Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Thematic Word Search

This week's Saturday Word Play doesn't have a theme. It has ten themes.

Hidden in this puzzle are 50 words (actually words, names, and a few short phrases). However, ten themes are represented by five words a piece. Find five related words and tell me the theme that connects them. For instance, if you found Scout, Boo, Atticus, Jem, and Dill, the theme would be "Characters from To Kill A Mockingbird." (If you're so inclined, it might be easier to print it off first.)

As always, feel free to do ten and home, but only answer one in the comment section. That way ten people will have the chance to play along.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Langston Hughes: Sailor

Langston Hughes was one of my earliest favourite poets. So many poets have a subtle dark side, his seemed mostly light...

He sat upon the rolling deck
Half a world away from home,
And smoked a Capstan cigarette
And watched the blue waves tipped with foam.

(Read the rest here.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reader's Diary #444- Don McTavish: Big Rig 2

Last year I read Don McTavish's Big Rig as my Alberta selection for the Canadian Book Challenge. While it didn't exactly top my list of nonfiction books, I did enjoy it.

So for this 2nd round of the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, I decided to follow suit. Once again, Don McTavish is my Alberta selection with his follow up book, Big Rig 2 and once again, he didn't disappoint.

My biggest fear was that he'd have used up all his good anecdotes in the first edition. Turns out, he used up most of his longer anecdotes but still had a lot of short gems up his sleeve. Last time I seem to recall that most of his stories dealt with the characters he'd met or worked with in his 40 years in the trucking business. This time there seemed to be more of a focus on close calls and changes in the trucking industry.

While he pretends to rant from time to time, McTavish keeps the book fun, entertaining, and incidentally educational. When he addresses the public perception of a trucker's life as dangerous, he only half-heartedly makes claims to the contrary. When he addresses common questions faced by truckers, I found it quite interesting that he steers completely clear of stimulants ("uppers"). A part of me wishes he tackled some of the more serious issues, but then it wouldn't have been the same book. Perhaps those are best saved for another time.

As with the original Big Rig, I was again amused with McTavish's quirky expressions; expressions that he never seems to run out of and admirably refuses to use the same one twice. Check out the way he describes the cold on three separate occasions: colder than a bank manager's handshake, colder than a grave-digger's shovel, colder than your ex-wife's divorce lawyer.

Interestingly, this favourite form of expression by McTavish sent me on a fact-finding mission. I've always been taught that a simile uses either "as" or "like." So what are these expressions known as? They are certainly not metaphors, as the comparison in more clearly defined than those, and metaphors usually state one thing is another ("It was a grave-digger's shovel outside."). If the internet can be trusted, "than" can also be used in a simile. Can anyone tell me otherwise? Is it known as a specific type of simile? A grammar lesson wasn't what I'd expected from Don McTavish, but it's quite the by-product, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #3- Oscar Wilde VERSUS John Updike

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Oscar Wilde Vs. James Joyce) with a final score of 9-5 was Oscar Wilde.

Kate, who voted in favour of Joyce last week, referred to his book of short stories, The Dubliners. One of those stories, "Araby," is the only work of his that I've read. I really enjoyed the coming-of-age tale and found it surprisingly accessible. I'd heard so much about the difficult and experimental Finnegans Wake that I was curious but also a little intimidated to read him. However, knowing that he could go from conventional to experimental, makes me respect him even more-- even if I won't understand or enjoy Finnegans Wake when I inevitably get to it.

I hadn't planned on this week's latest contender. Up until today I had someone completely different in mind. But, Updike has gotten so little mention on this blog, that today was a reminder to myself.

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. (Feb. 3, 2009), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reader's Diary #443- William Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale

I was really enjoying the first part of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale with its emphasis on jealousy. Leontes, King of Sicilia, tries to convince his friend Polixenes, King of Bohemia, to visit a little longer. When Leontes is unsuccessful in his plea, he casually asks his wife Hermione to try. Without much effort, she convinces Polixenes to stay, sparking suspicions from Leontes. Quickly his suspicions deteriorate into a rage, leading Polixenes to flea and Leontes to throw his pregnant wife (whom he now believes to be carrying Polixenes baby) in prison. Meanwhile, practically everyone tries to convince him of his wife's innocence.

Up to this point it's an intense piece of psychodrama. As Shakespeare goes, it's probably one of his more accessible plays, plus it's a theme as relevant today as it was then no matter in what class or country one lives. What made Leontes suddenly snap? Did he always have jealous tendencies but they just now awakened? Was there some festering issue between him and Polixenes that finally came to the fore? The play could have explored this angle but Shakespeare chose not to delve into the past. How low would Leontes sink? It could have been fun, in a morbid sense, to watch his demise. However, his realization that he's erred comes quite early in the play, at which point the play takes a 90 degree turn in a different direction.

The latter half of the play, 16 years later, becomes a love story between Perdita (the daughter of Leontes and Hermione) and Florizel (Polixenes' son). It's not that I couldn't have enjoyed a love story, but I found the earlier jealousy story much more compelling. Plus, I found some of the characters in the second half (particularly Autolycus) quite annoying.

Compared with the other Shakespeare plays that I've read, the first three acts of The Winter's Tale ranks up there with my favourites. However, with the sudden switch in tone and plot, leaving a latter half that was just mediocre, I felt disappointed overall.

(Cross referenced at BiblioShakespeare as my first play read for the Shakespeare Reading Challenge.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Reader's Diary #442- Nellie McClung: The Way of The West

While most Canadians remember Nellie McClung as a suffragist and member of the Famous Five, she was also an author of novels, short stories, and non-fiction. A collection of her short stories, The Black Creek Stopping House and Other Stories, first published in 1912, is available in its entirety, and for free, online. This week I look at one of the stories from that collection, "The Way of The West".

"The Way Of The West" is the story of Thomas Shouldice, an Irish-Canadian Orangemen with a chip on his shoulder. It's my understanding that the more labels one carries on their shoulders, the more likely those labels will turn into chips.

Thomas's first issue is with the American immigrants. How dare they celebrate July the 4th on Canadian soil! He stews on this insult to the British Dominion, cursing the Yankees, when he notices Father O'Flynn joining them. Now his rage is extended to the Catholics. That's when he devises his plan. However, his ultimate Twelfth celebration, doesn't quite stick it to the Catholics, nor does it show up those Americans as he hopes...

McClung's story is pleasant enough, and while I'm sure it could have raised a few eyebrows back in the day it was written, is pretty tame today. Thomas never quite rises above the level of caricature, but in such a story, it works. It's pretty clear the author and protagonist do not share the same views, and given McClung's history, it's neat to see her create a character and take so much control over him. It's a story about coming together and getting past petty differences (though the male-female divide is not addressed, as one might predict) and, except for the preachy and unnecessary propaganda in the final two paragraphs, is a fine story.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reader's Diary #441- Edmond Rostand (playwright) and Lowell Bair (translation): Cyrano de Bergerac

Not long ago, a friend of mine told me that his favourite movie was the 1990 version of Cyrano de Bergerac starring Gerard Depardieu. Without having seen it, I thought it was an odd choice, but a good odd, not Sister Act 2 odd.

I was somewhat familiar with Cyrano's story. It's been parodied about a million times. But I still wanted to see it for myself. So, I Ziplisted the DVD, and while I waited for it to arrive figured that I might as well read the play, too, since it'd been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time and since it was a sort of a New Year's reader resolution of mine to read more plays.

