Monday, July 31, 2006


Sometimes I have a lot of trouble getting down to writing. There are too many distractions in this world and I'm a procrastinator and The High Priestess of Excuses.

That's why I really like writing exercises - there's less pressure, and you can assign yourself a starting point and see what happens. I work well in these sorts of constraints. So tonight - instead of writing - I'm collecting some useful (I wouldn't go so far as to call them favourite) writing exercises, and compiling them so I can waste less time worrying about NOT writing, and just write.

Sometimes exercises seem goofy or trite, but you make them what they are. In my experience, inevitably, something good and useable generally results. It's just a question of trusting yourself to get started.

So this is the challenge I put out to you - you being all ten or so of my readers - send me your favourite writing exercise. I might even try them. But I will eventually post a list of good ones that we can all use and twist and manipulate to our needs, and none of us will ever stare blankly at the screen or page only to mope off instead to do the dishes (or rearrange your collection of antique clothespins, or stare aghast at CNN, or take up a new substance, etc).

Together, we will become prolific.


NOTHING TO SAY by Pony da Look

Saturday, July 29, 2006

One Book List

Kate has tagged me to participate in an online One Book Meme, so of course I won't resist an opportunity to mention or expound on books that have affected me in some way or another.

The caveat is that all of my already-read books are still in boxes, and only the unread and recently-read books are out, and without being able to survey the entirety of my tomes, I'm restricting my responses solely to books I've read or reread lately. So here goes.

1. One book that changed your life - Second Nature by Libby Scheier. I lived in a small town until I was finished high school, and in the days before internet, I didn't have much access to contemporary poetry. So when I found her book in the local library (in which I worked), full of poems about gender and sex and politics and other current concerns, with a range of humour, passion, and neo-surrealism, I promptly stole the book. When she later become one of my workshop profs at York U., I confessed to her my moment of pilfer, to which she responded something like, "You actually lived there? Thank god you got out! What a terrible town. And good thing you stole my book, they probably would have burned it! I don't think they'd ever seen a feminist, let alone a Jew before!"

Another author I want to mention, and trangress against the One Book theme, is Gordon Korman's Bugs Potter series of YA books. I loved those! And when I found out that he wrote them when he was just about thirteen years old, it blew my mind and gave me faith that I could keep on writing too.

2. One book you've read more than once - Oyster by Janette Turner Hospital. I don't know how many times I've read this novel; it's one of my favourites, and I gain something new from it each time.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island - Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges. My reason isn't terribly inspired, but I love his work, and it's a huge book. I don't how LONG I'm to be on this island, but that collection would keep me busy and engaged for some time...

4. One book that made you laugh - The Comfortors by Muriel Spark. Thanks Kate for the recommendation. I loved the weird characters, and wished that I had a Baron to hang out with too!

5. One book that made you cry - Liar by Lynn Crosbie. It really did. Some of the stanzas just rip your heart out, and while it's written in a confessional and personal style, the theme of betrayal is universal.

6. One book that you wish had been written - this question I can't answer. There is just so much out there that I want to read that sometimes I worry I'll die before I get to it all. Actually, I probably will.

7. One book that you wish had never been written - I can't answer this with a simple response either. I don't wish any book hadn't been written, I believe censorship is evil, and I'm not going to list books I think are just crap. But one book in recent memory did make me wonder why I read it, or why I read it at a particular time in my life, though I couldn't deny its literary brilliance and significant evidence of talent and insight: The End of Alice by A. M. Homes. It's a great book, but it's deeply disturbing - just read it when you're feeling emotionally strong and not prone to nightmares. I subsequently bought online a copy of Appendix A: which is billed as an "elaboration" on the novel. It is an "art book" that contains some text (can't quite figure out if it's fiction or non or both or neither...), collage, and photographs of evidence from the case that book was apparently based on. I haven't read it or gone through it much yet but it does look fascinating. The back copy reads as follows:
"In an ongoing exploration, highly-acclaimed novelist and art critic A. M. Homes exposes the breadth of her creative process and unleashes her imagination.... a unique investigation of the troubled boundary between truth and fiction, art and evidence. This odd assemblage of the author's clues to the narrator's mind is liquid proof as to the fluidity and fragmentation of identity."

