Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Word Play- Title Ties

The Three Day Long Road Running Too Close To The Home of The White Triffids With Bone Scissors

The terrible and terribly long title above mashes together at least 8 titles of popular books. I'll give you the authors, you find the title. (Hint: All titles run forward. Some words will be used in more than one title.)

As always, feel free to do all eight at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way 8 people will have a chance to play along.

1. Cormac McCarthy
2. Barbara Gowdy
3. Linwood Barclay
4. Marilynne Robinson
5. Rose Tremain
6. Joseph Boyden
7. John Wyndham
8. Augusten Burroughs

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare #3- Noam Chomsky VERSUS Vladimir Nabokov

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Stephen Hawking Vs. Noam Chomsky) with a final score of 5-3 was Noam Chomsky.

Science versus politics? With the minds of last week's two contenders, it's difficult to reduce it to that, but certainly judging on literary merits alone would be a near impossible task.

This week Hawking leaves the Compare. I've read a couple of his books, and I was amazed at how interesting those were. He's able to make science accessible and that's not to be confused with making it easy. Can I explain wormholes and the expansion of the universe? Absolutely not, but while reading through A Brief History of Time and Black Holes and Baby Universes, I was momentarily convinced that I could. I used to be critical of such books, thinking it was folly to try and condense all of that knowledge into a single volume and simply hand it over to the average Joe and expect him to comprehend it. But, I think such books help make laymen become believers in their science and the possibility of the their theories, and that's more important than turning us all into amateur physicists.

But it's time to get back to literature.

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. (Dec. 2nd, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

***And if you're not too tired of voting, head over to Bybee's to vote on a new term. First there was "w00t!" Now there's "meh." Who knows? With your help maybe a brand new term will be coined...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Brainstorming Challenges

I'm half way through my last book for the Russian Reading Challenge right now, and my sights are already set on the next challenge I'll be joining. For those of you who haven't joined a reading challenge, I'd highly recommend it. If it's your first, I'd suggest picking something slightly less ambitious: one with fewer books required and with a topic or theme you'd likely to be reading anyway.

But even better than participating in a challenge is hosting your own. I encourage you to do so. I've hosted a couple of my own: The Obscure Challenge (which has been less than successful) and the 2 Canadian Book Challenges (which have been a lot of fun). I won't be starting up another one anytime soon, but I've had a few ideas running through my head for a while:

1. On A Roll Challenge - In this challenge you show your love for those people on your blogroll. Suggested rules and requirements: Pick four people on your blogroll and see what they've been reading. Choose any 5 of those books to read within one year.

2. Lost In Translation Challenge - In this challenge you read books not originally written in English. Two suggestions for rules and requirements: I. Pick three books originally written in three different languages to read in one year. II. Pick two different translations of the same book to read within 9 months.

3. I Read Dead People Challenge - In this challenge you only read books by authors who are no longer alive. Suggestion for rules and requirements: 3 books in 9 months; 1 from an author who died in the past five years, 1 from an author who died more than 10 years ago, and 1 from an author who died more than 50 years ago.

4. Challenge Challenge - This challenge encourages multi-tasking. Suggestion for rules and requirements: In one year, read four books that each meet a requirement of four other challenges. For instance, a book might fit into the Canadian Challenge, the Centuries Challenge, The A to Z Challenge, and the What's In A Name Challenge all at the same time.

As you can see, I've added suggested rules in case anyone wants to attempt hosting one of these. If you do, feel free to use the cheesy logos and rules, or revamp them to suit your tastes.

Can you think of any ideas for challenges? If you're not planning on hosting them yourself, feel free to throw them out here in the comment section for others who might be interested. Better yet, write a "Mock Challenge" post on your own blogs and simply add a link to it here. Just be willing to let someone use your idea, if they should be so inclined. Or, perhaps you'll pick up the torch yourself. There are a lot of challenges listed here and here if you want to make sure it hasn't already been done. Don't worry if you notice some overlap. For instance, the "On A Roll Challenge" listed above is similar in scope to the "I Heard It Through The Grapevine Challenge" and the "I Read Dead People Challenge" picks could count towards the "Decades Challenge" or many others.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reader's Diary #418- Romesh Gunesekera: The Library

Short Story Monday

As a hobby, I went through a brief phase of genealogical research about 7 or 8 years back. Growing up we knew of no Mutfords outside of my father's family. There were 3 Mutford males in his family, and each of those had 1 son (me being 1 of the 3). And, unless the girls stopped changing their last names upon marriage, it was believed that the name would eventually die out. My surname is rare and as a general rule that makes it a little easier to research, but the Internet made things easier still.

It was a productive search, uncovering a few distant relatives in the U.S. and Ontario, and while there are no Mutfords currently living there, a small village in England called Mutford. When I say small, I mean small. According to the Wikipedia entry, Mutford "consists of a crossroads, at which there is a village store with a Post Office, and a residential street..." and on the Facebook group, "Mutford Appreciation Society," the recent news reads, "Car passed through village at 7.29pm. 8.15am non local spotted in post office."

A few weeks ago my wife booked us tickets to fly over and see Mutford in March. I've long known my ancestors were from England, it'll be nice to see what I can only assume to be part of our history. Can't wait to check out that post office!

I bring this up because Donald, the protagonist in "The Library," is also researching his family tree. However, he's the opposite of me: his ancestors moved to England, not away. Still, it was enough common ground to make the story appealing.

Donald is a likeable character, if somewhat dull. He reminded me of Akaky Akakievich in Gogol's "The Overcoat" in that both lives seem enriched only with banality. However, unlike Akaky, Donald actually catches a break...and then some. These breaks rest upon coincidence (or if you want to go down that road, fate). Coincidences happen in real-life all the time, yet when an author tries to stick one into a plot, more often they seem far-fetched. Gunesekera however, makes his coincidences seem entirely plausible.

It doesn't have a strong ending however, and as happened when I listened to Vincent Lam's "A Long Migration," I wasn't even sure if I'd managed to get the whole story. Maybe the ending had been left off my copy by mistake? But upon a second reading, I think it has more of an ending than I'd first acknowledged. It could be the first chapter of a novel, but then, it could also stand on its own.

If a mystery defines you, what happens when the mystery is solved?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Saturday Word Play- Mistabled Awards

This time of year seems to be award season for the book folk. This week alone saw the Governor General Awards handed out here in Canada (congrats to Ricci, Blatchford, Scheier and others) and the US National Book Awards south of the border (congrats to Matthiessen, Gordon-Reed, Blundell, and others). I'm sure it's a boost to their careers and booksales alike.

Below I've listed some of the other awards handed out annually. Can you find the titles of this year's winners in the chart that follows? Each 1st word can be found somewhere in the first column, 2nd in the second and so forth. But, to make things more difficult, I won't tell you the number of words in each title-- except to say that many of the titles are not seven words long and so, some of the words in the latter columns are duds, meaning they don't belong to any title. Don't fret too much though. As more people answer correctly and eliminate words, the easier it makes your task.

I apologize about the blurriness of the chart, hopefully it's still legible. To shrink it down from nine columns, and make it fit, I had to eliminate this year's Newbery winner, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From A Medieval Village. The chart was just rendered so small and unclear, I had to replace it. I'm sure I've missed many of the others from the pass year. Feel free to let me know which others you know of. Also, just out of curiosity, do any of these prizes influence your decision to read those particular books?

