Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Canadian Books Trading Post

Do you have any Canadian books on hand that you've already read and don't feel like keeping? Perhaps you have a few you haven't read, but have no real interest. Don't you wish there was a way to exchange those books for books you really want? Now there is!

All you have to do is add a comment to this post saying what books you want to get rid of and what books you'd like to get in return. Hopefully you'll strike gold with another trader and you'll both be happy.

A few notes to keep in mind:
1. Postal arrangements will have to be your responsibility. I suggest each trader takes care of her/his own shipping. If you aren't willing to ship outside the country, the courteous thing would be to say so up front.

2. Once you hook up with another trader in the comment section, you'll need a way to make contact and share snail mail addresses. I suggest (and encourage) you to leave your email but in a non-spammable format. Spell out the word at, etc. For instance, jmutford (at) hotmail (dot) com. If you have another idea, I'd love to hear it! Please, if you agree to a trade, follow through.

3. Once a trade is done, I suggest coming back and deleting your initial comment. That way people won't have to sift through all the books that are no longer up for trades. Of course, if you forget, no big deal. If I catch some that are obviously gone, I'll delete those comments as well.

4. I recommend clicking on the "email notification" box once you leave a comment.

5. If there are a lot of books listed in the comment section, remember to use your browser's "find on this page" feature to help. There is also a permanent link for easy access to the "Trading Post" post on the sidebar.

6. Say something about the quality of the book you wish to trade. Is it hardcover? Is the spine broken? And so on.

7. If you're a BookCrosser, feel free to add the tracking numbers to the books you trade.

8. Remember, Canadian books only.

9. Open to everyone, not just participants in the Canadian Book Challenge (but I encourage you to join).

10. Have fun and help spread the word!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Reader's Diary #504- Daniel Griffin: Promise

Daniel Griffin was brought to my attention thanks to Melanie who read Oberon Press' Coming Attractions 08 as one of her Canadian Book Challenge picks. She not only singled out Daniel Griffin's "Promise" as one of the highlights, but she was also nice enough to provide a link to an online copy.

Thank-you Melanie. I really enjoyed this story. It's realistic, it's gritty, and as Melanie pointed out in her review, the ending packs a punch.

But it's not "reality show realistic," there's actually substance here, and I especially like the snapshots of essentially three different families. None of these fit the fifties "Leave It To Beaver" molds, but that's not to say they are all dysfunctional either (though clearly, at least one is).

I found myself doing a lot of introspection about my sibling, my sister, while reading Griffin's story. At some point we were closer than we are now, in a geographic sense and in an emotional sense. We're still on good terms with one another, but we just don't seem to have as much in common anymore, or else we just don't take the effort to discover those things like we used to. Unfortunately, I suspect our situations are typical. Sad really. My wife and I chose to have our own two kids close together and I think I'll be bothered if they don't keep their bond in their adult years.

Oh Daniel Griffin! You must work for Bell because I feel a long-distance call coming on.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guest Post: Debbie Mutford's Review of Cathleen With's Having Faith In The Polar Girls' Prison

I had problems getting into the flow of the book because of the sentence structure.

"They know us, like they known us we going over to their houses since we was little" (pg.33)

I understand that the story is told from a teenager's point of view and that there are cultural differences in speech and slang to consider. However, I would have found it easier to dive into the book if such examples were saved for dialogue and/or the story was told more in a diary format. I did, however, overcome my resistance to the language and was eventually drawn into the plot.

I found that the language became more poetic, more gripping when Trista reflected on cultural memories or longings, especially of her Snow Nanuks or Daduk.

"When you watch drum-dancing, the rhythm gets in you. The line of calm-faced drummers, the way they hold the drums on the side and tap at the same time. The drums look like a line of circle moons held up...I could watch the drum-dance forever, pretend we are all outside under the northern lights and calling them to dance their green-white arms and stamp their red-purple licks of feet with us" (pg.144).

The story itself is full of controversial, sensitive, and thought-provoking matters. I'm looking forward to my husband reading it so we can discuss it. I'd love to hear reviews of people who have grown up in small town NT communities to put insight into the accuracies (or inaccuracies).

