Tag Archives: book club

Vancouver Redux

I’m out west for another two weeks. I’m basically a “fixer” for my hard-working spouse. Or maybe a concierge-with-benefits. My thoughts on the morning of the first day:

Packing: I keep telling myself to make a packing list so that I don’t forget stuff. Perhaps it was because we didn’t leave home ’til 6 pm yesterday and I had the whole afternoon to organize myself. But I had to drop off Ollie at boarding, and finish my Coursera assignment and so time reverse-telescoped I guess. I carefully set my noise-cancelling headphones to charge (and then forgot to pack them.) I stashed my fuzzy slippers in my suitcase and then, at the last minute, went to pack my street shoes and they were nowhere to be found (did I leave them in Ottawa?). I didn’t have a reasonable alternative.  So now I will either be wearing boots for the next two weeks or will be shopping. I blithely decided not to bring iPad but forgot that it’s the best way to read the paper first thing in the morning. Forgot my computer glasses.

The travel: We (I?) had cocktail hour before we left home with some cheddar and nuts. Then a glass of wine in the airport lounge with a small salad. Then a G&T and nuts on the flight. We were upgraded into Air Canada’s newish layout of their B777-200LR‘s business class, with fully reclinable seats in a little pod. Dinner took forever to be served and I was headachey and sleepy. I had to be woken up to eat. After the meal, I flattened out and slept for whatever time was left of the flight(an hour?) By the time we landed I had a migraine and major body-ache. We were met by the car service and as I drank the little complimentary bottle of water, I could literally feel my cells expand. Or whatever. I was clearly dehydrated.

The apartment: We’re trying out a new place, close to Yaletown. It’s a shorter walk to work and closer to a lot of stuff I’m interested in (Art Galleries, Library, Cathedral). It’s a smaller place than the last one and is lacking in the fab view, but it has a heated saltwater pool and spa on the roof so there’s that. Apparently a gym but too but I am unlikely to need further details. Today I’ve got to stock up on some basics like soap (body, laundry, dishwasher) and food. It’s the Chinese New Year plus Family Day today and apparently a lot of places are closed. But first, I need to find something to eat and some coffee.

My personal plans for the next two weeks are to:

    1. continue my genealogy do-over with some initial population of my new software and a review of documentation (source citation) methods.
    2. do lesson 2 of The Story Course
    3. get my February reading done:
      – Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant for my IRL book club
      – Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler for the Goodreads CBC book club
      – The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay, a terrific novel I’m listening to
      – How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize Your Research and Boost Your Genealogy Productivity: my current organization obsession. Just grabbed this from the Toronto Public Library.
    4. Get to the Contemporary Art Gallery (just around the corner from me), walk the seawall around Stanley Park, visit the Bloedel Conservatory, taste-test spirits at the Long Table Distillery, and a lot of wandering.

Reading internationally

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My book club has a no-stress December meeting, where rather than reading a book and discussing it, we each bring a book to share with the group, something that we’ve read that we loved and that we want to introduce others to.

One year it was completely open. Last year, it was a favorite novel. At our last meeting this year (for which I was absent), there was discussion around sharing an international book (that is, a book not set in North America or the UK).

Today, one of our members posted this video about the pleasures of reading internationally.

In one of the Goodreads groups I belong to, there is an international challenge that runs each year. Points are awarded for each country from which you read (one book per country) with bonus points for non-fiction books, books by an author born in the country, and books originally written in the non-english language of the country (if applicable.) Also, countries are awarded points based on the UNESCO count of how many books are published each year in that country.

My list so far (links are to Goodreads):

USA: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Switzerland: Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

England: Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley

Scotland: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Norway: My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgård

India: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Vietnam: The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb

Spain: The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Canada: Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz

Australia: True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

South Africa: Summertime by J.M. Coetzee

France: How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits by Anne Berest

Egypt: Baking Cupcakes in Egypt by Elizabeth MacLean

When I do this next year, I’d like to work harder on reading voices from each country, rather that North American or British authors writing novels set there (although this is permitted in the challenge.) And some of my reading didn’t qualify because 3/4 of the book must take place in the country, so two books by Ruth Ozeki that are partly set in Japan and have a very Japanese sensibility (My Year of Meats and A Tale for the Time Being) didn’t fulfill that rule.

