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

In My Bookbag, Winter 2017

Endicott New Years EveMy reading year began with Marina Endicott’s New Year’s Eve (2011), written with literacy front-of-mind; its vocabulary, structure and tone are meant to ease the passage for readers with varying degrees of ease reading in English.

It begins simply: “The snow started before we left home.” Despite its brevity , there is going to be a weight to this story. An accumulation.

Dixie is already carrying a burden of sorts. She and Grady were supposed to leave at nine int he morning, but Grady worked late the night before (and twelve nights in a row before that, too, apparently). He didn’t make it home until noon and needed to sleep before they could leave.

“The baby was already in her snowsuit. I took her out of it again.”

One thing was to happen, but something else happened instead. The gap between expectations and reality widens. And it’s the holidays: expectations run high.

Furthermore, Dixie and Grady are adjusting to parenthood. “I loved to watch Daisy being held by someone else. It was like I could see her better as herself. And she could see me, and that made her happy.” Marina Endicott captures fresh mothering in succinct and familiar images.

It’s complicated, because as much as she loves it, the idea of Daisy in another woman’s arms widens the insular and intimate circle in uncomfortable directions. And as much as Dixie loves mothering, it’s impacted her core identity and changed all the other facets of her being. She has questions about desirability and femininity, about fidelity and responsibility.

Quiet but not light, New Year’s Eve is about taking corners, putting a toe in the water before plunging in.

Stevenson Lumberjanes OneThe Lumberjanes comics, written by Noelle Stephenson, came recommended by Sharlene at Real Life Reading, in my search for holiday entertainment.

As an extra bonus for winter reading, they are set in a summer camp, which melted away the afghans and transformed the hiss of the radiators into the whine of mosquitos.

The first collected volume, Beware the Kitten Holy, introduces the five girls, who are distinct without being types. By the end of the second comic, I had them straight in my mind, although it took me several more volumes to actually become attached; until then, it was more about the ensemble than the individuals.

One aspect of the story which makes me giggle is their seemingly endless pursuit of badges. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in Brownies or Guides, because now you get badges through apps too. (And maybe you could get the Everything Under the Sum badge some other way, but you’d have to be at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types to get more specialized badges, like Pungeon Master.)

Each individual comic opens with a single sheet which purports to be from the conduct handbook (which you can actually read) and closes with another (which you can’t read, because there are Polaroid-style snapshots with captions atop the printed material).

The heart of the volumes are brightly and richly coloured. As the volumes mount, the amount of text increases, throughout Friendship to the Max, presumably to reflect an aging readership, even introducing an elderly lady in the third bound volume – A Terrible Plan – who turns tail on the presumptions about older hardcore lady-types).

So the early comics feel more juvenile, the escapades more episodic and quickly resolved; the later ones are more protracted and relationships (growing intimacy) take on more importance. The fourth bound volume, Out of Time, considers a longer – and more wintery – adventure and allows readers’ attachments to grow.

40 Dayz MotionMotion’s 40Dayz (2008) has been on my TBR since I first heard her slam on CBC Radio about ten years ago. You’re quite right: the math doesn’t add up! She didn’t have anything in print at the time.

These are verses to hear in your mind. Perhaps that’s true of all poetry, but it’s advice which resonates for me with these works particularly.

Reading these in snippets, on the subway and on errands, standing in line and sitting in place: there is such energy to these works, a commanding voice and a sense of urgency.

In “hedlines”:
[the] “world is quiet
brownstones sleep
somewhere headlines grow
this moment

In .”connect the t.dots”:
“Love is the shock under my sneakers when I’m
wearing heels
keep me bouncing to that t..dot o. dot anthem
when I feel like I got no home”

In “woman”:
“it’s about the pains of women
the strains of women
the wondering if I am even
woman enough?”

And some works, like “revival”, have a particularly powerful resonance to them right now:
“slow dance of sage
in the air
revival time
is near”.

These volumes might be skinny but they’re stuffed with good things.

What have you been reading while you’re on the go?

What’s in your bookbag today?

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11 comments to In My Bookbag, Winter 2017

  • Currently in my bookbag just one volume – Roman Fever by Edith Wharton. I had another go at polyreading recently and failed miserably so I shall stick to one at a time!

    • I’m just too lazy to carry around the heavy books that I’m quite willing to hold onto at home. Is that a collection of stories or a novel? I think it was in my stack but perhaps was written later than the EW I’m reading for the group, The Reef.

  • I’ve read the first two volumes of Lumberjanes. I liked the first one a lot was very meh about the second and haven’t bothered reading the third but now you have convince me. so pardon me while I go place a request for it at the library.

    • I hear ya: I almost quit during the second one, simply because I was longing for something “more” (it was still cute, right? and probably would’ve appealed more to young readers?); the third one is more like the first, IMO, though I still didn’t like it quite as much as the first, but the fourth I enjoyed as much as the first one. I’ll be interested to hear what you think. (Plus, they do play a “lighter” note in the dark reading of late: necessary!)

  • Why haven’t I heard of New Year’s Eve? I love Marina Endicott!
    In my bookbag: Emily Climbs and soon Emily’s Quest.

  • Hooray! Lumberjanes!
    And also, why have i not read Marina Endicott? Must amend this.

    • Thanks for all your rec’s: I’m so behind in this reading vein!
      My favourite remains Good to a Fault, then her most recent Closer to Hugh (which is especially fun if you enjoy wordplay), but whatever you can find south of the border will be a good one, no whammies.

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