I'm usually a plot-girl...I rarely finish a novel due to the author's inability to maintain my attention (the same can usually be said for movies). The fact that I finished this novel at all is a compliment from my end, and even more so considering that the entire setting (aside from flashback memories) is primarily set in only one building.

The ending was predictable, or maybe I shouldn't refer to it as an ending but rather a stop in writing. I like endings to have twists and leave nothing to my imagination. With's story is a good glimpse into one character's short life experience and, I think, is intended to leave the reader with a warm, fuzzy feeling of hope. While it may have that affect on most readers, I'd rather something dramatic happen and be left with a strong sense of closure. This may be due to my need for plot rather than emotion.

All in all, I enjoyed the read and would read a sequel if With were to write a novel from Faith's childhood/teenage experiences.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Mixed Collaborations

This Saturday we look at author collaborations. True collaborations. Not the Kanye West/ Other Guy type of collaboration.

I'll give you a list of collaborators that got a little mixed up with one another, followed by a list of books. Can you fix match the titles with the real authors?

As always, feel free to do all 10 at home, but only answer 1 in the comment section so 9 more people can play along.

Rochael Kusunsch
Nerry Gaichett
Mibert Mugak
Allra Wolbrook
Cab Bernward
Stepher String
Steperick Burge
J. Fredhen Geory
Saran Holf
Lerry Pourven
Terry B Lakins
Peten Kaub
Jim JenHaye
Jiam Burrouac
Amob Osbasen
Jarry Ninelle
Borl Woodstein
Teil Pratman
Jacy Belorn
Willack S. Keroughs

1. Black House, The Talisman
2. Good Omens
3. A Promise Is A Promise
4. Left Behind
5. All The President's Men
6. More Than Friends
7. Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year
8. Interface, Cobweb
9. And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks
10. Inferno, Lucifer's Hammer

Friday, June 26, 2009

Reader's Diary #503: René Fumoleau: Here I Sit

I had a couple reasons to be nervous reading René Fumoleau's collection of poetry Here I Sit. First off, Fumoleau was an Oblate priest and since I've not read a great deal of religious poetry, I didn't know what to expect. Secondly, Fumoleau spent over 40 years in the North, mostly amongst the Dene, as a priest, a photographer, an author, an historian, and, among other things, a friend. He's achieved near iconic status around these parts and I wondered if it would be tantamount to heresy to say anything negative.

I can rest easy. Only but a handful of poems dealt with religion directly (i.e., made reference to God, Jesus, the Bible or the church), and since I enjoyed the book as a whole, I only have positive things to say.

A very unpretentious book, I realized I had to get rid of my own hang-ups before getting into it. I'm usually among the first to say there cannot be a universal definition of poetry. I've viewed it as a personal schema, resting more upon the reader than the poet. But with many of the early entries in the book I found myself thinking, "this is not a poem, this is a short story with weird line breaks" or "this is just a conversation, it isn't a poem." Before long, however, I followed up such comments with "who cares?" I was enjoying them, whatever their classification.

That freedom to love and be oneself is one of the more common themes found throughout Here I Sit and it was hard not to be drawn to the man behind the poems.

Not that it was all peace, love and understanding. There was also quite a bit of politics, and Fumoleau took aim at many, especially the wealth, power and fame seekers, not the least of which included the government and perhaps surprisingly, even the church.

Here I Sit is an unassuming book with plenty to say.

by Rene Fumoleau

During a land claim negotiation meeting,
the Minister of Indian Affairs addressed the Dene:

"Your fatherland covers over 1,000,000 square kilometers,
and you possess all rights over those 750,000 kilometers.

As long as the sun shines,
you may occupy those 600,000 kilometres.
As long as the river flows,
you may roam freely over your 400,000-kilometre heritage.
However, your 200,000 kilometres are part of Canada,
and Canadian laws will prevail over your 100,000-kilometre land.

In case non-Dene settle on your 50,000-kilometre domain,
and want to share the resources of your 20,000 kilometres,
my government will protect you anywhere
within the boundary of your 1,000-kilometre region.
Your children too may live for ever on your 500 kilometres,
in guaranteed security on your 100-kilometre territory.

