Thursday, February 26, 2009

I can't sleep...

.... But guess what? Shaw cable finally showed up and brought me my very own internet connection! No more surfing off of other people's wireless! (Not that I would ever do that. No sir.) No more running to the library whenever I need to download anything! No more dial-up!

Shaw also brought me cable television, which has not lived Chez Artsy since 1997. I kid you not. I'm a bit giddy on it right now - it's been six months since I've watched tv, and it's dazzling. (Also dazzling is the sheer amount of crap on the tube. I'm continuing my boycott of shows like CSI which seem to focus almost exclusively on celebrating violence against women and children. Any show that opens with an artfully lit dead female body and someone making a joke about it continues to be off the list.)

Today I read "I am the Messenger" by Marcus Zusak. He wrote "The Book Thief" which was amazing, and this older work of his was just as good. Nice little meta-fictional twist at the end. Last weekend my mother brought me Maeve Binchy's latest book, which was exactly what you would expect of Maeve Binchy's latest book. I don't know what I'll read next... "The Stone Diaries" is calling my name, though. We'll see.

So many books, so little time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


This post is brought to you by the TWENTY-FOUR DOLLARS AND TWELVE CENTS I had to pay in overdue fines in order to get on the library's wireless internet. (That's a personal best, by the way.)

Shaw is supposed to come and install my cable and internet next week (only two months after I started phoning them to request service), which will hopefully mean that the internet magic will be available in my very own house.

That's really all I had to say.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bookish thought du jour

I've been thinking, as I so frequently do, about books, having just today finished this one. It was recommended by one of my colleagues: we're thinking of doing a novel study based on a book that was recently made into a movie, and this was one I hadn't read. (The others, if you're interested, are "The Golden Compass", "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe", and "Inkheart".)

The book itself was one of those amazingly good ones... about a nine year old boy who finds himself on the opposite side of a fence from a boy who wears striped pajamas and shares a birthday with him. It was painful to read in parts because the main character, Bruno, is so incredibly naive - he brings food to his friend Shmuel but sometimes he gets hungry on the walk and eats most of it - so blind to the evil around him.

But this is what I wanted to write about today, the interview with the author in the back of the book. John Boyle says this:

"Is it a children's book? no. Is it an adults' book? No. It's a book. It's a story. And the more I grow as a writer, and the more I have conversations about writing with people..., the more I learn about writing and realize that these distinctions - who are these distinctions for? You know who these distinctions are for? They're for bookshops. "Do we put it in this... over on the left-hand side of the shelf, which we call crime? Or over on the right, which we call literary fiction?""

I think he's right. Sometimes, standing in line at the library, or on Amazon with my credit card clutched in my hand, I wonder what I'm doing with all these kids books. I am a sophisticated and intelligent person. I am very well educated. Why am I reading books for children?

I'm reading them because they're not books for children, they're just really really good books.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Questions, answered.

I read a lot of blogs, and one of the blogs I've been following is the delightful Mrs. Spit Spouts Off, which can be found at:

I particularly like Mrs. Spit's blog because even though I disagree with a lot of what she says (like she says there is a God and I say there ain't) she says it with such elegance, with such conviction, with such honesty, that I quite like listening.

So when Mrs. Spit answered some questions on her blog and offered to ask other people quesions on theirs (does that make sense?) I thought I would step up.

These are Mrs. Spit's questions, and my answers:
1. What book do you most like to share with children?

I don't have a particular title... I read a lot of young adult literature, and if there's any book I feel passionate about I pass it on. One of my best moments as a teacher was giving a book to a student to read, and having that student's mother tell me that her daughter had never been a reader until she came in contact with that book. (The book was by Sonia Sones, and entitled "One of those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies.") There are books that have changed my life: "I Am David" and the Narnia books and several others too, but I don't tend to evangelize about them. I'd rather just give kids books to read and time to read in, and hope something clicks.

2. If you couldn't read, what would you do instead (go crazy isn't an option)

I probably would go crazy, actually.... If I couldn't read I would probably knit, although I can read while I eat and I can't knit while I eat (ask me how I learned that), which would be frustrating.

3. If you were to write a book, what kind of a book would it be?

I would love to write a book for young people. There are so many amazing authors out there for kids, it would be wonderful to be part of that. (I just read Nick Hornby's book "Slam", which was wonderful - now there's a hard act to follow.)

