the lobster kings-alexi zentner

“Size is one of those odd things about art, because it can change the way you view a painting.” (254)

i think this one ties (station eleven) for my vote for this year’s ontario librarian’s association evergreen book selection. i was on it this year-i’ve read (or tried to read) all of them except somewhere in france, so that’s a reminder to activate that on my holds’ list.

what i always appreciate about this annual list is how good the librarians are at picking across genres, and how committed they are to bringing out regions, stories, and authors that wouldn’t otherwise get the attention.

i suppose it’s hard to tell an east coast story without the water, as it is the east coast. unlike the other side, there seems to be a strong focus on canadian art on the land, the forest, and the mountains, and less of the west coast-but all the times i’ve read about the east, it’s the water.

“It doesn’t usually take more than one winter for those people to realize that the reason they fell in love with Loosewood Island wasn’t because of what the island was, but rather because of what Loosewood Island wasn’t. It wasn’t the life they wanted to leave behind.” (24)

my librarian’s reaction to this book was that she didn’t think the king lear metaphor really worked, but i didn’t think that it was the intention to make it a direct translation (also-as an aside, the other book that i liked also had lear at the wavy centre-huh) but like the pull quote, it was a story within the story-the intentions of a dad naming his daughters, not the actual story structure, because i don’t think it was that spike lee self-reflexive, where the creator goes beyond meta-phor, to truly create an entirely parallel universe. as a theme of the story within the story, or changing the scale of the painting, it completely works.

i was also reading it at the time that whale rider was showing at david pecault square and i remember seeing that for the first time in the theatre, at cinecenta at UVIC, which was where i truly got my university education-reminder to send a thank-you note to whomever curated during those years*.

“With Scotty gone, Daddy took me on for a full share of what he pulled out of the ocean, and in response, my sisters separated themselves from him with a violent absence that turned me into the bridge between them and Daddy; it was as if the only way they knew how to figure out who they were was to obliterate the ground around them, a teenage policy of scorched earth. Or maybe it was the other way around, maybe it was Daddy responding to Rena and Carly pushing away by pulling me tighter.” (61-2)

“That his talking was meant to be an ocean in and of itself, so that we’d be washed away by the words and never wonder about the things he didn’t talk about: Scotty, my mother, Vietnam, his own father.” (73)

“That’s the only way he talks about my mother anymore, as if she were some sort of prank he pulled.” (7)

“I loved Carly, but sometimes it seemed like she’d never gotten over the day I accidentally dropped Mr. Pickles over the side of the Queen Jane.” (94)

“I could see how he’d already started seeing the damage of too much beer and drugs etching lines on his face, and how in a few years he’d look hollowed out and only a woman as empty as him would be drawn in.” (127)

“She was someone who you could tell had once been pretty, but it was as if she’d sunk into herself, faded out, and she looked both older and younger than the twenty-four or twenty-five she must have been.” (128)

“And I know it sounds naive, but it hadn’t occurred to me that being sad that he was gone and missing him were two separate things.” (303)

the protagonist’s negotiation of who she is as a woman, daughter, sister, and heir to the family business is one that is universal, as well as her decision-making (and options) when it comes to romantic relationships. i feel about her, i think the way she thinks about herself. i think i like her, but i’m not sure-she’s a bit distant, but i can tell that detachment has been hard-won.

the most interesting painting within the painting, of course, is the running of meth through the waters, as we know that we’ve exhausted the fishing industry, and times of rampant poverty bring desperate measures indeed. i’d like to look more into this but in the meanwhile-chrissy is a killer y’all-try to stay away.

herbert and the search for happiness-dir. peter chelsom

“forget the pursuit of happiness, focus on the happiness of pursuit”

i picked this one up on a whim from my home branch, and watched it one evening with the cat. it’s visually very beauty-full-like moving travel photography, and there are definitely some heart-wrenching moments-especially the interaction with the woman on the plane. the subject matter-how satisfied you are with how you’re living-resonates i’m sure with many people, but the way and means that we go about discovering that is what sets us apart.

i’ve had my own struggle with how i’ve changed my story recently-i haven’t previously been someone who stuck around any city or job or dwelling for very long, and since i’ve landed in TO, it’s been nothing but commitments, and it hasn’t been terrible. this past year, i’ve questioned the jet-setting lifestyle that had previously excited me so-i have actually had a hard time with it-especially in the early part of the year when i wasn’t in any place for more than two weeks. i suppose the constant has the feast or famine way that my life seems to unfold in-even my romantic relationships which have gone from one extreme of smothering to the other of almost complete disinterest and non-involvement (sigh). one day, i will work it out, and in the meanwhile, i will continue to be the only person in a lot of people’s lives that consistently explores the city, is okay (possibly better) single, and like the weekly inventories that i run on everything in my house, i will continue to keep turning over the stones in my emotional psyche as well.

