Saturday, February 28, 2009

book game

Win! Win! Win!

For the 28th of February:

Stardust: 1
Nation: 1
A Fine and Private Place: 1
The Hobbit: 1
Maps And Legends: 1


A single Rainbow Fairy book.
Two Star Wars beginning readers books.

This is entirely due to my good fortune in having a small family of precocious, intelligent readers with a taste for magic. And yet again, not one person asked me for the sparkly vampires. hurrah.

In other bookstore news, I now have a shelf on which I can display books-I-am-madly-in-love-with and write miniature reviews exhorting other people to buy them. This makes me happy. My secret tyrannical tendencies are coming lose. Soon I will be stamping my feet and giggling madly and making people guess my name. And if anyone mentions the virtue of sparkling vampires, I shall impale them on a spindle, or steal half their shadow, or turn them into a salamander.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Clarion reading list, part 2

Oddly, I don't have any reading recommendations from week two, which was Jim Kelly's week. I do, however, have copious notes on the "TEN EVIL PLOT TRICKS," but as those aren't really part of the reading list, they don't belong here. Maybe later.

WEEK THREE (with Mary Anne Mohanraj)

1. Towing Jehovah by James Morrow
2. "The Star" by Arthur C. Clarke

Mary Anne had us do this lovely exercise where we went up to the blackboard and wrote down the title of a story that we were absolutely crazy about. Here's the list I wrote down:
3."The Author of the Acacia Seeds" by Ursula K. Le Guin
4. Beloved by Toni Morrison
5. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
6. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
7. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
8. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
9. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
10. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
11. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
12. The Tempest by William Shakespeare
13. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
14. Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
15. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle
16. Alanna by Tamora Pierce
17. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
18. "The Library of Babel" by Jorge Luis Borges

Notice that the links don't take you to Amazon, but to the website for Kepler's, where you can see if we have a book in the store and where it might be located, just in case you might, you know, want to visit me... Also, rah-rah indie bookstores and all that.

Edited to add: I've actually found a photo of this list on the blackboard with an excitingly lemon yellow-haired Ferrett in front of it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Clarion reading list, part 1

I've been typing up some notes that I took while at Clarion (mostly because, while I usually have perfectly legible handwriting, my Clarion notes are cramped and scribbly). We had many books recommended to us, or mentioned as examples, so I've been putting them together into a list...

WEEK ONE (with Kelly Link)

1. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
Scott came and talked to us later. He has fascinating ideas about story and structure.
2. Feed by MT Anderson
3. "Start the Clock" by Benjamin Rosenbaum
4. The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror by John Clute
5. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
6. Angela Carter and Cormac McCarthy
Kelly mentioned them specifically as examples of writers who use a dense setting to give a sense of the geography of characters.
7. "Ringing The Changes" by Robert Aickman
8. What It Is by Lynda Barry
9. A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson (romance)
I'm slightly suspicious of this as it's a romance novel involving ballet dancers, which is dangerous territory...
10. In The Woods by Tana French
11. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by MT Anderson
This book is incredible. It's one of the few on this list that I had read before going to Clarion. It was nothing like I expected it to be, and I think I admired it even more because of that.
12. Life Is Funny by ER Frank
13. "Sea Oak" by George Saunders
14. The Melancholy of Anatomy by Shelley Jackson
15. A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot
I was so enamoured with Japrisot's name that I borrowed part of it for a character in a story.
16. Grace Paley
Kelly suggested that I look at her work for examples of clean, well put together dialogue. Her stories are very strange and quite compressed, and some of them ring through my head while others fall flat. It's really interesting.
17. Peter Dickinson
I love Peter Dickinson, particularly his older works, so it was fun to meet someone else who was also disappointed by how few of them are kept in American bookshelves (my store doesn't have any of them, not even King And Joker or The Dancing Bear, which I read at the library a long time ago and, when I discovered that I couldn't buy it at the store, was tempted to steal).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

book game

25th of February

Coraline: 2
Twilight: 0

A win.

Am actually slightly suprised by this. The numbers are, perhaps, unfairly low and skewed because the store was fairly slow and the people who were buying books were buying a great deal of grown-up non-fiction and children's picture books, but still... A win.

book game

I've decided to keep a score (according to totally arbitrary rules of my own devising) between books that I love and books that hurt my sensibilities. Winner takes possession of literary souls.

24th of February
The Graveyard Book: 1
Twilight: 0
(copies that I sold, and/or observed lucky/hapless customers carrying away)

A win for love.

Monday, February 16, 2009


At the bookstore:

A woman came up to us to ask if both the Spanish Book Club and the Fiction Book Club were having their meetings tonight.

Yes, we said, isn't that nice?

Apparently, it was not nice. It was, in fact, distinctly awful. Hearing people talk in a language that she doesn't understand, even if they aren't actually speaking to her, gives her a headache. Can't they go somewhere else? Why don't people consider these things in advance? Assumption does nobody any good.

