Saturday, February 24, 2007

TRH Movie - The Queen

My week off of work was supposed to be punctuated by seeing a lot of movies, but I was felled by a damn cold, and so the only day I did actually make it to the theatre was yesterday when Tara and I went to see The Queen. The last of the Oscar films I'll actually get to go and see before the Awards tomorrow night, I have to say that I enjoyed it very much, and was impressed by the performances, both by Michael Sheen (love him) and Helen Mirren (goes without saying that she'll win).

But on the whole, other than The Departed, I'm really uninspired by this year's crop of Best Picture nominees. I haven't seen Letters from Iwo Jima, but I have now seen the other three, and I still think that Scorsese's picture is the best out of all of them. And two movies I've seen since, The Children of Men and Half Nelson, are better pictures than the other nominees. But I'm not on the voting committee and I don't share the lovefest over Babel, so who knows. I also think that Little Children should have had more nominations, and that Jackie Earle Haley should win in his catagory, even though my vote will probably go to Eddie Murphy.

But it does make me think that with all the money Hollywood spends to make money, I'm surprised that better movies simply don't come out. Or maybe I've just watched the wrong ones lately. We did watch The Prestige yesterday, and it was really good, better than Dreamgirls, better than Flags of Our Fathers, better than (shhh) Babel, and still nothing in the way of recognition.

I'm guessing that my radar is really off the mark in terms of what Hollywood finds to be good and I what I think truly is exceptional. But isn't that always the case?

#14 - Blind Submission

I missed yesterday and the day before I think with my Book A Day challenge. I've got one for today though: Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg. Angel Robinson (seriously, that's her name) finds herself out of a job when the bookstore she works for in Southern California shuts down (damn the fate of independent bookstores everywhere). She ends up, upon the insistence of her aspiring novelist boyfriend, landing a job with Lucy Fiamma at her literary agency.

There's a lot of bookish insider stuff going on in the novel, the role that agents play, how they do a good deal of editing and building up the books before they get pitched, how it's like being a salesman, etc. But Angel finds herself really good at it, until Blind Submission arrives. Written by an anonymous author and strangely echoing Angel's own life (the main character is called "Alice" for heaven's sake), it's the central mystery of the book, who wrote it and why?

As Angel goes somewhat mad trying to figure it out, the Devil Wears Prada-esque relationship with her boss escalates. Oh, and there's some aspects of chicklit thrown in too, will Angel choose Malcolm, her gorgeous but somewhat unstable boyfriend or will she end up with a fiery Italian writer-slash-pastry chef? (It sounds so ridiculous when I write it out here...)

In the end, I enjoyed the insider-type stuff with the book, and I did read it quickly; it's that kind of novel, where the prose isn't particularly inspired (and the sex scenes are embarrassing, as were the setups, dropping towels in hotel rooms, you get the picture, yawn) but I got sucked in regardless. Anyway, it's a good vacation book, perfect for beach reading and/or something light and fluffy for when you're tired from a long day of real life. But no hearts were broken, squished or otherwise, which is okay sometimes too.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Absolute Nothingness

So, I have a question: how old is too old to be wearing black tights with your work outfits?

When do you get to that age where you should no longer be wearing black tights with your skirts and shoes?

And what do you wear instead?

The Way Not To Finish A Book

Here are the reasons why there is no book update today:

1. I spent much of yesterday writing, yay!

2. Instead of curling up with a good book after my pilates class (the first one in almost three weeks, ouch. Seriously, I almost passed out, it was a bit much), I feverishly started knitting so that I could have my homework completed for my knitting class tonight. Yeah, I stayed up until almost 4 AM. So. Not. Relaxing. My fingers are so cramped that I had to sleep with them splayed across my stomach just so they wouldn't curl up into little balls I couldn't get open in the morning.

3. The book I picked is a whopping 400 pages long. Damn you Out of Africa, damn you!

4. Too much television was consumed last night (see #2) in a pathetic attempt to stay awake.

5. Had a very poor night's sleep on Tuesday as a result of eating massive, and I mean massive, amounts of chocolate because I gave up sugar on Wednesday. I had a caffeine buzz from chocolate people. Just think of how much was actually consumed!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

TRH Movies & A Stupid Cold

I've been sidelined at home the past few days with a rotten cold, a sore throat and lots and lots of sneezing. Good for reading, not so good for thinking, which means I'm not getting as much writing done as I'd like, but I'm making progress regardless.

