Read my lips (and also these books)

I really, really love to read.

For definitive proof, please see this photo of Mr. M’s and my wedding cake:

This may have been the best idea of my life.

Some of my very earliest memories are of my little sister, my mother, and I, all curled up together on my single bed, reading James Stevenson and Shel Silverstein.

Sometimes I would imagine that we were stranded at sea, afloat on a raft made up of duvets, plush toys, book spines and tea.

(And for what it’s worth, I still think Will You Please Feed Our Cat? is a work of genius. That and The Missing Piece.)

Nowadays, I don’t discriminate much when it comes to the literature that sits atop my bedside table.

Seriously, I’ll give anything a shot.

Canadiana, fantasy, SF (both speculative and science fiction), graphic novels, YA, biographies, cookbooks –  WHATEVER.

If it’s good, I’ll read it. Heck, even if I start it and don’t like it, I’ll slog it out.

Because if I start something, I’m darn well finishing it.

I have a sometimes co-worker (he only works part-time) who, whenever he’s in the office, pops around my pad to pick up some recommendations for his much beloved kindle.

When I first started my job, we were seated together at a tax luncheon. And because I didn’t know him from Bob, and am not a tax expert by any stretch, I turned to him and opened with my one and only ice breaker:

“Are you reading anything good at the moment?”

He relayed that he wasn’t, and since I was nervous as all get out, I proceeded to talk for at least three weeks straight about all the books I had ever read in my entire life.

Luckily he took it all in stride.

And now he’s just e-mailed me to let me know that he’ll be in later on next week. So here are the 5 books I am encouraging him to read this go around:

1.)    One Step Behind – Henning Mankell

I wrote briefly on Monday about my love for this author. Once again I cannot stress enough how bloody brilliant (I think) he is. Granted, I’ve never read anything of his in the original Swedish, but this is a man who has outsold Harry Potter in many European countries, so I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say his works are excellent no matter what language you’re reading them in.

One Step Behind is the seventh book in Mankell’s highly acclaimed Kurt Wallander mystery series. When we were living in Birmingham M stayed up all night reading it because he couldn’t fathom going to bed not knowing how it ended (for real he read the entire 600+ page book in one sitting.)

2.)    Green Grass, Running Water – Thomas King

Thomas King is a Canadian author of Cherokee and Greek descent. He is also a master storyteller and humorist extraordinaire. Green Grass is one of the most amazing books I have ever read in my life; it weaves together written and oral literary traditions, and plays with structure and narrative in a seamless, easy, organic way – much in the same way I imagine that grass grows and water runs.

We have 1000+ books floating around the joint so I couldn't find all the books to photograph. Plus all my Mankell is in Halifax.

Rife with satire and humour, it made me laugh, pause, think, re-think, and feel. Truly, I really believed as though I could feel the book; like it I was living inside of it – and it inside of me.

Years later, I still feel this way.

3.)    The Buddha of Suberbia – Hanif Kureishi

I read this in one of my second year English classes. My professor was all about pushing us to think outside of socially proscribed and expected norms –  particularly in terms of gender, sex, politics, and academia. (This pretty much blew my nineteen year old mind.)

Set in late 1970s London, this book tackles all of these issues, and more.

I hear the movie version of this is pretty good. I have yet to watch it though.

There are parts of this book that I find so funny, I shake with laughter. There are parts of this book that I find so difficult, I shake with rage.

4.)    Straight Man – Richard Russo

There is a part in the book where the protagonist goes on live television, wearing Groucho Marx style gag glasses and a fake nose, brandishing a terrified, honking goose he’s named Finnie, and threatens to kill “a duck a day!” until he gets his small mid-west University English Department’s budget.

Enough said.

5.)    Tempest Tost – Roberston Davies

Robertson Davies is a Canadian institution.

I could easily recommend any of his books, what with him being a downright genius and all that, but this was the first book of his I ever read, and Mr. M and I took turns reading it out loud to each other, and the whole experience was simply enchanting.

Plus it has one of the best lines I have ever read in my life:

“I do not quite ante-date the telephone.”

Now, taken out of context, it might seem a bit strange, but heck, you’ll just have to read it.

So there you have it folks. Five fabulous feats of literary magic.

I’m curious – what has enchanted you these early Spring days? What has you spellbound?

I’d really love to know.

Top tips to get you asked out by teenagers

I’m a twenty-seven year old gal who’s had more teenagers (or those freshly out of their teens) ask her out in the past six years years than, well, the entire time I spent as a teenager.

Now, in the sake of full disclosure, I was a pretty unfortunate looking person for a good chunk of my adolescent years – but even after I got hot as hell, I was still the one making the first move at the beginning of my relationships.

