Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Baking. . .

I've been travelling quite a bit this month so it was nice to finally have a relaxing Sunday at home.  And I really wanted to bake - something I haven't done in months.  Browsing through Nigella Lawson's scrumptious new cookbook, Kitchen, I decided to make her Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake (page 281).  Rosalyn is the real chef among us Deweys, but I do like the way Nigella conversationally writes out her steps; even I can follow along.  She's also no Martha Stewart so the photos of the finished cake will have the odd crack in the crust or mislaid crumb.  Hence, my cake came out looking almost identical to hers.

I thought the combination of chocolate and lime might be a bit odd, but the cake is wonderfully moist, which I'm guessing is due to the lime juice, or possibly the ground almonds. At any rate, it has a nice chocolatey taste that isn't too sweet and the lime doesn't overpower.  And it was really simple to make.

I've been a fan of Nigella ever since I found out she loves Marmite as much as I do (how often do you find that ingredient in cookbooks?) and in Kitchen, she does have a recipe for Spaghetti with Marmite (page 49) which I will definitely try. On my recent trip to London, I found THE most wonderful snack combination - oven roasted cashews coated with Marmite. Honestly, they were delicious! The best flavour pairing since chocolate and peanut butter. I'm already hounding my UK friends to send me some more.

Book Board Game. . .

Darn.  Why isn't this available in Canada?  The Great Penguin Bookchase is a board game where apparently you travel around the board, answering book triva questions and picking up mini-Penguins for your book cart along the way.  I want to play!!!!

Friday, October 29, 2010


Tangles is a lovely book that shows the struggles and pain of a family dealing with Alzheimer's. Sarah Leavitt was recently interviewed by Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter. We were very excited to hear that it was nominated for a Writer's Trust Award; this is the first time a graphic novel has been nominated for the non-fiction prize.

Friday Film Fest: Lady Chatterley on Trial. . .

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Lady Chatterley trial in which Penguin Books was aquitted of obsencity charges for publishing the unexpurgated text of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.  There are a number of film adapations of the book, but I quite like The Chatterley Affair, a 2006 BBC production on the actual trial itself, which is available on DVD. The story follows two jurors who start an affair of their own during the trial, but while their story is fictional, the scenes set in the courtroom use the actual case transcripts. It's a fascinating look at the power of literature, the debates over sexuality and morality in the early 1960s and it has quite a few things to say about male perceptions of female readers and what they should and should not be reading. And yes, there's strong language and sexual content.

The Guardian has a piece on the censorship of this novel here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels. . .

CBC's Canada Reads has posted the list of the top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the last decade as chosen by readers.  You can view the full list here and vote for your favourite to make it into the top 10.  I'm really happy to see a number of these books on the list - Conceit by Mary Novik, Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant and Heave by Christy Ann Conlin in particular. What a great showcase for Canlit. You have until November 7th to vote.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Library For Those Who Are Library Challenged

Type Books in Toronto, is offering a new service: for those who need the help, they will curate a library for you. Author and employee, Derek McCormack will put together a personalised library. Whether it's for a new grandma or a film set, Derek will hunt down and put together the perfect collection for you. Derek's skill and expertise make him a dream choice for this role. Check out the link for more info. What a fab idea!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Little Bit of Literary Glasgow. . .

As any librarian or library user knows, you can tell a lot about a city from its libraries, not just the collection but the design, the programming, the location etc.  When exploring a city for the first time I always go and visit their main branch, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Glasgow's Mitchell Library is the largest public reference library in Europe! And apparently has one of the best collections of resources for researching your family history.   

It's a lovely blend of the old and new - unfortunately what seemed to be the main reading room was closed as they were mounting some sort of exhibition. But it certainly was a busy and inspiring place to read or study in, and a great place to stop en route to chasing down almost every bit of Charles Rennie Macintosh architecture/design to be seen in Glasgow.
Then you have to love a city that celebrates its writers with a major statue in the heart of downtown.  This is Sir Walter Scott (and friend) looking down on George Square.

Friday Film Fest: I Know Where I'm Going. . .

