birdie-tracey lindberg

“And when you are attractive and chasing in Vancouver, eventually you get caught yourself. She was caught by Stanley Manklow. A completely beautiful specimen of man. She hadn’t learned to read tarot cards or mean eyes yet.” (113-4)

“She had thought it was love and had given in to that part of herself that wanted to be hurt. And that piece of the hope of something bigger, something loving, turned into a kernel of something indescribably hard. She wonders now how desperate she must have ben to accept that ugly gift and return it. To have felt aroused at the near-beating. At that moment, she began to reject and loathe that thing in her that needed to be hit, hard. And she knew within that fury that she hated him, too. For introducing it so glibly. For making her a one-time offer.” (194-5)

this little beaut was part of canada reads, but i didn’t get to it then. i got to it because of the librarians (ola), but i love the double-charters. that reminds me, i kind of fell off this year, with my worst showing ever, at 30%, but i still have a couple of weeks (i’m probably not going to get to any more of them, and that might be ok this year). i am reading through my holds…and that will definitely be done this year.

i love that this book is about love(s), skin, and literal and figurative homes. all the good themes.

“As the blisters spread she feels, instead of alienated from her skin, more at home in it. Like it is starting to look like she feels inside of it.” (6)

as someone who has had many run-ins with eczema over the years, some of the times with it being completely out of control, this is a completely different way of approaching the situation. i mean-i am always great-full (when it’s gone) for it’s existence as a reminder that things have to change-NOW, but i don’t think i’ve ever embraced it as such.

“Then, she could not afford the luxury of disdain.” (69)

i often wish this for people at work-i mean, i don’t, but i do. i don’t wish hardship on anyone, but i do wish the experience that comes from hardship-namely the one that results in gratitude and personal responsibility and ownership of how we contribute to our own situations.

today-pastor walrus made me cry because he told me that my positive energy lights up the house and that i should keep it up because it makes people happy-leave it to pastor walrus to be the only one to tell me-rather than the pile of complaints that are usually thrown my way by people who can’t and don’t want to fix their faces.

then, maria bought me my lasagna and i was invited over for an impromptu carb fest, baby sangria, and a dance performance that got me home searching for glitter glue and garbage pail kids.

“He was only part Phil, because he was Metis. She wasn’t sure about that, though, because he pronounced it ‘Met-iss’.” (134)

“So Jesus did not weep and Jesus did not save.” (209)

i’m going to burn some more of my new gratitude mix incense and call it a night. goodnight.

cds donated: reflect-for those who wait, manu-voix de fait
cds kept: sekoya-dalawa, eternia-where i’m at (the setup), eternia-where i’ve been (the collection)

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little bastards in springtime-katja rudolph

“In Canada they had peasants from China build our railways across this huge country. That’s free enterprise for you, I guess, getting foreigners to do your back-breaking dirty work for pennies.” (227)

“What was wrong with all the fucking stupid, sobbing, bullshitting adults? Making wars, then wailing about the dead children.” (125)

“There is only one option left when you’ve given yourself up to the worst and it doesn’t come: prepare for something better.” (360)

i like the existential discussions here around capitalism vs. communism, ghosts and wartimes, and the insight into the “gypsy” communities here in toronto.

“A while ago kids at school started asking each other that new strange question, What are you? Because we didn’t really know. But lots of people don’t have a religion and are a mix of everything, like us.” (28)

“Pero and Mahmud and I want to break into one and just hang out there, to see what it feels like poking around in other people’s things. We wouldn’t take anything, at least not anything we didn’t really need.” (54)

“One second later, the apartment feels like it’s been abandoned for years.” (81)

“People don’t think about that stuff enough, how people need just a few basic things to keep on living.” (121)

the stress release outlet/rebellion of the teens in the form of the break-ins that leads to the insight of doing good deeds is an interesting way of telling intersecting stories, and to highlight the intersecting failings to deal with war, mental health, immigrants, death, education, and institutional violence. once again-i give thanks to the ontario librarian’s association for picking this one for their list. one more to read for this year…

“I sigh. The only response to a stupid point of view is to punch the person in the face, because reasoning will never help. Or walk away.” (235)

“Culture, she says, is radically transferable, that’s the great thing about it.” (243)

oh, rachel dolezal jokes for days.

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.

