Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reader's Diary #382- Harold Horwood: White Eskimo

I'm finally finished my first book for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge and what a disappointment it was. Can a white person ever write a good novel about the Inuit? I'm starting to believe it's impossible.

I wanted to like this book so badly. Written by one of Newfoundland's first nationally renown authors, I expected more. Instead, I got the typical preachy exalted Eskimo story (Eskimo good, white man bad) which does a disservice to the Inuit despite the good intentions. Gross generalizations, even positive ones, just reduce a people to stereotypes and make an exhibit out of them, like figures in a museum. White Eskimo overflows with such generalizations: "They have wonderfully accurate memories anyway for anything that really matters" to the profoundly silly, "any Eskimo can pick a lock with his eyes shut." Such words don't respect any differences amongst the Inuit and dampers any individual thoughts they might wish to express. On the margins of page 113, after Caleb is described as not being "as quick, intuitive, or brash as Nootka" I wrote, "finally individuality." Sadly, that was about it for the rest of the novel.

Whereas many authors wrap a story around a message or two, Horwood's cellophane was just too small and didn't cling. The novel is full of awkward passages with characters saying such things as,
"'The supreme evil, Ed, is trying to make people over into what you think they ought to be,' he said, 'It isn't just the missionaries who do it. People do it to each other all the time-- husbands, wives, children-- they never let each other alone, always slashing at each other, making excuses for their own failures, trying to carve each other into the image of what they'd like to be themselves. It's the whole meaning of the family in our culture..."
It's not that Horwood never any valid points, it's that he rammed them down our throats. Sure there were missionaries, police officers, and doctors (there's an interestingly negative portrayal of Sir Wilfred Grenfell, a celebrity doctor in his time, thinly disguised as Dr. Toscin) who commited serious offenses against the Inuit, but except for the men of the Hudson Bay Company, Horwood oversimplifies them as evil, hardly allowing any rationale for their actions to seep through, nor acknowledging that there were individuals in those groups that did help. A couple years ago I reviewed a book of poetry by F.W. Peacock, a priest who served in Labrador. No surprise that he didn't paint a flattering picture of Horwood.

The novel is told in an interesting way: a group aboard the S.S. Kyle, making their way to Labrador, share their stories of Esau Gillingham, the renegade white man who infiltrated Inuit society, and became a legend, an almost godlike figure, who helped lead them back to their more traditional ways despite the best efforts of the church and government. There's also the question of whether or not he killed his best friend, an Inuk named Abel (though don't expect any resolution to that mystery). If it didn't come across that Horwood had too many axes to grind, it could have been a decent book.

The Soundtrack:
1. The Only Gay Eskimo- Corky and the Juice Pigs
2. Survival is a Dead End- Hellothisisalex
3. Nikanish (My People)- Kashtin
4. Arctic World- Midnight Oil
5. Hunter- Bjork

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Robertson Davies Vs. Mordecai Richler

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Robertson Davies Vs. Tom Wolfe), with a final score of 11-2, was Robertson Davies.

Back in my university days, I wasn't a big fan of the student run newspaper, The Muse. I found a lot of it self-serving and full of private jokes amongst the staff. Still, it killed a few minutes before heading off to my next class and the cafeteria was just overflowing with copies. In a most annoying feature, it profiled some of its own reporters like quasi-celebrities, telling us their career goals, their interests, etc. One of them, a red head guy whose name I think was Seamus (oh Lord, their evil plan worked), listed Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities as his all time favourite book. While I insisted that I couldn't have cared less about Seamus's views, his passion for the novel did entice me to read it (keep it mind this was before blogs when reading recommendations from complete strangers was in its infancy).

I didn't get it. I mean, I understood the book, but it just didn't seem like it should be a favourite of anyone. It was like picking Sister Act 2 as your favourite movie.

But I didn't despise it either, and figured I'd at least give Wolfe a 2nd chance with the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, but to this day still haven't. Then I've also only read one Davies book. It's interesting to me that Davies has done as well as he has- last week was his fourth win (a fifth next week means the 2nd edition of the Great Wednesday Compare retires). Perhaps the participants in my 2nd Canadian Book Challenge are skewing the results somewhat, since Davies is Canadian and none of his competitors have been... until now.

