Veronique Darwin

Archive for the ‘Book Club’ Category

Thoughtless Book Reviews #3

In Book Club, Literature on July 7, 2016 at 9:48 pm

This is my third in a series of book reviews I’ve written into a Moleskine notebook and feel I should share with you because of their concise honesty, scrawled as I was falling asleep or years later after having realized I never wrote a review.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

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One of those books where you don’t really know what it’s about until the very last page. You are just led to believe it’s bad and somehow it turns out to be bad enough to fulfill all the bad ideas you thought up.

The Little Washer of Sorrows by Katherine Fawcett

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Surprisingly good surprising stories about both supernatural and normal things. They never get too deep or tragic or gross or long but are always a good combination of those things and FUNNY!

Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood

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I thought about a lot while reading this book, but was rarely moved by the book itself. I wonder if it’s because my mind is different from Margaret Atwood’s?

The Pleasure of Reading by Antonia Fraser

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This is a book of essays I haven’t gotten to yet but love to look at on the shelf.

Dead Girls by Nancy Lee

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So gross! Put down the book and swore to petition against reading it at three separate points. Sexually gross, murdery gross. Okay – this was obviously the intended effect, but I fell for it.

The Riders by Tim Winton

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Ghosty, shadowy soap opera written by a man. No real payoff but lots of lead up. Leaves you asking the question, “Why’s that lady such a jerk?” and also, “Why does that nice man with the hard face like her so much?”

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

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This book follows the style I love from The Flying Troutmans: humour in the face of everything sad and tragic. I love that the book never slows, never lies, never breaks character or style. I love that everyone is witty, and that people speaking in their second language are so loveable. Irma is the ubiquitous Toews character, like Hemingway.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

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The language pulls me in like no other book. I love it not really because of its story but its writing and its moments.

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor

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I liked it but didn’t always connect with it. My dad did and this is his favourite book, so that’s how humour works.

Anne Sexton: A Biography by Diane Wood Middlebrook

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I had no idea that I could like biographies, especially when I hadn’t read any Anne Sexton but I read it like a novel and that worked. A life is a story.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

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This book was SO LONG but I continued reading it because of a feeling it gave me: boredom, but also some form of being haunted, like if I stopped reading it the book would follow me home. Somehow this book surprised me on like, page 800, but maybe it was because I hadn’t been paying attention.

Photos from: theneuroticblonde.wordpress.comwww.npr.orgwww.goodreads.com

www.abebooks.co.ukwww.amazon.cawww.kirkusreviews.comwww.cbc.capicklemethis.com

www.amazon.cawww.goodreads.comthewritesofwoman.wordpress.com

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Virginia Woolf’s Exclamation Marks

In Book Club, Literature on August 17, 2013 at 1:41 pm

“In love!” she said

He was in love!

And there’s no flesh on his neck; his hands are red; and he’s six months older than I am!

“She is beneath this roof … She is beneath this roof!”

“Good morning to you, Clarissa!” said Hugh, rather extravagantly, for they had known each other as children.”

The way she said “Here is my Elizabeth!” – that annoyed him. Why not “Here’s Elizabeth” simply? It was insincere.

He had escaped!

I haven’t felt so young in years!

“Well, and what’s happened to you?” “Millions of things!” he exclaimed.

But it was delicious to hear her say that – my dear Peter!

“How heavenly it is to see you again!” she exclaimed. He had his knife out. That’s so like him, she thought.

Mrs._Dalloway_cover(from en.wikipedia.org)

The Reading Fad

In Book Club, Literary Events, Literature on August 15, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I admit I walk around carrying a book in my  hand more than I used to, though I used to read more than I do now. I admit I don’t read as many classics as I should, but I always name classics as my favourite books. I admit I bought glasses that make me look like I’m reading and I get shivers in trendy used bookstores. But I will not admit that I am a part of this new trend called reading.

I’ve had a few different people lately tell me they are reading a book out loud as a couple. That’s great! I wish I was in a couple in which we read books out loud! But it also seems to signify something: is reading a becoming a novelty?