We stood there, and we didn't say anything. What can you say to that? What world do you live in, that it's only made with one color and one note? We just stood there and let her talk at us, a ridiculous stream of stingy spirited bad temper, and I wanted to ask her why she was so intent on being miserable.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Just back from a lightning-brief trip to Montreal for an audition. How did it go? Not well. Do you ever have days when everything you say comes out wrong? Clunky, graceless, mixed-up, unclear? Well, sometimes dancing is like that too, and everything you do is just not right.

Montreal is one of my favourite cities though, and it's full of wonderful things:

1. Random strangeness. This is the side of one of those stores that sell clothes made out of hemp, and felted slippers made out of humanely raised wool, and incense, and meditation cds. And that's my sister wielding a baugette.

2. My very favourite croissants in the world so far. I'm a pastry fiend and would probably live off butter croissants if I weren't convinced that such a diet would make me feel like a sluggish lump. The croissants here are the most satisfying cross between crisp, flaky layers that crackle under your teeth and steamy, chewy, butter-scented warmth. They are glorious. The bakery is tiny and the windows are always steamed up and it's full of sweet, French-speaking bakery people who look as if they have just stepped out of some enchanted sweetshop.

3. Gender Mannequin
This shopfront is on Sherbrooke, near St. Laurent. I've never been inside, but the window displays are always so strange and so outrageous. They're completely different from the inside of the shop, which is spare and populated by groupings of pale, still mannequins in an assortment of sizes and shapes. There was also a clump of male torsos made out of clear plastic and lit from within by different colored bulbs.

4. Bily Kun, a bar on Mont Royal that has taxidermied ostrich heads mounted on the wall.

5. The lavish use of the word "donc," which I just like the sound of.

6. My sister and I decided that Montreal has an above average percentage of attractive young men. We couldn't decide if this was because we were walking around near a university, or if the cold had somehow transformed them, or if they were all just genetically fortunate. In the end, my sister declared it to be a similarity to the distinctive French nose: large, but elegant, and somehow good for balancing a face on.

7. There was a man who came into the coffee shop that we were haunting. He had long, wavy hair and a scruffy face. He spent ten minutes sorting through the basket of morning papers, setting aside a small stack of sections that he found acceptable before getting his coffee and taking a seat by the window. Instead of reading his paper, he whipped out a comb and a hand mirror and spent the next several minutes combing his hair with luxurious flicks of his wrist and long gazes into the mirror. He looked like a pirate (or, as my sister says, like an extra from Pirates of The Caribbean who walked into the Lord Of The Rings makeup trailer), but was acting like a mermaid. It was fascinating.

One of the strangest things is how you go through U.S. customs in the Canadian airport when you depart. There are signs everywhere saying, "Welcome to the United States," with the seal of the Homeland Security or State Department or whichever agency it is; but as soon as you're through the gates, you're back in Canada, under a wash of bi-lingual French and English, and waiting for a plane to actually take you home.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Her atrocious aunt had deprived the child of all her gravity.

I bought a copy of The Light Princess by George MacDonald at work the other day because it is one of my favourite fairy tales. It's beautifully, cleverly written and it has stuck in my imagination since the first time I heard the story (because my mom read it to me before I read it myself). The edition I bought has the delicate Maurice Sendak illustrations, and it's small and light and the color of butter. Reading it again, I loved it even more. I decided to order a handful to press upon my friends, but was dismayed to discover that there were none to be found in our distributor's warehouse.

I may have to find some used copies, snatch them up, and stash them away to be handed out in moments when gravity has crushed all the laughter out of everything.

This is the sort of story that makes me boggle at people like the customer who told me that she didn't want fairy stories or books with magic in them for her children because they aren't about real things. Silliness and laughter and resentment? Love and humor and sorrow? What kind of real world do they live in, people like that? It must be a bland one.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Am back from seeing my awesome sister tear up the stage as both an extravagantly fierce ballet dancer and a femme fatale from some dramatic noir film. She was amazing.

I haven't danced for two days, so now I feel like my muscles are thrumming with unused excitement. I bounced around to music for a while, annoying my dog who was trying to sleep, but am still on the edge of giddiness. Must now go find something boring to do so I can get some sleep.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

force feeding poetry

Mondays are poetry night at the bookstore. This is something new, a little bit of (probably not quite approved) fun to alleviate the usual excruciating slowness of the last half hour.

I inflicted Ogden Nash on the customers. Nash is fun to read, and "The Grynch" is both particularly fun out loud and not too long. I enjoyed watching the bemused expressions that greeted "I dearly love the three-toed grynch" when I launched into it over the loudspeaker, particularly the woman who looked at me as if I had burst into a particularly florid dialect of pig latin.

My coworkers have more majestic tastes. Todd read Mark Strand's excellent "Eating Poetry" last week, and Mack read a beautiful poem that I can't remember except for the glorious image of gramaphones clustered on a beach.