Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: Indian Horse

Indian Horse
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

They should teach this book in schools.

You know, I never would have come across this book. Living outside of Canada, if I do happen across a Canadian author among the used books, I have to have heard of them. Even if I'd picked the book up, I might not have been all that convinced by a book about hockey. And until this year Canada Reads was something I sort of vaguely recall hearing about that year I lived in Vancouver, but I knew almost nothing about it. But I can't go to a book signing and not have a book signed and here I am.

Here being awake at 5 a.m. because I decided to read just a chapter or two before bed. I couldn't stop reading this book until I'd torn through every last page. The emotional impact of this book hits you hard, from the family that was stolen from him by despair and snow, to the horror of the residential school and then to the stain of racism. And the hockey - I'm not really much of a sports person, but that hockey read like what it feels like to run.

This is the most Ontario book I've read in years - and yet, here it is, representing the BC region in Canada Reads. Amusing, that. I will need to read the rest of Wagamese's books, as well as the other Canada Reads contenders. I've heard it said that this is the book to beat and I see that.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Say You're One of Them

Say You're One of Them
Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It wasn't until I read the afterward that I noticed that all of the stories in this book where written from the perspective of children. I'm not really sure how I missed that. And in each story, the ending is hard to take. Incredibly hard.

The first two stories surprised me with a new way of looking at a topic: I hadn't really though about a child choosing a brothel because she thinks it would be better than streetwalking or that children sold into slavery would spend so long being prepped for the journey. The third story was very short but hit me the hardest - I'm not sure if it was just the extreme youth of the narrator or that it was on the surface the least horrifying of the tales, but the emotional impact was huge. The fourth story left me hoping that things might end well right up until the last page. And the last story drove the thread of despair home. It also confused me the most, as the interactions between the children and the parents really startled me - there seemed little care/attention shown to the children throughout large parts of the narrative.

I enjoyed the Luxurious Hearses story a great deal because the details of the different tribal groups and their religions ties in with the African history book I'm studying from.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile
Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

That was really fun. The whodunit was interesting, but the best part was seeing how they had intermixed all the characters and the backstory about leaving the Homelands. I want to read the rest.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: The Paper Menagerie

The Paper Menagerie
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thought this was sweet and sad. It also lead to quite an interesting discussion about why this is fantasy and how fantasy and magic realism and fantasy relate to each other. I'm started it was such an award winner though. It would be fun and easy to teach, which won it a an extra star.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fleur Adcock: “Against Coupling”

1. What immediate differences do you notice between Adcock’s poem and Wright’s poem?

In Adcock's poem the other is male and the gaze is his - "avoid those eyes would help", "his gaze stirs", "her own eyes blur". Though both have the nature imagery, Adcock also brings in cultural references. And, in general in all of Adcock's poems in the Norton, she describes more day-to-day details - the bath, the Sunday papers in "Against Coupling" or the water, cigarette and a pee in "On the Border."

2. What do you think the title means?

A suggestion against partnered intercourse.

3. Listen to this interview with Adcock: Does she live up to or defeat your expectations? Why does either response matter?

After reading the poems included in the Norton, the interview deepened my appreciation with her playful style. Her voice in the interview seems to well match a poet who'd write about masturbation. I loved that it exasperates her to be remembered for it and I'm intrigued by a poet who takes on the theme of bad sex.

4. I won’t spoil the surprise here—check it out!

I don't at all understand this line in the lecture: "The "immoderate plea" of the image in the mirror in Wright's poem can be paralleled with the polyp-like mouth surrounded by tentacles in Adcock's wicked imagination."

1. The difference in tone and attitude in these poems is crucial: If Adcock is mocking and reductive (although the allusions to "the lady in Leeds" and the "school drama mistress" may be as compassionate and self-deprecating as they are stinging), skewering the "participating in a total experience" and emphasizing the repetitiveness with which desire, need, and ecstasy overwhelm the body and dull the mind, how would you characterize Wright's tone, mood, and attitude to the "hole in the wall?"

Wright's poem reads more as one of fear or trepidation, of a lack of knowledge. She's attempting to reject and ignore the stirrings of desire at first, and then seems resigned to them.

2. Think, too, about shifts in diction in Adcock's poem "vegetal rustle" and "trespassing tongue" versus the prosaic character of "There is much to be said ... exercise" or "fronds" undercut by the epithet "polypal." Why do you think Wright does not resort to such jarring shifts?

