Directed by Jeremy Munce, this book trailer for David Seymour‘s poetry collection For Display Purposes Only (Coach House, 2013) features a host of Canadian writers reciting from “Eyewitness Testimony.”
Sustains a tight thrum, and delivers some great performances. Karen Solie is a stand out.
When you take someone home, you display books that mean the most to you, or at least relay the message you most want received. And if you’re the one being taken, a make-it-or-break-it book will always catch your eye, sealing the deal or eliciting that record scratch moment and a sudden need to text someone from the bathroom.
I asked some friends to submit examples of books that put a flutter in their endpapers, get them hot under the covers, and knotted up in their bindings.
Say Please, by Sinclair Sexsmith (ed) ; Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino;
And either of my books, cuz people seem to think that writers are hot: Stealing Nasreen and Six Metres of Pavement.
Heather Birrell Rapture, by Susan Minot;
Ann Patchett’s The Magician’s Assistant, one of my favourite love stories of all time (and a near perfect novel, if you ask me); The Republic of Love, by Carol Shields;
I might be concerned (depending on my disposition towards said lover) if John Berger’s To The Wedding were prominently displayed. And Darren O’Donnell’ s Your Secrets Sleep With Me might also give me pause.
Best introduction: I wouldn’t be with my husband except for the conjunction of Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin (my shelf) and Refiner’s Fire, by Mark Helprin (his shelf).
Beware: either Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or Eat/Pray/Love displayed as evidence of sensitive nature.
Hideous warning: a bookless shelf.
I’d like a sniff of John Berryman somewhere. Mavis Gallant is definitely making me think I should pack a toothbrush. Same goes for William Trevor and W.S. Merwin.
If in seduction mode, I’d have to lay out, no pun intended, Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America, Mating, by Norman Rush, and A Sport and a Pastime, by James Salter. If that doesn’t work, I was wasting my time in the first place.
Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Books in every room is a big turn on. There should be a bookshelf in every room. Raymond Carver collected, Mark Anthony Jarman’s Dancing Nightly in the Tavern, Leon Rooke’s Who Do You Love?, James Salter’s Last Night.
Poetry: Don Paterson, hands down. There’s no fear in him.
In the kitchen you should have several cookbooks: at least one about baking, with heavy emphasis on bread-making, because it’s slow and tangible.
Other than that there should be two of: home-cooking French, Italian, or Indian. Cooks are sensualists, so you know it’ll turn out to be a good night.
My requirement would be that the person have precisely the book I want to read and have not done so. So I’d be looking for telepathy.
Also, I really think shagging is a great deal more pragmatic than leaving books around the place. Therefore if that were the goal surely explicit sex guides would be more use. Or that anthology Bad Sex.
If there were none of the above, I could probably be persuaded on the merits of Georges Perec on the kitchen table. My partner had lovely bookshelves it’s true, but his cup of tea was exquisite.
If Saturday, by Ian McEwan, was in the apartment, I would flee on sight.
Nathalie Atkinson The Fermata, by Nicholson Baker, full stop; Essays In Love, by Alain de Botton.
(Nathalie’s boyfriend adds: Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, by Anders Nilsen, “like Love Story, only good.”)
Heidi Shiller Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell;
Pablo Neruda; Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.
Alicia Louise Merchant
Leaving Infinite Jest lying around would probably get me simultaneously laid and not laid, if that’s possible because I always end up fucking guys who have A Real Thing for David Foster Wallace, but I’m one of those “I knew Wallace for his magazine work” people who has never made it through IJ. It’s a kind of cock-tease that I have it on my shelf—off the shelf, even!—but haven’t made it all the way through. Guys are always like, “I love IJ! It’s my favourite book!” And I’m like, Yeah, I haven’t actually read it, and then they are incredulous and take a look around at all my other books and just can’t believe I haven’t read it.
I’m more of a publisher snob than title snob. If I see any Dalkey Archive, New Directions, or NYRB books, I’m hooked.
