Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A kind of holiday

We move tomorrow, and so who knows how long it will take before we have internet at home again. We are looking forward to going though, but there is plenty of organising to be done in the meantime. I am excited about opening boxes of stuff that's been packed for over three years, and displaying things we have collected together over the last two years. Also excited about having closets and drawers, rare things when we lived in the Leo Palace. It's going to be good.

Jonathan Freedman stretches things a bit with results worth reading. On the 8th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, he remembers the sweet dream of the 1990s, which, "viewed from today... look like a kind of holiday, a pause between two eras of anxiety and conflict. Just as Eric Hobsbawm defined the 19th century as stretching from 1789 to 1914, so we can take the same liberty: the 90s began with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and ended with the fall of the twin towers in 2001."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Wisdom of Jen Aniston

This is a blatant rip off of and not nearly as brilliant as "A Villanelle Composed Upon Jennifer Aniston's Answers To Her May 2001 Vanity Fair Interview, With Catalina Island Glimmering In the Distance", but something must be done about Aniston's September 2005 Vanity Fair Interview. She has a tremendous ability to spew and suck drivel simultaneously, and she speaks like poems I wrote when I was twelve. So now, poetic excerpts of the 2005 interview for those of you who puked too soon and didn't finish reading it. Believe me, it means nothing more in context.



Seven very intense years together;
we taught each other a lot-

about healing, and about fun.
It was a beautiful, complicated relationship.

What we said was true-
as far as I knew.

We exited this relationship
as beautifully as we entered it.


The world was shocked
and I was shocked.

The sad thing, for me, is the way
it's been reduced to a Hollywood cliche.


It was that thing about being a nurturer;
somewhere along the way

you sort of lose yourself.
You just don't know when it happens.

It's such an insidious thing,
you don't really see where it started-

and where you ended.

There's no one to blame
but yourself.


It's sad
something coming to an end.

It cracks you open, in a way
it cracks you open to feeling.

When you try to avoid the pain
it creates greater pain.

I'm a human being
having a human experience.

I have to think there's some reason
I have called this into my life.

I have to believe that-
otherwise it's just cruel.


I'm not a fortune teller;
I have no idea how it will play out. People say

"What are you going to do?"
I just don't know.

I kind of love that
not knowing.


Read Lynn Crosbie's take on the Interview, who believes Aniston "reveals what lies at the heart of women's public demonstrations of personal grief. While public men tend to exhibit a panoply of vivid emotions when cuckolded, ranging from bleak despair to homicidal fury, with the exception of the prostrate Elizabeth Smart, women, hobbled by vanity and pride, are more given to follow the song-counsel of Melissa Manchester: "Don't cry out loud/Just keep it inside, learn how to hide your feelings. . . .'"


I'll admit to apprehension before my cousin's wedding, due to some rather shameful wedding inadequacy issues. It's not that my own wedding wasn't brilliant in every way, and come on, I did have two. But it was no secret that their wedding would be far more elaborate and formal than ours had been, I knew how much work had been invested in it and I feared how my little homespun do would look in comparison. And wow, their wedding was incredible. They were married in a little white historic chapel in a conservation area near Jordan Ontario, in Niagara. Two enormous vases bursting with sunflowers stood at the alter, and the bride and groom were gorgeous as they walked down the aisle together to exchange their vows. The reception afterwards was held at the Inn on the Twenty, where we sipped (gulped) ice wine martinis and other fine beverages and feasted on delightful hors d'oeuvres. We entered the dining room for dinner, and were met with a view high atop the edge of a valley from windows which stretched along the entirety of one wall. Outside, black eyed susans grew into every shade of greenery, hills that rolled on and on and the vista was spread out before us like something absolutely magical. The meal was simply exquisite, and our table was marvelous company. After dinner and speeches, a band played fantastic music including an acoustic rendition of "You Shook Me All Night Long" and Stuart and I drank ourselves stupid and had to be driven home by my mother. We had a fabulous time with our cousins, and I was so pleased to be getting the best of family. There just aren't enough happy occasions really. Not that there are so many sad ones, but there are too many ordinary days and I absolutely love weddings for bringing people together to celebrate nothing more than just love. And all stupid inadequacy was gone once I just started to enjoy myself, and appreciate how lucky I was to be there. Congratulations Alec and Jackie!