I think Adcock's use of diction really shifts from the more involved sexual act to describing an act that is very day-to-day, much like brushing your teeth. Wright's persona, however, is not possessed of that experience yet, perhaps, and so the diction in the poem remains more mysterious than prosaic.

3. Is Wright's poem "monologic," even if it appears to be a conversation between self and body (there's a leading question if ever I saw one!)?

Yes and no. Since the thought process is actually of the body, it can't really be separated out, but the use of the mirror allows for a dialogue.

4. Why does Adcock write her poem as if she were writing an advice column addressed to school drama mistresses and ladies in Leeds? What evidence would you use to suggest this poem is more like a letter addressed to "every woman" or indeed "a letter to the editor"?

The line "I advise you, then, to embrace it without / encumbrance", and the entire last stanza opens the poem up to a wider audience. Not only does she use you, she seems to be advocating a solution to a problem that she's made to sound common to others by including the references to the lady in Leeds and the drama school mistress.

5. What does one make of the use of the pronoun "one" rather than "I"?

The use of the term "one" was very much more common in the UK, particularly of middle class or upper class people, when I lived there. Aside from distinctly British tone it sets, I think it also serves to slightly distance the acts from "I" and to universalize them.

Judith Wright, Naked Girl and Mirror

This is not I. I had no body once-
only what served my need to laugh and run
and stare at stars and tentatively dance
on the fringe of foam and wave and sand and sun.
Eyes loved, hands reached for me, but I was gone
on my own currents, quicksilver, thistledown.
Can I be trapped at last in that soft face?

I stare at you in fear, dark brimming eyes.
Why do you watch me with that immoderate plea-
'Look under these curled lashes, recognize
that you were always here; know me-be me.'
Smooth once-hermaphrodite shoulders, too tenderly
your long slope runs, above those sudden shy
curves furred with light that spring below your space.

No, I have been betrayed. If I had known
that this girl waited between a year and a year,
I'd not have chosen her bough to dance upon.
Betrayed, by that little darkness here, and here
this swelling softness and that frightened stare
from eyes I will not answer; shut out here
from my own self, by its new body's grace-

for I am betrayed by someone lovely. Yes,
I see you are lovely, hateful naked girl.
Your lips in the mirror tremble as I refuse
to know or claim you. Let me go-let me be gone.
You are half of some other who may never come.
Why should I tend you? You are not my own;
you seek that other-he will be your home.

Yet I pity your eyes in the mirror, misted with tears;
I lean to your kiss. I must serve you; I will obey.
Some day we may love. I may miss your going, some day,
though I shall always resent your dumb and fruitful years.
Your lovers shall learn better, and bitterly too,
if their arrogance dares to think I am part of you.

1. Did this poem evoke memories of adolescence? How did it alter your remembered perceptions or help you see those memories or experiences in a new light?

It reminded me more of getting older, the idea of being betrayed by your body. IT is odd that she feels betrayed by "lovely", when I was more frustrated by what I saw as no lovely enough. But the idea of your body not being your own resonated.

2. What words or images captured your imagination or remained with you? Why?

"I have been betrayed", "shut out from my own self", "lovely, hateful naked girl" "Why should I tend you? You are not my own; / you seek that other - he will be your home.", "I must serve you; I will obey."

3. Identify your feelings at the end of the poem: sadness? celebration? fear? Then return to the poem and find evidence that confirms your (multiple) responses.

Pity and a sense that she is wrong, that she will learn to be "part of you".

1. Is the movement between past, present, and future suggestive of this difficulty?

The future section seemed to retrain the resentment and repulsion towards the body that suggests to me that the perspective is a younger, less mature one. There seems to be no reconciliation with the body that I feel would come with time.

2. Does the voice in the poem know too much (or too little) about the "dumb and fruitful" future of the body that must be obeyed?

The line "I may miss your going" seems young to me, written before the body starts to get older and worn and you do, in fact, miss its going. Also the association of the lovers only with the body suggests to me that the poet isn't writing from the perspective of having had more mature relationships that involve more than the physical aspect.

In particular, the voice in the poem seems to know too little - the voice idealizes childhood as if it was only a carefree time of joy and as if the child never has any conflict between physical self and mind. Judith Wright had a daughter later and I feel that she must have been aware that childhood is not like that and that children too have complicated relationships with their bodies and their control over them. The voice also seems to be less knowledgeable about the future - "I must serve you; I will obey" suggests that the voice isn't considering the option of enjoying the experiences of the body in the future.