When someone walks by me wearing a Great Gatsby tee-shirt, I’m usually pretty sure it’s not an English Lit major. Why would someone who studied English feel the need to wear a tee-shirt announcing they like books? They decided that already, probably early in life, and it has since been their identity.

Second question: why am I so defensive of books? I didn’t write any of them! Maybe I’ve read more than some people, but I’ve also not read most of them, and I read them pretty poorly.

But books are my thing. They are a thing for people who don’t have many other things. But someone who rides a funny-looking bike and sketches and, like, has a horse, already has so many things! You can’t take books too!

So I propose this: we just all keep reading. Don’t stop when the other member of your couple has moved on to partner yoga (even though that’s so last year). Just keep reading until it stops becoming a trend. Until you missed the next trend because you were so busy reading.

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(from crazetees.com)

Until you become a real smoker, not just one who smokes at parties, you don’t know all the downsides of the trade. You don’t know that you slowly lose your eyesight. You don’t know that there are some books that will plague you, consistently looming over you to get you to finish them. And even if you’ve seen the Dracula movie and you read all of Atlas Shrugged except for the 100-page-long speech by John Galt, you know that one day you will just sit there, miserable, reading those two books instead of whatever book is on everyone’s tee shirt.

And it will become a part of you (not every book you read, but the fact that you do weird little things, like accidentally buy two copies of the same book or bring ten with you on a trip) and you will never stop reading, because it’s the best trend ever invented. It offers a way of seeing the world and of seeing yourself: through words, beautifully arranged, on these little sheets of paper you carry around in your hand for everyone to see.

HP Sauce

In Book Club, Literary Events on August 4, 2013 at 9:57 pm

A couple friends and I are rereading Harry Potter. My friend did this a few years ago and I was so jealous – how did he have the time? He had the time, I realized, by letting Harry Potter and his childhood overtake his life. I grew up on Harry Potter. I left a best friend’s birthday party to go to the midnight release of the seventh book. I like being in on something so childish and esoteric. I like books!

Remember how big Hermione’s hair was in the first book?

And how you never see Scabbers coming?

Remember when you realize that instead of a murderer, Sirius Black is just a sex bomb?

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I don’t always remember that Professor McGonagall is an animagi!!

Wouldn’t there be some practices where you just don’t find the Snitch?

They don’t even know about the tournament yet!! People are going to DIE!!

Yesterday somebody had a portrait in their room that looked like You-Know-Who but it might have just been a deceased grandfather!

Did Joanne see the Ginny thing coming? Because Harry sure didn’t!

Is it just me, or does travelling by Floo Powder make no sense at all?

Who IS Dean Thomas??

A New Philosophy on Owning Books

In Book Club on July 27, 2013 at 9:53 am

Become more liberal about buying and exchanging books.

Always buy used ones and give away those I have read and can part with to used book stores.

Search for good copies of my favourite books. Buy hard cover, smelly copies.

Lend out books on a whim. Don’t ask for them back.

Let books flow, always living and being read by new people.

This would allow for ever-changing book shelves and not hoarding.

It would give me more excuses to go into used bookstores and support them.

I would be better connected to books, more excited by them.

And think about how often I could alphabetize.

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Poor Quality Book Reviews #2

In Book Club, Thoughts on Writing on July 14, 2013 at 11:58 am

Number one of my poor quality book reviews can be found here. These are copied out of my Moleskine book journal, which I fill in when I finish books, late at night, delirious.

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When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

“Oh how I loved laughing along with David Sedaris, my new best friend. My new cynical, lovable, laughable best friend David Sedaris. I laughed out loud a lot, and it was because things were so dead on because they were honest and therefore embarrassing.”

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Solar by Ian McEwan

“Character was off. Who would John Beard appeal to? I hope that’s not what Ian McEwan is like.”

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Shopgirl by Steve Martin

“Steve Martin’s writing is not somehow comedic but has all the perfections of his comedy: it’s precise, it’s well-timed and it connects with the audience by going into and through them, to a place from which we all come. The humanness of it all that he observes and translates is somehow perfect in comedy and in prose fiction.”