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. (Aug 5th, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reader's Diary #381- James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Short Story Monday

I watched High Fidelity last week and was amused to hear Rob Gordon (John Gordon) rank just about everything into Top 5 lists. I'm partial to the Top 10 list myself, but I appreciated watching someone else waste their thoughts as I do.

Favourites are a common theme: favourite t.v. shows, favourite 70's band, favourite fast-food joints, etc. But when it comes to favourite books or short stories, I'm a little more reluctant about sharing my lists. My tastes change so much that what made my cut 10 years ago might embarrass me today. Plus, I'm horribly neglectful when it comes to rereading anything so modifying my lists becomes a very difficult task.

June, two years ago, I posted a list of my favourite short stories. I hadn't read many at the time and so it was comprised of a lot of stories I remembered from high school, even though I'd been out of high school for twelve years at that point. If it wasn't accurate then, it'd surely be different now that I've made a concentrated effort to read a lot more of the form. But, before I go about dropping stories all willy-nilly, I've decided to revisit some of those old chestnuts. A top 10 list is serious business, you know.

James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" topped my list two years ago.

It's not hard to see why the story appealed to me so much as a teenager. I hated highschool passionately, so the idea of escaping through one's imagination would have been very enticing. However, my dislike of school (or of the teenage years, to be more precise) didn't stem from boredom as was the case with Mitty, so I can see how it would appeal to people from my current stage of life as well-- though, fortunately, I'm not one one of them.

Perhaps I'm not giving my teenage self enough credit, but I probably enjoyed the story on a more surface, literal level back then. Today I found myself appreciating the writing. In particular, I found the contrast between Mitty's imaginary world and real life quite well done. Perhaps it seems like a contradiction of terms, but I found the extreme mundaneness quite humorous. It made me question whether or not the non-fantasy parts were satirical or just realism-- depends on your life, I suppose. In any case, going directly from a courtroom brawl to puppy biscuits was perfect.

One complaint I have this time around was the similarity between the navy scene at the beginning and the air force scene towards the end. Up until that 2nd military scenario, I was appreciating the fiction cliches: the first scene could have come from Tom Clancy, the 2nd (a medical scene) from Robin Cook, the 3rd (a courtroom drama) from John Grisham, and the 4th... from Clancy again. Personally, I wish he'd gone with the tawdry sex scene (a la Danielle Steele) or a horror scene (with a touch of Stephen King). My choices of genre, however, probably weren't as popular at the time Thurber's original was published, and certainly wouldn't have helped the story to be published.

Would "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" make my list today? I wouldn't discard it outright, but it has certainly moved down. Nostalgia helps.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Robertson Davies VERSUS Tom Wolfe

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Robertson Davies Vs. Aldous Huxley), with a final score of 10-1, was Robertson Davies.

A brave new world, maybe, but not one full of Huxley fans apparently. I quite enjoyed BNW, but, as Nicola pointed out last week, he didn't leave a large or popular bibliography behind. Certainly, he isn't known for any trilogies as is Davies. Incidentally, I've only read one Davies book and I'd choose BNW over Fifth Business, but then, I didn't vote. In any case, Davies is the first three time winner in this round of Wednesday Compares.

This week, it's time to pit white beard against white suit.

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 29th, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Reader's Diary #380- William Shakespeare: The Tempest

The Tempest seemed quite different than most Shakespearean plays that I've read lately. Initially, there's much more background than I'm used to from Shakespeare. So many characters told the stories of what led them to their current situations that I wondered why he didn't go back a write a prequel. Are those a modern invention?

It's also, as Wikipedia points out, a little hard to classify. It's easy to rule it out as a history or tragedy (there are no blood bath endings here). Originally it was listed as a comedy. It's not, however, all that funny-- there's a bit of humour involving the drunken trio of Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban, but it doesn't dominate the play. Later, it was listed as a romance play, though this is due more to the setting and supernatural elements than the love and relationship connotations modern readers might associate with the term. There is a love interest between Miranda and Ferdinand, but again, it doesn't dominate the play.