I really enjoyed the story. It begins as if it's going to be a simple tale of inner versus outer beauty. The reader anticipates that Roxane will eventually have to choose between the handsome, but somewhat tongue-tied Christian and the eloquent and romantic, but grotesquely big nosed Cyrano. Surely this is just another fairy tale with a pretty obvious moral. But towards the middle it's as if Rostand begins to lose control over the simplicity or else it's all been a ploy, and this slowly unveiling treatise has been his intention all along. Christian, it turns out, is not the buffoon the fairy tale requires. He may not be a man of words, but he is honourable and his love for Roxane is genuine. For the whole "inner versus outer beauty" theme to transpire we need him to be a brute, yet he is not. As for Cyrano, he himself points out that love poems do not always imply sincerity:
If the expression of feeling is refined too much, the feeling itself is lost. The soul is emptied by such vain pastimes, and love dies, smothered under a mass of flowery words that were meant to embellish it.
Make no mistake, Cyrano truly loves Roxane, but she is duly warned that romantic and pleasing words can't always be a measure of true love. Good-bye fairy tale.

It's for the pacing of the book that I preferred it to the movie. The book felt like a slow walk into the deep end, the movie felt like plunging right into the deep but occasionally coming up for gasps of air. I enjoyed the movie, it just wasn't the same interpretation I had.

It was interesting to compare the translations. Bair translated my version and he didn't attempt the rhyming of the French original. Instead, he tried to match the rhythm and meaning. The subtitles in this movie were taken from a rhyming translation by Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange author) though some of the meaning seemed lost or altered. Henry Hewes writes an afterword in my book that speaks of various translations and there's also a great discussion of more here. For me, the translations became Cyrano and Christian: two desired traits, unfortunately not in the same work. The French translation is as elusive to me as the handsome and articulate man was to Roxane.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Dummies and Idiots RSTLNE

Beginning in 1988, players in the final round of Wheel of Fortune were automatically shown the letters R, S, T, L, N, and E. Were the producers treating them like dummies? Like complete idiots? Not really. They were just keeping things interesting since those were the most likely letters to be picked. Still, it helps me segue into this week's word play. Below are titles in either the Complete Idiot's Guide series or the ...For Dummies series. If the letters R, S, T, L, N, and E were given, the puzzles would be solved. Try to fill them in yourself, then take a guess as to which series (Idiots or Dummies) it's from. For instance, if I gave you:

KAMA SU--A ("The classic how-to on sensuality")

You'd fill in the T and the R to get "KAMA SUTRA". If you also went on to guess "The Complete Idiot's Guide To The Kama Sutra" you'd be right on that account, too. For now, it would appear the dummies are not all that interested in Sanskrit dirty books.

I'm not coming out of left field with this week's Word Play. It was inspired by the news this week that Green Party leader Elizabeth May has co-penned a Dummies book with Zoe Caron. It's Global Warming For Dummies. Global warming doesn't seem to be getting the press it did a year ago, but "it's the economy, stupid" sure does. Don't worry. I'm not getting political on you, May's book simply sparked this week's theme.

Feel free to do all ten at home, but only answer one in the comment section. That way ten people will get to play along.

1. G---I-G A -A--OO ("this book walks the reader through every step of the process: making the big decision, handling the physical event, and finally, taking proper care of your own personal work of art.")

2. -XI-----IA-I-M ("a handy guide to Nietzsche, Sartre, and Kierkegaard’s favorite philosophy")
3. FAMI-Y --U-IO- P-A--I-G KI_ ("You'll find out all about tracking down lost [...] members, deciding what type of event to have, coordinating entertainment,food, lodging, and more!")

4.-H- O-D W--- ("when it comes to saddling up and learning the entire history of [...], you feel like one tired cowpoke.")

5. B---I-G O- HO--- -ACI-G ("The last two years have seen a record number of Americans tune in for climatic Triple Crown races featuring Smarty Jones and Funny Cide")

6. -H- WO--D OF HA--Y PO---- ("explores all aspects of the wizarding world and explains factually in terms of their relationship to historical, literary, religious, scientific, or mythological roots.")

7. DIFFICU-- CO-V---A-IO-- ("approach [...] with confidence, avoid blaming, overcome defensiveness, and make better decisions")

8. BUZZ MA-K--I-G WI-H B-OG- ("In this instant-communication world, buzz means business!)

9. B-COMI-G A P---O-A- --AI--- ("Want to turn your passion for fitness into a lucrative career?)

10. WA-HI-G-O-, D.- ("Whether you want to pay homage to history, marvel at the seat of power, take in world-class museums and art galleries, or see the cherry trees in bloom...")

Friday, January 23, 2009

Reader's Diary #440- Michael Rosen (editor) and Paul Howard (Illustrator): Classic Poetry

Michael Rosen's Classic Poetry: An Illustrated Collection is a pretty decent anthology of poetry. While Rosen acknowledges that his selections were originally written in English, and this gives the book a Westernized skew, the poems themselves are still, for the most part, great poems. There were some of the old standbys that I never get tired of reading (Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," Langston Hughes' "Mother to Son," and more), and he even managed to throw in a few surprises such as Banjo Paterson's "Waltzing Matilda" which I've only ever considered as a folk song, not a poem. Another interesting choice, and also from Australia, was Judith Wright and her poem, "Full Moon Poem." She was the only poet in the entire collection still alive when Classic Poetry was published (1998, though she died two years later). I wasn't familiar with her or her poetry and, though I enjoyed the selection, wonder why she made the cut over so many other contemporary poets.

The book was very well put together. With an introduction, biographical information about each poet, notes about particular poems and forms, it has all the special features I love from an anthology.

It also has illustrations. I quite enjoyed Howard's illustrations, and while they weren't always adventurous, they fit the moods of the poems they accompanied. It's perhaps because of these that the publishers and Rosen himself seem to consider this a children's book. On the dustjacket it says, "what [Rosen] has chosen to include are all poems he knows firsthand that children appreciate." Of course he included "Jabberwocky". And yes, "Waltzing Matilda" was a great choice. But if I was aiming a collection of poetry at children, I'm not sure I'd include Thomas Hood's dreary plight of the working class poem, "The Song of the Shirt":
Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
and still with a voice of dolorous pitch,--
Would that its tone could reach the Rich!--
She sang this "Song of the Shirt."

Rhymes and illustrations are not the intellectual property of kids, are they? It's not that I think children need to be sheltered from hardships, per se, but the above example is the last stanza in a four page poem and I would think that such a long and melancholy piece as this, with such adult themes, would do more to turn kids away from poetry than foster an appreciation. Likewise with Ella Wheeler Wilcox's classic "Solitude." "Laugh and the world laughs with you/ Weep, and you weep alone..." Ooops, there goes the bell! Time for recess, kids.

I'm reminded of the Poetry For Young People series which publishes volumes of poems by Robert Browning, William Shakespeare, William Carlos Williams, and many other classic poets and aims them at kids. I'm not suggesting they haven't chosen a stellar selection of poets, but I don't think all of their poetry was intended for kids. I don't mean offensive, either. I just mean they're topics that would appeal more to an adult, usually told in a way adults would appreciate more than a child. It doesn't have to be all nursery rhymes and silliness for children, but nursery rhymes and silliness could certainly help build a child's interest.

Anyway, I enjoyed Rosen's Classic Poetry, even if I wasn't the intended audience.

I'll leave you with a poem by Emily Dickinson taken from this collection. It reminds me of something a friend recently told me about a court case he'd gone through. Once an event happens, he said, you never get the reality of it back. Witnesses remember things in different ways, there are different interpretations, and no one can quite capture the truth. I think this could be Dickinson's argument to the contrary.
A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reader's Diary #439- Thomas Chandler Haliburton: The Clockmaker

The Clockmaker- The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville was first written in 1835 by Nova Scotian Thomas Chandler Haliburton. It was serialized that year but not compiled until 1836. It is often creditted with being Canada's earliest example of satire. It does show how far we've come in that field.