Following our agreement about your 50-kilometre tract,
I will provide you with a Canadian flag
which you may fly anywhere on your 10-kilometre property,
as a sign of our friendship treaty regarding those 5 kilometres.

Even if the national interest requires
that you give up the one square kilometre you own,
I will ensure that you will still have enough land
on which you can stand and fly a kite."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Give and Take

I have 2 questions about books as presents:

1. What is the last book(s) you gave as a present?

Mine is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I gave to my dad for his birthday last month. The whole time I was reading my own copy I was thinking of how much he'd enjoy it.

2. What is the last book(s) you got as a present?For Father's Day, my son gave me David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed In Flames and my daughter gave me Michael Kenyon's the Beautiful Children. According to my wife, they chose primarily from the pictures on the cover. I'm a little worried my son's going to want a tattoo by the time he's six, looking at his choice. In any case, it worked out. I've been wanting to read Sedaris for some time and since it's a book of short stories, so much the better. As for Michael Kenyon, well I hadn't heard of him, but I've discovered that he is Canadian and that's good enough for me!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #4- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest VERSUS Robinson Crusoe

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare ( Catch-22 vs. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), with a final score of 8-0 was One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

Yeesh. It's a good thing Paul Coelho knows the secret to inner peace, otherwise he'd be crying hysterically over last week's shut out and nasty comments. What's that you say? Coelho doesn't read my blog? That's okay, after the Alchemist, I won't be reading any more of his books either. I have to hand it to Stephanie though. While she voted for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest last week, she was brave enough to admit liking The Alchemist. It's not easy to admit to liking something when everyone around you is ridiculing it. She certainly wouldn't have to look far to find another fan. Apparently The Alchemist is one of the best selling books of all time.

Speaking of time, this week we go back many, many years ago.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (July 7th, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Which is better?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reader's Diary #502- Jeff Smith: Bone, Out From Boneville

My first introduction to Jeff Smith's Bone (and there must be a better way to phrase that), was over at the Graphic Novels Challenge blog early this year. I've been planning to read it ever since but have only now been able to find the 1st in the series at the local library.

My family and I went fishing this morning with some new friends. It was a beautiful, breezeless day, the fish were plentiful and the company was wonderful. However, ours is not the outdoorsiest of families and when we got home at about mid-afternoon, my wife fell into a 3 hour coma and I was left to entertain 2 kids, who were now rejuvenated after sleeping on the return boat ride.

Picking up Bone and reading a blurb on the back from the Comics Journal that the book was "the rarest of cliches: fun for the whole family" I was hopeful that I'd least be able to kill 10 minutes or so reading aloud. 10 minutes turned into about 2 hours and the Comics Journal got it right.

Especially surprising was my son's enthrallment. My daughter is much more sedate than he, for her to spend two hours listening to a book isn't unprecedented. My son on the other hand, despite enjoying books, is much more... energetic, shall we say?

I enjoyed it as well. The story was interesting and fast-paced and you could tell Smith had fun creating his quirky assortment of characters (in that regard, I was reminded of the cartoon reality show, "Drawn Together"). I thought the scenes were a little vacant and rushed, but the kids didn't seem to mind at all. Even after the lack of conclusion, they didn't care, as long as I promised to get the next one. What a great introduction to graphic novels.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reader's Diary #501- Lee Maracle: Polka Partners, Uptown Indians and White Folks

What a jammed packed day yesterday was. Father's Day, the solstice, and Aboriginal Day. It was a beautiful and long day, so it was easy to combine all three.

In honour of Aboriginal Day I went looking for a story by a native author, and found one unfamiliar to me through Native Wiki. Lee Maracle, of British Columbia, has Salish and Cree ancestry and is a member of the Stó:lō Nation.

While set in Vancouver, Maracle's "Polka Partners, Uptown Indians and White Folks" reminded me very much of Yellowknife. The only difference is, when Maracle writes of how they "could turn the largest cities into small towns," one might be quick to point out that Yellowknife is far from one of "the largest cities." However, it is big enough have communities within communities, and so I think the comparison holds.