 

Friday Seven: the culture edition

Seven eh

  1. Just finished listening to the podcast version of Terry Fallis’ fourth novel, No Relation. It’s very funny, in Fallis’ bordering-on-cheesy style, and a good story. A narrative driven novel, it’s an easy read, and involves a lots of Hemingway lore and a shout-out to the Sherlock Holmes society in Toronto, The Bootmakers. Highly recommended.
  2. TIFF starts next week and I’m planning to see 16 films over the 10 day festival. I may add in a couple more that were on my list and that have received good reviews. I’m seeing five with Zouheir (he’s only available on the weekends) and one with a friend. Here’s my list. I don’t pay extra for premium screenings (first screening of high buzz films) as I don’t particularly care about the red carpet (although I always stay when there is a Q&A after screenings, when I have time before the next film.) I see the majority of the films alone which is fine by me. I always have a book to keep me occupied in line, and I don’t need to look for seats together. The one star I’d love to see is Eddie Redmayne who’s plays the role of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. I first saw him in My Week with Marilyn and from everything i’ve read, he’s smart (Eton/Cambridge) as well as a gorgeous, freckly red-head. I also wouldn’t turn my head away from Adam Driver, Ethan Hawke, or Robert Downey Jr.
  3. My book club met last Sunday to discuss The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray. An absolutely fascinating study of World War I Toronto, we rated it an average of 7/10. Gray details the social structures (and strictures) of life at that time, particularly for women. Unfortunately, we have nothing in the historical record in the voice of Carrie Davies (the “maid”) so she remains a bit of a mystery. We were fascinated by the burgeoning maternal feminism of the time, the Toronto Local Council of Women, and the Toronto Women’s Court. In chatting with my aunts about this time (they were born in the following decade), they reminisced about Sunday observance in the city, where swings and slides in parks were locked up and their Scots Presbyterian father forbade running, knitting, playing with toys (with the exception of some dolls their grandmother had give them), and swimming on the Sabbath.
    IMG_0008
  4. Our 31st wedding anniversary was this week. It passed quietly as Z is very busy at work these days, and our celebration will be our trip to France in late September. We’re spending a week in Paris and have rented an apartment, and then we’ll spend a week further south. We need to book a rental car and start planning our little road trip.
  5. Michael texted me from Montreal yesterday. His flat-mate is back from China and they were cooking dinner together (she’s a pastry chef!) He wanted my guacamole recipe which made me feel warm all over (he still NEEDS me….). MIchael had a wonderful if exhausting time at the Orford Orchestra Workshop this summer. We headed to Orford to pick him up a couple of weeks ago and heard their final concert, which was marvellous. Really, the best orchestra which which I’ve heard him play. They performed Smetana’s La Moldau, Stravinski’s Firebird Suite, and Brahms Symphony No 4, under the baton of Jean-François Rivest. They started the program with a Bach Chorale, sung by the musicians in their seats, something that they did every morning to warm up and “form a community”. It gave me the chills.
    IMG_5875
    Orford Orchestra brass section.
  6. Alex is fostering a kitten! He’s named him Pascal (after the mathematician) and I suspect he’s on the road to being a “failed foster” i.e. he’s gonna adopt him. The Toronto Cat Rescue hooked him up with this cutie.
    Pascal
    Pascal
  7. I’m off to Canadian Tire for and oil change, new headlamp that just burned out, and new tires. Exciting, eh? I really like my local CT shop. They don’t talk down to me, don’t try to upsell, and are just nice guys. Plus, there’s a mall attached to it with a Fortinos so I can get groceries while I wait. 

That’s it for the week! I hope to be back on here more regularly, but no promises, LOL.

Friday Seven

  1. Heading to a Syrian wedding today: the sacrament is this afternoon in Woodbridge and the party tonight in Etobicoke at the Edessa Banquet Hall. I won’t know many people there, but my partner-in-crime is getting less patient with loud music so it likely won’t be a late night.
  2. For a complete change of pace, we’re heading up to Wyebridge (near Midland) tomorrow morning for a Goddard family reunion. I think it’a actually referred to as the “3G” annual event, for Goddard, Gear, and Graham families. I’m looking forward to meeting some new-to-me cousins and fleshing out my family tree. Our hosts are Stephen and Frieda Goddard. Stephen is my mother’s first cousin, the son of her uncle Percy Goddard.
    Doug Townsend, Stephen and Frieda Goddard
    Doug Townsend, Stephen and Frieda Goddard

    I blogged about another branch of my Goddards here. Two brothers emigrated to the Barrie, Ontario area (John in 1970 and William in 1871). I descend from William and the branch at the link descend from John.

