Lori's Book Nook

Archive for December 2006

Luckily, I’ve married into a bookish family, and my man is bookish, and his friends are…and my mother has been trained to give me a book gift certificate every year.

Books and consumables are the best presents (consumables…you know — wine, cheese, cookies, jam…).

This year was a nice mess of books:

I found The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex Bealer for Metro. He’s always talking about how he’d like to learn more about it, etc. Well, now he can.

Metro’s sister found him John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise.  An odd book of satirical essays and the like…perfect.  The same sister sent me the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

I put a lot of browsing time to use in my local 2ndhand bookstore…made my husband a list of books that were there, that he could pick up for me. And he took me up on it, and bought me the rather unusual Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story of Dolly Wilde, Oscar’s Unusual Niece by Joan Schenkar. I’ll have to blog on this book individually one day, soon.

Metro also got me two more books — I feel spoiled! The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls was one. New York Times bestseller, winner of various awards…I think that’s the next book I’m reading. He also bought me Think: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t be Made in the Blink of an Eye by Michael R. LeGault. The interesting thing about this book is that LeGault wrote it in reaction to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink…Blink essentially glorifies the decisions we make subconsciously, in the moment, while I believe LeGault’s point is that we need to put more thought into our decisions. I’ll let you know more when I’ve read LeGault’s book (I’ve already read Gladwell’s).

Funny thing, is that our friends sent us some books too…one is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and appropriately enough, Literary Feuds: A Century of Celebrated Quarrels — from Mark Twain to Tom Wolfe by Anthony Arthur. His sequel will have to include Gladwell & LeGault.

The final book on the list is Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. This one is also from the same friends…and again, a good call. We bought this for Metro’s mother last Christmas, so it’s been on our radar for awhile.

So, leave me a comment to tell me what books you got for Christmas!!

From the Writer’s Almanac:

It was on this day in 1913 that the very first crossword puzzle appeared in a newspaper. It was the invention of a journalist named Arthur Wynne, who worked for the New York World. In 1924, two men named Richard Simon and Lincoln Schuster decided to set up a publishing house, and as they were casting about for ideas of what to publish, they decided to try a book of crossword puzzles. That book sold half a million copies in less than a year. The book’s success launched a worldwide crossword puzzle craze and helped put Simon and Schuster on the publishing map.

Where would we be without puzzles in the newspaper? And not just crosswords…hands up if you’re a Sudoku fan. Cryptograms? Logic puzzles?

It is rather mind-boggling to think about what that day in 1913 started.

Plus, it was a good year — my dad was born that year.

This bit of Anglo-Saxon pleasure from Earle Birney needs to be read aloud. Some background on Old English Poetry:

Old English poetry was very formulaic, with the same patterns being re-used with variations time and again. Additionally, alliteration and stress were used in the place of rhyme, which can sound strange but powerful to the modern ear. Another striking feature of Old English poetry was the use of many metaphors or kennings for common subjects: The sea could be referred to as the ‘whale’s way’, ‘gannet’s bath’, ‘swan’s riding’ and so on.

Or, as the great Seamus Heaney points out when he writes about his task of translating Beowulf:

I had noticed, for example, that without any conscious intent on my part certain lines in the first poem in my first book conformed to the requirements of Anglo-Saxon metrics. These lines were made up of two balancing halves, each half containing two stressed syllables – ‘The spade sinks into gravelly ground: / My father digging. I look down…’ – and in the case of the second line there was alliteration linking ‘digging’ and ‘down’ across the caesura. Part of me, in other words, had been writing Anglo-Saxon from the start.

Wow…a lot of ‘ado’ before I get to the poem for today.

Canadian poet, Earle Birney (1904-1995), probably best known for his long poem, David (I wish there was a link!) — read in many a classroom! One of my favourites is Anglosaxon Street

A memorable poem, with the rhythms of Old English, some brilliant images, and, yes, some rather strong (ooo, controversy!) language. Here it is:

Anglosaxon Street
by Earle Birney

Dawndrizzle ended   dampness steams from
blotching brick and   blank plasterwaste
Faded housepatterns hoary and finicky
unfold stuttering   stick like a phonograph

Here is a ghetto   gotten for goyim
O with care denuded   of nigger and kike
No coonsmell rankles   reeks only cellarrot
attar of carexhaust   catcorpse and cookinggrease
Imperial hearts   heave in this haven
Cracks across windows   are welded with slogans
There’ll Always Be An England   enhances geraniums
and V’s for Victory   vanquish the housefly

Ho! with climbing sun   march the bleached beldames
festooned with shopping bags   farded flatarched
bigthewed Saxonwives   stepping over buttrivers
waddling back wienerladen   to suckle smallfry