“you need to get up, get out and get something. how will you make it if you never even try?”

salman said-toronto reference library

this magical night, i met two 80+ versions of myself, one of whom, once shown the shallot that i had in my pocket to give to salman rushdie, grabbed me by the scruff of my neck like a mama cat in a peach blazer with shoulder pads and thrust me at him yelling, “this young lady has something to give you!”. here are some quotes from the evening:

“now i have the story too-the time a girl wanted to give me an onion.”

“libraries are a good substitute for school”

“and like the internet likes to tell me, it doesn’t work if it’s a leap year. there’s no fucking leap year.”

“monotheistic gods, unfortunately, get virtuous, and that’s not very interesting-they’re like people, how many virtuous people do you like?”

“a lot. i’m glad you brought up that point. there’s not much else to do in fairyland but have lots and lots of sex-they don’t have books or movies, and that’s part of why they like to meddle in human affairs-we do all of these other things, and most of us don’t have very much sex at all.”

“i like the idea of talking about dreadful things, amusingly.”

“hollywood attacks new york every summer, people say it’s los angeles’ way of showing that it cares.”

“i’m sorry about the staten island ferry-no, i’m not”

“cambridge, england, the real cambridge”

“when you become a writer, the things that people like about your writing are the things that people don’t like about your writing”

bb: “donald trump wants to build a wall between the US and mexico..” sr: “who’s going to build it?” (chuckles)

“history doesn’t go on tram lines-it’s not inevitable”

“when i was studying history, i was told very wisely, not to speculate about the future”

“christopher sometimes referred to himself in the third person…as ‘the hitch'”

“i called him a pussy” bb: “do you regret that?” sr: “no. these people were executed for drawing pictures-too many of my friends were on the wrong side of history”

“the only reason you’re dying it’s him because he’s described as having big ears. the frank sinatra thing came up because i turned off the sound during a debate and mccain was like this little red man strutting about (pantomimes) and obama was so smooth, so comfortable in his body, and i thought, i like that guy.”

“thanks for giving away the ending”

“they wanted me to audition to be bette midler’s gynecologist-and i thought that was irresistible”

“gynecologist, not scientologist”

“i do shoot my mouth off about saudi arabia as much as i can-ask anyone”

“i have a longing for the day that nobody asks me that question-someone tried to kill me, one of us is dead”

“the reception of midnight’s children in india was so much more important to me than winning the booker prize”

“nobody gets everyone-that’s why there are a lot of writers”

and, so. the dividends of being adored by librarians continue to pay off. to everyone who i invited that couldn’t make it-i’m sorry, the loss was all yours.

born with teeth-kate mulgrew

“For a certain kind of actress, nothing serves romance better than a new part. When separation is imminent, suitcases are just about to be packed, and the script, marked and highlighted, lies on the bed, love is at its most tender.” (64)

“Actresses. What a bunch of sad saps we are, I thought. Madly in love with the child. Madly in love with the craft. Trying desperately to forge an alliance between the two, and constantly failing. If I were a man, I said to myself, none of this would be in question. My children would respect me, my wife would honor me, and everyone would exalt the work. But turn the knife just slightly to the left, and what you have is a harried woman sneaking out before dawn, cracking the whip for sixteen hours on a soundstage, creeping back home under cover of night, forever explaining, forever apologizing, forever in conflict. Picasso wasn’t in conflict, you can bet your bottom dollar on that. He said, Scram! I need to work, and his mistresses and their spawn ran for the hills. Dickens wasn’t in conflict. He had ten children and wrote as many novels in almost as many years, because it was both understood and appreciated that he was gifted, famous, and rich. The male artist has always been respected.” (268)

“In my naivete as a mother and my egocentricity as an actress, I honestly thought that seeing me on the screen would make my children proud.” (265)

“It’s hard to know what’s in a person’s heart when she never says good-bye.” (83)

it’s that last line that was the first to jump out at me from my notes this morning, the one to move me to tears. i suppose it sums up the occasional longing that i’ve felt over the past three decades or so to know something about my mother. in this case, kate is talking about missing her mother’s death, and in mine-i’m feeling about missing my mother’s life. but in a lot of ways, this story resonates because of all the things that we’re expected to do and be as women, which ironically i know to be false through my mother’s absence. she has taught me that we don’t have to be anyone’s daughter/sister/mother/wife, even if we are all of those things.

i wondered about the process of this book, why she omitted orange, but i suppose this career relaunch is one that she’s still currently thriving in, and it was the platform to highlight all of the other milestones and highlights of her much storied career thus far. this material was more memoir-y than the present, and the reader gets to draw her or own inspirations on how such a dynamo has sustained an acting career way beyond the prescribed expiration date that we are given. the challenges of life that she has opened up about and woven throughout this story, which, i suppose are less woven and more difficult to extract because they are woven into who she has become are honest and generous, and i was moved to tears at least thrice.

