Shelf Life: May 2012

A varied month.

50. Twenty-Seventh City, by Jonathan Franzen
(Picador , 1988, 2001)

To backtrack, I really liked The Corrections, and thought The Discomfort Zone was pretty good, but I felt like I kept waiting for Twenty-Seventh City to make sense.

At its most bare, it’s the story of a conspiracy by a group of people to destroy a family in order to take financial and political control of a city, ranked twenty-seventh in America. But while individual threads sometimes work, as a whole it fails to come together.

Through the entire novel I kept waiting for Franzen to bring it all around, but to skirt actually resolving plot points, he just kills off characters and then the book stops. Not ends, stops.

Kinda disappointing.

51. Kiki de Montparnasse, by José-Louis Bocquet and Catel Muller
(SelfMadeHero, 2007, 2012)

Kim kindly invited me to TCAF, the Toronto Comics Art Festival, and it was my first time attending. I’ll definitely be attending next year. It’s a free festival held at the Toronto Reference Library with an overwhelming number of small and indie comic presses from around the world, as well as artists, writers – with comics, art and other merchandise available for purchase.

It was there that I can across this gorgeous book. Catel Muller and José-Louis Bocquet were there, illustrating and signing copies purchased. It’s beautifully made, and captures a fascinating woman I’d not heard about previously, Kiki de Montparnasse, nee Alice Prin. It captures the rich life of Paris in the twenties among artists.

52. The Love Monster, by Missy Marston
(Vehicule Press, 2012)

The main character is Margaret Atwood. No, not that Margaret Atwood, she just happens to share the name. Missy Marston makes an appearance as well, but I’m sure it’s another Missy, and not our illustrious author. That would be too Vonnegut. Never mind about the aliens.

I adore this cover.

53. George Fetherling and His Work, edited by Linda Rogers
(Tightrope Books, 2005)

A collection of essays about the poet George Fetherling. It’s a nice little collection.

54. Paint it Black, by Voltaire
(Weiser Books, 2005)

I love goth culture, and some of the things Voltaire has done are kind of cute. This isn’t one of them.

55. Preserving Basics, by Jody Vassallo
(Firefly, 2011)

One of the most gorgeous preserving books to decorate my shelves, the jam we made recently also turned out to be incredibly delicious.

56. Survival, by Margaret Atwood
(McClelland & Stewart , 2010)

No, not that Margaret Atwood. This one’s the celebrated poet and author.

Survival is a classic of Canadian literary criticism, and one of the first books to show that we have forms and subjects all our own. It’s prompted me to start ordering whatever books on CanLitCrit I can find. If you have recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

57. The Complete Lockpick Pornography, by Joey Comeau
(ECW Press, 2012)

I haven’t loved a book this much in a long time. Full review forthcoming.

58. Seriously, Just Go to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach
(Akashic Books , 2012)

I “won” an advance reading copy from LibraryThing. I really enjoyed the original, Go the Fuck to Sleep, but this sanitized version for children has scrubbed all the angst and anger from the book and it just falls flat. The new illustrations don’t help.

59. When Words Deny the World, by Stephen Henighan
(Porcupine’s Quill, 2002)

I was intrigued by Kerry Clare’s review on her blog Pickle Me This, and after reading Survival, I couldn’t resist.

60. Maidenhead, by Tamara Faith Berger
(Coach House Books, 2012)

When I see people looking for 50 Shades of Fanfic, this is what I recommend instead. Hot, intelligent, disturbing – this is the book everyone should be reading.

It is also our book club’s pick for this month. We haven’t met yet, so I don’t know what the others thought of it, but I’m looking forward to this discussion.

61. DOOM, by Natalie Zina Walschots
(Insomniac Press, 2012)

A great collection of soda-masochistic poems about supervillains, and Evan Munday’s depiction of the Red Skull in assless chaps is not to be missed.

Full review forthcoming in Broken Pencil.

62. Grow Great Grub, by Gayla Trail
(Clarkson Potter, 2010)

A book about organic gardening from a Toronto author? Perfect.

The instructions are straightforward, and solutions to common problems simple. Without this book, I wouldn’t have thought to drill holes in my planters when they flooded a few weeks ago. It seems so simple, but then why wouldn’t planters come with holes already drilled in them? She saved my rhubarb and my blueberries. Thanks!

63. Backyard Harvest, by Jo Whittingham
(DK Publishing, 2011)

I actually bought this one first, lured in by all the wonderful photos. I also really liked the idea of setting out a simple plan as to what I should be doing in my garden and when. But as the author is American, and as most of the sources in the book were American, and written for a generic American audience, I couldn’t quite get the hang of what I should be planing when, as the planting season seemed different from what’s going on here in Southern Ontario. Planting things in January and February just wasn’t going to happen.

Great for pics, possibly great if you’re an American of some kind – not the best if you’re Canadian. At least, not for me.

64. Stroll, by Shawn Micallef
(Coach House Books, 2010)

I bought this when it came out, the kind of forgot about it. When Micallef’s latest, Full Frontal T.O., hit the shelves, I thought I should finally get around to reading this before I buy it.

There are some great walking tours from all over the city, hitting highlights (La Paloma gets a mention!) but there are also some strange omissions. Micallef’s Toronto has no High Park, and Bloor West Village is absent.

I admit, I had an eye out for places I’ve lived and worked, places I have a vested interest in. But I suppose that’s what makes psychogeography what it is. One person’s city is not another’s, however many pairs of shoes you wear out.

It’s a great book. I need new shoes.

65. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
(Vintage, 2006, 2009)

A gift from Kim, and perhaps McCarthy’s most famous book, thanks to Oprah. And, apparently, a film?

I loved it, but I still want to know what the hell happened. Why is everything dead? Why are humans still alive? Why has ash blocked the sun and starlight? What is going on here??

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