Hoy! with sunslope   shrieking over hydrants
flood from learninghall   the lean fingerlings
Nordic nobblecheeked   not all clean of nose
leaping Commandowise   into leprous lanes

What! after whistleblow   spewed from wheelboat
after daylong doughtiness   dire handplay
in sewertrench or sandpit   come Saxonthegns
Junebrown Jutekings   jawslack for meat

Sit after supper   on smeared doorsteps
not humbly swearing   hatedeeds on Huns
profiteers politicians   pacifists Jews

Then by twobit magic   to muse in movie
unlock picturehoard   or lope to alehall
soaking bleakly   in beer skittleless

Home again to hotbox   and humid husbandhood
in slumbertrough adding   sleepily to Anglekin
Alongside in lanenooks   carling and leman
caterwaul and clip   careless of Saxonry
with moonglow and haste   and a higher heartbeat

Slumbers now slumtrack   unstinks cooling
waiting brief for milkmaid   mornstar and worldrise

Toronto 1942

I thought I’d share some Al Purdy with you. A powerful Canadian poet, books still available.

Without further ado…

Piling Blood
by Al Purdy

It was powdered blood
in heavy brown paper bags
supposed to be strong enough
to prevent the stuff from escaping
but didn’t

We piled it ten feet high
right to the shed roof
working at Arrow Transfer
on Granville Island
The bags weighed 75 pounds
and you had to stand on two
of the bags to pile the top rows
I was six feet three inches
and needed all of it

I forgot to say
the blood was cattle blood
horses sheep and cows
to be used for fertilizer
the foreman said
It was a matter of some delicacy
to plop the bags down softly
as if you were piling dynamite
if you weren’t gentle
the stuff would belly out
from bags in brown clouds
settle on your sweating face
cover hands and arms
enter ears and nose
seep inside your pants and shirt
reverting back to liquid bood
and you looked like
you’d been scalped
by a tribe of
particularly unfriendly
Indians and forgot to die

We piled glass as well
it came in wooden crates
two of us hoicking them
off trucks into warehouses
every crate
weighing 200 pounds
By late afternoon
my muscles would twitch and throb
in a death-like rhythm
from hundreds of bags of blood
and hundreds of crates of glass

Then at Burns’ slaughterhouse
on East Hastings Street
I got a job part time
shouldering sides of frozen beef
hoisint it from steel hooks
staggering to and from
the refrigerated trucks
and eerie freezing rooms
with breath a white vapour
among the dangling corpses
and the sound of bawling animals
screeched down from an upper floor
with their throats cut
and blood gurgling into special drains
for later retrieval

And the blood smell clung to me
clung to clothes and body
sickly and sweet
and I heard the screams
of dying cattle
and I wrote no poems
there were no poems
to exclude the screams
which boarded the streetcar
and travelled with me
till I reached home
turned on the record player
and faintly
in the last century
heard Beethoven weeping

Found this site today: Damn.org which has a great library of .txt files, introduced as follows:

Welcome to my collection of classical literature. Despite the fact that almost no one has used this resource in over a year, I persist in trying to have at least ONE useful thing on this entire site. The works found in this library represent some of the greatest classical books written throughout history.

Please, people! Go to Dr. J’s site and make use of his resources!! He (?) hasn’t updated since 2003, but the library text files are still there.

Here are some first lines, in honour of the interest my previous post has accumulated (can you name the books?).

#1, in honour of the Christmas season:

 "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled
Jo, lying on the rug.

#2, ’cause it’s just great:

LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings
    won!

#3, one of my favourite books of all time:

IT WAS seven o'clock of a very warm evening in the Seeonee hills
when Father Wolf woke up from his day's rest, scratched himself,
yawned, and spread out his paws one after the other to get rid
of the sleepy feeling in the tips.

#4, the first first line that ever caught my fancy:

"TOM!"

   No answer. 

    "TOM!"

   No answer. 

   "What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!" 

   No answer.

‘Tis not a difficult quiz. Ten lashes with a wet noodle if you can’t get at least 50%. Hie thee to a secondhand bookstore — immediately — if you don’t recognize any of them!

Here’s an interesting list…the 100 Best First Lines of Novels

No. 47 is one of my favourites:

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

(Quick! Name the book!)

It would make a great quiz.

Some are just intriguing:

No. 49:

It was the day my grandmother exploded.

Hello?! Why haven’t I read this one? Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road.

I could go on.

Let me know your favourites in the comments.

Do you?

I must admit, I do. Unusual size, great design, feel of the paper.  Or, in the case of Always Fresh: The Untold Story of Tim Hortons, the smell of the cover (yup. Just go to a bookstore, pick it up, and you’ll be transported to donut heaven.)

Penguin has a new idea — design your own cover for your Penguin.

(From BoingBoing a week or so back.)


Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!