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Pickle Me This

March 26, 2013

Where does a month go when it's gone?

IMG_5756We were very happy to hear the word “benign” today when we visited the doctor for results of my biopsy. I have to see him again before my baby is born, and then once life settles down post-baby, decisions will be made about whether or not I’ll require surgery to take care of my lump for once and for all, but in the meantime, we’re relieved. It’s been just over a month since I found the lump, and what a crazy time it’s been. The last two weeks have thankfully been free of much worry, and to be honest, the news today was a bit of an anticlimax because it was what the doctor has set me up to expect. But I also find myself able to listen to There Must Be An Angel without bursting into tears for the first time in ages, so something essential must have shifted. (What is it with my propensity to listen to ad-nauseum to songs that make me cry? I imagine that this is something that men don’t do. Or women who aren’t ridiculous, for that matter.)

Today’s other piece of good news came today at the midwives where it was determined that Baby is (probably) head-down. I’m only 32 weeks so this could change at any time, but it’s significant for me because Harriet was transverse from 31 weeks and I’ve been paranoid that history might repeat itself, no matter that there was no physical reason that it would. I really don’t want to have another c-section, and we’ve become extremely keen about natural birthing (so yes, I’m back reading Ina May Gaskin again, after four years of making fun of her, and Harriet has been reading up on placentas and crowning). I am so fortunate to have many friends who have had successful home birth/natural birth experiences, and I’ve been steeping myself in their stories for inspiration and confidence in my own abilities to do similar things.

And it’s really not so far away. Terrifying. The last month has got away from us entirely, and now we must shift back to Baby, to all the things we have to do before Baby arrives. It’s a far more fun preoccupation than thyroid lumps, but overwhelming all the same.

September 7, 2011

September is insane, no?

September is insane, no? And I don’t even have children going back to school. (I do have one child who has recently gone onto a playschool wait-list for next September however, which has been a more emotional experience than one might expect. It looks like I’m going to be one of those parents after all). Anyway, for some reason, I decided that now would be the best time for me to read Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove, that reason being that I’d come to James on my to-be-read shelf, and to skip him for something lighter would be a violation of book selecting rules, and also an indication that I’d probably never read Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove ever.

So I’m reading it. It’s pretty wonderful. I do sometimes wonder if there aren’t ways Henry James could have expressed his ideas with a bit more clarity, but I’m enjoying the book much more than I liked What Maisie Knew when I reread it a while ago. Progress is slow, and I’m about halfway through. Also finding that avoiding reading James is enabling me to get a lot of other work done, plus I’m reading Granta 116 and Stephanie Bolster’s remarkable collection White Stone: The Alice Poems.

Anyway, the day after I started reading The Wings of the Dove, four books came in for me at the library, I got two freelance review jobs, and now I also have to read Rebecca Rosenblum’s new book The Big Dream in the next very little while because I’ve been honoured with the task of conducting an interview with her at her book launch on September 20th. The Canadian Bookshelf wheels are also spinning madly at the moment, because it’s publishing’s big season and so much is going on. Case in point, the three literary events going on tonight, each of which I’m longing to attend, but there will be just one, alas.

The opposite of all this, of course, would be a life devoid of everything I’ve ever wanted, and so you won’t hear me complain. Let’s take up a bit more Henry James now while the baby’s asleep, and my tea has just cooled enough to drink.

August 23, 2011

P is for Park

Location: Centre Island

I don’t update my blog on the weekends, and due to travel, fun, family and houseguests, this past weekend seems to have leaked well into the week. Much fun has been had, many restaurants have been eaten at, but I’m slowly getting my act together (and finishing The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. Can’t wait to post about this. Also the latest Vicious Circle recap). In the meantime, here is Harriet living the Big City Alphabet…

April 25, 2011

Still mired

Forgive me. Still mired in the fat books, and then got doubly mired in a book that was thin but oh so dense– Chinua Achebe’s The Anthills of the Savannah for my book club meeting tomorrow night. So now I’m back in the Cheever (and oh, I love this book. I’m not far in yet, but these stories a wonderful to read. A bit bleak, yes, particularly with the Didion the week before, and he’s not afraid to break a child’s neck, but you’ve got to admire that). And then will return to any programming at all.

