Friday, 31 July 2009

Brown paper packages. . .

Not tied with string . . .

These are a few of my favourite things. . .

Just in time for the holiday weekend - my box of Dalkey Archive books arrived (and in less than a week - very impressive). They are having an awesome summer sale and I just couldn't resist stocking up on their backlist. They publish some fabulous books, including a lot of literature in translation. Their website page listing the details of their sale seems to be down at the moment, but keep checking back. Or start making a list in the meantime. The more books bought, the greater the discount, so I ended up buying twenty (and even then it was hard to cull the titles from the over 50 I initially wrote down as potentials). It makes a nice, meaty pile that I can't wait to dive into.

Not sure if you can read all the titles so here they are with links to each book's enticing description:
The Great Fire of London by Jacques Roubard, The Walk: Notes on a Romantic Image by Jeffrey Robinson, Langrishe, Go Down by Aidan Higgins, Castle to Castle by CĂ©line, Melancholy by Jon Fosse, The King by Donald Barthelme, Odile by Raymond Queneau, The Journalist by Harry Matthews, Time Must Have a Stop by Aldous Huxley, Everyday Life by Lydie Salvayre, Brecht at Night by Mati Unt, Pack of Lies by Gilbert Sorrentino, In Transit by Brigid Brophy, Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine by Stanley Crawford, OULIPO: A Primer of Potential Literature edited by Warren F. Motte, Bornholm Night-Ferry by Aidan Higgins, Foreign Parts by Janice Galloway, Spleen by Olive Moore and I'm Not Stiller by Max Frisch. I also ordered Portrait of the Writer as a Domesticated Animal by Lydie Salvayre, but it's not yet published. More than enough to start with though - I think my first read will be this:

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

On the Booker longlist. . .

There's a lot of cynicism about literary awards but the thing I like most about them are their longlists - I inevitably get introduced to books and authors that I haven't heard about. Plus I can root for favourites such as A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book which thankfully made the Booker longlist and is my pick to win. I loved its complexity, its beautiful writing, especially about the delicate nature of childhood, and its treatment of the First World War. I think it's one of her best novels, along with Possession. I've read a few others on the longlist, but the one that intrigues me the most is Simon Mawer's The Glass Room. Stunning cover, for one thing. And I think its premise - following the fate of a house through the Second World War is intriguing. I'm also keen to read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Sarah Hall's How to Paint a Dead Man. Interesting that the British papers report that the odds on favourite is J.M. Coetzee's Summertime. Hmmm. Would they really give it to the same author three times? I'll certainly read it too, as I liked Youth and Disgrace is still stands as my favourite of all Booker winners. Haven't been that keen on his most recent work though - Elizabeth Costello was an interesting idea that he didn't quite pull off, and it really was an unrewarding slog to get through Diary of a Bad Year.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Reading Challenges - 2009 so far. . .

With the year more than half over, it seems a good time to reassess my lofty reading goals set out here in January. I've made some progress but still have a way to go. I've read 58 books so far this year - my eventual goal of 125 still seems possible. I wanted to re-read all of Virginia Woolf's novels - only been able to tackle one so far, so I may not accomplish this one.

Regarding my Lost in Translation challenge, I wanted to read at least three books in translation in six different categories. Hmm, mixed success here. Looking over my reading diary, here's what I've read so far.
Books by contemporary authors: No problems here; I've already finished more than ten books in this category, so I can cross that one off. My three favourites so far are The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, translated by Alison Anderson, Censoring An Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour, translated by Sara Khalili, and The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, translated by Marlaine Delargy.

Mysteries: Yep, read at least three which I blogged about here.

Classics: Just managed to finish one so far - Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum, translated by Ralph Manheim. Dante keeps staring at me.

Books written during Woolf's lifetime - two read: Irmgard Keun's The Artificial Silk Girl translated by Kathie von Ankum, and I just finished a galley of Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated by Joanne Turnbull. Though these short stories weren't published until the 1970s, many years after the author's death, they were written in the 1920s so I think it counts.

Children's books - just one, The Pull of the Ocean by Jean-Claude Mourlevat, translated by Y. Maudet. This was an interesting retelling of the Tom Thumb story.

