Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Oh, Canada.

How lame is it that I'll now have blogged about the re-broadcasting of Atwood's Massey Lectures not once, but twice? She's on Ideas again, talking debt in all its odd incarnations and being referred to by Paul Kennedy as an activist for women, writers, and birds. I think this is the legacy I now need to live up to.

Right now she's talking about being send to Protestant Sunday School by her parents who worried that she might become too "religiously addled" as a child. My parents took us to the Unitarian church for the first time for nearly the same reason. That and the day I came home and asked when my first holy communion was going down and they both shuddered in fear.

Nothing says Happy Canada Day like Peggy Atwood speaking live from UBC on the CBC. We may live in a country whose landscape could destroy us (thank you, undergraduate CanLit, for that erudite theory) but man, have we ever worked hard to read and write our way around it. Have a great random midweek holiday. Here's a nerdy Canadian gift for you all--the complete first season of Read All About It. In hindsight I can't believe each episode was only 15 minutes. In my memory it was so long, and so incredibly scary.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer reading club.

Call me a terrible librarian, but I sort of despise the idea of a beach book. You know, the embarrassing (for me, anyway) paperback tucked into your tote bag, something with Shopaholic or Shoe-a-holic or Alcoholic in the title, probably written in pink lipstick scrawl. I'm not saying we shouldn't read mindless books from time to time (fangirl posts on Ann Brashares and Plum Sykes coming soon), I'm just saying we shouldn't put down anything that isn't fluff once the sun starts shining. The idea that just because it's hot and we happen to be sipping a margarita as we turn the pages, our reading should be simpler or lighter or whatever, chaps my hide. Simplicity and levity are relative, of course, but that statement alone is too philosophical for this exhausted, chardonnay-swilling professional. Instead of unpacking it I'm just going to leave it at this: I do some of my best, most interesting reading in the summer, and you should too. Here's one to get you going.

I just finished reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, and I'm pretty sure you should all run out and find a copy. It's one of those meaty character-driven novels, one where personal reactions are more important than actual action, one where you seriously will laugh and cry and find yourself more entertained than at a Broadway musical. It is also an excellent beach or cottage read--beautifully written enough to keep you turning pages, and linear enough that it will still make sense after four cans of Keith's. (That's right. Cans. Of Keith's. I do what I want.) This book won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize, and you can see why. Strout's writing reminded me of another near, dear Puliter-winning favourite of mine, Carol Shields. Her characters are just so fully-formed, hilarious and sympathetic and goofy and difficult. The lynchpin here is Olive Kitteridge, an aging former math teacher who appears in each episode of the book, sometimes as a semi-unlikeable protagonist, sometimes only in passing. When we're not following her, we're peering in the windows of the houses in the small town in Maine where Olive has always lived, eavesdropping at the dinner tables and community halls of her friends and neighbours. This is one of those books where nothing really happens, but the nothing of the characters' lives is so rich and strange and irresistible that you can't put it down. In short, this is my favourite kind of book. I love other people's lives. Just like all librarians, I'm a nosey parker (we deal in sharing information, whether it's how to build a volcano or whose daughter's wedding is totally going to hell), and it's nice to get my fix from a novel every once in awhile. Find a copy for yourself, and a tree to sit under, and thank me when you're done.

So what do YOU like to read in the summer?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You've Got a Friend. (Of the Library.)

Never doubt the amazing serendipity of your local Friends of the Library book sale. I've worked in a couple of suburban, Stepfordesque neighbourhoods, and I'm constantly bowled over by the random awesomeness of the books that patrons and neighbours donate to us. Mostly we sell them and the money goes back to the library. I always expect to find nothing but worn out Danielle Steele but I'm always proven wrong. Today I scored three total gems.

Amphigorey: Fifteen Books
by Edward Gorey

Amphigorey Too by Edward Gorey

...and I'm pretty sure these are first editions. Not that I care, but, you know.

The Letters of E.B. White

...and not a cracked spine among them. How people have let these books languish in their basements, hardly even breaking them in, boggles my mind. But am I ever glad they fall into my hands. Six dollars well spent, folks. I urge you to check out your local Friends shop soon. Sometimes they even sell coffee, and, if you're in South Ottawa, cheddar flavoured Combos. It's a little like visiting your grandmother and helping her clean out the basement, while also making a donation to that noblest of public institutions.