I also found myself comparing the aboriginal culture in Maracle's story to my own Newfoundland culture. There's a lot of mention of people who follow stereotypical paths, those that have lost a lot of their cultural identity and those that fall somewhere in between. I think I'm one of those in between. I'm proud of my Newfoundland roots, but probably wouldn't fit in all that much with those more traditional types. A part of me regrets having lost my Newfoundland accent. Culture is certainly a double edge sword. If it could preserve itself naturally, identity crises wouldn't be as big an issue. Unfortunately, cultures are so in danger of being swallowed whole that preservation has become militant and when someone does not fit into a "us/them" dichotomy people are left confused or alienated.

Maracle's story deals with these issues but leave them bubbling under the surface. There's a tension but it doesn't become preachy.

I love the ironic line about white people, "Difference among us, and our silence, frightens them."
It's true, of course, but only as a generalization. That the entire white population could be considered "them," suggests that white people could say the same about aboriginals. Isn't the original statement akin to saying, "white people are all racist"? Brilliant line.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Dad Is A Googled Poem

My dad is better than your dad
My dad is dead
My dad is my hero
My dad is in the hospital as I write this
My dad is an honest, hard-working man who raised his kids right
My dad is the boss
My dad is a fob
My dad is 100 years old
My dad is the best dad in the world
My dad is a dinosaur
My dad is a math teacher
My dad is the Easter Bunny
My dad is great
My dad is really awesome
My dad is not an idiot

(Last year I Googled "My mom is" and posted the results for Mother's Day. I forgot to do it again for Father's Day. So, finally, here it is. I'm surprised not to find "my dad is getting a Canadian Tire gift card," but I guess that proves you're all better sons/daughters than I am. In any case, happy Father's Day!)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Word Play- I Know Where You Lived

Apparently the real estate market is already showing signs of life again. Can I interest you in one of these houses?

I'll give you photo in which the letters for an author's name can be found. Find them and unscramble to tell me who lived there. And out of curiousity, tell me if you'd visited any author's houses (shown or otherwise), any you'd wish to visit, and if money was no obstacle, any below that you'd consider buying.

As always, feel free to do all 10 at home, but please answer one 1 in the comments. That way 9 more people can play along:










10. (And this one's going cheap...)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Openings and Passages

Recently I came across a bunch of old basal readers used in Canadian classrooms in the 70's. Snatching them up right away, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. I've heard so many professionals condemn such books over recent years, that I was taken aback by some of the great stories and illustrations. I decided that the problem wasn't the books at all-- they're often great anthologies-- but with the teachers who followed up every story with dry questions and seat work.

Just a couple weeks ago, Laura, a friend of mine who's moving soon, invited me over to rescue some of her book collection. I was tickled pink to find a couple of old Newfoundland basal readers that I had to read way back in junior high. Openings and Passages are the 1st and 3rd respectively, in a series put together by Eric Norman, June Warr, and Ray Goulding back in 1980. Unfortunately, Laura didn't have the 2nd book, Stages, but shockingly all three books are still available at Breakwater Books.

Once again the selections are impeccable, offering up even more variety: poems, short stories, folk songs, photos, nonfiction, even an exerpt from a play. It's a marvelous celebration of Newfoundland's rich literature, and of Newfoundland culture in general. (The editors do admit a scant Labrador selection, despite their efforts to find more.)

However, this time around teachers might not get all the blame for sucking the life out of vibrant written art. Flicking through the book I had horrible flashbacks of my own school experience... "Read the poem on p. 90 and answer questions 1 and 2 in your notebook."


Yes, after every entry, Norman, Warr and Goulding thoughtfully provide questions and activities. We get such questions and projects as, "Can you suggest why Ray Guy insists he is not 'a nature lover'?" and "Make a list of the appeals to the senses used in this poem and show how each is appropriate to the subject." Not, of course, that such questions are inherently evil, or even inherently boring, irrelevant, or unnecessary, but imagine if you had to do such work after everything you read. I'm guessing the number of books you read in a year would decrease rapidly. If these questions were merely suggested conversation starters, not required to be answered on paper every single time, and real conversations and questions were encouraged as well, I'd not have as much issue. But, these books do, unfortunately, make it incredibly easy to be taught poorly by teachers who may not know better, are tired, or uninspired themselves.

