Monday, June 30, 2008

Reader's Diary #372- Richard Van Camp: Show me Yours

Short Story Monday

By now I'm sure many of you are sick of hearing me speak of Yellowknife and my move there (July 2nd!!!). So, instead of presenting you with a Yellowknife author, I'm going all the way to Fort Smith to bring back Richard Van Camp's short story "Show me Yours" (which sounds more risque than it actually is.)

"Show me Yours" is the story of a man that absent-mindedly creates a fad that seems to bring happiness to those that follow suit. Why do people react to so positively? I'm sure it's easy for any reader to come up with theories; mine is that it reminds people of times when we more innocent.
There's a mysterious quality to the story, captured beautifully with the Northern Lights. Yes, there's a scientific explanation to the phenomenon. Yes, Richard simply stuck a baby picture of himself over a saint. But the joy they bring-- and the joy this story brought me-- is magical.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reader's Diary #371- Douglas Gosse: Jackytar

This book wasn't what I expected at all.

Way back in '94, I did a year of nursing school. Of the 15 males in my class, about half of us stayed in residence: one floor of Southcott Hall, a twelve story red brick building on Forest Street, St. John's. Of course, just eight people to a floor wasn't exactly profitable so about halfway through the year, the landlords secured a contract with the worker's compensation board and provided rooms to men requiring physiotherapy at the Miller Center, which was attached to our building. We weren't happy with the arrangement. No longer did we have the lounge and kitchen areas to ourselves, we had to share it with these intruders!

Truth be known, I think we were a little embarrassed to find that these injured middle-aged men were bigger partiers than us. But the loudest and hardest drinking of them all, was a man of only about 5 feet tall and who spoke in an accent even more peculiar than the rest of us. I remember asking another student who seemed to have decided that if you can't beat them, join them, what the guy's story was, and why he acted the way he did. All I got in return was another question, "What do you expect from a Jackytar?"

Well, what could I expect? I had never even heard of one! According to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English a jackytar is a Newfoundlander of mixed French and Micmac English descent. Most are from the west coast of the island, far from where I hailed from, and I was pretty unknowledgeable of either the French or the Micmacs on the island. The negative stereotyping on behalf of my classmate aside, I wanted to know more. Sadly, I didn't really dig any deeper.

Then, a couple of years ago, a friend lent me a copy of jackytar by Douglas Gosse. Fiction, yes, but underneath Gosse's profile picture it said that he had "earned several prestigious awards for the research leading to jackytar." I thought that even if I didn't enjoy the novel, I'd at least learn something about the people. Turns out the opposite happened.

On the back of the book, it is written that jackytar, "is the novel of self-development and social critique." In the foreword, Gosse writes, "I have tried to create a plausible reality that troubles readers to rethink social beliefs, customs, and practices." And, in the "author's note" (written as Alex Murphy, the novel's protagonist), he writes, "I hope you, too, may confront some of your silences and break them." I mistakenly thought the critique of society and challenged social beliefs would be about racism.

Turns out the book is mostly about homophobia. Racism, while touched upon briefly, does not seem to be a focal point and I didn't learn anything more about jackytars or their culture. Perhaps a point can be made that people are more then their labels, just as books are more than their titles. Still.

The good news is, with the exception of a few awkward parts near the end (At one point, Alexander's talk with his friend AJ about the problems with education, poverty, and counselling ends with AJ saying, "Now that I've pontificated enough." No kidding!), the novel as a whole wasn't as preachy as the admitted agenda would imply. Granted, as a male who's been in nursing school and went on to become a primary school teacher, I'm pretty open to breaking gender stereotypes anyway, and so this may have been a case of preaching to the choir. That Gosse throws homosexuality into the equation doesn't exactly challenge my already liberal views.

Perhaps not being hung-up on the politics of the book allowed me to focus instead on the story. Alexander Murphy returns home to Newfoundland to visit his critically ill mother. She dies, but before passing on, she speaks to him in French about a cassette she wants him to hear. Will it unlock the mystery of his mother's unhappiness? Will it provide some clarity to mysterious Bible passages she had marked in their family Bible?

Yes, jackytar had an agenda. No, it wasn't a cultural examination of the Jackytars. Fortunately, it had an intriguing plot, and that salvaged the book.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Doris Lessing VERSUS Norman Mailer

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (J. R .R. Tolkien Vs Doris Lessing), with a final score of 10-5, was Doris Lessing.

Well, I guess I should be ashamed of myself! Not only had I not even heard of Lessing until the
The Times Online article (so I'm not up on Nobel winners, leave me alone!), but I honestly expected a landslide victory for Tolkien. In fact, I figured the 2nd Wednesday Compares would retire with him, I had so overestimated his appeal (I retire a round when a winner has 5 consecutive victories). It's not that I'm a huge Tolkien fan. I've always been pretty ambivalent about the guy. I somewhat enjoyed the Lord of the Rings books (and movies), and I appreciate the influence they've had on the fantasy genre. But I did find them long and the songs got on my nerves. Still, I thought I was in the minority with my negative feelings until I read this post at Sam's blog. Ouch! No wonder Tolkien didn't last long. In fact, unlike the first round of Wednesday Compares, no author has managed to go beyond 2 weeks. Will anyone? There has to be a champion out there somewhere.

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. (July 1st, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Challenges Update

This week’s theme is Challenges.

1. If you participate in any challenges, get organized! Update your lists, post about any you haven’t mentioned, add links of reviews to your lists if you do that, go to the challenge blog if there is one and post there, etc.

