Oct 31, 2010

BEDTIME STORY by Robert J. Wiersema

Publisher's notes from randomhouse.ca:

Following his bestselling 2006 debut, Before I Wake, Wiersema returns to his exquisitely plotted blend of supernatural thriller and domestic drama.

Novelist Christopher Knox began his writing career with a bang. The echo of that success still rings in his ears as he sets to work every morning on his second novel, ten years later. His wife feels like a single parent, and with Chris living in exile in a studio above their garage, it won't be long before she is.

Chris discovers a fantasy novel by an obscure author he loved as a child and gives it to his son, David. Father reads to son nightly, and To the Four Directions soon enthralls him. Until one night, when young David is reading alone, an inexplicable seizure leaves him in a mysterious state of unconsciousness. As his seizure recurs every night, his father learns that only one thing will calm it, a bedtime story from his strange new book.

Convinced that the secret of David's collapse is within its pages, Chris traverses the continent in search of the truth. Meanwhile, David wakes up within the story he has been reading, and as his father struggles to free him David struggles to survive, facing perils unimaginable in a world created to capture the hearts and souls of children like him. Both father and son are headed toward a fateful collision of worlds, and a showdown with ancient evils, both fictional and very real.

Oct 27, 2010

E-books: an up side you may not have considered

In a Globe and Mail interview conducted at the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival, author Andrew O'Hagan makes the following observation about e-reading: "Oh, I love e-books. Good writing will sing off the screen and off the page just the same. On the other hand, there's one serious disadvantage to e-books that nobody has considered. What are the book-burners going to do? I'm from Scotland via Ireland, places where people have a history of burning books -- and Germany is a near neighbour, and Iraq's never off the telly. E-books may prove to be a serious challenge to the unenlightened. On the up side, nobody will be burning books."

Oct 25, 2010

Göran Lindberg and Sweden's dark side

from the guardian.co.uk

The Sweden of Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson - all shadowy rightwing conspiracies and prostitution rings – might not be so far from the truth 

by Andrew Anthony

    Retired Swedish police chief Göran Lindberg, who was jailed last week for rape and assault. Photograph: Rolf Hamilton/Scanpix/Press Association Images
    If there was ever a real-life policeman who came close in progressive Swedish affections to Kurt Wallander, the bestselling creation of Henning Mankell, it would probably be Göran Lindberg, chief of police of Uppsala, the city north of Stockholm that is home to Sweden's most prestigious university. Although he lacked Wallander's humility and reticence, Lindberg was concerned, like Wallander, with the marginalised and neglected in Swedish society. He was the sponsor of a sanctuary for abused juveniles, for example, and was at the forefront of the campaign to institute a more sympathetic response to rape victims
    READ MORE....

Oct 24, 2010


I thought it was really, really good.

review taken from Some Novel Ideas

The Knife of Never Letting Go is narrated by Todd Hewitt, a boy living in a town of men and Noise. A war with the planet natives left all of the women dead and spread a germ through the male population that makes every thought audible (the Noise). The town, Prentisstown, named by Mayor Prentiss after himself, is populated by mostly miserable men, with a few sadists thrown in, and the Noise makes for a chaotic overload of information that no one can escape. Todd is fairly miserable, too, since he hasn't reached manhood yet, he is ignored by most of the men, and there's no escaping the Noise, no matter where he goes.  That is until Todd and his dog, Manchee, find a hole in the Noise.  This discovery opens a Pandora's Box of secrets about Todd's world, secrets the men of Prentisstown have worked for years to lock up. With a target on his back and his every thought available to others through his Noise, Todd runs from Prentisstown with Manchee, only to be pursued by a relentless army across the landscape of his planet.
    The characters Ness creates in The Knife of Never Letting Go are vivid, sharp, terrifying, and terrified.  Todd is a frightened boy whose poignancy is as palpable as his Noise is audible, and Ness manages to make Manchee into the most truthful dog-character I've ever encountered.  The preacher/madman Aaron who hunts them is monstrous and wretched.  And Ness somehow manages to make the Noise into a sort of character itself, one which reveals and betrays without sentimentality.

