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April 20, 2011

Keep Toronto Reading video!

In which I make funny faces, over-enunciate and (quite obviously) talk without actually having prepared what to say. Hooray to Jen Knoch for once agan Keeping Toronto Reading over at the KIRBC. This year’s Keep Toronto Reading theme is books that have transformed you, and I chose Bronwen Wallace’s People You’d Trust Your Life To because it transformed me into a Bronwen Wallace devotee (and it did. I haven’t shut about this book since I read it). I know it will transform you similarly, and we’ll all be better for it.

March 16, 2011

Three remarkable things

1) I’m quite excited about the YOSS Manifesto, which went live today on a spiffy new website rigged up by my favourite outfit, Create Me This. It’s a wonderful celebration of the short story form, and I couldn’t think of a better year to dedicate to short stories with so many stellar collections coming out.

2) My course is starting in a few weeks! Sign up for The Art and Business of Blogging at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. I am in the midst of planning, and things are turning out marvelously.

3) We’ve got a tie for the Canada Reads Independently popular poll. Somebody break it, please? Email me your top pick of this year’s selections (even if you haven’t read them all…).

February 14, 2011

Renter's Blues

No, just kidding. There are no blues, as I’m a renter by choice, and we made that choice because buying a house would mean I’d have to get a full-time job while (however conversely) we’d then be broke, and also living somewhere that wasn’t here. But I have renting on my mind today after reading Beautiful Anomaly, Lauren Kirshner’s amazing essay in Taddle Creek about the Sylvan Apartments, which became more and more boarded up every time I walked by them on  my way to the grocery store in 2005/6, back when we lived at College and Ossington. I’d always wondered what their story was, and what a spectacular way to discover it.

From Kirshner’s piece: “In the end, the Sylvan is less a ghost story than a relic from an era when renting didn’t have to be a compromise [emphasis is mine]. The building gave working people amenities usually associated with home ownership. It was a place where people lived well even if they weren’t well off—an idyll that likely will never again be possible for the average renter in downtown Toronto.”

Which is something to think about. And it got me thinking also about what was perhaps my favourite part of Phyllis Brett Young’s The Torontonians: “In Toronto, the word home was still spelled h-o-u-s-e, and anyone who lived in an apartment by choice, and more particularly an apartment downtown, was considered eccentric if not unstable. On Park Avenue in New York, you were told, it was all right to live in an apartment. But in Toronto it was different. In Toronto, if you were stable, you lived in a house. Your Dun and Bradstreet rating was helped considerably if you owned a house, even if, as was usually the case, the mortgage company could put forward a much better claim to stability in this context that you could.”

November 9, 2010

Did I mention that my friend Patricia had got herself set up with a brand new website? A website that was created by my beloved CreateMeThis? And how lucky was good ol’ CreateMeThis to have Patricia’s spectacular images to work with, so that the result is splendid. Check it out.

November 1, 2010

November bits and bobs

CBC Books’ Monthly Book Report Podcast is now online, and at about 8:40 you can here a panel discussion with me, Jen Knoch of the KIRBC, Ron Nurwisah from The Afterword (moderated by Erin Balser) about what’s going down with Canada Reads 2011. Admittedly, I was feeling a bit more optimistic about the Top 40 that day than I was last Friday, but you’ll be happy to know that I’ve come around a bit. That it might be the journey and not the destination that matters– if what I love best about Canada Reads is obscure recommendations, then here is a list of 20 books I haven’t read yet, and why not pursue those avenues? What if the authors pushing their books are not so much saying, “Win me a prize!”, but “Read me, read me, read me!” Which is the kind of plea I tend to listen to. You know, it was never so much Canada Reads itself and the panel discussions I cared about as much as the reading that led up it (and the conversations online with other readers), and perhaps this changed format is just going to extend that whole experience.

That said, have you voted for Sean Dixon’s The Girls Who Saw Everything yet? If I’ve got to have a reread in the final five, might as well be the one that I brought to the table.

Anyway, I’ve officially decided to bring on Canada Reads Independently 2011, because it was a great deal of fun last year, and complemented the actual Canada Reads in all kinds of interesting ways. And also because it was the Canada Reads subject to my whims, and how brilliant is that? I’m already a-thinking about panellists, and I think we can come up with something amazing. Watch this space.

Watch also for news of my work appearing in all kinds of interesting places– I’ve got essays and reviews coming out this month that I’m very excited about, and though I still have to keep my mouth shut about them, I look forward to soon when I no longer have to. I’ve finally got started on a blog for Literature for Life, and am going to visit their new digs tomorrow to get an update on where we are at. I will also be giving a guest lecture at Ryerson later this month about “Bringing Children’s Books to Life” and I’m wholly enjoying the preparation, looking forward to the delivery, but there’s still plenty of work to be done in the meantime, and so onward.

August 17, 2010

A few good things

1) I am now reading A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Diaries and Letters of Barbara Pym

2) Heather Mallick is back columning at The Star.

3) India Knight’s fitting list of ultimate comfort reads

4) I am obsessed with Bruce Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise”

5) (late entry) Banana Nut Cheerios (which I bought because the box label contained “Banana Fun Facts” [and really, what is more fun than banana facts?)l

August 8, 2010

While I was gone…

  • My Quill & Quire review of Alissa York’s Fauna is online here. It was such a pleasure to be able to write such an ecstatic review for this wonderful book (whose design is as gorgeous as the story). A celebration of bookishness, and of the animals that have populated our books, and those who hide in the secret corners of our cities. Her Toronto is also stunningly realized.
  • And Finn Harvor has asked me to join his “Conversations in the Book Trade”, where I answered some of his questions about the current state of publishing and book culture.

May 16, 2010

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton

To write about Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal in 350 words was one of the most demanding and complex writerly tasks I have ever undertaken, and my review of the novel appears on the April 2010 of Quill & Quire (available here online). The first novel by the precocious Catton, The Rehearsal is difficult, devourable, innovative, frustrating, and fascinating. I didn’t love it, but I don’t think it even wanted me to, and it’s a stunning novel in particular for being written in an time in which so many stories are the same. Truly, this is something different. And though the parallels are by no means straightforward, and I don’t think liking one is a recommendation for the other, The Rehearsal is more like The Westing Game than any other novel I’ve read as an adult. Trying to get it all straight, however– especially in 350 words– was completely exhausting, and my mind is shutting down now just considering it again.

So I’ll let others try. Stephany Aulenback recommends it at Crooked House. The Rehearsal is the May Book Club selection at Eye Weekly. And a rave review in The Toronto Star.

May 14, 2010

Rebecca Rosenblum's wonderful new website

My friend Rebecca Rosenblum has a wonderful new website, (which my husband made for her!). You should take a trip over and welcome Rebecca to her new home. Congratulations to Rebecca and Stuart!

April 20, 2010

My video pitch for Barbara Pym

Jen Knoch’s book club is not only Keepin’ It Real, but they’re Keepin’ Toronto Reading too. I did my part for their effort, making a video pitch for Barbara Pym’s No Fond Return of Love. You can watch the video, and my series of bizarre facial expressions, here.

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