"But right now you must know more about heaven. Does it look like one of these little plastic alters that glow in the dark? I swear I won't mind if it does. Are the stars tiny, after all?" Leonard Cohen.

Pitas.com!

Tiny Stars

mail
music
Matt Good
archive 1

*** Wednesday, December 13, 2006 ***


Online fiction contest draws fire
Dec. 6, 2006. 11:06 AM
TORONTO STAR /HILLEL ITALIE / ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — A division of Simon & Schuster has agreed to publish the top three winners of the Sobol Award, offering advances of up to $100,000 for a controversial new literary contest for agentless writers that also includes a $100,000 first prize.

"We were very impressed with Sobol's plans to harness the broad reach of the Internet and through a very well-thought out editorial process find three great works of fiction. We can't wait to read them, Mark Gompertz, senior vice president and publisher of Touchstone Fireside, said Tuesday in a statement.

Announced in September, the Sobol Award offers $100,000 for the best unreleased, agentless novel, with prizes of $25,000 and $10,000 for the runners-up and $1,000 each to seven others.

The award was created by Sobol Literary Enterprises, a for-profit venture started by technology entrepreneur Gur Shomron, as "a venue to discover talented, unknown fiction writers and help them get the recognition they deserve.''

Numerous questions have been raised about the prize, especially its $85 entry fee and stipulation that Sobol officials would serve as literary representatives of the winners; industry policy prohibits agents from charging money to read manuscripts. Sobol has said the fees are necessary to cover administrative costs.

One critic, Robert Weil, executive editor of W.W. Norton & Co., said he was glad to hear that Simon & Schuster would publish the winners, but added that he still disapproved of the contest.

"I feel sorry for the people who had to pay to get into this,'' Weil said. "If Simon & Schuster can generate a lot of excitement and make the books successful, that's great, but it also reflects a commodification of the business. It's just treating books like product.''

Brigitte Weeks, Sobol's editorial director, said that the three top entries each would receive $100,000 advances from Simon & Schuster for worldwide rights, or $50,000 for U.S. rights only. She acknowledged that committing to one publisher could limit the advance for a promising manuscript, but said she still believes winners will be better off.

"For most people, the certainty of being published by an established major publishing house is a much better trade-off than holding out for a million dollar auction, which is incredibly rare," Weeks said.

The Sobol Award Web site (http://www.sobolaward.com) accepts up to 50,000 manuscripts, online only, with applicants required to pay an $85 entry fee. Winners will be announced next fall; judges include best-selling novelist Alice Hoffman and Robert Riger, a vice president at Barnes & Noble Inc.

The contest deadline was originally Dec. 31, but Sobol's executive vice president of contest management, Sue Pollock, acknowledged that response has been slower than expected and that the date had been pushed back to March 31, 2007.

She declined to give an exact number of manuscripts received, but said it was more than 1,000 and that the contest had not been hurt by any criticism.

"It's been very hard to get the word out," she told The Associated Press. "We're all still learning on the job in terms of publicity. The Internet has been more difficult to penetrate than we had hoped

*** Friday, December 1, 2006 ***


WOW, IF I COULD COMBINE MY BOOK LAUNCH PARTY WITH A DRINKING PARTY, I'D BE....
desperately trying to make reading cool?

(of course, i'd be f*cking happy to even get a book deal, but let's get beyond that for a moment).

a part of me wishes authors were treated more like rock stars ...seriously, i want to rock the Harbourfront Center!

i want to be sitting at the Harbourfront Center surrounded by an entourage of cool -- cool kids wearing cool clothes drinking cool drinks!

i want to *represent* urban, hip book lovers. i want to make loving books cool! reading book cools! spending a night over coffee talking about plots and metaphor and characterization and tragety cool!

rock star!

young authors of the world unite! bring us your hip, fearless prose; your volupteous street spoken word, your weeping willow poetry....save a seat for me.

Hooray Book Release Parties!

Last Monday I went to the Cadillac Lounge, a reasonably cool drinking establishment in a reasonably cool neighbourhood — just west of Queen St. W. — to see Stephen Myers in action. Myers, 27, is a publicist for Penguin Canada who is trying to persuade people that his industry's products are not just for your aunt's book club.

Alcohol was obviously the theme of the evening. At one point Myers, wearing jeans and a hoodie, stood up on the stage and announced to the crowd, "We're going to have one more drinking game, which is called Boat Races. If anyone's interested, talk to me. You want to get f-----d up, I'm the guy." Cheers erupted. Boat Races, well known in frat-house circles, involve high-speed chugging of beer.

*** Sunday, November 26, 2006 ***


Governor General Literary Awards ....

Ottawa, November 21, 2006 – The Canada Council for the Arts announced today the names of the winners of the 2006 Governor General’s Literary Awards, in English and in French, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, children’s literature (text and illustration) and translation.

Each winner receives a cheque for $15,000 and a specially-crafted copy of the winning book bound by Montreal bookbinder Lise Dubois. The Governor General will also present certificates to the publishers of the winning books, and the Canada Council will provide each publisher with a $3,000 grant to support promotional activities for the winning book.

Fiction:
Peter Behrens, for The Law of Dreams
(House of Anansi Press; distributed by HarperCollins Canada)

The Law of Dreams is an epic novel populated by extraordinary characters traversing the bleak moment of famine in Irish history. Peter Behrens, with authorial imagination and a wealth of historical detail, guides us through the blight with unparalleled intimacy.

why there is so much less fanfare with the GG awards, no roses, no champaign, i don't know. seems terribly unfair, tho, any recognition for an artist is gold in itself, but beyond that politeness and modesty, *public* recognition would be a plus....you want people to read your book, afterall. why are you *really* writing otherwise?

*** Monday, November 20, 2006 ***


ok....my new boyfriend is a literary general!

he's a little boring, not as flashy as my ex, Giller, but as desperate as writer's can be, i'll take what i can get.

the good news is, the handsome General likes literary virgins, first blood-ink types, wide eyed and smudged fingers...

like any other dating service, i can picture the dauphin line up now, a parade of self-thot virtuosos eager for the recognition and accolades they've always deserved.

of course these girls are a real 'catch', it was only a matter of time until they were discovered!

hallelujah!

Sizing up the Governor General's Awards

"Tomorrow morning, in the sober confines of the Jane Mallett Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, a news conference will announce the winners of the 2006 Governor General's Literary Awards.

Did I say sober? There will be a slight morning-after feeling for those who remember the giddy night two weeks ago in a ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel when the winner of the Giller Prize was announced. There, the wine flowed freely and the television lights shone brightly.

I hope tomorrow morning we hard-working journalists can get a cup of coffee. But let us turn to priorities, such as Canadian literature, which is what these prizes are all about. There are several interesting aspects to the 2006 Governor General's Literary Awards.

1. Long lists and short lists. This year the Giller Prize announced a long list of 15 works of fiction. Of these 15 books only one — the novel De Niro's Game, by Lebanese-born and Montreal-based author Rawi Hage — was also on the Governor General's short list of five. Nor was this situation unusual.

Last year the Giller Prize short list and the Governor General's fiction short list had not a single author in common. Of 20 books nominated for a Giller Prize in two years, then, 19 have failed to find similar favour with the Governor General.

There are two possible reasons for this state of affairs.

  • A) There's an abundance of literature produced every year in this country of such uniformly high quality that you could put virtually any one of a hundred novels on the short list and feel justified in so doing.
  • B) Literary prize juries can go off the rails if even one of the members has an axe to grind or a score to settle. Even without such an individual, literary juries can do funny things in the stress of trying to come up with compromise choices. This is why the selection process is basically a crapshoot.
  • 2. Lifetime achievement awards. This year's Governor General fiction nominations follow a pattern similar to last year's: four newcomers to the Canadian literary scene, plus one veteran. Last year the veteran was David Gilmour, a writer in his mid-50s. His nominated novel, A Perfect Night to Go to China, was his sixth.

