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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Book-women after the Great Fire of London

The disaster of the Great Fire of London was keenly felt by those who had lost everything to the blaze in early September 1666. Among them were the women who worked the capital’s streets distributing the only newspaper of the time, ‘The London Gazette’. In letters preserved at The National Archives one of these women, Mrs Andrews, pointed out that she had lost all her worldly goods and had ‘noe more cloathes than shee had on her back’.

More: The National Archives blog

The Ultimate Best Books of 2018 List

Emily Temple counted 52 lists from 37 sources, which added up to a grand total of 880 books and figured out which individual books were the most often recommended.

Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and Tommy Orange, There There, appeared on the most lists (19 of 52).

More: Literary Hub

Monday, December 17, 2018

How Emily Dickinson Writes A Poem

Dickinson realized that her poem “had to be the philosophy... that feeling of the text being destabilized from within, oscillating from meaning to the negation of that meaning.”

More: Open Culture

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Milkman - an excerpt

In an unnamed city, middle sister stands out for the wrong reasons. She's pursued by a paramilitary known only by the milkman, and despite her efforts to avoid him, rumors spread and danger looms.  Read an excerpt from Anna Burns' 2018 Man Booker Prize winner, Milkman.
The day Somebody McSomebody put a gun to my breast and called me a cat and
threatened to shoot me was the same day the milkman died. He had been shot by one of the state hit squads and I did not care about the shooting of this man. Others did care though, and some were those who, in the parlance, ‘knew me to see but not to speak to’ and I was being talked about because there was a rumor started by them, or more likely by first brother-in-law, that I had been having an affair with this milkman and that I was eighteen and he was forty-one. I knew his age, not because he got shot and it was given by the media, but because there had been talk before this, for months before the shooting, by these people of the rumour, that forty-one and eighteen was disgusting, that twenty-three years’ difference was disgusting, that he was married and not to be fooled by me for there were plenty of quiet, unnoticeable people who took a bit of watching. It had been my fault too, it seemed, this affair with the milkman. But I had not been having an affair with the milkman. I did not like the milkman and had been frightened and confused by his pursuing and attempting an affair with me. I did not like first brother-in-law either. In his compulsions he made things up about other people’s sexlives. About my sexlife. When I was younger, when I was twelve, when he appeared on my eldest sister’s rebound after her long-term boyfriend got dumped for cheating on her, this new man got her pregnant and they got married right away. He made lewd remarks about me to me from the first moment he met me—about my quainte, my tail, my contry, my box, my jar, my contrariness, my monosyllable—and he used words, words sexual, I did not understand. He knew I didn’t understand them but that I knew enough to grasp they were sexual. That was what gave him pleasure. He was thirty-five. Twelve and thirty-five. That was a twenty-three years’ difference too.
Continue reading

Sunday, December 09, 2018

8 Old-Lady Novels That Prove Life Doesn’t End at 80

Heidi Sopinka, author of ‘The Dictionary of Animal Languages,’ recommends ‘coming of death’ novels.
Read about them here 

Lucia Berlin’s Litany of Failed Homes


Author Lucia Berlin called many different places home during her lifetime. She compiled a list in the late eighties detailing the pitfalls of some of them.

  • Juneau, Alaska—Avalanche the day I was born, wiped out a third of town.
  • Deer Lodge, Montana—No heat, just the oven. Earthquake.
  • Helena, Montana—Splinters in the cellar door. Blizzards.
  • Mullan, Idaho—River right outside, too dangerous to play. Mill right by. Stay inside. Flood.
  • Sunshine Mine, Idaho—Paper-thin walls. Mama crying crying. Woodstove smoked. Avalanches.

More here

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Living Mountain: A Cairngorms Journey

A forgotten literary masterpiece celebrating the majesty of the Cairngorm mountains is the subject of this documentary presented by travel writer Robert MacFarlane.

Watch it for a limited time on BBC iPlayer 

James Joyce's glasses fetch $19,000 at auction

The eyeglasses worn by literary legend James Joyce while he was writing his modernist classic "Ulysses" sold for more than $19,000 at auction on Tuesday in Dublin.

More here 

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Grenfell Tower, June 2017

"Grenfell Tower, June 2017" 
By Ben Okri

It was like a burnt matchbox in the sky.
It was black and long and burnt in the sky.
You saw it through the flowering stumps of trees. You
saw it beyond the ochre spire of the church. You saw
it in the tears of those who survived.
You saw it through the rage of those who survived.
You saw it past the posters of those who had burnt to ashes. You saw
it past the posters of those who jumped to their deaths. You saw it
through the TV images of flames through windows Running up the
aluminium cladding.
You saw it in print images of flames bursting out from the roof. You
heard it in the voices loud in the streets.
You heard it in the cries in the air howling for justice.
You heard it in the pubs the streets the basements the digs. You
heard it in the wailing of women and the silent scream Of orphans
wandering the streets.
You saw it in your baby who couldn’t sleep at night Spooked
by the ghosts that wander the area still trying To escape the
fires that came at them black and choking. You saw it in your
dreams of the dead asking if living Had no meaning being
poor in a land
Where the poor die in flames without warning.

Read more here

Women Talking

From 2005 to 2009, more than 130 women and children in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia were anaesthetised with a cattle sedative and raped by 8 members of their own community. In Women Talking Miriam Toews imagines the reaction of the women to these very real and horrific events. While the men have gone to town to raise bail for the accused rapists eight women secretly gather in a hayloft  to discuss their options. They ask August, a man who was raised outside the community but has recently returned, to record their conversation. These women have been isolated from the real world, they have never left the colony, cannot read or write and speak a language that no one outside the colony can understand. They decide they have three choices: do nothing, stay and fight the patriarchy or leave. It's a short book and I was about halfway through it before I felt engaged by the story and sorted out who the characters actually were. I stuck with it and I'm glad I did but I admit that I  skimmed over whole sections that struck me as overly philosophical. I wanted the women to make their decision, pack up and leave before the men returned. I found the style off-putting but liked the questions that were raised about patriarchy and religion.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

World AIDS Day

Friday, November 30, 2018

A Literary Long Weekend in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has a  rich literary history and is a place for writers and book lovers alike to become intertwined with the culture and places that influenced their favorite stories.

Read more: Literary Hub

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tweet Of The Day

Hollywood Has Long Turned to Novelists for Help. But Poets?

A professional poet talks about being tapped to write mediocre verse for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s new film.
In her new film “The Kindergarten Teacher,” Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a frustrated aspiring poet who discovers that a boy in her kindergarten class may be a budding literary genius, and begins co-opting his verses as her own.
Read more: The New York Times