Well, I'll start with the ones that I host:

1. The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge- The first one was a lot of fun, and while it was successful (see below) it was late to begin. This one runs from July 1st, 2008 to July 1st, 2009 (Canada Day to Canada Day). The goal is to read 13 Canadian Books (written by and/or about Canadians). There are loads of prizes and lots of people already signed on. See here for more details.

I'm not sure what my thirteen books will be, but I am going to try and read one from each province or territory. My picks will look something like this:

Newfoundland and Labrador- The White Eskimo- Harold Horwood
Prince Edward Island- something other than Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery or Saltsea by David Helwig
Nova Scotia- The Clockmaker by Thomas Chandler Haliburton
New Brunswick- The Red Feathers by T.G. Roberts
Quebec- A Theft by Saul Bellow
Ontario- King Leary by Paul Quarrington
Manitoba- Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop, The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway or something by Nellie McClung
Saskatchewan- something by Guy Gavriel Kay
Alberta- Whale Song by Cheryl Kaye Tardiff or a book of poetry
British Columbia- Silver Wing by Kenneth Oppel or Double Hook by Sheila Watson
Yukon- Rhymes of the Raven Lady by Pj Johnson
Northwest Territory- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp or The River by Cheryl Kaye Tardiff
Nunavut- We Call It Survival by Abraham Okpik

2. The Obscure Challenge- The idea of this one is to read just one book before the year is out that is an unpopular book written by a popular author. Perhaps you have a rare book about sorting laundry by Salman Rushdie. Maybe you've needed an excuse to read Emily Dickinson's little known book of racist limericks. I've already read my pick (Louisa May Alcott's A Long Fatal Love Chase), but the other nine participants haven't yet begun. Interested in signing up? Get more details here.

3. The (Original) Canadian Book Challenge- As in the 2nd edition, participants were asked to read 13 Canadian books. Wrapping up in just 7 days, most people have finished or at least come pretty close (not bad considering this one only got the ground in October). We had 47 participants from all over the world and over 350 books have been read collectively. Here was the original post. Again, I took the approach to read a book from each province or territory. My 13 were:

- What's Remembered by Arthur Motyer
- Hockey Night Tonight by Stompin' Tom Connor and illustrated by Brenda Jones
- 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

But I didn't just limit myself to my own challenges:

I'm currently half away from completing Sharon's Russian Book Challenge as well. Ending on December 31st, the goal is to read 4 (minimum) Russian books, poems, short stories, etc. So far I've completed Nabokov's Lolita and Alexander Pushkin's short story "The Snow Storm." I hope to read something by Turgenev and hopefully something by someone still alive. Any suggestions?

I also just completed the Shakepeare Challenge (ending July 1st). This six month challenge, created by Historia, asked participants to read four books, plays, etc either written by or about Shakespeare- whoever that might be. My picks were:

1. King Henry VI, Part III by William Shakespeare
2. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
3. Will's Quill by Don Freeman
4. Chasing Shakespeares by Sarah Smith

And finally, I also completed Kate's Short Story Reading Challenge which aimed to have people read 10 short stories, or short story collections. It will continue throughout the year. I picked the easier route and read individual stories:

1. Alexander Pushkin's "The Snow Storm"
2. Mark Antony Jarman's "The Cougar"
3. Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard To Find"
4. Kate Sutherland's "Cool"
5. Leon Rooke's "Yellow House"
6. James Joyce's "Araby"
7. Frank O'Connor's "The First Confession"
8. Oscar Wilde's "The Model Millionaire"
9. Sean O'Faolain's "The Trout"
10. Roald Dahl's "The Way Up To Heaven"


Monday, June 23, 2008

Reader's Diary #370- Mark Twain: The War Prayer

Short Story Monday

I was surprised to find a complete copy of Mark Twain's "The War Prayer" in the anthology The Poem I Turn To. While I've seen just the prayer clipped and used as a stand-alone poem, I didn't know at first why the editor of a poetry anthology chose to go with the whole piece when it's really a short story.

Upon reading the story, my initial reservations were a little critical. I knew the prayer wasn't a particularly great poem on its own, and I suspect so did Twain. I'd be very surprised if someone told me that the story part came first, for it seems as if he had the idea for the poem, and wrote the story around it to basically explain what his idea and motivations were for the poem.

So why did I love it? Since when do I like it when poets stick their noses in and say, "this poems is about..."? I guess when they're able to pull it off. Twain hides his explanatory message better than I'm giving him credit for, and presents it in such a way that evokes the Biblical images of Revelations ("holy fire," "drums were beating," etc) yet sets up an unnerving feeling when one realizes this could happen today. Yes, today. It's remarkable how well this story can still apply over 100 years later.

On a note related to short stories, but not to Mark Twain, I read about at John Gushue's blog last week and had every intention of picking one of their short stories to review for this Short Story Monday. However, I found the format that they had the short stories presented in not only distracting but confusing-- half the time I didn't even know which was supposed to be the next paragraph. I perhaps could have figured it out through context, but that would have been work and would have defeated the whole purpose of the site. Still, they have a fun concept and for that reason alone, it's worth checking out.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Form Fitting 101

How well do you know your poetry forms? Try my Form Fitting 101 quiz here. Then come back and tell me your results!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Reader's Diary #369- The Good News Bible: Samuel II

The second book of Samuel continues on with the life of David, who became even more intriguing than in the first book which served to introduce him and present him as a complex individual.

In a lot of ways David comes across as the ultra-male; in almost every chapter it seems as if he's adding a wife or concubine,plus he's powerful and is not above chopping a head (or foreskin) off to make a point. Yet, in what seems to be stark contrast to this side of his personality, David is introspective, forgiving, and basically is not the self-assured (cocky) hero that is suggested by his virility. In fact, many of his actions seem to be marking a softer side of the Bible, hopefully foreshadowing things to come (the killing sprees were getting me down). It was surprising, for instance, to see him cry over the death of his son Absalom, who not only wanted him dead but also humiliated him by having "intercourse with his father's concubines" in public.