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Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic

“Very informative and enlightening.”

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Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

“This book was so easy and kind but still revealed so much about something so incredibly obvious: wolves are just dogs, and we already know dogs.”

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Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway

“I loved this book and couldn’t believe it existed and didn’t have everyone talking about it. It was so much about Hemingway and from Hemingway that I felt he was whispering to me.”

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

“Captivating. I stayed up wide awake until 1:30 a.m. reading this book.”

“One year later, I can’t believe how much I seem to have liked this book from my prior review. I have since convinced myself I hated it.”

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Dracula by Bram Stoker

“This book could have been a lot shorter with a lot fewer characters.”

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Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

“I kept telling people ‘I’m still at the crime part,’ then I realized most of the book is about the internal, moral punishment of committing a crime and that the joke was on me. Russian names posed a significant comprehension problem for me.”

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“I liked Alice’s spunk, but sometimes she was just rude.”

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Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann

“I keep trying to catch pages of this journal where I have not yet filled in my review because a book felt too big to write about so close after putting it down (or I was lazy). Now who knows what this book is about. I know that I loved this weird book I had never heard of.”

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The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

“I did not actually fall for any of the characters (not even Jeffrey Eugenides). The ending was memorable but felt like a cop-out.”

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Away by Jane Urquhart

“I didn’t finish. I got lost in this book and not in the sense that I was consumed by it. In fact, I was rejected by it. I liked it at the beginning for its writing and then it turned into a poem. I try to like poetry.”

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It Chooses You by Miranda July

“Miranda July feels like my best friend, and this book her latest hobby. I am amazed at how creative and lovable my best friend is and though I don’t really know where the hobby’s going, of course I’m interested.”

(photos borrowed from dalaigrandma.blogspot.com, bookreview.mostlyfiction.com, avonellelovhaug.com, blsciblogs.baruch.cuny.edu, wolvesontario.org, desktopretreat.blogspot.com, goinswriter.com, serendipity3864.files.wordpress.com, 25.media.tumblr.com, wendyvancamp.files.wordpress.com, claudiobadii.altervista.org, dana.deathe.net, englisch.schule.de, laimyours.com

I moved!

In Book Club, Inspiration on July 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Before:

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After:

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Morning:

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Night:

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Book a week

In Book Club, Literature on January 24, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I’m trying to read a book a week, but a book a week really puts a book into perspective. I’m spending a whole week on this? I’m only spending a week on this?

Last week I read Dubliners by James Joyce. The problem was it was short stories. I read two. That’s not a book a week. That’s one short story every 3.5 days.

This week I’m reading The Town That Forgot How to Breathe by Kenneth J. Harvey. Since I had never heard of it before I started to read it, it felt like a waste of a week. I will finish this book and still no one will have heard of it? Then I read something – a blog post I got linked to through the New Yorker‘s book blog “Page-Turner.” It was a blog post someone made about things their professor (the writer Max Sebald) had said in class. One thing that stuck out:

Get off the main thoroughfares; you’ll see nothing there. For example, Kant’s Critique is a yawn but his incidental writings are fascinating.”

This very creepy book I’m reading about a small town in Newfoundland where people literally forget how to breathe is not Kant’s other book, but I get it. I’m reading this book because it’s going to tell me something that not everyone knows. I am also reading it because I’m reading Maritime books, preparing for the moment where I go back and know everything there is to know about the book I’m writing about Cape Breton.

My book club meets tonight. We are always just sitting there itching to go home and read. Why is that books are such an enjoyable thing, but something we just want to get done? Why do we have bookshelves to show off the quantity of what we’ve read, when we could just endlessly borrow books from a library? Why do we have websites where we collect books like Pokemon cards? Why do we spout names of authors and their books like we are all so aware of the classics that we keep lists ready in our head?