This summer I learned two things about being a wedding guest. First, what a great idea it is that everyone who attends a wedding does play a part in the ceremony, as a witness to the event, and therefore is obligated to support and nurture the couple's relationship throughout their lives. I think a wedding is so much more meaningful when that is taken into account. Secondly, that as a guest your job throughout the wedding is to assure the bride that you and everyone you around is having enormous amounts of fun, because that's probably all she really cares about.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Mini Break

Tra la la! I am off on a three day wedding mini-break extravaganza. And for once, the wedding is not my own.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

American books are UGLY

Here we have the cover of the American edition of "We Need to Talk About Kevin". It looks like a substandard diary of someone like Adrian Mole, and would fail to overly appeal to its target audience.

The UK edition is better, darker and more interesting.

The American edition of Brick Lane does have a beautiful cover, but it's clutching too hard to the ethnic card (and trying to appeal to women in book groups such as the one illustrated in the below mentioned article who feel better about themselves when they read books about Asia)

...whilst in the UK, where Asia is not as foreign a theme, this simpler cover was put forth. Though I haven't finished reading this book, so far I think it's more reflective of the subject matter than the other.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Moon Tiger and other stories

We began the cycling life again today, after purchasing helmets and locks from Canadian Tire. I got a new basket for my bike too and I love it. Our bikes are beat up and ugly, and mine has rusty spokes from being left out in the rain for three months in 2002. Stuart's came for $20 at a yard sale and nobody is ever going to steal either of them. Or if they do, they're welcome to them for it must mean the thief is very desperate. We ran a couple of errands by bicycle today, which was thrilling. We rode bikes everywhere in Japan and we've missed them since April. None of our friends had cars there, and we'd ride across the city in packs and it felt like we were twelve again, with an alien in our bike baskets just seconds from jumping over the moon. The freedom and efficiency of a bike really cannot be equaled and the size of a city just shrinks once you've got one.

Oh my. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. (This is the first time I've used Google Print by the way. I like it!) My Aunt gave me this book, perhaps more than ten years ago. It sat on my shelf for all those years, first it seemed too stuffy for me to enjoy and then, because I'd received it so long ago and it looked like one, I had decided it was a children't book and I wouldn't be interested. It was almost sold in my booksale in July, and then I remembered that I'd seen it numerous times on lists of great books by women. So I kept it, and I read it. And it's a masterpiece. I like it for the same reason I like books by Margaret Drabble. It tells the stories of twentieth century history, or the lives behind the history. I loved this book because it was so clever and educational, with so many new words, ideas and historical lessons. The story was heartbreaking but affirming of goodness. Books like "Moon Tiger" let me know I live in a time worthy of great literature, which in spite of all the danger, I do appreciate. It's the story of a woman reflecting on her rich and winding life, whilst on her deathbed. She is a historian, and she reworks the history of the world so that she is in the centre of it. Lively explores how our personal histories are interpreted by others, and how they are connected to History with a capital H. A rich and brilliant book. Now reading Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

A marvellous line from "The Ice Age" by Margaret Drabble. "Something has gone wrong with the laws of chance."

Here, an interesting article on the dynamics of book groups, exploring how the private act of reading goes public. On how fewer of us have novels in us than we think. The author expounds upon how perhaps the reason book deals prove so elusive to new writers is that many new writers are rubbish. Top Ten lesbian lit. Zoe Williams on why of how British MPs aren't ashamed to admit their summer reading is either crap or a children's book.

I got "Writing Away", PEN Canada's 1994 travel anthology for $5 at the airport on Monday. Yes, Monday. Though it was supposed to be Tuesday. Stuart's mom came downstairs about 3:15 on Monday and informed us that the days had been mixed up and their plane was leaving in just over 4 hours. In remarkable time, they packed their bags and we were in the car, and off on a race to the airport. We got to the airport from Peterborough in 1 hour and 45 minutes, which I consider a miraculous feat. It was a rather abrupt and disappointing way to say goodbye, but at least they got their flight and we did have a pretty great two weeks together. And these are the dramas that make our holiday stories more amusing.