Asides from David, the only other thing I found worthy of comment was the Ark of the Covenant. In earlier books, such as Exodus and Numbers, the Ark, its specific dimensions, how the Levites had to tend to it, and so on were major focus points that dragged on and on. While it's mentioned again in Samuel 2, it is only a brief appearance and seems to have been used primarily to bridge to the earlier books. It's as if someone decided the whole ark thing wasn't working and wanted to move on, but had to at least make the transition graceful so as not to offend the few ark fans that might be sticking around.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: J.R.R. Tolkien VERSUS Doris Lessing

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Lewis Carroll Vs. J. R .R. Tolkien), with a final score of 12-7, was Tolkien.

While the early votes seemed to indicate that Carroll might pull off a surprising win, they tapered off eventually and the Tolkien fans took over. I wonder if the shift had anything to do with Rob's comment about Carroll's photographs of naked girls. A few others mentioned that it was problematic for them as well. This is not to say, of course, that the ones who voted for Carroll condone child pornography. Maybe they hadn't heard of the controversy or maybe like August they acknowledge the photographs but don't make the link to paedophilia (as there was no conducive proof). Did anyone read the recent article about the Australian photographer Bill Henson who took pictures of nude teenagers? It made global headlines when Cate Blanchett came to his defense calling his work art. I haven't seen Carroll's photos (nor do I want to), but perhaps some people choose to see his photographs in that light. Another possibility is that the Carroll voters had heard of the pictures, do consider them pornography, and perhaps even assume he was a paedophile, but still allow the opinion that his books were better written than Tolkien's. Had I read a Carroll book and liked it more than Tolkien's, I'd probably fall with the latter group: voting for his work, but not his life. I used to have a really difficult time distancing myself from an artist whose worked I'd admired, later to discover some distasteful, or even horrific, facet of their life. Now I'm not as quick to delete mp3s or throw away books every time a musician or author disappoints me. To be honest, I wouldn't have much left: all my Beatles music would be gone, I'd have no more Smiths albums, and I'd probably never read Two Against The North again. I don't think we have to ignore our differences with artists to enjoy their work, either. Remember when James Brown died last year? I love the man's music (though I get strange looks when I'm overheard singing, "Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud!") but wasn't he a wife abuser? The media wants us to ostracize him when he's charged, yet praise him to the high heavens when he dies. The media adds a whole new dimension to the question about offensive artists: what do we believe in the first place in the world of tabloids? And I should also note that some issues are harder to look past than others. The swipes McCartney, Morrissey and Mowat took at Newfoundlanders pale in comparison to the paedophilia for which Carroll is accused. Still, I'd like to think that art is created through an artist, not by an artist.

Moving on to this week's contest, I'll admit being shocked if Tolkien doesn't win again. So why, you might ask, would I even pit him against someone I'm so sure will lose. No, I'm not intentionally throwing the contest. Consider it a survey of sorts. Recently I read an article on The Times Online that listed the best British post-war authors. Tolkien was number 6. Above him were two that have already come and gone on the Wednesday Compares (William Golding and George Orwell); two were poets (Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes) and, with a few exceptions, poets haven't fared all that well in the Compares; which leaves Doris Lessing. If you're like me, you're saying, "Who the heck is Doris Lessing?" (She's number 5, that's who!) If you're not like me, I guess the results next week will show me that I have yet another author to add to my undented TBR pile.

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 24th, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reader's Diary #368- Sarah Smith: Chasing Shakespeares

This is my last pick for the Shakespeare Reading Challenge, getting my fourth read in with just half a month to go. Too bad I had to end on such a disappointing note.

Chasing Shakespeares is the story of a Shakespeare scholar who may have found proof that the bard was not who we've been led to believe.

That the man behind all those brilliant plays and sonnets was not, in actuality, William Shakespeare is not a new theory. I thought for a while that I even cared. Credit Smith for curing me of that notion.

On her website, one paragraph describing this particular novel begins, "In a literary adventure reminiscent of the Da Vinci Code..." Blame Smith for making me appreciate Dan Brown a little more.

First off, the Da Vinci Code is a novel about conspiracy theories. Chasing Shakespeares is not. A conspiracy theory indicates there is someone or group still trying to conceal the truth. A tacked on enemy in Chasing Shakespeares might have added some much needed excitement. Instead, Smith tacks on a love story.

How truly boring were the the up-speaking Posy and the f-word spouting Joe Roper; lovers who were, of course, from opposite sides of the track. But even more unfortunate than the annoying characters was the transparency of Smith's desire to turn the book into a movie. There are film references all over the place:
"'You know,' she said, 'we could get rich. We could write a book about finding the letter. Give lectures. And that's just the beginning. The book. The movie from the book. I want,' she thought, 'Spielberg to direct the movie. Ben Affleck and Cate Blanchett to play us.'"
Okay, she might get Affleck on board.

Smith also seems to be under the impression that a revelation about Shakespeare's identity would cause mass riots:
"'You know you're going to have to take a stand on Oxford and stop caring what people say about you. Because like half the world is going to think you're Charles Manson for not believing in Shakespeare.'"
Granted, the two quotes I've used as examples above are both spoken by Posy and some readers might be inclined to say these grandiose statements are of a character's and not Smith's own delusions. Possibly. But the Hollywood-style cheese doesn't end there.

