Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Emily Dickinson VERSUS Charlotte Brontë

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Walt Whitman Vs. Emily Dickinson), with a final score of 12-2, was Emily Dickinson.

2 votes for Whitman?! Had I voted, I certainly would have been on the losing team this week. While I'd not classify either as a favourite, I think Whitman more than Dickinson helped change the face of poetry. Certainly both were unconventional, but to me Whitman was more experimental and didn't seem as preoccupied with death.

Anyway, while I'm surprised at Whitman's crushing defeat, I'll move on. This week's contender is one that I haven't even read.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (May 6, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Plug Your Ears

I have to pass along a few good ideas I've seen lately...

1st. From Raidergirl, It's Tuesday, Where Are You? Each week she asks where your current book has taken you. As I've written in the header, "My traveling can be done through books" so I really like this idea. Currently I'm Messina, Sicily somewhere around the late 1500s (Much Ado About Nothing).

2nd. Actually I heard of this through Raidergirl as well. It's and for the competitive trivia nuts among you, it might be the last diversion you'll ever need. It's a lot of fun, though I wish they'd add more games more often. For those of a book mindset (notice that I do know how to spell it), how many Shakespeare plays can you name? How about Stephen King novels? Jane Austen? Charles Dickens? Toni Morrison? Classic American or British authors? Famous playwrights? Narnia books? Famous poets?

3rd. Finally, the latest great idea from Dewey: Weekly Geeks. This week is Discover New Blogs Week whereby participants sign up and visit the blogs of five others. My discoveries were:

I. Erin's "A Book Every Day"- This is a very new blog, so it'd be nice for her to get fellow readers checking it out. Based on the memes, choices of classic and contemporary books, and challenges, I'd say Erin's blog fits in perfectly with the book blogging community.

II. Unfinished Person's "Just A (Reading) Fool"- I'll admit that I clicked on this blog because I loved his blogging name. And judging from his "Read so far this year" list, he's got a penchant for quirky titles.

III. Misa's "This Redhead Reads"- Interestingly, this blog seems to have posts about the act of reading itself, rather than particular book reviews. Check out the amusing anecdote reminiscing about having read Danielle Steele for a sixth grade readathon.

IV. Sally's "Book and Other Games"- Diversions galore. Want to find the latest meme or tag? Look no further.

V. Tanabata's "In Spring It Is The Dawn"- Hailing herself as "A Canadian in Japan via England" Tanabata's book reviews are interspersed with awesome photos of Japan.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Reader's Diary #352- Katherine Mansfield: The Fly

Short Story Monday

Katherine Mansfield's "The Fly" seems preoccupied with one idea: transference. A couple characters pass their emotions along until finally it gets to the fly, the hapless victim who absorbs and condenses all the negativity into a single black blot.

Mansfield captures the chain involved in transference not just through the plot itself, but also through shifts in character focus. At first the story seems to be about old Mr. Woodifield, a man retired after a stroke who is perhaps bitter that his old boss is still able to work, able to renovate his office, able to drink whisky. Before long Mr. Woodifield reminds the boss of a certain tragedy, and the story then becomes his (the boss's) story).

Upon the exit of Mr. Woodifield, the boss begins to wallow in the emptiness of his own life. But, just before breaking down into tears, a new victim presents itself and the game continues.

I enjoyed "The Fly" very much, even if it wore its psychology on its sleeve.

The Soundtrack
1. Build It Up, Tear It Down- Fatboy Slim
2. Tears In Heaven- Eric Clapton
3. Pressure Drop- Toots and the Maytals
4. Greedy Fly- Bush
5. Paint It Black (Rolling Stones cover)- Pascal Comelade

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Six Sentences #2

My latest micro-fiction can be read here.

Six Sentences is also now available in book format here and here.

I'll use up the other three sentences with random lines from Doogie Howser, M.D.

You're a kid.

True, but I'm also a genius.

If you have a problem with that I can get you someone who's older but not as smart as me.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


The Elizabeth Hay blog tour!

Elizabeth Hay is hitting the real and virtual roads. From April 30th to May 8th, she will be attending the Yukon Writers Festival. Then she's off to Yellowknife, where Late Nights On Air began so many years ago. On May 13th, the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre is hosting "An Evening With Elizabeth Hay."
If you can't attend either of these events, don't fret. During this time, Elizabeth is working double duty and going on a blog tour. She will be guest posting on The Book Mine Set as well as these other fine book blogs:
Pickle Me This
The Library Ladder
Metro Mama

Stay tuned...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Reader's Diary #351- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Evangeline (FINISHED)

Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow tells the story of Evangeline and Gabriel, two engaged Acadians who lost each other during their expulsion from Nova Scotia to the U.S.. It is considered a long poem, though it reads pretty much like a story, except for the line breaks. According to Wikipedia, it's written in dactylic hexameter, though any particular rhythm was completely lost on me, at least at the conscious level.

But poem or not, I enjoyed it a great deal. Longfellow created such atmosphere that I probably would have enjoyed the tale had it been completely void of plot (it wasn't):
Indoors, warm by the widemouthed fireplace, idly the farmer
Sat in his elbow-chair, and watched how the flames and the smoke wreaths
Struggled together like foes in a burning city. Behind him,
Nodding and mocking along the wall, with gestures fantastic,
Darted his own huge shadow, and vanished into the darkness.
I love the situational irony in that particular passage. What a sense of foreboding Longfellow instills with his word choice, all while the farmer sits idly and unaware what is about to befall the Acadians.