Things I've learned recently is that "cupidity" is greed (comes from the same root as "cupid", both to do Latin "Cupidus" which means "desire". Also that Curriculuam Vitae means "course of life" and that the word "rent" has an old meaning of split, or break apart.

Becky of Something Blue has sent along a couple of photos and there will be more on her site soon. I think this picture of Stuart is absolutely gorgeous, though perhaps I am biased because I adore him.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Most of all, you've got to hide it from the kids

Here you can find Heather Mallick's critique of the CBC's recent "Open Letter to Canadians", which I can't find online. She's on the mark, and I think it follows well from Margaret Wente's column last week. The Guardian celebrates the underrated, including Atomic Kitten, deservedly so. On my third day with Stuart in O'Neils' in Nottingham, their version of "The Tide is High" came on the radio and I cried, though perhaps that was more due to my mental imbalances than great musicianship. I also love their "Someone Like Me". An excellent article, on Ms. Dynamite's new album and the important role played by women in protest music. No more prodigies at Oxford. Multiculturalism from the British child of Pakistani immigrants. In The Globe, Doug Saunders compares reaction to the London terror actions with that of the Gunpowder treason 400 years ago. And this article contrasts British and Canadian multiculturalism.

Other incidents recently included the German man in Book City who kept repeating the title "Hop on Pop" repeatedly to a clerk. The fact that the Don Valley Parkway was in the midst of flooding as we drove through it Friday night. The clip we heard as we flipped through the radio stations, "...and Deanna Smith who will shoot herself out of a cannon daily..." and just how excited we are to be moving to Toronto in a matter of days. The amount of furniture we picked up off the roadside driving home last night. We've seen some photos from the wedding last weekend and they're beautiful. Will post a link this week.

I bought Lunch With Jan Wong for $2 the other day and really enjoyed it. Also fell in love with the Terry Fox book by Douglas Coupland, but alas as it was not $2, I could not buy it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Less than

Sad to hear about the death of Mo Mowlam, who was such an unusual breath of fresh air among politicians. Sad also to follow the story of the missing woman in Toronto, who is one of about four missing women in Canada in the news right now. It's a sick and scary world sometimes, and women are so vulnerable. I hope she is found safe.

With its checkerboard floors

Three days spent as follows. Drive to Toronto, have lunch in the Annex. In-laws to shoe museum as we buy a futon (our first piece of furniture!). To Greg's Ice Cream, where they were sadly out of roasted marshmallow. Walk to Honest Ed's and down Markham to Harbord, and then over to Ossington and our new neighbourhood. Check out the apartment, which is now empty and grow very very excited. Walk through Little Italy, have Ice Tea in Kensington, walk through Chinatown, get in a row over a Miffy pencil case and then go to my Aunt's for a lovely dinner. Day two- drive to Niagara Falls, see Falls and the Tour Behind the Falls and get very wet. Walk along the river a bit, and avoid the city. Drive the Niagara Parkway to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Have lunch there and shop around a bit. Drive back to Toronto and have dinner in Chinatown, buy Miffy pencil case. Walk across King's College Circle to Katie's gorgeous place for dessert. Day three- go to Centre Island, walk to Ward's Island and have a drink. Have a hotdog for lunch, followed by Smoothies, and then let them loose in the Eaton's Centre, while we sit on a couch in the housewares department in Sears and are bothered by no one. Dinner and then home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

When toasting a bagel, the cut sides must face away from each other

There hasn't been much time to settle down and there won't be for a while. It was a good, though tiring weekend and family tensions were running high. Highlights for me were having so many friends together, repeating our vows, good weather, excellent food, hopefully good photos and wine. It was wonderful to see Mike for the first time in ages. In other reunions, I met up with high school friend Laura Conchelos last night for a drink, and then we had breakfast this morning with Carrie Nicholls (who is no longer Carrie Nicholls but always will be in my mind) who had her third baby in tow, a beautiful five month old boy. Last night we were treated to a boat ride on Stoney Lake by Britt's family. Today we went to the zoo and then saw the amazing "That Summer" at the 4th Line Theatre. Tomorrow we're off to Toronto for three days, which will also include a trip to Niagara Falls. In fabulous second-hand news, Stuart got a bike for $20 and a Game Cube for $60, and we both can't wait to move into our new apartment.

