catching up on magazine world....

You may -- just may -- be aware that I pretty much idolize Joseph Boyden.

Is idolize even the right word?

Like, I want to write like him and hang out with him and... yeah, idolize is probably the right word.

Anyway, last week in Maclean's he and his wife Amanda Boyden wrote about life on the Gulf Coast in the midst of the oil spill. You can read that story here.

I was struck by how the story is written; overall, fairly straight-forward and sort of journalistic. But, every once in awhile, there is an image described in such a simple way that it sticks with you. This is the graph that left me with shivers:

The crated birds, both oiled and newly cleaned, object with grunts closer to moose than to what one might expect from birds, their cries guttural and low-registered. It’s the chorus effect that proves so haunting.

In other news, if you haven't read this Rolling Stone story, where have you been? I love it. And wish I could use "shit" and "fuck" more often in my writing. Without blushing.

Last of all, also from magazine world, The Walrus tells us tawdry tales of sexiness in the publishing business. Well, actually, Stacey May Fowles is riffing off this Globe and Mail column. I'm not sure any of this makes publishing different from (insert industry or career path here), though it does sound sort of Mad Men-ish, no?


Arguing With Idiots

I realize this book has been around for awhile.
I still feel it needs additional notice.
Actually, it probably deserves way less notice.


Android Karenina

I spotted Android Karenina at Chapters today and I don't even know how to weigh in.... I really disliked Anna Karenina (sorry Heather, Adam). And although I never read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I became less patient with the idea of the mashup novel once Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters was released (followed by other horror-y novels sprinkled throughout bookstores featuring puns on Pride and Prejudice/Mr. Darcy/Elizabeth Bennett).

All that said, perhaps I would actually love Android Karenina? Since it would inject much-needed levity in a book I found ... stuffy?

Assuming I can get past the gag-inducing first line: "Functioning robots are all alike; every malfunctioning robot malfunctions in its own way."

on home

For a man who's chosen to live in New Orleans, Joseph Boyden puts considerable weight in the salvation of returning home.

I'm still reading Born With A Tooth, and loving his short stories. But as I work through the seasons of a year -- each season gets three or four stories -- I'm struck by how "going home," often going back to reserves in northern Ontario, is seen as something of a happy ending.

This does not mean the collection is actually full of happy endings. Indeed, there's enough stark violence in some stories (and sweet childhood innocence in others) to make for tales that will surprise you. As usual, Boyden's way with language is beautiful, and something so very necessary in Canadian literature.

But like in his award-winning novels (and here's something of a spoiler alert), the stories he tells reach for home. Perhaps a romantic ideal of what home could be, or a remote reality many Canadians don't realize. He doesn't write the return as the answer to all problems, but for his characters, he seems to believe that going back to one's roots, culture and family is a start down a solid road.

It's an interesting idea to reflect on.

Something else to reflect on, from his story "Bearwalker:"

"Reporters and TV crews swarm around the reserve, eating up the tidbits about black magic, interviewing anyone they can.
One of the first is Old Lady Koostachin.... Her English isn't that good so her granddaughter stands beside her and translates. The reporter's a pretty, serious blonde woman who comes off as talking down to Mrs. Koostachin.
'So the belief,' the reporter says, 'among your people, among your tribe, is that Francis Killomonsett is a bearwalker, somebody who can physically transform himself into an animal of his choosing?'"
(p. 101)

A link to share -- Boyden answering questions from a high school class in Saskatchewan.


spoon fed!

Cara The Fabulous Girl sent me a book this week called Spoon Fed.

And here's what she told me about it -- I have yet to start it:

"I got you Spoon Fed more because it's an interesting read than a good read.... I won't say anything else until you've read it and we can dissect it together. Except for I don't think it's compelling in the same way that In Defense of Food is."

She adds the book offers a who's-who of influential people in the food world.


a woman's life

So... I'm all into self-reflection mode.

Apologies if you're already bored by this particular phase, which is most notably marked by a new blog I've created to chronicle the months ahead.

In keeping with this theme, however, I thought I'd share my brief thoughts on Carol Shields's exquisite book, The Stone Diaries. Really, these thoughts boil down to a fervent recommendation -- once you start this novel, you can't stop reading.

Meant to be written as though it were a woman's autobiography, the book settles into the quiet moments of her life. Chapters are sketched out as "birth," "childhood," "marriage," "love," "motherhood," "work," "sorrow," "ease," "illness and decline," and "death." In some ways, this boils a life down to the highlights, not the drama. If I could compare it to anything, the idea is something similar to a Canadian history text book, full of general summaries highlighted by key moments.

Does that make it sound boring? It really isn't. The point I'm really trying to make is that Shields had this absolutely magical way of telling stories about life the way life can actually be. Which is impressive and inspirational.

As for Daisy Goodwill, the subject of this book.... Well, there are few sadder lines than one of her last in the novel. I'd compare it, honestly, to the confusion of the main character in Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel. (SPOILER ALERT) The line is, well, sort of chilling in its simplicity: "'I am not at peace.' -- Daisy Goodwill's final (unspoken) words."

An excerpt to consider:

"Life is an endless recruiting of witnesses. It seems we need to be observed in our postures of extravagance or shame, we need attention paid to us. Our own memory is altogether too cherishing, which is the kindest thing I can say for it. Other accounts are required, other perspectives, but even so our most important ceremonies -- birth, love, and death -- are secured by whomever and whatever is available." (p. 36-37)

Next up?

Well, what are you guys reading?

I'm reading Joseph Boyden's Born With A Tooth, which continues to highlight -- for me, at least -- Boyden's amazing style.

I'm also reading book blogs here and here, which I think you might enjoy. Too Many Books in the Kitchen is starkly analytical and challenging, while Is Well Read tells the stories of keen readers, some we know, some in war zones, some just witty and, um, well read?