And finally, how excited am I to have googled Combos and stumbled on that last link to taquitos.net? From now on, no snack will be bought until I've checked the reviews there.

Having the internet in my house again is the greatest.

I'm 16. Everything should be platinum.

So guys, I'm having a birthday tomorrow. I've already pretty well finished celebrating (and how!) and I have to say, if being nearly 30 means champagne cocktails and Gladys Knight dance parties, I am fully on board. I've started and stopped a whole lot of posts here lately; I blame my continuing battle with the phone company (Goddamn you, Phoney McRingring) and the subsequent lack of internet connectivity in my glorious new home. Also, my attention span, which grows increasingly shorter with each passing day. I promise to be fully dialled in sometime soon.

When I was younger I used to always watch 16 Candles the night before my birthday. I always thought that when I actually got around to turning 16 I would be incredibly wise and have a hot, mute boyfriend, just like Molly Ringwald. Watching the movie the night before said sour sixteen was kind of meta for me, and also pretty anticlimactic. I don't think I've revived that tradition since. I have, however, watched it, and the rest of the Molly Ringwald catalogue, too many times to count in the years since I became legally eligible (although certainly not competent enough) to drive a car, and I fall more in love with Anthony Michael Hall every time I hear him sing that opening snippet of Hey Jude. In my early years, I was a big fan of the bad boys. It pains me to admit that I had a huge, complicated thing for Judd Nelson, and was actually pretty upset when he married Shannen Doherty. But now, pushing thirty, I think I'm finally ready to admit that what I really want is a big nerd. Someone who'll politely ask if he can borrow your underpants. Someone who doesn't know how to rewire a lamp. Someone who hangs out with John Cusack. Or maybe I just want John Cusack.

Happy birthday to me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

All this town needs is a ten-minute nail place.

Because brevity truly is the soul of wit, and because I wasted most of my lunch hour walking around looking for a place to get an express pedicure (seriously Kingston, what the hell?), a brief and undoubtedly witty list.

Favourite items my new library has that my old library didn't.

My New York Diary by Julie Doucet. Something about the way she draws can make a roach-infested Harlem squat look cozy and appealing. And her slightly-off quebecois english diction is adorable.

A scrapbook of uncollected sketches and stories by Adrian Tomine, my favourite comic artist to read when you kind of feel like you might kill yourself and need someone to push you off the ledge, or at least feel pretty miserable about the state of humanity. I love comics, partly because there's something inherently lonely about the artists I read. I don't know what it is about the medium that's so navel-gazey and personally nostalgic for the writers, but I love it. If you haven't read anything by Tomine, start with Summer Blonde.

Veronica Mars. Okay, in truth I borrowed this from a fellow librarian, but we have it at the library too! This! Show! Is! Amazing! It has elements of so many things I love, from My So-Called Life to Nancy Drew to noir-ish detective fiction. And cute boys. SWOON.

Dawson's Creek on DVD. Secret shame alert. I have not borrowed this yet but when I saw it on the shelf I had a flash in my head of a weekend in February when I will unplug the phone, plug in the DVD player, and not leave my house for days.

I cannot put enough emphasis on how exciting it is to have a whole new library collection to explore. It is Nerd Christmas, friends.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Final exams.

What is it about stuffy, airless old buildings that makes me nostalgic? As some of you know I recently hightailed it outta my old life and plunked myself down in a brand new one, which today finds me squatting in another librarian's office, sweating profusely and trying to find a window that opens. Across the hall, in the big auditorium, the Royal Conservatory is using our space for its annual exams. I'm listening to a slightly off-kilter piano as I eat my lunch and this feeling is rushing back to me, of being thirteen and just as sweaty as I am now, sitting in a stuffy hallway at Mac and waiting for my turn to go in and dazzle the adjudicator with a truly wretched version of some sonata or modern arrangement of Hungarian folk song. I was a kid who loved (and hated) pressure, so exams and recitals were right up my neurotic alley. As my mom reminded me not long ago, I'd never admit I was nervous, I'd just keep getting crankier and crankier, tugging away at the edges of some lovely hand-sewn flowered dress until I pretty well ripped off the seams. I think I still cope in the same way.

Funny how even the most tension-addled, nervous memories of childhood are just as warm and fuzzy as the good ones, sometimes.

Real updates coming soon, I promise.