Sunday, January 17, 2016


I couldn't resist.  I am still taking David Bowie's death pretty hard.  I do like BlackStar quite a bit, and I think I would have even if it had arrived under different (more pleasant) circumstances.  I think the single hardest piece to take was this article discussing how Bowie knew he was running out of time and yet still thought he could do one last project after BlackStar.  I am definitely thinking of how it is so easy to let time run by, and I am am making baby steps to change my own situation so that I don't have as many regrets on the artistic side when I am 50 or 60.  It's inevitable that I will have some, but I can still pull off a few of these projects if I focus (easier said than done).

At any rate, one thing that was reposted and is quite interesting to me is Bowie's top 100 books of all time.  I've read roughly 20 of them and have a few more coming up in the next year or so.  I particularly like the inclusion of the poet Frank O'Hara and the novels White Noise, Nights at the Circus, A Confederacy of Dunces and The Master and Margarita.  It gives me a bit more insight into his thinking, and maybe had our paths ever crossed in a social setting I would have had something to discuss without being completely tongue-tied (there being some but not that much overlap with what are essentially my top books of all time (so far)).   And Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia!  (Personally I would rank Arcadia higher, but a very interesting choice.  I assume that means Bowie got around to seeing the trilogy on stage either in London or New York.  In any event, being a major Stoppard fan is another small thing I have in common with him.)

This brings me around to the actual title of the post.  I've made a subtle change to the layout of this blog for the first time in years.  I've added a blogroll over on the right.  For the moment I'll just start with 4 that I have found particularly interesting, starting with Book Mine Set, which I think is fair to say has made me into the blogger I am today.  I was hardly blogging at all, when I decided to take on the challenge of reviewing at least 13 books by Canadian authors each year.  A bit of structure and a challenge was really what started me on this path, plus the fact that at least some people would read my reviews once I publicized them over on that site.  I don't need a lot of validation to write, but I did need at least a few readers to make it all seem worthwhile.

One thing that is a bit different from this blog (relative to those in the blogroll) is that only half or so of the posts are clearly literary, since I am a bit more of a generalist, posting on art exhibits, theatre and general musings.  For instance, I will try to keep track of any interesting events related to Shakespeare's 400th anniversary.  There is apparently far more going on in Ottawa than in Toronto, though of course there will be vastly more in London, according to this site.  (I shouldn't have any problem seeing at least a couple of Shakespeare plays this year,* even though I don't plan on seeing at in Stratford this summer.)  I also engage in such drolleries as noting this almost perfectly straight banana I just ate.

It was so straight, it wouldn't even fit in the plastic banana case, so I had to eat it at home.  (I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere...)

At any rate, the other blogs seem much more focused on book reviews.  Pechorin's Journal has quite a number of impressive long-form reviews of modernist masterpieces (as well as science fiction and crime novels).  One thing that Pechorin is doing is vowing to read 20 books (generally but not necessarily off the shelves) before buying any more books.  I probably couldn't quite stick to that, though I have certainly cut way back on book buying.  However, I have already noted (or perhaps moaned) that being in Canada means that deals on books are fewer and further between (and postage on Amazon is considerably higher, so angling for free shipping is always worth it).

So I tend to jump on deals, regardless of if I have cleaned out 20 books or not.  Recently, I found the Eudora Welty Complete Novels from the LOA for a steal, so I ordered that.  And while looking over the books in the Robarts Library used book sale, I saw the Oxford edition of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South for $4, so I couldn't pass on that.  I also just ordered J.L. Carr's A Month in the Country (tipped off by Pechorin in fact) and I will read that paired up with Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier.  And on the track of something else, I decided that I ought to get ahold of Primo Levi's The Periodic Table, and splurged (just a bit) on a used copy of the Everyman edition.

However, I just missed out on a good deal on Elias Canetti's Memoirs, and have finally managed to convince myself that I would really be better off reading a library copy.  (Though this may not be any time soon.)  More immanent are a couple of other books recently checked out from the library (after being inspired by Pechorin).  I am going to tackle a couple of short modernist masterworks -- Young Torless by Robert Musil and Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf.  I am actually rereading Jacob's Room, though I can't recall anything about it, so it will be like reading it for the first time.

* Coal Mine will be doing The Winter's Tale soon, and even though I want to support them in the abstract, I hate this play.  I doubt I will ever go see this one or Merchant of Venice again.  I'm not really up for seeing Macbeth again (and certainly not at Stratford prices), since I saw it in 2015.  I did just see that Wolf Manor is going to be doing Richard III up at Tarragon's Workspace in early March, and I think I will go see that, so for sure I will have seen at least one production this year, and there will probably be something to go see during the Fringe or in the fall.  I'm not really too worried about there not being enough Shakespeare around...

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