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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.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

In bed with Nabokov

Insomniac Dreams: Experiments With Time brings together notes Vladimir Nabokov made about his own dreams, providing new insight into the writer’s work and posing the question: why are we so fascinated by the nocturnal lives of others?

More: The Calvert Journal

Monday, December 11, 2017


Michael Crummey's Sweetland opens with a Newfoundland fisherman named Moses Sweetland coming upon a boatload of dark-skinned men adrift in a dense fog. Who are they? Is it a dream? They are all too real and he tows them back to Sweetland, the tiny island community named for his ancestors. It's an engaging beginning to the tale of a man and his island.
Except for a brief and nasty stay in Toronto where he went to find work when he was young, Sweetland, now 69 years old, has spent his entire life in his birthplace. He is a quiet, solitary man who fished for cod until the moratorium in 1992 and then served as the lighthouse keeper until that job came to an end when the light was automated.
After Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949 the government offered incentives to residents of isolated outports to move to larger centres. Votes were held, with a majority of 80 percent needed for the village to be abandoned. Families were often pitted against each other with the younger members wanting to move because of education and older members reluctant to leave the only home they'd ever known. Sweetland is set in the early part of the 21st century against a similar relocation scenario.
Residents are offered $100,000 if all of them agree to leave so the government can cease providing services to the island. Moses is the last holdout, incurring the wrath of his relatives and neighbours who want to take the package.
The atmospheric island is the star of this story and its eccentric residents are its supporting cast. Crummey weaves the past and present together, seamlessly unspooling Moses' personal history slowly but deliberately until the powerful finale. This was the best book I read in 2017 and I can't recommend Sweetland highly enough.

Note: Last summer I took this wonderful tour with Bruce Miller. It was the highlight of my trip to Newfoundland and it provided context for Sweetland.

Missed Connections

Marc Maron reads “The Worm in Philly,” a story by Sam Lipsyte; Robert Pattinson reads a poem by James Wright; George Plimpton recalls a boxing match in Hemingway's dining room; and Sadie Stein shares a true story about missed connections.

Listen here: http://theparisreview.org/podcast

What Is An Eggcorn? A Beautiful Mistake.

"Eggcorns are a special, productive kind of mistake. They are created when someone mixmatches the letters in a word—or the words in a phrase—but the result still makes sense. In fact, sometimes the messed up version makes even better sense than the original one. An eggcorner might, for instance, use mixmatches instead of mismatches. An eggcorner might assert that something is jar-droppingly good rather than jaw-droppingly. If you’ve ever told someone they’re a “real trooper” or said you’re “chomping at the bit,” then you are an eggcorner, too."
More here

A Boeuf Bourguignon for the End of the World

"I don’t need to point out that 2017 has been a difficult year. I don’t need to say that acts branded as “self-care” are more necessary than ever. But neither do I need to quarter each mushroom, to slice the onions uniformly, or to make matchsticks of the garlic. I don’t need to save the onion skin (thoroughly rinsed) and add it to the herb sachet, since its only effect is to give the stew a deeper, richer, redder color."
More: Literary Hub

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes

Wanda is feeling stressed. It looks like her contract teaching job at a college will be axed due to government budget cuts and her musician boyfriend may be canoodling with his old friend. When she stops in at the supermarket to buy some coconut milk for a Thai curry she has no idea that something will happen that will send her stress spiralling out of control. She does not anticipate a shooting incident in the St. John's, Newfoundland grocery store. She could not have foreseen that she would take down a mad gunman with her can of coconut milk or that a video of the event would go viral, making her a local, even national heroine. Bridget Canning's Wanda is touchingly vulnerable. In the digital era fame brings with it unbearable scrutiny and Wanda behaves as anyone might. She doesn't feel heroic; in fact she is crippled by anxiety. Is she paranoid or is someone out to get her? Canning's first novel is well-paced and witty. I look forward to reading more from her soon.

Hanging Out with the Churchills on Aristotle Onassis's Yacht

"Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915 – 2011), who was once described by the BBC as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene,” was regarded as one of the greatest travel writers of his time. His mostly autobiographical accounts of his adventures through prewar Europe, southern Greece and the Caribbean are regarded as classics. The following letter was written to Ann Fleming, a British socialite whose third husband, Ian Fleming, was best known as the writer of the James Bond series."
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Bake Like Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson wrote many poems in the kitchen—often on the backs of labels, recipes and other papers, and these reveal that the kitchen “was a space of creative ferment for her, and that the writing of poetry mixed in her life with the making of delicate treats.”
More:Literary Hub

How Writers Build the Brand

Gold standard: Ernest Hemingway's 1951 magazine advertisement. Credit Advertisement From P. Ballantine & Sons, Newark (1951)

"In this era when most writers are expected to do everything but run the printing presses, self-promotion is so accepted that we hardly give it a second thought. And yet, whenever I have a new book about to come out, I have to shake the unpleasant sensation that there is something unseemly about my own clamor for attention. Peddling my work like a Viagra salesman still feels at odds with the high calling of literature."
More: The New York Times:

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Wet Book Rescue

This visual primer from the Syracuse University Libraries will give you a clear action plan the next time water and paper meet.

Via  Open Culture

Illustrator documents her move from Paris to Portland

The feeling of moving away from home, for university, for a job or for love, is something most of us go through at some point in our lives. French illustrator Anne Pomel took this leap in 2015, moving to Portland from Paris. This life-changing move is the focus of her latest book, Before the Rain.

More here 

The Novel Has Been Over-Furnished

Image credit © Nathan Gelgud

Writers in search of guidance need only scan Willa Cather on Writing for some sharp doses of advice. “The novel,” she writes in an analysis of the difference between creating good fiction and being adept at journalistic description, “has been over-furnished.”
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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The Library of Trinity College

Catering to the knowledge-hungry for over three centuries, 300 year old Trinity College Library in Dublin  holds over 200,000 books, ranging from popular classics to all known genres of printed books.

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The Ghosts of Literary Greatness That Forever Haunt Paris

Much like the relics of a saint, a selection of objects on permanent display at the Maison de Balzac, a jewel of a museum tucked away down a flight of steps in a pocket of time below street level in the posh Sixteenth Arrondissement of Paris, attest to one man’s single-minded compulsion to milk his mind and tell the story of his moment.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

101 books about cities

Perhaps more than at any other time in American history, where we live determines much about the way we think about the world. Curbed's urban experts present 101 books about where and how we live.

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