Tag Archives: Alan@WPL

It’s Time to Read: All Systems Red

Dear Readers, would you believe I’m worried? I’m worried about whether or not I can sell you all on a sci-fi novella in which the main protagonist is called Murderbot. Oh, and did I mention the cover looks straight out of the video game Halo?

Not that I’m against sci-fi, novella’s, or things named Murderbot (as long as they’re not murderbotting me). I’m not even against Halo—though, truth be, I’ve always been more into PlayStation than Xbox.

I’m worried because my formative years were spent in a particular space (Northern rural Manitoba) and a particular time (The 90s) and the resulting space-time was not particularly kind to nerd culture. In this space-time one read sci-fi in dark corners of the library, lest one be seen; and anything that ended in the suffix ‘ella’ was seen as pretentious. Recommending a sci-fi novella was not something done with abandon.

But here we are, nearing the end of the twenty-teens, and nerd culture is all the rage. Fantasy is cool. Science Fiction is cool. Keanu Reeves is cool. So, by all logic, this month’s Time to Read selection: Martha Wells’ Hugo and Nebula award winning novella All Systems Red should be cool!

Do you agree? Do you disagree? At only 152 pages, it would be almost painless to find out. And once you do, be sure to let us know on our Time to Read Facebook group, our website wpl-podcast.winnipeg.ca, or by writing to us at wpl-podcast@winnipeg.ca.

And to ease you into hardcore science fiction, be sure to check out this month’s Time to Read episode in which we discuss the urban fantasy Trickster Drift with special guest host Jordan Wheeler. Available now!

~Alan and the rest of the Time to Read team

It’s Time to Read: Trickster Drift

Dear Readers, we are about to embark on new territory for Time to Read—a sequel. This month we will be reading Trickster Drift by Eden Robinson, sequel to Son of a Trickster which we read way back in episode 7.

Sequels are always an interesting undertaking. They often come with high expectations set by the original and the stigma that ‘sequels’ are never as good as the original.

They are also a great opportunity to reconnect with your favourite characters. Without giving too much of Son of a Trickster away, I’m wondering how Jared is doing now that he’s found magic in his life. Will Jared’s relationship with his mom, Maggie, be any different from last time around? And what nerdy endeavours is Crashpad up to these days?

It was also fun to go back and listen to the Son of a Trickster podcast episode and remember we had our very first podcast special guest: Information Services librarian Monique! Fitting then, that we will also have a special guest on this episode: author and former WPL writer-in-residence Jordan Wheeler.

And of course we’d like to hear your thoughts on Trickster Drift. Let us know on our Time to Read Facebook group, our website wpl-podcast.winnipeg.ca, or by writing to us at wpl-podcast@winnipeg.ca.

Don’t forget to check out the latest (and very special) episode of the Time to Read podcast which features author Margaret Sweatman as we discuss her novel Fox. Available now!

~Alan and the rest of the Time to Read team

It’s Time to Read : Poetry

Dear Readers, did you know that April is National Poetry Month?  To celebrate, Time to Read is exploring all of poetry. Too broad? Well, we’ll just explore as much of poetry as we can in an hour. But as usual, we want your help. We’d like for you to share your favorite poems with us—and of course tell us why they’re your favorite. You can let us know on our Time to Read Facebook group, our website wpl-podcast.winnipeg.ca, or by writing to us at wpl-podcast@winnipeg.ca.

And, if you need a good place start, or are just curious what the Time to Read team will be reading during National Poetry Month we’ve each selected one poem in one book by one poet that we’d like to spotlight. And, in the tradition of recent social media trends, I’m going to share one stanza from each of our poems with no explanation—that is until the podcast!

Erica’s choice:

“Verse For a Certain Dog” from Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

Such glorious faith as fills your limpid eyes,
Dear little friend of mine, I never knew.
All-innocent are you, and yet all-wise.
(For Heaven’s sake, stop worrying that shoe!)
You look about, and all you see is fair;
This mighty globe was made for you alone.
Of all the thunderous ages, you’re the heir.
(Get off the pillow with that dirty bone!)

Trevor’s choice:

“Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost


He gives his harness bells a shake  
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.

Kirsten’s choice:

“riverstory” from River Woman by Katherena Vermette

I wait
to hear the stories of the river
sit at the edge
scoop up the silence
my fingers tangle
in the long dark hair
there is always long dark hair
that is where our spirits linger
left behind to wander the waves

Alan’s choice:

“I’m Not All Knowing But…” from Come On In! New Poems by Charles Bukowski

the best poems
it seems to me
are written out of
an ultimate
need.
and once the poem is
written,
the only need
after that
is to write
another.

One last thing: if you weren’t able to make it to our live podcast event (or if you just want to re-live the memories) the recording of “But I don’t Wanna Grow Up! Favourite Childhood books” is available today!  I don’t want to spoil too much but, Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess won our first ever book battle.

