Toronto's known for its multicultural roots and its open-minded citizens—and now, thanks to the Seen ReadingFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Toronto's known for its multicultural roots and its open-minded citizens—and now, thanks to the Seen Reading movement, we can add well-read (and also well-dressed) to the mix.
As a self-professed literary voyeur, Julie Wilson was fascinated by the bookish exhibitionism of her fellow commuters and those readers occupying park benches, mall food courts, bars, and other shared spaces in Toronto. How does the private act of reading transform in the public realm? As a reader dives into a fictional world and disengages with the city around her, she's also creating her own narrative in the minds of those around her. Who is this woman? Where's she heading? How does her chosen reading material reflect who she is, and how does that choice affect our reading of her?
Wilson's stories capture brief moments in the lives of these readers—sometimes, we're taken into a character's immediate experience as a stalled train or an unruly child distracts a reader from her book; other times, we're invited further back into a character's life and re-live a scene from his childhood, or discover a tragic event she lived through last year. Characters are named either He or She to preserve the quiet anonymity of the reader sighting, and to invite multiple readings of the same person. Our interpretations define ourselves as much as they define others, and Wilson encourages her readers to create their own reader backstories while enjoying the microfictions featured throughout Seen Reading.
Not to mention, Wilson's reader sightings include a fair bit of contemporary CanLit—so, readers will not only find an excellent microfiction collection to kick-start their summers, they'll also find a well-rounded reading list to carry them through the fall and winter months. It's a literary Win-Win, folks.
Ideal for: Microfiction and short story fans; Voyeurs who take their literary recommendations from fellow commuters; Readers based in Toronto or the GTA who love finding their city reflected in writing; Kids eager to join in the #SeenReading Movement on Twitter. ...more
In truth, Jane is one of four Moffat children, meaning she shares her middle child status with an older brotFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
In truth, Jane is one of four Moffat children, meaning she shares her middle child status with an older brother; however, she coins her title after noticing her mother simply introduces her as just Jane. Sylvie is the eldest child; Rufus, the youngest; and Joey is the oldest son. But what about Jane? I would argue her stance in this matter exemplifies a middle-child mindset, so I'll let the the four-child status slide this time.
What follows in this second novel from The Moffats series is a collection of short stories profiling one year in the life of the feisty, fun-loving Jane after she and her family moves across town to a house on Ashbellows Place. In a new setting with a host of neighbours to meet, Jane wants to greet the world with a new persona—and the mysterious middle Moffat seems an excellent place to start. But being in the middle is a lot harder than it looks…
Jane's adventurous spirit and her endless search for fun leads her to befriend and secretly protect Mr. Buckle, Cranbury's oldest inhabitant, to hold her first disastrous organ recital, to help the girls' basketball team win their championship, to stand up to the frightful mechanical wizard Wallie Bangs, to learn about losing and finding best friends across town, and so much more. Throughout her travels, Jane dedicates herself to upholding the honour of the Moffats, and helps her mother and siblings as best as she can.
Overall, a lovely book about a fellow Moffat[t] child. In particular, the book lends itself well to classes studying children's lives during the Second World War and offers a nice, light read to middle readers in general.
Ideal for: Middle readers who like episodic, small-town adventures; Educators looking to capture a child's life in the Second World War for their classes; Older readers looking to reconnect with the classics of their childhood; Members of the Moffat clan....more
Step aside, kids—the Grand Master of October Country and Dystopian Worlds has arrived. In A Pleasure to BurnFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Step aside, kids—the Grand Master of October Country and Dystopian Worlds has arrived. In A Pleasure to Burn, readers are walked through Ray Bradbury's creative process and introduced to sixteen shorter works that prefigure the landmark Fahrenheit 451. Immediate favourites include: "Bright Phoenix", where a Chief Censor marvels over the absence of witnesses at his book burning; "The Garbage Collector", where one man's life changes in a single day after learning the gristly details of his job should a nuclear war erupt; and "The Smile", where a young boy joins the men of his town to desecrate an iconic portrait from the past.
Bradbury's cold, sterile, lifeless worlds are punctuated by one colour only—the orange-yellow rage of fire. He burns through the past, through remarkable art, and through the written word with great fury, and he manages to sneak in a few rocket ships and a trip to Mars for all the sci fi kids in the crowd. However, I found the quality of the stories was not consistent—most of these works were originally published in journals, and were therefore refined under the eyes of an editor. But, in some cases, these stories were rough works not intended to reach publication per se. Also, the collection includes two novellas ("Long After Midnight" and "The Fireman") that are actual rough drafts of Fahrenheit 451—the average reader might turn down the collection at this point for its repetitiveness and for the painful, un-Bradbury prose of his rough work. Regardless, I will still champion the man and partake of the pleasure to burn.