I don't want to leave on that note. As I've said, there are some absolutely wonderful works of literature in these books and I will be completing my collection as soon as I can. In the meantime, here's one of my favourites by Tom Dawe (who just published a collaborative book with painter Gerry Squires entitled Where Genesis Begins):

by Tom Dawe

We could never regard him as one of us,
that little boy who made boats all summer
even though the puddle had dried up
and our town was miles from the sea.
He seemed to like the rain
when it did come,
that sissy who would sit inside
below his mother's breasts
reading story-books all day
and asking questions about the hills
above our town.
Once he came out near the end of a shower
and got all excited about some raven
flying across a rainbow.
He never killed frogs with us
when we sharpened summer spears
from the leafy twigs,
and he never owned a fishing pole.
Sometimes our parents made us
invite him to our birthday parties
and his parents forced him to come.
When he did arrive
he spent most of his time
staring through the window.
He was no comfort to any of us,
I can tell you that

Thursday, June 18, 2009

And Now For A BookTube That's Completely Different

One of the authors visiting for the Northwords Writers Festival, that I won't mention by name lest it seem like I'm name dropping (hint: she's a poet from the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation), was teasing me for my lack of Monty Python knowledge. The problem is, I've actually watched a lot of Monty Python. But, for some reason, I just can't quote from it like some people. So, consider this post research...

Now I shall geek with the best of them!

Ni! Ni! Ni!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #4- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest VERSUS The Alchemist

The winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare ( Catch-22 vs. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest), with a final score of 10-2 was One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

Saying goodbye to Catch-22 this week, it won't be the last time mentioned on this blog. Almost 2 years ago I posted about the top 20 glaring omissions in my "have read" list. I've only knocked off five of those books yet, and I'm working on my sixth. Still, sitting there at number five is Catch-22. Reading the glowing comments about that book especially 2 week's ago (well, mostly glowing), I hope to read that one before the year's out.

This week we change gears slightly.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (June 23rd, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Which is better?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reader's Diary #500- Chester Brown: The Little Man

Had I begun with Chester Brown's The Little Man: Short Strips 1980-1995 I'd probably not bothered looking further into his work. As it happens, my first Brown exposure was with Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography. That book was genius.

The Short Man is not genius but it certainly shows the history of one. On the back, X writes that The Little Man traces the growth of... but I still think the leap to Louis Riel is over a wide gap. The Little Man shows an artist experimenting with different styles and a writer who takes on just about any subject.

It is the writer piece that is sorely lacking. Experimentation is fine but there's a sense that he moved on without ever getting the kinks worked out of the earlier attempts. Whimsy is forced, plots too often go nowhere (if ever present to start), and if Seth is accused of navel gazing for It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken, Chester Brown practically wears a belly-button-lint coat.

And I don't mean to be a prude, but why do all these alternative comic artists insist on drawing themselves in the nude? Really, how is this any different than flashing your neighbours?

Still I appreciate that he was always looking for a different angle, a different technique, a different story. Without all this experimentation, I doubt he ever would have tried the biography.

I'd also recommend reading the notes about each piece at the end. If nothing else it provides a lot of insight into the world of alternative comic writers-- and I doubt too many of us have much knowledge of that scene.

Thanks to Remi for sending this book my way!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Reader's Diary #499- Del James: Without You

A couple of weeks ago, when I was researching songs inspired by literature, I came across "Without You" by Del James. Apparently it was the inspiration behind the Guns 'N Roses video for "November Rain." Remember that video? It was 47 minutes long, cost 1.5 trillion dollars and featured a church the size of a sandbox that could miraculously hold 2000 people.

Reading the story, it's not hard to see how Axl would be attracted to the story. A self-destructing rocker who... well, self-destructing rocker is enough, isn't it?

Unfortunately, the story, like the troubled rocker, is full of cliches:

"...the only woman he ever truly loved..."

"...he'd spent the majority of his time inside a bottle."