As always, feel free to do all ten at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way it'll allow 10 people to play along.

1. The Scotiabank Giller Prize
2. Hugo Award for Best Novel
3. The Orange Prize (The Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction)
4. The Griffin Poetry Prize
5. The Man Booker Prize
6. The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
7. Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
8. Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour
9. Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
10. Caldecott

Reader's Diary #417- Hermann Hesse: Poems (translated by James Wright)

If you'd asked me last month where Steppenwolf (Born To Be Wild, Magic Carpet Ride) got their name, I'd have smugly said from a German novel. Yet when I found the book on the left at a a used book sale recently, I admit this was the first man I thought of: Luckily, when I realized I'd been thinking of Howard Hesseman, not Hermann Hesse, I saw that it was safe to go back in the water, so to speak, and picked myself up a copy.

The first thing that struck me was the simplicity of the poems. Of course it probably helps (or hinders, depending) that translator James Wright has chosen poems that seem to represent "homesickness" and so a single theme runs through each. However, things got a little more complex when I was forced to reconsider what home meant: both to myself, and from poem to poem. Longing for something one cannot even describe seems to have been a common theme running through a few of the books I've read lately, but it's probably one we can all relate to; akin to feeling that something isn't right but having no idea how to fix it.

The second thing that struck me was the difference, or lack of, rhymes in the English version. Wright has the German originals followed by their English translations. Compare:

Wohl lieb ich die finstre Nacht;
Oft aber, wenn sie also bleich
Und duster wie aus Schmerzen lacht,
Graut mir vor ihrem argen reich

I like the darkness well enough;
But sometimes, when it turns bleak
And peaked, as my suffering laughs at me,
Its dreadful kingdom horrifies me.

Without understanding a lick of German, I can clearly see the rhymes at the end of the original (Nacht-lacht, bleich-reich). In the English counterpart, there is the doubling of "me" at the end and there's a near internal rhyme with bleak-peaked. This is about the closest Wright was able to manage.

A poem must be one of the most difficult pieces of language to translate. To find equivalent words in another language for all those subtleties and still convey the intent, possible connotations, and mood must require an amazing sort of skill to do well. And then to add in rhythm and rhyme? Is it even possible to do an adequate job? I'm not bilingual, so I can't answer.

Did I enjoy the poems in this collection? Absolutely. Did I understand them the way Hesse intended? I'm not sure. Then, I'm never sure of that, even with originally English poems. I usually consider it a moot point, but this time I got a little sidetracked. I started thinking of nectarines.

Last winter in Iqaluit, I couldn't get a decent nectarine. The ones at the local Northmart were half-rotten and overpriced, the ones I shipped up from Montreal were just rotten. Was it too much to ask for fresh tropical fruit in the Arctic?

Probably. It's the Arctic for God sakes! I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow I've come to expect the world to be completely accessible to me. (Blame globalization.) But judging by the outcry last year when food prices started to climb due to rising fuel costs, I don't think I'm alone.
And maybe it's not just commodities. Maybe it's also ideas. (Blame the Internet.) Surely that's not a bad thing... or is it?

Should a book of German poetry be accessible to me? If I have to rely on a translation, maybe not. How would I know if it was half rotten?

On second thought, what if I was to learn German? Maybe accessibility isn't the issue, maybe a sense of entitlement is. If I want to have a greater appreciation of Hesse's poetry-- in its German original-- I should have to work for it.

Nah. Who has the time for that?

I'll take Wright's nectarines. This one doesn't taste bad at all...

Without You

My Pillow gazes upon me at night
Empty as a gravestone;
I never thought it would be so bitter
To be alone,
Not to lie down asleep in your hair.

(Read the rest here.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reader's Diary #416- Anthony De Sa: Barnacle Love

Somewhat like David Bezmozgis's Natasha and Other Stories in scope (connected stories about an immigrant family's experience in Canada), I found De Sa's more engaging. His is the story of the Rebelos, a Portuguese family from the Azores, that eventually ends up in Toronto. The first half of the book revolves around Manuel Rebelo, who has convinced himself that his obsession with Canada is about fulfilling a dream. Before long, however, it becomes apparent that Manuel's dream is ill-defined at best, and Canada really represents an escape (both from an overbearing, abusive mother and from memories of a pedophile priest). The latter half of the book moves to Antonio, Manuel's son, who struggles with his Portuguese heritage and more importantly, with a father who has not amounted to anything extraordinary, despite a few lame attempts.

At times Barnacle Love, as you've probably guessed, can be a downer. Most troubling for me was the inability to really understand Manuel. I was taking it as shoddy writing, that he wasn't really defined as a character, until I realized that it was Manuel's lack of real purpose and his self-delusion, that made him appear that way. If Manuel was really as two-dimensional, as I had first suspected he was, I wouldn't have found myself rooting for him despite his obvious flaws.

I also enjoyed comparing Antonio and Manuel. With Manuel, who wanted to get away from his mother, and Antonio who sometimes seemed loyal to a fault to his father, the two made easy contrasts. When Manuel was a young man, during his first stint in Newfoundland, he watches a moose being gutted with hardly more than a passing thought. Yet when Antonio watches his father and friends slaughter a pig, he is transfixed by the blood and winds up vomiting at the sight of the guts. But perhaps most interesting is the way De Sa tells Manuel's story in the third person, but tells Antonio's in the first. The effect is a son who seems more psychologically substantial than his father. Could this be Manuel's dream of fulfillment manifesting itself in his son? Perhaps Barnacle Love is hopeful afterall.

The Soundtrack
1. Mar De Canal- Cesaria Evora
2. Nem As Paredes Confesso- Amalia Rodrigues
3. Runaway- Great Big Sea
4. Força- Nelly Furtado
5. O Canada

Barnacle Love (2008) was published by Random House and shortlisted for the Giller Prize.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare #3- Stephen Hawking VERSUS Noam Chomsky

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Art Spiegelman Vs. Stephen Hawking) with a final score of 4-1 was Art Spiegelman.

Oy Vey! The votes just keeping getting fewer and fewer.

This week we say goodbye to Art Spiegelman. Last week I made a reference to his "Garbage Pail Kids" days. Isn't it amazing that he could start on such a humble career note then end up winning a Pulitzer? And with a graphic novel that uses mice to tell a holocaust story?! I've yet to read a graphic novel, but I can't wait to read Maus.

On a trivial note, both Hawking and Spiegelman have made appearances on the Simpsons.

This week things get a little cerebral.

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. (Nov. 25th, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And The Winner Is...

Callista! Callista, like the others who entered the draw, linked A LOT of those books read for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge to other challenges they could be used for. Some examples? Bookweird by Paul Glennon could work as for the Bibliography challenge and Six Seconds by Rick Mofina could count towards the Numbers Challenge. Each suggestion counted as an entry, and I then picked from those at random, leaving Callista the lucky winner of Brad Kelln's The Tongue of the Dead. Congrats Callista! (I was supposed to do this draw on the 14th and I apologize to the participants for the delay.) Thanks to ECW Press for donating this prize.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reader's Diary #415- W. P. Kinsella: Waiting on Lombard Street

Short Story Monday

After my wife's last post about Carol Shield's Dressing Up for The Carnival, Gypsysmom commented "I generally don't like short stories as I often feel they don't develop the plot as much as I need."