In other news, have I told you about my new gig at Canadian Bookshelf? Plans are afoot and they’re wonderful. Or that Heather Jessup came over to my house last week to deliver a jar of pickles (which, by the way, is the precise recipe for making me fall in love with you [oh, and Heather has a book coming out this fall with Gaspereau Press, and I’m very excited to read it])? Or that we’ve un-baby-proofed our apartment, and I have a desk again (with a couch right beside, so I have the option of typing whilst reclined, which is usually my preference). Or that we had a really lovely Easter weekend, and it was nice to drive home from visiting my parents and have it not be in a snowstorm. I also watched the Alfred Hitchcock film Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt, which was marvelously bookish and self-referential in a way that Scream thought was original fifty years later.

Anyway, as we don’t do blog posts about why we’re not writing blog posts, less of this, and then to bed, to bed, to bed.

November 17, 2010

More thoughts on Emma Donoghue's Room

I liked Emma Donoghue’s Room when I read it last month, though I valued it less as literature than as a plot-driven novel constructed from an amazingly rendered point of view. Though Jack as narrator was key to the book’s stunning spell, his limited perspective also kept the book from achieving multiple dimensions. I said as much in my review, but I’ve come up with a few things to say since. And I will say them now in point form, because a certain small child kept me up most of last night and I am really, really tired:

  • The Britishisms– did anybody notice these? I know Donoghue is Irish, so maybe it’s Irishisms I mean, but I know them from Britain. Throughout the text, I’d come across them and wonder where these people were supposed to live, their figures of speech so various. “Dead spit” I thought was a Jackism for “spitting image”, because I’d never heard of the former, until I came across it in another novel recently. And there are other examples of ways that Americans don’t talk– I wonder why an editor never picked up on this?
  • I wanted to see what a man would think of this book, and I had a feeling that the gripping elements of the plot would pique my husband’s interest, so when I finished the book, I handed it to him and told him to give it a read. Do note that he knew nothing about the book, and he never saw its dust jacket (which was put away for safe keeping, of course). He finished the book and said that the first half of the book was amazing, the suspense was killer. Where were they? Had their been a nuclear holocaust or an environmental disaster? Was Old Nick a protector from a now unsafe world, and she was paying him with sex for the shelter? He had no idea what was going on. Which is so interesting to me, who went into the book knowing the entire plot beforehand thanks to publicity, friends’ reports, and ye old dust jacket. I wonder which of us got Room more the way it was intended to be?
  • I read James Wood’s review in The London Review of Books, and he highlighted something I’d never considered: “Does anyone really imagine that Jack’s inner life, with his cracks about Pizza Houses and horse stables and high-fives, is anything like five-year-old Felix Fritzl’s? The real victim’s imaginings and anxieties must have been abysmal, in the original sense (unimaginable, bottomless), and the novel’s sure-footed appropriation of this unknowability seems offensive precisely in its sure-footedness.” I don’t know if I’m offended, but I’d never considered how utterly unrealistic the story is, how much it is unabashedly a fairy tale. Because so many elements of the story are startlingly realized (the maternal bond in particular), we forget that such a bond being fostered in that situation would be tremendously unlikely. Donoghue has taken a very particular story to tell us something very general, but I think the lack of particularities may be a serious weakness.

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 29, 2010

A whole month more of summer

Though has been pointed out quite astutely, we’ve got almost a whole month more of summer left, and there aren’t even squash at the market yet, but still, that this week contains September is just a little bit overwhelming. Mostly because summer has gone by in an instant (but oh, such a wonderful, beautiful instant, that completely made up for last summer that got lost with the newborn baby), and September promises to be just as quick.

Tomorrow I’m hosting an afternoon tea for the local members of the Barbara Pym Society, and I’ve spent tonight baking scones, and cake, and learning how to make egg salad. On Sunday, I’ve got a best friend getting married, and Harriet is going to be a flower girl. I think there’s a free weekend in there somewhere, but that’s followed by Eden Mills, and we’ve got another wedding the week after that.

I’ve got plenty of get-togethers planned for the weeks in between, including a pie-date with some fine bloggers. The Vicious Circle will be reading The Comforters by Muriel Spark. I’m going to be interviewing Alison Pick, author of Far To Go. Harriet has her calendar fairly busy with friends of hers to meet, and I imagine I’ll be accompanying her on such outings. I’m going to read the new Jonathan Franzen. I’m going to finally go to the dentist (we’ve been between health insurers for a few months), and find out what’s gone wrong with my gums. I’m going to finally finished this reading project which has been taking up so much of my time, and I can turn my attention back to rereading. I’m going to write a review of Camilla Gibb’s latest novel, which I enjoyed very much and finished reading on Friday. I’m going to write blog posts about my feelings towards Mad Men, about whether an author’s life should matter in how we read their work, about what Ray Smith has in common with Jennifer Weiner, a review of a Zsuzsi Gartner short story, and the story of  the time I got an OAP discount on a haircut when I was seventeen. And of course, I’ll be up to other things. (Like fiction!)

