Posted on September 20, 2023
One of the best books I’ve read this year is D.A. Lockhart’s 2021 verse novel Bearmen Descend Upon Gimli, a virtuosic fusion of narrative, lyric, athletic, and mythological forms. Lockhart stages an epic Manitoban bonspiel as an allegory or roadmap for storytelling and sports as anticolonial resistance. As the Bearmen’s stones make “the world crack apart,” the collection is a story about literally remaking the world through curling — or maybe through stories about curling.
Posted on September 12, 2023
The Master and Margarita is a novel by Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov, written in the Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940 during Stalin's regime. It's about Satan who pays a visit to the Soviet intellectuals when he learns they don't believe in him.
Posted on September 5, 2023
In 2010, a bunch of friends started an impossible book club, impossible as none of us—a wool-shop owner, an editor, a prof, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a community program head, a Crown prosecutor, most parents or about to be—had time to read. Our meeting rule, more or less kept up: the book had to be published before 1960.
Posted on August 22, 2023
Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear
A few days ago – which will be many days ago by the time you read this – I watched robins, red-winged blackbirds, mallards, and a pair of swallows darting through shadows making them difficult to identify. Birds Art Life is a book I’ve read and re-read, in times of difficulty and in times of relative ease. It always brings me comfort.
Posted on August 15, 2023
I have been reading with fascination The Equivalents, by Maggie Doherty. It is the story of a visionary program instituted at Boston’s Radcliffe College in 1960 that was designed to rescue select, few, women of privilege from the drudgery of American housewifery.
Posted on August 4, 2023
Forster (1879-1970) is one of my favorite novelists, and I particularly like Howards End. The film version starring Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham-Carter is superb, and it captures some of the subtlety of perception and insight of the novel itself. The same might be said of A Room with a View, also adapted to the screen. Forster’s work shares some similarities with Virginia Woolf’s work, particularly with Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. Both novelists are as much concerned with sensibility as with incidents, the building blocks of plot. Though both outlived the Edwardian age—Woolf died in 1941, Forster in 1970—and even though Woolf is commonly spoken of as a modernist, I think there is something Edwardian about both their sensibilities. Both treat emotional states and the shared opinions that typify particular social classes in particular historical periods almost as a painter would do—as colours, tones, atmospheres. Clearly both of them write with something of a poetic feeling.
Posted on July 31, 2023
Except for hip hop or the occasional R&B-inflected jazz, I don’t really listen to much music with vocals. Last year, though, I started listening to the jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant. Her latest album is Mélusine (2023) but I remain mired in and moved by Ghost Song (2022). I don’t just love her voice, its tone and timbre, I also love her intelligent lyricism, her confident pastiches of different musical eras, her jarring dissections of power in intimate relations, her masterful takes on great artists from Gregory Porter to Kate Bush.
Posted on July 26, 2023
I have already read it 28 times, in English, French (once), and Spanish. Every time I read it, I dig a little bit deeper and discover a little bit more about the art of narrative and the craft of fiction.
Posted on July 18, 2023
I always assume that everyone has seen the classic cult film Harold and Maude, featuring iconic performances by Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort and a fabulous soundtrack by the young Cat Stevens. But when I mention the film now to my students, often no one in the room has even heard of the movie, let alone watched it. It is a unique and unparalleled love story that is very much of its time and place (California at the start of the 70s—Vietnam, ecology, weed, all manner of cultural and social revolution) but is very
Posted on July 12, 2023
Phil Hall’s new book, The Ash Bell, undoes me. His work makes me read below the below and out the corners of my eyes. Drops me down under understanding, echos of words like backlit other words waving their fronds. I read the word “worship" and see “warship." It's blunt, raw, funny and true. Cumulative. I do not understand, I stand under, happily.