    Todd's flight is also his journey into manhood, and Ness makes that odyssey at once tense and humorous, epic and human.  Through Todd, Ness poses some thoughtful questions about manhood: When does a boy become a man?  Are there rites of passage through which a boy must go in order to be considered a man?  And what are the characteristics of a man?  In addition to the questions about manhood, Ness addresses the idea of privacy and individuality.  How can one realize his individuality without the privilege of privacy? What does it mean to be an individual?  Can a person really have an individual identity in our world when we have lost so much of what was private to us?

Oct 23, 2010

Untranslatable Words from Around the World

taken from matadornetwork.com

20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World 

Written by Jason Wire

Photo: laogooli

There are at least 250,000 words in the English language. However, to think that English – or any language – could hold enough expression to convey the entirety of the human experience is as arrogant of an assumption as it is naive.

Here are a few examples of instances where other languages have found the right word and English simply falls speechless.
1. Toska
RussianVladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”
2. Mamihlapinatapei
Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start” (Altalang.com)
3. Jayus
Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh” (Altalang.com)
4. Iktsuarpok
Inuit – “To go outside to check if anyone is coming.” (Altalang.com)
5. Litost
Czech – Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, remarked that “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
6. Kyoikumama
Japanese – “A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement” (Altalang.com)
7. Tartle
Scottish – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name. (Altalang.com)
8. Ilunga
Tshiluba (Southwest Congo) – A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person “who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.” (Altalang.com)
9. Prozvonit
Czech – This word means to call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money. In Spanish, the phrase for this is “Dar un toque,” or, “To give a touch.” (Altalang.com)
10. Cafuné
Brazilian Portuguese – “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.” (Altalang.com)


Oct 21, 2010

BURY YOUR DEAD by Louise Penny

This sixth Gamache mystery is set partly in the tiny fictional (and oddly murderous) village of Three Pines, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. But most of the action takes place in Quebec City. A vibrant, sophisticated fortress city, which lives in the present but guards its past.

For that’s the other location of this novel. The past.

It's February and bitterly cold in Quebec City. But Chief Inspector Gamache barely notices. He's nearly consumed with grief and guilt over a police action he led - and the mistakes he made. He spends his time with his now-retired mentor, and in the peaceful library of the Literary and Historical Society. A bastien of the dwindling English population.

But if Gamache thought death was finished with him, he was wrong. The body of a celebrated eccentric is found in the Lit and His, and Gamache is drawn again into hunting a murderer. The victim is an amateur archeologist who was monomaniacal in his pursuit. He had spent his life trying to find the body of Samuel de Champlain.

This is the great mystery that has haunted Quebec for centuries.

Where is Champlain?

The founder of Quebec died 400 years ago. And while the burial places of nuns and farmers and minor functionaries of the time are known, no one knows what became of the Father of Quebec.

How could this be?

As Chief Inspector Gamache digs through the crime and the venerable old city it becomes clear the murder is rooted in this 400 year old mystery, and in people long dead. But perhaps not buried.

It also becomes clear to the Chief Inspector that to find the truth he needs to confront his own ghosts, and bury his own dead.

Publishers Weekly starred review says:

"Few writers in any genre can match Penny's ability to combine heartbreak and hope..."

Oct 20, 2010

Quiz: Banned Books

taken from the guardian.co.uk

Banned books

Find out what books censors have sat on with this quiz from the Guardian.