i missed the talk that she gave at the reference library, so perhaps there will be more of this to be gleaned from the talk or the q&a, so one day, i will watch that. in the meanwhile, i will sit in the space between season two and season three of the show, because the fact that so much time and space was given to those two matriarchs is rare, even though it’s problematic because it paints the prisoners as lifelong degenerates scrambling for a top spot and doesn’t implicate the guards or the overarching prison industrial complex nearly enough.

the overwhelming sense of her gratitude must have been help-full in her life-from the writing in of her young pregnancy to the soap opera that she was in, the do-over for the star trek audition, and meeting her daughter late in life-i am floored by how strong she is, and how empowered she has been in the shaping of her own life. i bow to you, miss mulgrew, i bow to you.

“It is extraordinary what two women, complete strangers to each other, can negotiate over coffee and buttered toast. Within minutes, we had accomplished our respective missions.” (297)

station eleven-emily st. john mandel

“A local girl wished to announce that she had a litter of kittens to give away and that the kittens’ mother was a good mouser. There was a reminder that the library was always seeking books, and that they paid in wine.” (263)

forever. even in a dystopic novel, the library is the coolest place at the end of the world. at least, this is how this book is classified, and thus, wouldn’t be one that i would naturally gravitate towards if not for the double nomination, by the ontario librarian’s association and for the toronto book award. but there is actually a beauty-full underlying story of how important art is to us as long as we are humans, no matter what happens to us.

if anything, it’s a creative re/imagining of toronto as the centre of the universe because it is where the characters converge just before the catastrophe- it is the middle of the blooming onion, and each deep-fried petal is delicious as it is separated, and though it may burn your fingertips, you keep reaching, and you want to eat it all. the plot twist was expertly handled, and even though i began to suspect it some time before it was confirmed, it was still kind of a surprise when it came, like how we all knew that “unbreakable” would be janet‘s encore last week (duh), but it was still amazing anyway. the shifts through time, the irregular page numbers, and the overwhelming sense of longing are enough to sustain the reader through this book that you kind of don’t want to end, because it means that we end, but in a way, it doesn’t-it’s a book of beginnings, and explanations, and hope in all its misunderstandings and forms.

“It is possible that no one who didn’t grow up in a small place can understand how beautiful this is, how the anonymity of city life feels like freedom.” (78)

“…everyone knows when you’ve got a terrible marriage, it’s like having bad breath, you get close enough to a person and it’s obvious.” (162)

“He knew he should be sociable and talk to them, but he wanted to be alone, or as alone as he could be in an airport with a hundred other terrified and weeping people. He ate a dinner of corn chips and chocolate bars from a vending machine, spent some time listening to Coltrane on his iPod. He was thinking of Robert, his boyfriend of three months. Clark wanted very much to see him again. What was Robert doing at this moment?” (239)

“He bought another tea, because the first one had gone cold, and also he was beset now by terrible fears and walking to the kiosk seemed like purposeful action. Also because the two young women working the kiosk seemed profoundly unconcerned by what was unfolding on CNN, either that or they were extremely stoic or they hadn’t noticed yet, so visiting them was like going back in time to the paradise of a half hour earlier, when he hadn’t yet known that everything was coming undone.” (235)

“What I mean to say is, the more you remember, the more you’ve lost.” (195)

“Hell is the absence of the people you long for.” (144)

or perhaps the presence of those that you can’t stand?

the last hockey game-bruce mcdougall

not since stephen king’s needful things have i said “fuuuuuuck” upon finishing a book. unlike that one, which was a riveting 800-odd pages that ended in the worst possible way, this one was the book version of gangs of new york for me-every time i thought it was over, it spiralled into a whole other plot line and i had no idea where it was going, and i was not enjoying the journey.

in a lot of ways, i am the prime candidate for this book-i actually have no idea what happened in that game, or most of the other hockey games that have ever been played in history-i was not susceptible to any spoiler. but in the end, i discovered what i already knew-i’m not at all interested in hockey (as a teenager, i once read a day in the life of ivan denisovich at a canucks’ game and marvelled at the like environments, literally and literally) and leafs fans are fucking insane.

