Friday, May 30, 2008

Reader's Diary #363- Andy Quan and Jim Wong Chu (Editors): Swallowing Clouds, An Anthology of Chinese-Canadian Poetry

The last time I read a cultural-based poetry anthology was Native Poetry In Canada. I had similar reactions to both: that the poetry escapes its confines. It's really interesting that while the aim of any anthology is to corral a collection based on some supposed similarity, yet the poems in these two books jumped the fence. It's not that I'm harboring any latent racism, that I'm shocked to find that not all Native Canadians or Chinese-Canadians are alike, it's that it's hard to pinpoint a commonality running through either anthology. Sure many in the Native anthology mentioned such figures as Helen Betty Osborne, and sure many in Swallowing Clouds mention Chinese cafes, but finding a single theme is impossible. In fact, the only unifying threads are declared right there in the titles. One is a book a poetry written by Native Canadians, the other is by Chinese-Canadians. But this is a good thing: no culture can, nor should they, speak with a single voice.

And because there are such differences amongst the poets themselves, the poems are often radically different as well, not just in themes, but also in structures, tones, and so forth. In "grammar poem" for instance Rita Wong presents a shape poem that could be so many things: is she using the position of the tongue's taste receptors to discuss grammar? Does it represent a gust of wind? I'm not sure, but I did appreciate her experimentation with linearity (it reminded me of Jeannette C. Armstrong's "Green" poem from Native Poetry). Another form I loved was the one found in Louise Bak's "Double-Take":

yellow earth scorched red

red sorghum dusted with blood

blood of thin white hare shot

shot by sake-gunners retching

retching over bleeding flesh

(read the rest here.)

Yet while Wong, Bak and a few others take liberties, others were more structured or at least conventional. That's not to say the rest were boring. In Kam Sein Yee's "Pierced Ears" for example, there is nothing overly adventurous going on with the form. However, I really enjoyed the story being told: of a woman remembering how lucky she was to get a chicken leg just before having her ears pierced as a young girl. As it gets increasingly more tense, the pain of an ear-piercing becomes associated with the girl's wedding night and the abusive relationship that followed for the next 40 years, Yee offers up some comic relief by saying, "she might have wanted/ to return the chicken leg."

There was also a pleasant surprise in the book in Goh Poh Seng's "Gate of Heavenly Peace." Newfoundland, where I grew up, does not have a large Chinese community, so I wasn't expecting any of these poems to be set there. The narrator and his family are spending the weekend at the cabin of some white locals as the news of the massacre at Tian An Men comes over the radio. The contrasts, and similarities, of the two cultures and peoples becomes palpable after the broadcast:

"Some bad, bye!"
Calvin said, shaking his head.
"Two thousand people killed,
three times the population of Cow Head!"

As with any anthology, some poems were better than others, but fortunately I enjoyed most. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press in 1999, the poets included within are Marisa Anlin Alps, Louise Bak, Lien Chao, Ritz Chow, Glenn Deer, Sean Gunn, Jamila Ismail, Gaik Cheng Khoo, Lydia Kwa, Larissa Lai, Laiwan, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Jen Lam, Evelyn Lau, Paul Ching Lee, Leung Ping-Kwan, Pei Hsein Lim, Andy Quan, Goh Poh Seng, Thuong Vuong-Riddick, Fred Wah, Rita Wong, Jim Wong-Chu, Kam Sein Yee, and Paul Yee.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

24 Hour Read-a-thon!

If you have a thon and wish to read it, you have 24 hours to do so!

Unfortunately, I'll be too busy with my move to Yellowknife at that point to participate. I've zipped back and forth so many times lately (and heading there again tomorrow) that my carbon footprint is almost as bad as Paul McCartney's. On that note, this message will also serve as my heads up for what might be sporadic blogging for the next little while. I'm not sure when we'll have the internet hooked up or disconnected so please bear with me.

But enough about me. The Read-a-thon will be June 28th, starting at 9 a.m. Pacific. For more details, check out hostess extraordinaire Dewey's site. This is the 2nd time she's held this event and it was an enormous hit the first time around.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Alice Munro VERSUS O. Henry

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Margaret Laurence Vs. Alice Munro), with a final score of 8-2, was Alice Munro.

Oh that was devastating. Poor Margaret Laurence. So many people gave credit to Munro for her short stories, yet Laurence's "The Loons" is one of my favourite short stories. Seems like most people debated the merits of The Stone Angel, while I hadn't even read that one. I can say however that I loved The Diviners and would probably rank A Bird In The House (featuring "The Loons") somewhere in my top ten.

But since people seem to think Munro's the better short story teller, we'll play that game.

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. (June 3rd, 2008), and please spread the word! (Please note that while the voting will end as scheduled, I will be in Yellowknife that week and so the next Wednesday Compare may or may not be delayed depending on my Internet access.)

Who's better?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reader's Diary #362- Don Freeman: Will's Quill (or How A Goose Saved Shakespeare)

The Shakespeare Challenge comes to a close at the end of June and I'm way behind. What better time to add in a picture book?

Most people know Don Freeman from the classic Corduroy. Before Corduroy was branded and lower quality books "based on the Don Freeman creation" flooded the market, Freeman was acknowledged as a great children's author and illustrator. His Fly High, Fly Low was even a Caldecott Honor Book.

Will's Quill (or How A Goose Saved Shakespeare) was given to my kids as a Christmas gift and I'll admit being a bit skeptical at first. The illustrations, while detailed and well-done, weren't overly vibrant. And the story of a goose saving Shakespeare by offering up his feathers as quills didn't seem overly exciting. Yet my kids were drawn to it.

Really, I shouldn't have been surprised. I loved Corduroy and A Pocket For Corduroy when I was a child and though we like to focus on "how the world has changed" kids today don't need stories that go 110 km/hr with puns in every other sentence, nor do their books need to resort to cheap sentimentality in order to be "nice." Freeman excelled with gentle books.