As I've off'n said, doesn't take but two spuds to get yerself a crop, long as theys got a dozen eyes a piece and you've got 10 yers, a plot with dirt the caller of a ol' boot, and the patience of a Georgian fisherman.

Okay, so that expression isn't in the book, nor do I know what it means, but it seems like something Sam Slick might say. Sam is a Yankee clock-peddler making away across Nova Scotia, offering mostly advice and opinion, with a few anecdotes thrown in, to a local known only as Squire, who decides to travel with him. It is the Squire who recalls all of Slick's speeches and tales. This is an actual Slick quote, referring to a horse:
I have one a proper sneezer, a chap that can go ahead of a rail road steamer, a real natural traveller, one that can trot with the ball out of the small eend of a rifle, and never break into a gallop.

At first, like many readers before me, I was drawn to Slick's speech, though not the man behind it. Something about the colloquilisms and nonstop chatter seemed almost vaudevillian. I have no way of knowing how accurate Haliburton captured the linguistics of an early nineteenth century Yankee, or even if that was intention. Maybe it was meant as a parody. In any case, the energy and relentlessness pulled me in early.

Though it persisted, my enthusiasm didn't. It quickly became apparent that there was not going to be a plot. Nor was it to be a collection of short stories. Instead, it was simply going to be Slick's arrogant rantings of how the Nova Scotians (the Blue Noses) were lazy, unambitious, and none too bright, especially when compared to the Americans. Slick is such an unlikeable character, his humour is quickly squashed.

I found myself asking what Haliburton's point was: to satirize the Americans (as know-it-all hypocrits) or the Nova Scotians (for the reasons listed above) or both parties? It should be noted that any of these options makes Haliburton a bit of a pompous ass, especially the last one. Turns out it was the third option and yes, I've decided he was an ass.

And it just got more offensive from there. If I was cringing at the word "nigger" and trying to convince myself it was a matter of the time, I was downright appalled by the treatment of women. In the chapter called "Taming a Shrew," Slick recounts a night he was returning John Porter, a business associate, home late. Porter begins to worry that his wife Jane will act "ugly" so Slick decides to step in and take care of things. Pretending to be John, since it's dark and Jane can't see him, Slick imitates John's voice and tries to sweet talk her into forgiveness. However, Jane has none of it, and so Slick commences beating her with a horsewhip. He then returns to John and tells him that he's taken the liberty of training John's wife and now John'd better keep her in line. The point of the story doesn't appear to be to show how despicable Slick is, it seems to be told as if this were all somehow amusing: a "mistaken identity in the dark" punchline followed up with a little bit of slapstick as she goes to sit at the table the next morning, forgets her welts, and springs up from her chair. The chapter ends with Slick remembering the sage advice of his grandfather:

A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree,
The more you lick 'em, the better they be.

Sadly, the Squire, the Nova Scotian keeping Slick's company all this time, doesn't confront on him on this horrible tale of abuse at all. Instead they continue traveling on together, and when they finally part, make plans to travel together again in the future. Of Sam Slick, the Squire concludes,
His manner and idiom were to me perfectly new and very amusing; while
his good sound sense, searching observation, and queer humor, rendered his
conversation at once valuable and interesting.

Oh yeah. He was a real charmer.

What a horrible, horrible book.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #3- Oscar Wilde VERSUS James Joyce

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Oscar Wilde Vs. Salman Rushdie) with a final score of 10-2 was Oscar Wilde.

I haven't read any Rushdie yet, so it wouldn't have been easy for me to vote last week. In cases like that, and because these votes aren't really important (shhhh!), I simply rationalize it by saying, Wilde inspired me to read him first, so he gets my vote. But that's just me! I don't want to discourage all the responsible voters out there.

After Kirbc's comment last week that Rushdie's Midnight's Children is her 2nd favourite book of all time, it got me to thinking. Rushdie must really resent that whole fatwā thing. I mean Midnight's Children even earned him a Booker, but now all most people ever think about is The Satanic Verses. (Oh yeah, and it almost got him killed.) Do you think-- and I doubt if he'd ever admit it-- that some mornings he just lies there thinking, "oh man, I wish I didn't write that book!" Poor guy'll never be able to tour Iran like the rest of us.

Anyway, this week we hit the green, green grass of Ireland.

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. (Jan. 27, 2009), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reader's Diary #438- Lewis Carroll: Through The Looking Glass

When we first started adding chapter books to our daughter's bedtime routine, my wife and I would take turns reading the chapters. Before long, however, we started to feel like we were missing out. While our daughter was hearing the whole book, neither of us were. And the parent's enjoyment of the read-aloud is just as important, isn't it?

So, when we bought the double volume of Alice stories by Lewis Carroll, my wife decided she'd read Alice's Adventure in Wonderland, and I'd follow it up with Through The Looking Glass. Truthfully, I was happy with going second. I'd seen movie versions of Adventures, so many times I figured I was familiar with the story anyway. As for Through The Looking Glass, I'd only seen one movie version (it was part of a miniseries starring Sherman Hemsley, Scott Baio, Karl Malden and many others). I was, of course, also familiar with the poems "Jabberwocky" and "The Walrus and the Carpenter." (I still remember my old Trivial Pursuit Junior with the Lewis Carroll quote on the side, "'The time has come,' the Walrus said, 'to talk of many things...'")

I'm a little disappointed with the book. I'd have figured I'd have been a bigger fan of nonsense, but this was like overdosing on it. Plus, while I enjoyed some of the characters, none were as appealing or as varied as the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, the Caterpillar, or the others from Wonderland. Finally, the chess analogy (or references, I'm not sure) was confusing. I can play chess, I enjoy chess, but Carroll's version of it was way too muddled. My daughter, who doesn't play chess, must have been totally lost.

She didn't, however, complain. She rarely, if ever, says anything negative about a book (we really need to work on that!) I did note that her attention seemed to be more on her Care Bears than what I was reading. One night, after a long day's work, I was falling asleep in the middle of reading and I caught myself talking gibberish as I was nearing dreamland. I looked to see if she'd caught that I hadn't been making sense for quite some time. She was petting the cat and hadn't noticed at all. Either my nonsense had blended into Carroll's seamlessly, or she had me tuned out long ago.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reader's Diary #437- F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Last week, one of Teddy Rose's contributions to Short Story Monday was a review of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button".

Until the movie, I hadn't even heard of the short story. I wasn't a big fan of The Great Gatsby and so I really didn't pay attention to his other writings. But once again Hollywood has motivated me to learn. You see, at first I thought the premise of the new Brad Pitt movie was a rip-off of Jonathan Winter's "Mearth" character from Mork and Mindy. It turns out that Mearth had ripped off Benjamin Button, the title character in Fitzgerald's story who was the first to age backwards. Thanks to Teddy for finding a free online version of the story, so I could check it out.

Aging backwards, of course, is a bit of a ridiculous scenario and it is no wonder that a sitcom would try the idea. Fitzgerald seems to acknowledge the humour of the situation and keeps the farfetchedness at the surface as much as possible, I suspect to prevent the story from losing it's comedic edge. When Mr. Button first meets his 70-year old new born, he's crammed into a crib and almost immediately begins a cranky rant about his present surroundings and requesting a comfortable rocking chair. The rest of the humour comes from the confusion as to how Benjamin should behave and how people should treat him: by his birth age or physical and mental age?

