January 3rd, 2017

A tiny bit of buzz!

While I wait patiently for the 1000 things to come rolling in (hint!) I can tell you about the tiny bits of buzz that are floating around regarding So Much Love, a novel that will be out and available in actual stores to actual readers in just over two months. Terrifying.

I mean great, very exciting, it is just that I am a little nervous. Anyway! There is a print review in the most recent issue (winter) of Maisonneuve, which I subscribe to and was reading on the treadmill when all of the sudden, there was my book cover! I was NOT expecting that three months before publication. It’s just a couple hundred words and mainly summary–I’ve squinted at it for a long time and can’t be certain if the reviewer liked it or not but it is still very nice to be mentioned! The review isn’t online, but if you read it in print, please let me know what you think.

Also! I did a short interview with the wondrous Kerry Clare, with whom I’d be happy to chat for no reason, but this was actually for a little piece in University of Toronto Magazine, which is lovely.

And that, at two months and 11 days to publication, is what’s going on. Kind of lovely, really!

February 10th, 2016

Rose-coloured reviews: #Hair Expertise by Loreal

Intro: I am into giving my opinions on stuff—you might have noticed. When I combined that poverty in grad school and working at a very underused info desk at that same time, you wind up with me on a lot of market-research and focus group mailing lists. I would get free products to try and/or take surveys for money about which products I currently use or would use if they existed, and I attended focus groups with clickers and some very upbeat moderators. I have given my opinion on everything from songs on the radio to feminine hygiene to grocery stores to candy. Sometimes they even ask me about politics! I resigned my major focus-group affiliation a few years back. I regret that a little–$100 for talking about gum for 2 hours–but really at this point in my life I need 2 hours more than I need $100. On the other hand, I continue to do and like the surveys. My recompense is free products and the occasional little cheque in the mail–which is fine, I like the perks and the surveys are a good quick break from more strenuous work.

This is all just background to my new project, which is via Influenster. I don’t even remember where I heard about it or why I wanted to sign up, because I don’t understand the site at all. I remember being interested because oooh, surveys, but after I’d answered hundreds of questions I thought it might never end, and no one seemed to be sending me any prizes, so I gave up. It wanted me to log in via various social media, so I linked it to my Facebook account, but the site kept importuning me to let it post on my behalf, which I kept having to deny (obvs.) I tried to link Twitter, but it was IMPOSSIBLE without agreeing that Influenster could tweet on my behalf. I honestly think no one reads my tweets, but still–that seemed a bit much.

So I gave up on Influenster, but I guess I filled out enough surveys that they felt they understood my interests, because they asked me to fill out another survey to get a Vox Box. I didn’t know what that was but after I got a few more emails all saying the same thing, I went to the site and figured out that a Vox Box is a box full of products to review and voice (vox is Latin for voice) your opinion on via social media, blogs, surveys, etc.

Now we’re talking. So I did the survey and yesterday a big glossy specially designed box came in the mail filled with three full size Loreal Hair Expertise products, plus a brochure proclaiming their benefits. I was very pleased with all of it, though I gave the box to my cats to play in.

Anyway, they are big bottles and the testing period, according to the website last 48 days, though the website strongly implied that I might like to start tweeting about the experience immediately. I did post an “ooh, free shampoo” hashtag post, and then checked out the others using the same tag. Apparently I’m 15-20 years older than most of the other Influensters. I also hadn’t understood that there was so much push for me to post photos of the shampoo bottle and me with the shampoo bottle–who wants to see that? Well, some of the Influensters are very attractive with fab hair , even before the new product, so I guess that is why. I will not be doing that.

Anyway, here’s the day one report. I’ll check in over the 48 days whenever anything interesting happens, hairwise.

My products are the Arginine Resist line: shampoo, conditioner, and spray. It’s for hair that is weak and fragile and falls out easily, which is certainly true of mine, which is all over my apartment and which my roommate (the last one before I started living alone) once found in the fridge. It’s supposed to make your hair stronger by both strengthening the hair shaft and increasing circulation at the root. I didn’t fully understand–it’s interesting how beauty treatments get more and more medicinal sounding the older you get. I wonder how old I’ll have to be before they are palliative, just keeping my hair comfortable until the inevitable end.

