Required Reading #1: Wishful Thinking

20 02 2007

I hadn’t intended to start with poetry as my inaugural Required Reading post – particularly since I read it some seldom – but this poem has been calling to me for two days now and it must be answered if I am to get on with things.  The idea of my Required Readings entries will be to reflect on books that I feel are (as the title suggests) Required Readings, but I guess poems count too.

The moon in the bureau mirror
looks out a million miles
(and perhaps with pride, at herself,
but she never, never smiles)
far and away beyond sleep, or
perhaps she’s a daytime sleeper.

By the Universe deserted,
she’d tell it to go to hell,
and she’d find a body of water,
or a mirror, on which to dwell.
So wrap up care in a cobweb
and drop it down the well

into that world inverted
where left is always right,
where the shadows are really the body,
where we stay awake all night,
where the heavens are shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.

~ “Insomnia” by Elizabeth Bishop

I first discovered this poem during my second year of undergrad. I had absolutely refused to “like” poetry in high or during my first year of university. I didn’t understand it, I couldn’t stand it, I saw absolutely no use for it.*

And then I stumbled across Elizabeth Bishop who captured me at that point to a tee, particularly in “Insomnia” and her land of reversals and wishful thoughts.

I did – I suppose I should say do –  that a lot in certain respects.  I’m practical and organized and all those things that you need to be to get by, but sometimes, sometimes I want that land of might be so much that it feels hard to breathe.

And then there is “One Art” which I can sense holds a power and a wisdom that will grow even stronger as I age and become – as I fear so often and overwhelming now – more intimately connected with loss.

So find and read yourself some Elizabeth Bishop and perhaps I’ll see you on the other side of the looking glass.

Those Blasted Footnotes are Back:

1. I can concede the usefulness of poetry now, but I’m still deaf and dumb where metre and rhythm are concerned, much to the dismay of my first year poetry students back in my MA days.  If any of you stumble across this, I sincerely apologize for my deficiency in this area.  It is the only time that I felt like a complete and utter failure as a teacher – which differs from most of the time when I fall between helpless and dismal.


What Makes Me Happy – #1

18 02 2007
  • Regina Spektor songs
  • Students who don’t plagiarize
  • Grey’s Anatomy (when it’s not making me bawl – or maybe that should be because it’s making me bawl)
  • Intricate plots involving a can of tuna
  • Jane Austen Diamonds

Coming Attractions

17 02 2007

I’ve decided to add some weekly (yes, I hope it will be weekly) features to the blog.

  • Required Readings
  • What I Believe (inspired, in part, by last week’s Grey’s Anatomy, though I had been thinking a lot about belief before that)
  • Things that Make Me Happy (just because, you know, it’s important to think about these things.

So coming soon – before the weekend is out so help me – one of these brand spanking new themed entries.

I know you’re all waiting with baited breath….

My favourite Valentine’s

16 02 2007

Yes, I’m late.

But better late than never, yes?

Okay, maybe not.

The point is I thought about the day and the post came to me and then I just never got around to writing it.

And it’s not like I have much to say about it any way.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people. You know, the ones that shoot daggers at the cuddly little teddy bears and velvet red heart-shaped chocolate boxes. But it just isn’t something I’ve ever bothered with much.

I do have a favourite Valentine’s Day though. It was back during the Rent phase – the time when I was spending one day of every weekend in the line. Well one of those days just happened to be Valentine’s day.

It was the coldest day of the year and everyone was bundled up and huddled together and two of the guys had made special Valentine’s for everyone. Not just friends they knew in the line and expected to see there, but just for everyone who happened to be in the line that day. It was a great day of togetherness and community and crazy Rent-heads and one of those crazy Rent-heads was a man of particular interest, which resulted in a very particular connection – though just for the day.

I wont’ say anymore.

Except for this: it was the day that I decided I would never settle.

Book Meme

4 02 2007

I saw this on Tales from the Reading Room and thought I would give it a go too. I thought it might be fun to reflect on my reading habits.

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?

It really depends. Hardback if I must have it right away and then usually trade paperback. I rarely go mass market. I do have some guilt about that because one of my fellow grad students once commented on how she couldn’t stand Women on the Edge of Time because it was a mass-market edition and just felt – in her words, not mine – “cheap” and I determined at that point never ever ever to be that snobby.