3. How does one explain the contradiction between a self that refuses to own its burgeoning flesh and a self that can project how its unknown lovers would react to what she has always known--she must serve and obey the body that has never been "me"?

Perhaps by objectifying her own physical self, she sees that it will be done in the future by her lovers.

4. Read this blog: . Comment on the writer’s perspective on the poem. Does it reflect your own?

The blogger's perspective is that "the walls of age crumble and I am 13 again, gazing into a mirror, raw, trembling on the cusp of womanhood." My initial reading of the poem made me more think of an body aging at a later date, of the sense that the mind still feels young, but the aches and pains separate it into an older, other. Upon rereading I was struck more by the fact that the persona's hatred seems directed at the body's loveliness and unlike the blogger, that didn't bring me back to my 13 year old self, who saw only the body's flaws. However, on a third read, I identified with the sense of being led by the body and feeling a lack of control over it that I did sense when I was 13.

Some poetic features worth noting are the sustained conceit of shadows and reflections, the alliterative effects based on both letters and sounds (stars, sand, sun, fringe, foam, currents, quicksilver), the imperfect rhyme scheme, the hidden conceit that pursues natural or creaturely imagery--foam and wave and sand and sun; currents ... thistledown; curves furred; this girl as the bough to dance upon (as the precarious foundation for her true self); fruitful--, imperatives, interrogatives (some may be rhetorical), declaratives, and subjunctives, transferred epithets such as "shy curves" and so on.

1. Why or how are these poetic features important to the meaning of the poem?

There is an interesting contract between the use of nature to express her joy in the first stanza and then her alienation from the natural processes of her own body. I found that the interrogatives and the shadows/relections made me feel that by turning herself into an object to gaze on, she sees that others will do the same.

Another of her other poems seem to contain similar mind/body division. In "Ishtar" she says "When in fear I became a woman"..."it is not my mind you are concerned with"..."You neither know nor care for the truth of my heart; / but the truth of my body has all to do with you. / You have no need of my thoughts or my hopes, / living in the realm of the absolute event."

A line from "Two Dreamtimes", "in a land I thought was mine for life", also calls this poem to mind. In both there is a contrast between how things were and how things are now, with now being worse. That line suggests to me that perhaps the worse is at least in part the result of a change to something that she thought would stay the same, stay hers for life. In "Naked Girl and Mirror" perhaps some of the resentment comes from a balking at the changes of a body - for don't we all tend to think of our body now as being who we are and the changes to it making us less like who we are?

Women's Lit

This is what the professor started with...

Ice Breaker Assignment

Which courses have you taken in any discipline that might give you a useful background for this course? Please describe these briefly because I don't know what course numbers stand for in other disciplines.

It's not an option above, but I've already graduated Queen's.

I majored in Classical Studies and took classes in Greek and Roman Epic and Greek and Roman Drama.

Are you an artist, writer, performer? How would you describe your creative energies?

I'm a teacher, which is a performer of sorts. I also blog about my travelling experiences, though that writing isn't frequent.

Have you read any of the texts on the syllabus before? Are you familiar with any of the authors on this syllabus? Where/in what context did you encounter them?

I've read Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie , Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, a few of Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison and Jeannette Winterson's novels for fun, and taught a few of Zora Neale Hurston's short stories.

Which male modern and contemporary writers are you familiar with? Please note that I mean canonical authors.

I've recently been working my way through the Yale Open University course on the American novel since 1945, so I've read Richard Wright, Jack Kerouac, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Vladimir Nabokov, and J. D. Salinger recently. I've taught an 11th grade literature class covering Orwell's 1984, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Huxley's Lord of the Flies, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NIghttime. For pleasure, relatively recently, I've read some Hemingway, Joseph Conrad, Milan Kundera, Kazuo Ishiguro and David Foster Wallace (though sadly I still haven't found time for Infinite Jest.)

Why did the course description intrigue you? What are your expectations for this course? What do you want to be sure you learn from it?

In my last answer, you might have noticed that the eleventh grade literature course I taught didn't cover any female authors - though I didn't chose the syllabus myself, I did have some input into how it might be changed in the future. I'd like to have more familiarity with the female canon so that I can cover it when I teach.

Why should we become familiar with an exclusively female literary tradition? Why can't women writers just join the crowd?

I think the historic differences in women's access to education and intellectual pursuits makes the female literary tradition quite different from the male canon.