Perhaps it's the novelty of the play that gives it its appeal-- that and being set on a deserted island, which we still haven't gotten tired of after 400 years. There were parts I wasn't all that impressed with: the plot involving the trio I mentioned above seemed to go nowhere and added just a bit of comic relief.

I think I enjoyed Prospero's character the most. While not as likable as many of Shakespeare's protagonist, he's an intriguing sort. Controlling the destiny of spirits and mortals alike, even from his island cell, he's led some scholars to suggest he was meant to represent Shakespeare himself. I, however, see him even more godlike than the playwright. Over the course of the play, he seems to go from the vengeful God of the Old Testament to the more forgiving God of the New. And his final speech at the end, directed at the audience, could almost be taken literally:
"Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free."

God as a castaway... interesting premise, no?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reader's Diary #379- Paul Theroux: Mr. Bones

Short Story Monday
Thanks to Wendy over the Short Story Reading Challenge for pointing me in the direction of Paul Theroux's short story "Mr. Bones" as it appeared in the September 2007 edition of the New Yorker, also available online.

In my education courses and literacy meetings, there's been a lot of talk about reading, what it means, and what makes a good reader. One common assumption is that good readers make connections; they think about what they are reading and relate it to past knowledge and experiences while applying to any number of hypothetical situations.

As I read through "Mr. Bones" I was smugly impressed with my own abilities as a reader. I connected the story to comedians as far ranging as Al Jolson to John Ritter, I questioned the burden of the masculine identity, I foresaw potential pitfalls of a Tibetan liberation. Ain't I something?

That's when it hit me-- I don't do this every time I read. Shouldn't something be said for the quality of writing? If I read The Alchemist and thought of nothing but rainbows and unicorns, did it mean that I was a poor reader or could it be that Coelho isn't much of an author? I'm guessing the answer lies somewhere in between.

In other words, Theroux's "Mr. Bones" is a brilliant piece of writing: it's thought provoking but the story and characters deliver the provocation, not the other way around. Plus, I love an uncomfortable veneer on my comedy and Mr. Bones delivered.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Reader's Diary #378- Douglas Lochhead: Weathers

I have mixed feelings of Lochhead's Weathers, an anthology of poems gleaned from his books and chapbooks from 1989-2002. Perhaps Weathers is a good title for the book-- taking the rain and sun in equal doses.

I appreciate that he has a recognizable style. There's a lot of nature-focused poems, often told in short, concise fragments. Sometimes far less subtle than haiku, his poetry is still somewhat reminiscent of the form.

After a while, the choppiness of some of the poems got to me. Granted, it often seemed to imply a stream of consciousness but I'm not a huge fan of that style. Here is an excerpt from Vigils and Mercies 1-30:
"Demon day. Right on for the race of inner wrath.
Who else burns? Questions shake and flop
on the wind. Bottled silence. Windows
and doors. Boarded up."

With such a pace and disjointed rhythm, I found some poems very difficult to follow the overall message or thought. I think poems should be concise, but clarity shouldn't necessarily be sacrificed. I thought he was at his best when he used articles, conjunctions and the like, though other poets might get away with omitting them. I quite enjoyed this stanza from "The Bite of Love:"
A dark toil of clouds
over a thrashing sea:
rumours of shipwrecks
out there in horizon's mouth.

However, while few poems appealed to me on their whole, I did enjoy many of the images and lines within. I loved, for instance, how effectively he set up the tone, pace and theme in the opening lines of "Wood Point Poems:" "The leaves are dying./ The leaves are dead."

Ironically, one of the rare poems in the book that doesn't rely on his strength with imagery, helps to explain Lochhead's great ability with imagery. It's also my favourite in Weathers:

Everything is
by Douglas Lochhead

You understand?
sure you understand.

everything is poetry.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reader's Diary #377- Jessica Mitford: The American Way of Death Revisited

It used to bother me to see Bibles for sale. Though-- especially at that time-- I wasn't a religious man, something about it didn't seem right. Were the Gideons the only ones that understood that if you want more followers, charging the prospective converts probably isn't the wisest idea. Of course, I was naive at the time. The Bible business isn't all about hooking non-believers, nor is it a unique industry to be profiting from peoples' beliefs.

