My sincere apologies for not posting more regularly. I do have two reviews coming, once I finally write them: one of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce (Random House), which I quite enjoyed and feel rather tender about, and one of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Arrested Development writer Maria Semple (Hachette). A hilarious and fast read! I couldn’t put it down. I’ve also done a couple of reviews for the Quill & Quire, one for Rock Reject, by Jim Williams, and the other for Emma Donoghue’s new collection of short stories, Astray. I think Rock Reject is either out now in the current issue or coming soon, and the review for Donoghue is supposed to appear in the November issue.
I also have been working on my own story writing, and that’s admittedly made me feel less inspired to write here, particularly reviews. They’ve become so hard, as though I have reviewer’s block. I’ve recently discovered that writer’s block doesn’t really exist, or rather that it’s just another word for me, so reviewer’s block, I’m sure, is something similar. I stand in my own way now, I’ve developed some sort of fear around it, which has meant it takes me five-plus hours to write a single review. Ridiculous! I admit to feeling some dread, no matter how enjoyable the book. Luckily, I’m not quiet about the books I like, so they’re still getting promoted.
So, what are you guys reading lately? Or what’s the most recent book you bought? A few weekends ago I bought Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You (which won the Frank O’Connor short story award, was named one of the top ten fiction books of 2007 by Time mag, and was named a favourite book of 2007 by the Seattle Times, though I didn’t know any of that until after I bought it). I hadn’t heard of Miranda July before finding this book at my indie, and I looked her up. She is freaking accomplished, yo. The NOBHMTY website is the most fun I’ve ever been on; she writes everything about the book in dry-erase marker on her stove. You keep clicking the arrow and a new message comes up. Try it.
I also bought Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Stories, which I’m very excited about. I loved her in university, and as it turns out, she’s the one who’s influenced almost every one of my favourite writers. I always read interviews of writers I admire, and they keep crediting O’Connor. It all seems like a message that I’m on the right path. An inukshuk in writerly code.
Anyway, just a bit of chat. On to the literary tidbits!
1. Let’s start with a laugh. Some of you may already have seen this, but here is a day in the life of Iain Reid, author of the funny and genuine One Bird’s Choice. This piece made me laugh out loud, but it actually pissed off some people. My guess is those people haven’t read OBC, don’t understand Iain’s humour, don’t get this is obviously not how he lives every day, and perhaps take themselves and the writing life and possibly everything else far too seriously. Enjoy!
2. These are absolutely gorgeous illustrations of quotes from well-known writers. (Click through to here for more.) While the Woolf illustration is pretty cool (they’re all cool!), my favourite is Whitman’s “All truths wait in all things,” not just the quote but the illustration, too. I’m still waiting for that perfect copy of Leaves of Grass to cross my path. “Leaves of Grass, my ass,” said Homer Simpson, but Gale Boetticher said it better:
When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars. —Walt Whitman, 1900
So beautiful in cadence and syntax and words, I become teary. I was practically bursting when Gale quoted it so wonderfully on Breaking Bad. A lovely juxtaposition to the cruelty he faced.
3. Some publishing news. It’s big! Patrick Crean, formerly publisher at Thomas Allen, now has his own imprint with HarperCollins. Very curious and excited to see where this goes!
4. More funny stuff… Young (28) writer Simon Rich, a New York Times contributor (along with dad and brother), writer for SNL, and author of two collections of short stories and two novels, gives us an irreverent look at God—and his girlfriend—in this two-page story called “Center of the Universe.” His latest novel, What in God’s Name, was just out last month. Jaclyn at Literary Treats has already written a review.
5. Katerina Ortakova over at Random House collected a bunch of lovely book nook photos (click on the image and it will take you to the next). Ah, readerly bliss! Which is your favourite? As usual, I stretch the word favourite so that it becomes plural. Mine are the DIY closet, “this will be your favourite,” “sound of swaying grass,” “how enchanting,” and “porch swing.” If I was allowed to pick only one…well, I can’t. But I guess it would be between the second and third choices. The title of the second gives a strong hint. :)
6. If you’re a fan, you probably already know that The Hobbit film is now not two but three films. I’m the only one I know who’s excited about this. I mean, not keen on having to wait three years (what if something happens and I don’t get to see all three?!), but I’m so confident in Jackson, Boyens, and Walsh’s abilities and decision-making skills, that I’m sure it will be best to have it in three. I can’t wait!
7. Have you guys heard of these yet? They’re popping up everywhere, though they’ve been out for a little while now (this article is from July…). Little free libraries. Take a book, leave a book! I love the idea!
8. If there’s one thing I hear from book lovers everywhere, it’s that they need more bookshelves. If money is tight, and when isn’t it, maybe you can make your own! Here are a bunch of nifty ideas for DIY bookshelves.
9. Dinah Fried is a graphic designer currently working on a thesis called “Novel Reading.” Here are her photos of fictitious dishes. Grilled cheese and a milkshake à la Holden Caulfield, anyone?
10. Ten cool converted bookstores. A manure tank! An Airstream! A ship! A funeral home? (How wonderfully ironic…) I must go the Hay Castle one in Wales!
