Shelf Life: June 2012

A mixed bag of poetry, graphic novels, non-graphic novels, literary criticism and other non-fiction.

66. Selected Poems, by Robert Bringhurst
(Gaspereau Press, 2009)

I haven’t read Bringhurst before, but this collection was recommended to me. It contains selected poems from several other works. Philosophy and a wandering geography, from Japan to the Middle East and elsewhere, I’m not sure I was up to some of these poems, but I’d like to see more. This is a collection I can see myself coming back to again, and again.

67. The Giant Seed, by Arthur Geisert
(Enchanted Lion Books, 2012)

A wordless children’s book featuring a town of tiny pigs, whose homes are destroyed due to a volcanic eruption.  They fly away to safety on giant seeds. I don’t get it.

68. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006)

The graphic memoir of Bechdel’s relationship with her father, her coming out as a lesbian, and his coming out to her as gay (or bisexual). One of the best graphic autobiographies I’ve read. I can’t wait to read Are You My Mother?

69. Hypotheticals, by Leigh Kotsilidis
(Coach House Books, 2011)

Kotsilidis’ first collection of poetry. I love the cover.

70. A Scientific Romance, by Ronald Wright
(Vintage, 1997)

What if HG Wells’ The Time Machine wasn’t fiction? What if Wells worked with a protege of Nikola Tesla who created a functioning time machine? What if David Lambert, a man dying at the turn of the millennium, found this machine, tricked it out with new tech, and got it working again? What if he travels five hundred years into the future, looking for a cure?

Should be exciting, right? It is, mostly.

71. The Good News About Armageddon, Steven McOrmond
(Brick Books, 2010)

An excellent collection, ecology-focused, with social media references – poetry that actually sounds current. This is a good thing.

72. Bloom, by Michael Lista
(House of Anansi Press, 2010)

Lista’s first collection of poems surround Louis Slotin, a Canadian physicist involved with the Manhattan Project, training his replacement. Nigel Beale’s review in The Globe and Mail captures the essence well.

73. Ripostes, by Philip Marchand
(Porcupine’s Quill, 1998)

I’ve been trying to catch up on my lit crit, and this collection of essays from Philip Marchand is among of the best of what I’ve read recently: considered, critical, and with a clear vision of what Canadian literature could be, and can become.

74. Methodist Hatchet, by Ken Babstock
(House of Anansi Press, 2011)

Winner of this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize, it’s an excellent collection.

75. Li’l Bastard, by David McGimpsey
(Coach House Books, 2011)

A collection of what McGimpsey calls “chubby sonnets,” sixteen line poems that take anything and everything for their subject matter.

76. The Antagonist, by Lynn Coady
(House of Anansi Press, 2011)

Gordon Rankin (“Rank”), discovers that a friend from university has written a book which contains a character a lot like him. He begins sending angry e-mails, at first upbraiding the author, then setting out to correct the various ways he misread the situation. While this is going on, he’s also coming to terms with his father, whom he blames for most of his failings.

As with Patrick deWitt’s Sisters Brothers, on the surface this isn’t the kind of book I’d normally pick up, but it was shortlisted for the Giller, so I thought I’d give it a go. That, and the cover is striking. I’m a cover snob. I totally judge books by their covers, and lament good books which have bad covers.

Rather than a book about an angry jock with daddy issues, this is about the ways we see others, through our own insecurities and the ways we misread history and intent, and it’s wonderfully written.

The Antagonist lives up to its cover.

77. Other Poems, by Jay MillAr
(Nightwood Editions, 2010)

Another great poetry collection. I need to compose these notes after I read, not weeks or months later. I forget too much.

78. Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
(Seal Press, 2007)

Julia Serano is a trans woman, feminist and activist for trans rights and women’s rights. I didn’t know any of this before picking up the book; I ordered it because it came highly recommended. After reading it, I understand why, and now I’ve been pushing it on people.

Serano breaks down sex and gender terms for those of us not (yet?) closely involved in the personal and public politics of sexuality, be they straight, gay, trans, genderqueer, asexual or other. She then proceeds to calmly and critically break down what we think of when we think of these terms, what we think of when we think of bodies and identity and what it means to be a person.

Whipping Girl is probably the most important book I will read all year – not just the most important book on feminism, but the most important book overall. Buy it, read it, learn it, live it.

79. Mercy, by Alissa York
(Random House, 2003)

In 1948 a young priest arrives in village of Mercy, He quickly falls for Mathilda Nickels, yet his first act as priest is to marry her to the town butcher. The story of their affair, its results, and tragic conclusion unfold during the course of a year. The second part of the novel takes place some fifty years later, when another more corrupt priest comes to town. This novels is held together by York’s evocative style more than its plot, which doesn’t quite hold together.

80. Aradia, by Charles Godfrey Leland
(Witches Almanac, 1899, 2010)

Reviewed from Spiral Nature.

81. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fford
(Penguin, 2001)

Read on the recommendation of a friend. I didn’t love it. Sorry, Sarah.