I've been buying DVDs lately for two reasons, one because we always need stuff to watch at the cottage in the summer, and we generally end up viewing many films multiple times so I don't really think it's a waste of money; plus, I'm sick to death of paying late fees because we never get the videos back on time.

Annnwaaay. Yesterday I picked up Babel and The Prestige. I kind of feel like the first film was a waste of money. We haven't watched it last night. And you know what? It's kind of overbearing and quite unbelievable. I know it's all arty and ohhh look how connected the world is but the tenuous nature of said connection in terms of the Japanese storyline was almost laughable. Like Crash, it kind of plays out with a bit of the movie of the week sensibility where you're forced to suspend your disbelief just that little bit too much. Why is it nominated for so many Oscars?

All in all having a stupid cold the last few days has meant I've watched way, way too much television. I'm looking forward to getting out of the house tomorrow and enjoying the few days I've got left before I start my new job.

Oh, and just FYI, I wrote a guest post over at Martinis For Milk about a trip to the doctor yesterday. It's a bit graphic (there's a whole gross but funny thing going on) and it's about lady bits, so be forewarned, only read it if you are truly convinced there are some things that you just NEED to know about me.

#13 - Shopaholic & Baby

Kinsella returns to her mainstay character, Becky Bloomwood, who enters the Yummy Mummy phase of her life in Shopaholic & Baby. With an incredibly predictable plot, the series (and I must confess, I've only read one other of the books), feels like it's waning a bit. Becky runs into a few problems on her way to the delivery room: her OBGYN is her husband's ex, he's acting all shifty and stuff, and they're trying to buy a house. Becky's usual antics, well, shopping obsessions, are all there but there's just not as much spice to this book as to her last couple of non-Shopaholic titles.

And while I'll confess to loving a fair bit of chicklit, this series just isn't up there as my favourites. However, I do completely appreciate the wit and humour in Kinsella's writing, even if this book wasn't right for me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

#12 - Lion's Honey: The Myth Of Samson

David Grossman's Lion's Honey, part of Canongate's esteemed series The Myths, is the entry from Israel in my Around the World in 52 Books challenge. More of a meditation than perhaps a true retelling, Grossman dissects the myth of Samson like a teacher approaching a poem. Taken apart piece by piece, the overlived* existence of the hero is explored both in an historical and in a modern context.

My feelings about the entire project are mixed: I'm not sure what the purpose of The Myths in these short, concise little books is, but I enjoyed reading Lion's Honey, if only because it gave me a glimpse of how interesting it might be to study the stories of the Bible. In Samson, a man truly at odds with his destiny, Grossman is able to present a "character" with a keen eye to the subtle differences between the original text and the sense of the myth as it's been studied by hundreds of thousands of people over the course of its lifetime.

This brings forward a real sense of how the myth itself is played out both in religious studies and how it has evolved over the years, finding its way into pop culture, poetry, modern novels and Talmudic study. In some ways, as Grossman relates the very real landscape of Samson's story to the modern-day Israeli state, you get a true sense of how myth combines with history, which in turn combines with story.

Many of the books in my 52 countries challenge didn't give me a sense of what life was like in the country of the author's origin. The Ireland of Tóibín is found more in how he constructs a story than in the narrative itself in The Master (but felt a great deal in his marvellous Mothers and Sons). The Canadian Arctic of Consumption is one that's utterly foreign to me, which was kind of the point. But in this book, I felt the landscape, the lush trees, the hills, the dust, the imprints of civilization on the caves, and it made quite an impression.

There's a bit where the graves of Samson have sort of popped up, no one thinks they're the actual resting spots of the man and his father, as Grossman says, they can't be, but believers are there anyway, faith prevailing over common sense as it should. And that's kind of an apt metaphor for this little book as well: Samson the hero, whose story has been told and retold over thousands of years, that despite his shortcomings, despite his inability to come to terms with his gift from God, finds a way to act, even if those very actions will bring about his own death. His own faith prevailing against reason, betrayal, even love.