11. Slightly Foxed is a new and second-hand-book shop in London, England. I love the name. They even have their own editions: “beautifully produced and irresistibly collectable little hardback reissues of classic memoirs that have been allowed to slip out of print, each available from us in a limited and numbered clothbound pocket edition of 2,000 copies”—and they’re handcrafted in Yorkshire. They also have the Slightly Foxed Quarterly, which you can read about on their site and of course subscribe to.
12. Oh, I love Julian Barnes. I enjoy his writing but also adore his reading voice. Here is a delicious essay he wrote, featured in Guardian, called “My Life as a Bibliophile.” It comes from a little pamphlet called My Life with Books, which was available only in independent bookstores and the proceeds of which went to Freedom from Torture charity.
13. Did you guys see the news back in July about Jane Austen’s turquoise ring selling at auction for £152, 450? It’s a sweet ring; the turquoise stone is one of my favourites. I would love to own it. Imagine! A ring that sat on her fingers! Such a personal item. I always thought I’d want the writing desk or typewriter of a favourite author. But jewellery is just as, if not even more, appealing.
14. More word art: unusual words rendered in bold graphics. Scripturient, yonderly, jettatura, and more. All fascinating, and the designs are excellent. Also, if you haven’t wandered through Brain Pickings before, do. It’s very interesting! I follow it on Twitter, too.
15. This kind of stuff makes me glad. Back in July two young sisters had the idea to start a book drive for Nishnawbe Aski Nation youth. Their motivation? ‘“What surprised us is that the major issue [in those communities] is reading and literacy. They’re four-to-five years behind in our literacy skills and the suicide rates are really high,’ Julia said.” Read here for more of the story.
17. The Ten Worst Book Covers in the History of Literature. An overambitious title, but you get the idea. These covers are pretty bad, and hilarious! They claim these covers are real. I raised an eyebrow at the vagina colouring book, but guess what? It’s legit. It’s even listed on amazon.com.
18. Because laughing really is the best medicine: drunk texts from famous authors. Hahaha!
KRISTEN DEN HARTOG: I read reviews very quickly with my heart racing. I try not to let them take up too much space in my mind, but I don’t ignore them altogether either. I value good criticism — but by the time a book is out there, I have been through a long process with a wise editor and some trusted readers. So the book is where I want it to be, and whether others agree is something I have no control over.
This is one reason I take as much time as I do with my reviews, but also answer as honestly as I can.
20. I did a test once, out of curiosity, to see which Simpsons character I was most like. I really thought I’d be Marge, so I did the test twice, but I’m Lisa (both times). Of course I am. Here’s a fun Tumblr: The Lisa Simpson Book Club. That show is rife with literary references and I love it so much because I know many of them.
21. On that note, the Top 10 Literary Quotes from The Simpsons, as featured on BookRiot. And, I can’t help it! I enjoy these, a Visual History of Literary References on The Simpsons.
22. A book review hub. Reviews by various sources on a large variety of books, in one place: idreambooks.com.
23. Bella’s Bookshelves was featured on OpenBook Toronto! Pretty cool, eh?
24. The amazing altered book art exhibit. Unfortunately not well presented, in my opinion; nevertheless interesting.
25. David Mitchell has captured readers the world over with Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, especially. And now Cloud Atlas is being made into a movie and people are rereading and purchasing the book like mad (for some reason, my copy’s been on order for over a month now. Hmm). If you haven’t already seen it, here is the impressive trailer for the adaptation of Cloud Atlas. Ah: “A half-finished book is, after all, a half-finished love affair.” I won’t miss it. And what a cast!
26. IFOA is coming up! I’m so excited. I’ve never been to a Toronto event, since I don’t live close, but one of the most fortuitous things ever, for me, is that they extend all the way to little ol’ Picton in Prince Edward County! That’s a mere half hour for me, and last year I went for the first time. It’s hosted at Picton’s Books and Company, one of my favourite indies, and this year, I’ll be meeting Joanne Harris (again! YAY!), Grace O’Connell (hope she doesn’t mind signing an ARC), and Arno Kopecky. The event costs $10, if you’re coming up this way! And if you are, let me know. I’ll meet you!
27. OMG. “Bella’s Bookshelf,” for real, on Design Sponge! Artist is Bella Foster. (Okay, so my shelves have way more books. But this is Mediterranean blue, to me, and it also looks like something I would own. It speaks to the Maltese in me.)
28. Lastly, who’s going to BookCampTO this year? It’s a free event and a great place to network and meet in real life the friends you’ve only read! Last year we sat in sessions on bookselling (hosted by yours truly and Mark Leslie Lefebvre), blogging, social media, women in publishing, freelancing, editing, agenting, and so on. This year, it’s more unstructured and we’re all allowed to come up with our own panel ideas and have discussions on them in the various rooms. There’s also an “afterparty,” where drinks and hors d’oeuvres are served and we can better chat with people. Come, it’s great fun! PS. That photo they have, where they’re all sitting at laptops looking like they’re in a lecture? Misleading. You can take notes if you want, but this is really all about community and dialogue and ideas and lots of laughter.
Hope you’ve enjoyed these litbits, all! Any time you want me to share something, contact me. Happy long weekend!