Putting aside the "I" which implies it is a personal opinion, and the "generally" which acknowledges exceptions, Gypsysmom's statement is not uncommon. Even amongst avid readers, the short story form isn't always looked upon favourably. Given the usual complaints, it stands to reason that they'd care even less for flash fiction, which is an even more condensed form of short story.

As a fan of both short stories and flash fiction, I used to come to their defence whenever someone didn't share my enthusiasm. I still think there are those that just don't give the forms a fair chance, but I've also come to realize that it sometimes comes down to a matter of individual preference. And while I'm no longer disheartened by the detractors, I still cringe whenever I come across a story that lives down to their expectations.

W.P. Kinsella's flash story "Waiting on Lombard Street" is one such story.

It is the tale of couple waiting for their order at a I-HOP. A simple enough premise, but I don't have an issue with that. Plus the introduction of a supernatural element held promise of livening things up. The mention of the Bermuda Triangle the third paragraph has decidedly more relevance as the story progresses. Likewise waiting in vain for one's meal has some comedic potential. (I've only been in Yellowknife since July but on three separate occasions, at three different restaurants, I've had a waitress "forget" my order. I can relate to the premise.)

But jokingly suggesting that their order got accidentally served in an I-HOP in an alternate universe, isn't exactly a great conclusion to a story. Even non-Sci-Fi junkies have talked that idea to death. Kinsella presents it as if it were an original thought but does nothing original with it. A plot should be more than a passing thought. A story should be more than this.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Guest post (Debbie Mutford) - Carol Shields: Dressing Up For The Carnival

I started this book the first week of the challenge in July. I had great hopes of participating in this challenge, supporting my husband's blog (for which I admittedly pay little attention to, despite intentions), and doing more leisure reading. Instead, it has taken me over four months (120+ days) to read 237 pages. I'm blaming the lack of productivity on the choice of book (we'll see if that's true over the next few weeks as I've now chosen a book that I've previously loved to motivate me back into the spirit of the challenge and finish twelve books in eight months).

I chose Carol Shields' book of short stories primarily because I had previously read her novel Unless with mixed feelings. I guess you could say that I disliked the book as a whole. I didn't like it because it lacked enough plot to keep me entertained, however, once done, I missed the characters. I found myself attached to them and thinking about them as one does with old high school or university buddies; people interesting enough to wonder whatever happened to them yet not acquainted closely enough to warrant any real contact. I felt like I needed to find out through the grapevine the happenings of Reta since I last heard from her in the book. Thus, I concluded that Shields' talent was in the development of characters tragically trapped in dull, pointless lives (a little too realistic for my taste in entertainment).

Dressing Up for the Carnival is a collection of twenty-two short stories, most of which confirm my previous conclusion. The book reads more like a bunch of first chapters to novels waiting to be finished. The characters, settings, main themes are developed nicely and often touch on subject matter worthy of more depth, yet they just cease to continue. At the end of each story I kept hoping for a secret fold-out page outlining what actually happened to the people she had introduced me to. Avoiding plot altogether, she hides her talent (and lack thereof) in a genre of story writing where readers typically expect snippets so less development is required. Many good short stories still satisfy my need for purpose, but Shields absolves herself of any true commitment to her characters and divorces them before I'm ready.

When Shields has developed a solid character, instead of progressing a storyline she simply adds more characters. The short story 'Keys' is a prime example: meet Biff Monkhouse, the Dr Marianne Moriarty (and her mother and then her lover), Christopher MacFarlane, Cheryl Spence, the Museum of Keys founder (and his wife), and a seven year old boy. It could be argued that the whole purpose of the story is to follow a key (or set of keys) but that's not the case. It could be said that the characters are all linked in their experiences with keys, but that would be difficult to establish. I found the transitions between characters to be weak with brief conjunctions and limited connectivity. It was simply a bunch of people who happened to have an encounter with a key (or keys) each with their own story to be told but never given the chance.

Most of the stories left me with the feelings I imagine associated with extensive traveling - you get to meet a whole bunch of fabulous people during a single moment of their lives but the pre and post events will forever be a mystery. There are two exceptions where Shields creates either a plot or a purpose. 'Absence' is a story centred around the frustrations of an author using a typewriter with a broken letter i. While there's still not much of a storyline (just the introduction of what the story could have been), at least there's a purpose. Shields herself doesn't use the letter i and I could feel the connection between Shields and her main character. I imagined both brains searching for synonyms. It's a catchy gimmick and I can see her purpose...too bad it doesn't go anywhere.

The one story that I believe can be considered a story (in that is has a beginning, middle, and end) is 'The Scarf'. Shields goes against her own plotless formula and creates a problem for the character that actually gets resolved (or at least ends on some level). This is completely spoiled, however, when her character (again, an author) blatantly shoves my enjoyment in my face.
Dorothy and Clarence are...simple in their judgments, and Dorothy in particular is fond of repeating her recipe for enduring fiction. 'A beginning, a middle, and an ending,' she likes to say. 'Is that too much to ask!'

This is quite obviously a swipe at readers like me who expect more from her. I understand her attempt to quell her critics, but resent that it had to be in the one and only story I'd been swept into. It leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth and ruins the sixteen pages of what I perceive to be her best writing.

I generally enjoy her vocabulary and she obviously has a talent with words. Her flair for descriptions is what hooks my interest and I quickly become attached to some of the characters. A book of short stories (aka character introductions) was a great way for her to do what she does best - create personalities. However, I need more. She may call me "simple in [my] judgments" but I don't understand why she wouldn't want to do more with her characters. She surrounds herself with wonderfully captivating people and disregards any need to let them do something. Shelved away, there are a bunch of great characters waiting for their chance to live a life, solve a problem, tell a story.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Word Play- Lest We Forget Scrambles

I haven't exactly been rolling in responses for my Saturday Word Plays or Great Wednesday Compares lately, so pushing this week's usual 10 questions to 15 might seem like wishful thinking at best. However, it would seem a bit disrespectful to leave anyone out intentionally, and since I'm making a game out of it as it is, I need to balance things out. I'll admit I don't know many of these. It's like those montages they show at the Oscars of actors, directors, etc that have died throughout the the preceding year: I usually only recognize 3 or 4. Anyway, these are writers that have left us this year (if you know more, please let me know in the comments). Unscramble the name above his/her obituary.

As always, feel free to do them all at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way 15 people will have a chance to play.