I've been lacking the time/concentration to read much but really enjoyed this article by the gas-guzzling Margaret Wente, about how the language of the marketplace has spilled over into every part of life. She writes, "Anyone who cares about language, about meaning, about clarity, should revolt. Citizens are not customers, and democracy is not a product. If Barbra Streisand had sung “Customers . . . customers who need customers,” would anyone have cared? If Martin Luther King had said, “I have a vision statement,” would anyone have listened? Words matter more than we think. We need them to express our deepest values. As a wise man once said, what does it profit you if you gain market share but lose your soul? Or something like that."

It's not just the language of the marketplace, it's a manipulation of language to exalt the mundane, to make giving read getting something in return, to trick people into accepting bad news. There is an art to that, but it's too common now to really matter. I recently received a toaster with two pages of instructions as to how to operate it. Any literature your bank sends out and the very fact that banks send out literature. The day our train broke down in Southampton, due to a "safety feature". It's annoying to have to translate everything from bullshit into plain English. As a writer, I don't know what that says about me. I guess I think it's ok to bend English, but it's just being done for all the wrong reasons.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Rattle Your Jewelry

I am fairly incoherent today, mixing up words like "balloon" and "elephant" and announcing others' adultery to rooms full of people. Stuart and I got married again last night, and our (that was supposed to say "are" but there you have it, I am braindead) actually quite happy to have finished with all the weddings we will ever have. Weddings are a headache, but I think when you've just been wed and you're full of gooey goodness you can take it. It's different when you've been married nearly two months. While we were getting our photos taken yesterday, we had to pretend to still love each other though the humour in it all was not lost and it was not long before we actually did. It was great to have so many people together, though I found making sure they were all happy a bit stressful and don't think I really succeeded. I also eventually got really drunk which made it difficult to make sure of anything. We got some incredible gifts. I hope the givers felt the party made it worth it and that everyone did enjoy themselves. Stay tuned for photos then!

In the news- Hi Ivor Tossell! On foster parenting, dear to my heart due to former career as a social services admin worker. The legend of John Lennon, apparently usurped by 50 Cent's. A new poetry workshop in The Guardian. On Islands in fiction.

More later. I am so so so tired now.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Beautiful Books

I am obsessed with the design of "Falling Cloudberries" by Tessa Kiros, perhaps the most beautiful book I've ever seen. You get a good image of the cover here. Wallpaper patterns are throughout the book and I just love them and I am thinking of using samples for the binding of my haiku book. Another nice book I've seen lately is Ticknor by Sheila Heti, to whom good book design must be old hat by now.

I am obsessed with Devil's Lake, Lionel Shriver and Zoe Williams thinks living by yourself is selfish. It's interesting to see the difference between Canadian and American coverage of the Devil's Lake issue. Here, Margaret Wente lauds cars as symbols of freedom, in much the same way I did in an essay composed in Grade Ten history class, and declares that it will take way more than $1 a litre to make her give up her SUV. Good on you Margaret.

Finished George and Rue by George Elliott Clarke today. The language was astoundingly beautiful, though sometimes I felt I was wading through adjectives. My problem with it is that I knew the outcome from the outset, which naturally kept me from barrelling through in in search of a conclusion. But, I realised, that perhaps was the point of it all. Clarke writes of the Hamilton brothers that "as soon as the sun first shone on them. it'd been shining on their graves." Their end had been as forecasted to themselves as it was to the reader, which is a pretty interesting bit to think upon. So, now reading The Ice Age which is by Margaret Drabble and so will prove to be Drabbley.

Fun stuff at McSweeneys.

Tomorrow, Pearson bound to pick up my Ma n' Sis In Law.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

That's astute, I said.