How comfortable are you with literary terminology? Name the glossary of literary terms you are most familiar with. Is your tendency to read for theme and plot and then tack on the necessary terms or do you read in and through the lens of literary terms? In other words, have these terms become the "baggage" you bring to reading? Can you identify critical methods? Do you know which features make an interpretation "feminist" or "new historicist" or "deconstructive" or "queer" or "structuralist" or "New Critical?"

I haven't taken an English course since high school, and I graduated in 1997. I read a great deal for pleasure and have gotten into the habit of reading for theme and plot first. Though I have a basic knowledge of literary terms, I am less familiar with movements within female literature.

Mention some of your favourite books/authors, films, TV shows, music, whatever. What kind of culture vulture are you?

I read a lot of literary fiction - though in the last year or so, I've been attempting to switch the focus more to the classics. I like trying to keep up with Canadian literature by reading award winners or the Canada Reads books. I recently have also been reading a lot of African and Asian writers, inspired by my travels on those continents. Because I've lived overseas, I'm not overly familiar with films or up to date on movies and music. I only recently watched The West Wing and have just started The Wire.

What would make you stand out in a crowd?

Being an expat, often my height! I place more emphasis on travel than most people I know. And I'm a runner - enough of one that I run even while on vacation.

Have you travelled much? Where? How do you think travel changes your sensibility, your sense of your place in the world? Or tell me why you like or dislike travelling.

I did an university exchange to Scotland in my third year at Queen's which infected me with the travel bug. I moved back to Edinburgh upon graduation and while in Europe did the classic backpacking around the big cities for a summer, spent three weeks in Italy, and just before I left, three months around Ireland and Scotland. I also excavated in Greece for a summer as a student. After a year back in Canada in Vancouver, I returned to the expat life, this time moving to teach English in South Korea. That was seven long years ago. I've been to twelve Asian countries so far and I like to try and visit less touristy places like North Korea, Brunei, or East Timor. More recently I spent some time visiting a friend in the Peace Corps and was able to visit both Togo and Ghana. I think that travel absolutely changes who you are, opening your eyes to things both similar and different that you never even thought to consider. It also affirms your faith in the basic goodness and friendliness of strangers and teaches you just how widespread English is as a language. I have my share of travel disaster stories, certainly, but I can't imagine a life without regularly seeing new places and meeting new people.

How many languages do you speak, write, understand? What was it like to learn a language other than your own? Are you conscious of your monolingualism / bilingualism / multilingualism? In what way?

I have a smattering of languages outside of English. Certainly, my Korean has become very functional, though I'd be hard pressed to have an interesting conversation. I've taken classes in Italian in advance of a trip there and I studied French, Latin and Ancient Greek. In my travels I've picked up a lot of very basic 10-30 word vocabularies in the languages of the countries I've been in. I'm not very good at learning languages at all, which I suspect is very good for my students for whom i'ts a second language. Korean is incredibly difficult, certainly, and I have a lot of respect for my students' ability to switch so effortlessly between two such different systems.

Where do you get your news of the world from? Be more specific than "the internet." Do you keep abreast of current events rarely, occasionally, regularly? Why do current events bore or interest you?

In Korea, I didn't have a TV. For some reason, I've never really gotten into reading the news on the internet. English language newspapers in Korea are either poor in quality or extremely expensive, so I've gotten out of the habit of staying particularly informed in an up-to-date manner, though I will occasionally spend the rather ridiculous amount of money that The Economist costs overseas. It's gone so far that I've had frantic emails and phone calls about the situation with North Korea from Canadians before finding out what was happening in my own backyard. I do read a fair amount of non-fiction about world events, so I'm not entirely ignorant, just really far behind. The big exception is American elections. So far it is my experience that every country is fascinated by an American election, so I've always ended up well versed in politics every four years.

Which historical event might be said to be your first memory of something that was not personal but nevertheless shaped who you are? Is there a historical or political or cultural memory that is crucial to your parents or grandparents and that they strive to keep alive in the family? Why do you think they want to do so? You may also connect this event or memory to your sex/gender/transgender, sexuality, racialization, differently-abled status. Please note I am deliberately not asking for personal/private information.

