Monday, December 31, 2007


"I will liberate myself from deadlines, but not at once. There is no possibility of getting out of the rut into which I have fallen. I don't mind starving as I have already done, but there are others involved too. I give my leisure to writing, two or three hours a day and a little bit of the night, that is, time that is suitable only for trifling work. This summer, when I will have more leisure and will have to earn less, I will undertake something serious." - Anton Chekhov, in a letter

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holiday blessings

I spent Christmas day driving back from Pembroke to Toronto in a rented minivan full of adults, children, a newborn baby, and shoulder-high piles of luggage and presents.

And it was utterly painless. Enjoyable even.

And nobody even complained about having to listen to the Louvin Brothers so much on the way.

Hot dog.

(Not that you could ever really have too much of the brothers Louvin...)

There will be blood

I promise not to be so knee-jerk juvenile in the coming year, but for now, does anyone else see anything odd about the headline The Globe used today for its story about the horrific events in Pakistan?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Closing the vinyl café

What Roy Edroso said:
There are probably far fewer analog audiophiles now than there were once upon a time. That battle has been lost by attrition. When I first heard Raw Power on CD I thought it was crap, and maybe if I still had the LP and a really good sound system I'd still think so. But I don't, and digital is what there is. To what extent was the ass-kicking power of "The Real Me" from Quadrophenia through my college roommate's maxed-out shelftop stereo a superior experience to whatever digitally remixed version we're on now? Was it the grooves, or the time and place? I can't tell you and I don't have thousands of dollars to try and recreate the experience. Maybe we were all better off with Edison cylinders.

But the recesses of our cultural memory are an archipelago where vinyl certainly rules. Things were caught on wax that, with rare exceptions, no one will bother to digitize because there's no money in it, or because no one cares, or because they just plain suck. These artifacts have the same value as any unobserved details of life: they are either worthless or a treasure trove, depending on how much faith one has in the obvious, or patience for that which is not obvious. Like bookstall remainders, garage-sale handicrafts, photos found in the trash, or conversations overheard on the bus, or anything you might happen to attend that did not call attention to itself, they are part of a secret world that is larger, and often more interesting, than the consensus reality we half-awakenly inhabit, and to which we can only abandon ourselves at great risk to our souls.
I'm tempted to add "literary fiction" to that list of cultural marginalia, though not at all in a mean way – not this time, anyway.

Meet me in Paris

If you have any friends (or, indeed, enemies) in France, let them know they can now pre-order my book.

That's right: I'm an auteur.

"Ah bon! I love storeez about zee unhappy Canadians and zere leettle problems wiz zee sex and zee ice hockey!"

¿Que pasa, Enterprise?

Yesterday, I got this e-mail from Enterprise Rent-a-car:
Dear Nathan,

On Tuesday, we sent you an email in Spanish by mistake. To apologise, please accept 15% off your next rental at any neighbourhood location or get a free upgrade at any airport location. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Which, in practical terms, means that I'll be saving nearly a hundred clams on the minivan I'm renting over the holidays, all because Enterprise assumed I have a violent aversion to the sight of Romance languages in my Inbox.

Gracias, Enterprise!

Clichés can come true, part II

This morning I saw a man drop his knapsack while crossing Yonge St. It split open upon impact, and out came a flurry of white paper that proceeded to scatter across the street and into the air like a flock of rebellious geese. Passersby tried catching them and herding them back to their owner, who was grabbing the nearest pages and stuffing them back in his bag while wearing the silliest, shit-eatingest grin imaginable.

I like to think they are all out there chasing them still. (I was too busy being amused to actually stop and help.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

AWOT advances

The advance reading copy of the PFN* just landed on my desk, thanks to the incomparable Sarah D.

This, for those not in the know, is the version that some reviewers will lacerate review from.

Here 'tis:

Actually, that shot doesn't really do justice to my feelings about it. Second try:

That's better.

So... should I start my Giller neglect whining now or wait until next November? I'm new to all this.

* Promising First Novel. Soon to be PBUDFN (Promising But Ultimately Disappointing First Novel).

Dear Santa

I've been so very good this year...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Connie Lunchbox

Conrad Black, taking stock of his current situation, attempts the vernacular:

And even as Black admits he's vexed over why Canadians "seem so obsessed with Barbara and me," he said of his battle against the U.S. government: "It's like I'm wearing a home (hockey) sweater in an opposing arena."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

More Martin

Shaun Smith on the Steve Martin memoir:
The paradox of Martin's success was that his everyman appeal was built on analytical coldness. Unfortunately, that frost carries over into this memoir.

While Martin provides a fascinating analysis of his technical development in Born Standing Up, he provides precious little direct insight into his own persona. Why was he capable of so successfully exploiting his ability to stand outside a subject (i.e.: comedy) and look at it sideways? Why could he not now bring that same faculty to bear on his own character?

I read the book in fan-boy mode and was thus happy for scraps, but I was always aware that what was provided was just scraps.

The last 30 or so pages also seemed in a mad rush to wrap everything up and get out.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fun with cultural stereotypes

From Robert Priest's account of his trip to St. John's in Now magazine:
This just wouldn't happen in Toronto, I marvel to myself. The literati wouldn't dream of reciting aloud at a party...
And thank god for that. Literary parties are bad enough as it is.

I can't wait for Priest's reports from Vancouver:
No one back in Uptightville, Ontario, would dream of breaking off in the middle of a meeting to smoke a doobie and go kayaking...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Out of time

The clock is out of whack on Blogger – I don't actually post things at four in the morning.

I'm not that pathetic...

Kids say the darndest things (about their dead siblings)

I understand why journalists do these kinds of things, but is anyone else creeped out reading this story from The Globe and Mail?:
WINNIPEG — The little girl shuffled through the snow until her progress was halted by the line of yellow police tape flapping in the wind. Barely four feet tall, she shivered in the cold, her hands hidden inside the dangling arms of her winter coat.

She stared up at the blackened shell of the burned-out house, smoke still rising from what remained of its roof. She said her name was N'Tasha, and she was 11 years old. She wasn't supposed to be there, but she wanted to see the house where her brother, 14-year-old Nathan Starr, was killed yesterday morning.


"Was my brother trapped on the third floor?" N'Tasha asked, her voice even and her eyes wide. A few moments passed and she shuffled to the other side of the crime scene to get a better look. She said she woke up around 4 a.m. yesterday and found her father speaking to police in her living room.

"It was heartbreaking," she said. "When I watched the news they said he was in something condition."


"Yeah, critical. But then he died."

She continued to stare at the house, where even the snow around it had turned to a black sludge. Every few minutes a new question emerged.

"How did Nathan get stuck in that room? Do you know where the fire started?" she asked.

"I wonder which window they escaped from? Not any on the third floor."

She's a grieving little girl, for fuck's sake, not Little Nell...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More Pullman

Dan Smith, the potty-mouthed books editor at the Toronto Star, wrote a short piece in the paper this weekend on the Philip Pullman fooferaw. Here's the main bit (it's not online):
In our practising Catholic household, The Golden Compass remains a treasured read. It spurs kids to think and question. Good. That’s what great books are for.

    A very subtle and funny writer - one I've become obsessed with over the past year - in a decidedly Muriel Spark mood. Imagine The Pr...