Anyway, I normally wash my hair every other day because it’s healthier for the hair according to some, but I hate that, and feel like the swamp thing by the end of the second day, so I’m taking this opportunity to go back to every day washes for a while. I figure if the shampoo/conditioner itself is supposed to be making my hair healthier, I should use it as often as possible. Both looked like generic hair products, white creamy guck with a mild sweet scent, totally unproblematic. My hair felt really great afterwards, but that is often the case for me with new products, any new products. My hair enjoys novelty, apparently, but it wears off in a few days.

The spray, which isn’t hairspray in the usual styling sense, was harder to figure out. I didn’t know if I was supposed to put it on before or after combing, or styling, or what. The instructions on the back are pretty odd and minimal. I put it on first, and it combed through nicely. I debated other styling products, but decided against, to give the Arginine its full chance to shine. After a few minutes there was no smell, and my hair seemed a bit less frizzy than usual. All day long it felt extra soft, though after a few hours it didn’t really look different than on a normal day.

So that was the first day! I suspect this post was really boring, but as I wrote it on a break from various much harder things throughout the day, I thought it was delightful–sorry! I’ll strive to make the other ones at least shorter.

July 28th, 2015

My tiny heart–a review!

One of the hardest things about this long edit of So Much Love I’m into (we’re over a year and still going strong) is that no one reads my work except for the purpose of finding fault. I shouldn’t complain, that’s what editing is and I’m grateful for the help–and lucky to work with amazing people–but it’s hard. I submit work to my editor, to my writing group, my husband, and I get good, constructive notes and the occasional smiley face or checkmark, but that’s not what I wrote it for. I would like people to be engrossed, moved, entertained by my writing, and until I’m through editing, that can’t exactly happen. So I’m sad.

Because of the terms of the contract, I can’t publish the stories from the book in mags or journals right now, and because of the amount of time I have free (very little) I can’t give non-book stories the time they’d need to get into publishable form. So I can’t publish anything for anyone to read just for fun. Which means I was way disproportionately chuffed to find this itty-bitty review of my story Ms Universe on Joyland a couple years back, from Maggie Mason on The Book Mine Set. Yes, it’s only a few sentences, and most of those are spent on whether Martian is an antiquated term (is it? I sincerely didn’t know, and am not doing any of the clever things the reviewer thought I was!) But it also says the only thing a writer really wants to achieve, “it held my attention the whole way through and I quite enjoyed it.”

Honestly, the writing has been so tough lately that I was incredibly emotional about finding this. Also, I have had a migraine for two days, so that might have something to do with my state. But in any case, I’m grateful and will try to make my book live up to that sentence above. It’s what we’re all aiming for.

August 24th, 2014

Rose-coloured reviews *The Fault in Our Stars*

I was originally just going to post a review of The Fault in Our Stars by acclaimed young-adult writer John Green on GoodReads, but then I read some of the other discussions on that page on that page and decided to put it here instead. I might still post to GoodReads if I’m feeling brave later, but those teens get, um, intense about this book. They HATE it or they LOVE it, and if they LOVE it then they HATE the other teens who don’t love it, to the point of flame wars and (apparently) death threats. I’m not sure I can wade into those waters.

Nevertheless, I get it–this is a book that inspires an intense reaction. Even in me, 20 years older than the protagonists and, in Green’s own words in the Q&A at the end, not an audience he cares much about. For the first two-thirds, I was genuinely astounded at how much the book was living up to the insane hype that surrounds it. Not flawless, but riveting, and not in a way that made me feel cheap when I looked up from the book. The last third got a little slow and predictable, rounding up with a frantic chase for a document that, once found, contained no new information (this is the part I thought the teens would attack me for).

