Tag Archives: books on film

2016: Ready, set, go!

Late in December, I spent some time thinking about my priorities for 2016 and the areas I wanted to focus on. On a whim (and on sale), I’d bought a couple of notebooks from the National Gallery of Canada and I knew immediately how I’d put them to use.

The first is my organization journal. It’s divided into six sections, one for each of my focus areas: Home Organization and Decor; Writing; Genealogy; Reading; Creativity; and Estate Planning. I roughly divided the book into six sections and am using each section to organize my to-do lists, next steps, notes, etc.

  1. For Home Organization and Decor, I am starting with the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home challenge. It gives me manageable chunks of work to do each day and I’m already seeing excellent improvements (it starts with the kitchen.) It will also include the things we need to do around the house (recovering furniture, any purchases, and maybe a kitchen reno, although I’ll need a whole new notebook if that goes ahead. Get the plan here: Free 2016 Printable Declutter Calendar: 15 Minute Daily Missions

  2. In the Writing section, I’m happy to say that I have started Sarah Selecky’s Story Course to kick-start my writing practice. It’s a series of five detailed lessons on short-story writing, with a lot of exercises, reading, and thinking involved in each one. I am also using her daily writing prompts on days that I don’t work on a lesson. Most daily sessions of writing are 10-20 minutes of “free-writing” and I’m happy to say that I’ve written all thirteen days of the year so far, in the second notebook of my purchase. If you’re interested in something like this, check it out here.

  3. My third focus area is Genealogy. I’ve been working on my family history for years and my online tree is huge. The problem is, I haven’t always been as critical as I could about links that I find and I don’t know how accurate all my data is. At the same time, Ancestry has announced that in the next year or so it will stop supporting its software Family Tree Maker, which is what I’ve been using to keep my info on my computer. It syncs to the Ancestry trees in the cloud, and everything was working fine. I have decided to move to another computer-based genealogy package called Roots Magic.
    IMG_2249
    So I am taking this confluence of events to follow
    Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over. This (free) program guides you through starting over with your genealogy, putting aside everything you’ve done before (except for source documents), and doing everything properly (especially source citations.) I’ve purchased Roots Magic and MacEntee’s workbook (not required, but useful for me) and am thinking about what practices I want to use going forward, before I enter one single name or date into Roots Magic.
  4. My fourth focus area is Reading. Each year I participate in a number of reading challenges, plus I’m in a book club and a books-on-film series at TIFF, so I need to juggle books to meet deadlines. This section of the journal will help me with that. I’ve printed and pasted a couple of reading challenge diagrams into it already. But I’m also including in this section reading I do for other learning. For example, I’ve started a course on the Microbiome through Coursera, and while most of the work is online, I’m using this area to remind myself of deadlines and rough out assignments. Finally, Goodreads takes care of my reading lists and reviews and stats.
  5. Next we have the Creativity section. This is an area of my life that I enjoy but I have been lax about actually turning out any creative (or not so creative work.) I now have my own studio space that is pretty organized (thanks to uber-organizer Rosalind at Simply Home) but I still have some things from the basement that need to be brought upstairs. I have a pile of mending/alterations that need to be done and some jewellry to be repaired, and then I want to get on to my own creative work.
  6. Last, but not least in my brain (although possibly least in my heart) is Estate Planning. The big “R” word is starting to be heard more around here and so we need to get our financial ducks in order. We have a new investment manager at the firm we’re with and there will be lots of paperwork over the next month or so as we get a plan in place for the last third of our lives. Also taxes. And up-to-date wills. These all have to move to the front-burner this year and I’m the one who has to drive it.

This kind of planning has proven really useful, even halfway into the first month of the year. It helps me to keep on track and always know what I want (or need) to do next in each focus area. I plan to blog separately about some of these endeavours as I make progress on them. Stay tuned.

Long weekend (and other recent) reading

Up here in the Great White North, it’s the Victoria Day Weekend, a chance to chill on a sofa with a book while your spouse works in the garden. YMMV.

