Music to Read By

So last night’s post about the blues was sort of accidental. I had intended to write about what I listen to when I read. For years I was the sort of person who could read anywhere, regardless of what was going on around me. In university, when reading suddenly became important to my future (in terms of my career, I mean; I’m a book critic—as in, reviewer—now, but I once wanted to teach university-level English Literature and work as an academic critic/theorist), I lost the ability to read in the same room as someone watching television. And then I couldn’t read while listening to music with lyrics. And then I couldn’t read while listening to any sort of music. Most of that has passed, and I can once again listen to music while I read, although anything too heavy or uptempo, or with complicated lyrics I like to get lost… Continue Reading

Looking Ahead to 2012

I don’t do resolutions. Not because it’s a cliché; I sometimes think those are all right. Rather it’s because I just don’t ever stick to them. Things happen, blah blah blah. I could give you excuses, but that’s how things wind up going. So, inspired by Adrienne’s post (and obviously aping her post title) I’m going to say a few words about what I hope the new year has in store. First of all, I’m going to get a new job. This really isn’t optional, since I’ve just been freelancing since August (and I’m definitely going to be doing more of that; I’ve already been doing some freelance editing this year, and I’ve been back from the holidays for less than a week), but at this point anyway, it’s not paying the bills. I’m trying to keep optimistic, but this is honestly going to be simultaneously the hardest and the… Continue Reading

Recent Events

After a spurt of activity, may be going dark again for a few weeks, and I thought I’d tell you why. First, there are health issues, and then there are job issues. Let’s start with the health issues. For years now I’ve been sick with a disease that I thought was Ulcerative Colitis. Recently I started seeing a new doctor who believes I have something far less severe. He ran some blood tests and scheduled some other things. So far all I’ve got are the results of the blood test, but he determined that I’ve had a severe vitamin B12 deficiency, probably for the better part of a decade, and that judging from my symptoms it’s been getting worse recently. The side-effects of this deficiency include: severe fatigue, severe depression, forgetfullness, difficulty sleeping and focusing, and a bunch of similar things that have made doing anything other than my… Continue Reading

Is It Better to Be Dumped?

Kelli Korducki recently posted an interesting essay on Thought Catalog, in which she opined if a relationship has to end, she would rather be the one dumped than be the one who ends it. Her chief argument seems to be that the person who ends it is deliberately taking on the role of the Bad Guy, which is the harder role to play because, in the absence of mitigating factors like abuse or deceit or what have you, it comes with no sympathy, no legitimate period of mourning, no way to acknowledge that it too might be painful. That got me thinking about how my own relationships have ended, and while I agree with some of her points, I think fundamentally her thesis is wrong. Before I get to that, there are two minor quibbles I’d like to deal with. First, there’s this paragraph about people behaving poorly when they… Continue Reading

Happy Bloomsday

My relationship with James Joyce has never been simple. I tried to read Ulysses in high school, knowing (though not really why; I don’t remember anyone ever actually introducing me to the book) that it was something great, something that as a lover of books I would have to come to terms with eventually. I found a much-abused copy at my local literacy centre, where they had a shelf of books that you could either use as a lending library, or just buy outright. I bought Ulysses, and that night sat down to read about stately, plump Buck Mulligan. Ulysses kicked my ass. I don’t think I made it more than ten pages in on that first attempt, nor on the five or six others I made in the two years before leaving for university (it was not one of the volumes to make the trek to Waterloo). In my… Continue Reading

Some Changes For the New Year

I’m discontinuing my “Reading 20XX” series, starting immediately. It’s not because I agree with Mr. Beattie’s opinion on “challenges” and quantity tracking or what have you (though I very much do agree with his call to read better). I think that paying attention to the numbers, and participating in things like the Canadian Book Challenge simply appeals to a kind of quirk, a kind of geekiness, that Mr. Beattie doesn’t have. It’s much more prevalent in fans of science fiction, fantasy, video games, and so on (and I qualify, in a, er, qualified way), and I don’t think there’s a right or wrong in it. It’s an impulse to classify, to organize, to manage and compartmentalize. In my case it manifests temporally; even my bookshelves are organized (when they are organized) to reflect when a book came into my life, or when in that author’s career that book appeared. I… Continue Reading

Some Short Fiction

Back in the fall of 2002, when I was an undergraduate going into my final year at the University of Waterloo, I realized that, while I was doing okay for money that term, things were going to be tight once Christmas was over. I’d worked two jobs in high school (at one point working sixty hours a week on top of being a full time student, and maintaining a solid B+ average) and had been so burnt out by the experience that there was no way I would be able to get a job and deal with the workload of being a fourth year university student. I saw an ad for a short story contest, and decided that I would get a little bit of cash by winning that. There’s no way I could manage that level of hubris today, but back then I was kind of like that sometimes.… Continue Reading

Rebecca Rosenblum’s Frosh Questionnaire

There are questionnaires that float around the Internet. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Facebook and Livejournal in particular are overrun with them. They are sometimes very, very long, and ostensibly reveal personal things about whoever has filled them out, but there’s also a distance implied. Most people fill them out, pass them on, and then later claim to hate them. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: if you catch me at just the right time, I kind of love them. Rebecca Rosenblum has recently filled one out, apparently based on a series of “getting to know you” emails that were passed around when she was in her first year of university (we didn’t do that at my school; we actually stood in the common area of our dorm and our don made us introduce ourselves and give a little spiel). Not long after, Amy Jones, who… Continue Reading

Not Dead (Yet)

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that I’ve neither died nor drifted off into space. I have been very busy reading and writing, sometimes even for money. Which means I’ve got a backlog of reviews for the blog, though some are already in early drafts (yeah, I’m even doing drafts now). Here’s what you can expect hopefully in the next few weeks: Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson Spook Country, by William Gibson What Boys Like, by Amy Jones Before I Wake, by Robert J. Wiersema The World More Full of Weeping, by Robert J. Wiersema The Lady in the Lake, by Raymond Chandler The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman Five Days Apart, by Chris Binchy I’ve also written some reviews for publication in the last few months, which has been really fun. I’ll let you know when those see print. Anyway, still here, still reading, still… Continue Reading

An Open Letter to Councillor Adam Vaughan, Re: G20 Security and the Removal of Trees

Dear Councillor Vaughan, I am writing you to express my concern that trees may be torn up in the downtown core as part of the security measures for the upcoming G20 Summit taking place here in Toronto. I am writing to you, in particular, because I am a resident of Trinity-Spadina, and because you were quoted in the National Post piece that brought the issue of the trees to my attention. The removal of the trees is an unnecessary and disgraceful addition to what has already become a shameful display of security theatre. There are police officers in my family, and many close family friends are also officers, some serving as constables on the street, some in higher, supervisory or investigative roles at various police services across this country, including in the RCMP. I understand their professionalism, their commitment to public safety, and it is my most profound wish that… Continue Reading