Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Forget about it.

I just finished reading Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin. It's one of those teen books that actually makes you want to go back to highschool, or at least, that's how it made me feel. Maybe that's because it has all my favourite teen plot devices:

Physical trauma!
Adorable boy best friend who loves a girl who has no idea!
Quitting yearbook!
Dumping your friends for better ones!
Descriptions of semi-esoteric playlists for subtext-ridden mix CDs!

Meaningful mix CDs aside (I had those in spades, or rather, on tapes), I longed for all the things on that list when I was a teenager. Okay, okay, I didn't completely hate all my friends, but don't all teens (or all people, for that matter) sometimes wish they could just screw the life they've landed in and run off to a different crowd? I think that's the plot point that works best in this book--when Naomi wakes up after her fall with no memory of her teenage years, one of the first things she realizes upon returning to school is that her old friends suck. And since she has no idea who she was before, she has nothing holding her back from starting over completely. Coupled with that is the absolutely terrifying realization that while she doesn't remember anyone, everyone remembers her--she doesn't know who she is, but she's surrounded by people who think they do. Naomi's amnesiac life is existential, and it's creepy, and it's a pretty awesome representation of the kind of daily paranoid angst that plagues teens. At least, it plagued me. And still does. Ah, fake adult life.

I also always wished feverishly for a boy friend who would become a boyfriend, but I guess every girl does that. Pretty In Pink didn't help much (I always sympathized with Duckie more than Blaine).

In honour of its mention in the book, and also its significance to me, now especially and forever for sure, I give you I'm so tired.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The things you take with you.

Things I might actually miss about Ottawa.

-walking home alone alone on warm nights, crossing the Queensway and knowing I'm nearly home.

-getting home late at night, and knowing I'm the only girl awake in the Glebe.

-sneaking gin and juice (or chardonnay, or a good merlot) onto the Bluesfest grounds at LeBreton Flats in a Nalgene bottle.

-cooling down in the air-conditioned calm of the War Museum lobby between bitchin' sets.

-knowing Elizabeth Hay is kind of my neighbour.

-Ottawa Morning. Mostly Stu Mills, whose velvet voice and vegan leanings make me swoon.**

-the adorable boys who work at the Crappy Loeb and blush when they make change and sometimes score pot from the person in front of me in line.

-the equally adorable boys who work at Bridgehead and come around the counter to hand my coffee to me before going back to discuss their ideas for their next tattoos.

-the canal. I always wished for a river to skate away on, and for a few years, I had one.

-wandering through the National Gallery on a Friday afternoon, sneaking around corners to hide from security guards, running through as many galleries as possible before closing time.

-Saturday morning walks to get the paper, and days spent watching Arlo chase the sun across my apartment.

-my apartment.


**Last summer I had the incredibly surreal experience of being on Ottawa Morning and I sat across the table from Stu as he prepped to read the news at the top of the clock. After my interview was over, I skulked around until he was done and followed him across the street to Bridgehead, where I tried to reach out and touch his vintage leather jacket as he passed by me. It was maybe the best fifteen minutes of my entire time in this city.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pulitzer free association.

The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced on Monday. I sort of meant to post about them on Monday because I know the whole point of a blog is to keep people up to date on, like, current stuff. Sadly I had bigger fish to fry, like watching four back-to-back episodes of J-Pod, which is actually a hundred times funnier than I expected. Seriously, Coupland, you've got it figured out. Anyway, Here's the list.

I don't read a lot of American authors, or rather I don't read a lot of American authors who don't write heartfelt, funny, wicked-awesome teen lit, so I actually haven't read any of these books. SHAME.

Also, whenever I read about the Pulitzer Prize I automatically think of Lilly Pulitzer, which is a big jump, but if anyone wants to buy me a cute sundress or whatever, I won't object. You can say you did it in the name of literature.

Monday, April 20, 2009

April really IS the cruellest month.

Four years ago, I was in Vancouver, re-reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and falling in love with Daniel Clowes through a beat up Eight Ball compilation I borrowed from the Hastings Library and wondering how I was going to get through the summer all alone on the lonely coast.

Three years ago, I was still in Vancouver, getting high at Kits Beach and trying really hard to finish Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I never did get through it. I was otherwise occupied with the arduous tasks of polishing off one's stash, shipping one's belongings back across the country in the most inefficient manner possible (thanks, Canada Post. I am pretty sure you still have a pair of my Hush Puppies), and wondering what I was running away from.