    The other four were first novelist Joseph Boyden (Three Day Road), first novelist Golda Fried (Nellcott Is My Darling), a writer with a debut collection of short stories, Charlotte Gill (Ladykiller), and Kathy Page, who had just moved from her native England to an island off the coast of British Columbia. Her nominated book, Alphabet, was in effect her first Canadian novel.

    Gilmour won. His comments after the announcement suggested a writer given an award not just for his current novel but for all the years he had spent crafting novels that had gone nowhere. "Sometimes I've had the feeling over the years that my books are written in a dialect that is unfamiliar to people," he told the Star. "You win an award like this and suddenly people learn the language in which the book is written."

    This year the veteran is Bill Gaston, also in his 50s, who has published four novels, four short story collections, plus a poetry collection and a number of plays. His rivals include two first novelists (Hage and Peter Behrens, author of a historical narrative, The Law of Dreams) and two writers nominated for their second books: a novel, Fearsome Particles, in the case of Trevor Cole, and a short story collection, The Dodecahedron, in the case of Paul Glennon.

    It would not be fair to say that Gaston's several books have gone nowhere — a short story collection was nominated for a Giller in 2002 — but he is one of those writers who has gathered numerous good reviews without scoring a big hit. As the quotation from a review on the dust jacket of his nominated short story collection, Gargoyles, puts it, Gaston has achieved "confident, mature writing."

    My bet is that Gaston will win the fiction award tomorrow, in large part because of all the years put into forging that "confident, mature writing."

    3. The Triumph Of The Victim. Not much attention is paid to non-fiction (or any other category except fiction) in the Governor General's Literary Awards, but this year's nominations also follow an interesting pattern. Afua Cooper's The Hanging of Angelique is about the hanging of a slave in old Montreal; Susanne Reber and Robert Renaud's Starlight Tour is about the death of a Cree youth from hypothermia after abandonment by the Saskatchewan police during a bitterly cold night, and Christine Wiesenthal's The Half-Lives of Pat Lowther, is about a poet who was murdered by her husband.

    Three books, three victims. The flavour of political correctness is continued in the fourth nomination, The Empire of Mind, by Ottawa professor Michael Strangelove, about how the Internet can overthrow capitalism. The fifth is for Ross King's The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism. Sounds a bit too Eurocentric and hegemonic for my money."

    *** Friday, November 10, 2006 ***


    Doctor-author offers his literary diagnosis

    Doctor-author offers his literary diagnosis Giller prizewinner Vincent Lam talks writing, not medicine, at workshop `The link between doctors and writers is narrative,' physician tells John Goddard.
    ***

    The link between doctors and writers is narrative," Lam said at home yesterday, taking time to savour his prize before getting back to the workaday gore of the emergency ward.

    "What happens is, someone tells me the start of a story, and much of what I'm supposed to do is tell them the ending. The other thing I'm supposed to do is make the ending of the story better."

    By coincidence, B.C. writer and doctor Kevin Patterson was also in Toronto yesterday, publicizing his latest work, Consumption, a novel about an Inuit woman in the 1960s who is flown south for tuberculosis treatment.

    "Doctors have, for many years ... presented medicine as a discipline that is 95 per cent science and 5 per cent art, but I don't think that's accurate," Patterson said of a day job that, in his case, takes him on frequent visits to Arctic settlements.

    "As an internist, I get people to tell me a story," he said, echoing Lam. "They tell me a story about their unintended weight loss, or night sweats, or visual blurring, and then I interpret that story ...

    "If you read a great, well-written consultation note, a `history and physical,' it has all the features of a short story, including foreshadowing and characterization."

    *** Sunday, November 5, 2006 ***


    Toronto Desperately Needs a Writer...

    Oh great, this is the last thing you should say to any Desperate Writer, whom upon reading this Toronto Star article, stands up – whether at the kitchen table or at their local café – and declares that THEY ARE IN FACT THAT WRITER...they just havn’t been discovered yet.

    Yes, of course, foolish us, that’s the problem...and not YOUR PROFOUND LACK OF TALENT!

    Yes, losers all over Toronto, just like me, got our proverbial writer’s shorts all in a knot...

    adding in CAN-LIT is like pouring molasses into a glass of expensive champaign!

    CAN-LIT references are for the desperate ...unless

    TORONTO is equally desperate for us ...then that JUSTIFY’S EVERYTHING...

    (now I gotta go think up some good shit to say about Toronto ...I bet you Montreal doesn’t have this problem...damn you, Dudley!)

    What's Toronto's story?

    “What would Paris have been without Balzac? London without Dickens? In the real estate of the mind, they would have been undeveloped properties — like Toronto.

    Our city awaits its great novelist. We sense the lack, even in the midst of Giller Prize hoopla.

    ***

    Taken from Machand’s opinion, Here might be some reason’s why...

    1. Not enough writers were actually born and raised here "You write about where you grew up," comments Barbara Gowdy, who was born in Windsor but enjoyed, or suffered, much exposure to Toronto in her youth. "That haunts you when you write fiction. It doesn't leave you." Her Fallen Angels, a 1889 novel redolent of Don Mills, is one of the great fictional statements of 1950s Toronto, and a case in point.

    Richards agrees with Gowdy. "The place of my childhood and youth is the place I keep going back to, even though, in many ways, it no longer exists."

    2. The city is just too bloody big and amorphous
    "Some other cities have a much clearer presence in the world," Selvadurai stated in the Toronto Life round-table discussion. "Like Vancouver, for instance." Vancouver! City of people who think a great cultural experience is walking around the seawall.

    "The mountains and the sea — or the East End, which is so awful — are so strongly present," Selvadurai continued. Heti more or less agreed. "Everything about Toronto seemed so humorous to me, because it's not an easily mythologized place."

    As hard as Torontonians might find some of these comments to take — please, let's not talk about the mythology of Vancouver — critic and fiction writer John Metcalf, now in Ottawa, maintains there is substance to them.

    "Toronto is a place where people go to from everywhere else, but it has never established itself as a place, except many years ago when it was very British," he comments. "It doesn't have much of a mythology attached to it.

    "Continued immigration means that every year people come to the city who, in many ways, don't belong to what culture there is. So there is constant instability and lack of a centre that people can adhere to." Metcalf pauses. "Also, I don't mean to be insulting because you live there, but it's a brutally ugly place."

    We'll save that comment for a later discussion. What does it mean to say, however, that there's no "centre" in Toronto?

    "I was driving near Steeles and Dufferin recently," comments Antanas Sileika, a lifelong Torontonian whose Buying on Time, a collection of short stories about growing up in the suburbs in the 1950s (as a member of the Lithuanian community) is another classic work of Toronto fiction.

    "I realized I had never been there in my life. I'm driving through this 1970s suburb, where the houses are in need of their first reno, and I'm looking at a place that I've never seen before.

    "Then I stop at Tim Hortons and there are all these kids with Hasidic curls. I mean, this is my city here and there are whole societies, whole ways of living, that I don't have a clue about. I don't know what they're thinking at the Scarborough Town Centre." There are "cities within cities" in Toronto, Sileika points out. Does this mean it's impossible to get a fix on the city as a whole?

    3. Writers don't want to write about Toronto because it will upset people in Vancouver
    "There's a reluctance in our fiction to engage Toronto directly as a place," Pyper commented in the round-table discussion. "There's almost an apologetic reflex to set stories elsewhere so as not to upset fellow Canadians. `Oh, here we go, not Toronto again.' I'm writing a novel right now that's set in Toronto — and no one's going to stop me, damn it — but I'm aware of that being a factor."

    Give that man a medal for persisting in setting his next novel here, despite the fact everyone else hates us. "I think there certainly is a bias," comments unashamed Toronto writer Russell Smith. "It is partly to do with the age-old resentment of Toronto that comes from other parts of the country, particularly from other cities.

    I don't think people in Moose Jaw care much about Toronto, but they care a whole lot in Vancouver and Calgary and Montreal. I think it also comes from a Canadian intellectual and emotional tradition that is suspicious of cities generally ... a Protestant morality that cities are competitive and corrupt and simply not nice. And Toronto's the worst city of all."