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?

between gods-alison pick

“One person’s certainty makes room for another’s reluctance. This is true of dynamics within a relationship, and true of the existence of the relationship itself.” (99)

“It’s hard to tell whether I feel disappointment tinged with relief, or the opposite.” (215)

“At a time of spiritual crisis, it is best to do nothing. To float, and collapse into bed, I find myself unable to pray. I am between Gods, as others are between relationships or careers.” (92)

“I’m looking in the wrong place. I’m looking outside, when I know full well the answers I need are inside me. It’s just so much harder to find them there.” (119)

i believe this is still my pick so far for the OLA evergreen summer reading list. perhaps it’s the order in which i read them in, but there was more in this that i could relate to- not directly, but not indirectly either. i asked a friend for his opinion as he has a very strong one on all things jew-and he didn’t know her name, but when i showed him a picture, he laughed because apparently ok cupid had made them as a match for the past two years. judging from the rockiness of her marriage as described in the book, i suppose i’m not surprised that she’d be online dating. unsolicitedly, our produce manager was like, “i know her! i haven’t read any of her books though”.

“As a writer, I believe in the power of words, but there are things words cannot speak to, worlds that language cannot name.” (362)

“I’m silent. I know he’s lashing out because I’m here.” (323)

“We talk for a while about the legacy of denial, about how the grief I am feeling isn’t just my own but my father’s and grandparents’ as well. About how a secret, passed down the generations, grows until it’s impossible to hold. About the sudden desire I have to fix the past, to undo the wrong that’s been done.” (53)

“So by the time depression came for me in my early twenties, I already had two decades of unexpressed grief accumulated inside me, the grief of small pains and sleights. Yes, in the big picture I was a content child with a very happy childhood. None of the classic traumas had ever darkened my door. But it turns out Granny was right. Life is inherently painful. And several generations of unshed tears eventually become a flood.” (32)

i get this push to right all the past wrongs in this life. i also get that going back is a way to understand the present and enact preventative measures for future hurt, whether or not we get to see them into fruition or not. i also know what it is to hit a brick wall when it comes to trying to get people to help you do this, whether people are just avoiding their own hurt or they’re occupying this paradoxical religious place that starts to look a lot like exclusion-it’s like living in quebec-people want to preserve their culture and fight for inclusion, by exclusion. tell me how that works-humans, why come we’re so wrong?

“The implication is that this was a loss, like losing your virginity to an asshole.” (228)

“This whole process is news to me. I have always assumed that I could reclaim my father’s Judaism when I wanted, like a lost suitcase at an airport security desk.” (28)

“Do people really change? Is it possible to start life anew?” (302)

both times she’s pregnant, she complains about what she cannot eat. i get that-there’s a selective little alien growing inside you and it’s restricting you from certain foods? it was an interesting parallel story of control of one’s body and actions when trying to pursue a very specific life program. i can also see how all these things happening at once would wreak havoc on one’s whole everything, so big ups for making it through, at least in the book.

forgiveness-mark sakamoto

“it might not be such a bad idea…”

“You seldom know exactly what someone is thinking, but when sharing food, you know just what the person is experiencing. They ate in silence.” (136)

“Four broken hearts were trying their best.” (209)

happy canaduh day, i’m in america. i chose this one because it’s another alternative world war II story that’s been chosen by the ontario librarian’s association. this time, a mixed-race man pieces together the stories of his grandparents, and it’s kind of the reverse of david suzuki‘s latest book to his grandchildren. i like that he brought to light the similarities of the misery of war, to show that strange human propensity to go to great lengths to be at war, when it’s so much easier not to be.

“It mattered little that Canada’s national security-army, navy, and RCMP-were all on record stating there was no security issue. Vitriol of that degree gets attention. It whips up, it grows, and it often wins.” (90)

“The huts were built of wood and had a dirt floor. They had been hastily set up. The Japanese had not anticipated capturing prisoners, let alone bringing them to Japan.” (130)

“Ralph would think later that it was ironic. Of all the things that had taken him to the edge-bullets, mortars, bayonets, diphtheria, the hellship journey-of all these things, it was snow that had come closest to sending this Canadian boy to his grave.” (131)

“Scarcity leads to tough decisions. Should they take family albums or extra rice? Letters from family in Japan or an extra blanket? They were in survival mode and didn’t have the luxury of being sentimental. You couldn’t eat pictures, and letters wouldn’t keep you warm on a cold winter night unless you burned them.” (99)

“You can do a lot of things when dignity is set aside. You wrap your dignity up and gently place it in the back of your mind, like a cherished heirloom. It may not see the light of day for months, but the knowledge that it is there is the most important thing you have.” (120)

on this birthday of our nation, i think it’s important to note this part of our history, but also the huge capacity to move beyond it. i remember my grade ten math teacher, mister murao, who told us that he didn’t know that he grew up on a beet farm because everyone he knew and loved was there, and later when he got a settlement from the government, he bought a van. shouts to him, and his family that must’ve been on some life is beautiful shit.