But now I’m going to go to bed because I’m exhausted already.

April 19, 2010

100 Books

Today I finished reading Brown Dwarf by K.D. Miller (glowing review to follow!), which was the 100th book I’ve read since Harriet was born last May 26. The last book I read before she was born was The Children’s Book by AS Byatt, and the first one I read after was A Big Storm Knocked It Over by Laurie Colwin (which was the best, best, best book ever to read after having a baby). Also, because my computer died last year in June on my birthday, I lost my cherished list of Books Read Since 2006, so the new list starts with the Laurie Colwin, and it seems like these are the only books I’ve read ever.

Naps are my precious, precious reading time, curled up in my slanket with a cup of tea. The naps tend to be forty minutes exactly, twice a day, but I make the most of them, and for those forty minutes twice a day, my entire life feels pretty indulgent. Back when Harriet napped exclusively on my chest (and when did this end? I can’t remember. The last 100 books have been a blur), I got a lot more reading done because I was immobile and she slept for up to two hours, but the freedom of her crib naps is definitely preferable.

I’ve been surprised to find that hardcovers are easier to read than paperbacks– mainly because I have to hold the paperbacks, and this annoys Harriet when she’s breastfeeding, but hardcovers can be laid down on the couch beside me and stay open, and Harriet is none the wiser. The problem with hardcovers occurs, however, when I’m breastfeeding lying down and I drop one on her head. Though I don’t really breastfeed all that much these days (and when did this happen? How can one thing fade into another so subtly?) so soon this will cease to matter. Though paperbacks will continue to be easier to stuff into the diaper bag…

I’ve been much harder on the books that I’ve read, perhaps because my time is more limited, or because I’m in a surly mood more often than I used to be. Or else, there has just been a proliferation of really shitty books published since May 26, but I’m not convinced that’s the case.

I miss reading in bed. Some Saturdays, you’d find me there until noon. I still read in bed in the evenings, but never for very long because I go to bed too late, trying to stuff an impossible number of things into my evenings. The odd time I get a good chunk of reading-in-bed in, however, I am really profoundly grateful.

Anyway, this is just a post to reassure my former self that everything is really going to be fine. A day can be stretched wide enough to accommodate many things, and books are as portable as babies are. Also, that the books discovered through and with babies open one’s eyes exponentially to the magic of reading, and how amazing it is when you start to see the baby falling in love with reading too.

February 17, 2010

Getting Settled

Oh, I do love my new website. I love the colours, and I love the doors (which I photographed in Elora last summer), and I love my cool twitter feed in the sidebar, and my “Features” buttons. In the wider world, I love that celebrating Valentines, Family Day and Mardi Gras, and though tomorrow is the first day in three days that isn’t a holiday, my husband’s got the week off work so the fun continues– tomorrow we’re going to the AGO. Though we’re completely exhausted already, and not just because of pancakes. I now see the advantages to preparing your baby’s nursery before the baby’s birth, as opposed to, say, when the baby is eight and a half months old, because it’s an all-consuming process, and then the baby gets so mad when you’re ignoring it to screw crescent-moon light covers into the wall. The one good thing about it though is that the baby gets an awesome room completely devoid of pastels, and perhaps a bit overstimulating, but something tells me our baby would have had that anyway.

Anyway, all this to say that we’ve had nary a spare moment, but I’m almost through Nicholas Ruddock’s The Parabolist and will be posting a review very soon. And next up for me is Patrick Swayze’s autobiography, if I actually decide to go through with it. Which seems like not the best idea in a world with so many books and so little time, but if I don’t, what might I be missing??

February 15, 2010


Welcome to the new home of Pickle Me This, designed and built by the good people at Create Me This. We (and our extensive archives!) are very happy to be at home here.  Looking forward to some great content up in the next few days, including an interview with Amy Jones and a rather shameful post on my own authorial encounters. For now, you can check out my Valentines recommendation for a different kind of love story.

And now, to warm up the house, please leave a note and let us know that you’ve dropped by.

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