Anyway, it's a bit deep for a Tuesday morning when I've got a wicked cold and a big foggy head, so if the above makes no sense, go ahead and tease me for it. But I've managed to keep to the first day of my Book A Day challenge. I have a feeling I might not make it tomorrow, Lion's Honey, after all, is a mere 145 pages.


*overlived was today's OED word of the day. Shockingly the first one, like, ever, I've actually used in a sentence the day it arrived in my inbox.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Book A Day Challenge?

I think I might try my Book A Day challenge this week that I've got off so that I can get ahead with some of my reading before the new job starts next Monday. I've cheated a bit already by finishing off some books that I had started weeks back, but I'm still going to give it a go...hell, I'm up for the challenge!

#11 - Breakfast At Tiffany's

They would never change because they'd been given their character too soon; which, like sudden riches, leads to a lack of proportion: the one had splurged herself into a top-heavy realist, the other a lopsided romantic.
We read Truman Capote's novella as a part of our 1001 Books club at work. I finished it while at the spa with my stepmother a few weeks back, but it's taken me a bit longer to complete the other short stories included in the collection.

I enjoyed "Breakfast at Tiffany's" immensely, both because of Capote's power as a storyteller and his ability to create characters that may be have questionable moral cores but are still utterly fascinating. I'm going to confess that I've never seen the film, but I have got it at home now to watch this week, so using that as a reference and/or point of discussion will have to wait. Holly Golightly, iconic, ironic, desperate even, is such an electric character that it's impossible not to sympathize with her, regardless of whether or not you like her and/or support her actions.

The Norman Mailer quote on the back of my Vintage edition, states that Capote 'is the most perfect writer of [his] generation. He writes the best sentences word for word, rhythm upon rhythm.' There is no way I can say this any better or agree any more heartily. If I were still in grad school, I would have loved to have studied Capote's style: the grace and impact of his sentence structure, his use of language, his ability to create compelling metaphors. The skill in his writing seems unparalleled in modern American fiction, but maybe I'm making sweeping generalizations, because I haven't read ALL of the writers of his generation.

I loved Holly Golightly. I loved her sass and her style, her unsympathetic actions, her selfishness, her drinking habits, her large sunglasses and her ability to attract and repel attention on a whim. I loved how the narrator love, love, loves her but can't really get it out, or maybe he doesn't want to. I got caught up in the world in which she lives and ultimately escapes from, thinking, again, how magical it must have been to live in NYC at that time.

And on the whole, I'm still as in love with Capote as ever, especially after reading "A Christmas Memory," with its haunting sadness, rampant poverty of everything except imagination, and its sad sense of tragedy. I highly recommend this collection; even if it's not heartbreaking in the traditional sense, the writing is just so delicious that it makes your heart ache—in that good way.

So many books I read these days feel rushed and unfinished. They feel like they need time and attention, focus and re-edits, and not once when I'm reading Capote do I feel this way. I feel like he's paid particular attention to every single word, to how it sits in a sentence or feels on the page. For once, I feel like the fable, as 1001 Books refers to the story, was included because it's a little bit of a revolution on the page: a freethinking, feeling and sexually explicit woman makes her own way in the world free of society's structure, which must have been shocking at the time of publication? Regardless, I think I am a better person for having read this book, which I would imagine is the true test of the 1001 Books list.

So where I am I now on the list? I've added two more I think, which takes me to 124. A very, very long way to go still.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Moby-Dick

So, according to this quiz (props to Booklust for the link), I'm Moby-Dick and 65% a good book.

Considering that I hated that novel and never finished it the seventeen times I've tried to read it, um, I don't think so.

#10 - The Master

Finally, after weeks of reading, I have finished The Master. The Irish entry in my Around the World in 52 Books challenge, Colm Tóibín's majestic and utterly compelling novel reads more like a series of interlinked short stories that follow the life of writer Henry James through the latter part of his life. Told in a strikingly engaging yet cold third person, the narrative, as 1001 Books states, is episodic. The fictionalized biography, like Mothers and Sons, highlights Tóibín's unparalleled storytelling ability.

