Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

August 2014, In My Bookbag

On a commute during which I know I’ll have trouble concentrating, I pluck one of the mysteries from the stack.

Blackhouse Peter May

Quercus, 2009; 2014

I’ve been discovering Peter May, Jeffrey Deaver, and Robert Galbraith this month.

Beginning with The Black House, The Bone Collector, and The Cuckoo’s Calling. Respectively.

And followed by The Lewis Man, The Skin Collector, and The Silkworm.

I didn’t intend them to be read in pairs (actually the Peter May titles are part of a trilogy), but they make a terrific combination.

They have complementary styles and varying emphasis on setting, plot, and character (also respectively).

In more contemplative moments and moods, I might reach for Brick magazine, #93 with Mavis Gallant’s handwriting on the inner front flap.

There is also an interview with Aleksandar Hemon with Eleanor Wachtel, a conversation between Madeleine Thien and Obi Nwakanma, poems by Sharon Olds and an article I’m currently reading, about E.M. Forster by Damon Galgut, whose latest novel considers the novelist too.

Standing in a line somewhere, I could browse a catalogue of interest, for instance the latest from Caitlin Press (a gift for landlovers, Pacific Coasters, feminists, and poets or the July/August issue of Quill & Quire. Sometimes I start making a TBR list from a catalogue and it ends up being a copy of the catalogue’s index because every single book looks interesting. The fall titles from both Caitlin Press and Q&Q are like that for me.

I like carrying this issue of Q&Q around because it has Carrie Snyder’s smiling face on the cover; I so loved Hair Hat, and then The Juliet Stories, and I guess I’ve been secretly waiting for her to appear on the cover of my favourite magazines for years because when the issue arrived in my mailbox I actually crowed in excitement. (The cover story is written by Stacey May Fowles, another fine author, of Be Good and Infidelity, among other works: good company.) No, I do not make a habit of crowing.

Q&Q’s fall preview is always exciting, and this issue contains a focus on Goose Lane as well, who published one of my favourite novels of this reading year, Tamai Kobayahi’s Prairie Ostrich.

But The Walrus is a favourite in my bookbag too and the September issue just arrived on Monday, with an article by one of my favourite writers, Michael Crummey, “The Circus Comes to Charlottetown”, on the “accidental birth of a nation”. But even when I don’t think an article in this mag is going to interest me, it nearly always does.

Just Pretending Lisa Bird Wilson

Coteau Books, 2013

Looking for short works like this essay, I also might read one of the short stories in Lisa Bird-Wilson’s Just Pretending. They are usually between 8 and 12 pages long, perfect for my average commute. And the collection fits with my Summer of the Canadian Short Story reading; I wonder how the other participants are doing. This will be the tenth collection of Canadian stories that I’ve finished since June 1st  but although I am reading two others I think Just Pretending might be the only one that I finish this month.

Or even shorter? Maybe one of the poems in Janet Marie Rogers’ Splitting the Heart, her debut collection, which was described as throbbing “with the vitality of a Native drum” and wailing “with a warrior’s wisdom”. I was intrigued by this collection because it comes with a CD and ten tracks, which reminded me of Leanne Simpson’s Islands of Decolonial Love, which I read and loved earlier this year.

Or maybe I’m craving pictures as might as either words or music, so I might read a few pages of Max Brooks’ The Harlem Hellfighters, a graphic depiction about the experiences of the 369th Infantry Regiment, an African American unit in WWI, and the discrimination its members experienced at “home” and abroad, war zones over here and over there.

Maureen Corrigan brought the book onto my reading radar and because I can’t recall her having reviewed another graphic story, I was immediately curious and now I see why she found it so powerful; I usually read about 20 pages and then set it aside for a spell. Essential reading. And Canaan White’s illustrations are mesmerizing.

How about you? What’s in your bookbag? Or what’s holding your attention these days?

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4 comments to August 2014, In My Bookbag

  • Hmm. I recently finished The Silkworm — one mystery per summer is a pretty good idea. Now I’m onto Peter Heller’s 2nd one The Painter. I’m enjoying the writing so far. I might have to follow it up with another Western type novel: Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks. We will see. Enjoy the rest of your August books!

  • Kat

    It’s always so much fun to see what you’re reading, and I love how eclectic you are. As usual, there are some I haven’t heard of. I need to read Mavis Gallant. I have read a few of her stories, and do you recommend any of her books particularly? I’ve noticed NYRB has published a couple of collection.

    • Thanks, Kat. I think the books of hers which are most often discussed are Home Truths and From the Fifteenth District but if I remember correctly, I started with The Peignitz Junction or Overhead in a Balloon. Then again, you can’t go wrong with NYRB editions, can you?!

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