Initially, I wasn't overly taken with Evangeline and Gabriel. When Evangeline had passed by, it was "like the ceasing of exquisite music" and "happy was he who might touch her hand or the hem of her garment" And Gabriel, son of the honoured blacksmith, was himself considered "the noblest of all youth." I guess they were the equivalent of the head cheerleader and captain of the football team. Not that I wished ill upon the two, but it's hard to root for someone who seems to have everything going for them anyway. Still, it was perhaps important to build them up to make their story all the more tragic when they lose one another, their homes, their youth, their looks, and their popularity. I did feel for them then. Sad commentary, I guess, that I can only take to liking someone when they're down and out. Still, I wasn't entirely sympathetic: more than a few times I found myself thinking they should just move on with their lives and get over one another already. Romantic that I am. At least the ending is only mildly happy.

The Soundtrack:
1. Acadian Driftwood- The Band
2. Fare Thee Well Love- The Rankin Family
3. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For- U2
4. O Evangeline- Emmylou Harris
5. Baby, Now That I Found You- Alison Krauss

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring, Schming

Today's BTT question:

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

I've had a similar conversation with someone before regarding summer reads. And as I said then, I read pretty much the same choices that I would year round. I'm currently reading Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing because I was in the mood for one of his comedies. But this has more to do with the fact I recently completed his King Henry the Sixth plays and wanted a lighter fare, than any change in the weather.

By the way, spring is relative. Here on Baffin Island it's marked by balmier temperatures. Today it's -12 degrees Celsius.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Walt Whitman VERSUS Emily Dickinson

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Roald Dahl Vs. Walt Whitman), with a final score of 8-7, was Walt Whitman.

That was a nail-biter! Dahl has certainly fared pretty well, but so far in this 2nd edition of the Great Wednesday Compare, no one's been able to beat two consecutive wins. Last week, Dahl seem to beat out by Whitman's legacy. I think Dahl is perhaps a little too contemporary to know what his legacy will be. While I intend to familiarize myself more with his children's novels (for which he's better known), I encourage others to read his short stories for adults as well. "Lamb to the Slaughter" is a classic and just a few days ago I was introduced to the brilliant "The Way Up To Heaven" as well.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (April 29, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reader's Diary #350- Don McTavish: Big Rig (FINISHED)

It used to surprise my friends and family when I'd refer to trucking as my "dream job." I knew, deep down, that I probably had an overly romanticized idea: open roads, seeing the country, listening to my favourite tunes, perhaps sticking in an audiobook every now and then.
Still I thought I heard the pavement calling...

Then last year when I decided to take a hiatus from teaching, my wife (who up until this point wasn't keen on the idea) started looking into trucking schools on my behalf. Then I backed off. Those deep down reluctancies came to the fore now that I no longer had her disapproval as an excuse.

Still, we've joked about it since then and for Christmas she gave me Don McTavish's Big Rig and Big Rig 2. Would these convince me to finally go for it or swear me off the idea forever?

Perhaps I should wait until reading the sequel, but the first certainly didn't sell me on the job. Subtitled "Comic Tales From A Long Haul Trucker," it's probably surprising that a light-hearted book, one filled with nostalgia for life on the road, would push me further away. I think it's the machismo that I'd find hard to take. Not that McTavish himself came across as a muscle-bound goon who crushes beer cans on his head, but many of those he encountered along his way certainly did. He seems to find such men amusing and colourful, but I don't think I'd want to leave the cab.

A few weeks ago, the Booking Through Thursday question asked what connotations the word "literature" brings to mind. I'm sure it's different for everyone, and I'm not sure exactly what it means to me, but I don't think anyone would accuse Don McTavish of having literary pretensions.

It all sounds harsh on my behalf, but I actually enjoyed Big Rig quite a bit. Perhaps it was refreshing to read someone whose only motivation seemed to be to entertain. Don McTavish had a lot of cherished memories and he just wanted to share them.

Perhaps what I enjoyed the most was the conversational tone, especially his expressions: "You probably picture Alberta to be all flat, like pee on a plate...","the old man was tighter than ten-dollar boots", "the tarp starts to creep up the front of the load like a new bride's nightie."

I genuinely enjoyed the anecdotes, too. In one particularly funny tale, a psychiatric hospital patient pretends to be a doctor and convinces him it's okay to drive up on the lawn with his heavy load, destroying the grass in the process.

There are times when McTavish seemed unclear of who his audience would be. Certainly he had fellow truckers in mind when he referred to his "gas-powered 427, 1957 International bed truck, with a single-axle float" without any explanation, but on other occasions he'd take the time to define certain terminology which, in turn, might be annoying to those already in the business.

Likewise, the chronology of the episodes seemed sporadic. He'd have one chapter about his early days as a novice, then a tale that took place when he'd moved to dispatch after a long career, then without warning he'd flash to a story from his mid-career. However, as a feature writer for the trucking magazine Highway Star, he's probably used to writing stories that stand up on their own, as the ones in Big Rig certainly could.

This is an amusing book, and I'm sure it's honest in its portrayal of the funnier side of the trucking business. It may not win a Governor General's Award, but it might put a smile on your face.

The Soundtrack:
1. The Truck Got Stuck- Corb Lund
2. Alberta Bound- Gordon Lightfoot
3. Roll On Down The Highway- B.T.O.
4. Give Me 40 Acres (To Turn This Rig Around)- The Willis Brothers
5. Hard Road- Sam Roberts

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reader's Diary #349- Roald Dahl: The Way Up To Heaven

Short Story Monday

No, I'm not trying to sway the Great Wednesday Compare results. I picked a Dahl story this week because his "The Way Up To Heaven" is this month's pick over at A Curious Singularity.

Most people who mention Dahl usually refer to memories of his children's books. I think a teacher read Willa Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to me at one point, and I saw the movie version of James and the Giant Peach. But for reading Dahl myself, the only thing I recollect is "Lamb To The Slaughter." I read it in junior high and it quickly became one of my favourites.

