Monthly Archives: December 2017

In Defense of Actually Reading Books in 2017 |Mention of Angie Abdou’s “In Case I Go” Arsenal Pulp Press

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This will be my final post for 2017. And there are a few things I want to accomplish with it.  Most importantly I want to reflect on one of my favourite books of 2017- In Case I Go by Angie Abdou. I also know that it has been a bit of time since I posted here and my followers have been wondering why, so here is a quick note. (I have been busy with earning money to purchase more reading material – so expect more posts in 2018.)

Now to In Case I Go. I was heartbroken to read and hear some of the slagging that this book has been receiving. Abdou documented not only for me but for many people I know a reality that is true in this book. The plot deals with a young white boy realizing that his descendants were far from perfect in their actions in dealing with minorities and that the present-day actions of his parents are far from ideal. Now, there has been a lot of empty talk of some of the details that Abdou used to move this plot forward. I admit that I don’t know some of the facts behind some of these discussions but they seem trivial and petty. Abdou has captured for me some of the angst that I remember as a child coming aware in a far from perfect world and that is for me the mark of a great piece of literature. And for many of my fellow readers who work long hours in dirty jobs, have far from perfect credit ratings and who’s feet stink because they been on them all day, this was a work that reflected some of the pain of their reality as well. And it was a pleasure to hear Angie read from this book a few months ago when the staff at a local library made an extra effort to bring her in a Friday night and let us book-lovers hear her words and thoughts.

There were many great works this past year that were worthy of unwinding and pondering over but this book was the one that caught my eye the most. Thanks to all the writers whom captured my attention this past year with their dedicated craft.

However In Case I Go by Angie Abdou is the one item on my bookshelf now that holds a special place for me. I wept when reading it because I found a reality that documents my life. Trust me this is the one book that should be read. (And I spend my days wading through tripe that should be trash but is revered. ) And I know that I am not alone in calling this a great piece of literature.

go

*****

Link to Angie Abdou’s website

 

A Noble Gift I was Touched to Receive | Mention of “The Gamekeeper: Selected Poems 1976-2011” by Michael Harris (2017) The Porcupine’s Quill

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

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We all receive numerous gifts throughout the year but the ones that have true meaning are the ones that are carefully crafted  so they become treasured items.  Recently I received a copy of The Gamekeeper: Selected Poems 1976-2011 by Michael Harris from the dedicated publishing firm of The Porcupine’s Quill. And it will become a loved item for my personal library shelf.

Work (Excerpt) – Page 157

My seven-year-old fishing

for the first time, in the murk, perfect

pike somewhere else, not here. The

mobile rings, his mum asking

everything OK? Better take some

chicken out for supper. Poems somewhere,

and rainbows. Rainbows!

I received this volume in the mail on a Friday and spent a lot of my leisure time over the following weekend with it. I love Harris’ expressive prose and lyricism in this collection. It was a warm and enveloping feeling to read a phrase that he has crafted and then come to the realization that I had been in a similar situation or had a similar feeling that he had been describing in his works. I found myself repeating phrases out loud because they were such vivid expressions that I could relate to.

The Patient – Page 15

I am here and afraid; my body

scooped out and laid in thin

rubber. the tubes like thermometers

in my body’s weather; they fill me

 

with bread pale as clean cotton.

I reduce it, reduce everything

to liquids in what’s left of my stomach,

in what’s left of my mind.

 

In the softest, quietest ways I am broken

into parts; one a day, once a day, they

come and play with me, with red sacs

and white sacs and murmurings and measurements.

 

They clean me like a fingernail

where the quick starts to sting

and they will not stop.

The Porcupine’s Quill in Erin, Ontario, Canada always publishes such detailed works with dedication and clarity that it is a pleasure for any book fan to pick up one of their works and slip away from the world in an intellectual fashion. Their stock is always of highest grade and any illustrations they use are detailed and well-thought out.

The Watchmender, Paros – Page 83

Something’s broken,

and they don’t know what.

These are the watches

their grandfathers brought –

the springs so thin now

they’d snap at his touch:

and they expect them fixed.

 

Under the small shop lamp,

his two differing eyes work hard

against each other: the clear one

fastened to his optic lens –

the wayward other, wandering with disuse,

dimly taking in the villagers

whose shadow pass his window,

or stand before him, waiting.

 

He bends like a priest

by the deathbed candle,

to attend to the useless glow

of jewels sunk deep

in almost-dead works,

like rosaries of stars

that won’t wear out.

The Gamekeeper: Selected Poems 1976-2011 by Michael Harris was a truly remarkable and touching gift I received from The Porcupine’s Quill. Harris’ words and well-crafted and expressive and the book is printed on wonderful stock. It is an item I will cherish and keep.

