In 1872, when the first clay tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh were being rediscovered in the buried library of Assyrian king Ashurbanipal for the first time in almost two millennia, an anonymous article in The New York Times cogitated on the stunning divide between the advanced technologies of the day—the telegraph, the newspaper—and the advanced technology of Ashurbanipal’s day—baked clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform text. “It is hardly possible to conceive of two more opposite literary productions than the modern newspaper and the crumbling and mysterious records found among the ruins of antiquity,” they wrote. “A telegraph dispatch and a cuneiform inscription are both composed of letters, and are alike media for the transmission of intelligence; and yet how immeasurably different are the ideas of life, time, and space which the mention of the two suggests.” And while the difference between the cuneiform tablet and the telegraph must have indeed appeared vast, it is nothing compared to the chasm that separates the telegraph from the internet, the iPhone, the early days of V.R. and robotics, everything 2.0. These technologies, so unremarkable that they fit in our pockets, have deeply altered the lives and the worlds of people who use […]
Geoffrey Morrison, over at The Rusty Toque, has written a generous review of Arguments For Lawn Chairs. Morrison’s review looks at both my poetry book and David Huebert’s We Are No Longer The Smart Kids In Class. Check it out here!
It’s true what they say: an individual doesn’t write a novel, a bus of noisy, farty, tired yuppies does. And on that bus were Justin Seely, Noleg Goat, Christopher Frederick Portsmouth, Jeh Johnson, and Anisa Ibrahim, all of them constant distractions; it’s amazing I got any work done at all. This book owes absolutely nothing to any of you. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the spiteful staff at the national library: Sandra Leon, Maureen Samuleh, Ban Ki Moon (no relation), and James Kee, you are all terrible librarians. You made the thirty-five minutes of research I undertook a real drab experience. I sincerely hope your pensions don’t pay out. To all the staff at Hatchet Job Press, what can I say? Each and every one of you has major, deep-seated psychological, physiological, and digestive problems. To my editor, Rebecca Samuel, your unkeen eye and penchant for adjectives has made this a terrible book and me a worse writer. To my pot dealer, Richard Bruno, I know you’ve been shorting me on those half-ounces. To my amphetamine dealer, Emma Joy, thanks for all the late-night lessons in continental philosophy that I neither asked to hear nor understood. To my […]
It’s graduation and moving season here in the Annex, which means people are culling their book collections. And, for those of us who cannot walk past even a soggy cardboard box if it contains the promise of a single book in it, this is a both a blessing and a curse (if it wasn’t for this strange compunction, how—for example—would I ever have come across Growing up Degrassi?). This late spring/early summer cornucopia means terrific finds, but also swelling bookshelves (of course, we could do our own slimming of the hordes, but who are we kidding?) A few weeks ago the greatest find thus far occurred in the foyer of the building I live in. In a stack of maybe thirty books, which I spent a good fifteen minutes carefully going through, I took upstairs, in a rush of sheepish, bookish joy:
The Institute For Things To Do With Books is happy to present a new game for all those odd, bookish people out there. We here at the IFTTDWB headquarters fondly call it ‘That New Bookstore Game.’ Here’s what you do. Go into your neighbourhood big-box bookstore (the bigger and boxier, the better). Browse through the fiction, poetry, history, essays, and philosophy sections – basically, anywhere you would regularly buy and read – and collect a nice pile of books you would very much like to buy, to read through, to shelve, to own. (During this part of the game it’s important to avoid the teapots, candles, kitchen/bathroom accessories, and all the other non-book paraphernalia that your neighbourhood big-box bookstore likely stocks on the first floor). Now: find a place to sit. A wicker chair, a table at the in-house (and, most likely, corporate) cafe, even the floor, will suffice. Look through your selected titles. Feel the weight of each book in your hand, feed on the words and images of the cover; time permitting, pick a short story or a poem or an essay from one of the books – say, perhaps, that one by David Foster Wallace about eating […]
Hello. As part of the Institute For Things to do With Books’ mandate to participate in things that have to do with books, here is my annual list of books that have piled up on my bedside table. Some of these books have been read through, some (the short story anthologies, certain poetry books) have been dipped into, others have got lost in the shuffle and are as of yet unread. As always, come spring, I’ll reshelve, and start the process all over again. Feel free to contribute your own night table geographies in the comments section. Books are listed from the top of the pile to the bottom Pile A: Happy New Year! And Other Stories by Sholom Aleichem (Translated by Curt Leviant) The Circle Game by Margaret Atwood (Poetry) So Much to Say: Dave Matthews Band 20 Years on the Road by Nikki Van Noy (perhaps the worst book I have ever read) The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol, Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (thank you BMV!) 50 Short Science Fiction Tales, Edited by Isaac Asimov and Groff Conklin An Oak Hunch by Phil Hall (Poetry) Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson (BMV again!) February by […]
Dr. K is a large, hairy man, and this is my second time seeing him as my GP. The examining room where I wait for him is a mess of folders and needles and pamphlets, the floors scuffed, the walls in need of a coat of paint; it’s as if the doctor and his office staff pursue the aesthetic of the apocryphal teenage boy. As in most any situation where I will be waiting or sitting for any amount of time, I have a book with me. For the occasion of my first physical with Dr. K, I happen to be reading After the Falls, a memoir by Catherine Gildner about her teenage years in America during the rebellious sixties and seventies (which happens to be a very well-written, very engaging book; I highly recommend it). I came across the book when I found it on the kitchen table at my parents’ house; my aunt had lent it to my mother and as soon as I picked it up I was immersed in Gildner’s world. When Dr. K finally trundles in he notices the book immediately. “What are you reading?” he asks, picking up the book with hands that I […]
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination – well, that’s not exactly true. Certain names, characters, places, and incidents might be from that mysterious place, the author’s imagination, but most are not. Where are they from, you ask? Well, like any work of fiction, these things come from the author’s own life, her memories, stories of friends and family members, stories overheard on the bus, what she’s read, movies, things she’s misremembered, things she’s fantasized about, things she half-researched, half-made-up, all stirred until light and fluffy with the mix-master of craft, thickened with the flour of wordchoice, raised with the baking soda of time, and baked in the writing-process oven, eventually becoming the novel you are holding in your hands. So yes, there will be resemblances to actual events, locales, and persons, living and dead, and no, they most likely will not be entirely coincidental; but try and keep in mind that in almost every instant, it is done without malice, it is done with only the best intentions: to create something fresh and alive, something that has that most elusive of qualities, truth. All of which to say: […]