Like "Lamb to the Slaughter," "The Way Up To Heaven" is also on the dark side. Revolving around a woman who is has obsessive issues with tardiness, and a husband who may or may not like to goad her about it, it begins as a portrait of a slightly dysfunctional, but very believable, couple.

What I found most impressive was how Dahl made me feel Mrs. Foster's stress over getting to the airport on time. Since having kids my punctuality leaves something to be desired, but I don't often worry about it. So how did Dahl manage to make me empathetic for this woman? It wasn't that I related and it wasn't that she was a particularly nice character (I found her slightly annoying). I think Dahl was able to instill my feelings, by trading one tension for another.

Her husband, Eugene Foster, was said to have a timing "so accurate-- just a minute or two late, you understand-- and [a] manner so bland that it was hard to believe he wasn't purposefully inflicting a nasty private little torture of his own on the unhappy lady." The undercurrent of resentment between the two characters, combined with the ambiguity of whether or not the husband was purposefully exacerbating his wife's condition, put me on edge so much that feeling Mrs. Foster's stress about getting out on time seemed natural.

I am a little confused about the title however. I'm not sure if it's meant to be ironic or not. Nor am I clear as to whom was supposed to be on their way. In any case, the story itself was great even if the title was not.

Cross posted at The Short Story Reading Challenge and A Curious Singularity.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Reader's Diary #348- Federico Garcia Lorca: Selected Poems (Translated by Martin Sorrell)

I believe it was through Poetry Friday that I first heard of Lorca and so I reluctant to say something negative about his poetry because I'm pretty sure somebody's not going to be happy with me. Rest easy, you can always blame it on Martin Sorrell's translation.

Asides from overdoing the melodrama (complete with exclamation marks), my major issue with Lorca was the repetition of certain words and phrases through all of his poems. I knew it was getting bad when I found myself cataloguing the most common ones. I did, after a point, appreciate the confines that created and I began to think of it as a some sort of Oulipo-type challenge wherein the poet must create hundreds of different poems using only 50 words. Occasionally, I even think it paid it off. The Ballad of The Moon was a particular favourite.

For your enjoyment, here's a list of Lorca's most common words: silk, unicorn, trees (cypress, fig, olive), silver, knives, daggers, shadows, frogs, bulls, dead/death, ay!, wound, dream, labyrinth, moon, stars, sky, water, wind, rain, snow, rivers, breeze, saeta, flowers (lily, rose, carnation), colours (red, white, green, blue, black), Christ, nails, blood, heart, gypsy, mountain, horsemen, voice. See if you can come with your own Lorca-esque creation. Here's mine:

Sad Lorca
(a parody by John Mutford)

silk-clad horsemen
deliver white roses
to the gypsies--
a death portent.

frogs croak with
silver voices, daggers
in the hearts of

the moon nailed to
the cypress
taunts the wind.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reader's Diary #347- William Gay: Twilight (FINISHED!)

I first heard of this at Kookiejar's when she mentioned how Stephen King picked William Gay's Twilight as his favourite book of 2007. A short while later Random House was giving away a few free copies, and so I jumped at the chance.

Before getting into the book, allow me to sidetrack. Since having kids, my wife's sentimentalities have changed and she's no longer able to stomach certain horror movies. We were both okay with the genre before, but now she's just too disturbed by those that are a little too realistic-- you know the ones: more about torture than make-believe monsters. So, last Halloween, knowing that I was in the mood to watch one again, she thought she'd compromise by renting Wrong Turn 2. We hadn't even seen the first one, but the promise of "hideously deformed inbred cannibals" was too much to pass up. We wanted cheese and boy, did it deliver.

Twilight wasn't nearly as entertaining. Granted the cliches are almost as bad (backwoods gun-happy hicks, villains left for dead who still manage to spring up, the old "you can stay here, but don't touch my beautiful daughter" scenario, and so forth) but Gay takes himself too seriously. Dropping quotes from William Shakespeare and Cormac McCarthy, the implication is that this will be a "literary" novel. It is not.

Even for a few cheap thrills, it was disappointing. The characters are psychologically flat and act in unbelievable ways, without clear motivations. Plus, the story itself is dull. Beginning with a twisted undertaker who desecrates the dead, that potentially interesting premise is all but forgotten as a hired goon sets off to track down a blackmailer who threatens to expose the heinous acts. So, while the publishers call it "a story about a perverse undertaker who won't let the dead rest" and while Gay throws in a few quotes about dead people, the bulk of the novel isn't about that at all. Instead it's your simple manhunter story. A while ago, after reading Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" I wrote, "The premise is one that hasn't grown old; man hunting man."

Perhaps it has.

The Soundtrack
1. Dead Men Tell No Tales- Motorhead
2. Last Caress- Misfits
3. Cemetary- The Headstones
4. You Can Run, But We'll Find You- Matchbook Romance
5. Dial-a-Cliche- Morrissey

(Kookiejar: if, after this review, you still want a copy, send me your address. You can have mine.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Reader's Diary #346- Elizabeth Hay: Late Nights On Air (FINISHED)

As I'm moving to Yellowknife in the next few months, I had an added fascination to Late Nights On Air that most readers probably wouldn't have. Granted a lot of time has passed since Hay lived there in the 1970s (the time setting of this novel) and now, some 30 years later.

Perhaps it's that time in between that first got me to thinking of bell curves. And as I read on, that image wouldn't leave me but became almost symbolic of Hay's narrative. I've read more than a few authors and readers lately question the idea of having a beginning and an ending. In real life, they argue, there are no such clearly defined boundaries. Such logic makes sense to me, but then, I question if a story is meant to be life, or merely a representation? With Late Nights On Air, Hay seems to have found a compromise: the narrative exists in the bubble of a bell curve, a curve whose edges never quite meet the horizontal axis. In other words, Hay has clearly created a time and a space for her plot(s), but through (thankfully) moderate use of flashbacks and foreshadowing acknowledges that beginnings and endings are a bit fuzzy. She's done a great job with the balance.