I savoured this book like sipping fine wine, reading it in small parts rather than gulping it down like a pint at the pub. I got a little further each night, slowly working my way backwards and forwards through James's life, having never read a single one of his novels (successfully avoiding them both through my undergraduate and graduate degrees), I can still feel like I know his style, form and function simply because Tóibín is so adept at working his way into the head of a writer.

An exercise that satisfies both my own curiosity about the writer (having always been more interested in the lives of the great writers than their work itself), and leads me to an even greater understanding of the scope and structure of James's work, The Master truly deserved its 2006 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. This book made me long for a provincial life, to buy a small piece of property in France somewhere, made me long for a time when one "moved" in intellectual circles, and spent days in conversation. Of course, I would have to be a member of the terrible upper class, and all of the other less appealing things about the fantasy, including marrying for money and the like, but hell, let me wallow in a Merchant-Ivory fantasy for a moment. Like someone always says, you never imagine your ancestors to be of the lower classes, the same goes for my imagination...

Annywaaay. Spending so much time with one book means I'm well behind in my reading for this month, but it's been a bit hectic too, finishing one job, finding another, finishing off my next Classic Starts with what's beginning to feel like never ending edits, and watching way too much television (damn you Jack!), there never seems to be enough time in the day.

So, to sum up, while aspects of the novel were certainly heartbreaking, the book on the whole wasn't. But that doesn't necessarily mean I wouldn't highly recommend it to anyone who might care to listen to be ramble on about the genius that is Colm Tóibín.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

This Is The End

Yesterday was my last day of work. It was the last time I'll need to take the car to the outer limits of Mississauga, too. So, I'm happy that I've just decreased my ecological footprint. As of next Monday, I'll be taking the transit every day, walking after work, and in the summer, riding my bike. That makes me feel much better. I made a donation the other day to Tree Canada to offset some of my carbon emissions, but I still felt guilty every single time I got into the car, especially in the dead of summer, with sweat rising up off the asphalt, the earth burning up underneath me. Anyway, it's over now, the daily commute.

For the first time in a long time, I actually left a job versus the job leaving me. Almost every experience in my adult life has been the other way around. I worked in magazines for many years before getting into the web side of things; and both of the magazines I worked for folded, which meant I lost my job twice in less than a year. In the first case, I had worked for three years on contract, which meant I got no package, no severance. I didn't even get two weeks notice. The second magazine went bust after my only working there for eight months. In that case, despite how broke they were, we all still ended up with two weeks severance. This all happened during and just after my years in grad school as I was finishing up my Master's degree with massive amounts of debt. I lived hand to mouth, paycheque to paycheque, constantly worrying about money and how to get the bills paid.

So leaving was always by signaled a time to panic. How was I going to pay the rent? How was I going to afford groceries? Each new job hunt was like a pressure cooker: it had to happen and it had to happen fast. And when I got fired from my old-old job by the boss from hell, it was met by a mini-nervous breakdown. I paced the hallways of our newly bought house convinced that we were headed for the poorhouse because my RRHB had recently lost his job as well. I think it was the most stressful period of my life.

And then things got under control. I had good spin on the story: evil empire firing a poor slightly disabled girl who was still recovering from hip replacement surgery. Girl with serious and scary disease thrown in the gallows of stress by a wicked witch who wanted nothing more than her own success and to punish anyone who spoke ill of her behind her back. Who was going to smell like a sweet Jo Malone perfume at the end of that story? Through some of the contacts I had made by working for the evil empire, I found my last job. And it was lovely. The people were lovely, I was working for and with books, which I adore. I kind of found my calling, I think.

So yesterday was bittersweet. I am sad to be leaving. I am thankful for the opportunities that I was given, for the people I've met, for the books I've read. But I am also totally thrilled for the new challenges that I'll be facing at the end of the month. My new job is a combination of what I did for the evil empire and what I did up until yesterday. It was an opportunity I did not, or could not, turn down.

But I was also proud of myself that I made a decision based not on desperation, not on the basic need for survival, but for myself. As Oprah as that moment felt, I also feel somewhat vindicated. For the longest time, I felt put upon, depressed from all the tragedy in my life, frustrated that no matter how good I thought I was, terrible things kept happening to me. Some of what I felt just turned out to be life lessons: that you need to rise above certain things, hold your head up and work hard. Some of what I felt turned back inside me and caused things like depression and disease: that bad things happen to bad people, and illogical thoughts persisting, I must be the worst person on earth, so what's the point of doing things that might make me happy, that might make me well adjusted.