I also look for stacks of books throughout the apartment (shows he reads regularly) and at least one book on the nightstand.
These days, I also like to see How Should a Person Be, by Sheila Heti, on someone’s shelf.
Trevor Cole The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx, because her prose is sexy and it’s a love story; Cereus Blooms at Night, by Shani Mootoo, because it’s crazy sensual; Annabel, by Kathleen Winter, because I’m a sensitive guy;
As for record-scratch titles, I might turn around and walk out if I saw Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey.
Jaime Woo Nigellissima, by Nigella Lawson is a total boner maker;
James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, too. (I’m a nerd.)
Oh, and, of course, my book, Meet Grindr.
Jennifer Murtell Barrett Portable Kisses, by Tess Gallagher. (I have it on good authority that Jennifer’s now husband bought her the book and she was “ensnared.”)
I will not fuck someone who has Ayn Rand anywhere in their apartment;
but, I will definitely fuck someone who has a stack of Ian McEwan lying around.
Written on the Body, by Jeanette Winterson; The Captain’s Verses, by Pablo Neruda.
Steph Cilia VanderMeulen
If you have McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, because it’s sexy and a love story and has cowboys, I’d stay the night;
Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk about Love, because his superb writing totally excites me;
Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love; Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare; Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand.
Might help in bed: The Pornographer’s Poem, by Michael Turner; My Secret Garden, by Nancy Friday; Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, by Pablo Neruda.
Cold showers: The Female Eunuch, by Gloria Steinem; The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood.
(I read both at age 13, and they informed my sexuality, for better or for worse.)
As for me, Julie Wilson, if the last time you bought a Canadian-authored book was in your first year of university, maybe just hide those in the back.
Beyond that, I’d be disappointed not to see any David Sedaris, contemporary short fiction, and at least one poetry title that isn’t Leonard Cohen. Bonus points for a Karen Solie or a Susan Holbrook, especially if you giggle when I say “tampon.” (Then I’ll know you’ve read Joy Is So Exhausting.)
Dennis Lee’s Body Music, S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, and Lorna Crozier’s The Book of Marvels will certainly tickle my fancy, while anything by David Foster Wallace will intimidate me, and, while unfortunate, I may be inclined to ask if you’ve really read all his work. . . . . Crickets will hopefully give way to comfortable silence and a quick glimpse of Geist’s Atlas of Canada: Meat Maps and Other Strange Cartographies.
If by this point things haven’t ground to a complete halt, it’s possible you’ll open up about that particularly curious pile of older books—Pride and Prejudice, The Three Little Kittens, The Little Prince, Gems of Womanhood—not the other pile of old and gutted books in which you store your rolling papers.
You have kids books? I might look for kids. That answered, and depending on how much wine/bourbon we’ve had, we might read one aloud in the “Man at the Edge of the Universe Voice”. If sexual tension hasn’t instead given way to braiding each other’s hair, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ should get you to second base.
As for gadgets, an ereader won’t turn me off in the slightest, but should we retire to the boudoir, I’d rather discover a paper book by your bedside.
Finally, will I be impressed if you have a copy of my book? Absolutely—provided it lives in the bathroom, cuddled up to Joe Brainard’s I Remember.
(Quick shout out to my darling girlfriend: Love ya, babe!)
Jokes aside, this Valentine’s Day, and every day to follow, I wish you all the love and lust you can find between the crisply-typeset sheets of a good book . . . in bed.
And, if all else fails, read to him/her. Works every time.
From The Book of Love, by The Magnetic Fields:
“The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It’s full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing but
I . . .
I love it when you read to me and
You . . .
You can read me anything.”
Monday, news prematurely broke that Martin Levin, books editor with Globe and Mail since 1996, and Jack Kirchoff, the section’s assistant editor, had been removed from their positions. While Kirchoff has yet to be reassigned (as of this post), Levin will move into the role of obituaries editor where he will report on the lingering death of publishing.