    This reminds me of the late novelist Matt Cohen, who was a Torontonian through and through in everyday life — he had a house in the Annex — but who was always more comfortable in writing about rural characters.

    "I'm not a society novelist," he once said to me. This attitude still seems to resonate in our literary culture as more profound and more moral than the attitude of a Russell Smith, born and raised in Halifax, and educated at Queen's in Kingston, who recalls of his youth, "I was just desperate for some kind of big-city living."

    4. Wait a minute. Who says there's no Toronto literature?
    I talked to Amy Lavender Harris, who is described, on the Imagining Toronto website, as an "environmental phenomenologist and geographer" and as "the originator and shepherd of the Imagining Toronto project." She told me she had "well over" 200 works of fiction set in Toronto in her home library.

    The members of the Toronto Life literary round-table, she commented, "clearly have read very little Toronto literature." No Toronto mythology? She mentioned a number of works of fiction that deal in a serious imaginative way with this city's icon, the CN Tower — works ranging from Gwendolyn MacEwan's collection of short stories, Noman's Land, to Catherine Bush's novel Minus Time to sci-fi writer Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring to Darren O'Donnell's Your Secrets Sleep With Me to Bruce Powe's Outage.

    In their work, the mighty tower is not just a phallic symbol, either. Hopkinson treats the tower as a kind of postmodernist totem pole. Powe sees it as the source of disembodied voices sweeping through the urban landscape.

    In similar fashion, there are numerous books about Kensington Market, Yorkville, and other supposedly non-mythological focal points in the city. Harris calculates that there are over 50 detective novels set in Toronto, by such writers as Eric Wright and Maureen Jennings.

    "There's a booming literary industry about Toronto that nobody will admit exists," Harris points out. "There's a perplexing amnesia about it. I don't know if it's the reading public at fault or ... I'm more inclined to blame literary arbiters, who are convinced Toronto can't be a setting for great literature because it's not New York City."

    Caught between these literary arbiters and our national tendency to, in Harris's words, "fetishize" stories about Newfoundland lobster fishermen, it's no wonder we minimize the literature of Toronto.

    The question remains, however: how good is this body of literature? Perhaps the amnesia is merited. "A lot of it is beautiful, a lot of it is wretched, and it goes out of print no more quickly than the literature of other parts of the country," Harris says. "Its authors are less likely to receive grants from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council." (Another topic for further discussion.)

    The nagging sense that Toronto somehow has not been done full justice by the literary imagination, however, cannot be dispelled by Harris's 200 titles. We still seem to be waiting for something. "Everybody has been waiting — or at least anybody with any sense, in my opinion — for the big immigrant novel about Toronto," Metcalf comments. That might be a clue — a novel big enough to connect Sileika's cities within cities.

    I have a guess. I think a major Toronto novel will appear when we stop doting on all these great brooding meditations on Toronto of the 19th century, and great brooding meditations on nature, and great brooding stories of how grandfather raped sis and took the secret with him to his grave.

    The case of Margaret Atwood may be instructive. In the '70s she wrote thematic works on Canadian literature, such as Survival, which hardly dealt with urban literature — it was all wounded animals and settlers terrified of January in Huntsville. Her novel Surfacing, about a canoe trip in the wilds of Northern Ontario, seemed to confirm this tendency in her to confront the dark heart of nature and re-write primordial myths with a boost from feminism.

    But Atwood's work flourished when she turned her gaze to Queen Street West and became an urban satirist, in such novels as Cat's Eye and The Robber Bride. All the best writing about Toronto has a satirical flavour, whether in Atwood or Russell Smith or Sileika or even Barbara Gowdy. (This is why I feel disinclined to elevate the Rosedale soap operas of the late Timothy Findley, or the mannered set pieces in Ondaatje's novel In the Skin of a Lion, to the rank of great Toronto fiction.)

    It is through the satiric gaze that this city comes alive in print. Satire captures the grotesque, the compulsive, the moralistic, the pretentious — the very atmosphere, in short, of Toronto circa 2006.”

    *** Monday, October 30, 2006 ***


    Praise for Londonstani

    “The Indian diaspora seems to be chucking the coconut (brown on the outside, white on the inside) for a whole new subculture in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., according to writer Gautam Malkani, who was in town this week for the Harbourfront Festival of Authors.

    His debut novel, Londonstani — which sparked a bidding frenzy and fuelled ongoing debates about race, identity and patriotism — is a provocative look at this transformation of South Asian culture that resonates in the GTA, where Canadian-born desi kids are putting Bollywood ring tones on their phones and gabbing with peers in their parents' mother tongue.

    Malkani's novel revolves around a gang of desi rude boys who are prone to cellphone scams, beating up white kids who call them "Paki," and obsessed with bling, bodybuilding and girls. As second-generation Brits from India and Pakistan who struggle for a unique identity — separate from their immigrant parents and white Britons — the book opens with them in phase 1 of the process: voluntary segregation and assertive ethnicity.

    "Previously we were all studious, conscientious, almost subservient. Then in the early '90s, we were not only rejecting that, we were morphing into something aggressive and embracing gangsta rap and asserting our ethnicity in OTT (over the top) ways," says the Cambridge-educated Malkani, 30, now an editor with the Financial Times.”

    …maybe if I read this book over enough times, i can absorb enough of its teenage flinch passion and burn into my own book.

    *** Saturday, October 7, 2006 ***


    My boyfriend's name is Giller!

    ...and my boyfriend's friends are nobodies! just my kinda crowd!

    and apparently, nobodies, who are usually the coolest people in highschool you never knew, have some rocking stories to tell. Prize's 5 finalists are all unknowns

    Against all odds, Rawi Hage's De Niro's Game, a first novel by an unknown picked from the slush pile by an editor at House of Anansi Press, has landed on the Scotiabank Giller Prize short list.

    In fact, all five shortlisted titles are by first-time or little known authors, and four of them were issued without fanfare by small presses. Two are translations from French.

    "Oh, my God! I'm on cloud nine," said Anansi's Lynn Henry when the list was announced yesterday. "Most books come to us through agents. The chance of our publishing (De Niro's Game) and then getting on the short list are one in a million."

    Losing out yesterday were such celebrated authors as Wayne Johnston (for The Custodian of Paradise), Douglas Coupland (jPod) and David Adams Richards (The Friends of Meager Fortune), who had been on the long list of 15 books announced two weeks ago. Large houses like McClelland & Stewart, HarperCollins and Penguin Canada, publishers of past Giller winners, were shut out this time.

    "We didn't look at who the publishers were," said judge Adrienne Clarkson, the former governor general and a writer herself. "We just read the books. Things emerge when you are looking for excellence."

    ...ah, young love!

    The Giller prize, created by businessman Jack Rabinovitch in 1994 in memory of his late wife Doris Giller, a journalist for the Star, has become the most effective marketing tool in Canadian publishing, so demand for more copies is assured. Research by BookNet Canada, a not-for-profit agency that tracks national book sales, shows winning the Giller increases sales more than any other Canadian book prize, by even twice as much as the Governor General's Award for fiction.

    The analysis, released Monday, shows the effect is equal for big-name authors and unknowns.

    Frans Donker, owner of the Book City chain, was pleased with the short list: "These are new names, young names. The whole idea of having a long list worked very well. People were asking for those titles. The Giller makes an incredible impact."

    *** Friday, September 29, 2006 ***


    ha! i've always insisted there is a mystical link between writing and boxing. if only i had a webcam, then i'd post a live demonstration ...but ask for one in person, i swear i won't hit you in the face if you're wearing glasses!

    long live bukowski!

    Writer relishes bout with the fighter who wasn't

    "If you find yourself outside a bar faced up with a guy who shakes your hand and begs forgiveness before putting up his dukes, my humble suggestion is that you run."

