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Pickle Me This

July 17, 2008

Everyday I violate some principles

So at the end of June, I vowed not to buy another book until September. (I haven’t announced this officially, hoping to avoid driving book stock further into the toilet). Because I have 27 books on my books unread shelf, I’m rereading all summer, and also because I feared that my book buying had become compulsive, and I wanted to prove that it wasn’t. I couldn’t. I already bought a book on Monday, and then I did it again today. But then how could I not have, for this is not just any book. Sigh, but when is it ever?

I’d never heard of Toronto: A Literary Guide until today, when it appeared in the window of a used bookshop calling my name. Published in 1999 by Greg Gatenby (of the International Festival of Authors), this sweet tome is a perfect catalogue of all the places writers have lived or visited, written or read, or congregated together in Toronto. Broken down by neighbourhood, written in a non-cataloguey convivial tone, with fabulous details, context, historical fact, dealing with writers working in a variety of genres, dating back to the nineteenth century. Page upon page of lives.

Let’s take my neighbourhood, “South Annex”, or a one-block radius of my house, to break it down more. Major Street has been home to writers M.T. Kelly, Janet Hamilton, Howard Engel, Albert E.S. Smythe, Aviva Layton, Leon and Constance Rooke, Michael Ondaatje and Linda Spalding, Charles Tidler and Martyn Burke. Gwendolyn MacEwen lived around the corner on Robert. The marvelous house at 84 Sussex was home of the new press in the early ’70s. Greg Hollingshead and John Bemrose lived there as well. Brunswick Ave. has been home to Janice Kulyk Keefer, Olive Senior, Maggie Helwig, Adele Wiseman, David French, Erika Ritter, and Karen Mulhallen. Do note these details (whose prose is far more charming than I let on here) take up three pages of 622. Which means that my neighbourhood is fabulous, and this book is tremendously rich.

Indeed I am one of those curious (and ubiquitous) creatures partial to the literary pilgrimage. How fun to now have so many now right outside the door, and a whole new book full of fantastic things to know, new connections. Awakening me to the secret history of maps I know by heart.

3 thoughts on “Everyday I violate some principles”

  1. Jen says:

    Apparently a sure sign of when someone is suffering from an addiction is when they give it up for a while just to prove they can. So the best way to prove you’re not addicted to buying books is to continue buying them…

  2. Kerry says:

    You are very clever.

  3. Lenore says:

    Yes, I said I wasn’t going to buy any books either… 15 books later..

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