(This, I’m sure, is because people were so amazed by my overall transformation, that they were unsure as to whether or not I was the same person they used to know.)

I kid.

Kind of.

For serious, had I not had ovaries the size of basketballs, I would still be languishing in a sea of unrequited crushes, being tossed about by white-capped waves of sexual frustration.

I was a champ at asking people out (the two times I did it.)

Now, since I wrote earlier this week about how a twenty year old boy asked me out on skytrain last Saturday night, I’ve had quite a few friends ask me what exactly it is that I am doing to have this be a semi-regular occurrence in my life.

I didn’t have a coherent, non-self-deprecating answer at the ready, so over the past few days I’ve given this query some thought, and think I may come up with a probable (but perhaps totally erroneous)  hypothesis.

However, in the spirit of science, I’m forging ahead.

Ladies and gentleman, (but really ladies, because, well, I am one of you) may I present: 

Top tips to get you asked out by teenagers*.

*or those in their early twenties.

1.)    Ride public transit. Ride public transit all the live long day. Not once or twice a week – we’re talking multiple times a day here (and weekends too). Teenagers, for the most part, don’t have a ton of money, so if they need to go anywhere, they take the bus, or the skytrain, or subway, or streetcar, or what have you.

Duh, duh, duh, another rides the bus...

I ride transit all the damn time, so it’s inevitable that I’ll find myself sitting next to someone whom I could have babysat ten years ago, had I not  instead chosen the high school career of Safeway cashier. And because of this inevitability, it is in fact unavoidable that at some point one of them will strike up a conversation with me, and before I know it – BAM!

They want to take you me out to coffee (at bloody 7:45 in the morning.)

2.)    Wear quite a bit of colourful clothing. I notice more and more just how varied in hue and tone my wardrobe is compared to most of the other people who work down town. When I exit the train every morning, and the station is flooded by a stream of black, grey and brown, I am the bright red life boat, carried along by the push and pull of the tide.

1 coat, 2 coat, red coat...

I don’t necessary think that it’s my clothing per say that’s getting me asked out, but since I’m not afraid to experiment with, and wear a ton of colour – in addition to taking different risks with my outfits (wearing traditional mens clothing, and mixing formal with casual pieces) – my style seems to attract a younger demographic.

Teenagers in general like to make comment on my choice in clothing and, or colour palette.

Animal print and stripes.

Then they want to take me out to coffee to talk more about my fashion sense.

3.)    Read science fiction and/or fantasy books. My only caveat being – please, please for the love of pete, read good science fiction and/ or fantasy. None of this Sword of Truth/Sword of Shannara bullshazzle.

That will get you disqualified right out of the gate.

(However you’ll gain ten points if you read your sci-fi books on the bus.)

But to get back on topic: teenagers always want to talk me up about the books that I’m reading, but particularly if they are of these two genres. They want to talk to me about A Song of Ice and Fire (even back before it got all HBO-ed and coolified); they want to talk to me about Terry Pratchett; they want to talk to me about Richard Matheson. (Okay, so that last one’s more horror that anything else, but we’ll have to let that slide.)

Even Mr. Penguin wants to talk about Game of Thrones.

They want to talk to me about books and then take me out to coffee to talk about books some more.

4.)    Laugh to yourself. Whether you’re walking down the street, riding transit (seriously, RIDE IT!), sitting in a coffee shop, or waiting in line at the grocery store, be so completely lost in your own thoughts that you bust up your own gut like a busting thing.

I love to laugh. ALL THE TIME.

Older people will think your completely bonkers (and rightfully so) but teenagers want to know what’s so funny.

And they’ll want to take you out for coffee.

5.)    Quote the crap out of movies and TV shows. I was on transit once (did I mention that you should probably ride transit?), talking on my mobile, TO MY HUSBAND when I said, “that’s, just like, uh, your opinion…man” and the fella sitting to my right, spoke up literally, the second that I  hung up, wanting to talk more about the Big Lebowski (aka re-enact the whole movie for the remainder of our ride.)

And then he wanted to go to a coffee shop, to re-enact our re-enactment – just in case we missed a part!

Yowzers.

He was pretty surprised when I declined, citing the fact that I was, you know, a married woman.

Which brings me to my last point:

6.)    Wear a wedding ring. First, teenagers don’t look for wedding rings, so they are basically a moot point. Second, the longer I remain married, the more teenagers ask me out. And third, most of the teenagers who’ve asked me out haven’t cared when I told them that I am forever removed from the dating scene.

Ring around the rosie...

They all want to convince me of the reasons why I should no longer be married.