Books by Quebec authors: None. I'm embarassed about this one, and obviously have to remedy this.
And an update on my latest reading challenge - trying to finish the mammoth Verse Revolutionaries by Labour Day - I'm on page 66!

Friday, 24 July 2009

A tie-in cover that works for me. . .

I'll be seeing all ten of Noel Coward's Tonight at 8:30 plays later in September on one of the Shaw Festival's scheduled Mad Dogs and Englishman marathon - all ten on one day. Can't wait. In the meantime, I'm thrilled that Methuen has reissued all the plays in one volume and the cover shows a still from the Shaw's program. There's my favourite leading actor, Patrick Galligan, as Alec in the romantic Still Life.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Reading challenges. . .

Long novels don't scare me; I usually relish them.
I've read Proust and War and Peace. One of my favourite books is A Dance to the Music of Time. Recently, I've tackled Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones and Roberto Bolano's 2666.
But long non-fiction? That's a whole other matter, and I don't know why this is so. It's not the genre of non-fiction itself, just any book that is over 500 pages. I painstakingly crawl through it, even when I'm enjoying the read (I took over a year to read Hermione Lee's terrific biography of Virginia Woolf and then spent another year with her equally impressive bio of Edith Wharton). Maybe I spend too much time reading the footnotes. Maybe biographies (in particular literary ones) send me off on other reading tangents. Maybe the books are too heavy to cart around and so they get relegated to the groaning shelves of my bedside tables to lie on top of more biographies, histories and litcrit tomes all with bookmarks sticking out at various spots. It's a crazy way to read - by the time I get back into the books, I've forgotten parts of what I've already read.

A friend from England just sent me The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and The Imagists by Helen Carr. This recently published book looks fabulous and right up my reading alley. But . . . it's 982 pages!

I've read the Prologue which is only four pages. It promises "rich drama, involving passion, betrayal, sexual jealousy, literary envy, bereavement, shell-shock, class antagonisms, friendship, adultery, cruelty, bullying and pique". I've looked at the photos. I'm really going to try to break my habits with this one and actually finish it in a reasonable time - maybe by Labour Day? HA!

Monday, 20 July 2009

A Walk Along "The Beach". . .

Had a lovely, lazy summer weekend. There's been a lot of media attention on Toronto recently because we're in the middle of a garbage strike that is nearly a month old, but honestly, this shouldn't stop anyone planning to visit. The garbage is being contained in parks, and the city does not stink. Yes, some of the public containers are overflowing, but this happens even without a strike. It definitely hasn't stopped people from going about their business and enjoying the city.

I felt like gazing at a bit of sand, water and blue sky, so went out to "The Beach" area of Toronto, along Queen St. East. I haven't been in this part of town for well over five years. Some lovely shops and restaurants have sprung up, including this yummy wonder:

Isn't that a great sign? The Pie Shack serves both savory and sweet pies - I had the organic chicken pot pie, followed by a slice of blueberry. The pastry is flaky and buttery and very delicious. Across the street was this:

I bought two skeins of deep red tweed that has flecks of grey and black in it, and have spent most of this afternoon knitting a winter scarf. Yes, I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to do in the middle of July, but I just couldn't help myself; the wool was calling to me. I'm about half-way done. The Naked Sheep has a lovely blog that shows some of the many projects made during their classes.

Halfway between "The Beach" and downtown Toronto, also on Queen St. East, is an area known as Leslieville which boasts The Tango Palace Coffee Company - a great place to get a cup of java before browsing the many antique and home decorating shops along the street. That' s where I snapped this great store window. I'm strangely drawn to the dressmaker's dummy, but my apartment is just too small for a roommate.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

A new pair of laces. . .

Just a photo that I like, taken from my recent holiday. I had spent the morning hiking up in the wooded hills behind Lucerne, Switzerland which you can see in the photo below. A lovely place to spend a few days, especially if you just want to gaze at mountains and water. The trails lead out to this lookout point where I was relaxing in the sunshine. I was also wearing my new pair of Campers shoes (the Spanish brand that is one of my favourites) purchased in the town and oh, so comfy, not only for light hiking, but for major city walking. The model is called IMAR and they are black leather with charcoal grey laces and a very solid rubber sole. I love them and have been wearing them everywhere this summer.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Happy Canada Day . . .

. . . and Canada Post now has Bryan Adams on a postage stamp. Love it!