Friday, February 29, 2008

The next bk

"The bk is hard and I am truly exhausted. Often I thk I don't like or dislike writing, it's just something I've got to do. The way I feel abt this one: is fine, it's out of the way. But on my desk is a big pile of things to be done, especially this next bk which I am very excited abt." – Mordecai Richler, in a letter to his UK editor, after turning in the final draft of his first novel.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Minister of Poopy-Pantsedness

So serious is he about the welfare of seniors, Ontario's health minister said Wednesday he's prepared to don an adult diaper - and use it - to satisfy himself that elderly residents of the province's nursing homes are getting appropriate care.

George Smitherman sent eyebrows skyward when he made the straight-faced suggestion in response to critics who say the standard of care in Ontario nursing homes is so bad, residents are being left to wallow in soiled diapers for hours on end.


He said some of his staff laughed at him "the first three times" he talked about the idea, but Smitherman insisted the matter is no joke.

And I'll bet that the next three times he brought it up in the office he was met with looks of dawning horror.

"I said, 'How does a guy like me really actually figure out what's right about all this?"' he said. "Is a product that offers greater absorption capability an appropriate product or is that a front for some diminishment of care?"
You know, I'm all for testing out a hypothesis, but I'm more than willing to accept on faith, and faith alone, that shitting your pants is unpleasant.

To be fair, this may all be part of an initiation for a frat.

[Thanks(?) to Emily D. for the link – and the title.]

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Down at the Globe

An article I wrote about a creative writing contest held for people living in shelters and on the street is in the Globe and Mail today.

Speaking of the Globe, here's an understatement:
Resorting to the use of mental patients to carry out recent Baghdad bombings suggests a moral bankruptcy
Yes, there is a suggestion of moral bankruptcy there, I suppose. Just as feeding infants to bears would hint strongly at a possible dearth of benevolence.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Raggin' Canada Reads

Steven Beattie and Alex Good are conducting their own two-man panel on this year's edition of Canada Reads over at Steven's That Shakespeherian Rag.

I have to admit, I've never really listened to the thing, though I did, I think, play a very minor, offstage role in the selection of one of the contending books way back when the program was a toddler. I pretty much concur, though, with Stephen and Alex's opening take on the program, which is that, despite initial suspicions, it has at least proved itself to be a less boring, more readerly approach to books than some of the other big book events/awards out there. (Cough cough Giller cough.)

I'm not as enthusiastic about the use of quasi-celebrities as panelists, but I agree that it's no worse, and potentially better, than a jury stocked with the Usual CanLit Subjects. The problem with quasi-celebrities from well outside the book world is that one of their main priorities in these things tends to be demonstrating just how much they loooove books. I don't think this always happens, and I think some of the more counterintuitive choices Canada Reads has made have been solid – and occasionally more than that, from what I've been told – but all too often, when you bring someone in from way, way outside the book world, this vaguely condescending tone appears that says: "It's so wonderful that people write books. And books are just, well, wonderful, aren't they? I'm so proud of you people." That doesn't just happen at Canada Reads, but in any situation where a non-bookish V.I.P. gets to hold forth on the wonder that is literature. I've had to stand through dozens of long, earnest speeches by bank execs and actors and radio hosts and elected officials and dignitaries that amounted to a pat on the head for the ink-stained wretches in the room. The eyes tend to get sore from all the rolling, and the bar usually stops serving during the speeches.

But again, looking outside the CanLit oatmeal box is often a good idea. I just think there are lot of high-to-medium profile cultural commentators around who could at least be relied upon to take the goodness of books as a given and get on with seeing if any of the ones before them are any good.*

* I should make clear, lest anyone think I'm arguing that bookishness is next to godliness, that I'm not saying that these cultural commentators are inherently wise or even trustworthy, just that – theoretically, anyway; are there any other ways I can qualify this? – they'd be less likely to approach literature as a kind of charming folk craft that has not yet been snuffed out. (Problem is, a whole lot of its practitioners treat literature this way, however intentionally. Even I have my doubts sometimes.)

UPDATE: giving credit where credit is due, the discussion on this year's Canada Reads – as described by Steven and Alex, at least – sounds better so far than the kind of thing I was describing above. I can detect, even within their descriptions, the presence of certain kinds of book talk the likes of which tends to boil my boots, but still, it's better than it could be.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Flaming Queen

This is pretty fucking shitty.