A job opening has now been posted, and while it’s not terribly likely that the Globe will find the successful candidate out of house, I have a message to my fellow ladykind. I’m doing this for your own good. Please, don’t hate me . . .
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!”
I don’t mean this lightly. I’ve been on the listservs, and follow the counts and CWILA’s establishment of a Critic-in-Residence (Sue Sinclair). I’ve been both pained and entertained by the ongoing Twitterfire exchanged between a host of bright and passionate people about the lack of women in reviews coverage (and in the reviews themselves.) We have the numbers. Not enough women writers being reviewed. Not enough women writing reviews.
Let me be clear. This isn’t a continued attack against existing books editors, although I might be suggesting that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing during the hiring process to acknowledge that it’s mostly women who both read and buy books.
No, what I’m really saying is that of the men I know who go for gigs, any gig, most do so because they have the skill sets to learn how to do the job. Whereas, ladies, gawd love us, we sometimes do this thing where we don’t even go for the job until we know how to do it, and everyone else’s, too. I’ll also tell you a little something else. Of the male books editors in this country, more than a few inherited the gig or were reassigned from another section. They had to learn, too.
So, I’m begging you. If you have the interest, if you have the experience, if you have the chops, and if you have LADY BITS, here’s the job description at Workopolis. Apply.
Putting down the pom poms, here’s the bad news. You’re probably not going to get the gig. I really hope you do. Because if you’re all those things above, you should get the gig. You’re clearly qualified. But it’s a union gig, so, there’s that.
No, the real reason you need to apply is because there won’t be a chance again soon(ish) that you’ll have the opportunity to apply to be the Books Editor of a national newspaper, and to give that national newspaper the opportunity to count just how many women are invested in the very conversations that keep a section robust, thriving and forward-moving.
That doesn’t just count for something. That’s the point of this all.
Addendum: I have had the pleasure of working with Martin and Jack since I broke in my first publishing toof, and wish them only the best. Before this post, I was among the first to publicly express my dismay that they’d been reassigned. No matter my call for a forward (and possibly futile) charge, it in no way diminishes the loss to book culture and conversation that is the combined efforts of these kind fellows.
I’ve arrived in Calgary for WordFest 2012 and am already having what feels like a time of my life.
There really is something quite special about this festival—a sense of community and energy—possibly because it comes on the cusp of the fall festival season while authors are still a bit giddy about appearances, along with the resulting comradeship that will form over the next week before many of us head to beautiful Banff and the famed Summit Salon, a chance for creators to throw off the formal attire and toss on some fleece, all while talking about the industry-at-large set against one of the most stunning views in the world.
I, personally, already feel as if I’ve forged a few friendships and am grateful for the time I’ll get to spend with fellow authors, as both writers and readers. There’s a genuine sense that everyone wants to help everyone else, less a matter of keeping your enemies closer than genuine support from your peers. There’s no industry of one.
Which brings me to Susan Swan, a known mentor to new writers and passionate spokesperson for writers’ rights. She’s also spent a fair chunk of this morning trying to come up with some press play for our Saturday panel, How Should a Writer Be? (You should come. It’ll be fun.)
While we continue to bump noggins, I thought I’d return the kindness and remind you that Susan’s latest novel, The Western Light, (Cormorant Books) is on your To Buy list.
Below is Projections of The Western Light, a BookShorts video made with collaborator Judith Keenan. Check it out.
With images of Georgian Bay immersing her in an evocative visual landscape, author/performer Susan Swan delivers just enough story to tease the viewer with hints of the father-daughter dilemmas her character Mouse Bradford faces in the novel. It sets the tone of 1959 small town Ontario with a soundtrack that immediately places the viewer in the era. The score brings Susan’s performance into the realm of lyrics to a song, the words of which are, as the reviewers are saying, “poetic descriptions … particularly vivid, and help bring the world of the novel to vibrant life.” (Quill & Quire, October 2012).
