, dynamic words were half dead now, and dying from day to day. Home was a place you lived in, love was a thing you didn't fool yourself about, joy was a word you applied to a good Charleston, happiness was a term of hypocrisy used to bluff other people, a father was an individual who enjoyed his own existence, a husband was a man you lived with and kept going in spirits. As for sex, the last of the great words, it was just a cocktail term for an excitement that bucked you up for awhile, then left you more raggy than ever. Frayed! It was as if the very material you were made up of was cheap stuff, and was fraying out to nothing." (p. 63-64)

Generally, when I've read books that have been banned, I snort self-importantly at the misplaced, misunderstanding sense of self-righteousness that must have guided school boards or churches to make such decisions.

That was not the case with D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Which is not to say, in any way, that the book should be banned. It's just that, from a historical perspective, I get why it was. I mean, the author really does get graphic, especially in the words he chooses, which I will not repeat here.

(I can actually hear my university friends laughing at me in memory of a list once posted to the back-side of my dorm room door. Yes, some of those words did appear in this book. I still won't say them. Shut up.)

What is fascinating, though, is the book is a love letter to sex, or a sermon to it. If the perfect relationship is built on perfect sex, and no words ever need be exchanged, then the perfect love is shared by Lady Chatterley (Connie) and her gamekeeper. And the worst imaginable relationship would be that of the lady and her lord, who is kept in a wheelchair (and therefore unable to have sex) thanks to a war wound. Although, one assumes husband Clifford is a rather cold fish anyway and would not be able to hold up all that well in bed even in absolutely perfect condition and not paralyzed at all.

I know I'm hesitantly walking along roads ploughed by bigger thinkers than I (take a look through Google Scholar, although most of the articles are locked away in the libraries of academia), but it was absolutely fascinating to read a book that treated sex as something of religion.

It was a treat to read, too. I loved Lawrence's heavy-handed voice, how he got into every single character's head to tell us what the husband, the gamekeeper, the heroine (?), the maid, even the neighbours were thinking. While I couldn't get on-side with Connie, I couldn't rip apart Lawrence's idea of what it is to be female -- or more importantly his thoughts on what it means to get free, whether you are woman or servant or both. (Sorry, is that bolshy?)

"'But Clifford, you make eternity sound like a lid or a long, long chain that trailed after one, no matter how far one went.'" (p. 173)

I won't ruin the end for you, dear reader, except to say it, too, is heavy-handed. And a little bit of a cop-out and a little bit of a soap opera. And a little bit of brilliant.

sadness, frustration, general malaise

A friend of mine writes letters to people, but never sends them. Sort of like the main character in Unless, except funnier.

If I were to write a letter, never to be sent, it would be to the writers of Lonely Planet, who really never before let me down. In general I have massive crushes on all of them and their hippy worldliness.

Until today. Today I am angry at the Lonely Planet folks, who promised an international book fair in Prague in May. Looks amazing, doesn't it? Turns out this year's is in April.

Now, to be fair, I never planned to go to Prague specifically for the book fair; it was already on my to-do list for this year.

But I'm a little disappointed.

In other news, a friend sent this to me today. It's so.... ugh, me.

By the way, have you guys seen angryjournalist.com yet?