But oh my goodness, how delightful is that first chunk. Hazel Grace Lancaster is 16 and has thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs. She has been sick since she was thirteen, and probably always will be. Her cancer is terminal, but she is on a kind of miracle drug that is staving off the inevitable for…well, no one is sure how long. Hazel is on oxygen, has thought she was about to die more than once, and has never been to high-school. This gives Green license to do something he loves to do–create a teenage voice that doesn’t sound much like most teens. In his novels (those that I’ve read), he likes to take his protagonists out of normal life (child stardom, elite boarding school) in order to escape the constraints of voice and experience that would otherwise govern a teen character. I have seen a lot of not-hardly-realism in his other books, though I did find them charming, but Hazel Grace is his greatest success so far. She has that giant vocabulary that pretentious teens since time began have indulged in (including me), is an obsessive reader and an equally obsessive tv watcher, and has some additional quirks that I recognized from the home-schooled kids I used to know–an “everything is mine to question” confidence that is thrilling or tedious, depending on the listener (many of the GoodReads haters especially disliked such riffs, like why have hurdle races when one could run so much faster without them, and what qualities of scrambled eggs make then a breakfast food? I, for one, was pretty charmed.) And she has the black humour, patience, fortitude, misery, and fatalism of the dying.

Anyhoo…she goes to a cancer support group and she meets a guy who is recovering from a type of cancer that cost him half a leg. He is dreamy and funny and wry and kind–YOU KNOW, of course, because everyone has seen the movie based on this book or at least the coming attractions. A romance ensues, a lovely doomed romance (star-crossed), blah blah blah.

But it’s really good. I say that as someone who has read a bunch of YA novels in the past two years, and knows that YA books always feature instant connections, talks long into the night, etc.–things that are always mentioned, never enacted. These kids ACTUALLY talk about stuff–the dialogue is part of the book, not summarized as “an amazing conversation.” And every YA novelist knows that kids are always playing video games, reading books, watching tv, and looking at Facebook. And texting. But I have never seen these things actually realistically depicted–it’s always again, some bizarre summary that indicates very strongly that the author rounded up a bunch of kids and asked them what Facebook and Playstation are. Green has the first ever video-game scene that was both believable and fun to read–no small task. His characters make realistic use of Facebook and text when it is appropriate to do so–at other times, they call and email and even write letters. The shows they watch make sense for their age. In short, he gets the cultural context way right.

So the romance is believable because the conversations are believeable–they exchange favourite books and then talk about then, the boy invites the girl over to watch him play video games with his friend, they watch DVDs in his parents’ living room. Oh, and they comfort their friend whose cancer has made him blind. Just enough familiarity, just enough alien, to be compelling.

I don’t want to get into an analysis of the romance and subsequent sadness too much–you’ve heard it. Suffice to say, if you want to read a very sad love story about teenagers, this one is exceptionally well done. And if you don’t, well, I would understand. It’s the little things that got me–the above mentioned cultural stuff, and the fact that the mom is pretty much the most devastating character in the book. When Green mentioned, as quoted above, that I doesn’t really care about adults, I chuckled that that’s why he doesn’t bother to write them very well. But this mom–she doesn’t actually get a name, as I recall–has a rare emotional affect for an adult in a YA novel, a nuanced pain that read as real. For the first time I believed in adult Green had written. The dad, the boy’s parents, other adults they encounter along the way are so many stick figures, but Hazel’s mom made me cry. Really. And I’m not a crier at books, at all.

I’ve been trying to keep this short so I could have space to allude to the format–I got FiOR as an audiobook (this version) and it was brilliant. Probably the reason I was affected to the point of tears is Kate Rudd‘s pitch-perfect narration. Because it’s a first person narrative and Rudd sounds credibly like a teenage girl, the book comes across as an audio diary, which makes it all the more intimate and devastating. Rudd does teariness, out-of-breathness (Hazel spends the entire book on oxygen), and several accents perfectly. And the best parts of her performance is when she is being Hazel being her boyfriend, doing a teen-girl’s lower voice to imitate a boy. So funny and accurate!