But there's something especially sinister about the way the funeral business does it. Jessica Mitford first wrote about this in 1963. Before her death in 1996, she'd decided to revisit the topic and see how things have changed, for better or for worse. For worse. Much worse.

I wasn't shocked by Mitford's findings (us cynics rarely get shocked). I was appalled though. There's something very immoral about someone taking advantage of another when they're not in the emotional state of mind to make the best judgements.

One of the most common defences? It's tradition. It's what people expect, and even need, when a loved one passes away. But just as gift-giving is a tradition of Christmas, funerals have also gotten carried away with big business. There's a clothing line for dead people, for God sakes. People are spending small fortunes on caskets... for cremations!

It's a whole business based on pseudos: pseudo-psychology (claiming people are psychologically comforted from seeing their loved ones "preserved" in a satin-lined casket), pseudo-science (claiming corpses avoid decay and are somehow more sanitary when they are embalmed), and pseudo-religion (most clergy are opposed to the expensive spectacles). Unfortunately, they've managed not only to convince some of their own that what they're doing is right, but a small portion of the public is starting to accept their practices as the norm; a costly, but necessary, duty to prove how much they care.

But it's not all angst. Mitford's approach is quite funny at times and her wit is matched occasionally by absurd anecdotes (a favourite tells the story of an undertaker who tried to convince someone to buy a longer casket, then saying that he supposed he could cut off the feet to make the body fit).

I also quite enjoyed hearing about the way the funeral industry has tried (usually successfully) to change the lexicon of their livelihood; to put on a more pleasant (read: marketable) spin. Undertakers are funeral directors, coffins are caskets, morgues are preparation rooms and so on. It reminded me of the George Carlin quote, "Thanks to the fear of death in this country I won’t have to die— I’ll pass away."

As a revisited book, I was expecting the old book with a bunch of footnotes. Not so. Everything seems based on new interviews, new articles, and so forth.

Finally, Mitford offers a glimmer of hope, a cheap light at the end of the tunnel: she supplies contacts to a load of organizations that provide, or at the very least help find, affordable funerals. And in case you're wondering-- though this wasn't in the book-- Mitford's own funeral cost a mere $533.31. What a bargain!

The Soundtrack:
1. Body Movin'- The Beastie Boys
2. At My Funeral- Crash Test Dummies
3. We Wish You'd Bury The Missus- The Cryptkeeper
4. Going Underground- The Jam
5. Don't Pay The Ferryman- Chris de Burgh

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Robertson Davies VERSUS Aldous Huxley

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Robertson Davies Vs. Nick Hornby), with a final score of 10-5, was Robertson Davies.

Still haven't gotten around to watching High Fidelity, though from the positive comments last week, I'm looking forward to it. Speaking of rock based movies, I watched Hard Core Logo a few nights ago. Can't decide how I feel about it other than that. If you've seen it, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Both of these were picks of mine through Nicola asked last week what I thought of Zip as she was trying to convince her husband to try it. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it's the Canadian equivalent to NetFlix. For those who are familiar, or even members of either Zip or NetFlix, you might want to weigh in on this one. Personally, I love it. We rent a lot of DVDs but the late fees at our local convenient store were killing us (they had no "No Late Fee" deals like at Blockbuster). Plus their selection was pretty limited to new releases. At Zip we don't pay late-fees and their selection is incredible. My wife, however, doesn't seem quite convinced it's worth the $30/month. She feels they take too long with the new releases, even when you rank your preferences. Plus, despite a rather quick turnaround time in the mail, she feels we're not really getting enough movies per month (though we're signed on for an unlimited deal, with 4 allowed in our possession at any time-- if that makes sense).

What does this have to do with authors? Nothing. I got sidetracked.

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 22nd, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Listener's Diary #1- Vincent Lam: A Long Migration

Short Story Monday

I came across the Authors Aloud website while searching for a piece of flash fiction from John Gould. His reading of "Crunch" is available there. However, since Authors Aloud was new to me, I wanted to check out what else they had to offer and I came across Vincent Lam, who I'd been wanted to read for some time (I skipped the Gould story this time around since I already read it in Kilter-- a great collection of flash fiction, I might add.)

