Thursday, November 22, 2007


my sister is doing her phd in International Development and is obviously more than a little sick of the library.

I imported this entry to show you

It's dark, it's dry, it's ugly. It's full of books you will never read. It smells like a dungeon."It's my basement washroom!"No, you are incorrect. It is a library. And now, as we students embark on that fateful period known as "end of term", we reacquaint ourselves with the library. Days of our lives we will spend in our favourite carroll, on our favourite floor.

We will ride the elevator to amuse ourselves. We will climb stairs because we have no other way of attaining exercise. We will look as good as we feel - exhausted, ugly, and shaking from coffee overdosers. Have no fear, my library-going friends. I spent my entire summer in the library. I have spent most of this autumn in the library. And with this has come infinite wisdom of ways in which one can amuse oneself whilst working in the library. Do not thank me for passing on this knowledge to you. I am just that wonderful.So allow me to begin this series of entries (of which this might very well be the last) with a very important skill that I have personally mastered, known as the 'unnecessary shush":I don't need quiet to work. I don't like loudness, but I don't need total silence. In the library, I am often the disrupter. I don't know how many evil eyes I've gotten from the librarian this year. Maybe that's because I decided to hold my own wedding in the library in July (see Album #4 for further details...)

But I am okay with that. She gets paid because of my existence. And I am a grad. student meaning I get special privileges - example: I get to walk around all high and mighty and assume that I can be a jackass in the library.
The unnecessary shush is one of the ways in which I get to show off my importance as an all-wonderful grad. student (at least I like to think...)There are a series of ways in which this can be done.The general theme is telling people that they need to be quieter as you are trying to concentrate.Par exemple:
1) Start laughing obnoxiously with a friend. Stop for 1 minute. Then ask those speaking in quiet voices beside you to be quiet as you have been trying to work.
2) Begin a conversation on your cell phone. Phone in hand, ask the person beside you to keep it down so that you can continue your conversation (do this in the 'no phone' zone of the library for optimal entertainment)
.3) When someone is on a cell phone and is courteously leaving the room to continue their conversation, look annoyed and ask them, in an obnoxious manner, to at least have enough decency to leave the room.
4) When people are obviously trying to whisper so as to not disturb anyone, give them the evil glare. Hold eye contact for a minute, roll eyes, and tell them to 'shush'.
5) Every once in a while go "shhhhhhhhhhhhh" Make sure that no one was actually talking.
6) Tell the librarian she is using the library too often and using up necessary working space
.7) Walk up to an innocent victim and tell them that they have taken your designated study space (these do exist - I have one). Approximately 30 seconds after they have packed up their things and left, repack your own, and follow them.Repeat at each of their new places.If they refuse, call library security. They're just plain rude!These are a mere seven possibilities, but the opportunities are endless!

The important thing is to remember that the library is your oyster and indeed was built for you. Yes, that's right - you!And we all know that the greatest minds were the most insane.So go ahead - be creative, be obnoxious...and be wonderfully amused!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


What a stupid invention. Not since Margaret Atwood's Longpen, have I seen a more unnecessary waste of time boasting a literary component.

oh....and endorsed by James Patterson?

Yeah, gee amazon! I'll get right on that

( insert heavy sarcasm. Heavy, dripping sarcasm)


Oh and look at this: A British movie-tie in edition for a book not released 'til April advertising a movie that will ( apparently ) never make it to English speaking countries.

I think they are just toying with us.

In better news, my Random House contact sent me an ARC of the Painter of Battles ---not Alatriste, but good enough.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What you should Read: Part 1: Canadian History

I was scrolling over my entries of late and deduced that while I post about literary things, I have not posted a book review in ages. So, catch-up time.

Let's begin a series. I will spend each blog entry focusing on one genre and giving you suggestions on what you might want to pick up in each.

For lack of a congruent marriage of books and flowing praise, I give you a list.....of books fairly recently read....

In Canadian History:


My Country: the Remarkable Past . Pierre Berton is the epoch of Canadian history. He somehow knows how to intertwine fact with a gallavanting gallop of a great yarn. Read anything of his---from these snippets of our past from coast to coast to Vimy to The Last Spike and you will see that the impeccable historian is also the consummate storyteller.