So now with my week off, I have no stress. I'm not under the gun. I'm going to write my stories, take long walks, go shopping, maybe donate some more money to compensate for the fact that I would really like some new shoes, see movies and relax before I get back into the daily grind.

And I'm all about being well adjusted and taking deep breaths. Because my life might not be an episode of My Name is Earl, but it kind of feels that way, with all the good karma finally making its way back into the palm of my hand.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Downtown

The roads, as you well imagine, are a mess. This morning I got the car stuck in a snowbank coming out of the laneway behind my house. And when I tried to turn on the car, it wouldn't work.

I didn't cry. I didn't panic. Instead, I calmly got out, walked the few houses over to our front door, and shouted, "RRHB, I need your help." We dug the car out and I was on my way.

My new office? Yeah, it's downtown which means I'll calmly sit on the streetcar as it rumbles along plowing all of the snow in its way in two days time. I really, really hate driving.

The other scary winter driving story? A couple weekends ago when I went to the spa with my stepmother? I got the car stuck on a snowy hill when it started rolling...in the wrong direction. Soon, I was barrelling backwards down the hill and couldn't slow down. For the very first time in my life, you know what I did? I used the emergency brake. After all, it was an emergency.

Come to think of it, I didn't panic then either. But I was a bit nervous on the roads today, with the Curse of St. Valentine's looming over my head and all.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Ann Equals Awesome

This morning at work we had a breakfast for YA superstar Ann Brashares. I've read and loved every one of the books in the Sisterhood series, and so it was a real pleasure to see her in person and have her sign a copy of the latest book Forever in Blue.

First off, she's absolutely gorgeous, and had just come from her appearance on Canada AM, so the first thing she said was something along the lines of 'that explains all the makeup.' (And I'm probably paraphrasing).

She spoke for a few minutes and then someone asked if she wrote the books chronologically or if she wrote each character separately. And, in fact, it's the latter. Brashares has colour-coded cue cards for each character and maps out what's going to happen to each of them in one fell swoop. She spends as much time as she needs with each one, notes out all of their scenes, and then spreads out the cards all around her house to plot out the book.

It was inspiring to hear her speak about her creative process. She writes the books in that way because she feels that every character deserves her full attention, which I was fascinated with because it's not the way that I write at all. I might try it though considering she's finished, ahem, many books and I've never completed a one!

And Carmen is her favourite character, which sort of surprised me. But when I went up to talk to her and get my book signed, I told her that Bridget, being a motherless-daughter herself, had a special place in my heart. She also asked me a lot of questions about me and what I did at the company etc., etc., and I said, "I'm not here to talk about me!" And then we laughed. As a writer, she told me, she's always more interested in other people's lives than speaking about her own. Delightful, I say, absolutely delightful!

On the whole, she's just wonderful, well-spoken, intelligent, everything you hope and expect an author to be...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Organic Beer...

...doesn't give you any less a hangover.

Sigh.

Shhhh. I have news.

Yesterday, I quit my job. Not to worry, I have another one to go to in about three weeks, and I'm super excited about it.

I mean really excited.

Hence the imbibing of St. Peter's organic beer until the wee hours.

And now, I hurt.

So I've been listening to my new favourite songs and trying to do the dishes for about forty-five minutes. There aren't that many dishes. It's just hard to, ahem, stand up.

If you're wondering what my iTunes is cooking this morning:

1. A Mirror Without, Royal Wood
2. Under Control, The Strokes
3. Jolene, Dolly Parton
4. Snow (Hey Oh), Red Hot Chili Peppers
5. Save It For Later, English Beat

Oh yeah, that's inspired me to re-write the first sentence of my long story about seventeen times. It keeps getting longer and longer with more commas, lots of adjectives and a really interesting metaphor that I can't wait to try out on you all.

Happy Saturday!

I. Can't. Stop. Smiling.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Readings Dot Org Indeed!

Last night Zesty and I braved the cold to attend a truly spectacular evening of readings at Harbourfront. Part of their weekly series, last night Vikram Chandra, Colm Tóibín and Neil Smith read from their new works. Of the three, Toibin, of course, stands out, the headliner who read last, he honestly brought tears to my eyes.