    This is a quotation from The Fighter, a novel by Craig Davidson. This is the book that made me want to learn how to box. This is the guy I was praying wouldn't be begging me for forgiveness as he put up his dukes.

    He didn't. By fight day, last Friday, it was understood by all involved that this would be a showcase, of sorts, of all that I'd learned in the previous two weeks. It would not be a lopsided beating laid upon an unsuspecting woman who was more concerned with her new boxing gloves matching her new boxing shorts.

    ...

    Craig Davidson is a truly kind soul. The Fighter is a damned good story; it's just hard to believe its bloody rawness came from of this lad. If you can't judge a book by its cover, neither can you judge a man by his delicate wire-rimmed glasses and sweet smile.

    As we climbed into the ring, he invited me to do whatever I wanted. He said he would defend himself, but that he wasn't going to take shots at my head. As he had about 6 inches and 60 pounds on me, this was no small promise.

    *** Tuesday, September 12, 2006 ***


    Fame Becomes the Artist!

    review of: "The Fearsome Particles"
    by Trevor Cole
    McClelland & Stewart

    As much as a literature needs writers with outsized artistic ambitions, who bravely and foolishly attempt to fit worlds into their books, it also needs writers who aim for a quieter but more satisfying kind of competence, who try to keep their grasp well in sight of their reach.

    The last few years have witnessed dozens of "big" Canadian literary novels. Most of these books — puffed up with self-consciously grand themes and drunk on thoughts of at least winning the Giller — go out with a whimper, not a bang, resembling not so much a flock of doomed Icaruses but an old newsreel of pre-Wright brothers flying machines flopping around in vain, their oversized thematic propellers lying broken and useless on the field.

    Occasionally, one or two of these books will fulfill their promise and expand our definition of the world and of Canadian literature, but in the meantime, we need books that do smaller things well. We need a broad middle row of writers who aim for smart entertainment, not flight.

    (Ironically, it is usually these kinds of writers who sneak into the canon ahead of their more blustery peers, or who move on to write the kind of "big" novels that actually fulfill their ambitions.)

    i thot about a lot of things when i read this section of the book review...about all those secret ambitions each writer carries but is often shy to admit to when sober. ...yes yes yes, writer's write for the love of the craft and nothing else. writer's would write a novel even if no one else ever read it

    enough with the saint speak! enough with this hot fuss martyrism!

    secretly, every writer wants to be published, famous ...wants to be recognized ...think of the perks! whether for the free martinis and the endless parade of woman or as the banner-wide proof that they really are smart, dammit!

    writer's aren't as humble as we like to pretend.

    every writer wants to get published, so they can get published again, get heaping spoonfulls of good reviews, bathe in the sunlight praise of their city, nation, hemisphere....

    so they can quit their shitty job fixing cars or shelving books or filling teeth.

    so they can admire their photo on the front page of NOW, frame the review from the New Yorker, Harpers...free drinks, bountiful sex, the jealousy of their friends... if that ain't motivation, i don't know what is.

    *** Thursday, August 31, 2006 ***


    (chet baker is one of my heroes. there is something beautiful about a story of struggle and redemption...a life as a tangle of talent and self-destruction) Chet Baker blast

    It's been 18 years since Chet Baker's death and 42 since he took a striking English model as his third wife, but the incomparable trumpeter-vocalist's widow doesn't hesitate when asked to recall the couple's happiest times.

    "It was when he lost his teeth and couldn't play," said Carol Baker of the entertainer's forced 1966-69 hiatus after he got beaten up outside a jazz club in San Francisco.

    For his wife and three children, the ignominy of being on welfare while the horn player's career languished was offset by their delight in having him at home.

    But the bittersweet idyll ended when Baker got dentures, retooled his embouchure and resumed the peripatetic musician's life.

    By the mid-'70s, he was separated from his family, chasing steady work in Europe. Baker died at age 58 after falling from an Amsterdam hotel window in 1988.

    Sadness lingers in the corners of Carol Baker's eyes and lips, even when she isn't discussing her complicated marriage, her late husband's drug habit and related arrests, or the family's subsequent legal battles with record labels for his royalties.

    But she doesn't care to dwell on the negatives, which she believes have overshadowed the player-singer's legacy. She'd rather focus on the inaugural Chet Baker Jazz Fest taking place this weekend. Organized by the Chet Baker Foundation to promote jazz and jazz education, the three-day homage to Baker's life and music includes concerts at Yonge-Dundas Square starting Saturday at 2 p.m. and The Rex that night, and ticketed shows ($25-$45) at The Music Hall on Friday and Sunday.

    Participating musicians include trumpeters Randy Brecker from New York and Kevin Turcotte, who lauded the trumpet great's "natural, melodic tone."

    There will also be eight veterans on stage who once played with Baker.

    "He really was one of my favourites; he and Miles (Davis) are very close in sound," said Massachusetts trombonist Curtis Fuller, 72, recalling Detroit jam sessions with the romantic, lyrical player.

    Oklahoma-born, self-taught on the trumpet, Chesney Henry Baker Jr. made his name as a young musician playing with saxists Charlie Parker and Gerry Mulligan in the '50s.

    Blessed with the musical chops and the magnetism of his brooding James Dean looks, Baker helped define the more mellow West Coast style dubbed cool jazz.

    Signature tunes such as "My Funny Valentine" and "Let's Get Lost" won him the prestigious Down Beat critics' award in 1953, but the burden of a long-term heroin addiction began to subtract from his glamour and cause chaos in his personal and professional lives.

    Herb Geller, who's based in Germany, worked with the trumpeter early in his career and reunited with him for his final recording, The Last Great Concert, two weeks before he died.

    "In the middle of the rehearsal we had to stop, because his dentures kept slipping," recalled Geller, 77, who is in town for the festival.

    "Somebody had to go to the pharmacy to get some kind of glue to keep his teeth in.... His range was more limited than before, but he made beautiful use of those two octaves."

    "Anyone who listens to music knows what his contribution has been, but that's always downplayed by other parts of his life," said Carol Baker, 66. She has temporarily relocated from Tulsa for the festival, which is being staged here primarily because it's home to erstwhile fashion photographer and concert promoter Jhames Lee, manager of the Chet Baker Estate.

    "He's a young guy and go-getter, which I like," said Baker of the thirtysomething Lee. "He's not lost enthusiasm, as I have over the years, dealing with the record companies."

    She was a 19-year-old model on her first trip away from home when she met the handsome 31-year-old trumpeter-vocalist at a Milan nightclub in 1960.

    She describes him as an introvert and suggests self-doubt contributed to his drug use.

    "It got back to him that some musicians said he was not deserving (of the Down Beat award) and that always bothered him. He didn't feel quite so insecure when he was (using drugs)."

    She recalled his lowest point, when he had to put down his instrument after losing his front teeth.

    "He came to me with tears in his eyes and said, `I can't make a sound, it's just air coming out — maybe I can just sing.' But I knew that wouldn't be enough, because his horn was his love. I just told him to go practise. I didn't know anything about embouchure (the contractions of facial muscles that define the sound for a horn playing). If I had, I would have been as scared as he was."

    Baker retreated to the bathroom, his favourite room for the acoustics, and gradually got his sound back. Soon he was headlining again.

    "It comes down to having to go back to Europe because that's where the work is," says his widow, putting the situation in the present tense.

    "But I can't drag three small children from job to job. And when you can't be with your husband, other (women) are willing to step in ...

    "In 1978, I called to tell him I wanted a divorce. I wanted a stable life. I loved him to death, but I'd rather be away from him than with him."

    Children in tow, she settled in Oklahoma near her mother-in-law and found work as a college secretary.

    But the couple never did divorce and the trumpeter visited her and the children several times a year until his death.

    "Every time he came home, he asked me to come back to Europe with him. But nothing had changed, except we now had three older children. I just wish we'd seen more of him during the last 10 years, and taken more pictures when he came."

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For the Chet Baker Jazz Fest schedule and ticket information, visit chetbaker.org or call 416-880-2438.

