Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Take Care of Yourself is a fat, shiny, sumptuous, glorious art book and though it’s a bit pricey it’s completely worth the money. What a great xmas gift, either for yourself or anyone you know who has ever had one of those HUH??? letters from an ex. The photographs of all the women reading the letters are beautiful (some stunning interior and exterior settings) and the book design is original and a piece of art in its own right (the endpapers feature the letter in morse code, Braille, shorthand and even as a barcode). I absolutely adore Sophie Calle’s work.
Violette Editions has also recently re-issued Double Game – about Calle's interaction with the American novelist Paul Auster who based a fictional character on her in his novel Leviathan. Some of the art he attributed to this character was taken directly from Calle’s work but some was made up. Calle then proceeded to create and play with these fictional art pieces that Auster had devised for his character and Auster follows up with an invented guidebook on how Calle can make life better in New York City. Lots of intriguing and thought-provoking fun.
Monday, October 29, 2007
A group of five loners who stay behind at their college dormitory over the Thanksgiving weekend to avoid going home to various dysfunctional family situations. The residence is an old rambling converted mansion complete with turrets, balconies, gabled rooms and meandering hallways. With a massive storm brewing, and the creepy gothic atmosphere getting to them, the five find themselves together in the lounge. Drunk, and stoned, they find an old Ouija board from 1920 that looks like it has been burned. Filled with artificial courage, they decide to play with the board and end up summoning what they believe is the ghost of a student that died (along with four others) in the attic of the residence years ago. To their horror, they discover that they've actually summoned much more scary- an ancient evil that will not give them any peace until it gets what it wants. While the characters are quite archetypal (the jock, the suicidal loner, the intellectual nerd, the brooding musician, and the promiscuous girl), the book itself is fast paced, creepy, suspenseful, and highly entertaining.
Another good creepy read is James Herbert's The Secret of Crickley Hall, one of my picks from last fall. Herbert is one of the U.K.'s top horror writers and this is his take on a classic ghost story. A couple mourning the loss of one of their children move to an old mansion in the countryside. What seems like an ideal place to regain their bearings, soon turns to a nightmare as it is revealed that the house has a very sinister past. The supernatural occurrences start almost as soon as they arrive and continue to escalate as the book progresses. Herbert is a master at creating a sense of increasing menace and tension. Read this one with the lights on!
A good spooky read for teens (Ages 12+) is Andrew Nance's Daemon Hall, which came out this June. A horror writer named Ian Tremblin, who writes a series of chillers for teens, sponsors a short story writing contest. The five finalists have to spend the night in the rumoured-to-be-haunted Daemon Hall, telling each other their spooky stories by candlelight. Anyone too scared to make it through the night forfeits their chance to win. As the teens are telling their stories, spooky and menacing events start happening in the background and the teens have to decide if the chance to win is worth risking their lives. The different stories are done in various fonts, so it is quite easy for readers to follow along. Some are comic, others downright creepy. My favourite was the entry that retold the classic 'babysitter' story using instant messaging! This book has been nominated as a 2008 YALSA Quick Pick.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
In the meantime, you'll see a new category on the righthand sidebar of this blog. Many of us have our lists posted on our individual publishers' websites and I've added links to those pages which will contain our latest picks and also some of our archived picks from past seasons (great if you are looking for bookclub suggestions among last year's books, as they may well be in paperback by now).
Just a note to our international and American readers - the isbn and publisher information listed is for Canadian distribution. However, many of our favourite books have been published worldwide, albeit by other publishers, so just check your local library or bookstore under the title and author. Many independent bookstores have terrific special order services and can probably obtain any of these books for you, so check out your neighbourhood indy.
Hope you find some good suggestions either for your own reading pleasure or that of your library patrons or bookstore customers. Hey, Xmas is just around the corner too...
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Here's a bit of context: I was never a big fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy because I always found that technology (in the case of SciFi) or archaic customs (in the case of Fantasy) overpowered the human being (read: character). But Philip K. Dick was different. Technology is always incidental to the story, not the end all, be all. For Philip K. Dick, how the "little guy" confronted the establishment (often represented by technology) and refused to be subjugated or destroyed by it made a much more compelling story than a bunch of robots fighting. And, to me, that's why his books still work so brilliantly today. Sure, some of the science Dick envisioned in his novels seems quaintly naive now but the science plays such a small roll that it does not often intrude on all of his fascinating stories.