Yes, the ending does get predictable, but even then there was a few surprises. There’s also a devastating scene involving Anne Frank (no, really) that is ruined at the last moment by a bit of over-the-top-ness, and assorted other little gaffs and foolishness. But overall this is an extremely strong novel, a 9/10 in its class–and to me there are no perfect books, so that’s really saying something. But I don’t know if the teens would believe me.

December 11th, 2013

Rose-coloured reviews *The Pickup Artist* by Terry Bisson

Yep, I’m still working my way through my “to be read” list for 2012. The Pickup Artist by Terry Bisson is number 14 of a very confused and long-suffering 15.

Near as I can figure from his baffling website and much clearer Wikipedia page, Bisson is a well-respected American sci-fi writer with many serious, vaguely political novels to his credit. I researched this only briefly, but it sounds about right because *The Pickup Artist* read like the sort of cool-idea light-hearted adventure that serious author writes as a fun exercise and/or a wink at his fans. I found it a one-note, dull slog, but I’m not a fan (or a person who had heard of this author outside of this book) so I guess that’s why.

What is this book doing in my home, you ask? I have a theory about that. I had surgery in 2007 and it put me out of commission for a good while. Knowing this was coming, a few kind folks gave me books to read during recuperation. Some close friends gave me lovely things, but some people, just sort of generally wanting to be kind, seemed to give me books at random. I ended up with some really odd stuff, but it didn’t matter because I was both in a lot of pain and on a lot of pain medication (you’d think those two would cancel each other out, but no) and thus unable to pursue anything more intellectually rigorous than episodes of *Friends*, of which I watched many. I’ve been working my way through the books very slowly ever since I went off the codeine.

Which all just to explain what I was doing with a book in my house that contained none of the things I like about books. *The Pickup Artist* is about life on earth an indeterminate number of years in the future. The future is hazily imagined except one thing that is explained at GREAT length throughout the book–at some point, the world could not tolerate the backlog of artistic creation. New artists could not gain attention when there was so much old, excellent art lurking around for people to enjoy: how could you enjoy some new poet if you were constantly distracted by the Modernist canon? It’s the sort of logical-conclusion conversation people have late at night, and it’s interesting enough as a concept.

There’s one or two other interesting ideas–a cloning experiment gone wrong, a listening bug that convinces the target to keep it close with sexual gratification–but this book never gets past the level of the late-night ramble. The protagonist has almost no personality and certainly no backstory–apparently he was just a rule-follower who lived with his mother and dog and NEVER KNEW ANY OTHER PEOPLE. When he teams up Hank, a big-breasted librarian, it seems like things might take off, but even though they set off on a madcap roadtrip through middle America, Hank spends most of the rest of the book in sullen silence and we never learn much about her, other than that she has been pregnant for 8 years (don’t ask). She is the least interesting character in the world but she wears a mood sweatshirt that Bisson references almost every single time he mentions her. Apparently, if we know her mood, we don’t need to know anything else about her as a person.

The personal level of this book is non-existent. It’s all about the extrapolation of that one cool idea about the canon-purge. We get alternating chapters of “historical” (history in terms of the present-tense of the book, but still future from 2013) descriptions of how the laws came to be in place to delete certain works of literature, music, and visual art. Those historical chapters are shorter than the “plot” chapters, but they are crazy dull. There’s a twist at the end involving some of the historical characters and though I remembered who they were all too well, I did not care one  iota.

Blech. There’s a tiny bit about the protagonist wishing he knew his absent father, but this is merely repeated, never expanded or explored. You don’t find out what happens to anyone at the end, which didn’t matter except I kinda wanted the zombie dog to make it. No one develops or learns anything, they just go places very slowly and repetitiously.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Bisson is a great writer–this book reads like it was written in a weekend, maybe at an airport–he’s probably better when he puts more effort in. But I won’t be doing that because I disliked this book enough to steer clear of this author for a good long while.

Off the shelf fail!