There are laughs in Will's Quill. At one point the goose Willoughby Waddle gets doused with dirty water and vegetable scrapings thrown down from a window. But perhaps the most uproarious moment comes when Willoughby misunderstands that a play is being performed and attempts to rescue Shakespeare from a duelling scene by biting his opponent on the seat of his breeches.

Willoughby Waddle has come from the country to make himself useful in the city. He soon finds out that life in Londontown is rougher and more hectic than he'd anticipated but, just as the indignities start to pile up, a kind stranger by the name of William Shakespeare offers him a hand. Determined to pay back his kindness, Willoughby searches over the city for him and finally discovers a way. On the back of the book Shakespeare is quoted as saying, "How far that little candle throws his beam/ So shines a good deed in a naughty world." A fine message that could have become the Pay It Forward of children's books, but Freeman prevents it from being overly saccharine with just the right balance of humor and plot.

And of course as an added bonus, children are introduced to Shakespeare as a historical figure. They won't walk away experts on the bard but they'll learn that he lived in Londontown and wrote well-respected plays that were performed at the Globe. This introduction is a brief one, but wrapped in a tale that kids seem to enjoy, might be remembered a little better than a book that sets out to teach his biography to kids.

(Cross posted at BiblioShakespeare)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Reader's Diary #361- Laura Bork: Mama Loved Patsy Cline

Short Story Monday

I'm not great with small talk. Correction: I don't enjoy small talk. However, if you have any interest in music, doesn't matter what genre, I'll converse with you. Not that I'm an expert, but I have enough passing knowledge of jazz, punk, hip hop, etc that I've avoided many awkward and potentially long evenings amongst people of whom I had absolutely else nothing in common, talking endlessly about music. Best hair metal ballad? I'll try Cinderella's "Heartbreak Station". Most talented offspring of Bob Marley? Let's say Damian. Ahh music. The great connector.

It's the connections, or the search for them, which makes Laura Bork's "Mama Loved Patsy Cline" such a great story. Margaret, the narrating protagonist, is visiting her home to retrieve her deceased father's cello, having taken her friend, and desired partner, Rhoda home with her.

There are many obvious missed connections in the story. Margaret wants to be with Rhoda, while Rhoda just wants to be friends. Margaret seems somewhat ashamed of her mother, sister and home. Margaret's mother was a fan of Patsy Cline, while her father was into Debussy. It's the seeming lack of compatibility that gives the story its tense atmosphere and subtle plot.

Such a story could be perceived as depressing. I don't think I'm giving anything away with this but the last sentence even ends with, "...the distance between us quickening as we drove away."
Certainly doesn't appear to end on an uplifting note.

I have read plenty of stories and novels that I've enjoyed yet consider them to be downers. And it rarely fails that if I ask around enough, some other reader has found it "strangely uplifting." One of the Canada Reads panelists a few years back tried to make the case that there was hope in Anosh Irani's The Song of Kahunsha. I guess everyone perceives things differently, but in that case I couldn't help but feel that too often we want hope, or at least a positive message, so badly that we invent one. And yet here I am looking for redemption in Bork's story.

To me, the contrast between Margaret and Rhoda is at the crucial point of the story. Whereas Margaret seems to dwell on the differences between herself and others, Rhoda seems to fixate on whatever similarities she can find. Despite their failed relationship as girlfriends, it is Rhoda that gives the story has an ounce of hope. One hopes that Margaret will learn her way of looking at the world.

Yes, mama loved Patsy Cline and papa loved Debussy, but they lived together for thirty-five years. They both loved music after all.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reader's Diary #360- Louisa May Alcott: A Long Fatal Love Chase (FINISHED!)

I read this one for the Obscure Challenge. When it first appeared in print in 1995, it made a bit of a splash, even becoming a bestseller. Undoubtedly this was due to longtime fans of Alcott wanting to read the manuscript that had remained unpublished all these years. Alcott, of course, is best known for Little Women, and to a lesser extent Little Men and Jo's Boys. After reading A Long Fatal Love Chase, I'm pretty confident that the aforementioned books will remain the highlights of Alcott's legacy, and the latter will slip back into obscurity where it belongs; a footnote to her career.

Last August I posted 20 glaring omissions in my "have read" list. Since then I've knocked a few off that list (To Kill A Mockingbird, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Lolita, and Pride and Prejudice). And while I hope to someday get to the others, Little Women might remain unread. I saw the Winona Ryder movie version, and while I know you can't judge a book by its movie, I was so incredibly bored by it that I find it hard to face the book at all. I thought that at least I could knock Alcott from my list by reading A Long Fatal Love Chase.

What's surprising is that while I thought A Long Fatal Love Chase had more than its share of problems, being boring is surely not one of them. I'll admit, I read a few reviews of this before attempting it and I knew its reputation for being overly sensational. Still, when it opened with Rosamond declaring that she'd "gladly sell [her] soul to Satan for a year of freedom" and suddenly a stranger resembling Mephistopheles showed up, I was pleased. A bit over the top, I thought, but at least it wasn't dull. I was ready to be entertained, who cared what the critics said.

Oh but they were right.

As the story progressed, the stranger Tempest, conned Rosamind into believing they were married. When she finds out the truth, that the ceremony was a sham and that he is married already to another woman, Rosamind bolts and thus begins the long stupid love chase across Europe. I'm not averse to a stalking story. It could be written well, and as many have pointed out, seems to be a modern theme (though I'm sure stalking itself isn't a new phenomenon).

No, stalking isn't the problem, it's the melodrama, cheese, and artificiality of the writing. One of my major problems with Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code was his insistence of ending every chapter with a cliffhanger. At least he had the good sense not to also rely on exclamation points. This from the end of Chapter Six in Alcott's novel:
"With a sigh of relief she rose to her knees and was about to seat herself for an instant on a low mound behind her when, as the moon shone full through the swaying branches, she saw with a cry of terror that the mound was like a new-made grave!"
I'm not opposed to exclamation points per se, but Alcott threw them in for dramatic effect the way lame sitcoms add laughtracks for comedic effect.