Though the preposterousness didn't bother me, I was annoyed over some unbelievable reactions by some of the characters. That Benjamin's father found it hard to accept that his son was different, and would buy him toys and generally treat the old man as a child is, of course, no less believable than the premise. But I couldn't understand the reactions of some of the other characters that seemed angered by the whole thing. Right at the beginning, the doctor who breaks the news to Mr. Button is bizarrely irritated with the case. Why was the doctor so short with him, snapping at his questions? The doctor rambles on about what it would do to his reputation. These days a medical marvel such as this would do wonders for a doctor's career. Was it so vastly different back then? And when his wife says, "there's a right way of doing things and a wrong way. If you've made up your mind to be different from everybody else, I don't suppose I can stop you, but I really don't think it's very considerate," it's such a silly thing to imply that Benjamin could somehow control his circumstance that it's not even believable. The title refers to Benjamin's case as "curious." However, a more accurate description of the story would have been "The Inconvenient Case of Benjamin Button." Had the characters acted with at least some curiosity, going along with Fitzgerald's premise would have been easier. There has to some normality to balance things out, doesn't there?

I did enjoy the story a little more at the end when he finally became a child, though it does begin to be a little depressing at this point. Despite the specifics, the life in reverse turns out not to be all that different than a life told forward.

If you've written a post for Short Story Monday, leave your link below, As well, last week Laza suggested a Short Story Monday button. I think it's a wonderful idea, but I've only been able to come up with the very simple thing you see above. If someone else feels creative and would like to put something else together, I'd be ever so grateful!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"But it's so big and intimidating!"

Last week I picked up a used copy of Rebecca Ray's Newfoundland. I needed a large crane and a crew of four to help. Coming in at 1001 pages, it's the largest book on my shelf right now, not including a few books of complete works (Shakespeare, Poe, and the Bible). I know it's going to take me years to even consider reading it. After plugging through a 1424 page version of Tolstoy's War and Peace and the 1141 page uncut version of Stephen King's The Stand, I know what a commitment it will have to be.

I have a few questions for you:

1. What's the longest book on your shelf right now? Have you read it?

2. What's the longest book you've ever read?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Us and Them Initials

For every discussion of a Canadian identity, you can be sure someone will mention the Americans and someone else will criticize that person for defining themselves with a comparison. The whole "I'm not.../ Well, what are you then?" argument is a part of our heritage.

With that in mind, let's compare ourselves to the Americans, shall we? Or, for the Americans who might be reading this, compare yourself to the Canadians, shall you? Or for those of you from some other part of the world, why not help us out here?

Below are 10 sets of initials. For each one, tell me a Canadian author and an American author that shares those initials (dead or alive). There are lots of acceptable answers I'm sure, but I made sure I could come up with them on my own, so I don't think I've picked anyone that obscure. After, if you're familiar with their books, let me know which of the two authors you prefer.

For instance, if I gave the initials C.B. an acceptable answer would be "Chester Brown (Canadian) and Charles Bukowski (American)."

Feel free to answer all 10 at home, but please only answer one in the comments section. That way, ten people will have a chance to play along. As well, if you know of other possible answers for some of the ones already done, feel free to share.

1. D.B.
2. E.H.
3. M.T.
4. W.F.
5. J.U.
6. G.V.
7. L.M.
8. M.C.
9. H.M.
10. M.A.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hockey Cards and Hopscotch

I was cleaning out a storage room at work a few days ago when I came across a bunch of these books. Apparently they were used as part of a language arts curriculum in the early 70s.

I'm not reviewing it as such because I haven't read it all yet, but it seems to be a real treasure. I know basal readers are not all that fashionable anymore, but I look at these collections, edited by John McInnes and Emily Hearn, more as anthologies. Basal readers, for those of you not in the education field, are collections of short stories, poems, and so forth used in school classrooms, with specific language skills and lessons in mind, often with questions after each selection. They usually come with a teacher's guide, complete with story prompts, worksheets, answer keys, pre and post activities, etc. Critics (self-included) say the supplement materials are often poorly produced (ex. yes/no questions versus critical thinking), overused (without acknowledgement that the particular class may have different learning needs), and overly generalized (all the students using the same text when reading abilities and interests probably vary greatly). Also, they tend to be boring.

I don't know how Hockey Cards and Hopscotch was used. I didn't find a teacher's guide (not to say there wasn't one), nor were there any questions, intrusions of "study tips" or anything besides the reading selections. At a first glance there appears to be a wide variety of pieces; there's poetry, short stories, and even an interview. Well known Canadian authors are represented (such as Dennis Lee and Alden Nowlan) as are lesser knowns (such as Peter Angstad and Eleanor Farjeon). Plus, there seems to be a lot of representation of cultures from sea to sea to sea (including a Haida poem and a short story set in Yellowknife by Jean Rutherford). It also has a lot of interesting and varied illustrations. Asides from a poor representation of nonfiction (except the interview with Foster Hewitt), I can't find a fault with this anthology. If any teacher misused this book, surely the fault lay with him/her.

Of the poetry included, I particularly liked this gem from Raymond Souster:

The Wild Wolves of Winter

The wild wolves of winter
swept through the streets last night. Hate glared
in their eyes like unexploded neon
the wind of their howling a thousand moon-curdling moans

(read the rest here.)

Other anthologies in this series include Driftwood and Dandelions, Northern Lights and Fireflies, and Toboggans and Turtlenecks.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reader's Diary #436- Christie Blatchford: Fifteen Days

I went to Blatchford's Fifteen Days, the nonfiction account of Canadian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan in 2006, with a lot of trepidation. Surely some of the glowing reviews, and perhaps even the Governor General's award, was based on respect for the soldiers and/or patriotism. What about the writing?

Many of the reviews I've read try to claim Fifteen Days is not at all political. Hogwash. Without even bothering to get into the philosophy that "everything is political," the book oozes politics. I found it especially interesting that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001 (on the U.S.) is mentioned only briefly. Instead of protecting Canada (or the U.S.) from future attacks, some of the Canadian soldiers interviewed by Blatchford talk more about liberating the people of Afghanistan, especially the women, from the Taliban and helping them rebuild their country.

That's political. Blatchford doesn't, however, seem to take an overt stance for or against war. Some of the soldiers do, and Blatchford let's them, and therein lies the greatness of the book. The soldiers, and their families and friends, do most of the talking. (It's interesting to note subtle differences between the soldiers. They may be institutionalized to work as a cohesive unit, but Fifteen Days destroys the myth that soldier's cannot have separate personalities.)

I didn't cry. I was assured by many people that I would, and I consider myself a sap. I came close a couple of times. Both were during funerals. While reading about one, my wife started playing on the piano, a song I hadn't heard of before (Pass It On). Though I've never been a big fan of movie scores, she inadvertently added a soundtrack that, combined with Blatchford's details, choked me up. The second time was the funeral for Vaughan Ingram. Again, while tears didn't actually come, I found it difficult. I can't put my finger on why this one moved me more than the others, except to guess that I've been to Ingram's home town, Burgeo (a small town on the Southern coast of Newfoundland), and I could imagine the funeral all the better.

Blatchford's presentation is gritty, messy, and sometimes confusing. I haven't been around a lot of soldiers. At the Remembrance Day ceremonies I've been, the elderly veterans that have attended were usually very distinguished and quiet. Not that the soldiers in Fifteen Days were a bunch of hicks, but they were usually very young, very fond of the f-word, and energetic. Of course, the aforementioned veterans were probably that way once upon a time as well. And while I'd fit in there like a bowtie at a Hell's Angels convention, I appreciated their human nature. Blatchford quotes Errol Cushey, a soldier's father, on his paraphrase of an analogy believed to have originated from a Vietnam vet,
...what you've got to understand is that most people are sheep. And you've got your wolves that want to harm the sheep, and you've got the 2 percent of the people who want to be sheepdogs, and they stand between the wolves and the sheep [...] now the people, they're frightened of the wolves, but the sheepdogs, they look a bit too much like the wolves, so they don't really like them too much either.
Blatchford did an admirable job of making me appreciate the sheepdogs.