November 1st, 2013

Rose-coloured reviews Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

I reread Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the second in Helen Fielding’s series, to prepare for reading the third, which is just out. The first of these books is a classic, and when I reread it last Christmas it held up just fine. It’s a very Christmassy book, which is why I had it out, but beyond the holiday spirit, beyond the nostalgia for a time in my life when I saw my friends every second day and told them EVERY SINGLE THING, it’s simply a very funny, very charming book. Bridget’s a nitwit, of course, but a sweet one you can root for, and Fielding really makes a very simple girl-nabs-boy-after-lots-of-chaos story work in that first book.

In the second…eh, not so much. BJ #1 is a book that spawned a genre, and it really shouldn’t have–it’s a good book, but simply not deep or complex to support a host of imitators with much variation. The later chicklit was all. the. same. (I haven’t read everything, of course, and Marian Keynes is an exception, though a number of her novels are something other than the chicklit.) Some was a bit funnier than others, some a bit more realistic, some a bit less. But it was all manic and bouncy and reveling in the shallowness of fashion and self-help and dieting without Fielding’s dollop of self-aware irony. And, kinda, so is BJ #2–it’s later chick-lit, and it’s not as good.

Bridget’s still sweetly dopey, of course, but now sometimes she’s such a dope that it’s hard to believe she deserves to see everything work out. Her friends are bitchier and/or dumber in this book, depending on which friend, and sometimes you don’t really believe they’re doing her any favours with all their “support.” The biggest problem, surprisingly, is the absence of a villain. In the first BJ novel, we had Daniel Cleaver, Bridget’s boss, crush, and eventually, terrible boyfriend. He was a jerk, but a hilarious sardonic jerk and I loved reading about him even as I hated him (and Hugh Grant’s performance as Daniel is the best part of the film version, in my opinion, especially when he falls out of the boat).

There is no such delightful jerk in this novel. Bridget’s boyfriend is actually the dreamboat Mark Darcy, who is always right and super-sweet and thus a fairly dull foil for Bridget. He does have some nice moments–not being able to find the fridge in his own kitchen is sweet–but mainly Mark is banished from the narrative. Either Bridget or Fielding isn’t able to cope with the idea of a functioning adult relationship, so entangles Mark a barely funny series of misunderstandings and then they break up.

I do not accept Tolstoy’s premise of happiness being dull, and I think if Fielding had tried harder we could’ve had some fun with a happy couple (my parents have been married 41 years, and they’re hilarious).

Instead, the novel just kind of rambles for a while. When I first started the reread, I wondered why the movie centred so much on the Thailand bit, since that didn’t start up in the book for 200 pages. But, when I got there, I realized that it was because it was the funny bit. Actually, the immediately preceding bit, where Pretentious Jerome is reading essentially gay erotica to the Lifeboat book club, and then Bridget’s dad and Admiral Darcy burst in and begin reciting Rudyard Kipling’s “If” is one of the most sublime bits of comic writing I’ve read in a while. And the book gets better and better from there, ending at a point where you’re once again rooting for Bridget and Mark to hook it up, those crazy kids. But there’s the 200 pages before that that we’re just going to have to not count, because well…meh.

I am SO curious about the third book in the series. I’m also #600 on the library waiting list, so it’ll be a while. I’ll keep you posted.

August 19th, 2013

Rose-coloured reviews *Burning Ground* by Pearl Luke

Not only is Burning Ground by Pearl Luke my 13th book on my To Be Read *2012* list, I think someone actually gave it to me in 2002 and it got somehow lost in the shuffle…for 11 years. This is all to say that I’m basically an embarrassment to literature, but it’s not *Burning Ground*’s fault.

The book is the story of Percy, a young woman who had the roughest of rough childhoods, and now in her thirties is working in a fire tower in northern Alberta, which gives her income, space, and solitude to reflect on the twists and turns her life has taken.