    *** Sunday, August 20, 2006 ***


    Poppy Shakespeare
    by Clare Allan
    Doubleday Canada,
    review by KEITH NICKSON

    "There's no doubt a highly distinctive voice — that irresistible something rising from the page like an intoxicating vapour — can turn novels into extraordinary reading experiences."
    just like Clare Allan, i am also trying to conjure the magic that comes from a unique ‘voice’. i am an eager student of Oscar Wilde or G.G. Marquez. i will confess, i’m an addict to beautiful voice, with an overflow of imagery and insight and metaphor. ah!, my passion for voice, the best of my guilty pleasures.

    i’m often scared to death that i won’t be able to pull the technique off. (what of Londonstani ?)

    i mean, we all want to be unique as writers, from having your own unique tone that is easily recognizable to the literary types that matter, to having a certain, well defined and well excused technique or skill (a mastery of nouns, the ability to build and keep suspense) that we use with flourish as our mark, our writing raison d’etre.

    Clare Allen obvious has the same selfish want, using the setting of mental illness to form her story and characters. she attempted to make them unique, set them apart from the general population of literary characters.

    this will essentially make her as an author unique.

    "Most critically, the book fails to elaborate its central theme. If there is no real dividing line between the mad and the sane, why not feature a character who exemplifies this truth?

    Allan is content to offer caricatures who are either well or really off the deep end. Why not show us the dynamic mid-zone of mental health most of us occupy, that place where life events and brain chemistry can so often push us one way or the other?"

    while her voice is solid, her characterization falls flat. there is no purpose to them, no point. they are general, uninteresting, thus they don’t stand out. so her book isn’t a stand out (tho maybe hype will save her?) ...will this affect her writing career?

    it’s hard, when you have hot fuss characters that read like vanilla sex. how does this death happen? i suspect some people try too hard. i know i often fall into the trap of trying too hard. i have very little confidence in myself as a writer, so i often over-write to compensate for my lack of brain or heart of soul or skill.

    so i write and i write and i write. if i use enough words, i’ll eventually find the right words to describe it. sooner or later, something’s gotta stick, make sense of the reader. the problem here is overkill.

    if i’ll pledge anything to myself, i wish to embrace the art of suspense thru sheer lack of evidence. i want to become better at writing speculation.

    The whole review can be seen here: Poppy Shakespeare

    *** Sunday, August 13, 2006 ***


    (it's always good to study book reviews, especially the bad/scathing/critical ones since it's a good study of what NOT to do)

    "The Restoration of Emily"
    by Kim Moritsugu
    Dundurn Press, 239 pages, $21.99
    review by BERT ARCHER

    The first thing there is to say about The Restoration of Emily, Kim Moritsugu's City of Toronto Book Award-shortlisted fourth novel, is that Emily does not get restored. The second would be that the author does not seem to realize this. This makes The Restoration of Emily a tragedy, but not the right kind at all.

    Emily, an architect and single mother, is not a pleasant woman. But it goes further than that. The first line's as good as many to give you a taste of just what sort of a person you're going to be spending the next 238 pages with.

    "My first fun appointment of the fun-filled day ahead is at 9:30 a.m., to see a specialist about some sharp pains I've had for months in my right arm." Not just unpleasant, in other words, but petulant in that juvenile way some unhappy adults see as rebelliously youthful.

    On that same page, we learn that Emily has what's apparently known as a frozen shoulder — something to do with menopause. It means she has to stretch. She's an architect who restores houses, she's frozen and she has to stretch. And that's all in the first 400 words.

    The rest of the book charts several months in Emily's life. She lives with her son after having decided she really couldn't stand anyone else's company and sending her husband packing.

    She doesn't like or respect her clients, and condescends in greater or less degrees to her friends, who include the mother of her son's classmate, her elderly across-the-street neighbour and a contractor she partners with every once in a while. She has an affair with a much younger man at one point, but she doesn't like it. She's not a bad person, just a misanthrope.

    Now, I've read The Stone Angel. I've seen Ironside. I know unfriendly people can be interesting. I know they can be Anti-Heroes, like Byron's Don Juan, or Hard Nuts to Crack, like Deckard in Blade Runner.

    But Deckard has his soft spots for the skin jobs he ventilates, and Hagar Shipley's lifelong crustiness is seen through the filter of her 90-year-old pathos. Even though you'd wouldn't want either one over for dinner, these are characters you could spend time watching, following, empathizing with.

    But not Emily. It's not even that she's heroically nasty. If only. This book could have used a nice cat killing or St. Urbain's Horseman-style car keying. All we get here is a flat line of acerbity that avoids character development with a studiousness that would be admirable were it not so damn uninspired.

    This sort of thing can work, in principle. Will Self managed to write a book about how boring it is to be dead, following a boring dead woman through her boring dead life in the dead-boring town of Dulston. William Hurt did something similar in The Accidental Tourist.

    But it takes a bloody-minded kind of talent bordering on genius to pull these kinds of acrobatics off. This is not a border Moritsugu can even see from where she's writing right now. Her Emily is just a garden variety of annoying.

    When, on page 184, we hear her apologizing to her contractor for being truculent with yet another client, she apologizes thus: "I'll behave from now on and hoe my row in my best yes-massa manner, I promise."

    By this time, we not only want to tell Emily to grow up, but Moritsugu, too. Not only is her character going nowhere, but by this point in the book, the author has: failed to make a vomiting drunk adolescent sound any different from a sullen, breakfast-eating adolescent; described Emily's short-lived boyfriend as an idealistic drone without ever showing him droning; and characterized Emily as going at her clients like a terrier while only ever showing her being puerile. It's like show-and-tell without the Barbie. We've seen no evidence of the protagonist stretching or thawing.

    So when we get to what's meant to be the titular restoration scene, the mere fact that Emily uses the word "inspire" in an unsarcastic way for the first time in the book, it's not the epiphany it's presumably meant to be.

    We've lost faith in Moritsugu's own grasp on her characters to such an extent that we no longer believe in or care about the restoration of Emily.

    *** Saturday, July 29, 2006 ***


    if hardship is the perfect motivation for writers, then why isn’t everyone a novelist?

    but no,
    let’s not be romantic,
    let’s not be technocrat Buddhists,
    hardship takes up so many hours of our life,
    the struggle to walk with a limp,
    to sleep on an empty stomach,
    to study despite the clamour of armies outside.

    hardship takes up so many hours of our life,
    there’s no time left over to write,
    i guess that’s why the best of our stories
    are never told
    (sorry, i lied about not being romantic)

    *** Monday, July 24, 2006 ***


    There is a question whether Londonstani should have been offered up as adult literature at all. Tone down the swearing, lighten up on the sex and violence, perform a judicious re-edit to unblock the book's frequently constipated narrative drive — do all of this and you have an above-average YA novel, a kind of Rumble Fish for West London's samosa set. (The publishers appear to concede this point by including a blurb on the inside from The Guardian, recommending the novel for non-bookish 17-year-olds.)

    The reason why Londonstani is not (yet) being marketed as a YA novel is the same reason why so many flawed books by first-time authors suddenly get dubbed buzz-worthy. Though they work in a medium defined by its slow digestion and long memory, publishers and editors are as frequently and willingly dazzled by novelty as the rest of us.


    see previous post for full review of Londonstani

    this sounds like a curse to be uttered upon all works of YA fiction ...dear me, could the same be said with my writing? ...too much swearing, sex and violence, not enough, you know, literary stuff ...verbs and nouns, lower cases and capitals.

    yes, youth is all flash in the pan, that angst ridden shot as subtle as a brick to the small of your back. you can’t ask youth to tone it down unless we grew up in a nunnery, unless we know what silence is. silence is very frightening to self-centred people ...no audience, no proof of existence ...no drama, no beating heart ...

    would swearing, sex and violence be less YA if the melodrama could be extracted? ...do babyboomers believe that kids these days are still into snails and puppy dog tails, not snorting sugar and spice up their noses?

    the constipated (or self-absorbed) narrative, on the other hand, i could do without ...