Well, the really exciting news is that I have been actively hobbying lately, and you can read all about it here. We went camping last night at Serpent's Mounds with Britt and it was wonderful, the highlight of the evening when Stuart asked if the geese had a "no-honk guarantee". They didn't. We also went out for drink when Jennie was in town on Friday, and that was fun too. And I broke my guitar and its springs, which wasn't fun. As wasn't when the invoice for my tuition turned up in the mailbox.

But enough of that. There were newspapers to read. I enjoyed this article on what books are, and what the internet can never be. Marina Warner notes that "reading in cyberspace seems to me to make different use of cognitive faculties, unfleshing the word, and correspondingly disembodying memories." The Wedding Planner woman from The Guardian two year back is quite unhappily married. Lucky for her, Bridget Jones is back!Here, a brilliant article on the need for good editors, how editors shaped "Sons and Lovers", "The Great Gatsby" and "The Wasteland", and how perhaps creative writing programs teach writers how to edit as much as how to write, and I really appreciate that idea. In The Guardian, on the anniversary of Hiroshima. Here on Hiroshima Haiku. I also thought The Globe had some good coverage, including this piece on Canadian POWs in Japan, a story that needs telling though it would be simple for the more liberal minded of us to sweep that bit of history under the table, and keep on about ending nuclear proliferation. Lynn Crosbie here on stupid-inducing TV fandom, asking "Have we arrived at a cultural cognizance crisis, where, say, Screech's locker from Saved by the Bell is more vivid to us than the black boxes of crashed planes?" India Knight on blogging. Heather Mallick, angrily on the "invisible" gender. Which our new Governor General perhaps will aid in rectifying. Columnist Kate Taylor astutely writes, "With Jean's appointment, Martin is addressing an increasingly embarrassing discrepancy in our political leadership: Our elected representatives do not really represent us. In the current Parliament, there are 308 MPs; 65 are women -- that's only 21 per cent of the house. About 16 to 18 of those members could be considered of a visible minority -- that's less than 6 per cent of the House, while Statistics Canada's last census, in 2001, showed that 13.4 per cent of the population is visible minority. For whatever reason -- and I would suspect the fault lies with political parties' inability or unwillingness to find a more diverse group of candidates, rather than with the electors' preference for white men -- blacks, Asians and women are not adequately participating in Canadian politics. As long as that remains true, astute political appointments can be used to do something to right the balance."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Busy. We've got a second wedding to plan you see and in-laws due to visit in a week. I am going to begin a series of poems based on a old book we bought in Brighton about tiger hunting, and work on edits for my novel, which is now a hard copy for the first time in its life. In other news, I will be a student again in just over a month.

Regarding books, I finished "Small Island" by Andrea Levy and then read "Case Histories" by Kate Atkinson on Sunday. Yes, in one day, and it's not a short book, I just couldn't rest until I got to the end. Those two books, along with "We Need to talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver, constitute some of very best modern literature I've ever read. And now "the best by women" or "the best written recently". I mean it full stop. Shriver's book left me gasping and gutted at the final twist. Levy's book was just astounding, written from four points of view by four quite sympathetic/unsympathetic characters, depending on who was speaking and she bore right into their souls. To write a story so convincingly multi-dimensional in its narrative voice is a feat. It was also a very interesting book about Englishness and what it is to be an outsider in Britain. Atkinson's book was a whodunit with a litfic twist. I charged through the book, obsessed with finding out who had done it, and once all was known it was clear that the journey had been as good as the destination.

(I don't want to criticise but "Case Histories" broke down in one spot. There was a character who lived in Toronto and was thus a "Torontian" and had a cottage up in the wild ancient forests on Lake Ontario. I don't think so! I hate factual inaccuracies in books, because it undermines the storyteller's authority. It's a massive responsibility for a writer to get everything perfect, and sometimes it doesn't matter but often it does.)

In gleanings. Lauren Snyder writes about her Las Vegas wedding and why she didn't have religious marriage ceremony, explaining that "When I got married, I didn't want to be lying under oath." The ever-provocative Lionel Shriver on the troubles: "For the citizens of that province to have murdered one another for decades over a trifling border dispute is a scandal." The life and times of a dyslexic novelist here.