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posted by [personal profile] kchew at 11:57pm on 28/03/2009
Why, oh why, has it taken me so long to read "Books v Cigarettes," "Bookshop Memories," and "Confessions of a Book Reviewer" by George Orwell? Was I living under a *rock*? Goddamn, they are funny. And true.

I swear, I had no idea that Orwell could be this funny. Now onwards to read other essays in the volume, which promise less funny but more thought, such as "The Prevention of Literature" and "My Country Right or Left." Most excellent.

I am reading, for those interested, the new, green, "Great Ideas" series edition from Penguin, entitled "Books v Cigarettes," which is a pretty little object.
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who can be moved by matters greater than publishing...and that even an economics professor can be an incurable romantic.

I can tell you right now that the editors and production department had *so much fun* with this.

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posted by [personal profile] kchew at 12:40am on 05/03/2009
It has been a rather long time since I've done anything but lurk on LJ with the occasional comment. The reasons have been mundane: work, children... Until they're older, ten consecutive minutes of active brain time will remain precious and rare.

I had to adjust the way that I read, and what I read, over the last while. I had, at one point in the fall, four copyediting and proofing projects at once, and I'm not quite sure how I managed to finally dig myself out from under it. It's preferable to where I find myself now, with no work at all, but I console myself with the knowledge that freelancing can be cyclical, and I've had an excellent eighteen-month run of steady work. At the same time, I completed only 41 books in 2008: a personal nadir. I bought 109 books. This imbalance, actually, provides an excellent snapshot of my stress levels, as I buy books at a more furious pace when I'm completely stressed. This list includes new books, used book, gifts, salvaged books, and library castoffs: I'm also not particularly fussy.
Read more... )

And now it is late, and I have to get some sleep to prepare for another day of job hunting.
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posted by [personal profile] kchew at 11:00pm on 02/11/2008
Every once in a while, I'll buy a book on impulse instead of dutifully noting the title down in my notebook for when I go to the library or to avoid making that impulse purchase. When I do yield to this particular impulse, I generally read the book in two days or less, and the book in question is almost always different than what I usually read in some way. Sometimes I'm lucky, and sometimes I get that slightly sick feeling like I've just eaten too much candy. I bought David Gilmour's The Film Club as I was almost out of the store yesterday, I'm finished now, and I'm feeling the second much more than the first.

Gilmour was a film critic for the CBC, and I quite enjoyed his film reviews when they were on. I had heard a little about the book beforehand, and knew that it was a focused memoir. Gilmour's son Jesse, when he was 16, dropped out of school and spent the next three years living with Gilmour and his wife rent free, with pocket money and no requirements other than he watch three films a week with his dad. I'm not going to comment on the choice Gilmour made to allow his son to drop out; it's not my kid, not my life, not my situation. I do have two small boys, however, and I confess that I was curious about the book on that level in that I suppose that I'm already scouting for information and ideas for when they reach that age and I may be dealing with the same sorts of problems. Also, for a large portion of the book, they even lived in my neighbourhood, which gives it some more immediacy.

Be that as it may, I feel somewhat cranky about the book, to the extent that I will be passing it along soon rather than keep it. I'm cranky just looking at the cover on the radiator by my chair, which isn't all that good, and I'm trying to figure out why. A lot of great movies are discussed in passing, which is good, and Gilmour dishes a little about some of the directors and actors he's interviewed, which is not as much bitchy fun as it should have been. The first big problem is that Jesse remains a cypher to me throughout the book. I am not sure what he's all about, and I don't think that Gilmour knows either. To his credit, he just wants to connect with his son in any way he can, but the boy is opaque. Also, and here I think is the crux of it, I just don't like Gilmour that much. He's judgmental, a bit juvenile in some places, and I'm not sure if he didn't convey the interesting bits of what was a rather interesting and brave experiment very well or if there wasn't enough material to make it most of the book (it's about 256 pages). He also reveals an enormous amount of very personal detail about his son's girlfriends, and while the first does sound like a total piece of work, I still think that a lack of perspective or balance turns the book into a hatchet job on a girl who can't fight back, and is clearly identified. I was jarred by his identifying the girlfriends by name from the beginning (there is no disclaimer about changed names, if he did decide to mask them even lightly), and can't but think that this was wrong of him.