    *** Sunday, July 16, 2006 ***


    (finally a book worth reporting on)

    Londonstani
    by Gautam Malkani
    HarperCollins

    ***

    "A RUDEBOY IN THE RYE"
    review by: Nathan Whitlock

    Londonstani review

    Sikh teens self-consciously reject England's assimilationist trappings. Young Sikhs with edge pursuing the immigrants' dream via nasty means in London? Alas, hype trumps content.

    Hardjit is the leader of a small band of middle-class Sikh teens who have self-consciously rejected all of England's assimilationist trappings (wearing tight jeans, getting good grades, listening to Radiohead, speaking like a BBC announcer, etc.) to embrace a Compton-on-Bombay lifestyle informed both by their Indian heritage and by the American gangsta rap videos they watch on MTV. Their lives consist mostly of driving around in shiny new cars, skipping school, ragging on each other, avoiding their parents and looking for trouble. Their speech is a mix of British and hip-hop slang and Punjabi, all intercut with the severe reductionist language of text messaging — think Ali G.

    Despite all the fighting and the slang, these aren't the kind of nihilistic no-hopers you might find in an Irvine Welsh book. These are good, upwardly mobile kids from good homes and a good neighbourhood (Hounslow) who have decided that being good and pursuing the dream of their immigrant parents is a sucker's game. They want money and respect, just like their parents wish for them, but they want more of it than they've been told to expect, and they want it faster, and they want it on their own terms, not reluctantly handed to them by the goras.

    *** Saturday, June 17, 2006 ***


    i often get intimidated, if not completely disarmed, when i look over my ever expanding list of books i promised myself i’d read before I die. not only do i want to read them for pleasure or to help me become a better writer, but now i’ve got to worry about how well read the other students in the Library Science program are.

    since i know well enough that i won’t be able to compete them in regards to my smarts, but in the past, i’ve mostly/always have been the most well read in my friend group, and that helped to make up with my lack of smarts. i could fool a lot of people with the info/facts i naturally picked up and remembered while reading so i seemed a lot smarter than i actually as.

    now not only are the students in this program going to be in their mid-30 to mid-40s, but they’ll also be well read and smart. i’m so screwed. fuck.

    this is so unfair. what’s a working class girl to do? i can’t spend, even tho i’d like to, all my days reading so i could easily engage in smart socio-political conversations about culture or world affairs, now i’ll be out gunned and left with fewer rounds to work with in the first place.

    *** Sunday, June 11, 2006 ***


    reading war novels makes me sad. i guess that ‘s what happens when you read a number of good ones one after another, it makes the soldier who sleeps inside of my remember, i know he does, the way my body reacts to these stories tells me so.

    it is all his memories, i have not fought in combat, experienced trench warfare and Dresden heat.

    (i feel there is nothing wrong with that expression: we use Indian Summer then why can’t we use Dresden Heat for a summer day so hot it annihilates all thought.)

    i’d probably deemed unfit for combat, anyway, with this injury to my back. i’m not sure how the soldier inside me feels about that. but Vonnegut writes: “the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who’d really fought.”

    damn, i get so emotional when I’m reading on the subway.

    i was famous as a child for dragging books like “Napoleon and Josephine” and “Flames Across the Border” when i was in grade school (where my book report partner was reading “I’m in locker 42, who are you?”) and reading “The Cruel Sea” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” in high school.

    in high school, i remember being fascinated (as my gym teacher and fellow students were) at my good aim for the first time i tried archery. there was no logical reason why I’d be good at it with an aim that was precise and deliberate in such a way that felt effortless and natural. and god knows reading about guns cannot actually teach you how to fire one, let alone teach you how to aim.

    it was the soldier in me that woke up, remembered, felt useful ... usually i feel like a soldier without a war.

    if writing is like boxing, then what is war like?

    *** Tuesday, June 6, 2006 ***


    i got into the Library Science master's program at U of T.

    horray!

    so it's turning out to be so fucking difficult to apply and go to U of T in the fall.

    i'm not trying to imply that i'm ungrateful, but i just don't now how i'm going to handle/manage all this.

    the cost alone, fuck, applying for OSAP is so fucking complicated (they expect me to have the time to run around from one office to another collecting documents like i don't work full time during the day).

    hopefully, i will be able to apply to the trillium foundation to cover my $200 a month psych. drug habit ...but i need those drugs to keep sane.

    i don't know, i just feel like i can't do this. maybe i'm over-reaching to think i belong in a post graduate program. i figure if my lifestyle doesn't give out, then my smarts will.

    i don't know, this seems all wrong. me in a master's program. what if i'm over-reaching here? setting myself up. i'm just some stupid kid from toronto who likes books. but that doesn't mean shit all when there are a hundred of well bred, middle class kids who also like books.

    maybe i'm over reaching here. i've been warned that library science is a conservative program. i mean, it's one thing for my friends to tease me "do they know how LOUD you are when they accepted you?" and for me to play back with humour "shhh, the books are sleeping!" but it's a very different thing to actually commit yourself to the program. 2 years. 2 years to learn how to shelve books. i haven’t seen the course calendar but i hope there will be some english lit. classes.

    tho i don't even know how i'm supposed to apply to these courses. all i've gotten from the university so far has been a "stay tuned into july" message. hold off until July?!? that's days and days to burn away worrying.

    of course i have to worry about finances beforehand, of course i've got to budget (i don't get it when people don't know how to budget, all poor people know how to budget, that's a requirement of being poor!)

    i hate all this worrying when i'm supposed to be happy.

    what am i gonna do if the program is really conservative. i mean, i could divide my wardrobe and only wear my work clothes to school, i could take out my piercing.

    but i don't want to. i'm going back to school to have two more years of freedom from real life. and i can't be expected to just shut my mouth. i'm gonna end up blurting out my left of left politics sooner or later.

    i mean, i know i won't have any friends (julie was my only true friend in undergrad and that's fine, i have my own friends. but i am -- even tho i'm supposed to be better than this residual high school trauma -- worried what the reaction of other kids and profs will be towards me.

    i'm not looking to catch flak but i don't want to be spending the next two years swallowing shit, biting back on my anger.

    what if no one will like me? what if they think i'm stupid? when are things finally gonna lighten up for me?

    *** Sunday, May 28, 2006 ***


    well, if the world couldn't get any worse...

    First Pride parade over before it began

    MOSCOW—Defying an official ban and threats of violence, gay and lesbian activists attempted to hold Russia's first-ever gay Pride march in Moscow yesterday but were thwarted by police and neo-fascist protestors shouting "Moscow is not Sodom!"

    Police arrested about 120 people and several gay activists were injured in attacks by religious and nationalist protestors.

    *** Sunday, May 21, 2006 ***


    Writing Like Mad

    Clare Allen's own slide into mental illness began 11 years ago, when she was 26, and she acknowledges that without that experience, horrific as it was, she couldn't have written her book.

    Inevitably, her novel, "Poppy Shakespeare", has been described as a cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Catch-22.

    Allan had written for the Guardian and had two unpublished novels. But when she called herself a writer, that was taken as a symptom of her instability. She talks about it now without rancour, even smiling at the thought.

    (At the hospital), the doctor's never asked me what my novels were about, though that could have been a great shortcut into what was going on in my head. They set up a creative writing group and wouldn't let me take part because it would feed my delusion. They said, `You can do woodwork.' Why would I want to make a table?"