~Alan and the rest of the Time to Read team

It’s Time to Read: The Namesake

The reader should realize himself that it could not have happened otherwise, and that to give him any other name was quite out of the question

                —Nikolai Gogol, “The Overcoat” & epigraph of “The Namesake”

 

Dear Readers,  if you listen to Time to Read regularly you’ll know that I love thinking about names and titles and what they mean. So it is fitting, one could say that it could not have happened otherwise, that this month we will be reading The Namesake by Jumpa Lahiri.

In The Namesake, a couple emigrate from Calcutta to America, eschew cultural tradition and name their firstborn child Gogol after the Russian author of the same name.

 

Do you need to know your Gogol to read The Namesake?  No.  But I bet it will be more interesting if you do.  I’ve been reading The Overcoat and Other Tales of Good and Evil and have found it surprisingly accessible.  I’ve found the collection at different times both dark and funny, and Gogol plays with story structure in surprising ways.  But if you only have time for one of Gogol’s short stories I recommend The Overcoat from which the above epigraph is pulled (and if you have time for two I highly recommend The Portrait.)

Please let us know if you have any thoughts about Gogol or The Namesake by going to our website wpl-podcast.winnipeg.ca, writing to us at wpl-podcast@winnipeg.ca or leaving a comment on our Time to Read Facebook group.

Also, don’t forget to check out the new episode which drops today.  It features Alexa and Sappfyre who joined from BlackSpaceWPG to discuss Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.  A great way to kick off Black History Month!

~Alan and the rest of the Time to Read team

It’s Time to Read: Washington Black

Welcome to the New Year, dear readers! Since the Time to Read podcast book club began early in 2018 it has been an incredible experience to come together as a community, read books, and engage in conversations.  To everyone who listened and everyone who wrote in:  you have our most heartfelt thanks and know you are a friend of the show.

But as we all know, the New Year isn’t just a time for reflection, it is also time to look forward; so, speaking of friends and speaking of coming together, I’m excited to announce the novel we will be reading in January comes in collaboration with Black Space Winnipeg. The novel is the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.

Not only did our friends at Black Space Winnipeg collaborate with us to choose this month’s title, they will also sit down with us to record the episode. We look forward to the forthcoming discussion as we follow the eponymous Washington Black as he escapes slavery and faces the challenges of freedom in a world where slavery still exists.  We also hope that you, dear readers, will contribute to the conversation by commenting on our website, via email, or on our new Facebook group. Keep an eye out for discussion questions in the coming weeks and be sure to download the episode when it releases on February 1, 2019 to see if your comments made it onto the air.

And of course, our latest episode in which we discuss Beartown by Fredrik Backman is available to download today! Spoiler: we loved the book, but tune in to find out if we love hockey.

~Alan and the rest of the Time to Read team

It’s Time to Read: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Welcome, dear readers!  Happy first Friday of the month.  In the past, we’ve celebrated the all-important first Friday of the month by letting you know the latest episode of Time to Read was available to download.  We thought this was a pretty good way to spend your weekend. We were wrong.

What we should have been doing, and what we promise to do from now on, is to tell you what book we’re reading now.  Why? So you have Time to Read it of course!  And then you can let us know what you think. And when we record the next episode we can let you know what we think of what you think. We think that’s pretty neat.

reid For the month of November we’ll be reading I’m Thinking of Ending Things.  A Novel. By novelist Iain Reid.  I don’t know much about it … yet.  But I have it on good authority that it’s good.  Whose authority you might ask? An author I really admire, Heather O’Neill of Lullabies for Little Criminals fame calls it “Addictive.”  Charlie Kaufman of Charlie Kaufman fame is apparently turning it into a television series.  I can only hope he brings on Donald Kaufman to help him out.

But what I’d really like to know, dear readers, is what you think of it.  Did it keep you up at night? Because it was too scary? Or, maybe you couldn’t put it down?  Let us know by email at wpl-podcast@winnipeg.ca or leave a comment on our website.

And don’t forget to check out our latest episode, in which we discuss The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  Available now.

-Alan and the rest of the Time to Read team

Libraries Matter: An Overview of Sports and Libraries

Sports, long considered the arch nemesis of libraries. The anti-matter to the library’s matter, if you will. But does the universe end when you bring a library book to a sports game? No! I say, it provides hours of entertainment for the uninterested partner who is dragged to what sporters call ‘the big game.’ But beware, you might get a funny look from a right winger who has just scored a triple-double at the buzzer and is looking to the crowd for approval. In these situations I suggest the reader lightly tap their book against their knee to approximate clapping—no need to look up from the page.

But what then does the library offer sporters? One might think the labyrinthian nature of library shelves might offer the perfect field for a game of ‘tag.’ However, study after study has revealed that ‘tag’ is not a recognized sub-genre of sport. Recognized sub-genres of sport include:  baseball, football, hockeyball, and tennis. Curiously, these sports sub-genres have spawned a genre of film called the ‘sports movie’ of which the sport sub-genre of ‘football’ is my favourite. Some examples include:  Friday Night Lights in which a down on their luck football team overcomes challenges to make it to the championship game; Remember the Titans in which a down on their luck football team overcomes challenges to make it to the championship game; or Rudy, in which a down on their luck footballer overcomes challenges in order to take their team to the championship game. These films, available at your local library, are thoroughly enjoyable for sporters and non-sporters alike. But be warned,  even after watching dozens of entertaining football movies the non-sporter may still walk away without a great understanding of the complexities and nuances of the rules of football—even when movies such as The Blind Side explain them using condiments as stand-ins for players.