I used to live right near the corner of Bathurst & Queen – and yes, I know I'm doing that thing where you employ trivial or tenuous means to insert your own petty, attention-seeking self into
someone else's tragedy. Portland St. was my second Toronto address, Markham St., a block west, was my third. I was vaguely aware that the area had a reputation as a perpetual crime-scene, but I never really saw it, and never once felt unsafe around there. I still miss it. Compared to where I live now, it was downright gentlemanly. (Though I do remember my son, at about the age of four, taking his grandfather for a walk around the old neighbourhood to show him his favourite shops, etc, only to find every doorway stained with blood or vomit, or with someone sleeping in it. And yet.)

AWOT has a new address

I am now a dot-com.

Over there you'll find info, novel-specific news updates, unpublished short stories, prizes for the kids – you name it.

That's site's more pro. I'm going to keep this place going as a repository of casually lobbed snark, bored huffing, vaguely literary-themed marginalia, ad hominem attacks on my social and cultural betters, and the occasional lengthy take on some new spasm from one of our B-list cultural pundits.

The good stuff, in other words.

(Thanks to Lorne for the site, and Gary C. for the author photo*.)

*I still jam econo, it would seem.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Help me here – which does the title of the new James Bond movie sound more like: a Canadian small press poetry collection, or a mid-album track from Yes's classic years (say, part IV or V of one of those album-length epics)?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The events of September 10th

From the Globe:
Moncton – The definition of "indecent" was debated in Provincial Court yesterday as the trial of a man accused of dancing naked on his lawn concluded in Moncton.

Peter William Bulman is accused of exposing himself to a woman and her young daughter on Sept. 10, 2006. The woman testified last month that she came out of her apartment building and saw Mr. Bulman with a beer in his hand, his pants around his ankles, dancing in circles on his front lawn.

The woman said Mr. Bulman took no notice of her or her daughter, but he continued to expose his buttocks and genitals for several minutes as he danced in the sun.

Wait, this is against the law now?

The missing piece

I saw a handmade flyer stapled to a telephone pole this morning that said “FOUND: Jigsaw Puzzle Piece,” followed by a description of where the piece was found and, amazingly, a hand-drawn, full-colour picture of it.

I think it was part of a sky.

Honestly – there’s being civic minded and then there’s simply having too much time on your hands.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008

A slice of a slice of life

The good folks over at LWOT magazine – "the world's greatest fiction magazine" according to, well, them – have been kind/foolish enough to include an excerpt from the novel in the current issue.

I think they overhype it just a wee bit on the splash page, and I don't know why I look 70 years old in the drawing of me that accompanies the thing, but the little pictures throughout are a cute touch.*

Thank you, gentlemen of LWOT. Much appreciated.

* Just in case my genuine sense of gratitude is being lost in an ironic fog, let me make clear I think this is very cool, and I'm flattered they even asked.

Mark's minder

Just because it's been a while since there's been any Mark Steyn content around these parts, here's Tbogg.

Mocking Steyn is a losing game because it's hard to shame the shameless, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Toronto officially has the most pathetic weather of any city on the planet.

It's not so much the extremes – other cities have those to a much more jaw-dropping degree – it's the absolute lack of any logical sense or consistency that makes Toronto's weather so pathetic. Three days ago, it was dry as a bone and springtime warm. Then a snowstorm, followed immediately by a day of melt, then another snowstorm – this one approaching East Coast levels of intensity – and now it appears that we'll have light snow, sunshine, and cold weather for at least a week. After that, who knows? Chinook? Ice age?

(And spare me the "call in the army" witticisms - that's the Toronto-twitting equivalent of Michael Jackson jokes.)

(Just like bitching about the weather is the equivalent of an AM Radio call-in host demanding that the government "get off our backs.")

Like everything else in the city, our weather is just poorly thought out, and seems to have been designed by committee. Who do I call about this?

But I'm still biking through it, dammit. And for that I deserve, as my older brothers used to say, a hero biscuit.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

AWOT day

Mark your calendars:
Nathan Whitlock - A Week Of This: A Novel in Seven Days

To celebrate the release of his widely anticipated first novel, A Week Of This: A Novel in Seven Days (ECW Press), Quill & Quire review editor Nathan Whitlock will deliver a comic mock lecture titled "Seven Steps To A Seven Day Novel". Also, musician Alex Lukashevsky—whom Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene has called "one of the best songwriters Canada's ever been blessed with"—will perform songs inspired by Whitlock's tale about the lives of an extended family over seven increasingly desperate days. — A This Is Not A Reading Series event presented by Pages Books & Magazines, ECW Press and EYE WEEKLY.

Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St W, Toronto
Wed, Apr 16; 7:30pm (doors 7pm) free
The book, in case you're curious, has at long last been sent off to the printers, and should pop into view around the first week of April. For the moment, I'm feeling more relief than postpartum depression. More on that later.

    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...