1. Chiemal Htiocrnc
"[...]was a brand-name author, known for his stories of disaster and systematic breakdown, such as the rampant microbe of The Andromeda Strain or dinosaurs running amok in Jurassic Park, one of his many books that became major Hollywood movies." - Chicago Sun Times

2. Dusts Kertle
"Beginning with Division Street: America (1966), about urban unrest in the 1960s, [...] produced a series of books that pulled together the vivid and often moving recollections of 20th-century Americans. For The Good War: An Oral History of World War II, [...] won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985." - The Daily Telegraph

3. Vidda Rofset Cealalw
"best known for his mammoth 1996 novel, Infinite Jest (Little, Brown), a 1,079-page monster that perceives American society as self-obsessed, pleasure-obsessed and entertainment-obsessed." - The New York Times

4. Trainrongb J Blayye
"His idiosyncratic, complex, sometimes gloomy novels began with Star Virus (1964, US publication 1970) and included over a dozen novels published in the US by Ace and later DAW, among them Collision Course (aka Collision with Chronos, 1972), The Fall of Chronopolis (1974), The Soul of the Robot (1974), The Garments of Caean (1976), and The Zen Gun (1982)." - Locus Online

5. Ratruh C Lckrae
"[His] underlying seriousness led him to view his creative participation in commercial, if poetic, other-worldly enterprises, such as the film of his book 2001: a Space Odyssey, as a kind of scenario writing, not to be taken as an example of his central work. In this, however, many would disagree, for 2001 ('a glorified screenplay' according to [him]) was in many ways so accurate and convincing that Alexei Leonov, the first spacewalking human, said that he felt that it had carried him into space again." -

6. Evad Mfarnee
"[...]an advertising agency executive who co-wrote 100 Things to Do Before You Die, an adventure-seeking and often unconventional travel guide that personified the way he lived his life, has died. He was 47." - LA Times

7. Illiwam Hatwonr
"[...]a successful impressionist painter who at 53 published his first novel, Birdy, which won a National Book Award, became a critically acclaimed movie and led to a dozen more books, died Wednesday in Encinitas, Calif. He was 82." - NY Times

8. Goreyrg Oldcmnod
"[...]an Edgar Award-winning crime writer whose acidly funny novels starring the subversive sleuth I. M. Fletcher, breezily known as Fletch, have sold millions of copies and inspired two Hollywood films, died on Sunday at his home in Pulaski, Tenn. He was 71." - The New York Times

9. Lamriny Fongersu
"[...] the author of the 1980 bestseller The Aquarian Conspiracy and a galvanizing influence on participants in scores of alternative groups that coalesced as the New Age movement, died Oct. 19 at her home in Banning. She was 70." - LA Times

10. Ogrege Oladdonmc Sarfre
"[...]author of the popular Flashman series of adventure stories, has died after a long battle against cancer." - The Independent

11. Yont Milelrhan
"[...] former newspaperman whose evocative mystery novels set among the Navajos of the Southwest took the American detective story in new directions and made him a best-selling author, died Sunday in Albuquerque, where he lived. He was 83." - The New York Times

12. Guoh Slauc
"Belgian writer, poet and artist [...] has died aged 78, ending his life by euthanasia, his wife has said." - BBC News

13. Illiwam Rufoodwf
"A native of Lancashire, England, [he] came to UF in 1966 and taught history here for 30 years. He retired in 1996 at the age of 80.

His teaching became the basis of his Concise History of the Modern World, now in its fifth edition."
- The Gainesville Sun

14. Danry Schaup
"[...] a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist whose 'last lecture' about facing terminal cancer became an Internet sensation and a best-selling book, has died. He was 47." - ABC News

15. Egorge Liarcn
"He produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a few TV shows and appeared in several movies, from his own comedy specials to 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure' in 1989 — a testament to his range from cerebral satire and cultural commentary to downright silliness (sometimes hitting all points in one stroke)."

I won't make this an official challenge or anything, but it might be a nice gesture to pick one of these authors to read in the new year, as a sort of memorial.

Friday, November 14, 2008


As soon as I understood
(even to a limited degree)
that this is G-d's world
I began to lose weight
At this very moment
I am wearing
my hockey uniform
from the Sixth Grade

“A Limited Degree” from Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen © 2006. Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Used with permission of the publisher.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Are The Generation That Bought More Books, And You Get What You Deserve

Today's BTT question asks:

I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

I'm not much of a collector, I'm a fan of libraries, and I'm cheap to boot. I don't usually buy my books (though for the sake of authors, I'm glad somebody does). But you're right, I do have a few permanent residents on my bookshelf.

I say I'm not much of a collector, but I do keep poetry books (as I like to refer back to certain poems from time to time) and books about either the Arctic or Newfoundland. I'm passionate about these 2 places and so, when people want to know more, it makes me happy to have them available to share. There have been a few favourites not in these categories that I've kept as well (Blindness is one).

My reasons to finally break down and buy?

1. Too new- the library doesn't have it and I'm impatient for them to get it

2. Too rare- the library doesn't have it and I'm impatient for an interlibrary loan

3. Deadlines- I was part of a "real-life" bookclub and needed to have it read on a certain date. The library's copy was either out or non-existent.

4. Causes- A lot of my books are 2nd hand, bought at used booksales and the like, in which I'm usually happy to support whatever cause the proceeds are headed for. Plus they're reasonably priced, for a change.

The last book I bought at a store was the Zachariah Wells edited sonnet anthology Jailbreaks due to reasons #1 and 2 above. How about you?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 3- Art Spiegelman VERSUS Stephen Hawking

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Stan Lee Vs. Art Spiegelman) with a final score of 4-2 was Art Spiegelman.

6 votes? I assume everyone was all voted out last week. Hopefully a few more will join in this week. (Read: please invite your blogging friends!)

Was it a Spiderman versus Maus pairing? Or Striperella versus the Garbage Pail Kids? It seems there could have been two very different perspectives. In any case, Stan Lee is defeated. But certainly his creations, his writing, and his marketing demand more than a little respect. Spiderman, X-Men, and others will no doubt continue to be cultural icons for generations to come.

This week things head in a slightly different direction.

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. (Nov. 18th, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And on a serious note

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Reader's Diary #414- The Good News Bible: Kings II

In Kings II, or Kings With A Vengeance, Elisha takes the stage as the ultimate magician. We've got a jug with a seemingly endless supply of olive oil, we've got twenty loaves that manages to feed a hundred people (nevermind that the portions were small), we've even got the classic "parting of the water" trick. But Elisha, ever the showman, tops even that with not one, but two (count 'em, two!) resurrections: 1st he brings a young boy back from the dead and then, just as it seems Elisha's miracles are no more, a corpse is thrown into Elisha's grave, touches his bones, and whambo-bambo, the corpse is now alive and kicking. He's doing magic from beyond, people! This is before Lazarus! This is even before The Man, Himself!

Ahhh, the excitement of it all. Unfortunately it doesn't last. The latter half of Kings II is just one dud of a king after another, each "sinned against the Lord" just like the one before, and every other chapter ends with, "Everything else that King [X] did is recorded in The History of the Kings of Judah" or "in The History of the Kings of Israel." So if you want to know more of the story, you'll need to buy the whole set.

I just hope to see Elisha return in Chronicles. I see him now; ambling into a biker bar sporting a trench coat and a trilby hat that hides his down-turned face. He looks up and reveals cheeks that hang with grey, rotting flesh. He pulls out double-barreled pistols from both pockets, "Did somebody call me 'Baldy'?"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reader's Diary #413- Harlan Ellison: I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

Short Story Monday

I haven't plugged Sporcle enough lately, but I'm just as hooked as ever. One of their more recent games was "Can you name the Science Fiction author?" Now I'm not much of a sci-fi nut, but I was surprised at how many I knew (how many I've read is another question). One of the ones I missed was Harlan Ellison, most famous for his short story, "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream." Thanks to the Internet, I was quickly able to close that gap.

