Tag Archives: books

and the hippos were boiled in their tanks

The work has been published and I’m a conflicted soul.  Kerouac and Burroughs both felt the work to be sub-par and unworthy of publication but can’t very well argue from the grave now, can they?  We selfish, living folk decided to go against the wills of two of the 20th century’s greatest creative minds and plublished their work posthumously.  We trusted their judgement then, what happened?  Pandora’s box has been opened and I feel that in owning this work I puts the blood on my hands, but in not owning it I would be missing out on that feeling of connectedness with something really special.  The feeling I got sitting by Louisa May Alcott’s grave and experiencing the weight of history & utter loneliness bearing down on me whilst exploring West Kennet and its surrounding moors while chasing my Heathcliff.  So do I put it on my wish list or do I honour their wishes and leave well enough alone?  What’s a girl to do?

Oh, and if you’re interested you should check out what the always lovely Jaime The Nonist (RIP) has to say about it.  He’s far more eloquent than yours truly.  I have a huge nerdgirl crush on him.

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my bookshelf brings all the boys to the yard

I have that same Ikea bookshelf.  It has served me well over many, many years.  It has been everything from a computer desk/clothing storage in a small space (which worked out much better than one might expect) to a baker’s rack.  It’s currently back to a bookshelf, hangin’ out in our hall collecting stuff:

Yes, I the DOF to highlight the plant and not the clutter, but you can still get a feel for just how hard this baby works.  Even with the blur you can see sunscreen, stoneware candle holders, tin can candle holders (made by the daughter 4 years ago), laundry detergent, DVDs, kids school pictures, a hair ornament, my bill payment thingy, pencils, a spray of fake sunflowers the daughter decorated it with almost 5 years ago and which we have never taken off, kids school pictures, vaseline (even books need lube) and a cute, felted, teal cloche.

What you can’t see are all of the books, the candelabra, my sharpie collection, a collection of Things Which Do Not Belong To Us, 2 baskets containing hats & mitts & gloves, a candy jar, 3 sketchbooks, a pneumatically powered toy aeroplane, watercolour paints, oil pastels and a jar of seashells.

Needless to say it is not nearly as put together as the one in the first photo.  How do these people do it?  As much as ours looks like the aftermath of a tsunami on a daily basis, I still like it better.  I know where everything is and I’ll never make the mistake of putting Proust next to Machiavelli in a tragic organization-by-colour mishap.

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genuinely happy

I bought Kelly Rae Roberts’ book, Taking Flight, as a gift from me to me with love a couple of months ago.  I don’t usually go for the self-help/warm fuzzy/new agey diy type books this one seemed to be but something made me want it so I toddled on down to Titles to order it and I’m glad I did.  Although there is a lot of self-help/warm fuzzy/new agey diying in it there’s also a lot of practical information on the techniques she uses as well as the inspiration she draws from to make her art happen.  She also goes off (but not too far off) on a decidedly journalistic bent in getting the stories, techniques and sources of inspiration from 7 other artists and wends everything back to the source in a true feat of storytelling.  I don’t know if her editor is super-human or if Kelly herself is just that good but at the end of the day she has produced a wonderful little book about creating around what one knows and how to go about doing it.  I’m genuinely happy I have it.

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I art snob

Last week the mister introduced me to LibraryThing and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of effort cataloguing my books would entail. I looooooove my books. They’re the last things to get packed and the first things to get unpacked when I move. There’s always a stack of them beside my bed, in the living room, and on the Shelf of Things Which Do Not Belong to Me(tm) to go back to their rightful owners or to be passed on to the next willing victim. After entering 9 highly pretentious books into my librarything account I decided a personal assistant is required for that particular task but filling out a pre-made list of pretentious books is a fun procrastination tactic while writing resumes for my job hunt. So here it is, punked from here.

Books I’ve read are in bold; books I’ve stared but haven’t finished are in italics; books I own but haven’t read are marked with an dagger (†). Disclaimer: I don’t really own any books I haven’t read (any I do are reference materials and even those I’m pretty intimate with) and I don’t start books and not finish them. I’m masochistic like that. Well ok, maybe I do, but none of those are on this list.