Furthermore, it was hard to get a sense of any chase when Tempest had the uncanny ability to pop out of anywhere. At one point Rosamind has gone into a confessional, and who should be on the other side but Tempest. It seemed as if he was never more than ten feet away, but instead of adding tension, it just came across as silly when he'd pop out of nowhere like a whack-a-mole.

My last major beef with the book was the way characters explained their actions in vivid detail. It just didn't ring true when characters would rattle on filling in missing pieces of the plot.
"This last plot was Baptiste's; I knew nothing of it till he telegraphed to me to come on at once as you were ill but would not yield and purchase freedom at the price I set. I hurried away at once to find you gone, but Baptiste told me his plan and I was forced to be satisfied. He said your entreaties would have won him but for his vow to me. Wishing to serve us both, he permitted you to escape but sent a spy after you and followed by rail in time to be prepared for you here. He chanced to have a note sent..."
And this goes on and on.

But I shan't. A Long Fatal Chase was surprisingly entertaining, but ultimately a silly book.

The Soundtrack:
1. Two Steps Behind- Def Leppard
2. Remember You're Mine- Pat Boone
3. Escape- Enrique Iglesias
4. You Belong To Me- Dean Martin
5. Never Let You Go- Third Eye Blind

(Yes, I'm quite aware that there are much better stalking songs out there. But before anyone points me in the direction of The Police, Blondie, et al, I wanted a soundtrack as lame as the novel.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, Eh?

Starting July 1st, 2008 and running to July 1st, 2009, I challenge you to read (and write about) 13 Canadian books (by Canadians and/or about Canadians).

The first Canadian Book Challenge was a huge success, and hopefully the 2nd will prove to be even more fun. If you haven't already, sign up now. Sign up any time within the year as long as you think you can finish.

Unsure what books to read? I've compiled a huge, but by no means complete, list here. These of course are simply suggestions, perhaps you've got an entirely different 13 in mind.

What do I mean by writing about the books you read? I want a 30-essay on my desk the next morning, with footnotes and... just kidding. All I request is a few lines about each book. Call it a review, call it a blurb, call it whatever you want--just post your thoughts somewhere online. I'll again be doing monthly updates charting each participants progress to the 13 goal, and linking to your thoughts. Last time around it was fascinating to see what books other people chose and to read all the differing opinions. The most common way of posting thoughts about finished books is through a blog. However, for those of you without blogs and no intention of starting one, there are loads of other options. BookCrossing allows its members to write a piece about the books on their shelves. Both Chapters and Amazon allows people to post reviews. And if all else fails, email me with your reviews and I can post them here. To help me keep track a little easier, when you finish a book, please email me with the number completed so far and a link to your latest review. jmutford (at) hotmail (dot) com

Last time the most popular method of completing the challenge was to pick a book from each province and territory (hence 13 books). That's fine, and it's the way I plan on completing it again, but it's not the only way. Here's a list of ways to theme your books:

1. From Sea To Sea To Sea- Books from each province and territory

2. The Prize Pack- Books that have won awards (Gillers, Governor General, Stephen Leacock, etc)

3. New Canadians- Many of our best authors weren't born here (Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje, etc). Why not celebrate with 13 books they've added to the great Canadian library?

4. The Lesser Knowns- Want to introduce people to authors who haven't gotten the recognition they deserve? This approach would aim to pick 13 books published by small firms or even self-published.

5. Missed Books- Check out the list of books read for the 1st edition of this Challenge. Try to pick 13 books that no one read the first time around.

6. The Double Double- Pick 13 books that also fit the criteria for another book Challenge that you've signed up for.

7. The McClung- How about 13 Canadian books written by women?

8. The Individuals- Many of our authors have been quite prolific, having written 13 or more books. Want to devote the challenge entirely to Lucy Maud Montgomery? Margaret Atwood? Robert Munsch? It's 13 books by a single author.

9. The Provincial/Territorial- Host a sub-challenge if you like! 13 Albertan books, for example, would still fit the mandate for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.

10. The Genres- 13 poetry books? 13 picture books? Non-fiction? Sci-fi? If you can find 13 books and define a genre, you can do this approach.

11. Publishers Choice- Pick 13 books all by a single publisher.

12. Titles- 13 books with Canada (or some version of) in the title (ex. Eve Wiseman's Kanada, Will Ferguson's Why I Hate Canadians, or Douglas Coupland's Souvenir of Canada)

13. The Free Spirit- Just pick 13 Canadian books and have fun!

Perhaps you can think of another approach. I hope I've made it clear that I'm not picky!

This time around, I've decided not to give away any prizes. Let the literature be its own reward.

Nuts to that! Here be the goodies...
1. Ashes on Ice by Georges Lafontaine

2. the rossiter file by Thomas Rendell Curran

3. The March Hare Anthology edited by Adrian Fowler and featuring works by Wayne Johnston, Bernice Morgan, Joan Clarke, Michael Winter and many more.

4. Ghosts, Heroes and Oddities by Jack Fitzgerald

5. Newfoundland Portfolio: A History in Portraits by J. M. Sullivan

Lobster Press Prize Pack

1. Tin Angel by Shannon Cowan

2. The Secret of Grim Hill by Linda DeMeulemeester

3. The Uncle Duncle Chronicles: Escape From Treasure Island by Darren Krill

4. The Hockey Card by Jack Siemiatycki, Avi Slodovnick and illustrated by Doris Barrette

5. When Pigs Fly by Valerie Couman and illustrated by Rogé

1. The Luck of Ginger Coffey by Brian Moore

2. The Clockmaker by Thomas Chandler Haliburton

3. Such Is My Beloved by Morley Callaghan

1. Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess

2. To Be Continued...Volume 1 by Gordon j. h. Leenders

3. Joyland by Emily Schultz and illustrated by Nate Powell


A touque (or tuque or toque-- I'm not sure how you spell it but it rhymes with "Luke") designed and handknit by 1st Canadian Book Challenge participant Sam Lamb.