This week's movie pick is a tribute to my recent hiking holiday in the Scottish Highlands. If you found the book or movie of Eat, Pray, Love a bit saccharine, then Powell and Pressburger's charming 1945 movie I Know Where I'm Going is the perfect antidote.  Unlike Elizabeth Gilbert, Joan Webster, played by the indomitable Wendy Hiller, has her whole life mapped out and she knows exactly where she's going - up to Scotland by train and then by boat to a remote island where she plans to marry one of the richest men in England. Except bad weather keeps her on the mainland, and in the company of a naval officer who is determined to thwart her plans and change the course of her life.  But what these two works do share - and why travelling is such great fun - is the important lesson that one should always be completely open to chance and change, in whatever guise it appears.  The movie, though in black and white, has spectacular shots of the Scottish landscape; much of it was shot on the Isle of Mull and among the Hebrides.

Having spent a week bagging Munros and Corbetts in unseasonably sunny weather, I can attest to the utter beauty of this area from all heights. And yes, I ate (and ate and ate - salmon, lamb, venison, Scottish flapjack and lots of chocolate) and while I'm not particularly religious, how could you not climb up through the clouds to a view like this and not feel spiritual?

Not even a third of the way up Ben Nevis yet, but how beautiful is this?
As for love?  Well, that would be telling. Suffice it to say that Javier Bardem did not come riding out of the mist in a kilt. But then, he'd look rather foolish in one, don't you think?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Busman's Holiday Part II. . .

Of course another wonderful way to engage with words and language is to take in some live theatre which London always has in abundance. I love this city's theatre scene - without fail, I know at least some of my favourite British actors are always guaranteed to be somewhere on stage in the West End, and it's very easy to get tickets outside of peak tourist season.  So I saw a very sexy and superbly acted production of Noel Coward's Design For Living at the Old Vic, and then a hilarious Yes, Prime Minister at the Gielgud starring the wonderful David Haig (Bernard from Four Weddings and a Funeral) who I've seen several times on stage and always love. Simon Russell Beale is another favourite actor of mine (so terrific as Widmerpool in the 1997 mini-series of  Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time); I'll go to see him in anything, no questions asked.  He was starring in Ira Levin's Death Trap at the Noel Coward Theatre, a fun comic thriller spoofing country house murder mysteries, involving an egotistical and desperate playwright and plagiarist.

I'll also see anything at the Royal Court which is always doing daring productions and launching the careers of new playwrights, and I caught Nick Payne's new play Wanderlust which contrasted the challenges that couples face in their sex lives at different ages.  What I love about this theatre is that when you buy the program you are actually getting the full text of the play and at a much reduced cost than buying the book later in a bookshop.

But the best, the absolute BEST, was discovering that father and son acting duo Timothy and Samuel West were reviving their production of Caryl Churchill's A Number. Oh, I love, love this play and got to see it performed in a terrific space - the old Menier Chocolate Factory which has been converted into a theatre and restaurant.  If you enjoyed reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, or like dystopian fiction, this is a very good companion piece. Salter is confronted by his grown-up son who has just discovered that not only has he been cloned, but that he might not even be the original. Then two other unexpected encounters occur. Samuel West (you'll know him best as Leonard Bast - he who dies from a falling bookcase - in Merchant and Ivory's 1992 movie Howard's End; he also gave a wonderful performance as Anthony Blunt in the mini-series Cambridge Spies) plays all three of the sons and to see an actual father and son tackle these roles was truly marvellous.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Busman's Holiday. . .

I've just come back from a fabulous holiday in England and Scotland which completely re-energized my tired old cynical book rep's soul.  While in England, I particularly wanted to rekindle my relationship with the printed word and get away from the endless debates about social media and e-books taking over the world. And there's no better place to do so than to browse the independent bookstores of London.  Here are some of my favourites - and yes, I spent money at all of them:

Foyles on Charing Cross Road - one can get deliciously lost in here for hours.

Slightly Foxed on Gloucester Road - they publish a book journal devoted to lost classics.  The shop sells a lovely selection of new and used books. Great for browsing.

G. Heywood Hill Ltd on Curzon St - the blue plaque indicates that Nancy Mitford once worked here. Sells new and used books.

Libraire La Page - a lovely French bookstore not too far from Slightly Foxed

The London Review Bookshop - a terrific selection of poetry and interesting non-fiction in particular,  just around the corner from the British Museum. They have a cafe now too.
The British Film Institute on the South Bank has a great selection of books on film (and DVDs too, but they don't work in North America). Just next door is the National Theatre which  also has a great store for theatre books and plays.

 And then my absolute favourite:  Persephone Books, on Lamb's Conduit Street.