In We Can Build You, the main character, Louis Rosen, recounts the story of how his company's (MASA ASSOCIATES - Multiplex Acoustical Systems of America) intention to move out of the making of home electronic organs and spinets into the making of simulacra (robots that look like and pass for human beings) of actual historical figures goes horribly wrong because of greed and the inability of the characters to fully divine the scope and significance of their decisions. The story is populated with many compelling characters, including a manic depressive, anorexic young woman (this book was written in the late 1960's/early 1970's!) who is the creative source of these simulacra and a scarey, amoral real estate mogul who sees a way to get even wealthier by getting a hold of these "fake" people. The story begins (as all Dick novels do) in a typical day-to-day environment but slowly descends into a nightmarish world (not unlike Kafka) of fear, helplessness, mystery, paranoia and doom. But our "little" hero doesn't accept it and fights back. If it sounds like the product of a mind nurtured by the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy/King Assassinations, Watergate, Vietnam, Kent State, the My Lai Massacre, the Cold War (and possibly some mind altering substances) you'd be right but the ride is lots of fun and, in the end, thought-provoking. There are definitely several strong connections with the world today (though the story is set in 1982) and will leave the reader impressed by just how "spot on" Dick was despite the drugs.
I'll be popping in from time to time, adding more reviews of Philip K. Dick novels as I make way through all those boxes. If you're curious about his work you could try just about any novel on the shelf and enjoy his unbridled imagination. His novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was made into the movie Bladerunner (a fine movie but missing an important plot line that adds much more depth to the novel), his short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale was made into the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall, and most recently his novel, A Scanner Darkly was adapted into the Richard Linklater rotoscoped (the process that transforms conventional film footage into cartoon/animation to create an other-worldly effect) movie of the same name.
In conclusion, let me say my "chilly" fears were unfounded. I am enjoying every moment I'm spending with my old friend. But I'm sure you figured that out already.
Oh, and may I suggest you listen to some Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Chambers Brothers, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service or Jimi Hendrix while you're reading him. That's what he was listening to when he wrote these books all those decades ago.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Depending on how much time you have, you can spend hours walking all over the mountain - lots of great reading spots. Then when you come down, walk east along Avenue des Pins until St. Laurent and head south to Prince Arthur for a great meal or coffee. Along the way, you'll pass Librairie Gallimard, a French language bookstore connected to the publisher. At the east end of Prince Arthur you'll encounter St. Louis square - enjoy the architecture and the people watching. If you're still not tired, a few more blocks east and you'll end up at Parc Lafontaine - again, another great reading spot in the city.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I particularly love the green Penguin crime covers of the 1960s, many of them designed by Romek Marber. I have four Dorothy Sayers titles framed in my living room - a white stick figure lies dead against a graphic black and green background of stark geometric design or photomontage. They look terrific in black frames with a white matting. You could have a lot of fun roaming your neighbourhood's used bookstores looking for interesting groupings. Pick your favourite author and collect all their books in a series, or pick just a favourite book, such as Wuthering Heights or Lolita and collect different historical cover treatments. You could collect books that just had interesting type on their covers or used the same font, or all contained a key word in their titles. Or collect by designer. You could hunt for certain images, say books with wine bottles on their covers for a kitchen or dining room, or books with typewriters on them for your study, or books with various body parts for hanging in the bathroom. After all, as Anthony Powell coined, books really DO furnish a room.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The stacks were beautiful as well. The shelves seemed to be made of a thick, white, slightly translucent plastic and they were lighted with white fairy lights so it seemed as if they were glowing. The underside of the escalators located in the middle of the building were also made fo this same material. The shelving end units were cabinets with various artifacts on display, so the whole effect was of being in an art museum or high end department store - yet completely devoted to books. The floor containing DVDs and CDs had very curvy, custom made white shelves that snaked around the floor. And the whole building was drenched with natural light. It was all very slick and modern but inviting at the same time. Definately stop in if you are visiting Amsterdam; it's not far from the Central Train Station and is a great place to have a cheap and hearty meal.
Small towns also have charming libraries. The Deweys were recently doing a presentation in Uxbridge, Ontario and I wish I'd brought my camera. Their library was constructed in 1887 and was originally a school. It has a lovely and elegant war memorial in front of it and inside, murals devoted to L.M. Montgomery and Glenn Gould who had ties to the town. You can see a photo of it here. (Click on the first photo in the left-hand corner).
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Speaking of the Nobel, it would be a great reading adventure to tackle at least one book by every Nobel Laureate (I've read 33 of them). You can find the complete list here.