And maple syrup!

As well, there'll be monthly prizes available at each monthly update. Stay tuned for those.

These are the folks on board so far:

Reader Rabbit
Mrs. Peachtree
Geranium Cat
Mary Ellen
Traveler One
Bride of the Book God
Sam Lamb
L. Hill
Literary Mom
Paul P
Debbie S

If you're not on the list and you want to be, leave a comment below. As well, everyone above is welcome to send me their email addresses (if you haven't already) to be put on a mailing list for updates related to the Challenge (see my email address above). It's entirely optional.

If any author or publishers out there wish to donate books for monthly updates, again contact me via email and we can work out the details.
Come July 1st it's time to celebrate, promote and explore Canadian books!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Margaret Laurence VERSUS Alice Munro

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Charlotte Brontë Vs. Margaret Laurence), with a final score of 9-6, was Margaret Laurence.

As I suspected, the voting for last week seemed to be based primarily on which side of the border one lived. There were some exceptions of course, and as Ripley said, it wasn't all homegrown pride that was coming into play. Most non-Canadians seem not to have any familiarity with Laurence while everyone has at least heard of the Brontës. I'm still deciding which Brontë I'll start with.

I hope having another Canadian contestant this week doesn't completely alienate my other readers, but I couldn't resist this one. For such a long time now, I've considered Atwood, Laurence, Shields and Munro the four queens of CanLit-- based more on popularity and their prolific careers than anything personal. Atwood, Shields and Laurence have all had their turns at the Wednesday Compares, I figured I might as well round out the lot.

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 27, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

And for an additional bit of fun, assuming Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, Carol Shields, and Alice Munro are the four queens of CanLit, what would their respective roles be in a deck of cards? Would one of the Margarets be the Queen of Hearts? Who would be the Queen of Spades? I'd love to hear your casting call and why!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Reader's Diary #359- Katherine Anne Porter: The Jilting of Granny Weatherall

Short Story Monday

A couple weeks ago I posted a link to a Sporcle game that asked how many Pulitzer Prize winning books I could name. I also posted my abysmal score (10/55). Making matters worse, when you all posted your scores, it turned out I was lowest in the class! Well, if I were to take that test again today, I'd get 11.

One of those 55 books, one of the ones I missed, was a collection of short stories by Katherine Anne Porter. So, after a little bit of searching, I found one of her stories online, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall."

Before you rush off to read it, assuming you haven't already, be forewarned that it's about death and might be a little depressing. Recently I reread a meme that I'd done a year ago which asked me to name 8 random facts about myself. My second fact was this:
I'm 30 years old and since I've been born, I've never had anyone in my family die. Not a grandparent, an uncle, aunt, cousin, no one. Might sound like a morbid thing to throw out there, but it sits in my mind more and more. I wonder if I'll deal with it okay. It will happen someday of course and it scares me a lot. It's starting to feel like we're defeating the law of averages. And I hope this doesn't jinx us all.
While I don't really believe I cursed the family, since then there have been two deaths in my family. One of my grandmothers died shortly afterwards and just two weeks ago my aunt died from leukemia. To answer the question I posed last May, I have coped fine. It hasn't helped keep death from my mind obviously, and now it's hard not to imagine my own inevitable moment and wonder how I'll cope with that.

Katherine Anne Porter's "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" puts us in the mind of someone on her own deathbed: we are thinking our final thoughts via Granny Weatherall, an eighty year old whose lived perhaps a typical life, despite having been left at the altar years ago.

Told as a stream-of-consciousness, I think I'm finally able to pinpoint what my reservations are with that style. Other stream-of-consciousness works that I've read (Faulkner jumps to mind), have been more like wild rivers, ones that jump the bank and flood the whole forest floor. Realistic a representation as they might be, I find them next to impossible to follow. Porter's, fortunately, is more stream-like. It's easier to follow and I can see how one thought leads to the next. Even when Granny begins to lose her lucidity (she imagines her pillow rising and floating beneath her), Porter still controls the story and keeps it readable.

There are a lot of cliches in "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall": the cranky old woman, the patronizing doctor, even the final death scene. But, since we all die in the end, we're all cliched. While fortunately (or unfortunately for some, I guess) not many of us have been abandoned on our wedding days, that we have had pain in our life is a given. Granny tries to convince herself that things have worked out for the best, and to make peace with her life that was. Hopefully, we'll be more successful than her.

("The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" was also a made-for-t.v. movie in 1980.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reader's Diary #358- Paul B. Janeczko (Editor) and Chris Raschka (Illustrator): A Kick In The Head

I was about to review A Kick In The Head by Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Then I Googled it and found it's already been done for Poetry Friday many, many times. I hope it suffices to say that I loved it. Recently I lamented not buying my own copy of In Fine Form, an anthology of Canadian form poetry. A Kick In The Head, though aimed at children, will help tide me over. I hope these links to other reviews, re-written in some of the forms found in Janeczko's book, will help tide you over.

Found Poem
from Susan's comments left at Chicken Spaghetti

I did not like Janeczko'sA Kick In The Head
very much. I know. I'm one of the few.
It struck me
as a book for an adult writing group,
not a book for kids.

from Fusenumber 8

Here lies Fusenumber 8--
She discovered the book,
but was it really too late?

Riddle Poem
from Charlotte's Library

Enthusing about this book is fine
Since she has none of these--
Should she take you out to dinner
ask her to make some please.

from Blog From The Windowsill

strange depictions of people--
Not quite perfection.

from Miss Rumphius


from Kelly Fineman

Praise for an excellent collaboration
Leads to Janeczko celebration.

You may have noticed that I picked short forms. In the book you will find longer forms like pantoums, villanelles, sonnets and more. For better poems than the ones I posted here, check out the book. You'll find classics by Shakespeare, Robert W. Service, and others, as well as more contemporary works by such poets as Joan Bransfield Graham and Gary Soto. For better reviews, check out the links above.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Read The #@%&*! Instructions

As a follow-up to last week's question about writing manuals, this week's BTT Question is about manuals in general:

Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?