My recent reads of note:

For TIFF Books on Film, I read a lovely collection of short stories by Yiyung Lee. My review (from Goodreads):

A Thousand Years of Good PrayersA Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a bit conflicted about these stories. They are pretty dark: the plight of gays in China, of families with multiple children in China, daughters who don’t get along with their parents, who find out secrets, a young man swept into the Party because he looks like the late dictator. The characters in the collection felt relentlessly sad, pained, stuck in helpless situations.

That being said, these stories are finely crafted, intricate sketches of the men, women and young people caught up in difficult times. The tales are set in both China and the US of the immigrant experience.

I didn’t make it to the film associated with the final (title) story in this book as I was feeling under the weather, but by all reports it was excellent and I hope to pick it up online or from a local video store.

sand and fogThe other book I read for the TIFF series was House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. It was a solid 5 stars, the story of a Persian immigrant to the US whose social status has fallen. He buys a house through a sherrif’s sale to try to make some money by flipping it. The story is told throught the points of view of the immigrant, the home owner who lost her house, and a police officer who tries to help her out. I’m very much looking forward to the screening of the film based on the novel on June 2nd.

I don’t read much YA literature, but I met a writer at my spouse’s Christmas party and downloaded her novel, Girl Reinvented. I loved it!

Girl ReinventedGirl Reinvented by Ann Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This YA novel was lots of fun, even for this well-past-YA reader. An overweight, introverted teen decides to reinvent herself, both on the outside and inside. I got some great fashion encouragement and enjoyed the denouement immensely. There’s lots to like here, and as an inexpensive download, well worth the price.

I look forward to more from Ms. Moore.

My bookclub read the best-seller Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn earlier this year. It’s soon to be a feature film and was relatively well received by the club. When I saw an earlier novel of hers available for download from the public library, I picked it up and was equally positive about it.

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written prior to Gone Girl, this equally intense thriller takes us into the heart of a family torn apart by tragedy. The protagonist, a reporter at a Chicago paper is sent to her hometown to cover a murder and becomes entangled in her family history. Difficult to put down, I had figured out the truth prior to the reveal, but it nonetheless kept me gasping.

I read another collection of short stories, Can’t and Won’t, by Lydia Davis. It arrived on the holds shelf at the library and I can’t remember where I read about it.

Can't and Won't: StoriesCan’t and Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, wow.

First of all, I can’t believe that I’ve never read any of her work before.

This collection is what I imagine a writer’s diary to be like: the stories range from a line or two to 25 pages. Each start on a new page. Some are dreams. Some are (translated) excerpts from Flaubert. Letters. Snippets of conversation. Davis elevates the mundane to philosophical pondering, and brings down the self-important.

I want to read more.

And start a writer’s diary.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

signatureCurrently, I’m listening to The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love (which I pretty much hated.) This novel was recommended to me by someone whose reading taste I very much respect (and who felt the same way about EPL.)  It’s a fabulous story about the life of a women in 19th century Pennsylvania who has a gift for botany, and about her family and the people who come in to her rather sheltered life. I rarely listen to audiobooks while I’m in bed, ready to sleep, but this one has me listening whenever I get a chance.

scratchingsI’ve also started reading a family history that I picked up at the OGS conference earlier this month called Scratchings: Across Cultures: A Memoir of Denial and Discovery by Stephen Heeney. This was a book that I picked up, a slim paperback priced at $29.95. I read a bit of the introduction:

The title of this book is derived from the lengths, still visible today, to which it was thought necessary to go in order to cover up our Iroquois ancestry. One of my objectives has been to confirm and explore this ancestry, and to contrast the fascination it aroused in me and my sister and cousins, with the shame it inspired in an earlier generation.

I put it down, and moved on to the next exhibitor, but in the next hour found that I couldn’t get it out of my mind. In some ways, genealogical research so often leads to discoveries of parts of our past that were covered up for one reason or another. I went back to the table and purchased the book, and am now 40 pages in to the 117 total. It could have used a sharper editor’s pencil, but it’s a fascinating story nonetheless.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Reading as imaginative co-creation

As the lights darkened in the TIFF cinema Monday night, I leaned over to my friend and said “We’re so lucky to live in this city.”

