Friday, August 29, 2008

You can take my domestic cultural industry from my cold, dead hands!!

I am both pleased and puzzled that it is cuts to arts and cultural funding, of all things, that finally seems to be riling people against the cynical consortium of dim-bulb yokels and privilege-fattened weasels that is the Harper government.

Pleased because, putting aside my deep loathing for the amateur pose-striking, laughably corrupt cliquishness, promotion of friendly no-talents, and desperate clinging to trivial privilege that constitutes our "culture," I happen to think that the arts are genuinely important – no, make that Important – and that funding their creation is a perfectly good and virtuous use of public dollars. Whatever quibbles I have about the way those dollars are spent are beside the point. Governments spend enormous amounts of money on a dizzying variety of crap. It is perfectly legitimate to demand they spend some money on things that are potentially not crap, like the arts. (Oh, and a stable cultural industry is a crucial element in a mature civilization, etc., etc....)

Puzzled because this government has done things much more heinous than this, with only minor grumbling as a result.

You never know what will send people to the barricades. (And yes, I realize that much of that barricades-manning is likely being done by those same clingers, but Premier Danny Williams, in promising to make up for lost cultural dollars in his province, must believe this one has traction even outside the Writers Union of Canada.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Noir News

This is my second post in a row making fun of the CityNews site, but look at this, from a story about a man shot down on his front lawn:

It's difficult to ascertain exactly why so many residents on Bon Echo Ct., in the Markham and McLevin area ignored the sound of gunshots in the early morning hours of Tuesday. Many likely didn't want to get involved, while others simply mistook the sound for fireworks, or some other equally innocuous neighbourhood ruckus.

But as the sun rose and the blindfold of night was lifted, their collective folly was revealed.

I think whoever wrote this imagined it being read aloud by Sam Elliot.

I also like this line, which just seems too good to be true:

"The body has been removed, on its way to the morgue," noted a grim Det. Sgt. Chris Buck.

Later, Det. Sgt. Buck – who was one day from retirement, and, furthermore, too old for this shit – sat alone in his basement trophy room, drinking straight bourbon and contemplating the black mystery that is the human soul as hard rain assaulted the windows and his family dreamed innocent dreams in their beds above him.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Knowing when to stop

"China's Olympics Conclude With Closing Ceremony" says the headline on the CityNews site.

Closing ceremonies usually do signal the conclusion of something, yes. It would have been rude, even by Beijing standards, to have shut the thing down in the middle of an event.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bikin', drivin', messin' around

What I did on my summer vacation:
  • lost my wedding ring after flipping a paddle boat (it can be done, apparently).
  • read Jane Mayer's horrifying (because true) The Dark Side. (Inappropriately glib capsule review: "It's like Hostel meets Noam Chomsky!")
  • bought groceries and gas in towns where every second business was named Karla's Krafts 'n' Things or suchlike.
  • ate a whole lot of crap.
  • watched a whole lot of sunsets.
For your amusement, here are twin articles from The Globe and Mail – an open letter from a cyclist to a driver, and one from a driver to a cyclist. The gag is... I wrote them both myself. (Get it?... Hey?... Hello?)

NB: both the online and print versions of the article(s) are accompanied by photos of me looking completely relaxed and natural on a bike and behind the wheel.

(ADDED: I took the photo above – while driving, no less – somewhere between Bancroft and Barry's Bay.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Talking with Mr Pyper

If any of you are looking for something to do next Tuesday night:

This Is Not A Reading Series presents Andrew Pyper in conversation With Nathan Whitlock

Is death an appropriate punishment for the crime of stealing another writer's story and calling it your own? To celebrate the launch of his highly anticipated literary mystery, The Killing Circle, Andrew Pyper will discuss such perennial conundrums for Canada's literati with fellow novelist and Quill & Quire review editor Nathan Whitlock. — A This Is Not A Reading Series event presented by Pages Books & Magazines, Random House Canada and EYE WEEKLY.

Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St W, Toronto
Tues Aug 19; 8:30pm (doors 8pm) free

THE KILLING CIRCLE reaffirms Andrew Pyper's reputation as a novelist whose work is as psychologically complex as it is compulsively readable. After his wife's death and a demotion from star journalist to reality TV critic, Patrick Rush joins a writers group in Toronto. His goal is to write the novel that he has long believed lived within him. Unfortunately, it turns out that Patrick has no story to tell. The only person in the group with any literary promise is a woman named Angela, whose unsettling readings allude to a murky childhood tragedy and Sandman, "a terrible man who does terrible things". Could "Sandman" be anything more than a figment of a troubled imagination? Patrick begins to suspect that a string of unsolved murders may be connected. And then the circle's members start to go missing, one by one. Still haunted by loss–and by a crime only those in the circle could know of–Patrick finds himself in a fictional world made horrifically real. The Killing Circle explores the side effects of an increasingly fame-mad culture, where even the staid realm of Canadian letters can fall prey to ravenous ambition and competition.

ANDREW PYPER is the author of three bestselling novels, Lost Girls (a New York Times Notable Book), The Trade Mission, and The Wildfire Season, as well as Kiss Me, a collection of short stories. Lost Girls and The Killing Circle are currently in development for feature films. Andrew Pyper lives in Toronto.

NATHAN WHITLOCK is the author of the acclaimed debut novel, A Week of This. He is the review editor of Quill & Quire magazine. His writing and reviews have appeared in The Toronto Star, Saturday Night, The Globe & Mail, Maisonneuve, Toro, Geist, and elsewhere. Whitlock lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Searching high and low

O where be the "definitive" 9/11 novel?

What is the "definitive" WWII novel? What's the "definitive" novel of the Holocaust? What's the "definitive" [insert large cultural and/or political event/era] novel?

The whole idea of "definitive" novels is stupid and anti-literary. The reason most of the 9/11 novels have thusfar been underwhelming is precisely because their authors are caught up in this game, too. Too often they read like knowing prequels, winking at the reader with casually dropped details designed to provide a frisson of foreboding.

I picked up Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children this summer – at random, knowing nothing about it – and enjoyed reading it in a kind of low-yield, grasp-well-within-reach kind of way... right up until the moment when I realized that 9/11 would be its narrative money shot. "Oh, those self-absorbed upper middle-class New York intellectuals and their self-absorbed, upper middle-class intellectual ways... will they pursue them forever, or will some CATACLYSMIC EVENT bring the triviality of their lives into sharp focus and inject into their existences a needed sense of gravitas and mortality? Why look: it's a beautiful morning in September 2001!"

Revenge of the Sith felt less nakedly manipulative...

Who's the cat that won't cop out?

"Theme from Shaft" wasn't the first Hayes tune I ever heard – it was the monster, much-sampled version of "Walk on By," on a record I borrowed from the library when I was about 15 or 16.

It's still one bad mother-*, all 10+ minutes of the thing:

* Shut your mouth!, etc.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Louv 'em alone

Anyone who has had to spend an extended time in a car with me - i.e., my family - knows that my love for the brothers Louvin goes deep and wide and far and high and well beyond the call of duty.

Covers of their stuff are not exactly rare – though I do think Emmylou Harris has a lock on the practice, with or without Gram Parsons on the other mic.

But two hipster goofballs* doing a whole album of Louvinalia?

Ew, I say. Ew.

* Putting aside for the moment the fact that, in his own charming way, Gram Parsons was something of a hipster goofball, too.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

If you go into the woods today you're in for a big surprise...

Last week I went camping at a site located on CFB Petawawa. You may ask yourself, "Why would anyone want to camp on a military base?"

Well, because you come across things like this while walking the beach:

Monday, August 04, 2008

Banal conquers all

August over at has posted a long and very complimentary review/essay about my novel that morphs into a defense of the boring old realistic novel, a category that includes my own boring novel.

In other boring news, I am in the middle of writing reviews of Haruki Murakami's wee little memoir about running and James Wood's How Fiction Works, and just recently wrote a review of Rawi Hage's Cockroach that should appear near the end of the month. I'm also writing a thing about city biking for the Globe and Mail and a short piece about a graphic novel for the next issue of Driven magazine, which has just been taken over by fellow dad-bander Gary B.

A busy little bee, me.

    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...