Do you ever read manuals?

How-to books?

Self-help guides?

Anything at all?

It'll be interesting to see if there's a correlation with participant answers from last week to this week.

For myself, I now read the supporting documentation with those complicated gadgets. Especially the ones we need to put together. After an incident with a vacuum cleaner and a runaway base that kept blowing dust up into the air while I chased it with the bag/handle, my wife decided for me that the instructions weren't "merely suggestions."

Other than that, I'm not big on the "how-to" books. I remember getting an "Idiot's Guide To Being A Groom" as a present when I first announced to my family that I was engaged. The only thing I remember from it was a suggestion to watch The Godfather to relax on the day of my wedding. I didn't do either.

Oh wait, do cookbooks count? Doesn't get more "How To" than that. I do use those on occasion.

Self-help guides? Not so much. I don't trust advice from someone that doesn't know me or my circumstances. Not to say readers can't adapt what's applicable and what's not, but they're just not for me.

And I'm not sure where travel books fit in, but I have bought a few of those over the years as well. My most recent one was a guide to family vacations. Can't wait to try some of those out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Charlotte Brontë VERSUS Margaret Laurence

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Charlotte Brontë Vs. Emily Brontë Vs. Anne Brontë), was Charlotte Brontë with 9 votes. Anne brought in 6, Emily had none.

If I surprised anyone with a three way contest, I was surprised in return with the results-- not so much that Charlotte won, but that the race ended up between her and Anne. Emily had 0 votes! Until doing this match, I hadn't even heard of Agnes Grey or the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. But who hasn't heard of Wuthering Heights? Though judging by some of the comments from last week, hearing of a book doesn't necessarily mean it's good. Though, as I said last week, I haven't read any of these authors. Now I'm as confused as ever as to which one to start with.

I suspect this week will divide voters between Canadian or other. Admittedly, it's a bit of a survey on my part to see who's heard of this week's contender outside of the Canadian border.

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 20, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reader's Diary #357- Arthur Motyer: What's Remembered (FINISHED!!)

A while ago, Pooker won a Canadian Book Challenge prize but wanted to send me some books in return. While I insisted that it wasn't necessary, I also said that if she must, to please send me something from the Northwest Territories or New Brunswick (I was having trouble finding books to represent these two areas for the challenge). Being a kind and generous BookCrossing sort, she sent me something from both: Elizabeth Hay's Late Nights On Air for the NWT and Arthur Motyer's What's Remembered for NB (Motyer was born in Bermuda but now resides in Sackville). It's a good thing that I liked Hay's book, because the following rant might otherwise seem ungrateful.

What's Remembered is told as half of a conversation between Peter and a painter named Chris whom he'd just met a few hours earlier. Initially the concept of hearing just one voice intrigued me, and I settled in to hear Peter's life story. Before long however, the folly of the idea was apparent: as an entire novel, it becomes just another first person narrative. That it was meant to be told to someone else was quickly forgotten, and a few reminders here and there ("In those first years, you would have been growing up in the Okanagan Valley...") only proved that it wasn't working. Furthermore, it bred some sort of contempt in me, like Peter was monopolizing the conversation and I just wanted him to shut up!

With such harsh feelings instilled, it's no wonder then that the whole book began to grate on my nerves. It took me about 100 pages before I realized the term I was looking for was "self-indulgent." Ignoring the hypocrisy of a blogger calling anything self-indulgent, Motyer's book seemed little more than an excuse to work out his own issues. There was hardly any plot whatsoever, he complained of people being pretentious while he continued to make references to Caravaggio and tries to make relevant an incident involving the poet Shelley and a baby, threw in textbook facts about gay discrimination seemingly to prove he'd done a little research, and transported the story back and forth between Canada and England so many times that I sometimes forgot where he was, and oh my lord was it boring!

At least he had the decency to put some symbolism in there, to give us something to think about. For instance, in this scene Peter remembers the time he almost told his father he was a homosexual...

"Don't tell me."
That's all. Just that.
"Don't tell me."
And he moved to pick up an apple that had fallen nearby.
"Look!" he said, holding it out, "there's a worm in it."

To put this in context, Peter's father is an ex-minister who'd renounced his faith earlier on.

Now, finally, Motyer's book is proving its worth, giving us readers something to ponder over long after the fact. Oh wait. No, I got it. It's an allusion to Genesis. And that took... 20, 25 seconds. Yep, the book sucks again.

The Soundtrack:
1. Recitar!... Vesti la Giubba- Luciano Pavarotti
2. Blow The Wind Southerly- Kathleen Ferrier
3. Maple Leaf Rag- Scott Joplin
4. Want- Rufus Wainwright
5. Pretty Vacant- The Sex Pistols

(On a brighter note, I've now completed my 13th book for the Canadian Book Challenge!)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bookworms Carnival

Do you love the urban/contemporary fantasy? Are you urban/contemporary fantasy curious? Check out this month's Bookworms Carnival over at Scooter Chronicles.

I'm pretty ignorant about this genre, but I did manage to scrounge up a submission.

Reader's Diary #356- J. J. Steinfeld: In The Opposite Direction

Short Story Monday

Describing J. J. Steinfeld's "In The Opposite Direction" as meta-fiction or at least a metaphor for writing would be a guess on my part. But after a couple read- throughs, it's the best I can come up with.

This is the story of a man with apparent symptoms of a mental illness; it opens with a man named Corey walking down the street reflecting on how to get his life in order. When he remembers the morning his girlfriend walked out on him, the unease I felt as a reader began to creep in. The memories of scrambled eggs, hash browns, burnt toast-- were these details so significant because of the emotional blow associated with them? Or is it an obsession?

By the time he gets lost in the word stick ("stick around...stick-with-it-ness...stick in the mud...) and shoots a mannequin through a store window, any doubts that Corey might not be okay are quickly blown away.