Last week Debbie and I watched Kevin Spacey in The Life of David Gale. There's one particular scene in which we were subjected to this Please-can-I-have-another-Oscar speech:
"'We spend our whole life trying to stop death. Eating, inventing, loving, praying, fighting, killing. But what do we really know about death? Just that nobody comes back. Then there comes a point - a moment - in life when your mind outlives its desires, its obsessions, when your habits survive your dreams, and when your losses... Maybe death is a gift.'"
Chasing Shakepeares is full of such lame attempts. Over and over again she makes references to God being a librarian. Likewise she runs a Twain quote about lightning bugs into the ground. Spacey's speech was bad enough, imagine if he made it in every other scene.

In Chasing Shakespares Smith tried way too hard. But not to write a good book.

The Soundtrack
1. Lovers Who Uncover- Crystal Castles vs The Little Ones
2. Valley Girl- Frank and Moon Unit Zappa
3. I'll Believe In You (Or I'll Be Leaving You Tonight)- The Tragically Hip
4. Man Research (Clapper)- Gorillaz
5. English Civil War- The Clash

(Cross-posted at BiblioShakespeare)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Reader's Diary #367- Raymond Carver: Cathedral (FINISHED)

Short Story Monday

This is my 2nd Carver story for Short Story Monday. Back in October of last year I had reviewed "A Small Good Thing." Having loved that one so much, I had perhaps expected too much. I also compared too much. Last year I was surprised that albums by the White Stripes and Bjork didn't make many critics top 10 lists, when I thought they were great compared to everything else that was released that year. The problem was (if it was indeed a problem), most people compared them to their previous albums. No, Icky Thump didn't measure up to Elephant, and Volta wasn't able to impress upon Homogenic. Likewise, "Cathedral" didn't have the same brilliance as "A Small Good Thing." But it was still a fine story.

To analyze them side by side, "Cathedral" doesn't feel as neatly woven. Whereas there's much more of a plot in "A Small Good Thing" to wrap details around, Cathedral's plot isn't as dramatic or defined: a man awaits a visit from his wife's blind male friend and doesn't quite know how to act around him once he shows up.

But of the two stories, "Cathedral" is much funnier. With a lot of politically incorrect jokes, I often couldn't tell if I was laughing with the main character or at him. His demeanour and awkward comments towards the blind man seemed sometimes to come out of jealousy and other times out of ignorance. Neither makes him excusable, but perhaps forgivable.

In any case, the comedy was the opposite of comic relief and I appreciated Carver's ability to make me feel just as uncomfortable as the husband.

However, the ending is a bit too vague for me. I actually had to check to make sure I had all of it, suspecting that I had accidentally not printed the last page. There seems to be a heavy importance placed upon the cathedral that the two men set out to draw towards the end (it's the title of the story after all), but it comes across as stoner talk. I tried to see the significance. Cathedrals were built to pay tribute to something that can't be seen, and out of faith that there is something beyond vision. But what is it that the blind man is building? And was the husband understanding his point? I gave up after a while, feeling too obtuse to grasp what Carver was getting at, and beginning to doubt he was getting at anything.

When I reviewed "A Small Good Thing" I said that to reduce it to a moral would be doing the story an injustice. With "Cathedral" it feels as if the crime is not being able to reduce it to a moral.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

If you keep Googling it, it's never going to get better...

Anyone who's followed this blog from its inception will probably be familiar with my rocky history with the CBC radio program Canada Reads. Yesterday I Googled "Mutford" and "Canada Reads" just out of curiosity, to see how much of that history had been chronicled online. Most of it, as I suspected, revolved around my unsuccessful campaign to land a spot on the show, but one surprising find went back to our halcyon days. In a paper written for the University of British Columbia, Kathryn Grafton and Elizabeth Maurer "take a rhetorical approach to weblogs as social action, examining two sets of blogs: blogs responding to a national literary event called Canada Reads and 'homeless blogs.'"

For the Canada Reads half of the paper Grafton and Maurer focus on a series of posts I wrote about Canada Reads back in 2006. "These posts enabled Mutford to cultivate a public self as literary critic and Canada Reads expert. His genre selection and assumed subject positions— confident reader, literary critic, Canada Reads expert—lent Mutford the credibility to then take up the five-day literary debate in posts written in the 'daily recap' genre (MUTFORD, Apr. 17-21, 2006), through which he adopted subject positions of 'play-by-play announcer' and 'colour commentator' for his bookish Superbowl." (You can read the entire article here.)

While I'm quite aware that juxtaposed with the homeless blogs, mine is the more frivolous. Still, I suppose that I'm flattered that they'd think it worthy of any study. It is a little bizarre to see my name and blog used in such a context.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Plugging Away

As it appears on her site, thanks to Kathleen Molloy for bringing this to my attention:

Spreading bibliokarma to the Canadian troops overseas

Lovers of CanLit, this might interest you: Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota
is launching a book drive to collect gently used books for Canadian Armed Forces Personnel currently serving overseas in Afghanistan. I’ll be book crossing a box of Canadian Authors to the House of Commons at the address below. It’s free to ship to MPs on the Hill. What could be nicer than a little CanLit from home?

MP Anthony Rota
Ottawa Office
730 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Telephone: 613-995-6255
Fax: 613-996-7993

Books for the Troops c/o Greg Kolz - Executive AssistantNorth Bay Office
133 Main Street. West
North Bay, Ontario
P1B 1T6
Telephone: 705-474-3700
Fax: 705-474-6964

Friday, June 13, 2008

Reader's Diary #366- Jason Schinder (Editor): The Poem I Turn To

A few months ago I got an email asking if I would like a review copy of The Poem I Turn To: Actors and Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them. Published by Sourcebooks, Inc, I wasn't sure why they were offering it to me (I've gotten a few review copies from other publishers sent to me before, but I've signed up to receive those). Anyway, I agreed and eventually it arrived.