Oct 17, 2010

On Ted Hughes' 'Last Letter' to Sylvia Plath

written by Al Alvarez, taken from the guardian.co.uk

Critic and friend of both Plath and Hughes, Al Alvarez ponders the rather 'uncooked' poem published for the first time last week
Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath"Last Letter", found by Melvyn Bragg in the British Library with the help of Hughes's widow Carol, and published for the first time in the New Statesman this week, is more a document than a poem. I can see why Hughes spent so long rewriting it (there are at least three unfinished versions in the archive, apparently) and then deciding it still wasn't really ready for publication. To me it has a slightly uncooked air, though of course he was a wonderful poet and there are some great passages in it. What is interesting for us now is that it does go part-way to solving the mystery of what happened on the weekend before Sylvia Plath died. (She was found dead around midday on Monday 11 February 1963.)

According to the narrative of the poem, Plath wrote Hughes some kind of suicide note, or a note hinting at the possibility of suicide, on the Friday, and by some perverse miracle of the Royal Mail it arrived too early: she posted it in the morning and he received it in the afternoon post. So he got the message before she intended him to. As the poem tells us, he went round to her home, having read the letter, which she then burnt in an ashtray "with a strange smile".

What then happened, according to the poem, is that the worst of all the possible jealous fantasies that were torturing Sylvia at that time (when I last saw her, on the Christmas Eve before her death, she was in terrible shape) were fulfilled: the poem says he spent the weekend with a girl called Susan (whom Bragg identifies as the poet Susan Alliston), with whom Hughes was having an affair. He took her to rooms in Rugby Street, in London, where he and Plath had celebrated their wedding night. He then spent the weekend with Susan, in the same bed he had shared with Sylvia. Meanwhile, he imagines Plath calling him repeatedly at his flat and getting no answer.

In other words, the poem is a confession: he is a guy in the witness box pleading guilty. It's very strong stuff, but it ain't finished. And I suppose it is one of those documents that will now be pored over up by a host of biographers. What is certain is that Hughes spent the rest of his life tormented by what had happened, which is probably why the poem was never published in his lifetime. Unlike, say, John Donne's equally tormented but beautifully modulated "A Nocturnal Upon St Lucy's Day", Hughes must have decided that "Last Letter" was not balanced enough to be printed.

Oct 14, 2010

Dirt! The Movie - Official Trailer

The Movie Inspired by William Bryant Logan's acclaimed book 'Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth', this documentary is a witty yet poignant look at man's relationship with dirt.

Oct 13, 2010

61 HOURS by Lee Child

The household got right back into its settled routine. Peterson left, and the two day watch women went up to bed. Janet Salter showed Reacher to the front upstairs room with the window over the porch roof. In principle the most vulnerable, but he wasn't worried. Sheer rage would overcome any theoretical tactical disadvantage. He hated to be woken in the night. An intruder came through that window, he would go straight back out like a spear.

Five to two in the morning.

Twenty-six hours to go.

Oct 12, 2010

David Sedaris talks to Hadley Freeman

taken from the guardian.uk by Hadley Freeman

David Sedaris

A life in writing: David Sedaris

'Someone suggested that my new book is bedtime stories for children who drink'. The humorist David Sedaris talks to Hadley Freeman

The man routinely described as the best living humorist in America, David Sedaris, was recently enjoying a plate of marinated salmon over greens while signing books in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois when a fan decided he wanted more than the writer's autograph. So he reached over and grabbed a handful of food off the Sedaris plate. Understandably, Sedaris was not best pleased. In fact, he was downright annoyed, which is not a common reaction from a writer who tends to regard the world in general with wide-eyed affection and his readers in particular with real fondness ("I always think it's a good policy to like the people who like you," he says with an almost straight face). It wasn't the hygiene issue that bugged him. It wasn't even the loss of the food, although he was a little upset about that ("I'd been looking forward to that salmon!") – it was the fact that the man was trying to cheat. READ MORE....

Oct 6, 2010

Oct 3, 2010


The latest in the Inspector O series is here! And once again we are caught in the North Korean bureaucracy and twisted by multi-government plots, this time a combined effort to unite North and South Korea. Maybe. Inspector O figures it out. Sort of.