At times, especially during the higher intensity battle scenes, I felt a bit lost. Terminology, abbreviations, and acronyms were flying at me like RPGs. Blatchford was kind enough to provide a glossary and I think the pages started to smoke from my flipping back and forth so often. Still, I found it somewhat difficult to keep track of what was going on. Oddly, that made it even more real for me. No doubt it would be confusing to an average citizen such as myself to be suddenly dropped into such a situation. It's a different world. Fortunately these soldiers are so well trained, the terminology comes second nature and is the least of their worries.

Having the chapters (as the title would suggest, the chapters are the 15 days), not presented chronologically was also a bit confusing, especially as she references previous battles and incidents. In the author's note, Blatchford writes, "I didn't think telling the story in a purely chronological way would work" but she doesn't really explain why. If I pick up the book again, I think I'll try reading them in the chronological order just to compare.

With Fifteen Days, Blatchford proves that the shine Hollywood has put on war is not only unrealistic, it isn't necessary. The public can handle brutal and blatant honesty, and benefit more from it. A spoonful of sugar? No thanks.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #3- Oscar Wilde VERSUS Salman Rushdie

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Hans Christian Anderson Vs. Oscar Wilde) with a final score of 7-5 was Oscar Wilde.

While the Wilde fans were quick out of the gate last week, I thought for a second the Andersen fans would catch up. It was a much closer race than I'd first anticipated. As Nicola, an Andersen supporter, pointed out, his tales certainly stick with me as an adult. In particular, I remember "the Ugly Duckling" and "The Little Mermaid" (and to a lesser extent "The Little Matchgirl" and "Thumbelina.") However, I don't know for certain that I've ever read the originals. In the case of "The Little Mermaid", it's the film versions that I'm most familiar with. An earlier, non-Disney version I saw as a kid made an impression on me (for all the wrong reasons... well, for two of the wrong reasons anyway.) An animated topless Ariel climbs upon a rock at the end and the scene morphs into the real-life statue that still rests (albeit unpeacefully) in Copenhagen today. I'm not sure what version this was, but looking through IMDB, I'd venture to say it was the 1974 version narrated by Richard Chamberlain. My grandmother also had a cookie tin with a picture of that statue on the lid, though I don't think anyone she'd ever known had been to Denmark.

Another Great Wednesday Compare, another walk down memory lane.

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. (Jan. 20, 2009), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Tuesday, Where Are You?

Each Tuesday over at Raidergirl's blog, she hosts a weekly feature that asks, "It's Tuesday... Where are you?"

Respondents answer with the setting of the book they're currently reading. It's a fun premise. Setting usually gets mentioned in reviews, but most often as a passing thought. Yet I'm sure setting is one of the main attractions to a book, providing us with virtual travel both through space and time.

It's an important point for me to remember this week. Last week we had frozen water pipes and major damage. This week we get the repair bill. In all likelihood, it'll mean our planned trip to England in March will be nixed. Disappointing? You bet. So I'll be relying heavily on the book getaways.

This week I'm off to warm and sunny... Afghanistan?!

Yes, I'm reading Christie Blatchford's Fifteen Days. Where are you?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reader's Diary #435- Joyce Carol Oates: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Short Story Monday

When I first started Short Story Mondays a couple years back, I had thought it would take off as a weekly feature that many other litbloggers would take up. I had hopes of it following in the footsteps of the wildly popular Poetry Fridays feature in which so many litbloggers participate. Eventually I'd even follow Poetry Fridays protocol, adding a Mr. Linky button to each week's post. I asked fellow bloggers to review a single short story, a collection of short stories, or even try their hand at writing their very own. Basically, any short story themed post would work. Then, on Mondays, I suggested they leave their links on my post, and we could all gather around to drink chai tea, read one another's posts and join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace. Alas, it was not to be. A few people showed interest but the number of participants never seemed to grow. I got really desperate and even tried franchising it out, asking some of the more popular crowd to take a shot at hosting it. A few did, but still, it fizzled. So, while I continued on with the feature, I stopped trying to recruit others. Oh well, at least it's peaceful in my little low-rated corner of the blogging world.

Then, last week, blogger Teddy Rose approached me and asked if I'd consider starting it up again. Shortly after, so did Intergalactic Bookworm. Well, whadayaknow? 2 people! I like those numbers! I'm dusting off the old fedora and coming out of retirement. For the next couple of weeks or so (longer if it catches on), I'll be adding Mr. Linky again for anyone who wishes to add a link to their own Short Story Monday posts (see above paragraph for post ideas). If you need a short story to read, I usually find mine online. In fact, links to all the short stories I reviewed last year can be found here.

Moving on to this week's story, I'm reviewing Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Wandering Coyote recently told me her favourite short story was Oates' "How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again". I know Wandering Coyote about as well as I know Joyce Carol Oates, so I figured I could remedy that somewhat by reading the story. But, I searched and searched and couldn't find it anywhere online. I did, however, find the "Where Are You Going" story.

It's a nasty piece of work. Not nasty in the poor writing sense, but just nasty-nasty. I'd call it horror, but I'm afraid it would conjure up images of zombies or mutant frogs that eat babies. It's really more life-like horror than that.

What makes it so particularly nasty is Oates' approach to the victim. There seems to be an almost perverse need to bring her down, as if the predator in the story is merely one of Oates' puppets.

For not one second am I faulting Oates or her writing. I was thoroughly impressed and perplexed by how Oates could accomplish such a mood. Early on, it became clear that Oates was out to get Connie, so how was it that I felt sorry for Connie? Shouldn't I feel the same as the author? Oates is no Humbert Humbert after all.

I think Oates first gets us on side with Connie by giving her a condescending, judgmental mother. It aroused my sympathy, as I suspect it was supposed to, and I thought, "of course Connie's shallow and frivolous; she's a teenager! Lighten up already!" And with that frame of mind, I lightened up, and went along down memory lane with Connie and those carefree summers of my teenage years. When I was young and naive...

Check out these other Short Story Monday posts:

Teddy reviews a couple short stories: F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and Jennifer Egan's "Found Objects". Eva is also in with a Fitzgerald story, "Bernice Bobs Her Hair".
Sandra reviews a collection of short stories by Christopher Meeks called Months and Seasons.
Laza is working through Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, a collection of short story retakes of classic fairy tales. This week she reviews "The Bloody Chamber", "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon" and "The Tiger's Bride."
J.S. Peyton reviews a short by Jack Pendarvis called "Our Spring Catalogue".
C.B. James reviews a short story from Richard Lange's Dead Boys, called "The Bogo-Indian Defense."
J.C. Montgomery reviews "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Book Psmith reviews a Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: "The Red-Headed League."
Jan in Edmonds reviews a very short story by Helen Sears called "Demonstration".
Check 'em out!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

You get up every morning, from your alarm clock's warning...

A few quick business items to take care of:

1. Re: 6th Update Contest. The winner of The Common Sky, a bunch of cds, and the used copy of Late Nights On Air, is April.

Congratulations April! As soon as I have your mailing address, I'll get it in the mail. Thanks to Squatterz Books for donating this prize.

2. Tomorrow is Short Story Monday. Get your SSM posts ready, and show up here tomorrow to provide your link.

Reader's Diary #434- The Good News Bible: Chronicles 1

When someone says they've read the whole Bible, what does that mean? Does skimming count? If not, I'm afraid I'll never be added to the list of people able to make that claim.

How do people manage to get through passage after passage of "Adam was the father of Seth, Seth was the father of Enosh, Enosh the father of Kenan. Kenan the father of Mahalalel, Mahalalel the father of Jared. Jared was the father of Waldo, who was the father of Methuselah; Methuselah was the father of Lamech..."? (The KJV keeps it interesting by throwing begats around.)

