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Pickle Me This

August 20, 2014

The Pyrex is Multiplying

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The bowls on the right were given to me by Amy Lavender Harris, who awakened me to the wonders of Pyrex. And then I found the dish on the left on the street last week, the bowl in the middle today at Value Village, and I do fear that this might be becoming a habit… I’ve got a ways to go though.

June 15, 2014

Bookish Sunday in the Sun

IMG_20140615_133155For Father’s Day, we gave Stuart posh coffee, Jo Walton’s Small Change series (which is probably a gift for both of us), and Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (because of this recommendation in 49th Shelf’s Shelf Talkers series). Iris has become a full-fledged biped, and it’s no coincidence that her sleep habits have also become transformed in the past week. She has finally started napping in her crib, taking her naps later, and staying asleep for a couple of hours. Her nighttime sleep has also improved, which meant that we’re feeling a little less tired than usual this weekend. It also means that Iris has become a lot less portable, and we’re not going to sacrifice her proper nap for anything. So we went out for a Father’s Day brunch this morning, and then came home so Iris could sleep while Harriet watched innumerable episodes of The Riders of Berk. I drank tea and read my book, and it was bliss.

IMG_20140615_145658It meant, however, that it was nearly 2pm by the time we departed for Trinity Bellwoods Park and the Luminato Literary Picnic. We had a splendid walk there, Harriet scootering, walking or being piggy-backed, while Iris was chauffeured in the stroller. We ate gourmet popsicles, and then Harriet went to play in the playground, while Iris and I checked out literary fare. I heard a few writers here and there, but the only writer whose whole presentation I caught was KD Miller’s. She was fantastic, and no surprise–her book got a rave review in Macleans this week, and Vicki Ziegler had been sharing Angie Abdou’s great review in Quill & Quire.

IMG_20140615_153736So I was pleased to hear her read, and then to have her arrive at the sale table just as I was about to buy her book, so she could sign it for me. Reviewers have stressed that indeed, a writer can situate interesting stories within the walls of an Anglican Church (the book’s title, All Saints, refers to said church), but seeing as I am a card-carrying member of the Barbara Pym Society, they’d be preaching to the (church) choir.

IMG_20140615_153212After that, we hit the bookmobile, which is always an amazing adventure: a bus full of books! A library on wheels! The bookmobile will never cease to be remarkable. We got a book for Iris and Harriet each, and then Harriet wanted to get a comic too. She sorted through the stacks and selected The Wonderful World of Lisa Simpson #1. I think she picked it because Lisa is riding a pink unicorn on the cover, because Harriet has never heard of the Simpsons. But that was the point of the cover I think, and now Harriet has heard of the Simpsons and we had a good time reading the comic together. (It was strange having to introduce someone to Bart Simpson. I also like that it’s a cool comic geared to young girls, whose writers and artists are women.) The best: in the final story, Lisa opens her own Little Free Library to disastrous results. A comic about a lending library? It was dying and going to book nerd heaven.

IMG_20140615_161950After that, I went across the street to visit Type Books and pick up some of the books on my list. I got The Vacationers by Emma Straub, which had been included in Chatelaine’s Summer Reading Guide. And I got Based on a True Story by Elizabeth Renzetti, which had an amazing review in The Globe yesterday. And then we walked home along Queen Street and up Bathurst, stopping en-route at Yogurtys because we really hadn’t had enough dessert. Plus, they were giving away free fro-yo for dads, so that was spectacular all around.

June 10, 2014

In which we encounter The Book Bike

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The neatest thing I’ve come across lately is the Meatlocker Editions Book Bike, which was at the Bloor Street Festival on Sunday. It’s true that if you put up a red sign that says “Books”, I will be on of the many curious people who come flocking, and my curiosity was more than satiated by what I found. The Book Bike is a community library on wheels, a very mobile way celebrate books and reading. The Book Bike turns up at community events and flocking readers are invited to take a book or leave one (and they are interested in larger book donations too–just drop them a line).

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In addition to pedalling books around the city, Meatlocker Editions are also in the business of inspiring readers and writers through various projects, including workshops and publications. Their focus is supporting young women writers, a most inspiring response to the under-represenation of women’s voices in literary spheres.

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There were some very cool small press gems on display on the Book Bike. I was quite thrilled to get a copy of Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule, which Karen Hofmann recently included on her “Barefoot Girls and Wild Women” list.

All in all, a most spectacular encounter. Go MLE!

January 29, 2014

Big Picture Press: Mamoko and Maps

mamoko“Big Picture Press books are objects to be pored over and then returned to, again and again… created by and made for the incurably curious.”