1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
2. Anna Karenina
3. Crime and Punishment
4. Catch-22 (everyone should have to read this book)
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude
6. Wuthering Heights (and will have Michael Penn’s ‘No Myth’ in my head for ever and ever as a result of this read)
7. The Silmarillion
8. Life of Pi
9. The Name of the Rose (in French even!)
10. Don Quixote
11. Moby Dick (fucking albatrosses)
12. Ulysses
13. Madame Bovary
14. The Odyssey
15. Pride and Prejudice
16. Jane Eyre
17. The Tale of Two Cities
18. The Brothers Karamazov
19. Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
20. War and Peace (ugh. Why?)
21. Vanity Fair
22. The Time Traveler’s Wife
23. The Iliad
24. Emma
25. The Blind Assassin
26. The Kite Runner
27. Mrs. Dalloway
28. Great Expectations
29. American Gods
30. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
31. Atlas Shrugged (and I’ll never trust Ayn Rand again)
32. Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
33. Memoirs of a Geisha
34. Middlesex
35. Quicksilver (soooooo loooooong with far too many descriptions of ejaculation which may even put Anne Rice’s descriptions of wrought iron work and the buggering of small boys to shame)
36. Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
37. The Canterbury Tales (read for a Grade 8 independent study on the black plague – I boycotted enrichment classes shortly thereafter)
38. The Historian : a novel
39. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
40. Love in the Time of Cholera
41. Brave New World
42. The Fountainhead
43. Foucault’s Pendulum (pretty much my favourite book ever, amen)
44. Middlemarch
45. Frankenstein
46. The Count of Monte Cristo
47. Dracula
48. A Clockwork Orange (I think my sister appreciated me reading at her in Nadsat while she was in heavylabour)
49. Anansi Boys
50. The Once and Future King
51. The Grapes of Wrath
52. The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
53. 1984
54. Angels & Demons (seriously? who made this list? since when is Dan Brown anything other than an insult to one’s intelligence?)
55. The Inferno
56. The Satanic Verses
57. Sense and Sensibility
58. The Picture of Dorian Gray
59. Mansfield Park
60. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
61. To the Lighthouse
62. Tess of the D’Urbervilles
63. Oliver Twist
64. Gulliver’s Travels (wonderfully subversive)
65. Les Misérables (depressing again)
66. The Corrections
67. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
68. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
69. Dune
70. The Prince (ha ha! I used to keep a copy of this on my desk when I was a manager)
71. The Sound and the Fury
72. Angela’s Ashes : a memoir (more depressing)
73. The God of Small Things
74. A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
75. Cryptonomicon
76. Neverwhere
77. A Confederacy of Dunces (I really do need to read this)
78. A Short History of Nearly Everything
79. Dubliners
80. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
81. Beloved
82. Slaughterhouse-Five (read it at least 5 times while pregnant with the son – that may explain a lot)
83. The Scarlet Letter
84. Eats, Shoots & Leaves
85. The Mists of Avalon
86. Oryx and Crake : a novel
87. Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
88. Cloud Atlas
89. The Confusion
90. Lolita
91. Persuasion
92. Northanger Abbey
93. The Catcher in the Rye (which will always remind me of my brother’s drunken rant at me about how lame this book is)
94. On the Road (who doesn’t love Kerouac?)
95. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
96. Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
97. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values (yet, unlike so many single men, I don’t use it as a display of my sensitive soul or spirituality – please don’t try to use it as a pick-up conversation starter – I won’t fall for that again)
98. The Aeneid
99. Watership Down (so depressing. poor bunnies)
100. Gravity’s Rainbow
101. The Hobbit
102. In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
103. White Teeth (it’s on my list of things to pick up in used bookstore alley too)
104. Treasure Island
105. David Copperfield
106. The Three Musketeers

Total: 65. Which means I’m only 61% snobby.

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the machiavellian intelligence of maize

The mister saw fit to bring back a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma from Montreal a couple of weeks ago.  As he’s not allowed to read it until he’s fully digested Foucault’s Pendulum I decided to pick it up as my thinking (as opposed to purely entertaining) book of the moment.  I finished reading the first ‘chapter’ (section?) over coffee on my front porch this morning and though I’m not prepared to get into a full review of the book at this moment I do have some initial thoughts and reactions I feel the need to air so I’ve chosen to do so here.  Perhaps I’ll bore you all with a play-by-play as I read along.  The book’s formatting – following four meals back to their natural sources and reminding us of our relationship to the ingredients all the way – is rather conducive to that.  Perhaps I just won’t be arsed.  We’ll see.

An introduction to a new set of socio-political ideals about food is (apparently) kind of like buying a new car in that one sees it everywhere within the first few weeks after adoption.  I think I realised the full effect of the read yesterday while visiting our local farmer’s market determined to bring home an interesting and organic new cut of beef or buffalo or elk to play with.  The latter two being out of my price range and offering nothing I considered interesting enough to justify the expense I turned to the many many offerings of the former, all purporting to be ‘certified organic’ but then also listing ‘corn-fed’ as being one of the value-added benefits of their beef.  Newsflash – cows aren’t naturally gifted in the processing of corn.  They can only do so with the aid of loads of hormones and antibiotics assisting them in converting those precious (and cheap) calories into the steaks we all know and love.  While this isn’t news to me, it has been a long time since I’ve thought about it.  So the question is begged: what then, is ‘organic’?  Who defines it?  Who measures it and by what means?

I don’t have immediate answers to those questions, but I’m certainly bloody-minded enough to go searching for them and, though I’m certain the answers will vary from region to region, I’m kind of hoping they’ll be answered later in the book.  Or that some clever indices I can follow will be presented at the very least, but more on that later.  The thing is that the issue of cows not being able to process corn natural is a mere scratching of the surface of the plant’s place in the global food debate.  The real issue is that corn, with human aid, has circumvented all of the laws of natural selection to become a dominant organism on our planet and in our digestive systems.  Getting into the nitty gritty of all of that is beyond the scope of this post – just go read the book – this post is about my feeling of betrayal, akin to the betrayal I felt toward my own genetics upon reading The Selfish Gene.  Like Dawkins, Pollan is a radical messenger of radical truths who has transformed the favourite summer treat this (quasi) farm-bred girl, raised on the plantable, sustainable, preservable holy trinity of vegetation that is squash, beans and, of course, corn into an alien overlord infiltration of Orwellian proportions.  He makes it quite easy to draw the line of responsibility between corn and global warming, poverty, malnutrition, alcoholism and even war.  Granted, cow corn is different from people corn.  The stuff we buy from roadside tables on lazy Sunday drives is not responsible for all of this as such, but my overactive imagination can’t help drawing the parallels.  Mind = blown.  I’ve not yet decided what my long-term response to this will be.  This section of the book had me checking all of the labels of the all of the jars of all of the products we have in the cupboards and fridges and I can say with some relief that my lack of sweet tooth keeps us away from the onslaught of corn bi-products in the few processed foods that we do keep around the house.  We’re hardly every day meat-eaters in this house, we do try to stay fairly low on the food chain and we don’t own a car but even those efforts don’t seem to be enough in the face of this.   Needless to say I left all traces of beef at the market yesterday but did come home with organic, corn free, birdseed for our feeders.  Damn you, Michael Pollan.  Damn you all to hell for making corn my new boogey man.


Filed under food politics, Things which grow from the ground