Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #4- The Wizard of Oz VERSUS Frankenstein



The winner of the last Great Wednesday Compare ( The Wizard of Oz vs. Atlas Shrugged), with a final score of 8-1 was The Wizard of Oz.

Wow. Not even close, eh? I've never read it, and at over 1300 pages, it's unlikely I'll get to it soon. Plus, from all the synopses I've read, it sounds dreadful. On the other hand, it continues to sell well, and though it was due to a fan campaign, it was #1 among Modern Library Readers choosing the best novel from 1900-1998.(More alarming is the fact that she has 3 others in the list!)

This week we usher in October...

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. (Oct. 6, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Which is better?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reader's Diary #527: Lee Henderson: Long Live Annie B.


Lee Henderson's "Long Live Annie B" may be the epitome of Canadian writing: a troubled upbringing, bad weather, a slight hint of a plot with an even slighter hint of an ending, and of course, depressing. I don't mean all of this as necessarily bad things, but mostly because it's just 2 pages long. Had he gone completely Munro, and dragged this thing out to 50-60 pages, I'd be ready to egg his house. But, in small doses, I enjoy the descriptions of mittens on a dashboard, of driving through slush, of life in Saskatoon. But ultimately, there is little more in Henderson's story. It's like going into a change room, trying on a Canadian life, and leaving without buying a thing.

There was one intriguing line however, and it begins "The night she killed him, it was thirty below..." Intriguing because that never happened, unless he meant in some figurative sense-- in which case, it was a dirty trick to get my attention that way. Good for him.

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

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Ride On A White Horse


It's been 32 years, but I've finally earned my Canadian badge. Yes, I've now officially been in every province and territory.

It was a whirlwind visit, but thanks to a wonderful conference in Whitehorse, I've now been to the Yukon. Robert Service, Pierre Berton, Jack London... wait. They spent most of their time in Dawson City. Oh well, now I have an excuse to go back.

In the meantime, I did visit some of Whitehorse's fine bookstores: Mac's Fireweed Books and Well-Read Books (which could really use a more creative name, don't you think?).

I picked up a bunch, including Patrick White's Mountie In Mukluks, George Guthridge's The Kids From Nowhere, Dick Wale's Jack London's Dog, Michael Kusugak's Curse of the Shaman, Drew Hayden Taylor's The Nightwanderer, pj Johnson's Rhymes of the Raven Lady, Shelley Gill's Kiana's Iditarod, and Edward Fitzgerald's translation of Omar Khayyam's The Rubaiyat.














And a very special thanks to two very special people, Jeff and Shannon (my cousin and her husband), for putting me up and playing Settlers of Catan with me every evening!



Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Letters from Whitehorse



I've been in the Yukon for the past few days, more on that later.

In the meantime, look at all the books that can be found in Whitehorse... sort of.

I'll give you an author and part of a title. The missing word can only be spelled using letters from the word Whitehorse.

As always, feel free to do all 10 at home but only answer one in the comment section below:

1. W.O. Mitchell: --- Has Seen The Wind?
2. Janet Evanovich: Wife For ----
3. Shel Silverstein: ----- The Sidewalk Ends
4. Janet Fitch: ----- Oleander
5. Bill Bryson: A ----- History of Nearly Everything
6. Alexandre Dumas: The ----- Musketeers
7. Agatha Christie: The Pale -----
8. Larry McMurtry: The Last Picture ----
9. Kathleen Meyer: How to ---- in the Woods
10. Danielle Steele: Family ----

And since this was an easy task this week, why not add a title of your own using letters from Whitehorse?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #4- The Wizard of Oz VERSUS Atlas Shrugged



The winner of the last Great Wednesday Compare ( Gone With The Wind vs. The Wizard of Oz), with a final score of 7-6 was The Wizard of Oz.