Harriet is (sort of) beginning to learn how to read, and as Harriet balks at any activity that is remotely challenging or involves learning by rote, I have to tread very carefully in my exuberance for her acquiring literacy. A book like Mamoko, by Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński, which I brought home from the library the other week, is a perfect reminder for both of us that books can be wonderful fun.

Think of Mamoko like Where’s Waldo, but for people who love stories. The book’s inside cover introduces us to a range of characters whose stories we will follow throughout the rest of the book in dynamic, busy, detailed, wordless illustrations. There are dramas experienced, mysteries to be solved, jokes shared, and something new discovered every time. You can pick a new character and “read” a new book in Mamoko over and over again, or else just pick peruse the illustrations for general entertainment. The stories in this book aren’t straightforward either, and we went back and forth a lot to try to understand what we missed, to figure out exactly what was going on. It was utterly engaging, the illustrations smart enough to make this very satisfying, and while we had lots of fun with this book together, it’s also nice to have a book that Harriet can “read” all by herself.

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mapsAnother book by the same press and same authors is Maps, which was one of (too) many books I’ve picked up at Book City lately (sob). I’ve got such a thing for maps and atlases (my prized one is Atlas of Remote Islands, and I so want to get my hands on Infinite City by Rebecca Solnit), so I was excited to get a kids’ atlas. There is a world map, and about 50 others of individual countries. And as with Mamoko, the creators of this book know that story is what compels someone to open a book over and over again. And so each country’s map includes an image of a little boy and girl who might live there, and we learn their names, which is how these countries become more than just a shape on a page for young readers. And then we learn about that country’s wildlife, famous exports, cultural figures (fictional and otherwise), different cultures, national food and drink, industry and agriculture, all though adorable cartoon illustrations.

Pick a page, any page, and Maps will take you on a journey.

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January 20, 2014

Consolations & Translations

for-surePeople have been so kind in response to my sadness over the closing of my beloved local bookstore. Anyone who thought I was being melodramatic and ridiculous has kept that information to himself. This is a loss that has been experienced by many avid readers in the last few years, and I really appreciated their sympathy and understanding. I am operating with an optimistic spirit, that Bloor Street won’t be bookshop-less for long. And in the meantime, venturing further afield for my book-buying pleasures will a) possibly save me thousands of dollars and b) allow me to not take for granted such things. I am hoping that good things are ahead also for the Book City employees too, and that each will find a place where his/her skills and expertise are valued.

And in the meantime, I went shopping. In a few weeks, the shelves will be bare and all will be depressing, but there is still plenty to choose from so I allowed myself a rare pleasure for a bookish sort like me who always knows exactly what she’s looking for. Last week, I bought the new Jane Gardam novel, The Ice Cream Store by Dennis Lee, and this wonderful book of maps for kids. Buying discounted books at the going-out-of-business store made me feel like a vulture, but I was assured that I’d earned the right to do so without compunction by having tried my darndest to spend as much money there as possible this past while. So I went back today and got Pitch Black by Renata Adler (because they didn’t have Speedboat, and I am intrigued by Renata Adler), and Molly Ringwald’s book because Molly Ringwald wrote a book and it’s even meant to be good, and 30% off is a good excuse to find out if that’s true. Then two more books by Rebecca Solnit, because I want to read everything she ever wrote.

And finally, because reading books in translation was my New Year’s reading resolution, I bought two books to get me started: For Sure by France Daigle (French-Canadian) and Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone (Italy). I’ve been inspired to do so after reading the Penelope Fitzgerald bio and realizing how limited is my perspective on the novel with such a focus on Englishness. It’s like only ever looking at a shape from just one side. So I am going to challenge myself and my sensibilities, first as a reader, but also as a writer. I’ve made a renewed commitment to writing fiction this past while (which has led to an acceptance letter the other week! Hooray. I’ll have a story forthcoming in The New Quarterly this spring or summer), and I want to write stories that seek to do things that are new. I think translations will show me what other possibilities there are.

And I am particularly excited about another book in translation, Sanaaq by Mitiarjuk Nappaaluk, which was stupendously reviewed by Keavy Martin in the Globe and Mail this weekend. It was such an inspiring, incisive piece which dares to challenge readers: “Yet rather than attempting to draw large (and largely inaccurate) conclusions about Inuit culture, southern readers might instead try to enjoy this humbling state of non-understanding.” I am willing to take her up on this, and I’m looking forward to it.

