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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Fact Of A Body: A Murder and a Memoir

This book reads like a well written novel and it was only after I finished it that I discovered it is an actual memoir. Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich was a law student when she encounters the case of Ricky Langley, a pedophile who murdered a six year old boy and who was sitting on death row for the crime. The author is the daughter of two lawyers and was morally opposed to capital punishment until she was exposed to this case. Her reaction is extreme: she wants Ricky to die. We gradually learn that her own experience of child sexual abuse by her grandfather informs her feelings.
The stories of Alexandria and Ricky are two stories that entwine. While their lives appear very different at first we discover that both come from dysfunctional families who keep secrets.
Ricky is the product of a nightmarish background. His family was in an awful car accident before he was born. Two older siblings were killed and his mother was left severely disabled . The family never regains whatever equilibrium they might have once had. The incident is never spoken of and Ricky does not find out about it until he is half grown, although he must have had an inkling because he was haunted from an early age by a spectre with his dead brother's name. 
One day Alexandria finds out that she is actually one of a set of triplets, one of whom died in infancy and was never spoken of again. Her parents let the hospital look after the baby's remains and her actual burial place is unknown. Likewise, her parents and siblings want to put her grandfather's abusive behaviour behind them and do not wish to discuss it. Alexandria carries these secrets like a stone inside her.
For an extended period early in my career as a social worker I dealt with many cases of child sexual abuse. The stories of Alexandria and Ricky and their families ring absolutely true to me. The Fact Of A Body examines some very unpleasant truths and is not easy reading. It took me awhile to wade through this book and I know it will stay with me for a very long time.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Cooking with Ursula K. Le Guin


Ursula K. Le Guin died on January 22, just a few weeks ago. In tribute, I made a menu from The Left Hand of Darkness, dreaming up foods Ai and Estraven could have brought on their perilous journey over the ice—or eaten at its end, when they stumble into a “hot shop” and are once again warmed by humankind...
Read more here

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Living In A Plague Village In The Early 21st Century

I started following Tom Cox on Twitter to see what his sad cat The Bear was up to. The Bear has since died (many tears were shed) and Tom has moved on, literally, to a plague village
All my life I have been prone, in a mild way, to headstrong, impulsive behaviour. I stand by this strand of my personality, since it has often worked out pretty well for me, and also because I’m a big fan of mistakes and view a life without them as being terrifyingly dull. One of the problems of getting older, though, is that Experience happens and, no matter how much of a headstrong, impulsive person you remain, it will insidiously begin to fuck that side of you over: in the back of your head where resides the chorus of voices that disapprove of your headstrong impulsive behaviour - individual and real, or nebulous and societal - this choir of sensibleness will be joined by a new voice, which you might recognise with some dismay as your own. I was feeling a bit frustrated about this towards the end of last year and felt it was far too long since I’d made a major impulsive and headstrong decision that could be widely criticised by others, so in the second week of December, in bitterly cold weather, I packed up my life, left my beloved house in a relatively gentle part of Devon, and moved to half of a remote haunted farmhouse on top of an almost mountain in a plague village in the north of England.
Read more 

You can pre-order - and help fund - the special first edition of Help The Witch here

Goat on a Pile of Scrap Lumber

The goat lowers his head like a fur-covered anvil,
as if he knows all things in the world change.
His eyes are bisected by a horizon line of yellow light.
You’re wondering what might happen if you move closer.
There’s a language we speak to ourselves and one we use for others.
I told you, he’s lowered his head.
Nevertheless, you can see for yourself he’s chewing.
What he swallows becomes his rumination.
I too was attracted to someone I did not understand.
With each other we were bestial, that’s not too strong a word.
Although at first, at first, when our foreheads touched, we were curious.