I hope the GWTW fans forgive me. At first it was a tie and the rules clearly state that the tie-breaking decision falls to me. It might seem a little unfair, but really it's the only time I get any vote in these proceedings. I haven't read Gone With The Wind, and have only seen bits and pieces of the movie. As for The Wizard of Oz, I've seen the movie a dozen or more times, but again, I think I've only read a few selections of the book. In any case, the fantasy world Baum created holds far more appeal to me than Mitchell's. I'll be perfectly honest, while I knew Mitchell's had won a Pulitzer, I thought it was one of those books that no one read any more. Fortunately the GWTW supporters over the past few weeks have set me straight on that account and I've an actual desire to read it now. Not enough to make me vote in its favour, but it's a small victory. I should also confess that the Wizard of Oz was my wife's favourite movie as a child and when we first met, she could still recite the thing from beginning to end. So, some 70 years after TWOZ lost the best picture Oscar to GWTW, it finally gets its revenge. I think the Great Wednesday Compares are on par with the Academy Awards, don't you?

This week Dorothy shrugs...

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. (Sept 29, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Which is better?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Reader's Diary #526- Sherwood Anderson: I'm a Fool


The Horse Whisperer. Seabiscuit. Flicka: Stallion of the Cimarron. What do all these movies have in common? If you said they're all as dull as dishwater, then by golly you're right. They're also about horses.

I like horses, I really do. My daughter is beginning riding lessons in a couple week's time. They're fascinating animals that just seem to demand respect in their presence. Why then can't they make a decent horse movie? And how about horses in literature? Unfortunately Sherwood Anderson's "I'm a Fool" doesn't buck the trend.

I'll give him credit for the voice. The narrator of the piece clearly gets across his lack of education, his awareness of his social standing, and his naivete. But it's the use of colloquialism that held my attention: gee whizz, a chance like a hay barn afire, socks amighty. Did the people of early 20th century Ohio really talk like that? Jeepers!

But a voice without a story to tell is like a skunk without a stink. "I'm a Fool" is the story of a nineteen year old stable-hand who pretends to be something he's not to impress a girl and has come to regret it. Even back in Anderson's time that story was old and, I'm sorry to say, he brought nothing extra to the table. Stories with a moral should end like this... and since no one believed him anymore, the wolf devoured all the sheep and the little boy, too

or

and because those teenagers were up to no good, the scratching on the roof of the car came from the boyfriend's dismembered arm

not

I lied about my name and now she'll never write be able to write me back-- Gosh darnit, that sucks.

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #4- Gone With The Wind VERSUS The Wizard Of Oz



The winner of the last Great Wednesday Compare ( Gone With The Wind vs. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime), with a final score of 8-5 was Gone With The Wind.

Interesting comments last week. People seem to be polarized where TCIOTDITN is concerned (and yes, Barb's comment last week proves that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime can indeed be initialed). I enjoyed the book (sorry Isabella, I know you think it's overrated). I enjoyed the unique voice. And while I wouldn't place it in my top 10 books of all time or anything, I also enjoy seeing the occasional teenager reading it. Cross-over books are always interesting.

This week we flash back by 70 years. 1939. The year movie versions of both of this week's contenders were released. A friend of mine-- a huge movie buff, I might add-- was never able to get over the fact that Braveheart won best picture in 1995. He'd go on to list supposedly better movies that hadn't won in previous years. Yes, I'd argue, but Braveheart wasn't up against A Clockwork Orange or The Exorcist. It was up against Apollo 13 and... Babe. My point is, some years the competition is steeper than others. This was the case in 1939- the year both Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz hit theatres (not to mention Mr. Smith Goes To Washington). Well, old rivalries dies hard...

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. (Sept 22, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Which is better?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Reader's Diary #525- Bruce Holland Rogers: Deconstruction Work



I've been bogged down in Kenneth J. Harvey's Blackstrap Hawco for quite some time now. Weighing in at 829 pages, I began this book over 4 weeks ago and I haven't broke 200 yet. It's not overly difficult, and the story isn't half bad, but I think I have a resistance to books over 500 pages. A 200 page book I'd have finished in half a week-- so I should have finished Harvey's about 2 weeks ago. There's psychologies at play, I tells ya!