My strategy to work through it was to look for names that still exist today. I've met a Caleb, an Abraham, and even a Mannaseh, but I've yet to encounter a Ziph, a Penuel, or an Ishbah.

Things get a little interesting towards the middle when the lineage stuff dies down and Satan convinces David to take a census (because you know how evil those things are), and later when David's son Solomon is able to fulfill his father's dream of building a temple for the Lord.

Still, there's so much hard slogging at the beginning of Chronicles 1, a few more miracles at the end would have been nice.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Nothing In Common With Newfoundland Authors

I wouldn't say I'm homesick, but I have been thinking about Newfoundland authors this past week. Therefore, I bring you this latest Saturday Word Play. On the left you'll find a Newfoundland author and on the right you'll find a book written by him/her. However, I've removed all the letters the author has in common with their title. For instance, if it was:

Percy Janes- House of Hate

the clue would look like this:

Prcy Jns- Hous of Ht

since the author shared the letters "e" and "a" with the title. Which of these can you identify?

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

1. Jn Crk- titudes f Met
2. W J- Cl f Urquid Drm
3. Donn Morrey- Kt’ Lw
4. Bic - d Pss
5. Kth J. Harvy- Isid
6. s Me- gt
7. Mcal nr- Bg y
8. Kvi Mjr- Th Hus f Wd Sts
9. arld rd- ite Eskim
10. Mal ummy- v Tvs

Friday, January 09, 2009

Reader's Diary #433- Elaine Woodward: Grandmother

"Through writing/ I bare myself:/ naked/ before you"

The above line is from the first poem, "Exposed," of Elaine Woodward's book of poetry and stories, Grandmother. Woodward, a Metis woman originally from Alberta but now living in Yellowknife, dedicated this book to two deceased women: her grandmother (presumably shown on the cover) and sister. It is clear from the poems that Woodward has had a lot of pain in her life (through an abusive marriage and through death), but fond memories of the aforemention women.

The lines from "Exposed" perfectly summarize the book to come. There's a lot of honesty, told in a lot of cliché. And that's about as harsh as I'm going to be. Grandmother, originally published by the now defunct Wordcrafting Publications (a company she started on her own), is no longer in print and so reviewing it would serve no great purpose. It's wonderful that Woodward had poetry to turn to in times of stress and she's a remarkable woman to have overcome what she did. Maybe someone who comes across the book at the local library will find solace in her words.

Plus, the illustrations by Autumn Downey are quite well done.

For comic relief only, here's a poem from none other than Robert DeNiro as Jack Byrnes in Meet The Parents:

"You gave me life,
You gave me milk,
You gave me courage.
Your name was Angela,
An angel from Heaven.

But you were also an angel of God,
And He needed you, too.
I selfishly tried to hold on to you,
While the cancer ate away at your organs
Like an unstoppable rebel force.
And now we'll meet in Heaven.

And I shall see you
Nevermore, nevermore, nevermore."

(For what it's worth, Woodward's poetry is better than this!)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Reader's Diary #432- Amy Tan: The Joy Luck Club

A few Wednesday Compares ago, Amy Tan competed (unsuccessfully) against Beverly Cleary. I hadn't read any of Tan's work at the time, and between The Joy Luck Club and The Bonesetter's Daughter (the two Tan books currently on my bookshelf), it was recommended that I start with the former.

I enjoyed The Joy Luck Club a lot. It certainly takes on a lot of themes, not all of which are exclusive to the Chinese-American culture. I particularly enjoyed her take on the nature versus nurture debate. One of the mothers in the book is insistent that while her daughter was born to a Chinese family, she was born and raised in America and could not possibly think any way other than American. A second mother, in a later story, was confident that since Chinese heritage is in her daughter's blood, she could not think any way but Chinese.

The gulf between the mothers and the daughters is crucial to the book. The mothers were born and raised in China, the daughters in the United States. There were generational gaps and there were cultural gaps as well. Almost needless to say, the gaps were the source of a lot of tension.

That's what keep the book interesting for me, but it's also what made the book problematic. Though many of the details of each life were different, the mother-daughter relationships were all similarly strained and I sometimes had difficulty remembering who was who. I 've read many books of "interconnecting short stories" before (Margaret Laurence's A Bird in the House, David Bezmozgis' Natasha and Other Stories, and most recently Anthony de Sa's Barnacle Love) and about the only issue I had was why they've been labelled "interconnected short stories" rather than a novel; stories seamlessly related to one another. While the connections in The Joy Luck Club were equally as obvious, it didn't strike me as a novel in disguise. In fact, I would have enjoyed the stories more if I'd read them all separately.

In other words, I enjoyed the stories of The Joy Luck Club singularly, but not so much as a collection.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #3- Hans Christian Andersen VERSUS Oscar Wilde

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Hans Christian Anderson Vs. Beatrix Potter) with a final score of 4-3 was Hans Christian Anderson.

Another tie came my way last week, with Potter and Andersen finding themselves with 3 votes a piece. Unlike Andersen, I don't remember Potter's stories from my childhood. Sure I'd heard of Peter Rabbit but that was about it. I tried reading the tales to my own kids and egad, I didn't like them. I thought The Story of Peter Rabbit was dull and couldn't see much charm in the disobedient bunny at all. Then there's The Tale of Benjamin Bunny:
The cat looked up and saw old Mr. Benjamin Bunny prancing along the top of the wall of the upper terrace.

He had a little switch in his hand.

He was looking for his son.
Charming, isn't it? (Just wait till the whipping starts.)

Of course, I don't judge anyone who enjoys the tales out of nostalgic reasons, but as I didn't read them as a child, I certainly don't have such attachments. Nor will I bother with them again. I cast the tie-breaking vote for Andersen.

This week is a dandy, though.

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. (Jan. 13, 2009), and if you want your author to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who's better?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Reader's Diary #431- Hanoch Piven: My Dog Is As Smelly As Odd Socks

What a fantastic picture book! It begins with a child's fine, but somewhat generic, picture she'd drawn of her family. Her teacher remarks, "How great is that!" and the girl says, "But I didn't like it."

A book about self-esteem perhaps? Not at all. It's all about art and creativity. The girl knows she can do better and boy, does she ever!

Beginning with her dad, she remarks that her original scraggly-haired rendering doesn't reflect his personality at all. After all, she says, he's "as jumpy as a SPRING, and as playful as a SPINNING TOP..." and so forth. Then, when you turn the page, she's incorporated these objects into a new, more artistic and representative portrait of her dad. Then she goes down the list revising the other family members (including the onion-eyed stinky dog you see on the cover.)

We all enjoyed this book immensely. The pictures were funny, the similes were witty and often unpredictable, and we're all itching to now try our own.

(To see more of Piven's portraits, including ones he did for Rolling Stone magazine, Time, and Entertainment Weekly, visit his website. Some of my favourites include Homer Simpson, Bruce Springsteen, and Thom Yorke. What are yours?)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Reader's Diary #430- E.M. Forster: The Machine Stops

Short Story Monday

As is often my finding of science fiction, the setting of E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" is more interesting than the plot. While everyone lives underground in this futuristic tale, it is otherwise eerily similar to the world we live in today. Written way back in 1909, it's somewhat amusing that Forster would be fearful about man's reliance on technology. If he only knew where the world was headed. Then again, maybe he did. Not only does he accurately predict television and videoconferencing (though under different names), but he even goes on to describe what is essentially the modern day Internet. He even predicted Lolcats! Okay, so I made that last one up.

But does "The Machine Stops" rise above a Nostradamus impression? The plot, as I've already indicated, isn't as strong as the world in which it takes place. However, it's still written well. I particularly liked that the story follows Vashti, who is one of the last to realize the world isn't the utopia she'd been led to believe. Her son Kuno seems to have figured it out early on in the story, but unpredictably Forster doesn't make him the central character. His rage against the machine is a side-story we only hear about when he tells his mother.