For more about Susan Swan, the excellent reviews of The Western Light, and her extensive reading tour, visit www.susanswanonline.com.
Yesterday, I sat in front of my computer, and, as luck would have it, so did Corey Redekop. We spent the next half hour talking about Husk, the follow up to his biblio-rrific novel Shelf Monkey.
Husk is the story about everyzombie Sheldon Funk. It’s sharp-witted, gross, “stupid-funny” and astute in its observations on what it means to be alive even if you’re dead.
Husk has received great reviews from the Toronto Star and Quill & Quire (among others), and won the favour of authors such as Andrew Kaufman and Andrew Pyper.
In this chat, we talk zombies, body horror, grotesque humour, the hilariously-inappropriate book trailer (see below), Corey’s upcoming appearance at IFOA, and, finally, who will (un)likely play Sheldon Funk in the sure-to-be-made movie adaptation of Husk. (Hint: He may be a little too beef-cakey.)
Jaime Woo is the co-founder and co-organizer of Gamercamp, an annual festival in Toronto celebrating the art, playfulness, and creativity of games.
Woo has been featured on, in, or at CBC Radio, InnerSPACE, Electric Playground, The Financial Post, The Globe and Mail,Metro, xtra!, Fab, and The A.V. Club.
I’ve been interested of late in the role of games and play in our daily lives, as well as how to arrive at a shared language between youth and adults in conversations of appropriate use and moderation. Woo makes the point that it’s because we believe games don’t offer a productive goal that we’re quick to call a child “addicted” to play. Woo encourages us to look closer at games for evidence of skill-building, and offers a few suggestions for games and books to encourage your child/teen toward design.
If you’ve been near a newspaper, magazine, radio, or television in the past few weeks, you’ve by now heard of Lindsay Zier-Vogel, creator of The Love Lettering Project, a community arts endeavour that encourages the people of Toronto to write love letters to the things, people, and places they adore.
Lindsay’s enthusiasm is infectious, so I asked her to join me in a (very) early morning coffee chat via Skype, recorded Friday, August 17, 2012. I was in my home. Lindsay was in hers. And I asked her the one burning question on everyone’s mind: Is she really that happy?
For this and more . . . watch the video below. (And many thanks to Lindsay for the great conversation, and to The Awesome Foundation for tossing some cash at this great contribution to Toronto culture and pride.)
The Love Lettering Project is a community arts project bringing love letters to strangers.
The Love Lettering Project focuses on the joy and goodness of the world we live in, without requiring anything back from the recipient. It gets people talking about their city and the stories of their days. In this, The Love Lettering Project is participatory and has the ability to transform a familiar landscape too easy to take for granted.
For eight years, writer and artist Lindsay Zier-Vogel has been writing love poems for The Love Lettering Project, turning them into one-of-a-kind paper and thread collages, slipping them into airmail envelopes marked “love,” and distributing them anonymously — tucking them in bicycle spokes, bushes and letter boxes, leaving them on doorsteps, window ledges and café tables, hiding them in the pages of books in libraries around the city to be discovered later by strangers.
In 2012, it’s your chance to join in on the love lettering. Lindsay will be set up at events all over the city during the summer of 2012. You can write a love note to something you love about the city, slip it into an airmail envelope, then leave it for a stranger to stumble upon! Find out where you can make your love letter here!
About the book:
Set against the backdrop of Cold War Toronto, The Lightning Field follows the lives of Peter and Lucy Jacobs from their post-war courtship through marriage and child-rearing in the suburbs. Though spanning four decades, the book pivots on the events of a single day: October 4, 1957. On this day, the Russians launch Sputnik into orbit, the Avro Arrow—the most advanced jet plane of its time, whose wings Peter Jacobs has engineered—rolls out onto the tarmac to great ceremony, and, in a nearby field, Lucy Jacobs is struck by lightning on her way to the event.