My initial reservation with the book was the star-gazing. Actors are, of course, human and entitled to their opinions just as anyone else. But, when they endorse products, causes, or people that they have no expertise in whatsoever, I just don't get it. Then, I don't blame them as much as the chumps who follow them blindly. Would reading The Poem I Turn To make me one of them? No, "anyone lived in a little how town" was a great poem before Carrie Fisher pointed it out.

And once I thought about it, I was being unfair. They weren't hawking shampoo or barbecue sauce, they were simply discussing the poems that inspire, influence, and comfort them. I do appreciate acting. It's an art as much as poetry is. Not that impressionist painters can sing opera, or ballet dancers can sculpt a bust of David, but one would expect that being at least involved in some artistic field gives them an understanding of the power of art.

Of course, when the book arrived and I saw it was hardcover and had a cd included, that helped!

The Poem I Turn To is a great anthology. It has lots of classic poems like Shakespeare's "Sonnet 30," William Blake's "The Tyger" and Ezra Pound's "In a Station at the Metro." I love revisiting these poems. I read somewhere once that it takes numerous readings of a poem to appreciate and understand it. I used to read my poetry books that way: read a poem, then read it again, and then a third time. It was taking me forever and taking the fun out of it. I then decided to mark ones that caught my eye the first time around and revisit them later. In the case of classic poems, there's really no need. They pop up in so many anthologies that I end up revisiting and rereading them all the time. No wonder they're so well loved. Whoever said familiarity breeds contempt wasn't talking about poetry. It was interesting to see how many actors picked poems that they had to memorize in school. I didn't have to memorize poetry in school (though I know most of "In Flanders Fields" from Remembrance Day assemblies), and there's a definite shift away from rote memorization and such practices. But obviously it worked for them (or maybe they were brainwashed!); they revisited the poems so often that the meaning, the rhythm, and images not only became clearer, but stuck with them. I still think there must be a way to have students revisit poems without making it such a task.

The Poem I Turn To also had a few poets that I was unfamiliar with: Oriah Mountain Dreamer, James Wright, and most interesting, Nakasak. I'm told that Nakasak was an Inuk from the early 1900s who helped the U.S. Navy find a suitable airbase right here in Iqaluit (then Frobisher Bay). How have I lived here this long and not heard of him? And what an odd book to discover him.

by Nakasak

There is a tribe of invisible men
who move around us like shadows – have you felt them?
They have bodies like ours and live just like us,
using the same kind of weapons and tools.
You can see their tracks in the snow sometimes
and even their igloos
but never the invisible men themselves.
They cannot be seen except when they die
for then they become visible.

It once happened that a human woman
married one of the invisible men.
He was a good husband in every way:
He went out hunting and brought her food,
and they could talk together like any other couple.
But the wife could not bear the thought
that she did not know what the man she married looked like.
One day when they were both at home
she was so overcome with curiosity to see him
that she stabbed with a knife where she knew he was sitting.
And her desire was fulfilled:
Before her eyes a handsome young man fell to the floor.
but he was cold and dead, and too late
she realized what she had done,
and sobbed her heart out.

When the invisible men heard about this murder
they came out of their igloos to take revenge.
Their bows were seen moving through the air
and the bow strings stretching as they aimed their arrows.
The human stood there helplessly
for they had no idea what to do or how to fight
because they could not see their assailants.
But the invisible men had a code of honor
that forbade them to attack opponents
who could not defend themselves,
so they did not let their arrows fly,
and nothing happened; there was no battle after all
and everyone went back to their ordinary lives.

One issue I have with the book is the occasional actor that didn't bother to write why or how the poems inspired them. Sadly, this was usually the more recognizable names: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jane Fonda, Steve Buscemi and a few others. I understand that Shinder needed a few actors more recognizable than Bob Balaban and Lili Taylor but at least those took the time to discuss why the poem had a personal importance. Without that, the collection would have had nothing to offer over your average beginner anthology.

As for the cd, it's okay. Though a lot of people stress (with a near fanaticism) that poems have to be heard, not read, I prefer reading them. I find it more personal. I am getting into the listening aspect a little more, but the cd for The Poem I Turn To isn't a convincing case. While Paul Guilfoyle does a great job with "To His Coy Mistress," actually paying attention to the mood of the poem and having fun with it, others affect a sombre, near robotic tone that has all the emotion of a lost sock. How can someone suck the fun from William Carlos Williams' s "Danse Russe"? Ask Michael Lally.

Still, discovering such poems as Meghan O'Rourke's "Inventing a Horse" and Donald Hall's "My Son, My Executioner" as well as the opportunity to revisit old favourites, made this collection great. It's one I'll turn to.

My Son, My Executioner
by Donald Hall

My son, my executioner,
I take you in my arms,
Quiet and small and just astir,
And whom my body warms

(Read the rest here.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Club Footnotes

Today's BTT question:
A combo of two suggestions by: Heidi and by litlove

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (ot, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?

Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

When I moved back to Newfoundland a few years ago, I lived in a VERY small town of just a couple hundred people or so. While I'm sure, had I taken the initiative to find them, there must have been some like-minded readers amongst the bunch, I was content to discover the world of lit-blogs and let the locals read through the romances, westerns, and Christian books that dominated their tiny library. But when I finally moved back to Nunavut, the prospect of meeting with an actual face-to-face book club was too much to resist.