    *** Thursday, May 18, 2006 ***


    i wrote a poem yesterday. i haven’t wrote a poem in fucking forever. i think it’s because my head has been full of prose, my head and my concentration. and my distracting health concerns, plus the crappy music i’ve been listening to.

    poems are a funny thing, the most rare but prettiest fish in the aquarium. it started as poems usually start for me: i think up one clever line. then think up another. i’ll have three or four of these clever, stand alone lines which i’ll then try to flesh out, or connect to the others. it may look like i can write a poem in a few minutes, but physical activity and ink flow cannot account for the time i spend thinking upon them.

    i’ll carry a good line around in my head for days, just waiting (impatiently) until i find it a page and a poem to call home.

    i wish i could say it was a tortuous affair, the whole ‘blood coming out of your head’ ordeal, but i only suffer during the edits, not the craft itself. nine months of creation, a few minutes of birth, then months and months of nurture.

    jeff always said i was more a poet than a writer. i don’t know if that’s true or if jeff just wanted it to be true. he said he could never write poems himself so maybe that’s why he was so fascinated with mine.

    i like prose better, it feels stronger and i feel my creativity is more nurtured and validated with sentences and paragraphs, than fragments and commas. maybe this silly notion has nothing to do with any technical skill or artistic fate, but the fact that i really really work had when i write prose – both a mental and physical effort. prose is damn hard and i feel more validated when i can able to triumph over all the struggles to produce something beautiful.

    poetry, on the other hand, is terribly intimate and ‘journal-esque’ and risks becoming what i know what writing can never be: therapy.

    i hate writing cum therapy. and the slippery turns of phrases and self-expression, and the constant parade of you…you…you is like water rolling down to its lowest possible point. prose is the opposite, it’s electricity, trying to go everywhere at once.

    *** Monday, May 8, 2006 ***


    concerning the use of “YOU”

    i know i have a very strange speaking style, not so strange as to cause people to avoid speaking to me, but i have a very hard time talking and staying in the first person/ I statements. (i’m trying to here, with a lot of edits )

    i’m always using the second person to talk, you can chalk that up to my general disassociation. i didn’t even notice it myself until Jeff brought it up one day. The whole: “You know how you sometimes feel like you’re falling apart “ instead of saying “I feel like I’m falling apart”.

    this strange manner of speaking has spilled into my fiction. of course, it already lived and breathed in my poetry, but i consider those lines to be extensions of my journal, which are extensions of myself (yes, i even write “you” instead of “I” in my journal. i probably use “you” instead of “I” when I’m talking in my sleep.

    but these second person insights in Jakob’s story are caught/lost/found somewhere in between a first person “I” and a third person “he” ...more ghost than flesh, more desire than man. this is my real concern when it comes to switching viewpoints from that of “Jakob” (he) and “You” (myself).

    case in point: “He had to decline or he’d be dead and pushing up daisies in the backyard. A horrible way to die, with scientists one day digging you up to find your jaw permanently molded into a shit eating grin.”

    ...why is there a “you” if it’s Jakob’s body that’s found? not mine! not Yours! not a universal We!

    yet it’s written like it could be anyone’s body they find. it doesn't have to be mine (Mea Culpa?)

    *** Sunday, May 7, 2006 ***


    questions about point of view:

    i've been doing a lot of thinking in regards to writing and a writer's use of different points of view?

    i'm writing my story in the 3rd person (i made this choice because it was just too unrealistic for the main character to know about all this stuff going on behind his back and me still write everything as I..I...I....) but i still wanted to build in a lot of intimacy when using the 3rd person (narration).

    using the 3rd person, i really focus on Jakob as the main character and sometimes almost do a monologue sorta story-telling when writing about what Jakob's thinking about inside his little head. i think i'm handling the 3rd person really well and i'm trying to build empathy for him from the readers.

    my biggest concern is this. because i'm writing from the 3rd person when telling Jakob's story, i'm using a floating narrator's voice "Jakob walked up to the house, he felt" because i'm writing the story as if i were actually talking it out loud to someone else ... the way people used to tell stories -- oral culture, before books.

    so there are sometimes when i switch the viewpoint off of Jakob and put it on me. for example: "Jakob stood alone in the parking lot waiting for Amy. He waited for hours and she didn't show. It started to rain. Jakob should have known she wasn't coming. *Girls always abandon ship, icebergs or not. Life sucks."

    so the last two sentences aren't really written from Jakob's viewpoint, but from mine, a sort of commentary from the storyteller .... and i guess i want it to sound like, even tho i'm not one of the main characters (a witness to the events) who in the future is now telling us what happened, but as a third party narrator (a sympathetic narrator), like someone who was Jakob's friend (more intimacy than a stranger telling the story)

    god, i hope my explanations make sense. i'm just wondering....is it ok to break off from Jakob's viewpoint every once in a while and tell the story from my view point? every now and again, when i'm explaining something, when it’s really more powerful when it’s told, (as opposed to shown) can i be forgiven if i actually say ("you have to understand") using "you" directly addressing the reader as opposed to filtering the info thru Jakob. ...or is breaking from Jakob's viewpoint to my own too jarring or distracting to the reader?

    here's an example where i add in my 'you' as i address the reader not thru Jakob but from myself as the storyteller:

    "At 15, Jakob fell in love with his bass guitar. It was a complicated courtship with many strings to tune, but it was worth it. She was such a pretty thing slung over his shoulder. Purchased second hand, she had the necessary experience Jakob needed to guide him to rock star fame. From the first time he held her, she felt like a natural extension of his body and he came to see her as anyone else would see an arm or a leg; covered with multi-coloured stickers like all the tattoos he was too chicken-shit to get. Jakob never loved anyone more than her except Amy. Or his mother. Tucked inside his guitar’s big amp heart were all his big arena dreams.

    It was lucky coincidence that around this time, Andrew, or Ace as he was called, also took up the guitar; though his was treble and easier to get his hands around. As friends, Jakob and Andrew were tight, even before they joined up with Steve to form their band. Fame meant freedom from the obscurity of the suburbs, with its large island houses stranded in the middle of large ocean lawns. In that kind of isolation, you’d think the band would have nothing to sing about, but for every kid abandoned or drowned, there was a story to be coaxed from their bones."

    *** Tuesday, May 2, 2006 ***


    Harper Eats Babies?

    Harper doesn't eat babies: GO Transit

    Gerry Nicholls thought he was hallucinating as he kicked back in his seat to take the 35-minute GO train ride to his Oakville home.

    About every three seconds, the scrolling electronic sign that usually carries transit updates and advertisements had a very different message that he just could not keep his eyes off.

    "Stephen Harper Eats Babies. Stephen Harper Eats Babies. Stephen Harper Eats Babies," the message kept repeating.

    *** Monday, April 24, 2006 ***


    Nyquil has the most disgusting taste in the world. jesus, what is that stuff made of? i can't even tell if the bad taste is from the medicine itself or from their attempt to cover up the bad taste of the medicine...

    i’ve tried about every type of alcohol out there and it’s this stuff that makes my mouth twist from an ‘O’ to an ‘S’.

    or maybe i’m exaggerating. being sick sucks.

    so instead of me-and-my-camera on duty at the six nations blockade – i really wanted to attend, i could have ‘roughed it’ in one of the half built houses (about as ‘camping’ as i get) – i’m again stuck reading about it in the paper like everyone else.

    this has been my life for the past six months ...reading about other people’s amazing adventures, living vicariously thru newspaper clippings and the backs of milk cartons. it’s driving me crazy.

    i feel like a tree planted in a hole surrounded by cement, my growth and creativity stunted. soon i’m going to be joining LAVALIFE and listening to Nickleback – all the trappings of a modelled, beamed into your TV lifestyles that represents conformity, the kind of safe life that comes when other people do all the exploring for you.

    i would kill to take my kyte and head down to High Park right now, rain or shine – lightening, even!

    i actually have two black and red kytes if anyone wanted to join me; in those passionate, blinking from the sun conversations that develop between two people who are staring intently at the sky.

    there is a delicacy one needs when coaxing a dance from a kyte, like coaxing a song from someone’s bones; a grace that can only be achieved thru discipline. it‘s much like writing, really, this grace and discipline as you tug the string, understand the tension, learn the language of the sky so your kyte can talk to the wind.

    *** Thursday, April 20, 2006 ***


    Jesus Christ on Hockey Skates!

    Well, not exactly. But a new theory suggests Christ was walking on ice, not water.