One problem with Authors Aloud, however, is the lack of info on the piece being read. They have author bios and the title of the book from which the reading is taken. But, in the case of the short story collections, it's unclear whether it's an excerpt from a story or the whole thing. This wouldn't be a problem except that sometimes, let's face it, authors like ambiguous endings. So, instead of listening to Lam's reading at Authors Aloud, I followed a link to his own website where he'd posted media clips, including excerpts from the CBC radio program "Under The Covers." In March of 2006, Under The Covers featured readings from Lam's short story collection, Bloodletting and Other Miraculous Cures. I finally chose to listen to two excerpts from the short story "The Long Migration," still not knowing if the two pieces comprised a whole or not, but too weary of sliding under another suffocating quilt of ye olde Internette.

At the end of the story... wait, I'm not sure if it was the end or not, the ending was a bit ambiguous... I appreciated the tale's use of blood imagery. Lam was able to connect blood's physiological functions to genealogy connotations to the soul as only a doctor/writer could. Having the story told from a med student/ grandson point of view was a wise move-- not only because of a familiarity of subject matter, but also because it added a perspective that only the double identity could have: medicine with family bias, or vice versa. It made the blood explorations all the more plausible and effortless.

Still, I'm not sure if I got the whole story. Take that literally and figuratively. It does sort of chop short, leading me to think there may be a conclusion in the book itself. But as the story progressed time became more of an issue. Perhaps there was some sort of lesson intended-- should I live in the now and not worry about what happens to the grandfather? Is time such a continuum that I'm not suppose to see an ending as relevant? Argghh. Was there more in the book? I can't over analyze until I find out for sure...

To the library!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reader's Diary #376- Nadine McInnis: Hand to Hand

The cover and title of Nadine McInnis's Hand to Hand is a perfect title for this collection of poetry. The two hands capture the gentle and violent sides of humankind, and it implies a juxtaposition of sorts, a not quite mirror image. McInnis's use of surprising or odd images to reflect upon one another provides fantastic explorations of the seemingly contradictory facets of life, revealing much more common ground than normally considered, or conversely taking what should be complimentary images and showing their incongruities.

Perhaps the most compelling poems in the book were a series called "Famous Moments" that compared everyday, often mundane, Canadian life with the lives of global headlines. A favourite of these for me, slammed in a Quill & Quire review, was "What I was doing when Princess Diana went into labour" which began with these stanzas:

In the north, ambulances take away the dead.
The living are transported
by '72 Chevy truck,
by rusted rattling Thunderbird,
by the teacher's wife, eight months pregnant myself,
shuddering over the reserve's washboard roads
as fast as I dare.

Screws dropping from the Ford's dash,
twenty miles to town,
and she buckles over beside me, groans,
"How much longer?"
"Halfway there."
Her breathing tightens into gasps.

Perhaps it's because I've lived somewhat in the outskirts of average Canadian white culture for so long now that I appreciate this poem. On the one hand, a reader might be inclined to think McInnis is taking the image of childbirth and showing how a universal event can vary in context: transplant Diana into the Chevy truck and see how absurd the picture looks. Yet, on the other hand, there's a more subtle similarity than at first appears: both Diana and the pregnant Native woman have lives foreign and almost unimaginable to the majority of Canadians.

As the collection progressed, I was at first disappointed that obvious comparisons seemed to dropped in favour of more "typical "poetry. I had been enjoying seeing how McInnis seemed to hold up two slides, trying to transpose them over one another. Towards the end there seemed to be less of that. However, when I paid more attention, it was as if she had merely been taking the time to explain the power of metaphors before putting them to use. When she writes in "The Creek," which appears in the last section of the book, "This muddy snake,/ curving slow in the sun,/ has swallowed more than memories" it's as if she'd already given the skill to meld the "snake" and "river" images and to accept the metaphor for what it's worth.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2: Robertson Davies VERSUS Nick Hornby

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Doris Lessing Vs. Robertson Davies), with a final score of 14-3, was Robertson Davies.