In the month of October, I read a lot of horror stories in anticipation of Halloween. "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" easily belongs in that category as well. Of all the dystopian fiction I've encountered, I'd say this one comes closest to describing hell. It is the story of the last five humans on Earth, kept alive in the belly of a supercomputer that takes pleasure in torturing them in creative new ways. The computer, AM, makes HAL from Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey look like an amateur at best.

What I like best about this story is the perverseness of it all. Behind AM, I sensed Ellison himself, the real god behind these cruel and unusual punishments. Like Bob Saget in the Aristocrats, I could picture the author at his typewriting giggling each time he topped his last demented line...
There was the smell of matted, wet fur in the cavern. There was the smell of charred wood. There was the smell of dusty velvet. There was the smell of rotting orchids. There was the smell of sour milk. There was the smell of sulphur, of rancid butter, of oil slick, of grease, of chalk dust, of human scalps.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Reader's Diary #412- Chris Robertson: To The Top Canada

I used to be really into cycling. I'm also the guy behind the Canadian Book Challenge. So you'd think a book that combines cycling with patriotism would be right up my alley.

But, there's a picture of Chris and his son on the back in Canada sweatshirts and red and white face paint. The face paint scares me a little. Remember the Seinfeld episode where Puddy dons the New Jersey Devils paint?

I've considered myself a fan of many things, but I don't know if I could ever bring that level of enthusiasm.

But Robertson does and that's just one of the reasons he chose to, and was able to, complete a bicycle trek from the Southern most tip of Canada (in Point Pelee, Ontario) to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories on the Arctic Ocean. It's not, as the title would suggest, the actual top of Canada. Chris would have still have had quite the long trek ahead of him if he were to cycle to the tip of Ellesmere Island, more than 2000km away. In any case, he did travel 6520km and for that fact alone he deserves some respect.

So why did he do it? Affected by the thin margin of the Quebec referendum in 1995 (For the Americans in the audience, it's when Quebecois asked themselves, "Should I stay or should I go?" and just little over half chose to stay.), Chris "decided he would do everything in his power to build a stronger Canada..." Everything in his power consisted of a bike ride (that oddly left out Quebec, the province that triggered it all) across and up the country, popping into schools along the way and chanting beer slogans with the kids ("I am Canadian!") and asking almost everyone he met, "What will you do to make Canada a better country than when you found it?"

More than a few times I questioned if the Canadian unity bit was a noble cause or just a silly add-on. Certainly Chris didn't see anything silly about it. At one point a convoy of military trucks pass him and honk their horns in support. He writes, "I felt solidarity with the troops because our mission was the same-- to protect Canada!" And if you need additional proof that he fancied himself a National hero, he feels slighted when his request to speak at a school is turned down down, saying, "I wondered if Terry Fox, Jean Chretien, or the Queen would need advance notice to speak at the school."

Usually I found these delusions of grandeur amusing, and on such occasions I had to read them aloud to my wife. But at other times, I found it frustrating how narrow his scope of patriotism was. Most offensive was his way of suggesting that those who didn't donate rooms or food to him were not concerned for the welfare of the country. In one passage he writes about the Delta hotel:
"I politely asked if they could donate a room in support of my Canadian Unity mission. They couldn't because they were 'almost' full. Given a choice between maximizing profit and showing pride in your country, they chose profit."

At that point he had done a little press, but it's entirely conceivable they had missed it. For all those people at the Delta knew, he could have been just some scammer trying to get a free room. Or maybe they had heard of him. Maybe they thought riding one's bike wouldn't help anything. How dare he make assumptions about how much or how little they care about their country? It really bothered me how he implied that anyone without Chris Robertson's brand of flag-waving patriotism didn't really love Canada.

Despite my objections, I'm hesitant to say his message was silly or pointless. I certainly didn't remember anything about him or any of the media attention from back in 1997 (I found the book at a yardsale), and I'm cynical about what was accomplished. But we are still in one piece, so maybe he played a part. As for his question, it's plausible that one of those students could have taken it to heart, noticed Chris's great distance traveled, and drew motivation from that. In the future, a Prime Minister might say "I had a dream and watching Chris Robertson cycle to the Arctic Ocean made me believe it was possible." On that day, I'll gladly be proven wrong.

Though I'd have enjoyed the book more without the boasting and "message," I enjoyed it as a Canadian biking journal. It was filled with Canadiana, from the locales and people, weather and wildlife, and I really felt like I experienced a large chunk of the country as only a man on a bike can. It may not have inspired me to paint a maple leaf on my face, but it did inspire me to get on the bike again.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Saturday Word Play- Political Memoirs Thesaurusized

With Obama's recent win (in case you haven't heard about it), I'm guessing his already popular books The Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father will be under a lot of Christmas trees this year. But, while he might be the first African-American president, he's certainly not the first political figure to put pen to paper. Below is a list of some other well-known political memoirs. However, I've tweaked them slightly with the help of For instance, Obama's new titles could be The Boldness of Optimism and Fancies From My Daddy. Can you tell me the original titles for the following?

As always, feel free to do them all at home, but only answer one in the comment section, that way 10 people will have a chance to play

1. Hades or Elevated H2O- Paul Martin
2. The Route To Influence- Margaret Thatcher
3. My Entity- Bill Clinton
4. Authority- Rudolph W. Giuliani
5. No Grips Dammed- John Crosbie
6. Female Offspring of Fate- Benazir Bhutto
7. Instance and Fluke- Kim Campbell
8. Direct From The Soul- Jean Chretien
9. The Lengthy Hike To Liberty- Nelson Mandela
10. The Transformation of Aspiration- Vincente Fox

Friday, November 07, 2008

Reader's Diary #411- George McWhirter: The Anachronicles

Do publishers realize what a risky undertaking blurbs are?

On the back on George McWhirter's latest book of poetry, The Anachronicles, Gary Geddes is quoted as saying,
"...with an ear alert to the music in words and the power of the
decasyllabic line, George McWhirter uses his fertile imagination and firm grasp of Shakespearean blank verse to do what poetry must always do — make history strange. The result is a wonderfully crazy romp through then and now."
My problem isn't that I don't know who Gary Geddes is. Perhaps he's popular in some poetry circles. Perhaps he's not. If I needed reviews from well-known people, I wouldn't have started reading litblogs in the first place. My issue is with Geddes' comments.

I'll begin with the "decasyllabic line" and "Shakespearean blank verse." I'm not opposed to learning the technical side of poetry. It often makes me appreciate the work put into a piece, (whether I believe it is always done with such acute awareness or not is another issue) but rarely does it give me a greater appreciation of the poem. It's like all those guitar solos of 80s rock. Impressive musicianship yes, but it didn't necessarily make me care for the songs.

I also resent Geddes comment about "what poetry must do." Why does Geddes get to decide this? I read yet another critique of litblogs recently that suggested the reviews were too personal with their "I think," "I feel," and "in my opinion" comments. This person seemed to take it as a sign of passivity or weakness. Well, I don't agree. I think the majority of litbloggers just want to discuss an opinion but are respectful that others may disagree. More emphasis is put on the discourse rather than the top-down "you should read this" or "what poetry must do" dictations more common in journals and newspapers. And no, I don't agree that poetry must do any one thing, certainly not to "make history strange." If poetry is to have any relationship with history, I personally would prefer it to provide some clarity, perhaps cast it in a new light that brings a greater understanding. But that's just me. And that's not being humble.