We were there for the season opener of the Books in Film series. Eleanor Wachtel had just introduced Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and special guest flown in from Lahore for the screening of Mira Nair’s film based on the novel. From his brief comments before the film, it was clear this was going to be a highlight of the series.

No spoilers here. This Man Booker nominated novel is a must-read. But it was an interesting exercise in teasing out the differences between the experience of reading and that of watching a film. The novel has two basic acts: Changez (the protagonist, pronounced Chong’-iz) at Princeton and working as a financial analyst in New York City; and Changez after he returns to Lahore. The novel is written in the second person: Changez is telling his story to an American while sitting in a cafe in Lahore. We don’t know much about the American and the ending is not tidy.

In the film, there is a third act that ties the story together. There are other significant changes, and much more of a back story. Hamid stated that movie-goers don’t want to leave the cinema not knowing what “the ending” meant. But more than that, he had interesting things to say about the experience of reading versus watching a film.

In his view, a book leaves greater space for “imaginative co-creation” on the part of the reader. And particularly so in this novel where one half of the conversation is missing. Readers are required to imagine a lot, to create their own reality, to “engage in make-believe, or imaginative play for adults.”  He said that film is more “pre-chewed”, with less space for the viewer to enter into their own minds. Hamid stated that “books and film are completely different art forms.”

There was more. A discussion of the meaning of a beard. Nair’s changes to the screenplay to highlight powerful women. The importance (or not) of 9/11 in the novel. How one’s identification as part of a group can be (always is?) uncomfortable.

This was an evening to remember, and one of the reasons that I love my adopted city, and TIFF in particular. If you’re a reader and love film (and live in Toronto), single tickets are now available for this terrific series.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Seven Quick Takes – Almost spring? Please?

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. Last night I attended the Open Book Literary Salon hosted at The Spoke Club. Moderated by Becky Toyne, the discussants were writers Michael Winter, Stacey May Fowles, and Brian Francis. Sadly, the promised “relaxed, salon atmosphere” didn’t really materialize. The ambient noise from other areas of the club required the use of microphones, even in the small space, and it was really more of a panel discussion with a few questions from the audience than any kind of salon experience.
    That being said, there were a few worthwhile gems. SMF often writes to “work something out” for example, “why I like CSI or Rihanna”. BF is motivated to keep writing because he feels responsible for his characters, not wanting to leave them in limbo but finish their stories. He also noted that you need to allow yourself to have a crappy first draft, but just get the story finished. No one will ever see it and it’s the second draft where the magic happens. MW suggested we analyze why we like the books we like (to read). This will help with your own writing. And both BF and MW encouraged people to read a lot, and read what you like, not what you think you’re supposed to read,
  2. Before the salon, my friend and I ate at WVRST (609 King W), a lively place that sells artisanal sausages, fries, dips, and an interesting selection of beers (and cider). You place your order at a counter and your meal is brought to you. Seating is on long communal tables and while it got a bit noisy by the time we were leaving,  I’ll definitely be back.
  3. Last Sunday, the choir was ready to sing our first hymn in Icelandic. It took us a few weeks to get the pronunciation down as there are extra letters and letter-combos that we had to master . Because we sing at the back of the church from a loft, the sound is lovely. Here’s a video clip of the group Arstidir singing it in a train station:
    http://youtu.be/e4dT8FJ2GE0?t=5s
  4. I was crushed to miss Jonathan Crow playing a Beethoven Violin Concerto last Friday due to ill health, but surprised when TSO member services called me offering me other tickets through their missed concert program. How lovely is that?
  5. This Monday is the first evening in the TIFF Books-on-Film series. Eleanor Wachtel will be interviewing Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I’ve both read the book and seen the film, but am looking forward to hearing Hamid’s view of the translation from page to celluloid.
  6. I’m heading to Barrie next week for a day to meet some distant cousins. Thanks to the Goddard Association of Europe‘s Facebook page, I’ve linked up with descendants of the brother (John) of my gggrandfather, William Goddard. I’ll also spend some time in the Barrie Public Library’s local history room, and if weather permits, visit the cemetery where a number of Goddards are buried.
  7. I spend part of last week clearing out my mom’s condo, getting it ready for sale, and I came across this blast from the past:
    I hate to cook bookMy mom’s famous “Chicken Rice Roger” came from it, and I suspect some other recipes as well. They’re in pretty bad shape but I’m gonna look for new(er) copies as they’re the kind of cookbook that makes for a fun read. There’s a 50th anniversary edition published in 2010 (we’re the same age!) that I might just break down and buy.