Increasingly, more of Corey's issues come to light and a major obsession seemed to be with the abstract; perhaps most importantly, with words. I've come across a few books now with authors as characters and each time it's hard not to think of how the other author-- the author of the book or story-- must relate. But there seems to be something more going on "In The Opposite Direction" than simply writing "what one knows."

Getting back to the theory that the piece was meant to be a metaphor for writing. Perhaps the abstract ideas somehow represent early ideas that set a story in motion: vague ideas that need physical details to ground and arrange them into the story. Or could it be the other way around? Is it about finding the meaning in the otherwise trivial details and drawing a story from that?

It's the title that suggests to me that something else is going on. Perhaps the opposite direction in question is Steinfeld's suggestion that a writer is a potential madman who's learned to channel his obsessions into art. Corey, then, is the anti-writer, and this is Steinfeld's way of showing the fine line that separates.

It's quite a thought-provoking piece and I'd love to hear yours!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I only got 10/55. How many can you get?

My Mom Is A Googled Poem

My mom is in heaven
My mom is amazing
My mom is my blog's only reader

My mom is nuts
My mom is really cool
My mom is going to freak

My mom is working in the federal agency
My mom is letting me get another pet
My mom is a dragon

My mom is crazy
My mom is a teacher
My mom is hot.

(I Googled "My Mom Is" and these are the results. I didn't know how to end it, but the next line would have been "My mom is really sick." I didn't want to add that in, so I stopped at "My mom is hot" which I almost took out as well--for obvious reasons-- but what the heck, I'll leave it in. You're welcome, moms. Happy Mother's Day!)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Elizabeth Hay Blog Tour

The third stop on Elizabeth Hay's blog tour is here, at Pickle Me This.

Me Like Grammar

Today's BTT question...

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

The only grammar book I've read, outside of university text books, was Lynn Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves. I haven't had a chance to check out the other BTT responses yet, but I'm assuming her name will pop up a lot. I don't keep much of a library but I would like to have a copy of that one to keep. She's also written a few grammar books for children.

As for dictionaries, I do keep one near the bed to check up unfamiliar words, though if I'm around the computer I prefer to use Google "define:" as it usually comes up with a few variations and I get a better feeling for connotations. I also have a rhyming dictionary. I don't, however, have a thesaurus but I really need one. Right now I rely on Microsoft Word's thesaurus, but it's very bad poor lame unsatisfactory.

The only "How to" book I have is Fred Sedgwick's How To Write Poetry. It hasn't proven itself to be all that useful. I wish I'd kept a copy of the poetry anthology In Fine Form, edited by Kate Braid and Sandy Shreve. It had great descriptions of various forms as well as excellent examples. As an amateur poet, it would have been a great resource to hang onto.

And The Winner Is...

Jen, the Canuck Librarian!

Congratulations to Jen for winning an autographed copy of Cheryl Kaye Tardif's Whale Song!

Jen correctly identified the lost in translation pieces from the 7th update quiz as follows:

1. Jen's review of Late Nights On Air
2. Cheryl's review of Resistance
3. Court's review of After Many Days

Thanks again to Cheryl for donating the book and to all those who participated.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Charlotte Brontë VERSUS Emily Brontë VERSUS Anne Brontë (The Brontë Brawl)

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Emily Dickinson Vs. Charlotte Brontë), with a final score of 12-3, was Charlotte Brontë.

I guess Dickinson heard the fly buzzing again. No surprise. While a few poets-- Dickinson included-- have won past Wednesday Compares, poets don't seem to fare well against the novelists. If I had to chose to read either poetry or novels for the rest of my life, I'd pick poetry easily. But I understand I'm in the minority on that one, and I respect that poetry doesn't appeal to everyone.

Moving on to several first: This is the first time I've had siblings go head to head and the first time I've had a three way challenge. That another Brontë would be competing this week was probably obvious, but I'm hoping having all three sisters competing will catch a few people off guard (though I doubt I'm the first to pose this question)...

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 13, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Reader's Diary #355- Honoré de Balzac: Bertha the Penitent

Short Story Monday

When he wasn't too busy posing for GQ, apparently Balzac also wrote a few stories.

One of those, Bertha the Penitent, is my first exposure to the guy and it's left me perplexed. Granted at 19 pages I've only given the story a once through at this point, so anything I say at this point can be taken with that grain of salt.

It begins with a pretty chauvinistic view of women and ends with a moral that we husbands should respect our wives' infidelities. Oh, and we shouldn't murder their kids just because we may not be the real fathers. I'll wait until you write down that sage advice.

Very bizarre. Satirical, you might be saying? One would hope, but to be honest the story comes across as more than a bit nutty, so I'm not sure what the intent was.

This is the story of Sire Imbert de Bastarnay who, at fifty, decides to take a teenage wife named Bertha. Not that he fell in love, no, he simply wanted to pass down his genes. Afterall, women are apparently on Earth to have babies, and also, hopes the narrator, to clean up those slovenly men and make them more presentable to society.

Before long an effeminate-looking man named Jehan pretends to be Bertha's cousin Sylvia, and later the two engage in what to Bertha would have to consider an incestuous lesbian tryst (!). Bertha faints from all her bliss, at which point Jehan impregnates her. (Hey, I said it was bizarre, I didn't say boring.)

Shocked to realize the truth of the matter, Bertha convinces Jehan to join a monastery, promising him annual visits to her and their child.

The story progresses from there as everyone tries to repent to one another and to God.

Balzac's so-called realism doesn't add any normality to the story. At one moment he talks in a scientific detached tone "...the perfect heedlessness in the matter of death was in accordance with the nonchalance..."; and then in others he throws himself in the story, becoming an overbearing narrator, someone trying too hard to be your buddy, "I love the ladies above all things" (and if that doesn't make you cringe, look at his photo again and pretend he's talking to you).