I’m not a big one for the genre of Canadian novel of emotion recalled in tranquility and this book wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I can recognize it’s strengths nonetheless. Percy’s blazing strangeness, her *meanness* was fascinating and seemed to ring true though I’ve certainly never met anyone like that. At the end of the novel, she does something, or seems to do something or to be about to do something (it was a little fuzzy) so horrible I was shocked–but then I thought, “No, that is the logical outcome for her in this situation. Of course she would.”

Because the entire novel is in flashback, I wasn’t sure I got a totally accurate viewpoint on Percy’s life. Especially, I wasn’t sure who all the “friends” she reminisced about were, when none of them were ever really described in detail and she didn’t seem like the sort many would want to befriend. Was Percy an unreliable lens character (it’s third person narrative) or did Luke just not fill in the details appropriately? I always have this problem with this sort of tightly focussed, decontextualized writing.

There was lots of great detail about life in a fire tower, something I know nothing about. I particularly liked the descriptions of clouds, rain, and smoke. Less the technical details about how to triangular the distance a fire might be at. I can totally see an editor encouraging this level of instructiveness, but I found it a bit much.

The central emotional arc of the novel has to do with Percy’s friendship-sometime-affair with Marlea (I’d not seen that spelling before, but I like it!) That part was vibrant, sexy, weird, and felt honest. There were some things around the edges of that–about Percy’s parents and her childhood–that didn’t seem fully realized to me. There were some emotional bombs that left me reeling, but not in a good, feeling-with-the-character way. I felt like maybe there was a chapter missing.

The end of the novel is really cool in a natural science sort of way, but unfortunately I was really upset with the main character by that point and I did not care how things worked out for her. I’m not sure if that’s a problem with the novel or a success, as it certainly drew a strong emotional reaction from me. Definitely a novel worth reading, though equally certainly not my favourite.

May 27th, 2013

Rose-coloured reviews *On the Road* by Jack Kerouac

On the Road by Kerouac is one of those novels I was somewhat embarrassed not to have read yet, but I was also somewhat ok with it. It seemed like I sort of already knew a lot about it–hippy road trip in search of meaning and freedom and friendships or whatever. So imagine my surprise to find that the novel is set between 1947 and 1950, before the term “hippy” existed. I had fast-forwarded my image of the novel 15 years into the future. So I had a lot to learn.

I’m linking to the Wikipedia page for this novel because, well, it’s better than Amazon, but really I think a lot of that page is bunk. On the Road struck me as an incredibly apolitical novel. Even the narrator’s, Sal Paradise, experience of fighting in WWII is boiled down to getting drunk and passing out in a bathroom. McCarthyism, who the president is, or even the conformity of the middle class that Sal and his friends are the opposite of, never makes it onto the page. Maybe we’re just supposed to sense it, or know from the history books, but to me this was well and truly a travelog, a true devotional tribute to the wonders of America.

Sal crosses the country from his home in New Jersey several times, usually bound for California more or less, usually in the company of his friend, Dean Moriarty. The title is true, this is a book about hitchhiking and overnight buses and ride-shares. Much of it is quotidian, but Kerouac’s joyful prose makes it shine. This book makes it pretty evident that the two things that guy like to do was write and move. Listen: “It was an ordinary bus trip with crying babies and hot, sun and countryfolk getting on at one Penn town after another, till we got on the plain of Ohio and really rolled, up by Ashtabula and straight across Indiana in the night…” Nothing fancy, but it makes me want to go, too, nonetheless.

The whole book is like that more or less: we went here, we went there, we got drunk, hijinx ensued, in the morning we sobered up and moved on. The “we” is usually himself and Dean, with occasional hangers on. Dean Moriarty is a twitching, hyper, occasionally charming nutjob, and one of the problems I had with the book is I never saw the charm in Dean that Sal does. Dean is a wonderful driver who loves to travel, and who attempts to help Sal out when it suits him. I can’t quite armchair diagnose Dean with a mental illness, but clearly he had one–always drenched in sweat and maniacally fidgeting, he can barely sustain a conversation and rarely sleeps. He is also frequently amoral, cheerful bouncing among assorted wives, abandoning them when the mood suits and taking all their money to travel. By the end of the book, he has fathered 4 kids, married 3 women, and is living with the second wife. Lucky lady.