Sacred Games is a huge (and I mean massive) novel by Chandra, who read first. His readings were a bit dense but they did capture my interest both in terms of their subject matter (modern-day, crime-addled Mumbai), and their descriptive value. The third reading, of the passages the author selected, was by far the best. I'm not sure if it's enough to pull me up and out into the novel, but there was a bit about women and marriage in his passage that grabbed me by its plaintive ache and sort of held on.

Neil Smith read about half of the first story from his Bang/Crunch, the collection that's launched him as part of Knopf Canada's New Face of Fiction this year. Tall, thin, impeccably dressed, Neil Smith's reading was humourous and intriguing at the same time. The story, about a premature baby and her mother, and by extension her sperm donor of a father, was funny, insightful and urged me to read more.

But, as I said above, the true highlight of the evening for me was Tóibín. Wow. He sauntered on to stage looking like a middle-aged English professor in his jacket and thin tie, and his face has such deliciously deep creases that you could even call them folds. He started to speak immediately as he stepped behind the microphones, telling lovely stories about music festivals, troubles in Armagh and a trip to Australia. At first, you wonder where it's all going, and then he read "A Song" from Mothers and Sons, and you slowly, as the narrative unfolds, realize that he's showing you all of the inspiration for this particular story. I'm telling you, it brought tears to my eyes. Tears.

TRH Movies - A Triple Header

So I've been on the 'oh my gosh I have to watch all the Oscar-nominated films in one go' streak lately. It's not that I'm going to do well in any awards night polls because, well, I never do—I always vote from the heart, which is the kiss of death in those types of contests.

Annnywaaay.

Children of Men
On Saturday afternoon, the RRHB and I went to go see Children of Men with Tara and Dave. Many, many people have been raving about how wonderful this movie is and about how it truly should have been nominated for Best Picture. I can certainly see why. Based on P.D. James's novel of the same name, the film takes place in the near future after the human race has, essentially, ended—all women are infertile. Society is barely functioning. England is exporting all of its immigrants. Eerily familiar bombs are being detonated in coffee houses. Violence and civil disobedience are everywhere. In short, it's on the verge of apocalypse. And so soon! The film is set twenty years from now, which is one of the reasons it scared the bloody crap out of me.

Clive Owen plays Theo Faron, an alcoholic, downtrodden London office worker who finds a shadow of his former self when he's enlisted to help his underground-movement-leader of an ex-wife smuggle some important human cargo out of the country. It's a bone-chilling and brilliant movie that should have gotten a lot more kudos than it did. Where's Clive Owen's love? He holds the movie together, from start to finish, and man, is the movie the better for it. Add to the mix superior art direction, brilliant editing, a wonderful script and man, you've got a superior piece of film work. And it's not often that I rave, rave, rave about a film. The crucial test is whether or not I'm still thinking about it days later, and I am.

Half Nelson
Okay, I've never downloaded a movie from the internet before. But, and I'm not saying who, a certain someone I know and love does it a fair bit, and he grabbed Half Nelson the other night. The two of us, perched on desk chairs and eating lasagna for dinner, watched this utterly captivated picture from start to finish on the computer. I felt guilty the entire time.

Ryan Gosling plays Danny Dunne, a junior high school history/social studies teacher and aspiring writer with more problems than the usual Mr. Smith standing at the head of the class. A functioning addict who uses the kids like an anchor holding him on board his own life, Danny is a total mess when he's not at school. Like one of those truly tortured souls who can't possibly be meant for reality, he develops an oddly patriarchal and somewhat inappropriate relationship with Drey (Shareeka Epps). From the first, tragic minute when she discovers his fatal flaw, the two dance around the issue of his drug use, until the penultimate moment where Drey, when confronted with the cold, hard truth of the life she's in the middle of, is forced to leave her childhood behind far sooner than she probably should.

Gosling's performance is haunting and hectic, full of addiction ticks that aren't remotely stereotypical but the product of a man whose talent is so compelling it almost steams off the screen. He is so magnetic that your body tingles when you watch him. And Shareeka Epps shows such wisdom in her own performance that the pair of them are both captivating and, yes, heartbreaking at the same time.