Of course, people do make the same mistakes as everyone else. We're an inherently cliched species. I would just like a little more insight, a new way of looking at it, a new way of describing it. I liked one line in the entire piece:

"Sex was an ego addiction similar to the one felt onstage."

Perhaps an old idea, but it made me pause for thought.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Northwords Writers Festival- Days Three and Four

As fun as this week has been, I learned a hard lesson from it all: I'm not twenty anymore.

I realize, of course, that 32 isn't over the hill but right now I'm stuffed up, I ache all over and I'm tired. I might as well be 72. I also realize there's a pig-sized elephant in the room and I'll say right off that I don't think it's swine flu. I'm pretty sure this has more to do with late nights, Guinness, and what seemed like a pretty innocuous idea at the time: monkey bars.

So, what you'll get are the cliff notes from the past two days.

Saturday: All of this year's authors gathered around the Book Cellar parking lot for signings and barbecue. I couldn't buy every book, but I did get books signed by Joseph Boyden (who told me he'd checked out my blog), Anita Daher, Richard Van Camp, and Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm.

There were also a few workshops, panel discussions, and mentorships. My vow next year is to actually take in some of these. Hard to do it all, but I feel like I blew those opportunities big time.
In the evening my wife and I went to the big gala event at the Northern Arts and Culture Center (NACC). Here we were treated to stories and poetry from local author Cathy Jewison (who just had a book of short stories published called The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest and Other Stories), Jay Ingram (who did a blues song about Darwin's The Descent of Man, and Selection In Relation To Sex accompanied by Joseph Boyden and ? on the harmonica), Anita Daher (who read a superbly visually story called "The Gift"), Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (who read her "Wild Horses" poem, and introduced us to her short story prowess with "Mirrors"), Jim Green (who lay on a table and talked about a prostate exam), and Joseph Boyden (who also veered from the predictable and read a piece of non-fiction, "Driving Lessons.") Terrific night.

Sunday: Today was relatively quiet. A few more workshops and mentorships, which I registered people for but had to return home to nap rather than partake.

I wish I'd felt better on the last day, and felt up to socializing and saying farewells but them's the breaks. Next year I'll also try and pace myself better.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Northwords Writers Festival- Day 2 + Saturday Word Play

Before getting to today's Saturday Word Play, a few highlights from Day 2 of the Northwords Writers Festival:

1. A bunch of events that I unfortunately couldn't make it to because of work: Jay Ingram and Jamie Bastedo discussed writing about climate change, Richard Van Camp, Joseph Boyden and Anita Daher read at Sir John Franklin High School, Richard and Jim Green also had mentorships with local up-and-coming authors.

2. Blush: An Evening of Erotica and Sensuality-
I can't believe I forgot to bring my camera to this one. I'm such a lousy fake-reporter/ syncophant. Anyway, Joseph Boyden, Annelies Pool, Jim Green and Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm led the way with some sensual, erotic, funny, and ocassionally pornographic poetry. The mike was then open to plenty of other brave souls. I wasn't one of them. Have I mentioned how quickly I'm becomming a fan of Kateri? It doesn't hurt that she's insanely sweet, but her poetry is also amazing. I've read a little of hers before in the Jeanette Armstrong and Larry Grauer edited anthology Native Poetry In Canada, but tonight I broke down and bought a couple more. Also tonight, and to my surprise, world reknown throat singer Tanya Tagak came to the mike to read one of her poems.

Now, onto today's game. Below is a collage of "Northern Words." I've given you titles from this week's Northwords performing authors. To figure out who wrote what, all you need to do is remove the letters that correspond to one of the northern words.

Feel free to do all ten at home, but please only answer one in the comment section. That way, at least nine more people can play along.