For Honour's Sake by Mark Zuehlke is the best book on the War of 1812 I have read since *cough* Pierre Berton did his take. I have read books that are somewhat distinctive to certain aspects of the war, but this is all-encompassing. This is storytelling at its best, dotted with facts about a period I had yearned to know about.

The Witch in the Wind by Marq de Villers is chock-full of interesting tidbits on the legendary Bluenose. I am an East Coast fanatic and would love to live there someday ( perhaps just a summer home though, as my potential career holds very little promise in the gorgeous Maritimes). When I was last in Halifax, this book was plastered all over the streets in the amazing bookshops they have on Barrington street. I was more than happy to give it a try.

The Curse of the Narrows by Laura Macdonald
Surprisingly not written by a Canadian, this is the first book since Barometer Rising I read that specifically dealt with the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Canada's most devastating disaster was told in short, no-nonsense form by this talented writer. As you can see, I am more than an afficianado of all things East Coast. This book helped deepen my love for the courageous people of the Maritimes and made me praise the instinctive resilience of humankind to forge through the most shattering of events. Parts put me in mind of the stories I heard of the Blitz. Workers would step over the rabble to find their places of employment and try to maintain dignity and normalcy in a world gone mad.


Private Demons: The Tragic Personal Life of Sir John A. Macdonald by Patricia Phenix
This book sold a lot last Christmas and at the Sir John. A dinner I attended ( with noted historian Jack Granastein as the keynote speaker). I quite enjoyed reading about the tumultous life of the Father of Confederation. Especially think of it now since I was in and around the Bellevue House area last weekend.

Itching to read my copy of Sir John A.:the Man Who Made Us by Richard Gwyn because I can never get enough of this period of history or the moulding of our country.


At the War Museum, I purchased a copy of Wolfe and Montcalm: Their Lives, Their Times, and the Fate of the Continent by Joy Carroll because early Quebec history, the seven-years war and the Plains of Abraham fascinate me to no end. If you have not been to Canada ever, I might even suggest starting in Quebec City. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and the resonance of its rich history penetrates the fortressed-walls and the narrow streets and the steep and majestic cliffs. I love this city and am proud that it is in the same country I am.


The Great Dominion:Winston Churchill in Canada 1900-1954 by David Dilks is a 9.99 book at Chapters and worth the bustling around in the remainder bin. Those well acquainted with the larger-than-life Churchill often forget that he was ever-so-fond of our Country as it was his most-visited in the Commonwealth. It was a little dry at times, but I appreciated the reproduction of some of the newspaper articles on his visits, and the inclusion of some of the letters he wrote while on our soil.

Friday, November 16, 2007

much excitement

Last weekend, I trekked to the Nation's Capital and had more than a jolly time roaming through the beautiful old streets, admiring the neo-gothic architecture and hitting every museum in sight. I even had a Beaver Tail---one of those popular pastries they sell in Old Quebec and along the canal in ice skating season.

The National War Museum was my favourite. It took five hours for me to get it done properly. The exhibits on the 1st and 2nd World Wars respectively and the spitfires ( made me think of Andrew Foyle ) were wonderful and moving....especially as last weekend was Remembrance Day. It was also moving to see so many veterans there, roaming through with poppies willing to answer questions. And yet, thought I, how surreal to see your life experiences encased in glass, on display for all to see; mummified like a dinosaur; children playing through a plastic "trench" made up with mud and bodies, a soldier's boot skimming the top.

My passion for 18/19th Century Canadian history was well-founded in my viewing of General Issac Brock's tunic, rescued from the Battle of Queenston Heights and encased with bullet hole in chest for all to see. The fatal wound that made Brock a hero was now, in part, in front of me.

Dear god, I am a nerd.

I loved roaming about the city, ducking through the cobblestoned alleys, hearing the bells toll at Parliament in the mid-dusk and gaping over the spanse of the beautiful Rideau ( which is now a UNESCO world heritage site). It is a great city to find hidden bookstores in, old churches and statues and beautiful scaling hills.