Over coffee, of course.

So there you have it ladies – six, very simple tips on how to increase the number of your youthful suitors.

But, let me finish off by saying this. Don’t wait around for someone else to make the first move. If you like somebody, go-go-gopher it.

It’s always better to know, and heck, if they like you back? Well, there’s no better feeling in the world.

Seriously, I’ll tell you more about it.

Tea anyone?

Winter is coming

This weekend Lotus Land welcomed its first big snowfall of the year.

Mister M and I awoke on Saturday morning to this:

Beauty. Truly.

It’s very rare for our snow to stick, let alone to remain pristine and, well, white. Usually the whole thing goes sideways within the first minutes of the snowfall – dirty, grey-brown slush coagulates along the sides of roads, working its way into the gutters, and into the insides of your boots.

It’s like the tar they used to show in anti-cigarette advertisements.

Where once there was symbol of health, now rests nothing but a build up of toxic sludge and disappointment.

It oozes.

Erm. I seem to have gotten off track, and quickly at that.

So sorry to have veered off into such dark territory – it won’t happen again.

So, owards now, to much better and brighter thoughts!

Like this?

Just keep an eye out for Mr. Tumnus.

Oh yeah. Just like that.

One thing that is hilarious (albeit a little exhausting) about our annual snowfall, is that people here on the west coast of Canada often have a hard time figuring out what exactly to do with themselves once white stuff starts falling from the sky.

Does this coat make me look like a Sith lord?

Some forget how to operate motor vehicles. Some walk around in bare legs and umbrellas, as if stuck in some mind- bending quagmire of confusion. Some immediately revert to cherished childhood pursuits – building snowmen, throwing snowballs, or sledding down the nearest, and steepest hill they can find.

For me – it’s all about the walks.

I want to walk among trees, each looking as if the snow has set it alight. Glimmering in the sunlight, long icicles frozen on outstretched branches, that reflect a thousand crystal prisms – like dancers.

A thousand colours changing.

A thousand thoughts reflecting.

Into the woods...

M and I do our best talking as we walk. We mull over our future, our plans, our goals, our fears. We talk about our jobs, the books we’re reading, the t.v. shows we’re watching.

We laugh about our cat.

We dissect the politics of our nation, our province, our city.

We debate the divergent discourses of neighbours to the south.

We reminisce about England.

We plan for the future.

Don't tell Plato, but we are people who watch shadows.

Sometimes it’s so crazy to think they we are not the eighteen year old girl, and twenty year old boy we were when we first met.

(We used to run from Marc’s apartment (that was very soon to become our apartment) down to the Blockbuster at 11:50 at night, in our pyjamas, racing to the doors before they closed for the evening, and rent Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and buy Oh Henry ice cream.)

But as soon as I start to think along those lines, it becomes so painfully obvious that we still are in fact those two people­ – we are those two weirdos, flying through the winter’s night in their flannel, and frost freckled faces.

Those two people had the same dreams, and hopes, and goals, and fears as we do today– sure, some may have changed, some may have gone, some may have grown, and some may be exactly the same.

It’s just that, at that time, we didn’t know how much we’d want to figure it all out together.

And so we continue to walk. Through the winter wonderland that is currently our home.

(Although I need to be much more careful, what with how slippery the road become as the temperature slides lower and lower before zero. The beautiful, blue bruise blooming on my right leg is a reminder of that.)

It’s supposed to drop to minus 13 tonight, much colder than I can remember it being for quite some time.

Peeta or Gale. PEETA OR GALE?!

The fire is roaring, the cat is catting, and I sit, thinking about my future, yes, but mostly the last twenty pages of The Hunger Games.

You see, I finally got my greedy mitts on the last two books, and blew through book two and half of book three yesterday afternoon.

I read through my lunch break today and now, but for a few pages, I will finally find out how the war for Panem will end.

Sometimes the conclusion of a make believe world is just what the doctor ordered.

And if not – walk it off..

Book em, Dano

M and I received some pretty great books for Christmas this year. He was gifted some Stephenson and Pratchett, and I, some Murakami, Richler and Mantel.

Bliss folks – for us, THIS is bliss.

I am currently 600+ pages into 1Q84 by Mr. Murakami and if you were to catch me at any given time today you would have found me in a position similar to this:

Aomame and Tengo are my new best friends.

What happens with me is that, although I read quite a bit, and for the most part, I enjoy everything that I read (and even those books that I do not enjoy, I slog through them anyways. I finally finished Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare only a couple of months ago, after what seemed to be an on-again-off-again relationship with the book for close to eight months) I tend to go overboard on those works that I do enjoy, like, A LOT.