The Globe and Mail calls The Lightning Field, “Jessup’s homage to a dream, to the knockout movie playing in her mind.”
Enjoy our chat. (I did!)
Topics include: Jessup’s own family connection to the Avro Arrow; life in the 50s and 60s; the wingspan of my hair flips; and, a guest appearance by my cat, Oscar.
“The act of protecting something that doesn’t involve performance or recording is really important.”
Nora Young is a writer-broadcaster, producer, and documentary-maker. She was the founding host and producer of “Definitely Not the Opera” and currently hosts CBC’s national radio show “Spark.” She is fascinated with the intersection of technology and culture: how changing technology affects the way we see ourselves, and each other.
Young has written an incredible book that’s right up my alley, called The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us (McClelland & Stewart). In it, she explores the impact of data mapping/self-tracking/life-caching—the virtual information we generate about ourselves, our own lives, our communities, and our government. Where we go, what we do, how we feel. The book then looks at the challenges around how we share that data—from Facebook status updates to Google Navigator—with an eye turned toward how we might build more responsive communities and governments. And while some would say that the privacy wars are over—and that we’ve lost—Young argues that the technologies and conversations are still in their early days, and that it’s citizens, not technocrats, who should lead the next leg of discussions over how and when our data is used.
The impulse to self-track is not a new one. But with the advent of digital technologies—cheap devices, open-ended storage space and the ability to widely share our data—it would appear as if the digital realm has taken over. But Nora Young argues that there’s still a lot of ground to cover if we’re to take our banal and trivial information and translate it into creating better communities. She’s optimistic.
Nora and I chat/muse about the following:
the difference between self-tracking (personal accounting) and self-scrutiny (personal reflection)
working with data for purposes beyond target marketing
how the fringe activity of life-caching has become an almost unconscious daily activity
the development of critically-minded tools
how trivial information can be intelligently shared
how tools create opportunities for us to reground ourselves in the physical realm
Podcast, part two: (Young agrees to chat longer and we get a little philosophical.)
On an app or program that changed the way she looked at data: “If [Rescue Time] knows all this stuff about my computer use, then digital changes things in more ways than just making it easy for us to capture and store [data], it’s inherent in the nature of using devices that they know, in quotation marks, how they’re being used. . . . But it also has this curiously objectifying character where you start to feel a little bit like a hamster on a wheel, measuring up to some sort of performance metric that you set for yourself, which somehow felt a little bit more driven than just having goals, it felt more submissive in some way. So for all those reasons, I think that [realization] was a watershed moment for me.”
On the usefulness of social data: “Even though Twitter is—at least, at this point—wildly unrepresentative of the population as a whole, it still serves a valuable role in terms of distributing information quickly and giving us rough-and-ready tools for quick information gathering.”
On the potential for data to to affect personal growth: “I think this is important, not being punitive about [collecting data], not being so performance-oriented, but saying, ‘I’m going to use this as an exercise in insight, I’m just going to see what emerges from the data and what that can tell me about who I am.’ I think we so often approach these things in a gold star performative kind of way, but I think it’s just from disinterestedingly collecting and looking at the data that what you might want to change about your life emerges.”
On digital text and the ability to engage with other readers via social reading apps: “I’m very connected to the solitary experience of reading. I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing these things because the technology is good at it, or because we really want to do it?’ It’s worth asking the question. What I do know is that the more deeply connected we become to our digital technologies, the more unusual it feels to be without them.”
On tuning out: “There’s a space for the spiritual that needs to be protected, and for that grounded space of really just listening to your body. . . . I’m not sure that we’re always going to be able to do that, actually. . . . Maybe it’s too early to say. Are we in this shock mode, the equivalent of right after the Gutenberg Revolution where everyone was going kablooie, everything that we knew about how we’re organizing things has changed, and that we’ll recover and say, ‘OK, remember that time in the early twenty-teens when everyone was monitoring and tracking everything?’ Will we recover from that? I don’t know.”