1. Lesser Blessed, What's The Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses- JROICHHANFRRDAVANNCKLAMPIN

2. Tracking Triple Seven, On Thin Ice- JSNAMOWIMEOBBASITLEEDO

3. The Science of Everyday Life, The Daily Planet Book of Cool Ideas- MUJASYKINGORAXM

4. Spider's Song, Flight From Bear Canyon- AINNUITAKDASHERUK

5. Three Day Road, Through Black Spruce- JNOORSTEPHHERBONLIGYDHTENS

6. Without Reservations: Indigenous Erotica (as editor and contributor), My heart is a stray bullet- KAARTECTRIICACKIWHENZIEDAARMM

7. Beyond Here, North Book- JYIMUGREKEONN

8. Like Water In The Desert, Defining Diana- HAKYADYENTRENHAKOLM

9. The Delta Is My Home, Living Stories- POMILANDRYWIBLLEETART

10. The Ugly Truck and Dog Contest- CANTHAHAYJENWINSONI

Friday, June 12, 2009

Northwords Writers Festival- Day One

This'll have to be a quick update. I was out way to late last night and I still have to work in an hour. I'm very tired.

Yesterday some of the visiting hours had mentorships, but the festival really seemed to get off the ground with a family barbecue. After we ate, Carol Morin of CBC NewsWorld and a LOT of other projects (writing, singing, etc), opened with a couple songs. My daughter was particularly enamoured with the feathers in her hair. Unfortunately my picture didn't turn out for that one. Then John Tees sang followed by readings from Doris McCann, Joseph Boyden, and Jay Ingram of the Daily Planet.

Here's Jay talking about the science of dreams. Very interesting stuff. Specifically he talked about colours in dreams. Do you dream in colour? Do you dream in red?

When that portion of the evening was over we all headed off to Javaroma for a night of poetry. Among the many talented performers last night were Jim Green:

Calvin Redvers, who read from his father's Mother Raven Nursery Rhymes:

This guy who seemed very nervous, but finally made it up only to confuse everyone with a poem about peas, but recovering slightly with a toast to melancholia:

And the wildly talented (and funny and super-nice, though I tend to hit her whenever we talk) Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm:

Here's one of the greats she performed last night:


i twist and gasp
open and close my mouth
whenever a sturgeon is caught in the rainy river
i know
the feel of strange hands touching my body
the struggle
to be free
the longing to go where i want to go
i feel
the impact of stick or rock on bone
the splash of colour
then the emptiness that is my head
my head like a midnight sky if the stars and moon were captured
by another heaven

(Read the rest here.)

Also be sure to click here for links to many of her other poems, including a reading of "My Heart is a Stray Bullet."

Finally, Jim, Joseph, Anita, Kateri and I went to the Black Knight for a few drinks and I got home at about 12:30, it still being light enough to read a bit outside before succumbing to sleep.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Northwords Writers Festival- Pregame Show

Tomorrow the Northwords Writers Festival begins here in Yellowknife. I'm very excited, to say the least and in the least imaginative way. This will be my very first time attending this event (I moved here shortly after last year's) and I also managed, thanks to Richard Van Camp, to get on the board.

Tonight, us lucky board members were able to meet with our visiting authors over a delicious barbecue held at Judith's. Judith is not only a terrific hostess, but also the proprietor of the finest bookstore north of 60, the Book Cellar.

Considering the distance these people travelled, they were remarkably friendly, fun and relaxed. I didn't manage to take pictures of everyone just yet, but here are some to enjoy:

Here I am with poet Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm

Trading kisses with Joseph Boyden (if it looks like I stink, I probably did after riding my bike to get there):

With Anita Daher:

And with Richard. If it looks awkward, it was. Richard's tall and I'm less than tall. Much less than tall. Plus it was one of those self-taken dealies. Gotta love my double chin at that angle.

Tune in over the next few days for more highlights!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #4- Catch-22 VERSUS One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

The last week's Great Wednesday Compare ( The Handmaid's Tale vs. The Giver), with a final score of 7-5 was Catch-22.

This week we say good-bye to the Canadian classic, The Handmaid's Tale. That novel was my very exposure to Atwood and I loved it. I've gone on to read four other Atwood novels, but still refer to The Handmaid's Tale as my favourite. However, Oryx and Crake came close and, if I'm being honest, it's one I remember most (especially the ChickieNobs). I wonder sometimes if The Handmaid's Tale holds a special spot for me simply because it was my first Atwood book.

This week we move to another book I haven't yet read, though I did see the movie.