You see, there are some authors that I find so transcendent, that I develop an almost perverse obsession with findingand reading all of their published works, lest I miss out on experiencing everything their genius has to offer.

And I really mean everything.

Three of our bookshelves. I really fear that we will be crushed to death once the big one arrives. At least we'll go with the things we love...

The earliest memory I have of this phenomenon is from grade four, when I first discovered the great Canadian children’s author Kit Pearson. I picked up The Lights Go on Again not knowing that this book is in fact the third of a trilogy that explores the journey of two young English siblings’ experiences as war children, evacuated from a (fictional) small town in England and sent to live in the posh Toronto neighbourhood of Yorkville.

To say that I loved this book (and then the rest of the books in the series) would be an understatement. I am sure that I read each novel close to twenty times. This fascination with Ms. Pearson’s writing was then transferred onto her other works, The Daring Game and A Handful of Time.

So you must understand what a soul crushing blow it was to read her newest work (at the time) when it came out, hot off the presses, and to feel no connection whatsoever with the narrative or the narrator.

In fact, I remember despising the protagonist, and feeling utterly morose by both the story’s flaccid narrative arc, and (what I felt to be) rather limp conclusion.

To paraphrase Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, I was DISAPPOINTED.

Alas.

In grade five I started reading “grown-up” book. Pilfering from my older sister’s collection, I read most of Anne Rice’s

Bedroom bookshelf. Now will more Gene Wolfe.

Vampire series, (do I regret this? No. But, erm, next time, I think I may take the left turn atAlbuquerque and forgo any literary adventures with Mr. Lestat), and pretty much everything John Grisham and Michael Crichton had written up until that point.

I remember passages from both The Firm and Jurassic Park as if they have been burned into my cerebral cortex (or whatever part of the brain is used when flipping those pages over, and over again.)

The one big mistake however? Reading Misery. Yeah, not about to get those nightmare filled sleeps back anytime soon!

In grade eight I started my five year love affair with Mr. William Shakespeare, obsessing over King Lear’s poor decision making processes, despising young Hamlet and his gutless procrastination, and emulating and loving (and therefore memorizing) Beatrice’s lines and soliloquies.

I read every one of his plays, including the ones that that most people probably wouldn’t recognize. However, I am sure that if you asked me right now, I probably couldn’t even remember the simplest of story details of those plays (let alone two hours after I had finished them) because they left no discernable effect on me what so ever.

I am sure I decided to read the entire canon not so much due to my burning desire and admiration for the Bard and his words (although this did, and still does very much exist,) but because I was fifteen and thought I was misunderstood and brilliant.

Kerouac I was not.

When I first met M, he gave me Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions to read on the long flight down to Nova Scotia and I almost died with shock and delight within the first few pages. During those next two weeks I inhaled every work of his I could find.

As I mentioned before, in first year of my undergrad I read Dostoevsky’s Devils and my brain (metaphorically) exploded all over my room. I gobbled up Crime and Punishment with an almost maniacal zeal, and after that devoured The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov.

These are a few of my favorite things!

The next year I discovered the fabulous and hauntingly beautiful writings of the Swedish author Henning Mankell, and spent my summer telling everyone I knew to, “check out this guy from Sweden because holy frick you will never read anything so bloody good in your entire bloody life!!!”

I received a lot of strange looks during that time.

I could go on at length about all the books that have shook me to my core, but I think it may be impossible, and I really must try to reign myself in.

I just get so overwhelmed and confused when I hear that so many people don’t read anymore, and I get panicked and desperate when M tells me that his students at school are hard pressed to even read their assigned passages, let along deign to pick up a novel outside of class.

I even get anxious worrying over whether I’ll die not having read all the books I want to read.

Yeesh.

I just want to create a place where everyone can live peacefully, and where I will read to them from Thomas King, and Neal Stephenson, and Robertson Davies, and Hanif Kureshi, and Gunter Grass, and Terry Pratchett, and George R. R. Martin, and Richard Russo, and, Michael Palin, and Hunter S. Thompson, and Gene Wolfe, and J. R. R. Tolkein, and Robert Heinlein, and Richard Matheson, and Ray Bradbury, and P.D. James and well, this list grows ever long, and I’m sure, your patience short.

One day I will find the Dolphin Hotel

My great friend A gave me my first Murakami book this year for my birthday. A Wild Sheep Chase is gut busting hilarious, and heart breakingly sad. Reading it alone set in motion my newest “author” fixation, and I have blown through a good portion of his works to date.

So now, I sit (please consult the above picture for the exact positioning), reading his latest tome, and I am so inspired, and intimidated, and just plain breathless by what an extraordinary work it truly is.