  3. For my book challenge this quarter (my booklist here – I won’t read them all, but it’s a goal), I’m reading a memoir by Vladimir Nabokov called Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. It’s achingly beautifully written, and I’m doing a slow, close read to enjoy it. Here’s a snippet, a memory of a young Nabokov sitting on the veranda while his nanny reads french novels to him.

    From "Speak, Memory" by Vladimir Nabokov.
    From “Speak, Memory” by Vladimir Nabokov.
  4. For my Toronto readers: I just discovered an interesting website called Tabs Toronto. It sends automated alerts any time key words that you select are identified in city government records. You can do a search and then decide whether you’d like an email alert based on it. I’ve registered for my street name, neighbourhood name, and local BIAs. It’s a great initiative intended to improve civic participation.
    TABS
  5. Every since we moved in to our house seven years ago, we’ve known that we had issues with poor air circulation (basement too cold, second floor too hot). We finally got around to having an HVAC professional in to look at our system and he gave us some good advice about improving our duct work, and noted that our AC had been incorrectly installed, effectively blocking the path of air in to the ducts. (Or something.) Our furnace maintenance people had told us that our furnace was on its last legs, and so we took the plunge and replaced both furnace and AC. What a difference. We can actually feel cool air coming out of the ducts in our upper floor. He also recommended that we put a shade or covering of some kind on the large skylight in our stairwell so that’s the next job.
  6. My last post on my Berkman ancestors got a lot of hits, and I’m hoping to get in contact with some cousins. In the meantime, I finally scanned this business card of my grandfather David’s fur company. He moved back to Ontario in the early 30s and had some retail businesses. More about that soon.

    D Berkman Fur Company
    D Berkman Fur Company
  7. My book club had an excellent discussion of Donna Tartt‘s The Goldfinch last Sunday. It got pretty high ratings for the group (average 8/10), a surprising amount of sympathy for Boris, and totally expected love for Hobie. We also sniffed at the critics who looked down their noses at the accessible writing.  We met on the patio at the lovely Grenadier Restaurant in High Park (well, the food is fine but the venue is lovely) and will meet there again next month when we move to non-fiction with The Massey Murder: The Maid, Her Master, and the Trial That Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray.

We’ve got a long weekend here in Ontario so Sunday and Monday are going to be read-and-relax days. On Tuesday, I’m heading to Ottawa to see my mother and some friends, and then back on Friday.

Leave me some love in the comments!

Reading list for November

book loveI’ve got three must-read books this month.

I’d also kind of like to join in the Bookish read of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs if I can get it from the library in time.

I’m just finishing up Bad Behavior, a group of short stories by Mary Gaitskill that are kind of annoying me, but possibly because they were written in the 80s and are mainly about depressed young women in New York or Chicago having unhappy sex. Sort of a downer Sex and the City.

Seven Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes Friday

    1. Spent a lovely weekend at the cottage with my extended family. While my boys didn’t come up with us, there being no internet and all, I had fun hanging with my sibs and their kids, and my mom. Zouheir got out in the Laser and polished up his sailing skills, and he, my brother-in-law and the kids headed out in the motor boat to watch the fireworks in Portland from the water.
    2. The VB6 eating plan is going pretty well. I have my new routine for breakfast and am eating more veggies in general. And have I lost any weight, you ask? Not a pound.
    3. The son of one of Zouheir’s cousins is coming to stay with us for a few weeks to improve his English. He’s 19 and hIs family moved to LA from Syria but he is having trouble getting out of his Arabic environs so that he can master the language and start university. He’ll be attending ILAC here in Toronto and we’ll show him the sights.
    4. Got my TIFF ticket packages a couple of nights ago.  I got 20 daytime tickets and 10 any-time. I’ll probably get a few daytime pairs so that I can bring a friend, or Alex and/or his girlfriend. As usual, am very pumped about the festival, even if one of our friends had the audacity to plan his wedding for the second Saturday!
    5. Am rereading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain for book club this weekend. It’s so well-researched that it’s a pleasure to revisit. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s a Ted Talk (that introvert Bill Gates has called his favourite) in which Cain discusses her thesis.
    6. My father Franklin went to Queen’s for medical school. I found this cutting from the Queen’s Journal amongst some photographs. His father’s name was David and his parents separated when he was quite young. This is a side of my father that I had never seen before.
      Void - Poem
    7. If you’re looking for a quiet, interesting little film in Toronto (unlike most of those in the theatres these days), consider seeing Museum Hours which is now screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. It stars Mary Margaret O’Hara and amateur actor Bobby Sommer. Here’s the trailer.

Thanks for reading. I love comments so please feel free to leave one below.