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April 21, 2014

A Tale for the Time Being

a-tale-for-the-time-beingIt was during the summer of 2001 that I started flexing the muscles that would soon come to constitute the foundation of my self, by which I mean that I started book buying in earnest, books that weren’t secondhand paperbacks on my course lists. It was a pretty fantastic time to be buying books. I wasn’t worldly enough to be aware of Toronto’s independent bookshop scene, but I lived at Bay and Charles and was pretty thrilled by this huge and marvellous Indigo shop that had opened up around the corner, and around the corner from there was Chapters, another mega-bookshop, and this was back when mega-bookshops actually sold books. You know, I have nostalgia for those days, when I thought Chapters and Indigo were wonderlands. Like the World’s Biggest Bookstore, but with comfy chairs, and no dingy lighting. Plus, that summer I was working on King Street East, and at lunch time, we’d stop in at Nicholas Hoare and Little York Books, and suddenly my paycheques weren’t going so far, but there I was with The Portable Dorothy Parker and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, and I was this close to being a grown-up person who could buy books whenever she damn well wanted to. It was delicious.

Though I think I got it on sale, Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats. A hardcover on the remainder shelf, and I bought it at the Bloor Street Chapters. (I loved that store. I still resent the clothing store that later took over the space.) It may well have been the first hardcover I’d ever bought in my life, remaindered or otherwise. It was a monumental acquisition, fun, smart and quirky. As with White Teeth, it brought me an awareness that literature was being written right now, which had never occurred to me as I was plugging away at my English BA. That there was literature beyond my course lists, Joseph Conrad, orange paperbacks, and the New Canadian Library. Ruth Ozeki was a revelation.

And so I’ve been happy to be revelling in her wonderful new novel, A Tale for the Time Being. Everybody on earth already read this book last year and it was listed for all kinds of awards, but I only just got to it now, and it’s so wonderful. So full of everything, and there was the part that reminded me of Back to the Future, and the other that reminded me of A Swiftly Tilting Planet. It was heartbreaking, strange and really beautiful. Definitely worthy of all the acclaim.

This week, I also read Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson, who I’d never read before, and that was great too. I was inspired to finally pick it up by Theresa Kishkan’s blog post, and it was partly so great to read because I was reading the Persephone edition.

5 thoughts on “A Tale for the Time Being”

  1. theresa says:

    Kerry, this is such a lovely post. I loved My Year of Meats and All Over Creation and look forward to the new one. You’re right about the literature we discover that is being written right now. I felt that way with Jeanette Winterson and (strangely) John Banville. I remember them by place — where I was when I found them. And today I found a few books in Edmonton where we are staying with our younger son and his wife (who are expecting a baby in July! Guess what they’re getting for a birth gift, among other things: a certain book about motherhood…) and know that they will be scented (somehow) with the melting snow, the long walk over the highlevel bridge, the Mill Creek ravine…

  2. Tanya says:

    You are reminding me of the glory days of bookstores in TO. I lived at Church and Front and haunted Nicolas Hoare.

  3. deanna says:

    Oh, I loved this book to distraction… so glad you did too. Perhaps this is what we should have read this month for Vicious Circle?

  4. When I first read My Year of Meats, I felt that Ozeki had created a character who most reflected ME. I just felt like the main character was a lot like me and I had never felt that feeling before, as intensely.

    When I saw Ruth at the Ottawa Writers Fest last year, we had a great chat, and I was telling her I should re-read the book after becoming an ag reporter. 🙂

    I definitely need to do that.

  5. Shaun Hunter says:

    Okay, I’m among the last people on earth who haven’t read A Tale for the Time Being, and I started it last week, too. Like Alexis says about My Year of Meats, the character Ruth is me, tugging on all the loose bits that have been rattling around in my head. And yes, what a feeling.

    So, spoiler alerts please, Kerry! Because I don’t want anything to get in the way of savouring your blog.

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