Of course, there's the usual sci-fi standbys of technology turning against us, religious themes, etc, but with Forster's story-telling and uncanny ability to foresee the future, he's forgiven.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Reader's Diary #429- Seth: It's A Good Life, If You Don't Weaken

Until Remi brought this book to my attention, I had thought it was just a Tragically Hip song. But when I found out it was first a graphic novel... er, picture novella... by some guy from Toronto who simply went by "Seth," it was enough to pique my interest. (According to Wikipedia, Seth borrowed it from a Maurice Chevalier song.)

So, when I joined up with the Graphic Novels Challenge, this one simply had to make my list. Not having ever read a graphic novel before I didn't know what to expect, but one look inside and I knew this wasn't it. With bold but minimalist lines (I'm no artist, so forgive me if I'm not describing this well), it wasn't the busy, grainy pictures I remembered from the few superhero comics I read as a kid. Likewise, there's no superhero action.

I also hadn't expected to be caught up in the words. The narration at the beginning, followed by the very realistic conversations when Seth (yes, he stars in his own book) visits with his mother and brother, is so engaging that I began to worry I wouldn't focus on the visuals at all!

Slowly but surely the artistry got to me. It's amazing how well he was able to set a mood with a few subtle shadows. Entirely wordless pages seemed as integral to the plot as the dialogue:

It's odd that such a slow-paced, sometimes depressing book, would engage me as much as it did (maybe he should illustrate a couple Alice Munro books for me). Perhaps the self-awareness won me over (at one point Seth even refers to his inclination towards "navel gazing"). Or, more likely, I was taken in with the irony. Seth is portrayed as someone never quite comfortable living in the now, someone nostalgic for a time before he even existed. Yet, for all that, the present-day Toronto seems drawn in such a fond, nostalgic light. If there's any message to be taken away, it's that a life is most beautiful when you appreciate the flaws.

(Cross-posted at the Graphic Novels Challenge blog.)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Dividing and Conquering Playwrights

One of my reading goals this year is to read more plays. Asides from Shakespeare, I totally neglected the form in 2008. On that note, I've listed some popular plays below. Can you tell me the playwright (last name only)?

Next to the play title, I have provided some clues. Figure these out, combine the letters of your answer, and unscramble them to discover the playwright. For instance, if the clue read:

Romeo and Juliet:
- corpse-mobile
- talk

You'd figure out that a corpse-mobile is a hearse, talk is speak, combine all the letters to form hearsespeak and unscramble them to get Shakespeare. Got it?

As always, feel free to do all ten at home but only answer one in the comment section. That way, ten people will be able to play along.

1. Death of a Salesman
- Edge of a glass
- A wing of a building

2. Faust
- Pig
- Golf peg

3. The Rez Sisters
- How come?
- witch
- me

4. A Doll's House
- exist
- go against God's will

5. Pygmalion
- owns (in the third person)
- recent presidential movie

6. The Birthday Party
- element Sn
- for each

7. Waiting For Godot
- Miss Davis ("All the boys think she's a spy.")
- Underwear initials

8. Cyrano de Bergerac
- Decay
- Aykroyd, Brown, and Castellaneta

9. A Streetcar Named Desire
- Tiny
- Nintendo's handheld pointing device

10. Lost in Yonkers
- "Name" in French
- "Yes" in Spanish

Friday, January 02, 2009

Reader's Diary #428- Shane L. Koyczan: Visiting Hours

Poetry snobs insist that poems, like some sort of anti-child, should be heard and not seen. At least heard and not read. But hermits like myself balk at the thought. Poetry that's published is meant to be read, and if I like it, then dammit, I'll read it. Others are more diplomatic. Less emphatic. "Poetry is better when heard, but okay on the page." Maybe it's my age, but my hearing is less attentive. Give me the page any day.

Can we have it both ways? A poet on stage who's as good on the page? Can typed words, when said aloud, keep you awake?

My first foray into reading "spoken word" (or is it performance poetry?) didn't go so well. Oni, The Haitian Sensation's Ghettostocracy was a horrible read, though she's won her fair share of poetry slams. Fortunately, along comes Shane Koyczan who shows you can have it both ways.

Without having heard Koyczan before, it still wasn't hard to tell these poems were probably intended for the stage. The fast pace and the use of both end rhymes and internal rhymes seem like just the sort of thing audiences would lap up:
and when I'm all alone
I'm rifling through the pockets
in the back of my mind
trying to find spare excuses
so I can call you on the phone

(from "Afraid," by Shane Koyczan)

Yet, I didn't get the sense Koyczan was pandering to an audience. Actual thought and care seemed to go into the words and it didn't seem all about some sort of linguistic agility or bravado:
and these hands melt down like candles
as they slide down into your love i can't handles

(from "These Hands," by Shane Koyczan)

No, I didn't think all the poems were perfect. Occasionally I found them overly sentimental and one or two seemed to overkill metaphors (the "driving" metaphor in "Pulse" was particularly annoying). However, these issues seemed to be the fault of the poems themselves, not a result of them having been transcribed. Fortunately, they were also in the minority.

Visiting Hours was published by House of Parlance Media in 2005. Download free Shane Koyczan mp3s, watch YouTube videos of him performing, etc here.

(Interestingly, I didn't find out Koyczan was from Yellowknife until after I read his book.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge- 6th Update


Five months in and we've made it to 536 books!

Welcome to MelanieO who is also hosting a Canada Reads Challenge:

Participants in the Canada Reads Challenge are asked to read all five Canada Reads books and predict a winner by February 15th. Click on the above picture for all the details. (As all the titles are Canadian, it would make an easy challenge to double-dip with the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge!)

And congrats to Pooker who met 13 twice (for a total of 26) with both male and female authors, and to Sandra who also met and surpassed 13.

Here are the standings so far (* indicates a new review). Some highlights this month include April's review of Simple Recipes which contrary to the title, isn't an actual cookbook. (Hey, come to think of it, we've never had a cookbook reviewed for the Challenge yet). Kathleen reviews a book with a very long and peculiar title. Ragdoll continues on her female themed approach with Mary Swan's The Boys In The Trees (also read by Sandra). Sam reads Kenneth J. Harvey's Inside which was kindly donated as a prize by Mr. Harvey back in the 1st edition of the challenge. Corey takes the Harvey appreciation even further, reviewing not one but three of his books while making an appeal for greater recognition and respect thrust in Harvey's direction. Historia adds a memoir by our first and, as of yet, only female Prime Minister. Thanks to everyone for your wonderful reviews. Keep those conversations happening!

Nunavummiut (13 Books...or more!)