Initially we chose our books the democratic way: voting. This worked fine for a while until my inner communist came out. While I was okay sometimes reading other people's choices, I started to feel like mine were never going to be picked. In a popularity contest, my books were zitty kids with bad breath. So, I suggested that we each pick one book and a monthly schedule was drawn up ensuring everyone had a turn.

We had one individual that was sort of unofficially in charge. She sent out monthly reminders and kept everything organized in terms of meeting places, book lists, and so forth. We were all very thankful for that. But, no one really led the discussions. They sort of just fell into place. Usually whoever picked the book began, but the conversation just flowed naturally from there. There was never a real formal study, and I really appreciated the relaxed atmosphere-- it especially helped when there were differences of opinions.

In less than three weeks I'm moving again. I'm excited and nervous about finding and joining another bookclub. Comparing them will be interesting, in any case.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Lewis Carroll VERSUS J. R. R. Tolkien

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Alice Munro Vs. Lewis Carroll), with a final score of 10-3, was Lewis Carroll.

Without having even read Lewis Carroll, I still would have voted for him last week. No, I don't own Alice In Wonderland on DVD or know all the lyrics to Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," in fact it has more to do with my dislike for Munro's writing than any appreciation for Carroll. I know Munro won the Wednesday Compares two weeks in a row (even against Margaret Laurence, for goodness sakes), so I run the risk of offending her fans, but here I go: Alice Munro is not the queen of the short story. In fact, she takes the short out of the short story. I find her stories tedious, hiding behind a veil of ambiguity for the sake of supposed profundity, unrealistic, and pretentious. Whew. There. Glad I got that off my chest. Now feel free to defend her honour, revoke my citizenship, do what you have to do. At least she lost.

Moving on to this week's contender, it's someone perhaps a little more similar to Lewis Carroll.

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 17th, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Book Giveaway!

Most of us participating in the 1st Canadian Book Challenge are already acquainted with Steve Zipp. Not only was he a participant, but he's also the author of Yellowknife. Perhaps most memorable, however, was his amazingly generous offer: free copies of his novel. Well, he's back. He's signed up for the 2nd round of the Canadian Book Challenge, and he has an additional 25 books up for grabs! So if you've signed up for the 2nd edition of the Challenge and you still haven't gotten your hands on Yellowknife, email him steve [dot] zipp [at] gmail [dot] com and see if he can hook you up.
Also, check out these reviews of Yellowknife from Canadian Book Challenge participants:

Corey Redekop

And speaking of giveaways, the winner of the autographed copy of Corey Redekop's Shelf Monkey is Gautami. Congratulations!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Reader's Diary #365- Bret Harte: The Luck of Roaring Camp

Short Story Monday

At the Short Story Reading Challenge post a few days ago, Fay Sheco pointed out an Encyclopedia Brittanica article on the history of the short story. She's decided to use the many authors listed as a sort of reading guide, paying her attention to those she'd either not read or haven't read in quite some time. It's a great list and I've decided to follow suit, starting with professional wrestler and story teller, Bret "The Hitman" Hart. Kidding already! But is it my Canadian upbringing that I was familiar with the the greasy haired guy to the left and not the 19th century author with the similar name?

Perhaps I should have stopped at finding one of Harte's stories online. Instead, I went digging for more information, resorting to that old standby, Wikipedia. Here I found that Mark Twain wasn't a fan of Harte, calling his writing insincere. Of the miners in The Luck of Roaring Camp, the story which I was about to read, Twain added that their dialect rang false and that it didn't exist outside Harte's story.

Not that I'm a die-hard fan of Twain, but I think his assessment tainted my reading of Harte's story. Too often during my first read through I find myself questioning how authentic the miners were. I didn't always come to the same conclusion as Twain, and even when I did find them a little over-the-top, I questioned whether or not Harte was simply being satirical. These aren't necessarily bad issues to consider, but perhaps they would have been better suited for a 2nd or 3rd reading: the first time around they were too distracting.

In hindsight, I think Twain was a little unfair. I don't think there was enough talking in the story to assess whether or not the miners spoke believably or not. Certainly lines like, "You go in there, Stumpy...Go in there, and see what you kin do. You've had experience in them things" sound plausible enough to me. When I think of bad dialect, I think of E. Annie Proulx's fictional Newfoundland dialect in The Shipping News. However, I have a little more familiarity with that one, and a whole lot more to work with in a novel's worth of conversation.

Not to take Harte off the hook altogether, this particular story of miners finding hope and redemption in a pretty unlikely source, is a bit on the sentimental side. To me, that's where the insincerity comes in. Of course, when it comes to human nature, I can sometimes be a cynic. Read the story yourself. Maybe you'd feel otherwise.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Reader's Diary #364- Patrick J. Finn: Literacy With An Attitude

A few week's ago, Dewey's Weekly Geeks post asked participants to discuss a political or social issue important to them, and mention books they've either read, or would like to, on that topic. After reading other people's responses, I felt so intimidated that I didn't end up participating. Everyone seemed so passionate about their causes that I felt like a poser. Sure I care about issues, but asides from reading about them, I do unfortunately little. In particular, I care about classism, poverty, big business and globalization (issues that are becoming more and more linked). To that effect I've read books about Marx, Guevera, and Ghandi. I've read Naomi Klein's No Logo and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. Still, in the last three days I've shopped at WalMart, eaten at MacDonald's, and bought a laptop that in all likelihood was made by someone unable ever to afford it. The extent of the activism I've mustered is to stop buying clothes that advertise its brand across the front. Big freakin' deal. They were tacky anyway.