Miss Auras by John Lavery, depicts a woman reading a book.from en.Wikipedia.org

Miss Auras by John Lavery, depicts a woman reading a book.
from en.Wikipedia.org

I hope that I haven’t misunderstood reading. I really like doing it, I swear I do. But still I make resolutions like I don’t do enough of it, and I join clubs about it like I need support. Books are a big part of my life, but when did I decide that having a lot of books means having a lot of life?

I think it was when I decided that to be a writer I needed to have read everything. I ignored that being a writer had come from being a reader. I ignored that I read before I went to school, that there’s pictures of me as a baby staring fascinated at books. (See my “About” page). I forgot that there are too many books to read. I forgot that it’s more important to read than to think about reading.

Kids Who Were Into Reading

In Book Club, Literature, Teaching on January 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Today I read a children’s book with my grade three class and told them we had to make up the story. It was a book that, of course, allowed for that: illustrations and sentences that only suggestively went with them, the way The Mysteries of Harris Burdick did.

I was obsessed with that book growing up, because it contained the most stories ever. Every time I looked at an image and the sentence next to it, I could make up a new story. I hid the book outside my bedroom every time I borrowed it from the library: it haunted me, the ability to create the scariest of stories.

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“Under the Rug: Two weeks passed and it happened again.”

(from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, Houghton Mufflin 1984)

The book I read today was far less scary, and in French. I first hid the sentence, to see if the kids could make a story out of the illustration. Once they had come up with several reasons as to why a man was looking into a smoky sewer grate, I revealed the sentence: he thought he saw an angel. Everyone was stunned: we can be that creative?

Even more fun was the fact that each page was alliterated like an alphabet book. First Alex Algodon did something with a lot of A-words, then Bernard Boulet. The kids started predicting the names of the next people, and what it was they might be doing. One girl stood up to show what tap dancing (“claquettes”) was, and another led the class in The Sound of Music’s “Do Re Mi” to show others what the word “mi” was. It was so fun to hypothesise about what these characters were doing with students who weren’t afraid to hypothesise wrong. It was so great to see students so excited about reading.

Most people I know who are at university have a common excuse for not reading: I read for school. If we at university, wise as we are, think reading is something we do for school, what do you think students in elementary and high school, when learning to read is the thing, think about reading outside of school? And if you spend your first twenty-two-ish years not reading because you’re reading too much for the sake of school, what are you going to be like when you turn twenty-three? When no one cares whether you read?

I have thus concluded that school has too much reading. A larger percentage of school reading should be fun reading, but mandatory fun reading. If up until the age twenty-two everybody was forced to read for fun for at least half an hour a day, what excuse could you use when you’re twenty-three? I’m tired of reading for fun?

Reading is my passion because I love words. I get that others don’t love reading because they don’t have the same strange obsession as I do. But reading should be so much more than the words: it’s images, it’s meaning, it’s inferences and rhythm and relationships. Reading is everything that’s missing in bad television. It’s like opening Christmas gifts.

I think we forget that kids love silent reading. It seems ridiculous to an adult, the idea that little students and teen-aged students might have to sit at their tiny desks and look down at a book for half an hour every day, but to the kids I have observed, it’s FUN. It’s engrossing. It’s a passionate thing.

When you read you put a bit of yourself into a book. To understand it, you need to let the content pass through your body. When you do so, the book becomes your own. It’s something kids innately understand and get excited about: I built this book. It’s mine.

Such a Good One

In Book Club, Inspiration on September 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm

An excerpt from Adam Gopnik‘s Paris to the Moon

“The hardest thing to convey is how lovely it all is and how the loveliness seems all you need. The ghosts that haunted you in New York or Pittsburgh will haunt you anywhere you go, because they’re your ghosts and the house they haunt is you. But they become disconcerted, shaken confused for a half a minute, and in that moment in December at 4:00 when you’re walking from the bus stop to the rue Saint-Dominique and the lights are twinkling across the river – only twinkling in the bateaux mouches, luring the tourists, but still – … you feel as if you’ve escaped your ghosts if only because, being you, they’re transfixed looking at the lights in the trees on the other bank, too, which they haven’t seen before, either. It’s true you can’t run away from yourself. But we were right: you can run away.”

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