4. What is your ideal day?

It involves reading, and soup, and maybe a walk, and a fair bit of solitude and no particular place to go or time to be there.

5. What one thing did you want for Christmas, that you didn't get?

Hmmmm.... I've been holding out for a stamp to put in my books (an "Ex Libris" kind of thing) which no one has ever stepped up with. I live in hope.

Anyone else want to answer questions? Leave a comment and I'll get right back to you.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Up to My Eyeballs

My friend L sent an email this morning: apparently the mustachioed gentleman on the last post was disturbing her. She asked for a new post... well, I can't right now, because I'm up to my eyeballs in alligators, but at least I changed the picture. Don't say I never tried.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What I learned today.

A new idiom! (I love idioms. My ESL classes could easily be called "the daily idiom." Or, even, "the village idiom." But I digress.)

And today, from a food blog called "Chocolate and Zucchini" that I was reading while I should have been marking, I learned this:

"Like a kiss without a mustache" is a literal translation of comme un baiser sans moustache, a French idiom that means that one thing is pointless without the other. Similar, but less perky: comme un violon sans cordes (like a violin without strings) or comme une soupe sans sel (like soup without salt).

So there. Another Thursday, not wasted.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Good House

This is from 2009’s book #16, A Good House by Bonnie Burnard. (Last year at this time I was reading book #26 – I guess that’s what happens when you get yourself a real job that comes with a tremendous amount of work. I finished report cards on Friday and had my first evaluation towards a continuous contract – it was a big day, a wonderful and satisfying day, but not one which lent itself to the completion of a book.)

“There were nineteen of them for dinner. Mary’s parents came over from their cottage, bringing with them her elderly grandfather. Sylvia’s mother drove out from town with Bill’s father and Joan brought her boyfriend Dennis, who had a guitar and very long dull hair. Charlotte came from Toronto, arrived just as they were dishing everything up. She had stopped at one of the fruit stands on the highway and bought a bag of mushrooms and when she appeared in the kitchen offering them, Margaret almost opened the fridge to put them away for another time and then caught herself. “Oh,” she said. “Just the thing we’re missing.” She quickly scrubbed a pan clean and melted a spoonful of butter over high heat to fry the mushrooms with a quickly chopped handful of sweet onion.

When the table was ready, after Bill had carved the roast and piled it on the platter and the potatoes were tossed with butter and a bit of mint and all the bowls were brought out from the kitchen, Bill put Patrick at one end of the table and Mary at the other, insisting. Everyone else sat wherever they wanted and when they were seated, instead of grace, Murray, who was to be Patrick’s best man, stood to offer a toast. Happiness, he said. And health. A long life. Comfort. Joy. Great, mindless, sweaty sex. Progeny. Lifelong friends. Naked ambition. Success. Blue skies. A ton of money or just enough, whichever. A split-level in the suburbs or not, whichever. A red Porsche. Holidays in the sunny south. He wished all these things for them, claimed he spoke for everyone here present.

They ate and drank and talked and lied and laughed on that sloping porch. Neil and Krissy were passed around and across the table like treasures, fed strawberries and peaks of whipped cream from their great-grandfather Chambers’ finger. Mary’s mother had brought a camera and Paul got up with Margaret’s and took two rolls of film, making sure he got shots of everyone. Sally was so happy she cried. She had been walking around and around the table lightly touching everyone as she passed behind them, and when she squeezed in to stand between Margaret and Charlotte, she could no longer hold it back. The talking gradually stopped and everyone watched as she tried to explain her tears, and when they were finally understood, Charlotte was the one who reached out to comfort her.”

I frequently want to get inside a book and sit down with the characters. Sally is six in this scene, and I want to tell her that her tears are justified, that one day soon she will be the cause of an argument that will end the closeness of this family, that people will stop speaking to each other for reasons that no one can remember, that she will wake up one day and realize she hasn’t set eyes on some of her cousins ever, and that there are others she hasn’t seen or spoken to in twenty-five years. I would warn her that this is what happens with families: you have a few golden moments like these but before long they all spin away, and everyone finds someone to love except you. Everyone goes off and makes their own families where you have no place, and all by yourself you have to find those bittersweet moments in a book and understand perfectly the tears of a fictional child, crying because she is so happy and knows that it will never last.