It seemed that Late Nights On Air got me thinking a lot about literature. When Dido remarks that explorer John Hornby must have been a masochist, Gwen takes offense. She remarks that the word leaves nothing to say, "It's the end of the story. You've written him off. Explained him to death." The whole conversation could be taken as a commentary on the characters within Late Nights On Air. At the beginning, it would perhaps have been easy to label Hay's characters. Dido as a femme fatale, maybe? But as the novel progresses, it is revealed that what first appeared to be stereotypical characters were infinitely complex beings.

And though no review I've read has dared to call Late Nights On Air a love story, romance makes up the bulk of the novel. Perhaps the term "romance novel" would sell the novel short. It certainly doesn't meet the vacant connotations implied. Again Hay acknowledges the complexities of interpersonal relationships and seems to write her own defense:
"Gwen smiled and relaxed. She put the book down and returned to a party that seemed more complicated in its social tensions than the straightforward business of starving to death. A party she found touching and baffling and tiring and hard to navigate."

It could be considered hypocritical to have an obvious theme, when the theme is that simplicity is an illusion. Still, Hay manages to explore this beautifully and using Yellowknife, especially at that point in history, worked tremendously well.

The Soundtrack
1. Moonlight Sonata- Beethoven
2. Helpless- Neil Young
3. She's Like The Swallow- True North Brass
4. Good Morning Heartache- Billie Holiday
5. Blow The Wind Southerly- Kathleen Ferrier

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Roald Dahl VERSUS Walt Whitman

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Roald Dahl Vs. Rudyard Kipling), with a final score of 7- 2, was Roald Dahl.

Not such a great turn out last week. Rudyard Kipling didn't seem to inspire a great deal of votes either for or against. Like Dahl, I'm more familiar with Kipling movies (or movie) than books. I have, however, read poetry by Kipling and I'd give him the point over Dahl for that except I don't remember if I liked it or not. Speaking of poetry, we move on to this week's contender: Walt Whitman.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (April 22, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Poetry Friday/ Reader's Diary #345- Karen Solie (Editor): The 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology

As I've been back and forth the country a lot lately, I've gone through more than a few books at 30,000 feet. I've also come to realize that poetry books make the most excellent travel companions. I find that it's easier to put those books aside between poems and perhaps ponder them in the process-- your head's already in the clouds anyway.

The 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology was a recent purchase from Yellowknife. Having two cancelled flights, I'd already gone through the two books that I'd taken with me and was desperate for more. I was drawn to this one as I figured it promised to be a way to keep up with contemporary poets.

This anthology is essentially a sampler, offering 5-10 poems by those shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2007 (Don McKay was the Canadian winner, while Charles Wright was the International winner). It's a pretty good way to get a taste for each poet's work and decide which, if any, to explore further. This book has poems by Ken Babstock (the only one I had previously read), Paul Farley, Rodney Jones, Don McKay, Frederick Seidel, Priscila Uppal and Charles Wright.
At first I was a little put off with the book, published by Anansi Press. Splattered all over the jacket flap are praises, not for the poets themselves, but for the prize. Of course, the $50,000 award given annually to a Canadian and an International poet is surely coveted by most poets, but something about the blurbs didn't sit well with me. It was as if the awards people were trying too hard to convince us of their relevance. Was it really necessary, for instance, to quote MacLean's in calling it "The world's premier international poetry prize" ?
That small contentious issue aside, I'm pleased to say I enjoyed the poems. Personal favourites were Paul Farley's "Tramp in Flames," Rodney Jones's "TV" and Priscila Uppal's "Poodle in the Painting." I also enjoyed the introductions to each poet that preceded their work, though at times I found them too hyperbolic. I can't deny that all of these are quite fine poets, but statements like "there can be few poets whose work is so memorable" and "he is a poet of great originality" do a disservice to them, not to mention making us question how they are able to come up with such a rare list year after year. While I do think, as with any good poet, these people make us think at the world differently, if even for a brief moment, I didn't see too much in the way of experimentation with form. But just as with musicians, there's something to be said for those that constantly reinvent themselves and play with different genres, and there's something to be said for those that constantly aim for perfection within a specific genre.

Tramp in Flames
by Paul Farley

Some similes act like heat shields for re-entry
to reality: a tramp in flames on the floor.
We can say Flame on! to invoke the Human Torch
from the Fantastic Four. We can switch to art
and imagine Dali at this latitude
doing CCTV surrealism.

(Read the rest here.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

On a personal note...

I was going to post about reaching 50,000 hits yesterday. But more exciting than that, we just purchased a house in Yellowknife!!!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Roald Dahl VERSUS Rudyard Kipling

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (F. Scott Fitzgerald Vs. Roald Dahl), with a final score of 21.5- 5.5, was Roald Dahl.

I can honestly say I had no idea Dahl was that popular! That's the largest margin of votes we've had in some time. And though I've read very little by both, I'd have gone against Fitzgerald too. Having only read The Great Gatsby, I remember it as being boring and of a world and time I had no interest in, like watching an episode of Dallas without the nostalgia of being at my grandmother's. In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi has her students put the book on trial for its supposed immorality. Too bad it wasn't tried for being dull. Of course, some of you seemed to have enjoyed it and so I won't continue to insult it. To each their own.

We move on...