“At five, he’d been beaten enough to understand that the strong can force themselves on the weak. He had never been the strong. He liked turning the tables.” (25)

“He told his mother he was fine, but his handwriting gave him away.” (121)

“Like the decision to send Ralph Augustus McLean to war.
Like the decision to intern Mitsue and Hideo Sakamoto.
The decisions made within this room had sealed my grandparents’ fate. They had been condemned there, apprehended there, abandoned there. They had been left for dead there.” (232)

“My grandparents bore witness to the worst in humanity. Yet they also managed to illuminate the finest in humanity. Their hearts were my home. I saw none of the ugliness they had. I felt none of the bitterness.
How on earth did they manage that?
Forgiveness is moving on. It is a daily act that looks forward. Forgiveness smiles.” (237)

“Ralph broke down sometimes. All the men who had been in the war had.” (172)
“Mitsue and Ralph became instant friends. There was an unspoken understanding between them. They were both far too polite to state it, to address it. But they felt they knew each other. Deep down, they knew each other. They had both discarded the past, keeping only what they needed, leaving the rest behind. They did not compare hardships or measure injustices. They knew there was no merit to that…..Breaking down is the easy part. Anyone, at any time, can break down. The act of coming together again is what makes a hero. Moving on, with an open heart, seems, at times, impossible. But it’s not.” (182)

“But I realized now that forgiveness is not a a transaction. It is not an exchange. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the past.” (237)

i guess that old adage is true-smile and the world smiles with you. frown, and you’re a miserable lonely cunt.

juliet was a surprise-bill gaston

“Maybe it’s because a natural riot of plants is so difficult. It’s all branches and tendrils and thirst and an urge that can and will break through concrete. Who can walk a wild forest and not feel the threat of an unfathomable presence that parades as stillness? Plus, plants  ultimately don’t care about us.  In the end, basic rock and sky is simpler to deal with, if we need to get spiritual about this, which I think we do.” (62) (Cake’s Chicken)

“It’s why we love trees-we see ourselves rooted in the rooted and the helpless.” (71, Any Forest Seen From Orbit)

“i can’t live with you, can’t live without you…”

i’m dipping into the recent archives on this one, because it’s time once again for the ontario librarian’s association‘s summer reading club. hashtag, evergreen. i’ve already read medicine walk, and i somehow got most of them right away-even the naomi klein one that invariably has many holds. this is a little one that i figured i could read all fast and furious, and i am now 20% done the list. my aim is to put a hurtin’ on the list before i head to nyc again at the end of the month.

i’m a bit non-plussed (shouts to slumberland-coming soon) about this collection of short stories, but short stories are hard. with the exception of the above pull-quotes, and these few more:

“His eyebrows were lazily up and his gaze steady. I didn’t like looking him in the eyes. They were moist, and surrounded by pools of incomprehension and hurt, but they hooked and held you with a steadiness you didn’t expect.” (38) Cake’s Chicken

“Sex was never a problem for them. Unless you saw it as the thing that had kept them together too long.” (141-2) To Mexico

my overall feeling was “meh”, much like how i felt about the cat last year. but like the first and only time i did mushrooms, i have a feeling that nothing will be like the first year that i came across this list and its picks.

but i am no less great-full that it exists, and enriches my life like the recent friend gatherings-from the impromptu visit with a work neighbour and today’s planned picnic ambush of a friend at work.

thanks also to the ever-edifying bust magazine (and my baby for getting me that prescription, haha), the lonsdales live performances, lal‘s oldie but goldie warm belly high power, mama julay for tattooing thru, and all the bonus friends that come together to celebrate miss vivi-we may all be going to hell for our commentary on recent historical present events, but shit-it’s gonna be a party.