I didn’t much love Sal, either, though he was easier to take. The best passage in the book is when he meets a Mexican girl named Terry and attempts to settled down with her and her son Johnny, supporting them by picking cotton. He abruptly leaves her and the child when he gets sick of working hard–he can always wire home for bus fare and return to living with his aunt in New Jersey, but with a woman and child he’d be pretty much stuck. That’s really Sal’s only shot at real grownup life and he ditches it post-haste.

I’ve read through the GoodReads reviews of this book, as I am wont to do, and the ones who don’t like it are generally incensed at how wildly politically incorrect it is. Surprise–it’s nearly 60 years old. The black characters aren’t really characters at all, merely ambassadors of jazz music (the concert passages are amazingly beautiful, while conveying almost no information about the actual music played). The women fare far worse, because until folks of other races, Dean and Sal are actually interested in women, at least for certain purposes. I had to keep my eyebrows under control, because Sal frequently mentions seeing an attractive woman walk by and wishes to be in her. I kid you not! Women are treated as on a par with booze and drugs in this novel, things you get and have and use up.

It makes for some repellant passages, but you’ll note Sal is honest–he never attempts to valorize himself or the truly horrible Dean. They are what they are; they do what they want.

I found the book honest and illuminating, especially the final trip, when they go as far as Mexico and Sal comes to realize that Dean is truly falling apart. He can’t abandon him until Dean does it first, though–his loyalty and especially the loyalty of Dean’s woman were the things I didn’t understand. The ending was grim and, I felt, accurate to who these characters were.

I hated them–Sal was a entitled suburban boy playing at being poor. At one point he steals bread from family stores as if he “needed” it instead of just having squandered his money drinking. He is always skirting the edge of poverty, and calling his aunt when he gets too close. When he encounters the genuinely destitute, he treats them as colourful gags for his amusement. He never helps anyone but himself and stupid Dean, and Dean never helps anyone at all, not even himself.

This is a great novel and a joyful read, but where people got the idea that Sal is someone to admire or emulate, I really don’t know.

I am still pathetically working my way through my 2012 To Be Read Challenge, and this book is number 11. More soon…ish…I hope.

March 25th, 2013

A couple nice discoveries

Did you know there’s websites that review literary journals? Me neither, but there are and it’s pretty cool. Like New Pages, which reviewed the issue of Freefall Magazine that I was in, and a bunch more great stuff too. Neat!

Did you know there’s university courses on arts journalism? Me, neither, but there are and they’re amazing–I would’ve taken Ryerson’s Writing in the Arts course in a heart had it been available when I was in school. It wasn’t, but I did a short interview with a student named Julia Brunke for one of her assignments in the course and it cheered me up…read it here if you’re interested.

February 15th, 2013

Various Nice Things

It’s a bit vain, but every now again I look myself up in various places–embarrassing, but I often discover information worth knowing, so I keep doing it.

Anyway, yesterday I was ordering some books from the library and I search my name in their database. I was happy to find a bunch of my books and even a few holds, but was extra-delighted to see 9 copies of *Road Trips*. That was my 2010 chapbook with Frog Hollow–something I was proud of but I think very few people saw. It was pricey and available only by mail-order. The price has gone down now, if you’re interested in ordering it, and anyway I think it was worth every penny of the original price, as Frog Hollow does some of the most gorgeous printing and binding I’ve seen. Nevertheless, I know it just wasn’t realistic for many budgets.

But 9 copies in TPL–that means your hold would come in pretty fast! So if you were curious about *Road Trips*, this could be your chance…

Other nice things I found out about recently include Deanna McFadden’s lovely blog review of *The Big Dream*, and my contributor’s copy of Freefall Magazine. And then there are my Valentine’s gifts, the traditional perfume, candies, and George Saunders collection. And it’s Public Lending Right in the mail day today.

So basically, in summation, yay!

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