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DISGRACE

Even as my list of “New books to read” grows longer every day, I’ve recently found myself looking backward at novels that I could have read and wanted to read years ago, but never quite got to. One of those is J.M. Coetzee’s Booker Prize-winning novel, Disgrace. From the moment it was published, it got the literary world’s attention. I remember that. I remember how the reviews of Coetzee’s eighth novel were unanimously laudatory. I also remember how I was convinced at the time that it was a book I would find both riveting and very painful. I imagined Coetzee’s … Continue reading DISGRACE

FIERCE KINGDOM

One of my favourite movie scenes—it’s iconic— is from James Cameron’s Aliens. It’s near the end, when Ellen Ripley, a towering character, emerges from behind giant pressure doors, driving a power loader that gives her the appearance of a mechanical monster, looks straight at the hideous Alien Queen whose ferocious, acid dripping jaws are threatening Newt, the young girl Ripley has taken into her heart and will not abandon, and rages: “Get away from her you b**ch!” I don’t know that there’s anyone, anywhere who hasn’t been pulled right out of their seat during that scene at the movie’s climax, … Continue reading FIERCE KINGDOM

READING KARL OVE KNAUSGAARD

Until very recently, the name and work of Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard were, for me, a sort of disturbance, a noise out there on the periphery of the literary world, or at least that part of it that I dip into regularly. What had reached me was off-putting: he was a phenomenon; he was making waves with a magnum opus that had caused some reviewers to squirm and hiss with disapproval and others to gush and rave. He seemed to have divided the literary world. He was referred to as a “writer’s writer”, prone to solipsism. He was a … Continue reading READING KARL OVE KNAUSGAARD

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK!

  It’s the stuff of dreams: squirreled away in a small space—in Stephen King’s case when he wrote Carrie, it was the laundry room— a man or woman sits in front of a computer screen after work, or at lunch break, or late at night when everyone’s asleep and the house is quiet, writing the book they just know they have inside them. A GREAT book. And then, one, three, five, ten years later, it’s written and sent off to publishers, and a devilish voice inside the writer’s head says “I hope you’re ready for the rejection slips”—JK Rowling received loads … Continue reading NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK!

COCKFOSTERS

Cockfosters is the most recent collection of short stories by English writer Helen Simpson, who has made this form her specialty. Unless you’ve been to London, its title probably seems silly and slightly suggestive to you, which is the way the word struck me the first time I heard it on the London Tube, upon leaving Heathrow airport two summers ago. Seeing the book’s British cover in a Guardian review earlier this spring instantly brought to mind the mellifluous female tones that became the narrative voice of my trip to London in the summer of 2015. “This is a Piccadilly … Continue reading COCKFOSTERS

THE WATER RAT OF WANCHAI

The Water Rat of Wanchai entered my life thanks to my good friend Cindy. She passed her copy along to me saying that she’d found a brand-new crime series to binge on that she was sure I’d enjoy. I have no idea where Cindy picked it up, but judging by the evidence, her copy’s well-travelled, just like its author.    The Water Rat of Wanchai is, in fact, the first novel of Canadian author Ian Hamilton, and while his story pit stops in Hong Kong, it starts out in Toronto before moving on to Seattle, then Thailand, then Guyana and … Continue reading THE WATER RAT OF WANCHAI

WRITING IN WORRIED TIMES

I was reminded recently of the period when I taught evening FSL classes. It happened as I was driving back home in late May. I turned on the radio—tuned to 88.5 FM— like I did back then, and the car was instantly filled with the breathy near-whisper of a female voice. The speaker’s diction was careful. Deliberate. She spoke with softness, as though in a darkened room, as though fearful her words would extinguish the flame of a candle in front of her. This is how it seemed to me. Her voice carried an unmistakeable sadness, and also a quality … Continue reading WRITING IN WORRIED TIMES