Amazon or brick and mortar?

It was Amazon for quite some time, but I’ve being trying to support the little guy in town so I’ve gone back to brick and mortar.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?

Um, we don’t have those here in the Frozen North. I’ve been trying to shop the independents instead of the massive chain store that looks more like a gift store now than a book shop.

Bookmark or dogear?

I don’t do either. I just flip to where I last left off. I’ve never ruined an ending yet doing that.

Alphabetize by author or alphebetize by title or random?

By type/genre and then by author. It’s something of a Mickey Mouse system I’m afraid and completely dependent on my whim. Some books reside in “special” places – like my whole set of Timothy Findley that are set apart in a separate table come bookshelf. Yes, I play favourites, and yes, I do use books are decorations. When you have so many, who has money left for any other fig-a-miga*?

Keep, throw away, or sell?

Keep, mainly. I did sell some of my more academic texts that I knew I would never touch again.

Keep dustjacket or toss it?

I keep them – I just don’t keep them on when I’m reading. That does mean I end up with a stack of about 10 of them at a time because I can’t remember to put them back on. Just like the trail of CDs I have. Instead of putting them back in the case, I put them in the case of the next CD I’m putting in… well, you get the idea. My longest trail was 54 CDs (ducking head with embarrassment). Thank goodness I primarily listen to my iPod now.

Read with dustjacket or remove it?

Already answered that. Aren’t I clever…

Short story or novel?

Novel. My only exception to that is really Alice Munro.

Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?

Collection – as my above answer indicates.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?

Is there any comparison. Harry, of course. And not just because I had an article published on him…

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?

I try and go for chapter breaks. I need that sense of closure for some reason or other. It might also have to do with the way I find where I left off (see answer to question #4).

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?

Tricky… very tricky… Probably “Once upon a time.”

Buy or Borrow?

Buy. Any book I borrow from the library, I always end up liking so much that I end up buying it anyway.

New or used?

Usually new, though I do love to wander used bookstores for hours on end.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse?

Well, recently a lot of my choices have been influenced by what I’ve been reading about on blogs. I’m a sucker for interesting cover art too.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?

I supposed tidy endings. I’m guilty of writing them as well.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading?

Nighttime. Sometimes lunch time reading too. I can hear it now: “How very anti-social of you.”

Standalone or series?

I really enjoy both. Most often I read standalone, just because I seem to come across less series.

Favorite series?

Has to be Poirot and Miss Marple. I adore a good Agatha Christie novel.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?

I could say my own, but that would be quite conceited right? And it’s not true because I’m in one of those “it’s all crap!” stages anyway. Have I distracted enough from the question I don’t have an answer to?  I really don’t think I have a favourite book that no one else knows about.  I feel like such a sheep.  Baah!

Favorite books read last year?

I’ll narrow it down to two: The Year of Magical Thinking and The Penelopiad.  I was also very intrigued by Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

Favorite books of all time?

Here goes: The Blue Castle, Everything is Illuminated, The Piano Man’s Daughter, The Stone Carvers, Not Wanted on the Voyage, The Telling of Lies, White Teeth, Fingersmith, All that Matters, Persuasion, Afterimage, Rebecca, Alias Grace, Villette… I feel like I’ve won an Oscar and made my speech and left off at least 50 people that must be thanked.  All I can think of is the disgruntled book spines I’ll be facing when I go back into the next room.


1: Fig-a-miga – also known as knick-knacks

The Devil Won Out

2 02 2007

The Devil won out…. Sort of.

I’ve been reading a bit of Margaret Atwood’s Negoitating With the Dead before bed each night.

I have a love/hate relationship with Ms. Atwood.  I think I’ve mentioned this before.  I can’t do all the speculative fiction of hers, but this, this book is the kind of Atwood I love.

It has left me with more questions than answers about the act of writing.  Maybe the answers come in the second half?  I doubt that though.

It has also left me with such an urge to get back to writing that I half-wish the little devil had just stayed buried deep inside so I don’t neglected the billion urgent things I have to get done for school for next week.

Only half-wish though.  And I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough on the novel front.  A minor scene, but suddenly it has all fallen into place.

I suppose I have Ms. Atwood to thank for that.  Well, I think it’s about time I got pay back for being put through The Handmaid’s Tale in three different courses.