About Me

My Photo
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.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Bookish World of ‘Birdman'

Last week, the much anticipated movie "Birdman" opened in New York City. In it, Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a down-and-out actor who used to carry the superhero tentpole "Birdman" series. Thomson is looking to rebuild his career on Broadway by directing and starring in an adaptation of Raymond Carver's stark, gin-soaked short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. It's a last-ditch effort, and the dark nights of Thomson's soul are complicated both by a cast of insecure loons and the disembodied voice of his superhero alter ego.

More:  Biographile

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Joan Didion Documentary by Griffin Dunne and Susanne Rostock

Griffin Dunne's Kickstarter Project ,We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live, is a documentary about Dunne's aunt, author Joan Didion. Made with Joan, using Joan's words.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From Wheels to Bikes

 "Bicycling for Ladies" (Book - 1896) with hints as to the art of wheeling, advice to beginners, dress, care of the bicycle, mechanics, training, exercise, etc., etc. by Maria E. Ward. Published in 1896.

Thanks Bruce!

Thriving in an Amazon world

Don’t tell Sharon Anderson Wright that bookstores are a dying industry. The 56-year-old CEO of Half Price Books took a disorganized collection of stores co-founded by her mom—they started by selling used paperbacks and hardcovers out of a dingy former laundromat—and transformed the operation into a chain that is defying a seemingly inexorable tide. While bookstores are shuttered around the country and industry revenue has decreased an average of 3.2% a year over the past five years, Half Price Books is growing.

More here

Thanks, Bruce!

Endnotes | David Foster Wallace Documentary

When David Foster Wallace hanged himself in 2008, at the age of 46, he was considered by many to be the most gifted and linguistically exuberant American novelist and short story writer of his generation. His books include the 1,000-page Infinite Jest, a novel of grand ambition and stylistic experiment that came complete with 388 endnotes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Am Zoe Handke

I've had this book by Eric Larsen on my shelf for decades and finally pulled it down to read. What a find!
``I was born into my mother's madness,'' observes Zoe Handke whose mother was physically and emotionally abusive to her. Zoe's father was not equipped to deal with the drama and her grandmother was ill and also the victim of her mother's rages so little Zoe was left without an advocate. At college in Minnesota, Zoe experiences episodes of hysterical blindness and deafness in reaction to the abuse. No motive is provided for her mother's mental illness but Zoe makes sense of the dysfunctional relationship by repetitively studying childhood events, reorganizing her past. Vignettes of her childhood are still, quiet and evocative. The last chapters of the book show the 40 year old Zoe righting herself, marrying and having children of her own.
Eric Larsen's prize-winning first novel, An American Memory, is about Malcolm Reiner, who married Zoe Handke. I'm going to seek it out.

The Assassination Of Margaret Thatcher

Yay! A new book by Hilary Mantel! And a good one it is. Each of the ten short stories in this collection is a little jewel, as we would expect from an author who has won the Man Booker Prize twice. Most of the stories are about unhappy, isolated women: the lonely, ill woman in her apartment in Saudi Arabia, the author on a depressing book tour, the anorexic girl who could no longer trust her food, the disturbed, deprived girl who torments a disabled child, the woman whose apartment is chosen as the perch for an IRA sniper who intends to assassinate former PM Margaret Thatcher. All these women are outwardly passive but inwardly seething and we wait on tenterhooks for the moment when the membrane between interior and exterior breaks down.

The title story was received with immediate outrage by British Conservatives who accused Mantel of advocating assassination of political figures who evoke negative public opinion. But it is just a what if? fantasy, no reason to get knickers in a twist.

I'm not sure if these stories appeal specifically to women of a certain age but I devoured them and wanted more. I highly recommend this book.

UPDATE: Here is a clip from the audiobook that the publisher sent to me. It's the title story read by Jane Carr. Give it a listen.


Scheherazade, a short story by Haruki Murakami in the New Yorker.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Literary United States: A Map of the Best Book for Every State

illustration by Sarah Lutkenhaus

"We wanted to come up with a list that was more than just a general reflection of a place, but rather paid attention to the specifics, even at the risk of the exclusion of the whole."
Read about the choices at Brooklyn Magazine

Saturday, October 18, 2014

'Am I being catfished?' An author confronts her number one online critic

When a bad review of her first novel appeared online, Kathleen Hale was warned not to respond. But she soon found herself wading in. A fascinating read.

More: The Guardian

America’s Legendary Book Cover Designers

Famous for their artistry as much as for their innovation, these book jacket designers have all played their part in making the industry what it is today.

Cover by Chip Kidd (Pennsylvania, USA)
Cover by S. Neil Fujita (Japan and Hawaii, USA)

More: Culture Trip 

Friday, October 17, 2014

‘Maus’ Artist Art Spiegelman Gives a Tour of His New York City Studio

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist cartoonist Art Spiegelman showed off his private library, artwork and a one-off Maus action figure to promote his current ‘WORDLESS!’ multimedia comics show.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia

This year is the centenary of the birth of poet Dylan Thomas and there is a festival being held to celebrate his time in London. I wish I could be there but it starts in just 4 days so doubt that I could pull it together in time.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Dissident Gardens

I'd been interested in Jonathan Lethem's Dissident Gardens since I read mostly positive reviews when it was published so when it was released on Audible I added it to my listening queue for the treadmill. I spent my working life in the political realm working for a social democratic party so this book about the radical left seemed right up my alley. This is an old fashioned story spanning several generations with the furious, more communist than Lenin,  Rose Zimmer, as the lynchpin. Lethem gives us a somewhat preachy history of political activism in America from anti-Nazi Jewish immigrants to the Occupy movement. Rose was dispelled from The Party for having an affair with a black policeman but never abandons her communist principles. Rose's daughter, Miriam, is a hippie married to an Irish folksinger. The couple embraces the civil rights agenda of the era and go to Nicaragua to support the Sandanistas. There are a lot of other characters introduced but the mother-daughter relationship is the main focus (although Lethem takes it nowhere). I tried to hang in, I really did, but felt like I was wading through waist-deep sand and bailed about three quarters of the way through. Too many uninteresting/cliched/one dimensional characters, too much sermonizing, not enough interaction between characters to keep me engaged. I have not read anything else by this author and after this experience likely won't.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hampstead Heath and the Rise and Fall of the author Colin Wilson

The always fabulous Another Nickel In The Machine has posted a fascinating article about the British writer and philosopher, Colin Wilson. While writing The Outsider in the British Library by day he slept rough on Hampstead Heath at night.

On this day in 1956 he met Marilyn Monroe and according to Wilson  there was a definite ‘connection’ with Marilyn and she actually grasped his hand as they made their way through the throng to their waiting cars.