8. One book you're currently reading - Difficult Loves by Italo Calvino.

9. One book you've been meaning to read - Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Not to be confused, initially, with Middlemarch. Not that I would ever do such a thing.

Feels a bit odd for me to be discussing mostly fiction rather than poetry, but that's where my head's at these days.

Okay five people to tag... hmmm that's tough. I don't know enough folks with blogs yet, but how about any interested parties post a link to their own list in the comments or add a list as a comment? I'd like to hear what Lindsay says about this, and Stu for sure, Mary Tyler Morphine, and any member of The Impostors... Bring it on!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Is Ian Curtis a baritone? I'm referring to ATMOSPHERE by Joy Divsion.

A character I'm writing about is singing it, and since I am - despite a massive love of a wide variety of music - illiterate about such technical terminology and definitions, I don't want to screw up.

Could someone reading this confirm or deny, please?


Thursday, July 20, 2006


It seems that my blog has been mercilessly spammed with lame comments... Has anyone else reading this had this problem? I just enabled the word-verification-for-comments option, so hopefully that will help. I don't want to have to moderate and approve comments submitted... any advice?

Spam-a-lot is a new musical, not something to experience on one's blog!

Technical Difficulties

Apologies for being incommunicado lately. Between vacation and frustrating internet problems, I haven't posted on here in a while.

If anyone sent me emails through my sympatico account during the past week or so, I probably didn't get them. I'm not ignoring you. Just resend to my Hotmail account for now, while I try to sort this crap out.


Meanwhile, the Peaches concert on Tuesday night was great!


Technical Difficulties

Apologies for being incommunicado lately. Between vacation and frustrating internet problems, I haven't posted on here in a while.

If anyone sent me emails through my sympatico account during the past week or so, I probably didn't get them. I'm not ignoring you. Just resend to my Hotmail account for now, while I try to sort this crap out.


Meanwhile, the Peaches concert on Tuesday night was great!


Friday, July 07, 2006

Reading Lists

I just finished reading Madame Bovary for the first time. I didn't expect to enjoy it as deeply as I did, but I devoured it, particularly the incisive psychology of characters' motivations and actions and reactions. There's also a lot of emotional resonance (and angst) applicable to today's monogamous relationships, not just in 1850s France. It's doomed and powerful and I feel drained. I'd be curious to hear others' gut reactions and analyses of the book.

I've been reading a lot the past few weeks (the upside of all those subway rides to and from downtown), and here's a list of what I've been excited about lately:

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Net of Jewels by Ellen Gilchrist
Go Ask Ogre by Jolene Siana (I may have recommended this in a previous post)
Tear Down by Ali Riley

Next I'll take on some Virginia Woolf, a couple of Italo Calvino books I haven't read yet, and more Jerzy Kosinski.

I'd love some recommendations from others, especially for something current that fits this demanding description: energetic mind-blowing hybrid narrative imagistic defying categorization like if you genetically spliced Janette Turner Hospital with John Ashbery with Beckett with Lorrie Moore with Kathy Acker with George Saunders. Something like that. Does that exist? That's what I'm craving. Please advise.


I've been back into doing the Globe's cryptic crosswords. Anyone else do these? I love them, but I never get all of the answers, though each clue that I puzzle out is deeply satisfying. I found a great way to get one finished: collaborate. Between my efforts, Bryan's, and emails with his brother Dave, together we completed June 17th's and June 24's. Last week's, July 1st's, is driving me nuts. Not the big Canada Day one, but the regular book section one. Anyone reading this get that one done?


On a more serious note, here are some articles that recently affected me. Sometimes I just want to move to another planet. Didn't Stephen Hawking recently recommend that?,13319,104102,00.html


One other tidbit for you: the chemist character in Madame Bovary says to someone "Goodness! As if I hadn't enough on my plate already!... No, I can't help it, you must come back later."

Published first in 1857, this is a 1950 translation. I thought "a lot on my plate" was merely a recent corporate mangling of language, but no, apparently we've been having a lot on our plates for well over a century. Well, I'll liase with the stakeholders and touch base about taking ownership of our key messages and core initiatives in a value-add paradigm... and get back to you. Keep on the critical path, paved with action items!


SPOOF THE SPOOF by John Southworth