I recall well both the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square and I suspect those incidents and my interest in them may have been my first serious understanding of the diversity of the world beyond Canada's borders - and how much I wanted to go out and experience it. My family is of the Bristish stock long in Canada variety and it was interesting upon moving to the UK to see that some of the odd family traditions that we thought of as being British were no longer at all familiar to the British - one small example would be coddled eggs. The only person I met in the UK who'd even heard of using a coddler to make what is essentially just a soft-boiled egg with extra dishes to wash was my then boyfriend's grandmother, who had served as a maid in a "big house". My step-grandfather spoke often of the places he travelled to during the war and was always my biggest supporter in terms of choosing an expat lifestyle or travelling solo in countries that others considered too dangerous for a woman. He thought it was fantastic that I was off backpacking around Cambodia or through Sumatra on my own. I always very much sensed that he wished his opportunities for adventure hadn't been tied to warfare and then curtailed by the family's financial circumstances.

Which adjective/epithet describes you best (pick more than one if you like): passionate, skeptical, militant, belong to the school of "none of the above," curious, cosmopolitan, empathetic, contradictory, ambivalent, conscience-stricken, detached observer, guilt is my default mode, liberal, radical, conservative, subversive, hate labels, prefer mosaics to melting pots, cynical, indifferent, sentimental, "don't fuck me up with peace and love." Please note I have left out "ironic!" Or sum yourself up in your own words.

I suppose adventurous describes me best - there is nothing I like better than a new place, a new food, a new experience. I have a fair amount of determination - my main goal for 2013 is to finally run my first marathon after a year of idleness brought on by injury. It's not the idea of crossing the finish line, though, that is the goal. In fact, completing my first half marathon was a fairly anti-climatic experience. It wasn't the race day I was proud of, so much as the training I'd stuck to in order to get there. Liberal, I suspect most would tag me as. South Korea has an interesting mix of expats: in the English speaking community we're either teachers or American military personnel. As a runner, I spend a lot of time with military members, both officers and enlisted. Most of them would consider me a flaming liberal, though I think in fact that my experiences hanging out with a largely conservative crowd have broadened my opinions. I'm not sure I'd say I'm that much less liberal than in my university days, but I have certainly come to appreciate hanging out in the grey area in the middle on a regular basis.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Watchmen

Watchmen by Alan Moore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've only read a handful of graphic novels (Maus, Persepolis, Pyongyang) and have long intended to read something more comic-y. The Big Bang episode inspired me to finally do it and this is what I had on hand.

At first I felt like I'd been dropped into the middle of a story I didn't understand. But once I got into it, the pieces started making sense and it does all come together at the end. It's very smart, this comic. The gore factor was impressive too, with the raft of corpses and the immediacy of the blood.

It certainly wasn't a fast, easy read as I'd been expecting. And I didn't love it, though by the end I liked it well enough. And the various forms of media interspersed in the comics - the memos and letters and book excerpts were interesting too.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013


1. What book is on your nightstand right now? On my physical nightstand, The Human Stain by Philip Roth, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson Whirl Away by Russell Wangersky, Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese and my Kindle. But I'm not yet reading any of those - the books I'm actually reading are actually IN the bed - 101 Letters to A Prime Minister by Yann Martel and The Watchmen by Alan Moore. The textbooks are beside the bed, in a pile.

2. When and where do you like to read? Just as I wake up and go to sleep, in bed. Also coffee shops, public transit, and while waiting in line-ups.

3. What was the last truly great book you read? Do you remember the last time you said to someone, “You absolutely must read this book”? Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. It blew my mind. If you know anyone with cancer, or you have it yourself, it really is such an important read. The last book before that was Intuition by Allegra Goodman.

4. Do you consider yourself a fiction or a nonfiction person? Fiction, I suppose. I do love nonfiction, but I seem to read less of it overall.

5. What book had the greatest impact on you? What book made you want to write? (Or wish you could be a writer, if you don’t write already.) I still have a vague memory of reading a book about a mouse in first grade, sitting at my desk. Since then, it's really hard to name one book in particular, as books have played such a huge role in my life that several have impacted me at various times of my life. I read The Brothers Karamazov in 10th grade and they were probably the first really adult books I'd read. And then The Handmaid's Tale by Atwood was the first time I'd ever enjoyed reading a book in school. In university, reading The Whole Woman by Germaine Greer turned me into a feminist. Since, books have had impacts when they dovetailed with my life, whether the book was in and of itself all that great.