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (April 15, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Reader's Diary #344- The Good News Bible: Samuel I (FINISHED)

"All the king wants from you as payment for the bride are the foreskins of a hundred dead Philistines."
--Samuel I, Ch. 18, V. 25

Nine books into the Bible I'm almost desensitized to the violence. But from a literary stand point, the villains have up til now typically been portrayed as bad people (they rape, worship other gods, eat unpasteurized cheese, and so forth). So, despite the fact that I didn't usually agree with all the revenge and tactics of the Israelites, I at least knew how I was supposed to feel. This time around, it's even harder to get behind the so-called heroes when they set out to destroy the Amalekites-- "all the men, women, children, and babies; the cattle, sheep, camels, and donkeys"-- when their only crime seems to have been that their ancestors opposed the Israelites when they came from Egypt. Based on their seeming determination to slaughter every living thing in their path, I'm one to think perhaps they had reason. It seems as if it was assumed that by now readers should be behind the Israelites no matter what and that vilifying their enemies is no longer necessary.

I did enjoy a couple characters in the novel: Saul and David. (The title character Samuel was a bit of a dud and was almost non-existent after the first few chapters.) Of course enjoying the characters and liking them are two separate things. Starting with Saul, he is the more overtly flawed of the two. He has fits of rage, is jealous, and at his absolute worse, is murderous. However, Saul is not an unsympathetic character. His downfall followed when he did not follow God's instruction to a tee. Instead of destroying all the Amalekites and their livestock, Saul kept the best sheep and cattle for themselves (for a sacrifice to God, he claimed) and spared King Agag's life. Because of this insubordination, God not only rejected Saul but sent evil spirits to torment him, causing him fits that could only be subdued by David's harp playing. Then when God decided to protect and essentially promote David, King Saul is consumed with jealousy, despite David's unfaltering loyalty. No I don't condone Saul's spear throwing or plots to kill David, but I'd say he's been one of the most realistic and complex characters in the Bible so far.

As for David, I wasn't as taken with him as I think we were supposed to be. While his loyalty to Saul was definitely admirable, he seems to be most remembered for his bravery, especially in facing Goliath. Of course, the Biblical definition of bravery seems to be putting one's trust in God for protection, while the modern North American definition seems to be trusting in oneself and well... I guess I'm a product of the times. To me, David's actions are akin to Superman playing Russian roulette. Both know they are in no real peril, so what's the big deal? Furthermore, he infiltrates the Philistines and sneaks off everyday and "kill[s] everyone [in the neighbouring regions], men and women, so that no one could go back to Gath and report what he and his men had really done." Again, this seems like a rather antiquated definition of bravery.

Still, interesting characters, even if not likable.

Monday, April 07, 2008

And the winner is...


For all those who participated, the correct answers for the 6th Canadian Book Challenge Update Quiz, were:

1. 1890's
2. 70's
3. 1852.

A random winner was drawn from all those who answered correctly.

Pooker, your autographed copy of Fifty Little Penguins by Jack Booth and Patricia Storms is soon on it's way. Congratulations!

Reader's Diary #343- Henry James: Sir Edmund Orme

Short Story Monday

After reading Reading Lolita in Tehran, I knew I just had to read something by Henry James. Azar Nafisi makes several comments about his great writing, though she suggests he is a difficult read. Obviously, that's a little off-putting.

"Sir Edmund Orme," however, didn't come across as a difficult read. It's a ghost story, involving three characters: Charlotte Marden, her mother, and Charlotte's would-be suitor. Only the latter two see the ghost, and it is revealed as Sir Edmund Orme, the mother's long-dead fiance. After the rejection of having the wedding called off, Orme had committed suicide and now Mrs. Marden (Charlotte's mother) claims he is haunting her by threatening the happiness of her daughter, should she ever become aware of him.

Of course, the story does have a few questions to ponder: is Orme necessarily seeking vengeance, why can only specific people see him, what does he represent and so forth. Still, these are typical discussion questions and while I don't have those answers, I don't think it should intimidate any readers. Perhaps Nafisi didn't consider this story. I thought it was pleasant enough, but otherwise unremarkable..

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Reader's Diary #342- Azar Nafisi: Reading Lolita in Tehran (FINISHED)

Wow. If a great book is measured by its ability to make me think, then Reading Lolita in Tehran is a great book.

My wife bought this for me a couple Christmases ago. And while just getting to it now is partly due to the ridiculous size of my TBR pile, I also wanted to read the actual Lolita first. Then recently Raidergirl blogged about Nafisi's book and she pointed out that it's actually divided up into four sections: Lolita, Gatsby, James and Austen (I'm not sure why she picked two books and two authors). Finally having read Lolita, I still wasn't sure I'd like Nafisi's book. I wasn't a great fan of either The Great Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice and I hadn't even read any James before. Fortunately, it didn't really matter much to my enjoyment, though I'm sure having read James would have enhanced the experience.

I really appreciated how Nafisi made me think about the role of literature. When I first went to university I was the cliched confused freshman. I had just dropped out of nursing school and had no idea who I was, let alone what I wanted to do with my life. So like every other confused university student, I got a degree in psychology. When I realized that didn't work, I got a degree in education. Now, 7 years later, I'm working for an airline. Not to worry, despite the various paths I think I know a little more about who I am now, and after reading Nafisi's book, I have a little more insight on where that knowledge comes from: books. In the little blurb at the top of this blog, I've written "My travelling can be done through books." I've usually looked at books that way: a cheap, and sometimes unique way, of travelling. I've not only been able to gain some insight into what life is like in Saskatchewan, Georgia or Iran, I've also been on the moon, visited the 1700s, toured the planet of Trafalmadore and found myself in the mind of a young Jewish girl. What I haven't acknowledged or considered before was how much I've found out about myself in the process.