My wife, Debbie had read this book as part of her masters course in literacy. When she first decided to take a year's maternity leave, we decided that she'd use some of that time (not that there was much to spare) to work on furthering her education. I had gotten two degrees before, and she had gotten one, so we figured that if either of us was going to invest in more schooling, it would be her. But once she had started, I so badly wanted in! While it's been a lot of work for her, she's enjoying it immensely and I admit feeling a little envious of all the great conversations and debates that she's having. Alas, it's not in our financial cards right now for me to go back to school and so, I'll do the next best thing: read her textbooks when she's done. Not that this is in any way equivalent to what she's gotten; I'm still missing out on the interactions with classmates and the professors, and I'm not completing any assignments, but at least Debbie is patient enough to talk about the books with me.

The first book in my attempt at self-education is Patrick J. Finn's Literacy With An Attitude. It's about educating working class children to stop accepting oppression and to do what I've been unable (or unwilling) to do: stand up against it. Given my concern for such issues, it was a good book to start with, though I'll admit not what I expected at all.

Given the title, I was expecting a book that aimed to make literacy "cool" by suggesting that teachers of working class children should storm into their classrooms wearing sunglasses and reciting some lame-ass rap about vowels (the kind of rap that always begins with, "My name is John and I'm here to say..."-- tell me, has a real rapper ever begun a song that way?)

In other words, I set out to poke fun of the book and challenge it on every page.

Wow, was I off base. In an early chapter Finn goes into great detail about why he chose his title and it's more about literacy that challenges the status quo. While I still think the title is a bit hokey and gives off poor connotations, I understand what he meant by it.

Partly a history book, Finn details the way literacy has been deprived to the working classes and eventually permitted to them but only in a way that helped keep them docile and subservient. Did you know, for instance, that less than 100 years after the invention of the printing press, British women and men below the rank of yeoman, were forbidden by law from reading the Bible? Finn suggests that oppressive, or as he calls it, domesticating education, is less blatant today and makes it clear that many modern teachers don't even realize they are treating working class students any differently. But they are being treating differently and he cites many studies that prove it.

The thing is, a better approach to literacy, one that makes it relevant, one that calls for real dialogue, and one that empowers the students, is being offered today. However, in most cases it's being offered to those in the elite and somewhat in the more progressive middle-class schools where it does nothing to change the structure of society and doesn't instigate any real change. "New literacy" (again a poorly chosen term-- am I the only one who thinks of "New coke"?) in the hands of the working class could be their best weapon.

Finn also gets points for acknowledging that all of this change doesn't fall to the teachers. I've had a few times in my teaching career in which I knew the methods I was expected to use weren't necessarily the best. However, for a new teacher trying to get a permanent contract or at the very least get a good reference for the next job, it's been a hard act to balance.

I did sometimes feel that Finn confused literacy with critical-thinking. Critical thinking of course is vital to strong literacy, but it's just as important in all aspects of education and I don't think the two terms are synonymous. These semantics are of minor importance to the book, however, and I must say it's been quite an inspiring one for me personally. Last year I took a year off from teaching. I've spent the last year working part-time for an airline (hence the many trips I've taken), and taking care of my own children (who as of yet haven't entered that big, bad school system). Literacy With An Attitude has made me itch to get back in there. Maybe I can make up for all that guilt I've been buying at WalMart.


Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker and more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romance?

Without having read the other responses yet, I'd be quite amazed to find someone say no to this question.

Just as I've changed a lot over the years, so has my taste in books. In high school for instance, I practically devoured Stephen King books. I started with Christine in grade seven and was amazed that I was even allowed to read such a novel. Thus begun a long and tumultuous love affair. Now I still read King on occasion, but it feels more out of obligation. I've gone from thinking the man was a genius, an idiot, and now just a decent writer who sometimes gets it right and sometimes bombs.

From King I decided to check out other horror writers; modern ones like Anne Rice, Clive Barker, and John Saul, to classics like Lovecraft, Poe, Shelley, and Stoker. From there I moved to non-horror classics and then I quickly became open to pretty much any genre from any time, (especially poetry). Now my favourites are people like Mordecai Richler, Jose Saramago, and e.e. cummings.

It's interesting (at least to me) that this parallels with my taste in music. In high school, my love for Metallica led to an interest in all things metal, which led to a taste for classic rock, which grew into an interest for any sort of music I can get my hands on: hip hop, blues, country, etc.

Stephen King to Pablo Neruda? Metallica to Nina Simone? Yes, I've changed.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Alice Munro VERSUS Lewis Carroll

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Alice Munro Vs. O. Henry), with a final score of 6-3, was Alice Munro. (However, there are hints that O. Henry will pressure Munro into putting him on the ticket as her V.P.)

While Melanie said last week that she tries her best to avoid O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi" I look forward to reading it again this Christmas. For me, it's up there with "Twas The Night Before Christmas." After reading the Wikipedia article about him, it seems that many of his stories had surprise twists at the end, and I suppose that could get tiresome, or even hokey, after a while, but I haven't read anything else by him that I remember. He still would have gotten my vote last week solely on "Gift of the Magi" but since I don't have a great familiarity with his work, I'm not all that torn up about the results.

Moving on to this week's contender (and yet another nom de plume), it's Lewis Carroll against Alice.

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 10th, 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?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Canadian Book Challenge- 8th Update

One more month to go!

We had a bunch of folks finishing the challenge in May. Congratulations to Pooker, Framed, Myself, Corey, Teena, Remi, Raidergirl, and Richard. Great job everyone! A few extra words on Richard since he might be unfamiliar to the other participants: Richard joined and completed the challenge all on the same day! No, he didn't count birthday cards as books. He simply noticed that he'd read 13 Canadian books, and blogged about each one, in the time frame of the challenge. In fact, since January he's read 18 Canadian books! While 13 was the goal, I've provided links to all 18 below, because hey, I'm impressed. So along with grosbeaks Lisa, Leo, Nicola, Steve and August, there are thirteen of us sitting back with our Mooseheads just waiting for the rest of you (there's also Canada Dry for the teetotallers).