So this week, in praise of the concise authors, I've picked a flash fiction piece by Bruce Holland Rogers entitled "Reconstruction Work" available at Flash Fiction Online.

Set in a funeral parlour, I was on edge from the get go. Not that the "mortuary arts" give the heebie-jeebies, but in literature they usually get the same treatment as clowns: evil, demented, and not funny. Plus, necrophilia usually pops up. Did I really want to read that scenario again? I proceeded cautiously.

Fortunately, Rogers doesn't go that route. The funeral director is not presented in a rosy light either (nor would I have believed it if he was, thanks to Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death) but the twistedness is kept to a philosophical minimum. Plus there's an underlying commentary on history versus the truth. A funeral director takes the body of an 80 year old, smooths out her wrinkles, applies make-up and sews her eyelids shut. She now looks 60. You can see how the theme would develop. But there's one more thing.

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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Your Books Are Numbered



This week we look at books with numbers in their titles. I'm feeling so generous, I'll going to tell you all the numbers up front. In fact, I'll even give them to you in order:

500451280371002000012119844206522


Now that that's out of the way, I'll tell you an author. You tell me one of their books with a number in its title (taken straight from the number above). For instance if the last number in the sequence above was "49," I could make the last author on the list Thomas Pynchon, and the correct answer would be The Crying of Lot 49.

As always, feel free to do all at home, but only answer one in the comment section below-- that way, 14 others can have a chance to play.

1. Dr. Seuss
2. Ray Bradbury
3. Charles Dickens
4. Jules Verne
5. Joseph Boyden
6. Heinrich Harrer
7. Gabriel Garcias Marquez
8. Jules Verne
9. Jeffrey Archer
10. Ken Kesey
11. George Orwell
12. Stephen King
13. Kathy Reichs
14. Kurt Vonnegut
15. Joseph Heller

Friday, September 11, 2009

Reader's Diary #524- Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (collector and editor): Without Reservation (Indigenous Erotica)


When my wife first noticed what book I was reading, she asked "so what makes indigenous erotica different than any other erotica?"

It was asked without challenge or judgment, but the question certainly embedded in my brain-- especially since I was about a quarter of the way into it and I didn't have an answer for her. It became at once a distraction and a focus.

"Well," I stumbled, "there seems to be more references to nature, for one. You know: trees, animals, and stuff."

But was there really? I haven't read a lot of erotica, that's for sure, so what was I comparing it to? Sure I've come across the occasional erotic poem or prose passage, but certainly not anything that claimed its status as "erotic" as loudly as this collection did. Maybe those nature images are just as common in non-Indigenous erotica. In one of Akiwenzie-Damm's own poems, for instance, she needlessly gives us another poem that uses "plums" for sexual imagery. William Carlos Williams did that long ago (and better) and he wasn't indigenous. So maybe the supposed abundance of nature imagery was merely the result of my stereotyping of indigenous people. Or maybe it was more common and it actually is a cultural commonality between indigenous peoples. I find it hard to trust my own perceptions sometimes. Am I hypo or hyper culturally sensitive?

Believe it or not, I respect the book more for forcing me to confront myself this way. Though I don't have answers, it must be a good thing to have these reflections from time to time, right?

Still, these are hardly the erotic thoughts I'm sure Akiwenzie-Damm and other contributors had in mind for their readers. This is the way I ruin parties.

So what did they have in mind? Smut? Sure. Some of these read like Penthouse Forum letters. Thom E. Hawke's poem "Pow Wow Letters" comes to mind. But how about romantic? Sure. Try Beth Brant's short story "So Generously." Beautiful? Gregory Scofield's poem "Ceremonies." And some are also philosophical and some are also silly. All of which, in a nutshell, sums up sex for just about everyone, indigenous or not. Hey, maybe that was the point.