I truly think that Half Nelson might be my favourite movie I've seen this year (I'm using 'year' in terms of Oscar-nominated pictures, of course).

Music and Lyrics
Another film I had to review for Chart, this film, a fun, whimsical romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant turned out to be kind of charming and almost funny. And, seriously, watching it just for Hugh Grant's dancing was enough for me, more to come on that one when I write my "official" review.

Amazon Takes Down The Long Tail...

...By one ridiculous email after another.

This morning I opened up my email to find yet another useless 'if you like this you're sure to love this' email from Amazon.ca. First off, let me say that I heart Amazon and do use their site all the time. What I find frustrating is the very odd computer program that matches up the likes and dislikes, which obviously doesn't know its head from its motherboard's a**.

And I quote:

We've noticed that customers who have expressed interest in Snow by Orhan Pamuk have also ordered Still Life With Husband by Lauren Fox. For this reason, you might like to know that Lauren Fox's Still Life With Husband is now available in Hardcover. You can order your copy at a savings of 37% by following the link below.

Okay, here are all the things that are wrong with this:

1. I did not order Snow, I merely browsed the title while doing research for my Around the World in 52 Books. Amazon should not be recommending books based upon browsing, it makes me feel like my every single movement is being watched, categorized and then pounced upon. It makes me want to destroy my profile and never shop there again.

2. Seriously? Still Life with Husband? Compared to Nobel-prize winning Pamuk? Here's the description:

Yes, it's an affair novel, but file this adroit but placid debut under chick lit for early marrieds—the ones who are not sure they want to be on the baby-house-'burbs track. At 30, Emily Ross is a Milwaukee freelance writer with a part-time job as assistant editor at a medical journal called Male Reproduction and a marriage to "steady, staid" Kevin, a technical writer she met in college. Kevin, "innocent and intolerable," wants a baby and a house. Emily is ambivalent and bored. A few pages in, Emily meets David Keller, a dark, good-looking writer/editor at the local alternative newspaper, and starts an affair. Things, as expected, do not go well, but Fox's voice is steady, moving easily between comedy and drama.

They’re comparing Snow, crimes against Turkishness-Amnesty call out serious-type writing to chicklit, and not just any old chicklit, but vapid, trite and obviously clichéd chicklit.

I'm all for the terribly abused and over-used long tail philosophy of marketing, but the problem remains that Amazon is attempting to harness what should just come naturally: a person making connections through books and finding new authors based on external recommendations. This recommendation system shouldn't be some computer program that's matched up two books that wouldn't be caught dead being catagorized together on a table if the bookstore were any less virtual. Obviously, there's a problem with the circuitry. And for now, under no circumstances will I be ordering Still Life with Husband.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Write Around Town Debuts

Lots and lots to update on, not the least of which is one more book down from the 1001 Books list, Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote, a visit to the spa, a night of 24, and two movies (Music & Lyrics and Children of Men).

But for now, if you're at all interested in literary events in Toronto, I've started to write a monthly column for Experience Toronto called Write Around Town. It's the first one, so it's a bit rough around the edges, but I'm excited about it and am looking forward to having something fun to write every month for someone other than myself!

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Bird In The Hand

Last night, despite feeling utterly under the weather, I headed out in the cold to my first Sweater class at Knitomatic. I arrived, of course, without needles, but luckily there were some in the store I could use and, after I did my gauge swatch, it was a good thing I hadn't bought needles because I work tight so I needed to go up a size anyway.

We're knitting a raglan sweater in the round, which I've never done before, so I'm excited about it. I've got this rich grey wool with lovely white strands through it that looks very old fashioned. I think it'll make a grand sweater.

The owner of the store has a lovebird named Pluto. He's really sweet and affectionate and took quite a liking to me. At one point, he was perching on his owner's water glass, after dropping himself in more than once for a quick drink, he looked and chirped at me until I paid attention to him. I held out my hand so he could jump on. Then, he hopped up to my shoulder and trilled in my ear as I chatted with him.

And then he pooped on my new coat.

Heh.

It's good luck, isn't it? When a bird poops on you?

Anyway, I'm taking it as a sign that my sweater will turn out brilliantly.