I love comments! If you’re reading this in an email, click through and leave me a note.

Enhanced by Zemanta

It’s Monday….what are you reading?

it's monday

Finishing up The Bachelors by Muriel Spark, an audiobook version. It’s curious little novel that involves spiritualism. relationships, and a court case. I’m not enjoying it as much as her other novels, but it has its moments.

Just digging in to Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. It’s the last of the Books on Film series at TIFF and will be screening on June 24th with director Deepa Mehta interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel.

While I’ve finished the text bits of  VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good, I’ll be leafing through it this week to plan some vegan meals.

So. What are you reading? Let me know in the comments.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Review: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy KravitzThe Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was probably my third time through this novel, although I didn’t read it in high school like so many other Canadian kids. I was prompted for this reread by the Books on Film presentation of the digitally-remastered copy of the film that was recently completed.

I love everything of Richler’s that I’ve read, probably most of his canon. In this case, he writes what he knows: Jewish life in the St. Urbain neighbourhood in Montreal. He portrays a young man seeking, ultimately, the approval of his grandfather, whose advice is that “a man without land is nothing”.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Enhanced by Zemanta

Duddy’s back in town.

Last night was a CanCon lover’s dream. The screening of the newly-remastered digital print of “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz“, based on the novel by Mordecai Richler, was the TIFF Books on Film event, and as we walked in to the screening room, we immediately noticed the 30 or so seats that had been reserved for special guests. Margaret Atwood’s name was the first to catch my eye. Richler’s widow Florence and children Noah and Jacob were also in attendance.

Jesse Wente, Head of Programming at TIFF, opened the evening and introduced the CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, Helga Stephenson. Her announcement that a copy of the beautiful digital print had been donated to TIFF so that it could be shown whenever possible was met with great applause. Last week, the film finally had its Cannes debut in the Cannes Classics program, and director Ted Kotcheff and Richard Dreyfuss were on the red carpet.

Svetlana and Richard Dreyfuss, Helga Stephenson, Ted Kotcheff and Laifun Kotcheff
Svetlana and Richard Dreyfuss, Helga Stephenson, Ted Kotcheff and Laifun Kotcheff

Eleanor Wachtel, our host for the Books on Film series, followed with a welcome and gave a bio of Kotcheff, our guest for the post-screening interview. (The ACCT bio is here.) Kotcheff then spoke of his 44-year friendship with Richler that started in the South of France. He wanted to make a film of Duddy for years, and finally got funding in the early days of the Canadian Film Development Corporation (now Telefilm Canada) when they covered half of the $750,000 budget for the film, with Gerald Schniederman covering the other half. Mr Schneiderman’s widow Roberta was at the screening last night and Kotcheff called her out to applause.

As Stephenson said in her remarks, the newly remastered print makes the film look like it was shot yesterday. I’ve seen the original at least twice, and Dreyfuss’ performance is amazing. Kotcheff described the casting of Duddy as a bit of a nightmare. He didn’t want to make the film until he found the perfect lead. As they got very close to the shoot date,  Kotcheff put in a call to NY casting director Lynn Stalmaster who, after reading the script, called him down to see a young guy who had a four minute scene in a previous film in which the kid had overacted. The moment he began to read for the part, Kotcheff knew he had “his Duddy”, the only issue being that Dreyfuss, a German Jew, had blue eyes.

In Cannes, Dreyfuss commented that Duddy was his best role, and that he didn’t realise this until many years later. And in my mind, when I read the novel, it is Dreyfuss who forms my mental image for Duddy.

Enjoy this little clip of the gambling scene:

Enhanced by Zemanta