Wow, landslide. What happened to all the Lessing love? In case anyone missed it, I finally got around to reading something by her: a short story called "Flight." It was okay.

By the way, last week Remi mentioned the Moxy Fruvous song "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors." I was vaguely familiar with the song (Barbara just sent me the cd a couple months ago), so I rechecked the lyrics online. What are the odds that Doris Lessing and Robertson Davies are both mentioned in the same song? I swear, that's not where I drew the inspiration for pitting them against one another-- unless it was all in my subconscious. Weird, eh?

Anyway here's the video:

This week, I'm not referring to any mid-nineties Canadian rock-barbershop songs for inspiration. Instead, I journey to Bybee's blog where her author crushes have come to a head. Incidentally, I had someone else all lined up to take on Davies this week, until I read her post. Even then I wasn't sure. That's when I had an email from saying that they'd shipped a DVD a High Fidelity my way. I took it as a sign.

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 15th, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Reader's Diary #375- Lawrence Block: Hit Parade

Keller's most recent victim? My inner-snob. I called him Johann and he died a most pleasant death.

Keller, for those of you who don't know, is the hitman of Lawrence Block's John Keller series: Hit Man, Hit List, Hit Parade and Hit and Run. And Block is the author of over 50 books. With titles like that and those sorts of numbers, you'd be correct in guessing that Block is popular amongst the trade paperback crowd.

Obviously a bit of a hack, right? Well, maybe, but an entertaining hack.

As a series of short stories, I was wildly amused with Keller and his trials and tribulations as a contract killer. Keller, who was looking to retire, but needed money to support his expensive stamp collecting, calls up his... booking agent...Dot and basically tells her to bring it on.

It's partially the chemistry and dry humour between Keller and Dot that make the book so funny. In one of my favourite scenes they discuss what is to become of a killer pit-bull now that Keller has done away with its dominatrix owner:

"He'll get sent to the YMCA," he said, "and when nobody adopts him, which they won't because of his history, he'll be put to sleep."

"Is that what they do at the YMCA?"

"Is that what I said? I meant the SPCA."

"That's what I figured."

The book isn't perfect, of course. I had issues with the title (I know he was keeping with a theme, but it has nothing to do with popular songs at all). I also thought it a bit strange that the first three stories had to do with sports (baseball, horse racing and golf) leading me to believe that the book would have a sports theme, but with the exception of a story towards the end about basketball, didn't go that route. And occasionally I felt that Keller tried too hard to head off any psychoanalysis of Keller by having him reflect on several occasions on how he differed from your average sociopath.

Still, that he could actually make me somewhat root for the bad guy was no small feat. I've never been a fan of mafia movies or shows, not understanding why people would find such despicable people entertaining. So, how could Block convince me to follow the stories of a hitman? I'm not entirely sure, but I think it helped that I never got to know the victims all that well. Sometimes he suggested that they weren't that nice (as was the case with the aforementioned dominatrix), and other times they were potentially fine people (or at least no worse that the average), but Keller was the focus, their lives were only scratched superficially. It's okay if I don't know them? That's unsettling, isn't it?

Perhaps that's where the book gained the most points with me. Any book that makes me think can't be all that bad. It made me consider my own capabilities. Of course I could never kill (whew!) but what else? I only had to check out my recent review of Patricia MacLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall to see how not knowing a victim makes it easier to be cruel. Critic as murderer? Heck, I didn't even get paid.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Reader's Diary #374- Doris Lessing: Flight

Short Story Monday

When I first introduced Doris Lessing to the Wednesday Compares three weeks ago, I hadn't heard of her before. I found a Times Online article that ranked her, as a post-war British author, above J. R. R. Tolkien. I'm not a huge fan of Tolkien, but I thought it a bit surprising that Lessing would have beaten him. Who had even heard of Lessing? Turns out, everyone else.

Not one to be excluded so easily, I now have at least a short exposure to her work. I searched for something of hers online, and came upon her story "Flight," complete with typos and ridiculous test questions (Oh you poor students of Kettle Thorpe High).