January 6, 2014

Book Haul/Book Stamp

bookhaulWe really did have the nicest December, mostly because the weather was always terrible we just kept cancelling our plans and staying home. We visited the art gallery on Christmas Eve, which might have to become a tradition because the place was empty and we had an excellent time. We also pulled off a string of going out for lunch three days in a row, which is how we roll and how we love it. In terms of book haul, we received some wonderful children’s books for Christmas that I expect to be writing about here in the weeks ahead. And my own book stack was pretty impressive, as the photo makes clear (and check out my new Cath Kidston mug. Guaranteed to make winter days brighter). The Genesis book is from the photography exhibit that we loved and went to see over and over. So nice to have a bit of it to live with us forever. And two Rebecca Solnits–I just finished reading Wanderlust yesterday. She is so so wonderful.

And speaking of wonderful, my husband made a dream come true this Christmas by giving me my very own book stamp: “From the Library of Kerry Clare”. It’s a beautiful stamp, and the ink goes on so smoothly that the stamp looks like it’s printed. It has been suggested to me that because I have a book stamp now that maybe I might start lending out my books, but no, of course not. Let’s not be totally ridiculous.

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(What bookish gifts did you receive this year?)

 

October 22, 2013

Gift from the Sky

DonnaIMG_20131022_134836 Tartt’s new novel The Goldfinch came out today, and I’ve been looking forward to it. I remember when The Little Friend came out in 2002 and it was such an event. I was very broke, living on cans of tuna and long-life milk, sleeping on the bottom bunk of a bed in backpackers’s hostel in the Midlands. It seems momentous to be buying her new book all these years later, to measure out my own life by Donna Tartt releases: I own a couch now. The intervening decade has been good. So I trekked to the bookstore just now to pick it up, and also to get Kelli Deeth’s new collection The Other Side of Youth. (Read Deeth’s wonderful piece from yesterday about her devotion to the short story form).

So there I was at Book City, and in a hurry too because I had sweet potatoes in the oven, and what do I discover: Margaret Drabble has a new novel!! The Pure Gold Baby, just out at the beginning of this month. I had no idea! Can you believe it? The universe offering up one of my chiefest delights (to be reading a Margaret Drabble for the very first time) like it was nothing. And it’s even meant to be good, this book, and Meg Wolitzer says so. I am so excited. As if yesterday’s bookish gifts weren’t enough…

October 21, 2013

Excellent Mail Haul

TodayIMG_20131021_131147 was a very good day for the mail haul. Iris’s passport finally arrived, which is a good thing as we’re off to England in a few weeks. We also received a pair of orange socks for Iris, on the occasion of her first Halloween (thanks, Mom!). And then two books, one the latest collection by Karen Connelly, whose work I’ve admired for a long time now. And then Jennica Harper’s new book Wood, which is oh so exciting, because it’s not every day that you get a new book by one of your favourite writers ever. Very excited about this. Oh, what treasures a mailbox can hold!

August 24, 2013

Buy hardback fiction and poetry.

“Buy hardback fiction and poetry. Request hardback fiction and poetry as gifts from everyone you know. Give hardback fiction and poetry as gifts to everyone. No shirt or sweater ever changed a life. Never complain about publishing if you don’t buy hardcover fiction and poetry regularly.”– Annie Dillard, “Notes for Young Writers”

August 20, 2013

On a bookish coincidence, and long-time friends

IMG_20130820_133354It has been fifteen years since I met my friend Katie, as we walked across Queens Park at the end of Vic’s Frosh Week. From the moment I first encountered her, in the midst of that disorientating, overwhelming time of enormous upheaval, I knew I’d found someone remarkable, someone who would be a real friend, and so she has been ever since. We supported one another through dating woes (or, in my case, woes that came from lack of dates–I used to drink too much and then come over to her house and cry). We both partook in university activities, and each graduated with the Golden V awards. We kept in touch during the years I was abroad, and she was establishing a school at Ronald McDonald House. After I moved back to Canada, we were bridesmaids in each others’ wedding, and have lived within walking distance ever since. And now the fun continues as we find ourselves each the mother of two girls, Katie with her twin daughters who were born in December.

IMG_20130820_133251Last week, we got The Twins’ Blanket out of the library, and I knew immediately that I’d have to buy a copy for Katie, because I’d never read another book about twin Asian girls like hers. So I felt very clever today as we met up at the museum for the afternoon and I had a copy of the book in tow. There was no occasion for gift-giving, which made it all the more strange when Katie presented us with our own copy of The Twins’ Blanket, which she’d bought for Harriet. The strangest and most wonderful coincidence, to go home with the gift we came with. Not to mention the goodness of the rest of our afternoon.

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