I've been collecting their books for almost ten years now and it was a terrific treat to pop in the shop and finally meet Nicola Beauman who started it all.  She is probably the one person who has most influenced my book buying and reading over the last twenty years, ever since I picked up a copy of her book A Very Great Profession: The Woman's Novel 1914-1939 which was first published by Virago and then brought back into print by Persephone itself.  I was amazed and entranced to read about all these amazing women writers I had never heard about, many of whom had long gone out of print. I started scouring used bookshops and collecting Viragos.  Which led to my finally reading Vera Brittain's incredible memoir, A Testament of Youth.  Which led to an obsession with women's WWI writing (Persephone's first publication was Cicely Hamilton's William: An Englishman which follows a naive couple who get stuck in Belgium when the war starts), going back to school to get my MA, and to an ever increasing collection of books on the First World War.  The shop and staff are lovely; not only do they sell Persephones, but also a changing selection of books they wish they had published (Alice Munro prominent among them).  And they have an eye on Canadian classics as well, having published Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson. All the books are silvery gray with cream paper and colourful endpapers that reproduce fabrics from either the time the book was published or set in. You can find many of their titles in Canadian bookstores now. They also publish a lovely newsletter. They are absolutely a terrific model for how personal passion can lead to a successful independent press. E-books will never, ever, be able to compete against the pure aesthetic pleasure of reading a Persephone!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Canadian Bookshelf

We all get why Canadian books are important: we need to preserve our stories, see ourselves in our literature, have a Canadian POV and so on. The question that many librarians and readers have is how? How do we find books that are Canadian. Well the wait is almost over. The ACP has initiated an on-line source to find all books Canadian. As of Friday, October 15th, Beta Testing will begin on Canadian Bookshelf . Think of Canadian Bookshelf as an interactive, intimate virtual library stocked with more great books than you can ever get through in a lifetime. The goal of the website is to deliver an authoritative online platform that lists all Canadian-authored titles currently available and that makes it easier for librarians to discover and sort these titles by theme, reading level and/or curriculum linkage. The intent is to have the site publicly launched early 2011.
Any librarians or educators that are interested in this project can follow the blog at They are also looking for people to help with the Beta testing. If you are interested you can go to the site and submit your e-mail. Teachers and librarians are a key component of this site so they are looking for your input.
Happy Monday!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Vote For Your Favourite Cupcake...or Mayor

Last week, in between our Dewey presentations at Oakville Public Library, we headed out for lunch and then of course dessert. In the local bakery they had a fun take on the upcoming municipal elections. Personally given the choice of candidates, I think this is a very civilised way to vote.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2010 Governor General's Literary Awards Finalists Announced

The 2010 GG Finalists were announced today.

The finalists for English Language Fiction are:

The finalists for English Language Nonfiction are:

The finalists for Children's Literature-Text are:

The finalists in the Children's Literature-Illustration category are:

For the full list of finalists, check out the Canada Council for the Arts website.

National Book Award Finalists Announced

Also announced today- the 2010 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD finalists! Here's who made the list:


· Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey (Alfred A. Knopf)
· Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (McPherson & Co.)
· Great House by Nicole Krauss (W.W. Norton & Co.)
· So Much for That by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins)
· I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita (Coffee House Press)


· Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (Spiegel & Grau)
· Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq by John W. Dower (W.W. Norton)
· Just Kids by Patti Smith (Ecco)
· Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward by Justin Spring (FSG)
· Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War by Megan K. Stack (Doubleday)


· The Eternal City by Kathleen Graber (Princeton University Press)
· Lighthead by Terrance Hayes (Viking Penguin)
· By the Numbers by James Richardson (Copper Canyon Press)
· One with Others by C.D. Wright, (Copper Canyon Press)
· Ignatz by Monica Youn (Four Way Books)

Young People’s Literature

· Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown & Co.)
· Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group)
· Dark Water Laura McNeal (Alfred A. Knopf)
· Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
· One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Film Fest: Re-creation for Recreation. . .

We all have moments or memories that we would love to relive.  Could they in fact be physically recreated?  And what would be the consequences? To say anything more about Tom McCarthy's wonderfully quirky and original novel Remainder, or Charlie Kaufman's equally strange and existential 2008 movie Synecdoche, New York would be to ruin the experience.  All I can say is that if you are familiar with one, you'll love to read or watch the other. In fact, I think it's almost mandatory. And if you can do it back to back, your mind will be delightfully spinning, and not just from the drinks you should have close by.  The film also has a terrific ensemble cast led by Philip Seymour Hoffman, with Samantha Morton and Emily Watson absolutely stealing the show.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Breathless Homicidal Slime Mutants. . .

I am a book nerd and I love book history.