Oh and some were good and some were not so good. But I guess that's also pretty accurate.

Here's one of my favourites. It's by Randy Lundy and probably fits under the "philosophical" banner:

A Treatise Upon the Nature of the Soul
First of all, the word soul
it just will not do
with its implication
its insinuation
its outright declaration
that the body is a tomb!

(Read the rest here.)

Without Reservation, featuring erotic short stories and poetry from Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Aotearoa (New Zealand), is published in Canada by Kegedonce Press and available for purchase here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #4- Gone With The Wind VERSUS The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime



The winner of the last Great Wednesday Compare ( Island of the Blue Dolphins vs. Gone With The Wind), with a final score of 6.5-4.5 was Gone With The Wind.

Another close match, but again GWTW comes out on top in the GWC. In regards to Dr. Zhivago, I haven't seen the movie, nor read the book. I made the mistake of reading Pasternak's The Last Summer a couple years back, and though it's probably not fair to judge a writer on a single book, I doubt if I'll ever bother making it around to Dr. Zhivago. For the most part, I do like Russian lit though.

This week we get our newest contender.

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. (Sept 15, 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, September 08, 2009

Reader's Diary #523- J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

I've never been a huge Potter fan. Why then have I reread the very first book in the series? Rereading being something I almost never do.

My daughter. Our nightly reads have focused mostly on classics, but I felt it was time to read her something a little more recent. And besides, though I'm not all that gung-ho over Potter and co., I realize the impact Rowling has made on pop culture, on getting kids interested in reading again, and yes, I think it'll be considered a classic years from now.

I must say, I enjoyed it more reading it aloud to her. I admit that I have a hang-up when it comes to fantasy. Why do they always pick unicorns, dragons, goblins, etc? Is there a fantasy template or some sort of guide all fantasy authors must follow? I understand that the consistent mythology and seeing how an author interprets it might be part of the appeal for some, but without even having read a great deal of the genre, I'm still sick of it. Just not my thing, I guess. But reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to my daughter, who hasn't had a lot of experience with the genre (though it isn't far removed from fairy tales), I enjoyed watching her awe over Potter's world. Like so many kids before her, she now wants to attend Hogwarts. How can her muggle school possibly compete with that?

I've also come to appreciate some of Rowling's liberties. Setting it in modern times and at the aforementioned Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a nice touch. The Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans are a clever invention. I still, however, think Quidditch is the most overrated creation in fiction. Sure it's cool that the players on broomsticks, but wow, did Rowling ever blow it with the moronic scoring, which basically nulls and voids the entire preceding game with a single catch of a 150 point "snitch."

Beefs aside, now that I've introduced my daughter to Harry Potter, I'm finally looking forward to reading the others. Maybe this time I'll actually make it past the third book.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Reader's Diary #522- Ivan Coyote: Vegas Wedding



Ivan Coyote's "Vegas Wedding" is listed at Nerve.com as a "personal essay" instead of as a "short story." I noticed this after finishing it. And I almost didn't include it for "Short Story Monday." Not that I wouldn't have posted about it (after all, I really enjoyed it) but I figured I'd hold off for a more appropriate time. 2 thoughts changed my mind:

1. I'm stressing about whether a piece of writing is classified as a short story or a personal essay? I need a life.

2. Ivan, and this essay, reminds us that boundaries and classifications can be silly at the best of times, dangerous and hateful at others. It's time to tear down the walls between the personal essay and the short story. Let freedom ring! (Okay, so this is one of the silly times.)

"Vegas Wedding," which reads like a story, is Coyote's account of trying to spontaneously marry her girlfriend in Vegas. No problem, right? It's Vegas. Well, just as a few marriage officials discovered that Ivan wasn't as she first appeared, Vegas isn't the "anything goes" state we've come to believe it is, either.