My first Lessing story didn't win me over, unfortunately. While I loved the mood change early in the story, the rest of it-- an almost literal exploration of an old man experiencing empty nest syndrome-- just didn't work for me. There seemed to be so much time taken to work in some obvious and already overdone symbols, that the characters fell to the wayside, becoming one-dimensional caricatures.

But I realize this is but one short story, and not one of her best, I assume. I'll give her another chance...eventually.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Reader's Diary #373- Patricia MacLachlan: Sarah, Plain and Tall

In 1986 the John Newbery people, in a radical change of plans, decided to give their award to the children's book most likely to drive both kids and parents alike into a comatose-like state. (Don't bother looking for proof of this in Wikipedia as I'm sure my snarky comments will have been edited out by the time you get to it.)

Sarah, Plain and Tall is the story of a mail-order bride from Maine who goes to live with Papa and his two children, Anna and Caleb. The mother had died giving birth to the latter.

Before she decides to move to the prairies, Papa and his children start up a correspondence through letters. Caleb asks if she sings. Finally, when her mind is made up, she writes back, "I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet. I am plain and tall [...] Tell them I sing."

Goody! When I read this to my daughter, who had just recently watched Mary Poppins for the first time, she suspected that the "plain and tall" bit wasn't exactly true. As did I. To be honest, I thought a mail-order bride would be full of crazy surprises.
But alas, MacLachlan's title could serve as its own blurb.

It's like she took Anne of Green Gables or Little House on the Prairie, weeded out all the amusing anecdotes, and replaced them with sentimental descriptions of weather and wildflowers. A hail storm and a hay slide are as exciting as it gets. The drama consists of Sarah missing the sea and the kids worrying she'll return to it. What child wouldn't find this enthralling?

Plus, it's depressing! Not just because of the dead mother or homesickness either. Even when it's supposed to have a happy ending (Sarah stays. Oh no. I've ruined it for you.), I didn't find it all that uplifting. Sarah spends so much of her time missing the ocean, learning to ride a horse, or tending chickens that I didn't sense any real connection to the children. Sure they were relieved at her decision to stay, but it seemed out of desperation to have a mother back in their lives. And Sarah just needed a place to be. Not as sweet as Hallmark would have led us to believe after all.

The good news? It's only 58 pages.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 2- Doris Lessing VERSUS Robertson Davies

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Doris Lessing Vs. Norman Mailer), with a final score of 7-6, was Doris Lessing.

Close call for sure. Once again, I realize how you all are more well read than I. At least time I've heard of Mailer. I can't decide which of his books I should start with: The Executioner's Song or The Naked and The Dead. Those of you who voted for him last week, which would you recommend more?

This week, perhaps because it was Canada Day yesterday and the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge started, I'm throwing another Canuck into the compares.

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 8th, 2008), and please spread the word!

Who's better?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

Did you join the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge?

Let the games begin! Good luck.

For the month of July, anyone reading a book of poetry for the challenge will have their name entered into a drawing for a secret prize that will be revealed in the first update on August 1st.

Also, please note that I have added a list of participants to the sidebar, as well as the current standings. Please keep me informed if and when the number beside your name isn't accurate.

The Canadian Book Challenge- The Final Update!

Looks like we made it, look how far we've come my baby... okay, I know it's the Canadian Book Challenge, but enough with the Shania Twain lyrics already.

First off, congratulations to Court, Teddy Rose, Sam Lamb, Ripley, Historia, Raych, 3M, Kate, Ragdoll and Callista for crossing the finish line in June. And congrats as well to everyone who gave it their best shot. I hope you all had a lot of fun, and if you haven't already, sign up for the second challenge.

In the meantime, I thought I'd leave you with a few statistics about the 1st Canadian Book Challenge, which began back in October of 2007:

1. 415 books were read in total

2. 23/47 participants completed

3. The six most popular books were: Steve Zipp's Yellowknife (8 reviews), Elizabeth Hay's Late Nights On Air (7 reviews), Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (with 5 reviews), and Joan Clark's Latitudes of Melt, Eve Wiseman's Kanada , and Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad (each with 4 reviews). Isn't it interesting that the two most popular books were from the NWT? The rest of the books had 3 reviews or less.