Two years ago, I was in Ottawa and actually believed I might stay here. I was reading The Kite Runner and actually believed I might enjoy it. (I was also reading 26a by Diana Evans, which has since landed on my top ten dysfunctional family novels--full list forthcoming). I was pretty busy with saying I love you to the wrong people and having brunch dates that started with a friend coming over to change my locks.

One year ago, I was stranded at Dulles International Airport, reading Real Simple Magazine and discarded sections of the New York Times, willing myself not to go crazy. When I finally got home I nearly kissed the ground outside the Ottawa airport, which is a terrifying testament to my delicate state of mind. 24 hours in an airport can really change a person, man. I came back philosophical and committed to making good life choices, and then I read a bunch of self help books. Date Like A Man was not one of them, but I do intend to re-read that classic chestnut soon--its lessons, like a bottle of cheap Chardonnay, grow more dangerous with each passing year.

This year, I'm picking myself up, dusting myself off, and starting all over again. I've had a Chuck Palahniuk book sitting on my bedside table for months, as well as most of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, all on loan from someone who refuses to take them back till I get through them (proof positive that I am still saying I love you to the wrong people). I'm packing up again, but this time the move is much more organized (and in no way supported by the postal system). This part of the trip's going to be easy, I think.

I get restless in springtime. For once, this round, I can do something about my itchy feet.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jeez, Banana, shut your friggin gob!

So I've had a lot on my plate this week. Emotional learning, professional shirking, the days are just packed. Last night I came home after a day of running on fumes and treated myself to my favourite coping mechanism--cheap red wine and Juno. I know this movie is a hipster touchstone for a lot of girls of a certain ilk, but seriously, when I say I love this movie, it means more than when all those other people say it. It just makes me feel good in a way that not many movies do. I spent approximately 30$ renting it over and over again during various personal crises before I finally bit the bullet and bought the damned thing. I think a big part of my love for Juno is my debilitating obsession with Michael Cera. Also, there's just something about socially awkward, adorably dressed teenagers, especially pregnant ones, making fun of Sonic Youth and falling in love, that just makes me feel all tingly inside. Maybe I got myself knocked up in highschool in a previous life.

Last night's viewing was especially timely because I also just started reading Diablo Cody's hilarious book Candy Girl, a memoir of her experience as a stripper in Minneapolis. I resisted this book for awhile because I was afraid it would ruin my love of her screenwriting, but now I'm so glad I picked it up. She is every bit as self-deprecating and adorable writing about herself as she is writing dialogue for my imaginary boyfriend Paulie Bleeker. There's something so refreshing about hearing a neurotic, admittedly unconventionally pretty woman, talk about learning to be a peeler. So far she hasn't had any kind of over the top revelation of herself as a sexual being. Instead she's super self-aware and self-conscious, and almost amazed at her ability to do what she does. I can relate, I guess. I just like the idea that just because you can take your clothes off for a living, doesn't automatically make you anymore promiscuous or slutty, in your own eyes, or in the eyes of others. I was also overjoyed to hear that Def Leppard is indeed a popular choice for strippers, as I have always imagined this to be the case (as long as no one picks When Love and Hate Collide to rip off their pasties to--that song is sacred. SACRED.)

I had a half-formed argument about Diablo Cody and antifeminist sentiments to go into here, but to be honest, I'm not feeling super analytical today. I'd rather finish off with a feel-good scene from Juno to send everyone off into their awesome weekends. I searched high and low for a deleted bit where Juno sings at a coffee house but couldn't find it, so instead, here's a little love song to warm your hearts.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We've lost a good one, folks.

I was sad to hear about Judith Krug's death, mostly because I had no idea who Judith King was. You are probably more easily forgiven for not knowing, since you are not a rebel librarian. For me, not knowing who Judith Krug is probably means the library police are on their way to my house to strip me of my overpriced credentials. Read the Jezebel article if you want to be caught up. Once you're done, you can bank on the fact that your masters degree is in the mail.