*****

Link to The Porcupine`s Quill website for The Gamekeeper: Selected Poems 1976-2011

Documenting the Muddle of Our Lives | Review of “This Is All A Lie” by Thomas Trofimuk (2017) Enfield & Wizenty

Lie

Do we honestly consider the relationships we are involved in? Do we even look at them in a linear fashion? Or do we look at them at a jumble of thoughts and reflections in our minds? More than likely we consider the ending before the beginning while recalling bits of history and snippets of therapy when we think about who we connect with. And that is one of  the realizations  that Thomas Trofimuk has us honestly consider in his book This Is All A Lie.

Page 303

You might know people who would be bothered by the placement of the acknowledgements at the beginning of this book. You might be the kind of person who likes the acknowledgements at the back of the book where they belong – right beside the note of the font and a picture of the author. Mea culpa. Mea culpa.

Here is another possible lie: you will be introduced to a character in the chapter immediately following these acknowledgements. His name is Raymond Daniels but nobody calls him Raymond except for an aunt in Billings, Montana, who owns seventeen cats and, as Ray`s mom used to say, really enjoys the wine. Ray works as an arborist with the city, and sometimes he talks to trees. He will be up in a bucket, suspended within the high branches of a popular, or an elm, or a conifer and he will have an impulse to talk with the tree. Sometimes, Ray Daniels surrenders to the impulse.

It’s tempting to show Ray having a conversation with a tree here, but to really understand him there is a moment three months after his mom dies that is perhaps more illuminating. His mom’s house has been sold, and the new owners will take possession in a couple weeks. For the previous three weekends, he and Tulah and the girls have been clearing out the contents of his mom’s life. For the girls, it was for the first hour, then just hard work and boring. After two hours, Tulah drove the girls to her mom’s house.

Trofimuk has gleefully mixed up this book. He has placed the epilogue and the acknowledgements near the beginning. The pages run backwards. The chapter numbers sometimes come up at half increments.  And instead of just mentioning the typeface, he describes elements of it’s designer’s life in vivid detail. Yet in all this mess, readers get an insight to the emotional relationships that encompass Ray and Tulah. Trofimuk has stirred up a mess of a narrative here but he has given a glimpse to the human condition of relationships.

Pages 215-214

He looks at the elms along the street. One of them is in trouble. It was a dry year. Rain was sporadic and not enough. A gust of wind bends the trees and a flurry of leaves is scattered across the road.

Ray`s job as an arborist was not the original career he’d pursued. Ray had his law degree. He was practising in a well-respected firm. Being a lawyer was what he thought he wanted. However, on the fourth month of the second year of articling with the law firm of Brice, Jones & Farnsworth, Ray woke up at 4 a. m. with chest pains. This was the beginning of his realization that law was not for him. At the hospital, the doctors were surprised by Ray’s blood pressure but his heart was fine. For now. They said it was a panic attack. A breakdown of everything that protects us from being overwhelmed by anxiety. He need to move more He needed to find a way to cope with stress. But Ray knew the slow build of twitchy unhappiness from his work as a lawyer was killing him. It wasn’t stress and it wasn’t the hours  – it was being completely aware of his unhappiness. There was a stench around the entire occupation that started to stick to his skin. Even the more benign fields of law contained a sleaziness factor. The so-called “heart incident” was an epiphany for Ray. The occupation of lawyer was killing him. He was one of two stars among the eight articling lawyers with the firm but he was ready to turn away. It was not easy, but he knew he was ready.

He’d spent four summers and a year out of high school working at his uncle’s green house and he was drawn to the memory of that joyful time. Ray’s training was not formal, but it was extensive.

He got a job with the city’s Parks department. It was hard work, and they kept trying to promote him into positions where he no long actually worked on trees – but rather, managed other people who worked with trees. Ray kept refusing these promotions. But, two weeks ago he accepted a promotion with the conditions of freedom. He managed a team, he was in the field as much as he wanted, and he got a hefty raise.

It was easier to say what he did now. Arborist was easier on his conscience than lawyer. It was an additional syllable but it was easier to say. He smiles at the memory of a woman at a party who asked him what he did and he told her, except she heard abortionist. “You actually tell people that?~ He face was a squished horror of revulsion. “What, you don’t like trees?” Ray said. But she was already gone.

This is a complex novel but there is a beauty in that complexity. Readers come to the realization that human nature is  not simple linear construct. We deal on a daily basis with not only our own emotions and desires but the latent desires and emotions of other people and that whole construct can be messy and tiring. Trofimuk has documented that complexity of the human condition in a muddled fashion, but that is way life is.

Page 215

“I want you back, Ray,” Nancy says. “Even though you are a prick, I want you back. Even though you’re mostly an asshole, I want things to be the same as they were.”

Ray is not sure what she just said, of for how long she’s been talking.

“What?”

“What do you mean – what? I think I’ve been quite clear.”

“You want me back,” he says.

“Yes. I want all of you, but I’ll take what I can get.”

“Why?”

“Because I love you. Love is about compromise. It’s about bending. It’s about taking what you can get.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I’m talking about love”

“I don’t think that’s love, Nancy”

“I accept you as you are,” she says.