4. The four most popular authors were: Lucy Maud Montgomery (17 reviews), Margaret Atwood (14 reviews), Elizabeth Hay (8 reviews) and Steve Zipp (8 reviews). Every other author had 6 or less.

Here are the final standings:

The Grosbeaks (13 Books)

- Summer of Changes by Ann Alma
- Swimming In The Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai*
- fake id by Hazel Edwards*
- Walking A Thin Line by Sylvia McNicholl*
- Super Crocs and Monster Wings by Claire Eamer*
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- The Curse of Akkad by Peter Christie*
- The Boy From Earth by Richard Scrimger*
- The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields*
- Wonder Kids: The Remarkable Lives of Nine Prodigies by Charis Cotter*
- Smart-Opedia by Maple-Tree Press
- There Will Be Wolves by Karleen Bradford
- The Library Book by Maureen Saw

- The Lost Highway by David Adams Richards*
- Unsettled by Zachariah Wells*
- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill*
- 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

- Judging Bertha Wilson: Law As Large As Life by Ellen Anderson*
- Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood*
- Looking For Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up A Literary Classic by Irene Gammel*
- Charlie Muskrat by Harold Johnson*
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- All The Colours of Darkness by Peter Robinson*
- Dead Cars in Managua by Stuart Ross*
- Skim by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki*
- Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets edited by Zacariah Wells*
- Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall*
- Dr. Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit by Robert Lecker
- The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe
- The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence

- Life of Pi by Yann Martel*
- The Road Past Altamont by Gabrielle Roy*
- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen*
- Jacob Two-Two's First Spy Case by Mordecai Richler*
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood*
- Bear by Marian Engel*
- 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

- The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje*
- The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx*
- Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood*
- Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland*
- Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee*
- Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson*
- 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

- Lost Lands Forgotten Stories by Alexandra Pratt*
- The Spinster and the Prophet by A.B. McKillop*
- 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

- A Bird In The House by Margaret Laurence*
- The Devil Is Loose! by Antonine Maillet*
- The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery by Lucy Maude Montgomery*
- 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

Sam Lamb
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay*
- All Times Have Been Modern by Elisabeth Harvor*
- 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

- Only In Canada You Say by Katherine Barber*
- Sex In The Snow: Tenth Anniversary Edition by Michael Adams*
- 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

Teddy Rose
- Tobasco the Saucy Raccoon by Lyn Hancock*
- Bang Crunch by Neil Smith*
- A Perfect Night To Go To China by David Gilmour*
- Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland*
- 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

- 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 Relinquishing 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 Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley*
- 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

The Snowy Owls (11 Books)

- Whale Song by Cheryl Kaye Tardiff*
- 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 Green Loons (10 Books)

The Osprey (9 Books)

- A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel*
- Still Life by Louise Penny*
- 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

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)

- 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)

Geranium Cat
- The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson*
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood*
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- 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 Loons (6 Books)

- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry*
- 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

- 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

- 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

- 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)

- 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.)

And now the giveaways. For the book prizes, I'm drawing randomly from all the participants who finished the challenge.

The winner of a hardcover edition of David Bergen's The Time In Between was Raych!

The winner of Robert W. Service's The Shooting of Dan McGrew, autographed by illustrator Ted Harrison, was Nicola!

The winner of Anosh Irani's The Song of Kahunsha was Corey!

For the non-book prizes, I chose from everyone who participated, regardless if they finished or not. The winner of the hockey puck was Sam!

And, of course, the winner of the Kraft Dinner was Aaron!

Bon appetit!

(Winners, in the next two weeks, please email me jmutford [at] hotmail [dot] com with your mailing address!)

A very special thanks goes out to all the authors and publishers that donated prizes: (In no particular order) Zachariah Wells, Cheryl Kaye Tardiff, Corey Redekop, McClelland and Stewart, Ted Harrison, Kenneth J. Harvey, Steve Zipp, Kathleen Molloy, Patricia Storms, Cormorant Books, and Anansi Press.

And thank-you of course to all the participants! I had a blast, and I hope you did too.