What a remarkably odd story.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Reader's Diary #354- Stompin' Tom and Brenda Jones (Illustrator): Hockey Night Tonight

When I first came up with a list of suggestions for The Canadian Book Challenge, I added a few children's picture book titles. Yet almost hypocritically, I was reluctant to pick one myself. With such short books, it sort of feels like cheating to meet my 13 quota. But when Sam Lamb recently admitted to feeling the same way when she reviewed Ted Harrison's Children of the Yukon for said challenge, it didn't come across that way. I value children's lit just as much as any other, so it's time I represented (yo).

So my P.E.I. book is Stompin' Tom's Hockey Night Tonight: The Hockey Song, illustrated by Brenda Jones. Most Canadians know this as one of Stompin' Tom's biggest hits (available here through iTunes), and can probably even sing along with that overly complicated chorus... "Oh, the good old hockey game/ Is the best game you name/ And the best game you can name/ Is the good old hockey game."

Reading The Hockey Song, it seems like an obvious idea; that Stompin' Tom lyrics were tailor made for children's books: simple rhythm and rhymes, fun, and in terms of Canadiana, educational. The only other Stompin' Tom song that I know of to be turned into a book is Bud the Spud, also published by Nimbus. (Come on, where's Margo's Got The Cargo?)

My son wasn't instantly attracted to books as was his older sister. For a few months books were primarily thought of a teething aids. Then we discovered that he loved singing books, i.e., songs put into text. So The Mummer Song, Do Your Ears Hang Low?, The Ants Go Marching, and others quickly became part of our bedtime routine concert. But, perhaps the most successful of all was The Hockey Song. He has a thing for sports as well, so there was a double attraction.

Brenda Jones, another islander, did a fine job with the illustrations. Rich, cartoony, and full of little details not part of the main story, it reminds me of long-time Robert Munsch collaborator Michael Martchenko, though without as many interesting angles and an absence of pterodactyls.

In the sub-plot of Jones's illustrations, a family sits down to watch a Stanley Cup play-off game on t.v. but it is clear that the father and daughter are rooting for opposing teams. Throughout it all, she does a great job capturing the nostalgic quality of the song. The sportscaster is most definitely based on the legendary Foster Hewitt and she's chosen the old Montreal-Toronto rivalry (when was the last time that was relevant?).

This morning my son has already had me read six books to him. And though we've moved beyond just songbooks, I thank Stompin' Tom and Brenda Jones for helping instill his love for the written word.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Reader's Diary #353- William Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing (FINISHED)

Of all the movie genres, I probably dislike romantic comedies the most. It's not a guy thing; I'm not opposed to love stories. However, romantic comedies tend to have an unbelievable love story and typically aren't funny. Yes, I can think of a few exceptions, but even those can't convince me to even consider going to see Made of Honor and the like.

Much Ado About Nothing was almost doomed from the get-go. And before you Shakespeare goons start with the "the man was a genius" argument, I'll quickly point out the mistaken identities, the eavesdropping, and the faked death near the end of this play. I hate to always come back to Three's Company when I refer to ridiculous situations, but again, it felt like such an episode.

But since I actually enjoyed Three's Company, I questioned why Much Ado About Nothing wasn't doing it for me. Was it too over the top? Perhaps. But then his tragedies are pretty over the top, and I like those. When half a cast is wiped out with brutal murders and suicides, it's really no more authentic than Don Pedro dressing up at a masquerade ball, pretending to be Claudio, and wooing Hero on his behalf.

Eventually I came around on it a little. It was a farce. It was entertaining. The love-hate chemistry of Benedick and Beatrice was good for a few witty chuckles. However, it still felt like Shakespeare just didn't seem to put the same care into this one. Most of the characters (except for the aforementioned Beatrice and Benedick) were flat and unconvincing. Hardly any time was spent on their motivations and some of the cast, such as Don Pedro and Claudio, seemed virtually indistinguishable from one another. Contrast this to the soul searching Hamlet or the guilt-ridden Macbeth. Or perhaps I just need a bit of blood-- maybe it is a guy thing after all.

The Soundtrack:
1. (You're The Devil) In Disguise- Elvis Presley
2. Jigs: Eavesdropper's/Both Meat and Drink/Off We Go- Great Big Sea
3. Your Cheatin' Heart- Hank Williams
4. I Hope I Don't Fall In Love With You- Tom Waits
5. It All Turns To Gold- Popa Chubby

Cross-posted at BiblioShakespeare.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Elizabeth Hay Blog Tour

Here's Elizabeth Hay, author of Late Nights On Air (please click link), on the second stop of her blog tour...

May 2/08. Whitehorse, Yukon.

Ensconced in the Baked Café on Main Street. Excellent coffee and scones, my favourite being their cranberry-coconut. This is a lively café, almost too warm, with big windows that
overlook the incredibly wide streets of Whitehorse. Yesterday we walked on top of the fragile, crumbling bluffs that give a view of the city, strangely new-looking for a town that’s over a
hundred years old. Underfoot dry, sparse vegetation of moss, heather, the occasional crocus. Down below, the townsite next to the winding Yukon River. In the distance, snowy

Wednesday night, as part of the Yukon Writers’ Festival, six of us did a reading in the fossil museum on the outskirts of town. One of the most entertaining literary evenings I’ve ever
been part of. Ivan Coyote led off with a spellbinding story about her father giving up drink; Kevin Chong obsessed about Neil Young; Jon Turk took his broken pelvis to a shaman in
Siberia; Robert Priest in a migraine-haze performed the most playful poems; Jerome Stueart moved us into science fiction; I brought us back north with something from the canoe trip in
Late Nights on Air.

Last night I did a reading in Tagish, an hour’s drive from here. More talk than reading. It was in the little library, smaller than the thrift store in the next room, both of them under the
roof of the community centre. I love these out-of-the-way events. They take me back to my small-town childhood and I feel comfortable with the scale of things. Yesterday I also signed
books in Mac’s Fireweed Bookstore in Whitehorse, where the manager told me spiritual books are in highest demand. Summer tourism isn’t yet underway, but once it is Germans will
arrive in great numbers on the weekly charter that flies directly between Whitehorse and Frankfurt. They come with their passion for the wilderness and the writer Jack London.