Why dwell on Geddes comments? Why will my review of his 5 line blurb will be longer than of Whirter's book? Because it just about ruined the whole thing for me. Normally I'm able to look past such silly comments. This time, however, my defenses were a little down. I've been suffering through a great cold and a great workload this past week and my mind just hasn't been functioning adequately. So, when I didn't immediately understand or connect on any emotional level to any phrase, let alone an entire poem, I mistook Geddes opinion to be McWhirter's. The poet, or so I thought, was aiming to confound: why bother trying to work it out? I didn't have the strength even had I wanted to.

Fortunately, I was recovering by the fifth poem (there are only 5 long poems in the book), and I started to enjoy it. "Hops" is about the goddess of poetry, Liadan, and a poet named Cuirithir. As the Irish legend goes, they were to be married, but instead she wed the King of Heaven. I've found a few tellings of it online. Here is one that focuses on the repercussions:

He, however, went on pilgrimage and settled in Cell Letrech in the land of the Déisi. She came to seek him and said:

that deed which I have done:
what I loved I have vexed.

Were it not for fear of the King of Heaven,
it had been madness for one
who would not do what Cuirithic wished.

Not profitless to him
was that which he desired,
to reach Heaven and avoid pain.

A trifle vexed Cuirithir
in regard to me;
my gentleness towards him was great.

I am Liadan;
I loved Cuirithir;
this is as true as any­thing told.

For a short time I was
in the company of Cuirithir;
to be with me was profitable to him.

Forest music used to sing
to me beside Cuirithir,
together with the sound of the fierce sea.

I should have thought that no arrangement
I might make would have
vexed Cuirithir in regard to me.

Conceal it not:
he was my heart’s love,
even though I should love all others besides.

A roar of fire
has split my heart;
without him for certain it will not live.

Now, the way she had vexed him was her haste in taking the veil

McWhirter makes the legend even more interesting by retelling it as a dialogue between the two characters living in Ireland and Canada, and spanning from the last millenium to the 1950s. Just introducing me to such a fantastic legend would have salvaged the book for me, but recasting it in such a bizarre light was even more impressive. I'm sure I didn't pick up on all the themes yet (fulfillment's role in inspiration and religious interference might be possibilities) let alone make sense of McWhirter's point. But, I want to reread it. That's where Geddes description fails. He seems to suggest that trying to comprehend history is futile. McWhirter inspires me to try anyway.

"[...]As odd as listening with them
for the explosions as gannets dive
through the looking glass of salt water
in whose glare I go as blind and sorrowful as Saul
at finding my image there, instead of hers. She said
she would go where I would never get her.
Her freedom from the body would be an education
for the soul. She left to work
along the Pacific coast [...]"

from "Hops"
George McWhirter, 2008
Anachronicles, published by Ronsdale Press

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Great Wednesday Compare 3- Stan Lee VERSUS Art Spiegelman

And now for the election results you've all been waiting for...

The winner of the Great Wednesday Compare from two weeks ago(Beverly Cleary Vs. Stan Lee) with a final score of 6-3 was Stan Lee. And the winner of last week's Zombie edition (Neil Gaiman Vs. John Irving) with a final score of 9-3 was John Irving.

I'll comment on the zombie edition first. While I figured Irving would have taken the contest any other time of the year, I somewhat expected Halloween to bring out more Gaiman fans. Also, since Gaiman has been the more prolific, especially recently, I'd have thought that would have helped his case. I'm not greatly familiar with either author, so I'll trust your thoughts on these two.

As for Beverly Cleary's loss, I was okay with it. Recently I read two Ralph S. Mouse books to my daughter and enjoyed them as much as I remembered as a kid. Then again, I also loved the cheesy Spiderman cartoon when I was a boy (though I was never into comics), so it would have been a tough call.

Will this week's match-up come down to a comic book versus graphic novel debate?

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. (Nov. 11th, 2008), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Reader's Diary #410- Joseph Boyden: Driving Lessons

Short Story Monday

Joseph Boyden is slowly getting more and more recognition as a Canadian author to watch. His debut novel Three Day Road won a couple awards (the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award), was nominated for the Governor General's Award, and got even more national attention when it was one of the five books debated in the 2006 edition of CBC's Canada Reads. His next book Through Black Spruce is currently up for a Scotiabank Giller Prize (the winner will be announced in November . But before writing novels, Boyden also published a book of short stories, Born With A Tooth.

So, I've gone online in search of a Boyden short story and found "Driving Lessons," which was published by The Walrus back in their July/August 2006 edition.

I was a big fan of Three Day Road (I wrote about it in great length here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) but not so much of this story.

There was a lot to like (the andrenaline-laced pacing being number one), but in the end it felt too obvious as to what his intention was (i.e., to draw parallels and contrasts between two defining moments in a man's life, both of which happened while driving). The details were flashy and entertaining enough but as a whole it seemed rushed and certainly didn't inspire rereads. Perhaps the point shouldn't have kept pace with the plot.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge- 4th Update

Four months in and we're already up to 381 books!

Congrats to Historia for reading yet another 13 books (this time for a single author approach), as well as to Steve and JK for reaching 13. Well done! Welcome as well to newcomers Heather, Laurie, Wayne, Mark and Carla.

Here are the standings so far (* indicates a new review). Some highlights this month include a barrage of Lucy Maud Montgomery books (thanks to Becky who reviewed 7 and 3M who read 1), one of my personal favourites, Barney's Version (thanks to JK), one of September's prizes, Whale Song (thanks to Wanda), still more Gargoyle and Yellowknife reviews (thanks to Jo) and two reviews of each (for your comparing pleasure) of The Tenderness of Wolves, King Leary, Water For Elephants, The Flying Troutmans, Bookweird, The Secret World of Og, Anne of Avonlea, and Coventry (as well as a trio of books by Douglas Coupland and a couple of books each by Robertson Davies and Charles de Lint). Of course, there's the usual great assortment of genres, well and lesser known authors and titles, and so on. Thanks to everyone for your wonderful reviews. Keep those conversations happening!

Nunavummiut (13 Books...or more!)

- Up, Up, Down by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- Playhouse by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- Alligator Baby by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko*
- The Sandcastle Contest by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Class Clown by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Just One Goal by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- More Pies! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- No Clean Clothes! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Boo! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Smelly Socks by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Get Out of Bed! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Alan and Lea Daniel
- We Share Everything by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Look At Me! by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko

- The Channel Shore by Charles Bruce*
- Barometer Risingby Hugh MacLennan*
- The Clockmaker by Thomas Haliburton*
- My Famous Evening by Howard Norman*
- Rockbound by Frank Parker Day
- Roger Sudden by Thomas Raddall
- The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler
- The Film Club by David Gilmour
- Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner
- What Happened later by Ray Robertson
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington
- The Game by Ken Dryden
- Midnight Hockey by Bill Gaston

- Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler*
- A History Of Reading by Alberto Manguel*
- The Wars by Timothy Findley*
- Too Close To The Falls by Catherine Gildiner
- The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart
- The Rules of Engagement by Catherine Bush
- Happenstanceby Carol Shields
- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
- lullabies for little criminals by Heather O'Neill
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay
- A History of Forgetting by Caroline Adderson
- JPod by Douglas Coupland
- The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee

- Cockroach by Rawi Hage
- Rust and Bone by Craig Davidson
- Once by Rebecca Rosenblum
- Adult Entertainment by John Metcalf
- Flight Paths and the Emperor by Steven Heighton
- Dancing Nightly in the Tavern by Mark Antony Jarman
- Red Plaid Shirt by Diane Schoemperlen
- The Girls Who Saw Everything by Sean Dixon
- Degrees of Nakedness by Lisa Moore
- The Tracey Fragments by Maureen Medved
- Exotic Dancers by Gerald Lynch
- Stunt by Claudia Dey
- A Week of This by Nathan Whitlock

- Paddle To The Arctic by Don Starkell
- When We Were Young editted by Stuart McLean
- The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor by Sally Armstrong
- I Married The Klondike by Laura Beatrice Berton
- After by Francis Chalifour
- Going Inside by Alan Kesselheim
- Laughing on the Outside: The Life of John Candy by Martin Knelman
- Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Anne's House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Anne of The Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
- Unknown Shore by Robert Ruby

- Jeux D'adresseseditted by Julie Huard, Michel-Remi Lafond, and Francois-Xavier Simard*
- Slow Lightning by Mark Frutkin
- 13 by Mary-Lou Zeitoun
- Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen
- Run of the Town by Terrence Rundle West
- Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin
- Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis
- An Acre In Time by Phil Jenkins
- Kiss The Sunset Pig by Laurie Gough
- Psyche's Children by Catherine Joyce
- The Lidek Revolution by James Stark
- Pure Springs by Brian Doyle
- Speak Ill of the Dead by Mary Jane Maffini
- Without Vodka by Aleksander Topolski

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians
(12 Books)

- My Name Is Number 4 by Ting-Xing Ye*
- The Shadow of Malabron by Thomas Wharton*
- Bookweird by Paul Glennon*
- Night Runner by Max Turner
- Getting the Girl by Susan Juby
- Jolted by Arthur Slade
- Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel
- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- The Horseman's Grave by Jacqueline Baker
- Newton and the Time Machine by Michael McGowan
- The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert W. Service and illustrated by Ted Harrison
- The Seance by Iain Lawrence

Albertans (11 Books)

Saskatchewanies (10 Books)

- Whale Song by Cheryl Kaye Tardif*
- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen*
- Ramasseur by Richard deMuelles
- Passion Fruit Tea by Elenore Schonmaier
- Turtle Valley by Gail Anderson-Dargatz
- a week of this: a novel in seven days by Nathan Whitlock
- The Birth House by Ami McKay
- Baltimores Mansion by Wayne Johnston
- Mercy Among The Children by David Adams Richards
- The Skating Pond by Deborah Joy Corey

- Frogs and Other Stories by Diane Schoemperlen*
- Sisters of Grass by Theresa Kishkan
- The Outlander by Gil Adamson
- A Certain Mr. Takahashi by Ann Ireland
- Innercity Girl Like Me by Sabrina Bernardo
- The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
- Beautiful Girl Thumb by Melissa Steele
- An Audience of Chairs by Joan Clark
- Where The Pavement Ends by Marie Wadden
- Naomi's Road by Joy Kogowa and illustrated by Matt Gould

Yukoners (9 Books)

- Forty Words For Sorrow by Giles Blunt*
- Hate You by Graham McNamee*
- The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
- Runaway by Alice Munro
- Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
- Gallows View by Peter Robinson
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
- Charley's Web by Joy Fielding
- Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Traveler One
- Easton by Paul Butler*
- Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam*
- Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill*
- Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp*
- The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
- Random Passage by Bernice Morgan
- Kiss The Joy As It Flies by Sheree Fitch
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay
- The Mountain and The Valley by Ernest Buckler

Paul P
- Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
- The Wars by Timothy Findley
- Famous Last Words by Timothy Findley
- As For Me And My House by Sinclair Ross
- Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
- Pilgrim by Timothy Findley
- The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
- Effigy by Alissa York
- Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

Prince Edward Islanders (8 Books)

- Phantom Lake: North of 54 by Birk Sproxton*
- This Business With Elijah by Sheldon Oberman*
- More by Austin Clarke*
- Murmel, Murmel, Murmel by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner
- The Rez Sisters by Tomson Highway
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
- Consolation by Michael Redhill

British Columbians (7 Books)

- Anne of Avonleaby Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Anne's House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery*

- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews*
- Exit Lines by Joan Barfoot
- The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence
- The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
- Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
- The Birth House by Ami McKay

- The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland*
- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson*
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- Watching July by Christine Hart*
- The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel*
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- The Game by Teresa Toten

- Some of the Kinder Planets by Tim Wynne-Jones*
- Hero of Lesser Causes by Julie Johnston
- Lisa by Carol Matas
- Ticket to Curlew by Celia Barker Lottridge
- Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
- Thumb In The Box by Ken Roberts
- Dippers by Barbara Nichol and illustrated by Barry Moser

- Brother Dumb by Sky Gilbert*
- The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
- Entitlement by Jonathan Bennett
- Cockroach by Rawi Hage
- Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by John McFetridge
- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
- The Order of Good Cheer by Bill Gaston

- The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Sherry Torkos
- Down The Coal Town Road by Sheldon Currie
- The Story So Far... by Sheldon Currie
- Lauchie, Liza & Rory by Sheldon Currie
- I've Got A Home In Glory Land by Karolyn Smardz Frost
- The War On Women by Brian Vallee
- Truth and Rumors: The Truth Behind TV's Most Famous Myths by Bill Brious

- Spook Country by William Gibson
- Pear Tree Pomes by Roy Kiyooka
- The Witness Ghost by Tim Bowling
- Forage by Rita Wong
- Slash by Jeannette Armstrong
- Ontological Necessities by Priscilla Uppal
- Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer

Northwest Territorians (6 Books)

- Small Ceremonies by Carol Shields*
- Burden of Desire by Robert MacNeil
- Barrington Street Blues by Anne Emery
- Black Ice by Linda Hall
- Blood Lies by Daniel Kalla
- Bone To Ashes by Kathy Reichs

- Coventry by Helen Humphreys*
- Extraordinary Canadians: Lord Beaverbrook by David Adams Richards
-The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
-Don't Lets Go The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
-Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
-Traveling Music by Neil Peart

- King Leary by Paul Quarrington*
- The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton*
- Beneath The Naked Sun by Connie Fife
- A Theft by Saul Bellow
- Arctic Migrants/ Arctic Villagers by David Damas
- White Eskimo by Harold Horwood

Sam Lamb
- The Body's Place by Elise Turcotte*
- Streak of Luck by Richelle Kosar*
- Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark*
- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
- The Given by Daphne Marlatt
- A Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart

- At A Loss For Words by Diane Schoemperlen
- Mister Sandman by Barbara Gowdy
- Twice Born by Pauline Gedge
- Quintet by Douglas Arthur Brown
- Coventry by Helen Humphreys
- Remembrance of Summers by J. M. Kearns

Manitobans (5 Books)

- The Secret World of Og by Pierre Berton*
- Clauda by Britt Holmstrom
- The Only Snow in Havanna by Elizabeth Hay
- The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou
- Wolf Tree by Alison Calder