6. If you could require the leader of your country to read one book, what would it be? (Please tell us your country of residence and its current leader.) Stephen Harper appears to be a man unlikely to respond to reading suggestions by the Canadian public. There's an infamous possible quote about the Guinness Book of World Records being his favourite book and the suggestion that he wants to write a book about hockey. Perhaps he'd enjoy Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese then.

7. What’s your preferred reading experience? Do you prefer a book that makes you laugh or makes you cry? One that teaches you something or one that distracts you? Yes. All of that.

8. What were your favorite books as a child? Do you have a favorite character or hero from one of those books? Is there one book you wish all children would read? Little House on the Prarie, Anne of Green Gables, Ramona Quimby. And any book where the main character somehow time travelled back into the past - I was obsessed with those. The Wrinkle in Time series. And then, at the end of my childhood reading, the Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. I still reread those regularly. They're like a literary blankie.

9. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing? Disappointing - Beloved by Toni Morrison. Overrated - Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Hardy. They stick out as the books I hate that I feel I maybe shouldn't. The last book I couldn't put down was The Crying of Lot 49 by Pynchon. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did, but it was a total romp.

10. Do you remember the last book someone personally recommended that you read and enjoyed? Who recommended you read it and what convinced you to pick it up? People, outside of Bookish, seldom recommend books to me. But over the past couple of years, there have been a few. A friend has sent me some vampire books to take my mind off other things and both times, that worked really well. I was sent Sappho's Leap by Erica Jong by a friend and really enjoyed that; same for Intuition by Allegra Goodman. Ru by Kim Thuy was recommended to me by an older French woman on a bus in Vietnam (that and travelling as much as I could while I was young.) An ex had me read the 2001: A Space Odyssey series, which got me back into sci-fi.

11. What’s the one book you wish someone else would write? A book about an expat that I could really related to, I suppose. I tend to use literature sometimes to help me think through my issues, so if it could also cover debates about being child free or dealing with single life or... I suppose I could write that book.

12. If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know and what would you do with them? Mary Shelley, perhaps. I'd like to wander around Europe with her and hear all the gossip. She sounds fun.

13. What do you plan to read next? Textbooks, textbooks and more textbooks. At least African history, women's lit, and chilren's lit are interesting.

14. Do you like genre literature? Any particular favorites? What’s your favorite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures? I suppose I would say that my favourite genre is literary fiction. I really do enjoy sci-fi and would like to expand more into some fantasy. I like historical fiction, though I often consider it a bit of a lighter read. And my guilty pleasure is the vamp porn.

15. Where do you get your books? For my Kindle, online. I'm fond of Gutenberg. In Korea, there are two bookstores in Itaewon - one a used bookstore that has been there forever, and the other half new/half used. Here in Canada, I'm a big Indigo fan, partially because it's my go-to meet up point with my mom.

16. What are your reading habits? Do you read paper or electronic books? Do you take notes? Have you ever written to an author? I only recently started reading more on my Kindle. I think I'll always mix and match. I take notes when I study, but seldom when I read, though I will sometimes dogear the pages and go back to copy down quotes. I don't think I've ever read to a single author, in spite of a love of Dear Mr. Henshaw as a kid.

17. If you could bring only three books to a desert island, which would you pack? Infinite Jest for length. A multi-volume Anne McCaffrey for comfort. And a survival guide.

18. If you could be any character from literature, who would it be? Is there an immortal character so rich she can spend all her time reading? Perhaps Mary Kingsley - she was a real person and wrote about travelling in West Africa in 1893.

19. Do you have a publishing pet peeve? I don't like books deckle-edged books. And I don't know when mass market paperbacks suddenly got a bit taller, but I'm not fond of that either.

20. If you had to select books for your “Ideal Bookshelf” which titles would you choose? (Maximum 10 books.) Well, they'd be half read and half unread. I'd want all the continents to be represented, and at least a third nonfiction, and a good gender balance. A few shortish, a few chunksters. I'd want them to range in publication date and cover at least a few genres. But to actually narrow it down to 10 books - impossible. I take more than ten books with me on a short, week long vacation after all!

2012 - The Year of Sabbatical

1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before? Visited new countries - including 2 Muslim countries, had a multiple orgasm thingy (hard to describe how it was different, but it was), went to my first Interhash, saw orangutans and Komodo Dragons, took a sabbatical.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I can't recall making any, but the complete fail on the running front is one. My goals for next year are to acquire two teachables (so, 4.5 university classes in History and English) so as to apply for Teacher's College and to run a marathon, or at least a half, and hopefully The DMZ Peace Marathon in the fall.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Lots.