Driving back from Tagish last night, we were in beautiful, beautiful country – open rivers, half-frozen lakes, mountains in the near distance. As we crossed the bridge over the Tagish
River, a bald eagle flew over the car.

Tomorrow we go to Haines Junction. Next week we’ll be in Mayo, Dawson, Carmacks and Teslin. Leading the way in every instance is Lori Schroeder, the public librarian in Whitehorse
and the wonderful brains behind this whole operation. She keeps her head warm under a Norwegian knitted hat with long earlugs that reminds me of the wigs judges used to wear in

--Elizabeth Hay
The first stop on her blog tour was at Metro Mama's. Check it out!

Writer's Diary #47- Wise Appliance (a found poem)

Wise Appliance (a found poem)
loads will take
more time
to dry.

loads into

--John Mutford

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Elizabeth Hay Blog Tour

On her first stop Elizabeth Hay visits Metro Mama...

The Canadian Book Challenge- 7th Update

After this, there's only one more update to go, and then it's the finale! Bet you can taste the KD already.

Congrats to Lisa, the latest Canadian Book Challenge to finish all 13 books! Lisa began the challenge as a competition with her friends Jay and Melissa, but quickly left them eating her dust. She joins fellow grosbeaks Leo, Nicola, Steve and August, with a few more participants waiting in the wings.

Here are the standings so far:

The Grosbeaks (13 Books)

- Village of the Small Houses by Ian Ferguson*
- The Book of Stanley by Todd Babiak*
- What Canadians Think by Darrell Bricker and John Wright*
- 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

- 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)

- From The Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant*
- Hair Hat by Carrie Snyder*
- A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin*
- 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

- A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay*
- 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 Snowy Owls (11 Books)

- Big Rig by Don McTavish*
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay*
- 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

- No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay*
- Big City Bad Blood by Sean Chercover*
- 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

- Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark*
- 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

The Green Loons (10 Books)

- After Many Days by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Little (Grrl) Lost by Charles De Lint*
- 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

- Reflections On A Mountain Summer by Joanna M. Glass*
- 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

- 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

The Osprey (9 Books)

- My Times by Pierre Berton*
- The Hydrofoil Mystery by Eric Walters*
- Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson*
- 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

Sam Lamb
- The Perfection of the Morning by Sharon Butala*
- Children Of The Yukon by Ted Harrison*
- 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

- The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston*
- 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

- 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

The Kingfishers (8 Books)

- Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel*
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- The Ruby Kingdom by Patricia Bow*
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay*
- 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

- Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Consolation by Michael Redhill*
- 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

The Polar Bears (7 Books)

- The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway*
- Kanada by Eve Wiseman*
- 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

- Best Tales Of The Yukon by Robert W. Service*
- Unsettled by Zachariah Wells*
- Race Against Time by Stephen Lewis*
- The Time In Between by David Bergen*
- Peace Shall Destroy Many by Rudy Wiebe
- Generica by Will Ferguson
- Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland

- 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)

- Sign of the Cross by Anne Emery*
- Icefields by Thomas Wharton*
- South of an Unnamed Creek by Anne Cameron
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington
- Atonement by Gaetan Soucy
- The Big Why by Michael Winter

Brown Paper
- At The Altar by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- 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

- 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 Coats of Arms (5 Books)

- 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

- 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)

- Resistance by Daniel Kalla*
- Every Fear by Rick Mofina*
- A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle*
- Sacrifice by Kelly Komm*

- Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson*
- Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine
- Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
- Not An Easy Choice: Re-Examining Abortion by Kathleen McDonnell

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

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

- 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, once again, it's prize time! This time it's an autographed copy of Whale Song, written by best-selling author and Canadian Book Challenge participant, Cheryl Kaye Tardiff. Published by Kunati, Booklist calls Whale Song, "Moving... sweet and sad."

"Thirteen years ago, Sarah Richardson’s life was shattered after the tragic assisted suicide of her mother. The shocking tragedy left a grief-stricken teen-aged Sarah with partial amnesia."

Also check out Divine Intervention and The River, also by Tardif.

To win Whale Song, it's time to untranslate. I used Altavista's BabelFish to translate passages from reviews above into French, then back into English again. All you have to tell me is who wrote the following lines, before they were mangled in translation...

1. Took to me for always reading this book. I did not appreciate first half of the whole and was going to give to the top when a colleague said to me that the second half is much different and I could motionless appreciate it, thus I stuck with it. That the same colleague also said did not like this book as much as other novels of the author.

2. This realistic novel shockingly explores what could occur if new "a superbug" mortal were released on a world entrusting and was completely resistant to all known antibiotics.

3. For the majority, this collection of short stories included stories where the protagonists met important somebody in some their lives after a long separation - if because of an enmity of family, the in love ones dispute, or because one of the characters deviated. And for the majority, these stories were adorable and completely comforting.

Hint: All three passages are from new reviews (i.e., marked by * above). Send your answers (DO NOT POST IN COMMENTS) to jmutford (at) hotmail (dot) com. I'll be picking a random winner from all those who respond on May 8th.

Before I go, a few quick plugs. Here's the logo for the next Canadian Book Challenge (July 1st, 2008- July 1st, 2009):

Please use it and encourage your friends to join. There'll be loads of brand new prizes, great literature, and some good ol' Canadian pride (or Canadian-curiousity for those not from here) . The goal will still be 13 books, but you'll have more time to read them. Here's the list of those who've signed up already. If your name's not on the list and you want it to be, add your name to the comments below.

Chattering Bee

Also while your at it, you might as well join my Obscure Challenge, too! The aim of this one is to read just one (just one!) unpopular book by a popular author before the end of the year. If you want to double dip with another challenge go right ahead. Suggestions that also take in the Canadian Book Challenge might include Mordecai Richler's On Snooker , Pierre Berton's Cats I Have Known and Loved or Margaret Atwood's Bodily Harm. But though you know where my biases lie, your choices, should you participate, need not be Canadian. Click on the link to find out how to join.