I'm still picking at this, as you can probably tell, but while I enjoyed thinking about certain films, and am glad that Jesse a) has a first-class film education and b) pulled his life back together, in large part thanks to his patient and creative parents, I think that Gilmour's neglect of the positions and feelings of others is a serious flaw in the book. Not that you should listen to me; a quick look at Amazon shows that a lot of people think I'm wrong. But I can say, without a doubt, that something didn't work for me here.

Ah...you know, I think that I just figured it out: this is a guy's book for other guys. I wasn't really meant to get in there in the first place.
Music:: "Hold the Line" -- Toto
Mood:: 'irritated' irritated
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posted by [personal profile] kchew at 06:54pm on 02/11/2008
I read a short story by Annie Proulx in the New Yorker recently (I think it was a May or June issue), because I did like the short story that the movie Brokeback Mountain was based upon (also called "Brokeback Mountain"). I don't usually read the short stories in the New Yorker, despite reading almost every other part of it, for a couple of reasons. First, I don't appreciate the form as much as I should, for reasons that I am unable to articulate articulately but that circle around being asked to emotionally connect with characters and situations too quickly. On further reflection, I may not want to make the connection because I find that short stories can be more emotionally intense than the average novel. The other main reason that I don't read the New Yorker short stories is that their emotional subject matter is often seamy and depressing.

The Proulx story, about a young girl from Wyoming who tries to forge a life for herself after a neglected childhood and failed early marriage, was certainly depressing. Come to think of it, I read another short story of Proulx's earlier in the year, which was about two young people who married as teenagers and who both die by the end in particularly poignant and grim ways. It made me wonder, only half facetiously, has Annie Proulx ever written a happy short story? Seriously, people. I love the way that she writes, but I'm down for hours afterwards. Has she ever written a happy short story? Because I'd really like to read it.
Music:: "Reach Out" -- Cheap Trick
Mood:: 'curious' curious
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posted by [personal profile] kchew at 08:09pm on 21/10/2008
Book meme!

Grab the nearest book. Open the book to page 56. Find the fifth sentence. Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your journal/blog along with these instructions.

Don’t dig for your favorite book or something cool, pick the closest.

From page 56 of Editing Canadian English, 2nd edition, prepare to be enlightened:

"4.30 The system of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) uses no symbols but rather a three-letter code preceding the figure: two letters identify the country and the third the currency type. For example:

CAD Canadian dollar
GBP British pound
CHF Swiss franc

A Web search for 'ISO 4217 currency codes' will yield complete lists."

Sexy, isn't it?
Mood:: boring
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posted by [personal profile] kchew at 08:41pm on 18/10/2008
My 13-year-old niece Anna just sang both national anthems on nation television to open the Ottawa Senators-Boston Bruins game.

To say that I'm proud is such an understatement.

Mood:: 'giddy' giddy
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posted by [personal profile] kchew at 10:18pm on 01/10/2008
It's been a great year so far for buying books, but much less awesome for reading them (work, kids, 17 other options). I'm not going to make my 50+ in a year for the first time ever, I think. Rather than mope about it, however, let's move on. In September, I rifled through a number of books, but only succeeded in finishing Chalice by Robin McKinley, and A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL by Stefan Fatsis. Chalice was a comfortable, lovely read, and a bit more on A Few Seconds of Panic in a moment.

Read more... )
Mood:: 'busy' busy
Music:: Shakira: "Suerte"
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posted by [personal profile] kchew at 11:04am on 22/05/2008
Much to my surprise and delight, I discovered a new bookstore in my neighbourhood yesterday. The store is named TYPE, and is (apparently) the third TYPE store to open in Toronto (the others are on Queen West and in Forest Hill somewhere). Of course I went in, and found that they are a) a more high end store, with gift books, art books, and a nice selection of fiction, and b) they are friendly and helpful. It's a small space, which means that they are going to be the sort of store where you talk with the staff about their recommendations, and will find either that the buyer is a kindred spirit or not. So far, all my happy buttons have been pushed. This neighbourhood has needed a second bookstore ever since Another Story moved across town, and I can barely contain my squee.