I took an Intellectual Freedom course when I was in library school (how much do I still love that I went to something called library school?). It was taught by a passionate, if slightly insane, professor, who had once been called an evil witch for dressing up and delivering a Halloween puppet show. This is only the tip of the iceberg. A lot of people I know scoff at the idea that libraries, and publishers, and writers, and magazines, actually have to defend the books they write, the programs they offer, the basic tenets of what they do. I used to do the same thing. It seems completely crazy that anyone would disagree with offering all books to all people. Sad to say, it is not so crazy after all. And even sadder, the most challenged books are often the ones written for the people who need them most. A challenge to LGBTQ-positive books for teens in West Bend, Indiana, is going on as we speak. A friend of mine heard Barry Lyga speak at a teen writers' conference last fall about the fact that his incredible, moving book, Boy Toy, which explores a delicate, heartbreaking relationship between a teenage boy and his teacher, hasn't been challenged in libraries, because so many libraries haven't bought it, because so many major booksellers aren't even carrying it. That's just the tip of the iceberg. That's one tiny piece of the censorship fight, and it's a battle librarians engage in every day, just by showing up to work.

Judith Krug was a librarian who cared passionately about that fight. She founded Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of challenged titles that draws attention to the importance of intellectual freedom and gives librarians an awesome excuse to pull together potentially offensive displays. Her death has brought me back to my angry, revolutionary, grad student state of mind. It's easy to enter the workforce and forget that we're battling a larger beast, that we're combating ignorance and promoting access at every turn. I'm so sad to know that Judith Krug is gone, but I'm so glad that her death is reminding us all that we need to keep on with this fight for all books to be read by all people.

(For more on the terrifying need for intellectual freedom, read all the articles listed here.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Draw your own conclusions.

In the spirit of brevity, and also the spirit of the liquor store mini bottle of Southern Comfort I just inhaled (oh Sarah, yours is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving), here's a list of songs I really wish didn't resonate with me right now, but which totally do.

1. New Year's Eve / In The New Year --The Walkmen

(these are actually two separate songs, and if a pirate had a gun to my head I would probably choose the former over the latter, but sweet Jesus if they don't both bowl me over right now.)

2. Sentimental Heart--She & Him

(I'll give you all a few seconds to have a little cry.)

3. Malediction--Stephen Malkmus

(the road to rejection is better than no road at all. yep, pretty much.)

4. Weakened State--Sarah Harmer

(verbatim, friends. verbatim.)

5. I Won't Back Down--Tom Petty

(but this one pretty much always resonates.)

6. You May Be Right--Billy Joel

(I'm singing this at your wedding, Freya.)

(Furthermore, it hurts my feelings that I cannot embed that video. Billy Joel is a wee little dancing hobbit. I think I'm falling in love.)

Goodnight, children, everywhere.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Holy Thursday, Batman.

In case you didn't know, it's Holy Thursday today. Holy Thursday is kind of like the Christmas Eve of Good Friday, the saddest day in all the year for anyone who believes in Jesus. I am by no means a god-fearer, but something about this time of year really gets to me. I know a few wannabe Jewish folks, but not very many wannabe Anglicans. I may be one of the only ones. I blame my upbringing in Anglican choirs and my years spent at a quasi-Anglican college, and also the hymns. I am a sucker for a good hymn. I was in the chapel choir at Trinity College for a year, and while my attendance was spotty at best (Friday afternoon rehearsals? That's momma's drinkin' time.), the power of the music was the spiritual equivalent of a punch in the gut. I had no idea how many random feast days there were on the church calendar, how many incredibly particular songs were written for incredibly particular points in the year. Something about the detail and the devotion just really struck a chord with me. At the same time, though, I always felt a little weird and guilty about singing these songs that I'd never really believe in. I felt like an impostor.

Anyway, this time of year always gets me thinking about all those Lent hymns, the weeks of reflection and sadness leading up to the most horrible day of the year, followed by complete rebirth. I always think of the opening of The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot, another wannabe Anglican who actually followed through and converted. I love those first lines:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory with desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

As lovely as springtime is, as much of a relief as it is to see the snow melt away, there's something vulnerable about this time of year. Coming out of hibernation is scary. You never know what you're going to find under that blanket of ice. Here's hoping for something amazing.

Happy Holy Thursday. I'll be celebrating by driving down the 401 with my fur baby crying in the back seat, listening to the entire Bob Dylan catalogue, and wishing I'd given up lone wolves and bad ideas for Lent.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Librarians pick great books.