Told in Coyote's trademark shooting the breeze over a beer style, it's funny and honest, but with a tinge of sadness underneath it. I can't believe I found myself rooting for anyone's right to get married on a whim in Vegas, but there you have it. My favourite line in the story:

"You mean the guy who was watching pornos in the chapel was morally opposed to marrying us?"

I had the pleasure of meeting Ivan when she visited Yellowknife in June and to be honest, I didn't know who she was. After her telling me a couple wickedly funny anecdotes, I discovered that she was an author, and from the North. I promised to read more. Later this month I'm traveling to Whitehorse for a conference, so I thought it was high time to make good on the promise. I'm glad I did.

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

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Searching For Teachers


Since it's that time of year again, let's look at teachers (some good, some not-so-good) found in books. I'll give you a book in which they appear, you tell me who it is (last name only). All the answers can be found in the provided word search. For instance, I could give you Archie Americana Series, Volume 1, and you'd find for Grundy in the word search.

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



1. The Magic School Bus Lost In The Solar System- Joanne Cole and Bruce Degen

2. 'Tis- Frank ________

3. Anne of Avonlea- Lucy Maud Montgomery

4. Arthur and the School Pet- Marc Brown

5. Reading Lolita in Tehran- Azar _____

6. Jacob Two Two's First Spy Case- Mordecai Richler

7. Skim- Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

8. Thank-you, Mr. ______- Patricia Polacco

9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

10. Miss ____ Is Missing! by Harry G. Allard and James Marshall

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #4- Gone With The Wind VERSUS Doctor Zhivago



The winner of the last Great Wednesday Compare ( Island of the Blue Dolphins vs. Gone With The Wind), with a final score of 8-4 was Gone With The Wind.

While I enjoyed Island of the Blue Dolphins, that's about all I remember-- and I read it just less than 2 years ago. So, while I'm glad it got some recognition over the last few Wednesday Compares, I think it's about time it left. It's good, but not 3 challenges in a row good. Just out of curiosity, how many of you also read the sequel?

This week's challenger is another book with a popular movie version. If you're interested in such things, check out the last Saturday Word Play.

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. (Sept 8, 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, September 01, 2009

The Canadian Book Challenge #3- 2nd Roundup


Hi everyone, and welcome to the 2nd Roundup for the Canadian Book Challenge #3. What books did you read for the challenge this month? In the comments below, please leave a link to all your Canadian book reviews for the past month (and yes, you need to review it to count!) Just a reminder: please leave a link to the review posts themselves and not simply to your blog. Also, let me know how many books you've read for the challenge (i.e., the total number of Canadian books read in July and August combined) so that I can update the standings in the sidebar.

I assume many of you will also want to join Carl's 3rd RIP Challenge as well. Don't think you can fit another challenge in? Not to fear (heh), you can always combine books. Not that Canada's known for horror, but you might want to consider some of these:

The Unholy Canadian 13- Muwahahaha...
1. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
2. High Spirits by Robertson Davies
3. Boo! by Robert Munsch
4. The Golden Leg and Other Ghostly Campfire Tales by Dale Jarvis
5. The Night Inside by Nancy Baker
6. Mojo: Conjure Stories by Nalo Hopkinson
7. Dining With Death by Kathleen Molloy
8. The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper
9. The Nobody by Jeff Lemire
10. One Hand Screaming by Mark Leslie
11. The Oxford Book of Canadian Ghost Stories edited by Alberto Manguel
12. The St. Andrews Werewolf by Eric Wilson
13. Frozen Blood by Joel A. Sutherland

Any other suggestions?

Another project I'm working on is a Timeline of Canadian Literature. What events in Canada's literary history should be marked? The birth of Farley Mowat? (May 12, 1921) The founding of Harlequin? (May 1949) When Carol Shields became the only person to win both the Giller and the Pulitzer? (1993 and 1995, respectively). I'd love your help on this one. Suggests as many benchmarks as you wish.

And finally, please take the time to follow the links and read one another's reviews. The Canadian Book Challenge is all about celebrating, exploring and promoting Canadian books. That can only happen if we talk.