    It was a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee and the disciples were out in a boat, battling a contrary wind, when they saw Jesus approaching them, as if a spirit.

    "And he went up to them into the ship; and the wind ceased," it is written in Mark 6:51. "And they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered."

    ***
    The scientists call the phenomenon "springs ice." From a distance, the scientists suggested, a person on the ice might appear to be walking on water.

    That theory was problematic, says the new report, because it doesn't jibe with the wind directions described in the Bible's account of the sea's parting. Nof's team is equally cautionary about this new theory.

    ***
    In a bow to biblical literalists and other skeptics, Nof's group concluded, "We hesitate to draw any conclusion regarding the implications of this study to the actual events that took place at Tabgha during the last few (or several) thousand years.

    *** Thursday, April 20, 2006 *** p>

    *** Monday, April 17, 2006 ***


    i guess you could say i’m blessed. unlike other Kraus-clan members who’s anger explodes in an intense heat that quickly evaporates, while i also have that intensity, i also have the lucky advantage of anger + stamina. i can get angry quick and keep up that intensity for a long time; a sort of stubbornness or attack dog behaviour. think of it as the German equivalent of Ya Basta …the “i’ve had enough, get your gun, we’re going to war”

    so no, it wasn’t my polished social work language nor my charm that helped me work over the social service department regarding my support payments, nor did i swear, yell or raise my voice once when i entered their head office, but i certainly made it clear that i was not going to back down/leave/be brushed off, etc, until i spoke to a living breathing supervisor. not a voice mailbox, not a security officer, but the person in charge. no more being ignored, being put on hold, no more listening to crappy excuses or shitty music over the phone.

    i’m actually not sure what the supervisor’s supervisor thought when i walked into her office, perhaps her hand hovered over to the emergency button on her desk to summon security. i’m pretty sure she expected me to be hysterical. at the time i was taking heavy doses of anti-biotics and looked pretty sickly (ie, like crap) as i leaned heavily on my cane until i was offered a seat.

    i wish i could credit those anger management courses i found myself enrolled in, or the stored guidance of Jeff, but my civility in anger was learned through CKLN radio where you have to keep a certain level of cool when on the air. i spoke to mrs. supervisor’s supervisor with the same disciplined tone as i would use on some asshole caller, outlining the narrative i had with the social services department example by example until i ended with the obvious “and this is why i’m speaking to you”.

    long story short, in a mere 40 minute conversation, i was able to resolve month’s worth of mess by stupid bureaucrats. i know i’m one of the lucky ones, because i am articulate and had a friend available to drive me to the head office.

    earlier that day i was told over the phone by one of the workers, chastised really, regarding why hadn’t gotten down to the main office sooner to launch my complaint. the whole concept of ‘injury’, ‘hospital’, ‘immobilized’ didn’t seem to register with her. actually, it was this insinuation that i was being lazy (and of course, by proxy, too lazy to work, thus why i was applying for disability) pushed me over the edge.

    and i can only imagine how much more difficult it would have been for me if i was still hospitalized, let alone facing barriers if i needed an interpreter to communicate to the depth and degree i had to use to convince mrs. supervisor’s supervisor that i wanted my case resolved so i could start collecting benefits.

    i often get asked by my fellow colleagues from Ryerson Social Work why i don’t work in the field. not only do i not have the heart to sign off on inadequate welfare checks with a smile, nor do i wish to do a job from hidden behind a telephone ( calling Service Canada to ask for the phone number for Head Office, i was told they don’t give out phone numbers, the exasperated worker on the phone stating “then we’d have people calling us all the time!” oh geez, accessible government departments! can’t have that now. ) or hidden behind office hours that make it virtually impossible to deal with Head Office without having to take a morning or afternoon off work.

    *** Tuesday, April 11, 2006 ***


    this is really strange. i think i'm actually done with the story. i had a list of edits that i wanted to finish, problems that still needed to be solved, and now i'm at the end of the story and don't know what i'm supposed to do with myself. it's really scary, actually, cuz i can't help but keep thinking back to all the criticism i was given while writing this.

    there were my surrealist friends who didn't like the tighter plot i created for jakob's story this time around. there was the flak i caught for wanting an open-ended story. and all the slings and arrows directed towards my verbose style and voluptuous use of imagery and metaphor.

    i keep thinking, oh my god, maybe i can't stop/end until i've solved these problems (are they problems, i thot they were choices?) and i figure the minute i stop working on it i've sealed my fate and all the errors i've made and every reason why i'm a bad writer will be exposed (since i won't have any more opportunity to duck and hide the mistakes i've made).

    maybe this would be easier if i had better self-esteem? i'm so afraid that this isn’t going to be good enough. i'm gonna get slammed by people for writing more 'south american' than 'north american', more "The General and his Labyrinth" than "Ham on Rye". shit, this isn’t good enough. i suck, and thus, my writing sucks! and soon everyone is gonna know i suck.

    this always happens when you put your heart out there, allow an artistic project to share your blood. now you’re screwed cuz the critics know exactly how to hurt you, and hurt you bad, so much so that you might just swear off writing ever again.

    i've also added my first archive link to past posts on this page, which included another bundle of mistakes i'm hoping will be forgiven. time to move forward, turn up the music, and ... well, the archives can be found here

    *** Sunday, April 09, 2006 ***


    Keep Warm, Burn the Rich?

    the demo had about 150 people, who first noshed at a BBQ in rosedale park, just outside the subway station. there was awesome grub, passionate speeches (one amazingly so given by an OCAP organizer) while other people kept warm around two fire barrels. a few arguments flared up around these 'community warming centres', but that's what happens when lefties get together. some yahoo threw in some trash which turned the smoke a gross black. stupid yahoo! the ‘community’ took care of that problem.

    six mounted units watched over the parade. some side walk traffic went by to pet the horses. they're beautiful things to watch until the officer on top of them is trying to run you down.

    the march started at the mouth of the richer end of rosedale, large houses with ugly garages jutting out into well manicured (and expensive) gardens and landscaping. in fact a lot of the houses were not to the protester's liking -- too many windows to wash, hardwood floors to sweep, but then again, they probably pay someone else to do that. all in all, the houses were pretty ugly.

    there was a bit of cat and mouse with police as the march wound its way through the neighbourhood. many people from the march admitted they had never been to this part of town before, stating they probably wouldn't be welcome, anyway. it looked a bit like LA in the winter, dry and gray, the houses and the gentle rolling hills and the manicured lawns and all (i've never been to LA, but it looked like it from TV). the march stopped at certain houses to give a brief bio of their owners.

    as the police had pre-warned the residents, most people had kept their cars in the garage(S). no sign of children or pets in sight, either -- well, the police did warn people to lock up their valuables.

    the cops were perhaps "lenient" on the demonstrators, they seemed more annoyed by the cat and mouse game and the ensuing door bell ringing. -- the protesters seemed happy. all that running around helped against the cold.

    at one point, a well sized bonfire was crafted from broken placards and other stuff in the middle of the street, igniting in a bright flash which startled a few people. an effigy of McGuinty was burned. it was sad to watch because it was so poorly constructed it kinda just fell apart while on fire. nothing as dramatic as Guy Fox days. but still, the fire was warm and people were chanting and dancing to the few drums around.

    then the police, rather like the principal of a high school breaking up a party in a hallway, budded into the crowd and let off their fire extinguishers. someone yelled out there was tear gas in the mix (STUPID STUPID!) i prayed i wouldn't get knocked down in the ensuing melee. i figured my best bet was to only open one eye to test if there was really tear gas in the air. there wasn't. all clear.

    the march ended at roughly 9:30PM, again, back at the mouth of rosedale. i am not aware at this time of any arrests.

    linebreaks
    alivewithpleasure
    loveexstacycrime
    Riot Porn
    open directory
    ProudBird
    Alex in Wonderland
    Anarchoblogs

    She used to carry heaven in her pocket,
    but now she's dead,
    and heaven carries her instead.