So, of course, to encourage TYPE to stay, I bought a book. I snatched up Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends, passing over (regretfully) Margaret MacMillan's The Uses and Abuses of History and a Moleskine City Notebook: Barcelona. The Chabon is a McSweeney's book, and, as his first nonfiction book, is a collection of his essays. As I haven't seen any of these, I am very excited. And, because it's a McSweeney's book, it is a beautiful physical object. The binding is black, with silver stamping, and the dustjacket is in three layers, one slightly smaller than the last, with illustrations. When you remove one layer, the one beneath it is fully covered in illustration, even though you would never see it unless you removed that covering layer. It is utterly impractical (they sell it in shrink wrap to prevent damage), and rather wonderful because of its impracticality and the attention to detail. The inside isn't as utterly fabulous or beautiful, but the interior layout is nice and clean. The type is slightly larger than I would have chosen, but I can see why they decided to do that.

Fabulous writer; beautiful object; lovely new bookstore.

Mood:: 'excited' excited
Music:: Teletubbies
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posted by [personal profile] kchew at 10:12am on 26/03/2008
[livejournal.com profile] oyceter and [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija have been discussing the top five worst books they've ever read. I normally don't like to bitch about bad books (life's too short), but there have been a few books that I've wanted to scrub from my brain.

I've read a lot of bad books in my time--badly written, badly plotted, and even vaguely unpleasant--because a bad book can be better than no book or I didn't know any better, and I've learned my lesson; or there was a test. Most of them I've forgotten, and moved on from. Some, however, have stuck in my head and have continued to annoy me. In no particular order are:

1. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I think that this was the first book or author that I ever developed a true animus for. The main character is unpleasant, it is true, but this unpleasantness is crushed underfoot, relentlessly, by Hardy's use of deus ex machina, ensuring that horror, bleakness, and total ruin must occur just when the character's doing something good or right with his life. There is no redemption; only punishment when one dares to find happiness after error. I had to read it for Grade 12 English. The horror. The horror.
2. Apaches by Lorenzo Carcaterra. Very early on, there is a gratuitous, graphic child rape scene that I wish I'd never read. Book abandoned, but not soon enough.
3. Little People by Tom Holt. I'm tossing this one in for my husband, who recently gave it to me and told me that it could leave the house and he would not mind at all. Please understand that he is a packrat of the first order, and so this is rather damning. I am given to understand that the payoff at the end is cheap and unfair, and leaves a very bad taste in the reader's mouth after the lead up.
4. Piers Anthony. I know, we all pick on him, but after Firefly, he particularly deserves it.
5. Sexual Personae, by Camille Paglia. A book that I have repeatedly wanted to throw against a wall, despite several tries to make it through. Chthonic, all-consuming mother goddesses vs Apollonian, creative male sun deities without which we'd be stuck in stagnant, uncreative darkness. Where do I start? However, I understood right away where Elizabeth Hand mined her ideas for Waking the Moon, which I didn't dislike as a novel.

An honorable mention, of a sort, goes to The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence. I had to read this book for Grade 13 English (that dates me, somewhat), and hate hate hated it at the time. To grossly oversimplify the plot,it is the story of Hagar Shipley, a woman who, through her own stubborn pride, locks herself emotionally from those she loves, and makes a general hash of it.

The problem with the book was, despite how much I detested the main character, I kept arguing with her in my head. For years, as I kept the book on my shelf instead of selling it. Slowly, because I can be dense sometimes, it dawned on me that I was doing so because Laurence had written her *that well*. God damn it. So, while I can't say that I'll ever love the book, I respect it and Laurence for the strength of the character that she created.
location: Coffee shop
Music:: Beans grinding


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