Saturday, October 30, 2004


While contemplating whether to re-subscribe to Granta [mainly because of the tempting free 25th anniversary issue], I discovered this Raymond Carver piece from the magazine's fourth issue.

Carver is not a pleasure to read: his prose is at once repellant and riveting. He evokes the less savoury details of an existence spent trying to keep the misery at bay and not succeeding. It used to be pegged as dirty realism, though I suspect that the adjective is no longer necessary.

Vitamins is brilliant because it turns the popular notion that 'vitamins are good for you' into something more akin to 'vitamins won't do shit, and life will always suck'. I think my job as a licensed pill pusher may be in jeopardy if I start saying this to customers; discouraging the sickly plebe from buying products is generally frowned upon by management. And drug companies.


Volume One of The History of the Book in Canada is now available. And as if a hard copy of the History of the Book in Canada wasn't monumental enough, there is also an online searchable database hosted by Dalhousie University.

And for those with interests pertaining to the history of the book in places other than Canada, there is a list of resources here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Today begins the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront in Toronto. As co-incidence would have it (or more accurately, strategic planning), David Mitchell and Alan Hollinghurst are reading together [along with David Bezmozgis and Jakob Ejersbo]. With a little foresight of my own, I have procured tickets for this, the literary hot ticket of the moment, and am quite pleased with myself as a result.

And not to be forgotten, the Vancouver International Readers and Writers Festival is also going on at Granville Island (Oct. 19-24). My fondest memories of this yearly event include having hot soup in the market on a grey and rainy October afternoon, attending readings by Jane Urquhart and Nino Ricci at the Arts Club and Revue Theatre, and finally, sitting across from Robertson Davies, that year's keynote speaker, at YVR, both of us waiting for our flight back to Toronto. Sadly, that was to be Davies last appearance at the Vancouver Festival, as he passed away a couple of months later. The question still remains, did he or didn't he live on Sussex Avenue?

Monday, October 11, 2004


The situation has become grave. I am now purchasing books because their covers are nice. Browsing in the local Book City, I spotted a softcover edition of Ronan Bennett's Havoc, In Its Third Year, and knew that I had to have it, even though the plot synopsis on the back cover didn't convince me that I had to have it for other more legitimate reasons. Here we have a classic example of a bibliophilic penchant for the book as a physical object. The book in question brings to mind the books encountered at the Fisher library for the duration of an exacting course in analytical bibliography, and to which the aforementioned bibliophilic penchant can alone be attributed. How else to explain the overwhelming urge to measure the serif typeface on the cover? Imagine my disappointment upon opening the book to discover the absence of chain lines on the paper.

I would never have admitted it in the past, but the discipline of analytical bibliography has insidiously stayed with me and haunts me every time I walk into a library or a bookstore. A book, wherever its physicality might be found, lures me as much for its form as it does for its content, and the prospect of resting the book in its designated place on the bookshelf holds as much delight as retrieving that book and delving into the amassed words that avail themselves within. It should be mentioned that the latter activity occurs with less frequency as the years pass, a fact that leaves me at once remorseful and resigned to the knowledge that it is impossible for me to read the many volumes that I have accumulated and will continue to accumulate until I'm stopped dead in my tracks. The books, however, will live on, as they tend to do, perhaps left in the library of the house in which I eventually plan to live, or perhaps left for the enjoyment of someone with one type of bibliophilic penchant or another.


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