Here are the standings so far:

The Grosbeaks (13 Books)

- JPod by Douglas Coupland*
- Unmarked by Sarah De Leeuw*
- Tom Thomson's Shack by Harold Rhenisch*
- The Lost Coast by Tim Bowling*
- Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson*
- Songs For Reliquishing The Earth by Jan Zwicky*
- The Upside of Down by Thomas Homer-Dixon*
- Pieces of Map, Pieces of Music by Robert Bringhurst *
- Northern Wild edited by David R. Boyd*
- Soft Geography by Gillian Wigmore*
- Phantom Limb by Theresa Kishkan*
- The Intemperate Rainforest by Bruce Braun*
- Now You're Logging by Bus Griffiths*
- Erratic by Donna Kane*
- Somewhere, A Fire by Donna Kane*
- Living In The World As If It Were Home by Tim Lilburn*
- Stolen by Ron Chudley*
- Red Laredo Boots by Theresa Kishkan*

- What's Remembered by Arthur Motyer*
- Hockey Night Tonight by Stompin' Tom Connor and illustrated by Brenda Jones*
- 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

- Dining With Death by Kathleen Molloy*
- 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

- Northern Lights, The Soccer Trails by Michael Kusugak and illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka*
- 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

- Red, White and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean*
- The Dirt On Clean by Katherine Ashenburg*
- 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

- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- Everyone In Silico by Jim Munroe*
- The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust*
- 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

- It's A Good Life, If You Don't Weaken by Seth*
- Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje*
- The Angel Riots by Ibi Kaslik*
- The Sweet Edge by Alison Pick*
- 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

- How To Be A Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson*
- Call of the Wild by Jack London*
- 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

- 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 Eva 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)

The Snowy Owls (11 Books)

- The Ukranian Wedding by Larry warwaruk*
- Ptarmageddon: A Robyn Devara Mystery by Karen Dudley*
- 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

- Free The Children by Craig Kielburger*
- Island of Seven Cities by Paul Chiasson*
- 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
- No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod*
- Processional by Anne Compton*
- 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

- Come Like Shadows by Welwyn Wilton Katz*
- 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

The Green Loons (10 Books)

- Spider Song by Anita Daher*
- The Curse of the Shaman by Michael Kusugak*
- A Killing Spring by Gail Bowen*
- Sointula by Bill Gaston*
- 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

- See The Child by David Bergen*
- The Ravine by Paul Quarrington*
- 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

- Mary Ann Alice by Brian Doyle*
- The Greenies by Myra Paperny*
- 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

The Osprey (9 Books)

Brown Paper
- Sweetness In The Belly by Camilla Gibb*
- Redwork by Michel Bedard*
- The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- 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 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

The Kingfishers (8 Books)

Teddy Rose
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay*
- 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

- Nagerira by Paul Butler*
- 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

The Polar Bears (7 Books)

- Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- 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 Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
- Kanada by Eva 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

- 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

The Loons (6 Books)

- Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- 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 Coats of Arms (5 Books)

- The Girls by Lori Lansens*
- Resistance by Daniel Kalla
- Every Fear by Rick Mofina
- A New Earth by Eckhart Toll
- Sacrifice by Kelly Komm

- 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

- 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)

Gautami Tripathy
- The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood*
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

- 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 Eva Wiseman

The Beavers (2 Books)

Mrs. Peachtree
- Jeffrey and Sloth by Kari-Lynn Winters and illustrated by Ben Hodson*
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- Photography For The Joy Of It by Freeman Patterson and Andre Gallant*
- Photography and the Art Of Seeing by Freeman Patterson*

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

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

The Maple Leaves (1 Book)

- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

-Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

(*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 Shelf Monkey, written by award winning author and Canadian Book Challenge participant, Corey Redekop. Published by ECW Press, Paul Quarrington calls Shelf Monkey, "A playful-- yet very serious-- ode to bibliophilia."

"Thomas Friesen has three goals in life. Get a job. Make friends. Find a good book to curl up with. After landing a job at READ, the newest hypermegabookstore, he feels he may have accomplished all three.

Also check out positive reviews by Canadain Book Challenge participants Steve and Remi. I haven't read it... yet, but I sure do love the cover!

To win Shelf Monkey, I'm going to try a slightly different approach this time. While I still encourage you to check out all the latest reviews above, this month's prize is up for grabs for those who simply answer the 13 survey questions below. I'll pick one random winner on the 10th of May from all of those who respond either via email (jumutford [at] hotmail [dot] com) or in the comments below. It would help me a great deal!


1. Have you completed the Canadian Book Challenge? Do you expect to before the deadline?

2. Why did you join the Canadian Book Challenge?

3. Are you Canadian or do you have any ties to Canada?

4. Have you you read none/some/all the reviews posted by other participants? Were any of your picks read by another participant?

5. Which best suits your experience with the challenge:
a. easier to complete than expected
b. harder to complete than expected
c. about as easy or difficult as expected

6. Was it enjoyable? Why/why not?

7. Did you read any authors and/or books that you probably wouldn't have if not for the Challenge?

8. Did the prizes decrease/increase your interest in the Challenge?

9. Looking at the list of books and/or authors read by all the participants so far, are there any surprises? Any glaring omissions? Any surprise hits?

10. How did you go about choosing your books?

11. Were you participating in any other Challenges during this time and if so, did you use any books for both?

12. Will you be participating in the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge?

13. Any suggestions on ways to improve upon the last challenge?