Sounds best on headphones . . .


Embargo On Your Lexicon

April 27, 2010

The Institute of Higher Yearning requests that you pay attention to your lexicon as you embark on the expedition of creating a book-length manuscript.

There are certain words and phrases that are exploited, and therefore absolutely banned in prosaic or poetic use. They (and all their derivatives) include:









-you know

One must also avoid all similes.

This list is not exclusive, and will be updated frequently.

Read the dictionary,


What They Said In Bed

April 2, 2010

I read 50% of the books I’m reading in bed. Maybe (as an academic) that’s a ridiculous confession . . . but hey! the library at the Institution of Higher Yearning is under construction (never any desks/carrels/space to read), my office at skool is less than private, and my livingroom is for dancing. This isn’t to say I do all my reading in my bed – but I do a lot of it propped up in the corner, yerba mate tea in my lap, book in hand, and that fiesty magpie at the window.

Books in bed is a recipe for nightmare disaster, as eventually in the wee hours you’ll wake up with enough of them under the covers to reconstitute a body. Once a month I have to clear them out. Behold! March (on!):

Here’s a quick synopsis of some of these dandies:

Words the Dog Knows by J.R. Carpenter

A novel whose narrative romps through the formative years of the protagonist (from teen on farm to uni in Montreal to coming-of-age-in-long-term-relationship) through the dogs she knows, loves, owns and grows up with. The prose is unique, compelling; and propels the Canadian reader through familiar reflections: Carpenter explores aspects of growing into one’s own as the protagonist leaves her quirky ‘home’ life on the farm for the rush n’ bustle of La Belle Ville, avec l’amour et les amis à quatre pattes. But she does not equate a shedding of rural for urban as progression from juvenescence to adulthood, on the contrary: she draws out the complications of choice that geographies demand of us. This is definitely a book for Vagabonds, where home is under contemplation as it is in migration.

The Tracey Fragments by Maureen Medved

Experiment in Form. I saw the film first, and thought reading the novel might be rewarding, as the film was so delightfully, disturbingly erratic, mysteriously erotic and full of feelings too loose and sharp for a conventional plot to hold. The protagonist holds onto her world and blows it up and out in such specific, vivid, beautiful detail it’s hard not to let it wander through your day, sink and stain it, while you’re reading the book . . . see: “When things happen to people, they radiate a light. Because they’ve got a picture caught inside them. Because they were there, and you weren’t. And because you’ve only got a piece. And because all you can do is shrink and blow up that one tiny piece. Until it explodes.” Maybe that quote would be exceedingly more meaningful if I gave you the context . . . how about you just pick up the book instead.

Don’t Cry – Short Stories by Mary Gaitskill

Aw MG. How I love thee. She manages to circle, sniff, and then lyrically articulate the unutterable aspects of courting, dating, relating and breaking in the relationships of our lives in middle class North America. It’s specific, it’s precise, and yet it creeps towards the edge that opens into understanding the banal futility of bothering to seek love and requite lust at all. I’ll have more to say about this collection later. For now, I advise you seek it out, and hide it under your mattress. Coming out in paperback near you . . .

The rest of the list I may outline in future posts, but suffice it to say: if these books made it to KB’s bedside, then they should make it to yours . . . Expeditions of a Chimera by Oana Avasilichiochioaei and Erín Moure;  My Life by Lynn Hejinian; The Tablecloth Trick by Rick Crilly (recommended to me by the incredible Charles Huisken of This Ain’t the Rosedale Library); Carver Country: The World of Raymond Carver; First Writes – A Banff Centre Press book (one of the books at the centrepiece of my brunch table on the last day at the Banff In(ter)ventions Conference). And The Lit Mags . . . dandelion 35.2: Tenderloins, echolocation 9: Winter 2009, Filling Station: Issue 47 – Tabloid Terror!.

Some folks are having holidays today. Pussywillows are for sale for $7 at the corner by the C-train, but 3 blocks away I can pick them for free by the Bow. And when I have this thought I realize I’ve become more like my father than I’d like to admit.

Today it was grey, but families were out walking and holding hands. It’s hard to be camping out West, but I can take it if I know I’ll see my brothers.