On Sunday morning, for the first time ever, I was able to go to the Cenotaph in the Nation's capital for Remembrance Day. My Opa ( I am Dutch) was a veteran of WWII and my Oma was a warbride from Holland. While he was still alive, I would soak up the stories Opa would tell me of the War---my mind not truly grasping the term "stretcher-bearer." He loved Remembrance Day as he would think of his fallen brother and colleagues and ( being as musical as he was ) enjoy the trumpets and the bagpipes.

The bagpipes : those eerie, mournful instruments that seem so suited for funeral recession, were ( according to my grandfather) a symbol of hope ---they meant reinforcements were coming to the war front.

It was moving to see thousands of Canadians line the streets near Parliament Hill all with poppies and proudly singing O Canada and God Save the Queen in unison in both French and English. I loved the planes and the canons and the moment of silence and, of course, the chilling In Flander's Fields.

SHORT RANT: I dont't think I have ever heard "In Flander's Fields" recited properly. I am a huge fan of the young medical man from Guelph, Ont who gained worldwide recognition not only for his heroism, but for his harrowing turn of phrase. But, the poem only works to full impact if the pauses and stops he so carefully laid out in his phrasing are properly rendered by spoken voice. Like the Lord's Prayer and the National Anthem, everyone knows it by heart and mumbles accordingly through the motions. I have a feeling were people to place the poem in front of them and read it as he intended, we might all be a little more moved than usual. END RANT

And, of course, my favourite part of the ceremony occurs when the veterans march by to a Standing Ovation. In uniform, with medals on display, we recognize the sacrifice they made more than half a century ago and praise their endurance while coldly remembering the impact that faraway war must still have on their lives.

Now on to other things like Inspector Lynley Series 5

I gave up on the books, so I am happy to indulge in the liberties taken with the screenwriting. Lynley had great hair ( as did Havers) we are on our third Helen and the Bentley is shiny and intact. The chemistry between Nat Parker and Sharon Small is palpably wonderful.

Now, I am off to go bookshopping and to spend the afternoon watching the Helen Mirren Elizabeth I with my friend Kat.

On Sunday, I might venture to see Love in the Time of Cholera.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

and furthermore....

In conjunction with the whole I- love- the- new Read -Red -Penguin series, I am excessively infatuated with the Harper Perennial reprintings of the Aubrey-Maturin canon.


I am usually sceptical of photographs on covers, but the two I have purchased in as many days have proven me wrong.

Harper Perennial has perfectly cast a physical double of Maturin ( HE LOOKS LIKE MATURIN DAMMIT!!!---specs and ALL). Though Paul Bettany captured the "spirit" of Maturin in the film, he never looked at all like him. This physical double is brilliant. I cannot believe the brilliance here.

Rendered inarticulate and prone to redundancy but am not at fault. OBSERVE THE BRILLIANCE !

Monday, November 05, 2007


In a bookshop today I saw a new Penguin mass market edition of A Tale of Two Cities. Now I am not usually fond of covers that flash a picture or photograph of the main character---anything that will ruin the picture I already have in my head. That being said, there was something about this particular photo that grabbed me. First off, it is a remarkably stylish cover and I am sucker for pretty editions ( as we all know ), but the picture ( presumably of Sydney) half cloaked, looking sceptically to the side, mouth slightly parted, a blurred reflection of some rainy alley behind, struck me. I stared at it for a good five minutes before purchasing it. NOTE: the last thing in the world my poor grad student budget allots is yet ANOTHER copy of a Dickens book I already own. But it SPOKE to me.

Really striking.

And now methinks I shall sink under the covers with the November rain and chill whirring outside of my window and not in my cozy apartment, and read my favourite parts.

I saw Elizabeth: The Golden Age yesterday. Yes, it is getting horrific reviews but it was not the worst movie ever. Not the best---but definitely beautifully shot. Clive Owen was nought but eye candy as Sir Walter Raleigh---painted as a harlequin pirate with a swarthy smile.

But I can laugh at some good historical fiction now and then. After all, I love Philippa Gregory.