“While their owners diminish the team’s human values, the Leafs will remain financially the most valuable franchise in the National Hockey League. And even as it becomes abundantly clear that no other value matters to its owners, fans will remain loyal to the team. Forty years after tonight, one-quarter of all Canadians will still say they cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Few of them, though, will have enough money to attend a game.” (323)

“What difference would it make if they’d sold him? Would people have stopped coming to the games? Not bloody likely. The way to make money in this business was to pay as little as possible in overhead and salaries, sell as many tickets as you could, pump up your concession prices and drive a hard bargain with advertisers. Companies would pay millions to get their messages onto televised broadcasts of hockey games, especially Leafs games. In that context, how much was a single player worth?” (139-40)

“Coaches in this league were like players: a dime a dozen. As soon as the Leafs hit a losing stream, Imlach would have no job at all.” (147-8)

this really confirms the fact that all other sports teams in this town are doomed by this model, and how people can’t really handle it when a team starts winning-like the young raptors (it’s only a 20-year old team!) of late, or the bluejays as of now-fingers crossed that we can get over this ice hump, because this madness is built into the history of the city. this is also why people have been so quick to call for dwayne casey‘s job-but hey-at least they didn’t build a concession stand for him. i also wonder where the heck folks find so much money in this place-we not only pay more than anyone else in north america for public transit (i checked before i moved here), but leafs fans also pay more than anyone else in north america-more than all the 122 teams in the four major professional sports (basketball, hockey, baseball, football) to watch games in the stadium. hashtag, fourthbiggestcitychumps. who hurt us, toronto? why do people stand for this?! why don’t we believe that we deserve better?

the writing is good, the research is phenomenal, and i’m glad (mostly?) that i read this one that is nominated for this year’s toronto book award, but i could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of relief upon firing this one back into the library’s return chute. i am interested into looking further into some of the points, like the maritime coloured leagues that predated the NHL and the american negro leagues, the george hannah molesting scandal, and the basic exploitation of the players by the NHL.

“If they had to, NHL owners would shut down entire teams rather than capitulate to players’ wishes for a fair shake. In 1925, players on the Hamilton Tigers asked for an additional $200 to play in the playoffs, after they’d already played an additional six games in the regular season. Instead of giving them what they wanted, the president of the league suspended the team, fined each player $200 and dismantled the franchise. That was the last time a team from Hamilton ever played in the NHL.” (92)

“The NHL didn’t care what the wives thought. The league seemed to have a higher regard for hookers than it did for them. On a player’s journey through the NHL, the league would turn a blind eye if a stripper sat on his lap or snuck into his hotel room, but it frowned upon wives and children who didn’t sit quietly on the sidelines and keep their mouths shut.” (180)

“He tosses his soggy jersey into the centre of the dressing room. An attendant picks it up as soon as it hits the floor. The Leafs never allow a player to take his jersey home at the end of the season unless he pays for it, even if he’s helped the team win the Stanley Cup.” (309)

“Despite Pulford’s achievement, most NHL owners thought that educating a hockey player was like pouring honey into a Swiss watch. Conn Smythe, the Leafs’ founder, objected to players attending school, because they would then have to serve two masters, only one of whom was him.” (168)

the moments of the players winning came few and far between, but i can’t help but wonder what it would be if everyone had the same access to these travel exceptions:

“If a player’s past caused a problem when he crossed the border into the United States, his team could contact a cabinet minister to obtain a passport for him. Judges allowed their courtrooms to be used by hockey players for practical jokes on their teammates. They dismissed charges against hockey players that would have earned any other man a term in jail. In Quebec, policemen offered to park Jean Beliveau’s car.” (217)

“NHL owners-who’d treated their players like serfs, with the Canadian government’s tacit approval-now had to scramble to keep their organizations intact or else watch their former indentured servants walk out the door with their silverware. An expansion team called the New York Islanders lost seven of its twenty draft choices to the WHA. The no-names who remained on the team couldn’t win more than one game in four.” (254)

up until this point, the league was getting away with paying people peanuts, and the tragic stories of players getting robbed of their youth, bodies, lives, and minds were rampant in the book, and i couldn’t help but feel bad for these guys-and that was way before the concussion era. and i also kept thinking that the players in this sport, with its inherent built-in violence, have never seen the kind of profiling that basketball players have-especially when they cannot even touch each other on the court.

perhaps it took so long to get through this book not only because i kept getting lost down the rabbit hole, but because it drove home too many of the points that i didn’t need any help lamenting about this sport that has been built into this nation’s identity whether we like it or not.

i want my name back-dir.roger paradiso

“straight outta the sugarhill gang”

i relaxed out of the chfa haze with meena to this last night, and perhaps that’s why i just cried my eyes out to a video of a monkey reviving another monkey who had been electrocuted on the train tracks while a bunch of humans videotaped the whole thing. perhaps it’s my period, or perhaps my tolerance for injustice has just been maxed.

this real life story is infinitely more important than that other “based on a true story” that i have yet to see because i don’t know how much of that two hours i need to give my life to. but history, credit, robbing, and live performance will forever be part of hip hop culture, and this one is the ultimate mecca tale of the spirit and the bullshit.