- The Cure For Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz*
- Children of the Day by Sandra Birdsell
- The Petty Details of So-and-so's Life by Camilla Gibb
- 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

- Mercy Among The Children by David Adams Richards*
- The Christmas Tree by David Adams Richards*
- Sparrow Nights by David Gilmour*
- Precious by Douglas Glover
- Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
- 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

- Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden*
- Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel*
- Red Dog Red Dog by Patrick Lane*
- The Retreat by David Bergen*
- The Outlander by Gil Adamson*
- The Boys In The Trees by Mary Swan*
- The Letter Opener by Kyo Maclear*
- The Lizard Cage by Karen O'Connell*
- Alligator by Lisa Moore*
- Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay*
- 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

- You Went Away by Timothy Findley*
- Mostly Happy by Pam Bustin*
- The House of Wooden Santas by Kevin Major
- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
- The Divine Ryans by Wayne Johnston
- 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

- Almost Green by James Glave*
- The Flight of the Hummingbird by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas*
- The Perfection of the Morning by Sharon Butala
- lan(d)guage by Ken Belford
- Medicine River by Thomas King
- ecologue by Ken Belford
- A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright
- The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant
- 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

- Cats I Have Known and Loved by Pierre Berton
- Santa Claus: A Biography by Gerry Bowler
- I Was A Child of Holocaust Survivors by Bernice Eisenstein
- The Gargoyleby Andrew Davidson
- Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong
- Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa
- What They Wanted by Donna Morrissey
- Conceit by Mary Novik
- The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
- Jolted by Arthur Slade
- 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

- The Line Painter by Claire Cameron*
- Too Close To Home by Linwood Barclay*
- The Great Karoo by Fred Stenson*
- Coventry by Helen Humphries*
- The Ruby Kingdom by Patricia Bow*
- The Prism Blade by Patricia Bow*
- Red Dog Red Dog by Patrick Lane*
- All The Colours of Darkness by Peter Robinson*
- Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help by Douglas Anthony Cooper
- 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

- Big City Bad Blood by Sean Chercover
- Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock
- Sabine's Notebook by Nick Bantock
- The Golden Mean by Nick Bantock
- 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

- 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

- The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy*
- Imagining Canadian Literature: The Selected Letters of Jack McCelland editted by Sam Soleki*
- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson*
- An Imperfect Offering by James Orbinski*
- Look For Me by Edeet Ravel*
- Cereus Blooms At Night by Shani Mootoo*
- Fruit by Brian Francis
- Whylah Falls by George Elliott Clark
- The Wives of Bath by Susan Swan
- Silver Salts by Mark Blagrave
- 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

- First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women by Eric McCormack*
- Firewing by Kenneth Oppel
- Mud City by Deborah Ellis
- 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)

- Write About Dogs by Keith Ryan*
- Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and Why It's Necessary by Nicholas Pashley*
- Here For A Good Time by Ra McGuire
- Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Tommy Chong
- Before I Wake by Robert J. Wiersema
- 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

Albertans (11 Books)

- The Town That Forgot How To Breathe by Kenneth J. Harvey*
- Inside by Kenneth J. Harvey*
- Blackstrap Hawco by Kenneth J. Harvey*
- Fruit by Brian Francis*
- 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 Retreat by David Bergen*
- Icefields by Thomas Wharton*
- No Such Creature by Giles Blunt*
- Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden*
- No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
- Good To A Fault by Marina Endicott
- 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

Saskatchewanies (10 Books)

Traveler One
- Swing Low: A Life by Miriam Toews
- 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

- Rotten Apple by Rebecca Eckler
- The Retreat by David Bergen
- Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper*
- 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

Yukoners (9 Books)

- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp*
- Beatitudes by Herménégilde Chiasson*
- The Anachronicles by George McWhirter
- 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

- Too Close To Home by Linwood Barclay*
- High Spirits by Robertson Davies*
- 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

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)

- House Report by Deborah Nicholson*
- The Chinese Alchemist by Lyn Hamilton
- 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

- Sindbad in the Land of Giants retold and illustrated by Ludmila Zeman
- 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

British Columbians (7 Books)

- The Boys In The Trees by Mary Swan*
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Whetstone by Lorna Crozier
- The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
- Quick by Anne Simpson
- Runaway by Alice Munro
- Away by Jane Urquhart

- Inside by Kenneth J. Harvey*
- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen*
- 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

Sam Lamb
- The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews*
- 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

- Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb
- Not Wanted On The Voyage by Timothy Findley
- 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

- Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
- Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman
- 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

- 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
Northwest Territorians (6 Books)

- A Certain Mr. Takahashi by Ann Ireland*
- Anne of The Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery*
- 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

- The Lyre of Orpheus> by Robertson Davies*
- The New Ancestors by Dave Godfrey*
- 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

- The Curse of the Shaman by Michael Kusugak*
- The Man Who Ran Faster Than Everyone: The Story of Tom Longboat by Jack Batten*
- One Native Life by Richard Wagamese
- All My Relations: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Native Fiction editted by Thomas King
- Medicine River by Thomas King
- Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

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

- The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway*
- 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

Nathan Smith
- Otherwise by Farley Mowat
- 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

- What We All Long For by Dionne Brand
- 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

- Broken by Kelley Armstrong
- 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

- Sugarmilk Falls by Ilona Van Mil
- From Ink Lake: Canadian Stories Collected by Michael Ondaatje
- Life by Drowning: Selected Poems by Jeni Couzyn
- Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
- New Oxford Book of Canadian Short Stories in English editted by Margaret Atwood and Robert Weaver
- The Birth House by Ami McKay

Manitobans (5 Books)

- Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton*
- 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

- Mila by Sally Armstrong*
- Flight of the Dragonfly by Melissa Hawach*
- Time and Chance by Kim Campbell*
- The Fight of My Life by Maude Barlow
- Farley: The Life of Farley Mowat by James King

- Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson*
- The Girls by Lori Lansens
- The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
- The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson
- Open Secrets by Alice Munro

- Simple Recipes by Madeleine Thien*
- The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields*
- The Art of Salvage by Leona Theis
- Crows: Encounters With The Wise Guys of the Avian World by Candace Savage
- The Order of Good Cheer by Bill Gaston
- The Birth House by Ami McKay
- The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart

Mary Ellen
- Not Guilty by Debbie Travis
- 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

- 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)

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

- Negotiating With The Dead by Margaret Atwood
- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
- Loyalists and Layabouts by Stephen Kimber

- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
- By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept by Elizabeth Smart
- The Actual by Saul Bellow
- The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani

- Lighting The Dark Side by William R. Potter
- Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock
- Dingo by Charles de Lint
- How To Be a Canadian by Will Ferguson and Ian Ferguson

- Ten Thousand Lovers by Ravel Edeet
- The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
- The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Song of the Paddle by Bill Mason

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

- 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 Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay*
- The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
- Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

- A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton*
- The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton*
- The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh

- Literary Lapses by Stephen Leacock*
- Over Prairie Trails by Frederick Philip Grove*
- Such Is My Beloved by Morley Callaghan*

- A Victim of Convenience by John Ballem
- Six Seconds by Rick Mofina
- Honour Among Men by Barbara Fradkin

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

- 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

- 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)

- The Retreat by David Bergen*
- Tales From Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry

Reader Rabbit
- Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston*
- Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year by Amy Bleason and Jacob Osborn

Paul R
- The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore*
- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

- The Sky Is Falling by Kit Pearson*
- Dressing Up For The Carnival by Carol Shields

- Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
- Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

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

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

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

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

- 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

- 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 months prizes were donated very generously from Squatterz Books and Curiosities. Sadly this was a used bookstore from right here in Yellowknife that I never had the chance to see: it closed its doors about half a year before I moved here. Fortunately its book rescuing spirit is alive and well, and from their archived collection comes The Common Sky: Canadian Writers Against The War.

With authors and poets including Alistair MacLeoad, Margaret Atwood, Christian Bok, Ken Babstock, Rita Wong, and many more, The Common Sky, published by Three Squares Press in 2003, "represents both an immediate response to the threat of war and a lasting document of resistance."

And for good measure, Squatterz has thrown in a handful of CDs by the following artists: Random Order, Kathy Fisher, The Gumboots, Greg Hobbs, Jasmine Whenham, Michelle Boudreau Band, Laura Vinson, and Leslie Bader Band.

And since we're in a giving mood, I'll throw in my "gently" used copy of Elizabeth Hay's Late Nights on Air

To win this month's prize, and in honour of MelanieO's Canada Reads 2009 Challenge, tell me what the five contending books are and which one has not been reviewed by a Canadian Book Challenge participant as of yet (January 1st). Email your answers to jmutford [at] hotmail [dot] com. I will draw a random winner from all correct answers recieved on January 11th.