4. Did anyone close to you die? All three of my remaining grandparents. A cousin much younger than myself. A hasher in Iraq.

5. What countries did you visit? Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Canada.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012? More running. Academic challenge. A more fulfilling job.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? April 24th, I left on the first leg of my trip. Sept 29th, Sean left for his TDY and it was the last time I saw him.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Travelling by myself in places many wouldn't.

9. What was your biggest failure? I failed to visit all 13 of the countries I wanted to, I failed to maintain a regular running routine, Sean and I failed to figure out wtf is going on with us.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Same old.

11. What was the best thing you bought? A sparkly skirt to run in.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? So many people. Sean often. My friends Dom & Timber. Hashers, especially the one I stayed with in Brunei and all the strangers who picked me up and got me to the runs.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? At the beginning of the year, The Pen, but he has started to reform. Perhaps Tim. Occasionally me.

14. Where did most of your money go? Travelling and postage stamps.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Travelling. Bebe. Thanksgiving at home.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012? Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Both
b) thinner or fatter? Fatter
c) richer or poorer? Poorer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Running, travelling, sex, having serious discussions while sober.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Fighting. Worrying.

20. How will you be spending Christmas? CANADA!!! For the first time in 12 years.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012? Yes.

22. How many one-night stands? None! Me! None!!!

23. What was your favorite TV program? The Newsroom

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? No

25. What was the best book you read? Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy and likely Lolita, but I'm only about 1/4 into it.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Childish Gambino (or was that the end of last year?) and A. C. Newman's soundtrack for Souvenir of Canada.

27. What did you want and get? Travelling.

28. What did you want and not get? More solid ground for a relationship, those last 5 countries, a lottery win

29. What was your favorite film of this year? All the scary ones with the cuddling with the man and the puppy.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 34, I was in Korea, I'm sure I was drinking with the hashers, but it's not standing out in my memory just now.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Running, health, more puppy time.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012? Anything that passed the sniff test and was the least wrinkled when out of the backpack.

33. What kept you sane? Friends, bebe, vamp porn books.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? The chick from In Plain Sight.

35. What political issue stirred you the most? the American election

36. Who did you miss? All the people at some point or another. Ben, every single damn day.

37. Who was the best new person you met? Sean (we'll count him, because the month of December last year we met but I didn't really know him), Bebe, Dominique (but again, I did know her before, but not like I do now), helpful hashers around the world.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012. It sucks hard to find, a year after running a half marathon, that you can only just pull off 5k, but today is always a good day for running and building up distance again. And that the strangers of the world are on balance lovely and helpful and friendly and kind.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Well it's funny how it's the little things in life that mean the most
Not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes
There's no dollar sign on a piece of mind, this I've come to know
So if you agree, have a drink with me
Raise you glasses for a toast

To a little bit of chicken fried
Cold beer on a Friday night
A pair of jeans that fit just right
And the radio on

I like to see the sun rise
See the love in my woman's eyes
Feel the touch of a precious child
And know a mother's love

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Review: Franny and Zooey

Franny and Zooey
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Anybody over sixteen without an ulcer's a goddam spy."

A few years ago I taught Catcher in the Rye and I hated it. Holden annoyed me from beginning to end, which I don't recall being the case when I read the book as a teen. I didn't go into this expecting to like it much, and I didn't. But I disliked it so much more than I expected.

I hated Franny. Hated everything she said, hated her problem, hated her religious bullshit. But Zooey, him I didn't mind so much. I still thought he talked a lot of bullshit, but it didn't annoy me quite as much as the Franny/Holden style.

The thing with the mother and Zooey having a 50 page conversation in the bathroom just kinda weirds me out. And wow, did people smoke a lot in every conceivable location.

Funniest part: ""That's the spirit! Make it chicken broth or nothing. That's putting the ole foot down. If she's determined to have a nervous breakdown, the least we can do is see that she doesn't have it in peace."

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Review: On the Road

On the Road
On the Road by Jack Kerouac

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Their enthusiasm for travelling was compelling, but it's impossible to ignore the horrible way they treated their children and the women in their lives. Dean's insanity was depressing, as was his lack of concern for Sal in Mexico.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Review: Legend Of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle

Legend Of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle
Legend Of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, that was boring. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow seems to involve more descriptions of food and countryside that scares and Rip Van Winkle seems to lack any point except that wives can be horrible.

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