In perhaps my favourite section of the book, Nafisi discusses the monster that was Lolita's Humbert Humbert. Despite all his wit and poetics, she declares that "he fails to completely seduce the reader." I reflected a lot over a few troublesome lines that I wrote in my review of Lolita a short while ago; "saying 'I liked Lolita, except for all the paedophilia' is like saying you like pizza without the dough, sauce, pepperoni and cheese. What else is there?" and later, "I respect Lolita. I respect Nabakov. It was a brilliant book. He was a brilliant author. But...I didn't like the book-- it was about paedophilia afterall."

Was I playing with semantics? Is there much of a distinction between respect and like? I've decided that in this particular case, yes. I still think Nabakov wrote a brilliant story (Nafisi does an excellent job explaining why) but I still don't like it. It made me uncomfortable from beginning to end, and surpassed my coping threshold. Handmaid's Tale made me uncomfortable. So did Cocksure. Like Lolita, those books were meant to make us squirm. But unlike Lolita, I could deal with those other books and still liked them in the end. Perhaps I was a different stage in my life in terms of my sensitivities, perhaps the issues were sufficiently different, perhaps it was something about the writing itself. The point is, my personality and identity was solidified a little more by reading Lolita, and perhaps by every book I've ever attended to. When a character makes any decision, it's next to impossible not to think, "I wouldn't have done that" or "That's exactly what I'd do." Each time we do that we reinforce, or sometimes even challenge, who we are.

Among the many other things Nafisi made me consider, perhaps indirectly, was the truth about fiction. At times she uses Nabokov's description of a good novel being a fairy tale, and talks about the fantasies of Austen. She mirrors that with discussions on history, especially the way dictators rewrite it. It's not long before I got all tangled up with the philosophy of that whole idea: if a novel is lifelike because it's fiction, isn't that paradoxical? Not necessarily when you look at the flip-side: the lie about non-fiction. Reading Lolita in Tehran has a lot of lies. Starting with the obvious up-front ones, Nafisi acknowledges she has changed the names, and altered identities somewhat, to protect the characters at stake. Then there's the obvious disclaimer that every memoir implores: it's only as true as one's memory. And you don't need a psych degree to know how imperfect that is. Not only are facts sometimes wrong, but details are left out, new values are being placed on past actions, and so forth. None of this is to say Nafisi should be judged by her untruths. She's telling her version of it, and we have to believe she's not lying maliciously (unlike James Frey). Nor is she doing anything she can help. Words, as much as I love them, are but symbols of reality.

Anyway, I'm not sure if I'm making sense anymore. I hope it suffices to say, Nafisi turned my brain inside out for a while and I appreciate it.

The Soundtrack:
1. Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)- The Doors
2. Preacher and The Slave (Joe Hill cover)- Shannon Murray
3. Children of the Revolution- T. Rex
4. Everyday I Write The Book- Elvis Costello
5. I Ran- Flock of Seagulls

Why not?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Poetry Friday/ Reader's Diary #341- Douglas LePan: Far Voyages

In a piece published by Arc Poetry Magazine, Douglas LePan was one of 13 "Lost and Found Poets." Contemporary poets and critics set out to help us remember some of Canada's forgotten greats.

Lepan won Governor General Awards for poetry in 1953 (The Net and The Sword) and also for fiction in 1964 (The Deserter) but was still making waves in 1990 when he published Far Voyages, a book of love poems addressed to a man, a much younger man at that.

While the book is often thought of as a gay book, it is a book about love and from a heterosexual standpoint, I found it easy to forget that any particular orientation was implied. From "Falcons Fly Heavenward":

Going into action, a soldier may take out his life and set it to one
side (as you might take off a watch and lay it on a table) in
the hope of picking it up again, if all goes well, when the
battle is over


So we shed one after another aspects of our selfhood, knowing
they are safe in each other's keeping, knowing that
afterwards we can pick them all up again, the regalia of an
immaculate restoration.

I like this idea of love; not one of dependence but of trust. You know you can survive without another, but would rather not. Of course, in some of the more erotic pieces, the orientation is a little more obvious. In "Second Growth," images of transmission towers, sunflowers, trees, and limbs are suggestive, though there's never anything raunchier or more blatant than that.

At best LePan is reminiscent of Pablo Neruda, especially the way he uses geography to discuss love: at times it's a backdrop, at times it's a metaphor, at times it's both. In "A Map With New Provinces" LePan writes,

"Your sides sloping away beneath my hands
are another world with provinces of delight
sweet with the suave washes of a coloured map"

At worst, I found some of the poems rambling and dull. Occasionally he'd utter such phrases as "It's a little the same, but not quite" and while the non-commitment might make it seem somewhat conversational in tone, to me it just made those particular poems drag.

I also found them a little elitist at times, filled with the usual classical references to Greek mythology, European landmarks and such that anyone with a quality education would surely understand. Blah. And likewise with the stock words that only poets seem to use: gossamer, ephemeral, and I believe there may have been an ethereal stuck in there somewhere.

Perhaps an offensive thought, but I think Far Voyages was best when LePan didn't act his age.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: F. Scott Fitzgerald VERSUS Roald Dahl

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (F. Scott Fitzgerald Vs. Harriet Beecher Stowe), with a final score of 9-5, was Dolly Parton. Oh wait, April Fool's Day is over. The winner was F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Interesting that Pussreboots mentioned other novels by Stowe. Like I only think of Gatsby when I hear Fitzgerald, I only think of Uncle Tom when I hear Stowe. This has come up a lot lately: Stephanie reviewed an Arthur Conan Doyle story that wasn't about Holmes, Kookiejar reviewed a Jack London story that wasn't about sled dogs and now Pussreboots is talking about Harriet Beecher's Stowe's The Minister's Wooing. Does anyone know of a challenge that asks people to read obscure or at least lesser known books by well-known authors? I've got a copy of Louisa May Alcott's Long Fatal Chase that's just begging for a reason for me to read it. If such a challenge doesn't already exist, any takers on hosting one? I would but I'm just so busy with the Canadian Book Challenge (and preparing for the 2nd edition-- please join!)