“You don’t even know me.”

She leans forward and pours another drink. “I know you cheat on your wife. And I know your cock really well.”

“Yes, I know you do, but that’s not exactly me. It’s a body part.”

Ray looks at his parking receipt, and halfway down the block he can see a uniformed woman checking the windshields of cars. His parking slip is good for six more minutes. “Any chance we can finish up in the next six minutes?”

Thomas Trofimuk has documented an honest element of the human condition in his book This Is All A Lie. The plot is muddled and disjointed, the pages run backwards and the epilogue is near the beginning. But reading and finishing the book is an enlightening experience. Truly a unique piece of literature.

*****

Link to Great Plains Publications website for This Is All A Lie.

Link to Thomas Trofimuk’s website

A Big Brick on the Foundation of Some sort of Enlightenment | Mention of Brick: A Literary Journal’s 100th Edition

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We get bombarded by a flurry of messages at us every day. Most of it is some sort of marketing or attempt sway our thoughts into acting or believing a certain way. It is no wonder that we are totally exhausted by the time we are exhausted trying to filter out what is important and what is garbage to feed our minds with.  But recently I came home to something in my mail that I knew that was going to truly enlightening and engage my mind. And something that I was eagerly awaiting for months now. Yes, my copy of Brick: A Literary Journal – Number 100 came to my doorstep.

Page 9  – Notes from Our Publishers (et al.) Stan Dragland

Works of art are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing to be so little reached as with criticism. Only love can grasp and hold and fairly judge them

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Jean McKay and I kept on with Brick until issue 24. We had fun pasting up the magazine, illustrating the essays with pictures and design elements cut out of old books and magazines. I still have a fondness for the strange look of those first twenty-four Bricks. Non-designer that I am, why wouldn’t I? But the writing was always good. We insisted on that. Number 25 was edited by Linda Spalding. Under her, and then a series of other fine editors, Brick evolved into the eclectic international literary magazine it now is – properly designed! A review section graces recent issues. Back to the roots.

I never cared to love works of art and leave it at that. Like so many of the writers I read in Brick, I want love carried into criticism. I believe Rilke would be okay with that, and I`m glad Brick has printed his words in every number for forty years.

It is somehow comforting for me to learn from this edition that while I was learning my ABCs in the hinterland outside of London, Ontario, there was a ragtag team of people nearby trying to bring a smart journal of thought and discussion forward. I always have enjoyed Brick in someway and form since then finally becoming a subscriber a few years ago. The journal always highlights writers I enjoy (Anybody from Don DeLillo to P. K. Page.) But there is always an element mentioned there that gives me a “a-ha” moment too (I loved an interview published a few years ago where a photographer had taken residents of Istanbul out to the sea for the first time and photographed their emotional responses.) When Brick comes in the mail for me, I can always expect a great and fascinating read.

Page 12 Notes from Our Publishers (et al.) Laurie D. Graham

In my lifelong search for work that doesn’t feel like work, I’ve turned up a few winners: teacher of music to the young, backpackers` hostel “employee,” and anything having to do with literary journals. Journals have kept me patchily employed for – I realize with some alarm as I type this – a dozen years now. And I’ve been involved with Brick for seven of those years, which includes this last year and a bit as publisher. That’s closing in on “career” territory! Yet so often the work doesn’t feel anything like work. Instead, it feels like a close relative of writing, in no small part because Brick is made primarily by writers. And to work in the service of writing with other writers is what drew me to this gig in the first place and what keeps me doing it.

The fact that Brick is now on a serious publication but still maintains a belief that it is a hodgepodge mixtures of views and reviews is certainly appealing. Since I have become a serious subscriber seeing noted writer and poet Laurie D. Graham bring her hard work on the journal has been a pleasure.

Page 137 Things I Know Nothing About: Enlightenment by Michael Redhill

After many years on antidepressants, and finding normal unhappiness just out of reach, I decided at last to try enlightenment. My friends had been going on about it for years, but it always struck me as bunk, like Scientology or the novels of Ethan Hawke. However, after multiple courses of psychotherapy, pharmaceuticals, yogic stretching, alkaline eating, papaya enemas, and non-stop gin, I began to wonder if my friends weren’t onto something. Apart from the cost of a few seminars, enlightenment was free. There was plenty of it, and once you had it, you had it for life. And the way my friends said they felt! They was plenty of it, and once you had it, you had it for life. And the way my friends said they felt! They were light of heart and in great humour. Some repaired ancient rifts in important relationships while others made quick money in morally forward investments. All reported increased libido as well as thundering orgasms, especially in elevators.

Brick: A Literary Journal has always enlightened my mind after a long day dealing with the baffle-gab of the social media set. It is a pleasure to turn off all electronics and turn the pages of this journal. Kudos to all involved in it`s 100th edition and I am looking forward to the next 100 copies.

******

Link to Brick: A Literary Journal’s website