- the Retreat by David Bergen*
- Blasted by Kate Story
- The Brutal Heart by Gail Bowen
- Prarie Bridesmaid by Daria Salamon
- Saltsea by David Helwig

- That Scatterbrain Booky by Bernice Thurman-Hunter*
- Ontario Murders by Susan McNicoll
- Jacob Two-Two Meets The Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler
- Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
- Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Nathan Smith
- Bookweird by Paul Glennon*
- Belle Moral by Ann-Marie MacDonald
- The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
- A Secret Between Us by Daniel Poliquin
-The Wars by Timothy Findley

- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen*
- Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet by Joanne Proulx
- The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
- At A Loss For Words by Diane Schoemperlin
- The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee

- The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney*
- Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs*
- Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson*
- Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan
- Niagara, A History of The Falls by Pierre Berton

- Whetstone by Lorna Crozier*
- The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews*
- Quick by Anne Simpson*
- Runaway by Alice Munro
- Away by Jane Urquhart

Tara (find reviews in her sidebar)
- King Leary by Paul Quarrington*
- Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson*
- Lullabies For Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
- Living Room by Allan Weiss
- Elizabeth and After by Matt Cohen

- The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews*
- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
- Fast Forward and Other Stories by Delia de Santis
- The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland
- Selected Poems (1972) by Al Purdy

- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
- Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reichs
- Consumption by Kevin Patterson
- The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
- No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod

- A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
- Conceit by Mary Novik
- Forage by Rita Wong
- Porcupine by Meg Tilly
- The Alchemist's Dream by John Wilson

- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
- The Wars by Timothy Findley
- Great Canadian Short Stories edited by Alec Lucas
- The Fire Dwellers by Margaret Laurence
- The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

New Brunswickers (4 Books)

- Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen*
- Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann-Marie MacDonald
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Mary Ellen
- Still Life by Louise Penny*
- The Impact of a Single Event by R. L. Prendergast
- The Whirlpool by Jane Urquhart
- Margarita Nights by Phyliss Smallman

- JPod by Douglas Coupland*
- Anne of The Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Unless by Carol Shields
- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

- Murther and Walking Spirits by Robertson Davies*
- Itsuka by Joy Kogowa
- Since Daisy Creek by W. O. Mitchell
- Prospero's Daughter by Constance Beresford-Howe

- Dear Toni by Cyndi Sand-Eveland*
- Leslie's Journal by Allan Stratton*
- The Reading Solution by Paul Kropp*
- Pact of the Wolves by Nina Blazon and translated by Sue Innes*

- Inside Out Girl by Tish Cohen
- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
- The Line Painter by Claire Cameron
- Indigenous Beasts by Nathan Sellyn

- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
- As For Me and My House by Sinclair Ross
- A Bird In The House by Margaret Laurence

- Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Look for Me by Edeet Ravel
- Horseman's Grave by Jacqueline Baker

- Kit's Law by Donna Morrissey
- Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark
- A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay
- The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

Nova Scotians (3 Books)

- The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney*
- The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson
- Open Secrets by Alice Munro

- Sir Cook, The Knight? by Erik Mortensen*
- Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop
- The Time In Between by David Bergen

- All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland*
- Sailor Girl by Sheree-Lee Olson
- What We All Long For by Dionne Brand

- Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock*
- Dingo by Charles de Lint*
- How To Be a Canadian by Will Ferguson and Ian Ferguson

- By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept by Elizabeth Smart*
- The Actual by Saul Bellow
- The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani

- Helpless by Barbara Gowdy*
- Catholics by Brian Moore*
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay

- Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
- The Best of Robert Service by Robert Service
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
- Loyalists and Layabouts by Stephen Kimber

- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
- Rollbackby Robert J. Sawyer
- The Birth House by Ami McKay

- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Icefields by Thomas Wharton

- Nova Scotia by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
- Tottering in My Garden by Midge Ellis Keeble
- The Pioneers of Inverness Township by Gwen Rawlings

Quebecois (2 Books)

- Six Seconds by Rick Mofina*
- Honour Among Men by Barbara Fradkin

- Map of Glass by Jane Urquhart
- Caedman's Song by Peter Robinson

- The Birth House by Ami McKay
- The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart

- My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath
- All-Season Edie by Annabel Lyon

- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
- The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac

- Claudia by Britt Holmstrom
- The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou

- The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Song of the Paddle by Bill Mason

- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
- The Cure For Death by Lightning

- Memories Are Murder by Lou Allin
- Pandemic by Daniel Kalla

Ontarians (1 Book)

- Wolf Moon by Charles de Lint*

- Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway*

Paul R
- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies*

- The Moons of Jupiter by Alice Munro*

-Coventry by Helen Humphreys*

-Beaverbrook: A Failed Legacy by Jacques Poitras*

- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

- Alice, I Think by Susan Juby

- An Imperfect Offering by James Orbinsky

Literary Mom
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay

- Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler

- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Mrs. Peachtree
- Stella Fairy of the Forest by Marie-Louise Gay

(If these standings are not correct, please let me know. As well, if you've missed the explanation of the provincial/territorial headings and can't figure out why you're listed under a particular province, please refer to this post.)

And once again, it's prize time. This month prize comes from Jen of ECW Press along with an announcement of even more prizes to come. First off, it's Brad Kelln's In Tongues of the Dead.

"In the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University there lies a 400-year-old document that no one has been able to decipher. Twenty years ago the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) secretly placed a guard to watch over the document.

The guard, Father Ronald McCallum, is overwhelmed when an autistic child visiting the library appears to read from the manuscript’s pages. Finally its secrets will be revealed! Father Benicio Valori, priest and clinical psychologist, is sent halfway around the world to verify the boy’s ability to read the manuscript.

When the manuscript is stolen, things begin to unravel. It becomes apparent the Vatican has sent others to investigate with orders to stop at nothing from keeping the document’s secrets from being exposed. Fearing for the child’s life, Benicio flees the country to Canada and trusted friend and psychologist, Dr. Jake Tunnel."

To win In Tongues of the Dead you can enter as many times as you're able to increase your chances. Look at the new reviews above (i.e., those marked with an *) and tell me how a specific book could be used in another book challenge (past or present). I know some people prefer to keep their challenges separate, but I encourage people to multitask. For instance: This month I read King Leary which also could have been used towards the Book Awards Reading Challenge as it won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and the Canada Reads 2008 competition. (Some lists of great reading challenges are posted here and here, though you may know of some that are not listed there. Joy also hosts a lot, if you want to check out her site.) Email your answers to jmutford [at] hotmail [dot] com. I'll draw a winner on November the 14th.
But, not to worry if you don't win this particular ECW title. They've also added a prize pack for the challenge finale in July. Head back to the main post to see what titles are being offered up.
In other news, if you haven't already seen it, the local paper did a story on the Book Mine Set, focusing in particular on the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge. Oddly, this paper was read by someone all the way back in Gander, Newfoundland who then interviewed me about the challenge for their local CBC Radio morning show. Despite my getting up at 5:30 to do a phone interview, I think it pretty well but I don't even know if it's aired yet! It would be nice to add a few Newfoundlanders to the Challenge other than myself!
Until next month, have fun celebrating, promoting and exploring Canadian Books.