MICHAEL COLLIER’s seventh poetry collection is My Bishop and Other Poems.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Alice Through The Looking Glass Treasure Trove

There is a place in London that is dedicated to all things Alice! The Alice Through The Looking Glass boutique is situated in the heart of London’s West End. Established in 2012, they specialize in Alice iconography including first edition books, rare illustrated editions, gifts, fashion and unique objects of desire. I think I'll pop in when I'm tin London.

More here

Friday, February 09, 2018

Seeing The Werewolf

This story by Paul Bassett-Davies won the Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize 2017/18.

WE BOTH PAID FIVE EUROS TO SEE THE WEREWOLF, and when we emerged from the narrow canvas passageway into a small space at the back of the tent it was just a normal guy sitting on a stool. He was wearing sandals, cargo shorts and a polo shirt, and reading a book.
This is bullshit, I said to Sarah.
The guy on the stool looked up and took off his reading glasses. Hello, he said, is there a problem?
I was about to tell him that yes, there appeared to be a problem concerning him not being a werewolf, when Sarah nudged me and directed my attention to the man standing behind me. He was positioned beside the entrance we'd just come through, which, I noticed, was also the only way out. He wore a blue suit that would have looked quite stylish if he'd been able to find one in his size, but I doubted they made them that large. He wasn't alone. A much smaller person was standing on the other side of the doorway but I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman, or some combination of the two. You never know these days. Especially in Holland, even though we were in a bleak industrial area just north of Rotterdam. I looked hard at this second individual, whose gender remained elusive to me. It didn't help that the light in the tent seemed weirdly dense, or maybe it was the bottle of wine I'd shared with Sarah in the car. However, experience has taught me that when you're confronted by a pair of potential assailants, one of whom is an oversized lummox, always keep your eye on the smaller one because he – or she – is the one who's going to make a sudden move and stab you in the neck while you're worrying about how to deal with the big dude.
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35 Literary Bars and Cafes from Around the World

In our habitual fantasies, writers do nothing but sit at small cafe tables, sometimes meeting with their friends, other times gazing wistfully into a pint or swirling an espresso before they scribble down their latest brilliant thought. It may have worked for Hemingway, but I’m here to tell you: that’s not usually what writing looks like. But hey, it’s Friday. 

Jorge Luís Borges and modernist poet Alfonsina Storni were frequent visitors to Cafe Tortoni
in Buenos Aires in the ’70s, and they’re still there, in wax figure form, at Borges’s regular table,
hanging out with Carlos Gardel
I've enjoyed a coffee or other libation at a number of these spots (including the one above) but didn't feel any literary inspiration.

More Literary Bars and Cafes 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Charting the Geography of Classic Literature

Landmarks: Maps as Literary Illustration is an exhibition at Harvard’s Houghton Library. The collection includes the work of landmark authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and the late Ursula K. Le Guin, and spans everything from love stories to fairy tales and continues through April 14, 2018
More here 

Comprehensive study of Diego Rivera's work

The art highlight of last year for me was finally seeing Rivera's murals at the Detroit Art Institute.
Taschen's Diego Rivera The Complete Murals features a broad selection of his paintings, vintage photos, documents, and drawings from public and private collections around the world.

Read more: It's Nice That

Monday, February 05, 2018

Garbage collectors open library with discarded books

Garbage collectors in the Turkish capital started collecting discarded books.
For months, the men gathered forsaken books. As word of the collection spread, residents also began donating books directly. Now they have opened a public library in the Çankaya district of Ankara that is comprised entirely of books once destined for the landfills.

More here

“Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

“Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich from Original Fire.  Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.

Via: Words for the Year

Good Neighbors

Literary Hub has published an excerpt from  Joanne Serling's debut novel, Good Neighbors and it looks like an interesting read. Paige and Gene Edwards have recently returned home from Moscow with their adopted daughter, Winnie. While they're only too happy to share early parenting snafus, their neighbor Nicole begins to sense a thread of cruelty. Joanne Serling's fiction has appeared in New Ohio Review and North American Review.

Read the excerpt here