The IMPAC Dublin Shortlist is out. It's the only award in the universe selected entirely by librarians (the longlist, anyway). This year, I was promised a spot on the selection committee for my library but my follow up emails were ignored. I am not bitter. I am, however, annoyed by the shortlist. I know it's an international award, which means there are some titles on it that are not so new to us because selections are made based on world-wide availability. Still, I hate seeing old news titles on a brand new shortlist. I live in the moment. I live fast and die young. Or live quiet and stay cranky. Whatever.

That said, I really, really, sincerely and enthusiastically, hope The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz takes home the gold. This book was so moving and funny and kind-hearted and multifaceted and just generally awesome. There are not enough books written with overweight, Tolkein-obsessed Dominican kids at their core.

Oh Feist, I'm coming around to you.

I've had mixed feelings about Feist for a long time. Maybe it was the way that stupid 1-2-3-4 song exploded (although in hindsight, it is actually really killer). Maybe it was when my brother pointed out how creepy she looks close up (he used a less forgiving word than creepy, but you know what I mean). Maybe it was the constant CBC rotation. Anyway, I kind of cast her out of my snooty listening universe for awhile. And then she released that absolutely bitchin' video where she stomps around in fire-proof gloves, hitting trash cans full of fireworks and making them explode, and I envied her a little. And then my little iPod of serendipity gave me this gem yesterday on my way home.

I'm not going to go all emo and post the lyrics here, but listen hard. It pretty much sums up the gong show I find myself in, and also the gong shows of most girls' lives at a given point. And also makes you feel kind of okay about it.

So anyway, Feist, if you ever want to come over for dinner, I will make you a nice lentil stew.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Blog Every Day Month, you will be my bitch.

PS Because I am still dedicated to Blog Every Day in April, I'm posting twice to make up for not posting yesterday, when driving home and faceplanting in a glass of cheap Pinot Noir took precedent over considering the issues. This post is a cop-out, and also a plea to all of you to watch so, so much Freaks and Geeks. Seriously, this show is genius. I could go either way with Judd Apatow, but he and his posse clearly did their best work when they were still at the getting-canceled-mid-season portion of their careers.

...and just when you think it can't get any awesomer than Jason Segal wailing on a drum kit, my husband shows up.


see you in hell, James Joyce.

I'm getting rid of a lot of books right now. This process is always hard for me, although not quite as hard as getting rid of clothes. I have given up so many things that I later regretted (weird patchwork sweater from Courage circa 2002, velour cheerleader skirt--I could go on and on. I could also assure you that these things are not as weird as they sound. Seriously, I was so cutting edge in the early part of this century). I invariably toss the things that come around again, and then I kick myself in the teeth and begrudgingly buy the H&M version. I can't take that kind of chance anymore. One cannot live on chintzy twelve dollar tank tops alone.

Books are different. I always feel relieved when I give up a book, a feeling that either means I am in completely the right profession, or completely the wrong one. It's cathartic, I guess, for an obsessive reader like me to just let a couple go. Which is why, this round, I'm finally giving Ulysses the keys to the street.

I know what you're thinking. I know that not reading Ulysses is like this thing now, the literary dork equivalent of pretending not to know who shot JR (I don't know that either, sorry.). But seriously, I never finished it. I had to read it for a poorly-scheduled modernism course in my undergrad days in Toronto, a course where every Friday morning was dedicated to a chapter of Joyce's masterpiece, all damned year long. Given my proclivity toward drinking keg beer while dressed in a toga or a street walker's getup every Thursday night, I was not always my most fabulous self on Friday mornings. As a result, when I actually made it to the class, I spent most of the time sulking and writing notes to my then-boyfriend about my theories about the misogyny of the instructor (based mostly on the fact that he made us read Joseph Conrad, and also that he gave my boyfriend higher marks on the papers I proof-read than on my own). I eventually got over my sweeping hatred of modernism (my Virginia Woolf obsession is proof of that) but I never did finish Ulysses.

Which didn't stop me from writing an essay on our final based entirely on the last chapter, but whatever. I was on a bit of a kamikaze mission by that point.

Anyway, I'm not going to come down either way on Joyce, or on Ulysses, or on being made to read books for the wrong reasons. This is more about how a book can come to mean something totally personal, something that has less to do with the content of the words on the page, and more to do with the way it came into your life, the way you cart it around, the way you hold onto certain places and moments because of the crappy secondhand paperback you were hauling around in your tote bag at the time. I'll never give up a lot of my books, but this one's time has come.

