Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reading in Winnipeg

I'll be reading in Winnipeg tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 30th at 7 pm at McNally Robinson at Grant Park. If you're in Winnipeg, please come! It's such a happy thing to have an opportunity to meet far flung blog friends and acquaintances in person...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bruce Meyer on Reading

Bruce Meyer on reading:

Here is a simple truth: nothing prepares us better for reading than reading. Reading is a process not just of assimilating ideas but of learning the skills, the fundamental structures, and the repeated story lines that make further reading a richer, more enjoyable, and much more powerful experience. Countless authors through the ages have learned the craft of writing by reading the works of their predecessors, and in part their publications are commentaries on what they have read. But more to the point, each writer has felt an obligation to extend the tradition. Tradition in literature is not how a work becomes static over a period of time, but how it is constantly reinvented.

From Bruce Meyer, The Golden Thread: A Reader's Journey Through the Great Books (2000).

Friday, May 25, 2007

Saskatoon Launch

I'm very excited to be having a little launch party for my new book in my hometown of Saskatoon this weekend. It will be on Sunday afternoon (May 27th) at 3 pm at Amigos Cantina (on the corner of 10th Street and Dufferin, a block east of Broadway). If you're in or near Saskatoon, please come!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mavis Gallant on Reading Short Stories

Mavis Gallant on reading short stories:

There is something I keep wanting to say about reading short stories. I am doing it now, because I may never have another occasion. Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. Stories can wait.

From the Preface to The Selected Stories of Mavis Gallant (1996).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Currently Reading

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan: This one got good reviews from a couple of people whose tastes in fiction often correspond with my own. Not this time, I fear. I'm sixty pages in and frankly a bit bored with it. However, as it only runs another hundred pages, I expect I will persevere to the end. I'll let you know if the second half saves it for me.

The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s by Humphrey Carpenter: This is serving as an entertaining counterpoint to the McEwan. It's a group biography of Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, John Osborne, Colin Wilson and others. I'm a fan of group biography done well, and Carpenter does it well. Rather than resorting to a series of thumbnail biographies of this cast of writers, he explores in some depth the connections, interactions and influence at play between them.

Ian Rankin's Office

For a peek at the writing space where Ian Rankin crafts his Inspector Rebus novels, click here.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Jenny Turner on Muriel Spark

Jenny Turner on Muriel Spark:

One of Spark's disqualifications from "greatness" is her lack of interest in families - was there ever a "great" novelist who could manage without this mighty social and fictional institution? Did Spark ever write with conviction about even one? When you think about it, you realise it is exactly the way the novels swerve round family, child-bearing, romantic love and so on that lends them their delightful perversity, their very sense of self.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Humphrey Carpenter on Kingsley Amis

Humphrey Carpenter on the young Kingsley Amis:

He was becoming a master of invective; but it had become so richly obscene, so wildly contemptuous of contemporary culture—indeed, of the entire human race apart from Larkin—that there seemed to be no possibility of making anything publishable out of it; and he wanted to be published.

From Humphrey Carpenter, The Angry Young Men: A Literary Comedy of the 1950s (2002).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Toronto Litblogger Meet and Greet

Karen (aka Sassymonkey) is proposing a Toronto litblogger meet and greet before she leaves town. The tentative date is June 2nd. If you want in on the fun, head over to her blog and leave a comment or e-mail her to let her know. I'm looking forward to meeting her and some of the other Toronto litbloggers that I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting in person.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Quiz: Which Discworld Character Are You Like?

This is not the result that I was expecting...

You scored as Lord Havelock Vetinari. You are Lord Vetinari! Supreme ruler of Ankh-Morpork! Cool, calculated, and always in control. You graduated from the assassins guild, but failed a course on stealth and camouflage, because the professor never saw you there (even though you attended every class). You always seem to know what everyone is thinking, and after a conversation with you, people feel that they have just escaped certain death.

Which Discworld Character are you like?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Recent Acquisitions

I've been on a bit of a book buying binge these past few weeks. Here's what I've bought:

Honoré de Balzac, The Unknown Masterpiece;
Ted Berrigan, On the Level Everyday: selected talks on poetry
     and the art of living
Kay Boyle, Words That Must Somehow Be Said: Selected Essays;
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote;
Rick Crilly, The Tablecloth Trick;
H.D., Kora and Ka;
Sean Dixon, The Girls Who Saw Everything;
Nikolai Gogol, The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol;
Gwendolyn MacEwen, Mermaids and Ikons: A Greek Summer;
Kirsten Miller, Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City;
George Murray, the rush to here; and,
Stuart Ross, I Cut My Finger.

Each purchase was prompted by one or more of the following reasons:

a) My interest was piqued when I saw the author read from it;
b) I've been meaning to read it for ages;
c) I'd long planned to buy a copy and suddenly spied one amongst
     the wares of a second-hand bookseller;
d) I’m a long-time fan of the author’s work;
e) I can’t resist anything published in the NYRB Classics series;
f) It was recommended by a fellow blogger.

Feel free to make a game of it and guess which book matches up with which reason(s) for purchase. Bonus points if you guess correctly that I bought a book on a blogger’s recommendation and you can also name the blogger in question...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

My Own Personal Scottish Literature Festival

This time last year I was in Scotland, and I’m feeling rather mournful about the fact that I’m not there now. Perhaps it would be different if I were doing something else interesting instead. But, alas, no. With the excitement of my book launch fast receding, I find myself thoroughly mired in exam marking and committee meetings.

Of course, if I can’t travel in person, I can travel through books. So I declared this weekend a Scottish literature festival at my house and lined up three recent acquisitions for my reading pleasure.

First up is Weekend, William McIlvanney’s latest novel. Here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

In a Victorian mansion hotel on a Scottish island, a group of English Literature lecturers and students from Glasgow gather for a study weekend, though studying is not exactly what some of them have in mind. And the weekend does prove to be a major turning point in the emotional lives of several people—just not quite in the way any of them expected. As entertaining as it is thought-provoking, William McIlvanney's novel brilliantly illustrates how humans are driven by animal instincts, but have the mental capacity to analyse, harness and rue them. Which also means we continue to dream, even when our dreams fail us.

McIlvanney is a brilliant writer and I would happily read anything written by him. Even if that wasn’t so, however, I don’t think I could have resisted this combination of a Scottish island setting with academic satire.

Next on the list is Jackie Kay’s new collection of short stories, Wish I Was Here. I haven’t so much as flipped through this one yet, but based on her previous collection, Why Don’t You Stop Talking?, I count her among the very best of contemporary short story writers. Needless to say, my hopes for the new collection are high.

Finally, there’s The Stornoway Way by Kevin MacNeil. I bought this one while in Scotland last year but I’m only now settling down to read it. The front cover flap promises a novel that “chronicles the misadventures of an idiosyncratic young Scotsman cartwheeling further and further into a Hebridean hell, railing against the constraints of his extraordinary but vanishing island culture as well as western civilization in general.” I'm won over by the narrator’s voice right from the first paragraph:

Fuck everyone from Holden Caulfield to Bridget Jones, fuck all the American and English phoney fictions that claim to speak for us; they don’t know the likes of us exist and they never did. We are who we are because we grew up the Stornoway Way. We do not live in the back of beyond, we live at the very heart of beyond.

I promise a full report on each book as I finish it.