Ideal for: Creative writing students who ought to learn from the masters; Editorial students eager to read the rough drafts of Fahrenheit 451; Readers with a mega-crush on all things Bradbury; Kids waiting in line for the official Hunger Games film release....more
The Complete Persepolis presents a candid, stark, and emotionally overwhelming account of a young girl's comiOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
The Complete Persepolis presents a candid, stark, and emotionally overwhelming account of a young girl's coming of age during Iran's Islamic Revolution in the late twentieth-century. As a young girl attending a secular French school prior to the revolution, Marjane Satrapi offers a chilling account of her sudden switch to a state-occupied education system, and showcases her family's efforts to teach the young girl to question her educators while still taking utter pleasure in attaining knowledge and guarding her dignity as a human being. As an adolescent, Satrapi was then sent to Vienna in a bid to gain a secularized education unavailable to her in Iran; however, once there, her devotion to her homeland is tested in the face of racism and outsiders who would deny her experiences of war. In the end, Satrapi returns to Iran only to find she must exile herself in order to attain the life she desires.
Satrapi's use of black and white inking was an excellent decision on her part—I often found the stark contrast between the two heightened the tension of certain moments, in particular the scenes depicting the most violent moments in her childhood (e.g. representations of massacre, the bombings of her home town, images of young boys sent to die with plastic "keys" to the afterlife, etc.) Also, I found Satrapi's paired-down language and blunt sentences were perfect throughout Persepolis. I was surprised how often a simple phrase could prick the tears from my eyes—I'm not one to cry over books, but I was nearly set over the edge a few times there. For instance, in the first part of Persepolis, the dual presentation of Uncle Anoosh's "bread swan" (literally, a swan fashioned from a piece of bread) gift to Marjane is heartbreaking: first, upon his release from prison, and once again as a memento given before his execution (70). Never have the words "star of my life" brought me so close to the waterworks… Definitely, Persepolis is a remarkable work with haunting moments that are bound to sit with readers for a long time coming.
Ideal for: Readers with a penchant for memoir-ish graphic novels and real life comic works; Scholars with a background in Middle Eastern studies who need a fresh perspective on Iran's Islamic Revolution; Fans of book-to-film adaptations; Teens in need of an eye-opening on the world out there....more
The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories offers a varied overview of Japan's finest literary talents ranging from the late nineteenth-century to theThe Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories offers a varied overview of Japan's finest literary talents ranging from the late nineteenth-century to the present-day. Be prepared to expand that reading list of yours upon completion of this collection -- one taste guarantees the need for another hit.
Stand-out pieces include:
Okamoto Kanoko's "Portrait of an Old Geisha": An older woman offers to 'keep' a young man, allowing him to pursue his dream of inventing; however, the gift of easy gold does not always equate to success.
Hayashi Motojiro's "The Accordion and the Fish Town": A complex vignette about one girl and the implications of settling in a small town after a life on the road with her hustler parents.
Hirabayashi Taiko's "Blind Chinese Soldiers": A startling piece blending the horrific consequences of war with the quiet, unconscious life of plain-clothes citizens.
Mishima Yukio's "Onnagata": A beautiful piece about kabuki theatre and one man's breathless experience with a powerful onnagata, a man who portrays female characters on stage.
Each writer dedicates ample space to creating exceptional atmospheric description, one that rivals the Canadian fascination with dense geographic (read: snow) passages. Also, readers be warned that narrative techniques differ quite a bit between Japan and the Western world -- endings are never concrete throughout these stories. We are offered a brief window into another world, but the opening is never sealed tight. Brilliant and beautiful, all in one.
Ideal for: Short story nerds; readers seeking some international cred; commuters aiming to lure that cute, intellectual type sitting in the seat across from them... ...more
High-Wire Summer offers twenty-six brief, shimmering glimpses into the lives of women faced with the overwhelming potential of choice. Whether the ageHigh-Wire Summer offers twenty-six brief, shimmering glimpses into the lives of women faced with the overwhelming potential of choice. Whether the agent of change arrives as a former lover, as writer's block, or as the death of a loved one, each woman must draw upon her inner reserves to reassess her regrets (whether real or imagined) in order to re-imagine her future self.
Overall, Louise Dupré tended to dwell on a handful of common themes throughout her stories—she combated the threat of repetition through subtle shifts in perspective, and her poetic style offered startling turns of phrase perfectly tuned to each new character. In stories revolving around death, leading characters spoke to readers from various positions—as the dying, as the daughter of the dying, as the student of the dying, and as the sister of a long-dead brother. Personal connection colours our experience of universal themes, and Dupré's careful shading of each event proves her talent with the complex inner-wrangling dredged up in overwhelming circumstances.
Ideal for: Readers who like a bit of poetic prose on the morning, train-based commute; folks seeking a literary journey through Québec; readers with a predisposition to the work of contemporary Japanese short fiction writers (whoo, specific)....more
Sarah Selecky dazzles with ten taut, smartly searing stories in her first published collection, This Cake Is for the Party. Selecky levels her gaze upSarah Selecky dazzles with ten taut, smartly searing stories in her first published collection, This Cake Is for the Party. Selecky levels her gaze upon a younger generation whose best intentions unravel in the face of hidden truths, betrayal, and unsettling tensions riding just below the surface.
Stand out pieces include "Go-Manchura," in which a lonesome introvert embroils herself in a health food pyramid scheme, and the heartbreaking "Where Are You Coming From, Sweetheart?", in which a young girl struggles to free herself from her father's religion and finds an unexpected lover on a Greyhound bus. Additional accolades go to "Prognosis," written as a rather biting letter to a dying mother-in-law in which the writer is gifted with a certain aural oddity. Selecky shines in her first-person prose, and creates characters with distinct, relatable voices that are sure to startle and delight.
Ideal for: Short story junkies; Readers in the twenty- to thirty-something age bracket; Commuters prepared to shed a tear or two in public....more
Annabel Lyon debuted with a forceful, impressive collection of short stories fine-tuned to haunt the quiet hours of the night. Here, we see an experimAnnabel Lyon debuted with a forceful, impressive collection of short stories fine-tuned to haunt the quiet hours of the night. Here, we see an experimental form rarely seen in Canadian short prose -- the author teases out complex narratives through compact, often fragmented sections of dialogue/description, allowing her to flicker across timelines and skip between perspectives in a matter of sentences. She whittles her prose to a fine point and is unyielding with her approach.
Highlights of Oxygen include: the dizzying, bittersweet portrait of Suzy and her guardian, Morris, in "Black"; the loneliness and alienation of a young woman, framed through a simple grocery list in "Things"; the terrifying, splintered testimony of three teens in "Song"; and the danger of the stalker-made-familiar in "Run".
Ideal for: Kids who like their Can. lit. shaken, not stirred; Folks with a penchant for literary journals and firecracker prose; Public transit commuters in need of a rough morning jolt....more
Ray Bradbury returns with another exploration of his beloved October Country and the hidden lives of the undead. From The Dust Returned chronicles theRay Bradbury returns with another exploration of his beloved October Country and the hidden lives of the undead. From The Dust Returned chronicles the varied adventures of familial eternal beings ranging from the mummified Grandmere and Grandpere to the disembodied sister, Cecy, from the winged Uncle Einar to the all-too-human younger brother, Timothy. It is pure magic mixed with nostalgia, shot through with an ample sense of wonder and other-worldliness.
Once again, Bradbury proves his deft skills with language and his remarkable depiction of the mythic qualities of the day-to-day.
Ideal for: Halloween-obsessed readers; fans of lore, ghost tales, and the otherwise supernatural; Poets with an eye for novels; kids who need a good scare in those luscious autumn months....more
The Stories of Ibis offers a sparkling, fresh stance on man vs. machine science fiction, proving that the lines between both camps are not so simple tThe Stories of Ibis offers a sparkling, fresh stance on man vs. machine science fiction, proving that the lines between both camps are not so simple to discern. Quite enjoyed the more heady philosophical debates on the role of machines in human lives and vice versa, how both parties rely on one another for companionship, purpose, and evolution. In particular, the idea of death as discussed between the nameless Storyteller and the android Ibis is a compelling one that will linger long after the book is closed. Also, loved how vital the act of storytelling is to this novel. Hiroshi Yamamoto places the writer in a central role as the preserver of human culture and as the bonding link between disparate civilizations. Meta-narrative at its most sci fi - delicious.
Some readers might be turned off by the dense technical writing that accompanies a couple of the short stories. Remember: this is science fiction. Science is a large part of said fiction. Understanding the physics behind the fiction is vital at times andYamamoto explores it with great depth.
Ideal for: sci fi lovers who need a sharp jolt from the genre; current or former philoso-philes who like a good android debate; amateur or professional writers who love to speculate on their influence over these narratives; physics nerds who like reading technical jargon in their spare time....more