Enough shameless self-promotion, on to this week's challenge...

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (April 8, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Canadian Book Challenge- 6th Update

Here we are, the 6th update. No one joined Leo, Nicola, Steve or August in completing all 13 reads yet, but many are within spitting distance. As well, welcome to three new participants: Cheryl, Teena and Stephanie. Again, for those people interested in joining the 2nd edition of this challenge, beginning Canada Day and running for a whole year this time, drop me an email or comment. As well, please hound your writer/publisher friends to donate prizes!!!

For those of you interested in stats, as of today's date we have read a combined total of 270 books! Great job everyone.

Here are the standings so far:

The Grosbeaks (13 Books)

- Empress of Asia by Adam Lewis Schroeder
- Keturah & Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
- High Spirits: A Collection of Ghost Stories by Robertson Davies
- The Serpent's Egg by J. Fitzgerald McCurdy
- Sunwing by Kenneth Oppel
- Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock
- Kanada by Eva Wiseman
- The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy
- The Alchemist's Dream by John Wilson
- Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
- Gemini Summer by Iain Lawrence
- Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel
- Dust by Arthur Slade

- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
- Burden of Desire by Robert MacNeil
- King of Russia by Dave King
- Fatal Passage by Ken McGoogan
- Alligator by Lisa Moore
- Sailing to Saratanium by Guy Gavriel Kay
- Spook Country by William Gibson
- And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat
- Uninvited Guest by John Degen
- Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
- Badlands by Robert Kroetsch
- Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop
- What's Bred In The Bone by Robertson Davies

- Garcia's Heart by Liam Durcan
- October by Richard B. Wright
- Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles
- The Bone Sharps by Tim Bowling
- Helpless by Barbara Gowdy
- The Culprits by Robert Hough
- The End of The Alphabet by CS Richardson
- The Outlander by Gil Adamson
- Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall
- The Reckoning of Boston Jim by Claire Mulligan
- Coureurs De Bois
by Bruce MacDonald
- As Good As Dead
by Stan Rogal
- Woman in Bronze
by Antanas Silieka

- Fits Like A Rubber Dress by Roxanne Ward
- Flesh and Gold by Phyllis Gotlieb
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
- Home Movies by Ray Robertson
- In The Place of Last Things by Michael Helm
- The Dakest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay
- The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay
- The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
- The Love of A Good Woman by Alice Munro
- Dead Man's Float by Nicholas Maes
- Where Is The Voice Coming From? by Rudy Wiebe
- Fat Woman by Leon Rooke
- The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

The Canada Geese (12 Books)

The Snowy Owls (11 Books)

- Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather
- I Married the Klondike by Laura Beatrice Berton
- Salamander by Thomas Warton
- Mercy Among The Children by David Adams Richards
- Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
- The Story Girl by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Birds in Fall by Brad Kessler
- The White Dawn by James Houston
- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
- Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast Pillow Book by Bill Richardson
- Latitude of Melt by Joan Clark

The Green Loons (10 Books)

- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee*
- All in Together Girls by Kate Sutherland
- Lorelei by Lori Derby Bingley
- The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
- Hockey Dreams by David Adams Richards
- A Boy of Good Breeding by Miriam Toews
- The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod
- The Inuk Mountie Adventure by Eric Wilson
-Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam

- From the Notebooks of Dr. Brainby Minister Faust*
- All My Friends Are Superheroesby Andrew Kaufman*
- Flybook Action Figure Comes With Gasmask by Jim Munroe*
- The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland
- Punch Line by Joey Slinger
- At a Loss For Words by Diane Schoemperlen
- Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
- Big Man Coming Down The Road by Brad Smith
- Houdini's Shadow by Leo Brent Robillard
- The Culprits by Robert Hough

- Ecoholic by Adria Vasil*
- Kalyna's Song by Lisa Grekul*
- King John of Canadaby Scott Gardiner*
- The Little Country by Charles de Lint
- The Alberta Fact Book by Mark Zuehlke
- The Garneau Block by Todd Babiak
- Timbit Nation by John Stackhouse
- Kanada by Eve Wiseman
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
- Curling For Dummies by Bob Weeks

The Osprey (9 Books)

- Temptations of Big Bear by Rudy Wiebe*
- The National Dream by Pierre Berton
- The Birth House by Ami McKay
- The Time In Between by David Bergen
- Love: A Book of Remembrances by bpNichol
- Out of the Sea by Victor Kendall and Victor G. Kendall
- Uncommon Prayer by Susan McMaster
- One Woman's Arctic by Sheila Burnford
- Harpoon of the Hunter by Markoosie

- By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart*
- Where Nests The Water Hen by Gabrielle Roy*
- Icefields by Thomas Wharton
- Sitting in the Club Car Drinking Rum and Karma-Kola by Paulette Jiles
- Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast by Bill Richardson
- Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington
- Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
- Effigy by Allisa York

- Duty: The Life of a Cop by Julian Fantino*
- Last Resort: A Memoir by Linwood Barclay*
- Bad Move by Linwood Barclay*
- Lone Wolf by Linwood Barclay*
- Toronto: Then and Now by Mike Filey and Rosalind Tosh*
- Stone Rain by Linwood Barclay*
- Bad Guys by Linwood Barclay*
- The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani*
- Only In Canada You Say by Katherine Barber*

- Golden Fleece by Robert J. Sawyer*
- Tell Your Sister by Andrew Daley*
- The Architects Are Here by Michael Winter*
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington
- Adultery by Richard B. Wright
- The Torontonians by Phyllis Brett Young
- Lost In The Barrens by Farley Mowat
- Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing by Tomson Highway
- Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop

- Gifts and Bones by Barbara Murray*
- The Republic of Nothing by Lesley Choyce*
- Treading Water by Anne DeGrace*
- La Sagouine by Antonine Maillet
- The Island Means Minago by Milton Acorn
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
- A Hard Witching by Jacqueline Baker
- Smuggling Donkeys by David Helwig
- Covenant of Salt by Martine Desjardins

The Kingfishers (8 Books)

- After Helen by Paul Cavanagh*
- Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby*
- Spanish Fly by Will Ferguson
- Along The Shore by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin
- Rick Mercer Report: The Book by Rick Mercer
-The Hunter's Moon by Orla Melling
-Against The Odds by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Far North by Will Hobb*
- The Wild Wood by Charles de Lint
- Random Passage by Bernice Morgan
- Birds In Fall by Brad Kessler
- Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark
- The Word For Home by Joan Clark

The Polar Bears (7 Books)

Sam Lamb
- A Song For Nettie Johnson by Gloria Sawai*
- Swing Low: A Life by Miriam Toews
- October by Richard Wright*
- The Tree Tattoo by Karen Rivers
- An Audience of Chairs by Joan Clark
- Consumption by Kevin Patterson
- The Extraordinary Garden by Francois Gravel

- Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald*
- Miss Wyoming by Douglas Coupland*
- Cumberlandby Michael V. Smith*
- The Butterfly Plague by Timothy Findley
- Voyages of Hope by Peter Johnson
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Teddy Rose
- Charles the Bold: The Dog Years by Yves Beauchemin*
- The End of The Alphabet by CS Richardson
- The Time In Between by David Bergen
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
- Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa

The Loons (6 Books)

- The Canadian Settler's Guide by Catherine Parr Traill*
- Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
- Widdershins by Charles de Lint
- By The Time You Read This by Giles Blunt
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
-A Touch of Panic by L.R. Wright

- The Horseman's Graves by Jacqueline Baker*
- After River by Donna Milner
- The Outlander by Gil Adamson
- I Married The Klondike by Laura Beatrice Berton
- Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
- My Name is Bosnia by Madeleine Gagnon

- Consolation by Michael Redhill
- Rene Angelil Unauthorized Biography by Jean Beaunoyer
- Starting Out by Pierre Berton
- A Nurse's Story by Tilda Shalof
- One Red Paper Clip by Kyle MacDonald
- Miss O by Betty Oliphant

The Coats of Arms (5 Books)

Brown Paper
- The Immaculate Conception Photography Gallery by Katherine Govier*
- The Solitudes of Emperors by David Davidar
- The Assassin's Song by M. G. Vassanji
- No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
- Obasan by Joy Kogowa

- Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
- Larry's Party by Carol Shields
- Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- The Long Stretch by Linden MacIntyre

- Fall On Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald
- Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
- All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland
- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
- Scoundrels and Scallywags by Brian Brennan

- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood*
- Sitting Practice by Caroline Anderson
- Mad Shadows by Marie-Claire Blais
- The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

- The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton
- The Morningside World of Stuart McLean
- A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
- Bachelor Brothers' Bed & Breakfast by Bill Richardson
- Them Times by David Weale

- Adultery by Richard Wright*
- Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb*
- Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
- Mercy Among The Children by David Adams Richards
- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

- Still Life by Louise Penny
- Swann by Carol Shields
- Unless by Carol Shields
- The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
- The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Caribou (4 Books)

- South of an Unnamed Creek by Anne Cameron*
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington
- Atonement by Gaetan Soucy
- The Big Why by Michael Winter

- Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock
- Bloodletting and Other Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
- The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
- No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod

Geranium Cat
- Selected Tales by Ouhanderfoule Jacques Ferron
- The Honeyman Festival by Marian Engel
- A Deathful Ridge by J. A. Wainwright
- Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark

- The Birth House by Ami McKay
- The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
- Wonderful Strange by Dale Jarvis
- The Long Run by Leo Furey

The Bluenoses (3 Books)

- Dr. Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit by Robert Lecker*
- The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe*
- The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence*

- Peace Shall Destroy Many by Rudy Wiebe*
- Generica by Will Ferguson*
- Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland

- Smart-Opedia by Maple-Tree Press
- There Will Be Wolves by Karleen Bradford
- The Library Book by Maureen Saw

- Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine
- Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
- Not An Easy Choice: Re-Examining Abortion by Kathleen McDonnell

- Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
- Kanada by Eve Wiseman

The Beavers (2 Books)

- Piano Man's Daughter by Timothy Findley (No review)
- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

- Not Wanted On The Voyage by Timothy Findley
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Gautami Tripathy
- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Dahlia and Balu
- Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
-Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

The Maple Leaves (1 Book)

- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry*

-Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

-Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

(*Indicates new reviews. If this update is not accurate, please let me know in the comment section and I'll edit it.)

Now, it's prize time! This time it's Jack Booth and Patricia Storms' Fifty Little Penguins. Patricia, an illustrator out of Ontario, wrote a post about me and a little known radio show a while back. Now she's doing me another favour by donating this AUTOGRAPHED book. Want to win it for your kids? Nieces or nephews? Mechanic's kids perhaps? All you have to do is fill in the blanks, and I'll pick a winner from everyone who participates. These are all taken from new reviews, linked to above:

1. "Likewise, the descriptions of each woman's journey made it clear how difficult travel was in the late ________, particularly for poor people."

2. "The horrors of the _______ in India is definitely not a story for everyone."

3. "It was written in _______, distilling her 20 years experience of living in the backwoods - deep in the dark forests that made up most of Ontario at the time."

Email your answers to jmutford [at] hotmail [dot] com. I will pick a winner on Saturday, April 5th, 2008.