It's been swell, James Joyce. I'm sure some starry eyed teenager will rescue you from the dumpster, and then proceed to have no earthly idea of what you're talking about.

If you're interested in picking up my copy, check craigslist later tonight.

Friday, April 3, 2009

They Can't Take That Away From Me.

Anyone ever done a job interview in their jammies? It's pretty surreal. I'm currently drinking too much coffee and waiting for the call so I can prove to some people that I am the girl for the job, an earnest and enthusiastic young professional with all the right stuff (right stuff for young librarians=internet use, bookwormism, black framed glasses). In actual fact, I am watching my cat chase a twist tie around the apartment, developing an embarrassing sweat situation, and staring longingly at my bed in the other room, where The Memory Of All That by Betsy Blair sits on my nightstand, just BEGGING TO BE PICKED UP. I'd never heard of Betsy Blair until my internet crack Jezebel announced her death a few weeks ago, but dear lord, what a life she led. Married to Gene Kelly, ardently communist, an ingenue and a chorus line escapee...I cannot stop reading her life story because on every page there's some new great tidbit about, like, the Broadway Softball League in Central Park (it is exactly what it sounds like). I'm still in the 1940s era of her story, when New York was all cabarets and sleek bars and 24-hour beauty parlors for working women. To quote my other heroine, I want to go to there. I strongly encourage everyone with even a teeny interest in theatre, film, Americana, communism, or women's fashion to read this incredibly engaging book.

Just don't pick it up if you have an early morning interview.

I also just found out that April is Blog Every Day Month. Three days in and still going strong.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I grow old, I grow old.

Lately I've been listening to a whole lot of Pavement, partly because it takes me back to those halcyon days of the late 90s when I was probably cooler than I am now but didn't know it yet, and partly because Stephen Malkmus is a lyrical genius. All this reminiscing tends to trip me out, though. It continues to blow my mind that I was only fourteen years old the first time I heard Cut Your Hair. Nostalgia always ends with the revelation that you are so much older than you think. It's kind of like the drunk realization one night a couple years ago, Weezer's Blue Album on the stereo, when we realized we'd been rocking out to that record for at least fifteen years.

And now, this.

I hope a lot of you will agree with me that for certain girls who were teens in the early 90s, Sassy was basically the bible. I am not ashamed to admit that I had subscriptions to Seventeen and YM too (the latter mostly just for that Say Anything column with all those mortifying stories from readers, all of which seemed to involve a tampon becoming dislodged while trying to make out with a cute lifeguard), but when Sassy came in the mail, I actually read it cover to cover. My best friend Allison and I would hang out on her waterbed (why doesn't anyone have a waterbed anymore!) and pore over every issue. Thanks to Sassy, my 13 year old self knew what a zine was, who the Lemonheads were, and why Reese Witherspoon was actually supercool back in 1992. Most importantly, though, Sassy was the only magazine that didn't contribute to my eating disorder. Instead it taught me about riot grrls and getting angry instead of shrinking away into a bikini. And I know I'm not the only girl who feels this way. Peep this shit if you don't believe me.

Anyway, I cannot believe that the Kurt and Courtney cover story came out seventeen years ago. SEVENTEEN. It was a few years before Kurt Cobain actually died, but still. We're coming up on the fifteenth anniversary of that milestone too. Where do the years go? One minute you're in your friend's backyard, listening to In Utero and mourning the death of an antihero, and then suddenly you're sitting at your desk, pretending to do your job, reading a blog about a moment in time that seemed so real and so full when it happened that you wondered how you'd ever get past it. Strange times, my friends. Strange times.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Sorry guys. I started this blog with the intention of writing about all the amazing stuff I was reading, but lately I have bene in a bit of a slump. I'd rather watch poorly-streamed episodes of 30 Rock over the internet or just lie on the floor reading too much into Pavement lyrics than read a book. Which isn't to say that I haven't been reading. I just re-read The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank, which is the sister book to the literary hit of 2006, The Wonder Spot. These books articulate the female experience better than any I have ever read, and I have read all of Virginia Woolf. And Bank always includes an awesome brother character, which I absolutely identify with.

What I was getting at is that I am going to be a better blogger. Soon. I promise. But for now I'm going to keep drinking cheap Malbec and getting weepy at the season finale of Being Erica, which is ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD.