Monthly Archives: December 2015

Pulling Apart the Norms | Review of “Sabotage” by Priscila Uppal (2015) Mansfield Press


We don’t critique the world around us, we grumble about it and move on. We don’t protest things anymore, we whine about them and stumble away. We don’t argue about items presented to us, we shake our heads at those points and slink away. But Priscila Uppal has dared to blow apart many norms we have chosen to accept in her collection of poetry called Sabotage.

Accusations – Page 11

Summer nights ripe for accusations, I twirl my parasol

while you tip your straw hat to store fronts


I accuse your briefcase of prematurely filing for bankruptcy

You accuse my hairpins of setting fire to the tool shed.


I accuse your desk drawers of alcoholism.

You accuse my running shoes of adultery.


I accuse your grooming kit of harbouring dangerous fugitives.

You accuse my paperbacks of plagiarism.


I accuse your mother of sabotaging our cheese fondue.

You accuse mine of bugging our bedroom, exterminating our transcripts.


I accuse your love of being small.

You accuse me of dumping mine on the side of the road like a lame dog.


We accuse bowls of cold water at the doors of nursing homes of debunking our seniors.

We accuse elevators of treason.


All this before the bullied sun offs itself.

Uppal is an accomplished poet and wordsmith whom I always enjoy reading. Her phrases always awaken my mind’s eye with clear imagery and cause me to ponder her thoughts long after I have read her work. This work is no exception.

The Biggest Loser – Page 44

I am an obese woman

trapped in a slim woman’s body.

My calorie intake is high,

but could be staggering.

I just need a scale, a TV crew,

and a support network


I want to bite, chew, swallow

every minute of every day until

time ceases to exist.


I want to gorge on happiness

and unhappiness until I’m so absorbed

I cannot move an inch.


I want to wear fat

like memory foam

and become my own indigestible dreams.


I want to roll my hunger

like dough and rise like a volcano

to the occasion.


I am an obese woman

trapped in a slim woman’s body.

Look, my ribs are keys

of a player piano.

Look, look into my eyes,

fat as opera singers.

Uppal fires volleys of phrases into the concepts we blindly accept as the world. Sometimes readers need to re-read a phrase to understand the concept that she is bringing forth for us to grasp, but then there is a moment of awaking that occurs. Which is what a good piece of literature should do.

Teaching is Becoming a Dangerous Profession – Page 59

Pull out a book,

you might as well be pulling out

a grenade.


No one seems to recognize

what it is or how to use it

before it’s too late.

Priscila Uppal has dared to rip apart the norms in the world around us with her book Sabotage. She carefully crafts volleys of words into things around us that need to be dismantled and destroyed. A great work of literature.

Link to Priscila Uppal’s website

Link to Mansfield Press’ page for Sabotage



The Graphics of the Open Field Come to Television| Review of “Essex County” by Jeff Lemire (2009) Top Shelf Productions (2009)


The recent announcement by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that that graphic novel will become a television series has  had a mixed reaction by many in my circles. Either people have sung the praises of the book or have not heard of the award-winning graphic novel. So I decided to check out Jeff Lemire’s Essex County here. And I was impressed.

Page 5 –  Introduction by Darwyn Cooke

(T) his all adds up to is a work of unexpected maturity that speaks on a universal level, but holds special rewards for those familiar with life in rural Canada. Essex County is a tremendous achievement made all the more incredible when we consider the relative youth of the author. This heartfelt piece of graphic literature surpasses its form to stand as what I’m sure will be an enduring example of the finest in Canadian Literature proper.

Cooke is right on in those words. Lemire manages to capture something here about the Canadian spirit. Something in the drawings and the few words show the loneliness of the fields or the joy of the ice-hockey game. There is something unique and familiar in the plots that he has created here.


Scanned Image from Page 29 Essex County by Jeff Lemire.

Lemire explores many aches through his characters here. It is melancholic and sad at times. But that is what makes this book great literature. It explores those elements of the human condition and makes readers consider them in their own lives.

Scanned Image of pages 202-203 of Essex County by Jeff Lemire

 It is going to be interesting how the television series of Jeff Lemire’s Essex County will turn out but the graphic-novel version is a great piece of literature on it own for sure.

Link to Jeff Lemire’s website

Link to Top Shelf Productions page for Essex County





Entering the World of Inspector Green | Review of “The Whisper of Legends” by Barbara Fradkin (2013) Dundurn Press


What impresses me with a good story is not just the plot but the small details that surround the plot which engage me more to read the book. Usually this is a result of an author doing large amounts of research before even writing a word. I recently discovered Barbara Fradkin as a novelist and I suspect that her research skills are immense as I read and enjoyed The Whisper of Legends.

Page 12

For the tenth time in ten minutes, Ottawa Police Inspector Michael Green abandoned the dreary operations report and sneaked a peek at his BlackBerry. The time was inching toward noon. What time was that in the Yukon? Nine a.m? The start of their business day? Of course, he had no idea what time the owner of Nahanni River Adventures actually came to the office, nor even whether he had an office in the normal sense of the word. But Green figured nine a.m. was a respectable time to phone. It would sound like a reasonable request for an update, which it was, rather than a panicked call for reassurance.

Which it also was.

Hannah had told him very firmly that there were no cellphone towers or Internet signals in the Nahanni National Park Reserve. it was thirty thousand square kilometres of mountains, glaciers, canyons, and waterfalls along a wilderness river so spectacular that it had been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There was no communication, period. Cut off from the the outside world. That’s the point, Dad.

Fradkin has a great writing style. The story deals Inspector Michael Green trying to deal with his missing daughter Hannah. She was on a summer  trip deep in a park made up of ‘30,000 square kilometres of wilderness and 600 grizzlies.’ Green finds out that his daughter lied to him about the trip, it was organized by a boyfriend to explore the hinterland of the region, not a local tour group. Green becomes frustrated the lack of effort being done by the authorities to look for his daughter that he and his friend – Staff Sargent Brian Sullivan – travel to park to search for Hannah themselves.

Page 71-72

Green slept fitfully, disturbed not so much by the tandem snoring of the other two men nor by the eerie grey of the northern night, but by fragments of dreams lurking at the borders of his consciousness. Images of roiling rapids, plunging waterfalls, sheer cliffs, and endless, desolate mountains. Was Hannah wandering around at the mercy of Scott, and unwitting pawn in some scheme of his? Or had she been party to the devious plot from the start? Lying to her parents about her destination and her purpose? He didn’t know which possibility upset him more. That she was a hapless captive or a witting liar.

How well did Green know her anymore? She’d arrived on his doorstep an angry, untrusting teenager consumed with the need to punish him for his years of neglect. She’d lived a reckless life on the edge. Drugs, men, deception – she’d embraced them all in her quest for love, meaning, or just pure oblivion. Father and daughter had won each other over step by timid step, but all too soon she had slipped from his grasp again, back into that toxic swamp of guilt, narcissism, and manipulation that was her mother’s life. Scott had become her next great fascination, her next great answer to the meaning of it all.

In her eagerness to please Scott, what had she done to herself?

Fradkin also has a fantastic grasp of human fears and relationships. She gets into the minds of the characters here and tells the readers what they are thinking, even though those characters are fearful of sharing their emotions with others.

Page 158

Green held his tongue. In truth, he was terrified. He knew he was putting the other paddlers at risk as well as himself by insisting on starting at Moose Ponds, but there was no other place on the upper river wide enough to land the float place. The coordinates of the mining claim put the search area near the confluence of the South Nahanni and Little Nahanni, which was just below the terrifying sixty-kilometre stretch of whitewater. To land farther downstream at the next accessible place would be pointless.

Elliot steadied the two canoes and eased them up on the rocky riverbank. He looked thoughtful. “We’ll manage,” he said. “I know every twist and boil in this river, and we have a number of options. We’ll take each stretch slowly. Scout, discuss, plan the route ahead of time. On some of them we can make a canyon rig by lashing two canoes side by side. Other places Brian can solo and I will paddle with Mike. If we need to, we’ll portage or pull the canoes on ropes. We’ll get there.”


The Whispers of Legends by Barbara Fradkin is a detailed and well-researched mystery novel that is a pleasure to read. Not only is the plot engrossing but also very thoughtful. A great read for sure.

Link to Dundurn Press’ website for The Whisper of Legends

Link to Barbara Fradkin’s website

A Book that Questions our Electronic Age |Review of “The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present” (2015) Shuman Basar, Douglas Coupland, Hans Ulrich Obrist – Blue Rider Press


For those of us who manage to find the time (and a space filled with solitude) to carefully ponder the world around us through a printed page, know the feeling of uneasiness that we feel for the present world. Things are changing. Our minds are changing.  Our feelings are changing. But how? Reading and pondering The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present may be that starting point for a discussion on our changing society.

(Excerpt) page 6-7

So here’s the thing: The bulk of human activity is the creation and moving of information.

Twenty years ago the Internet used zero per cent of human energy consumption.

Today, the digital economy uses 10 per cent of the world’s electricity.

It’s the same amount that was used to light the entire planet in 1985.

It was a shame to pull those words out of the book and post them like that. This book is published in a non linear format. Words are plastered over images and sentences have different font sizes to emphasize different points. It is a challenge to read this book at times. A reader may turn the book around in order to read a phrase or squint to read a smaller print, but the mind is engaged by needing to do those acts, making this book a thoughtful read.

Scanned image from The Age of Earthquakes


Many other readers have said they enjoyed the fact they are able to open this book anyway and start reading. While that may be true, I still was glad of the fact that I read the book through first and then went back reading selected sections.

Scanned image from The Age of Earthquakes

 There is some extended thoughts and items worth pondering about here. While it looks like a quick read, it isn’t. The ideas can be read quickly but need some deep reflection afterwards.

Romantic Denial (n.)

Dislike of having the traditional notion of personality reduced to a set of brain and body functions. Rilke said that if we lose our demons we lose our gods, too. However, even if we stripped all human behavior down to a table of contents of structural and chemical functions, it wouldn’t change the fact that we’re human.

The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present is oddly enough a book that questions some of the major facets of the digital age. It visually-grabbing and thought-provoking. An interesting read for sure.

Link to Shumon Basar’s WordPress site “Yourheadisthewholeworld”

Link to Douglas Coupland’s Website

Link to the Wikipedia page on Hans Ulrich Obrist

Link to Penguin/Random House Canada’s page for The Age of Earthquakes