I'm fascinated by the art of book covers and how the styles have changed over the years, reflecting our cultural preoccupations and societal attitudes. So I love this new book out from Rizzoli, as much for the title as the subject matter. Breathless Homicidal Slime Mutants by Steven Brower is a celebratory look at the art of the mass market paperback, letting the covers definitely speak for themselves.  It's a hoot!  There's crime noir, trashy romance, adventure, sci-fi and lots of classics too, from Shakespeare to Mary ShelleyEdward Gorey even contributes a cover to the Aeneid. But it's the pulp that is the most fun, especially reading the selling blurbs such as One Tropical Night (The Ship and the Shore) by Vicki Baum which promises that "A girl can grow up in a few hours ashore in the tropics . . . "   What I find amusing is how many of these books felt the need to let the reader know they were "Complete and Unabridged" or "Not One Word Cut" right on the front cover. Bios of the designers are included in the back. A great gift idea for a bibliophile or designer.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Joel The Barbarian Librarian!

Ok this is FABULOUS!!! Joel Sutherland AKA The Barbarian Librarian, recently submitted this video for his application to the TV show Wipeout. The author of How to be a Writing Superstar, pulls out all the stops and shows us what librarians are REALLY like underneath. I hope he gets on the show and kicks butt!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

NYRB Challenge #45: Lost at Sea. . .

As you can see by the different cover treatment, Julio Cortazar's The Winners was one of the earlier NYRB Classics published; I collected them right from the start. Alas, I had read over a hundred pages before I realized that it's currently not in stock. However part of this challenge was to tackle the unread books that beckoned from my shelves and I've long wanted to read this prominent and influential Argentine writer, so I kept going. Hopefully you can find copies in your library or a used bookstore, and my fingers are crossed that NYRB will reprint it in the future.

The "winners" of this novel are a motley group of people who have all won a cruise as part of the state lottery. The novel opens in a Buenos Aires cafe where they've been asked to meet prior to embarking on their trip. No one knows where they are bound and things don't get much clearer once they are actually on board the ship. Despite the luxury accomodations and an attentive bartender, the captain of the ship is mysteriously absent as are most of the crew. The passengers find themselves confined to one end of the ship; when they try to explore they keep encountering locked doors. As they set out to sea amidst rumours of a typhus epidemic that has broken out among the sailors, the group starts to divide between those who accept what they've been told and just want to enjoy their vacation, and those who gradually move from skepticism towards anger and then sudden and rash action. There's also plenty of drama on deck; conflicts and jealousies swirl among both existing couples and newly bonded strangers. And commenting on it all in a somewhat beautiful hallucinatory haze is Persio, the ship's visionary philosopher who sees and hears the music of the endless space above and surrounding the ship as though plucked on a giant guitar. It is he who very early on foreshadows not only the plot and one of the key themes of the novel, but perhaps articulates Cortazar's own personal fictional challenge, when he questions whether individual acts aren't just part of one big, unknown machine where people end up as one of the many feet of a centipede:

It's well known that the whole is more, and at the same time, less, than the sum of all its parts. What I'd like to find out, if I could place myself inside and outside the whole - and I think it can be done - is if the human centipede responds, in its constitution and its dissolution, to something more than chance events; if it is a figure, in the magical sense of the word, and if that figure is capable of moving, under certain circumstances, on more essential planes than those of its isolated members.

The role of fiction is also explored within these parameters, making this a wonderful novel that floats ideas as readily and steadily as it charts the course of this troubled ship. Cortazar's masterpiece Hopscotch has long been on my radar just waiting for a good, uninterrupted block of time when I can do justice to it.  Reading this earlier novel feels like good preparation.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Film Fest: Relationship Mileage. . .

When I was originally selling David Nicholls' lovely, romantic novel One Day and talking about it at Dewey events, I said it would appeal to fans of the movie (500) Days of Summer and I still think both are smart, sexy takes on modern relationships. But the other film that also keeps coming to mind is one of my favourite comfort DVDs - Stanley Donen's 1967 movie Two For the Road.  Anyone who has ever been in love knows that the true test of compatibility is that first road trip you take together. This film is completely made up of European car journeys that Mark and Joanna, played by Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, make over a number of years, from their first meeting through various stages of their marriage. They laugh, they fight, they cheat, have misadventures, and even have to endure travelling with an American couple and their obnoxious child. The cuts back and forth between the various time periods are very cleverly done and Hepburn's changing wardrobe is a scenic attraction all on its own.