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (June 16th, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Which is better?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Reader's Diary #498- Dennis Richard Murphy: Darkness at the Stroke of Noon

Shortly after completing Darkness at the Stroke of Noon in 2008, Dennis Richard Murphy died of lung cancer. Murphy was known in crime writing circles primarily as a short story writer and as both recipient and judge of Arthur Ellis Awards. With the posthumous publication of his first and only novel, I'm sure many people wanted it to be great.

And if Canadian crime writing heavy-weights Giles Blunt and Linwood Barclay are to be believed, Darkness at the Stroke of Noon is great. Blunt refers to it as "an intensely atmospheric thriller that belongs on the very top shelf of Canadian crime fiction," while Barclay suggests it is "an instant classic."

I haven't read much crime fiction or many mysteries, but I don't think Murphy's book is great.

Set primarily in the high arctic, it is the story of Sargeant Kennison sent to investigate the mysterious deaths of two archeologists who had been researching Franklin's infamously ill-fated expedition to discover the northwest passage. Of course I loved the setting and and doomed Franklin story as a backdrop, but as I discovered with Dan Simmons' The Terror, that doesn't guarantee an interesting book.

My biggest complaint with Darkness at the Stroke of Noon are the suspects. Murphy spends quite a bit of time developing Kennison's character and I would venture to guess that future Kennison books had been in the works. However, hardly any other of the lesser characters are explored in any real depth, though they are meant to be the suspects. When the mystery is finally solved, I didn't care. He could have pinned the blame on any of the characters and I wouldn't have cared.

Had it not been for the question of motive, I wouldn't have connected with the mystery at all. Fortunately, Murphy was able to throw out some pretty wild theories, giving the book a passing grade. International implications from a failed Arctic voyage that happened two centuries ago? Not just any writer could pull that off.

I also quite enjoyed the journal entries interspersed throughout the book. Written by a crew member aboard the Terror, the sister ship to Franklin's Erebus, the journal and what it promises to reveal, becomes key to understanding the motive behind the murders. Murphy also drew some wonderful parallels and contrasts between the drama of the 19th century and the events as they unfolded in the present day.

Darkness at the Stroke of Noon is not great, but it is good. If you're in the mood for crime fiction with an interesting angle, I'd recommend it.

(Listen to the radio drama here, though be forewarned that some over-the-top performances make it unfortunately cheesy. I doubt this was Murphy's intent, but it is funny.)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Reader's Diary #497- Roddy Doyle: Sleep

Laura, fellow Yellowknife blogger and a good friend, invited me over last week to pick through her books. She's moving back to Newfoundland soon (insert sad emoticon here), and doesn't want to transport crates and crates of books, yet again (I've been in that situation many times!). After selecting 30 books or more and signing all the necessary adoption papers, we sat back with a tea and chatted about Frasier and, of course, books. (We've had an ongoing competition about which one of us is the nerdiest blogger in the NWT. I conceded when she revealed her other blog. But when she moves, the golden bow-tie is mine!)

One of Laura's recommended reads was Roddy Doyle. I didn't think I was familiar with Doyle until she mentioned the Commitments. I adore that movie! So she set me up with his Oh, Play That Thing. Unfortunately, it's the sequel to A Star Called Henry, which I haven't read. So, until I get around to that one, I've decided to turn to one of his short stories, "Sleep," to tide me over.

"Sleep" is, for the most part, a beautifully written story. I love the small, character-building details, like how Tara always makes sure to pronounce the "g"s at the end of her words-- I imagine she'd not get along with Sarah Palin. I also love the skill at which he plays with the chronology. Flipping around as much as he does, it would have been much more confusing for a lesser writer.

I wasn't overly fond of the ending though. It felt a little too vague. Perhaps he was trying to make a comparison of sleep with death. Earlier in the story, there is a focus on Tom's life while his wife sleeps, nothing major, he just reads and stuff, but later it is revealed that Tom has colon cancer. Was I supposed to imagine a role reversal? Tara continuing with her life while Tom "sleeps" eternally? If so, I reiterate that it was maybe too subtle.

Still, good enough that I look forward to reading more.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link below.)