I am trying to take it slow, to savour the process, each page, each line, each word, each letter.

But it is hard. So very hard.

I have around three hundred pages left, and I am sure to be done before I know it. I am sure that I too, like the characters in the book, will be living in a slightly altered world, because of this work.

So with this, I can’t help but say: “Bring it Murakami.”

Bring it.

I can see your halo

Hi folks!  Welcome to the latest edition of the Friday fry-up.

First on today’s docket:

Holy fresh hell – am I ever digging Sigur Ros these days.  I cannot believe it has taken me this long to start listening to them.

Most of the reactions I’ve been getting to this news have been pretty hilarious.  The lovely M put it best when he said: “Jeeze lady.  You’re only ten years too late to the party.”

No doubt!

"Sigur who?" Asks Nymeria. (She too being late to the shindig)

Even worse, it’s not as though I didn’t know the band existed.

In my last year of undergrad I read one of the most breathtakingly beautiful books of all time – an Icelandic work entitled Angels of the Universe.  I sobbed through the last three chapters and watched as my heart broke into thousands of tiny pieces as I turned the novel’s last page.

I actually don’t know if I’ve ever been the same since.

If you ever have a chance to read it, please do.  It’s a must.

Anyways, in the lead up to exams we watched the movie that was made from the book in order to facilitate a discussion on the similarities and differences employed by the two artistic mediums.

(Or you know…kill time during the last week of school.)

I liked the film and thought they did a fair job adapting the material.  But in the end it just couldn’t live up to the overwhelming majesty, power and heart-wrenching grief of the book.

I did however find the soundtrack haunting in its melancholy.  And even though I knew many of the songs were by Sigur Ros, I just didn’t take any steps to explore the band or their discography once the course was over.

For some reason I just always lumped them together with Radiohead, a band which I cannot like no matter how hard I try (and believe me I’VE TRIED – they’re my husband’s all-time-favorite) and just assumed that Sigur Ros was the Iceland equivalent to the music that makes me want to take a bath in a tub full of razorblades.  (This pretty much sums up all my musical ventures with Mr. T. Yorke in any and all incarnations.)

And FYI – I’m all for music making me feel things, I’m just not on board with it taking me to a place where I believe that there will never be anything good about the world ever again.

Seriously dudes, to me, Radiohead are the bloody Dementors of the music world.

Good grief.

Either way, it’s all water under the bridge now.

One last note on Scandinavian tunes though – the best song ever to be featured in a movie (or perhaps indeed EVER) is Paha Vaanii by Marko Haavisto from the brilliant and hilarious The Man Without a Past by Aki Kaurismäki.

I routinely listen to this on loop as I frenetically clean my house on weekends.  I pretend to know the words and everything.  For serious, the day I arrive in Helsinki I’m going to have this song DOWN PAT.

Check it:

Number two on the dial for the fry-up is not nearly as sexy as Icelandic post-rock but, any way you slice it, just as important:

DINNER.

More specifically, those dinners where you’re not really eating a traditional “dinner” but you’ve still taken the time to prepare something totally tasty and exactly what you’ve been craving all day and you’re about to sit down to a really good book, or maybe a collection of New York Times Crosswords, or a new Parks and Recreation or even better yet, a combination of all three to be shared with the person you love more than anything in the wide world, and everything is just GOOD.

No. GREAT.

Who are we kidding here?  EXCELLENT.

And if you are alone maybe you’re eating this:

I really love nachos.

Or, perhaps you are with someone else, and you’ve both decided that breakfast for dinner is pretty much the most incredible invention of all time so you cook up some apples in butter, cinnamon and brown sugar and make chai French toast with raspberries, whipping cream and maple syrup:

Okay, this photo is terrible BUT! It tasted like heaven.

Or any incarnations of these meals:

Baked sole with homemade salsa and roasted veggies!
Homemade lasagna!

I guess for me, I used to spend so much of my life agonizing over every meal – what I was going to eat, how much I was going to eat, who I was going to eat with, what I was going to do after I ate – that I cannot help but feel totally excited and liberated just looking at these (totally crap quality, sorry peeps) photos.

I sometimes like to take pictures of the food I prepare because it is proof for how far I’ve come: that I cannot just take pride in the excellent meals I’ve prepared, but also a new strength that allows me to enjoy the excellent food I’ve prepared ALL. THE. DAMN. TIME.

Now, if only I could quit diet pop drinks I would be a bloody superwoman and my office desk wouldn’t look like this every day at 3pm.

At least I'm hydrated?

Baby steps!

AAAAANNNNNNNNDDDDD –

DANCE!