Of course, for non-sporters there are books available to provide a more in-depth look at sports rules. My personal favourite is Moneyball. Moneyball, for those not in the know, is a sub-genre of the sport sub-genre baseball. It is sort of a meta-game in which the players analyze the statistics of baseball players and try to make the best baseball team possible based on those statistics. The book Moneyball is all about the first Moneyballers who popularized the sub-sub-genre.

If I may take a personal aside for a moment, the library is also a place that provides resources that may encourage non-sporters to take up sports. There was a time in my life when I didn’t think I would ever be a sporter. Then I played Mario Tennis, a video game which emulates the sport sub-genre of tennis. I was so enamoured by the game that I chose to take up tennis in real life. While I was disappointed that in real life I did not encounter mustachioed plumbers or dinosaurs on the tennis playing area (sometimes known as a court), I did find immense enjoyment in chasing down tennis balls and hitting them with a paddle-like stick known as a racket.

There is one last thing the library offers that non-sporters should consider as a tool to introduce literature to sporters in their lives. A literature review of literature has revealed that novels have a long history of inventing their own sport sub-genres. While the layperson may believe that Quidditch is the best and most popular of these ‘literature sports’ the experts agree, Calvinball is definitively and without question the best literature sport ever invented.

In conclusion, libraries have a lot to offer sporters and non-sporters alike.

Alan

It’s Time to Read: Eleanor and Park

Or why a rose garden by any other name is not a rose garden

Welcome, dear readers! If you couldn’t tell by the title, this blogpost his here to let you know that the latest episode of Time to Read podcast is now available for download!

This month we discussed Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. And since it’s my job to provide a hook, I thought we could talk about titles. The title of a book is one of the first things that grabs our attention, after, of course, the cover–but we all know we shouldn’t judge books by their cover.

Before I even knew what Eleanor & Park was about I had put it on my ‘to-read’ list. For me, the title has a lot going for it. The beautiful three syllables of El●ean●nor juxtaposed with the simple single syllable of Park. Not to mention that it invokes a longstanding tradition in titling romantic tragedies such as Tristan & Isolde or Romeo & Juliet. But, in recording the podcast I discovered that what is a symphony to some (me) is a cacophony to others (one of my fellow podcast hosts). But you’ll have to listen to the episode to get the other side of that debate.

I will, however, give you a sneak peek from the read-a-like section of the podcast we lovingly call “Can you tell me a book you would also like?” Normally, I wouldn’t reveal the title in order to entice you to listen to the podcast, but I think this book is so criminally underrated that I want as many people as possible to read it AND it has a the most hauntingly intriguing book title: I Never Promised You A Rose Garden.

Personally, I think the title alone should be enough for anyone to pick it up. Why would anyone think they were promised a rose garden? And what is meant by ‘rose garden’? But for those of you need a bit more: I Never Promised You a Rose Garden was originally published in 1964 and is a semi-autobiographical novel about a woman working with her psychiatrist to overcome mental illness. And while society still has a long way to go in overcoming the stigma of mental illness, this book does help to illustrate how far we’ve come since the 1960’s.

Of course, I can’t end this without encouraging everyone to read the next selection for the Time to Read Podcast Bookclub. In June we will be reading Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Without giving too much away, it is an expertly crafted memoir about Bechdel’s childhood relationship with her father, a closeted gay man. So please, check it out and let us know what you think. We can be reached at wpl-podcast@winnipeg.ca or find our discussion boards on our website at wpl-podcast.winnipeg.ca.

~Alan and the rest of the Time to Read crew

Tangentially Speaking, not the center of IT

This story begins back when I wasn’t a regular library user. In fact, to be honest, I didn’t think to use the library much at all. I know you’re all gasping, “How could he!,” “What a fool!,” so I’ll give you a paragraph break to catch your breath.

I was young. I was naïve. I was on a mission to complete a sub-list of THE LIST. My goal: to read every book mentioned in Donnie Darko. And before you ask, yes, compiling a list of books to read from a beloved movie or television show is a thing1. People do it for Gilmore Girls. Sometimes a work of art strikes you in just the right way and you end up falling down the rabbit hole2 exploring its references and allusions.

Image credit Keir Hardie (https://flic.kr/p/4x2mqf)

Because of Donnie Darko, I read and watched Watership Down. I started reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Then I started reading it again.  Then I told myself that one day I would be smart enough finish it. My heart skipped a beat when they released Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut and it featured a commentary track with Kevin Smith. And I would laugh to myself while listening to a soundtrack featuring Echo and the Bunnymen3—did I mention Donnie Darko features a man in a giant bunny suit?

Donnie Darko also put a pair of Stephen King novels on my to-read list: The Tommyknockers and another, the title of which I can’t quite remember at the moment4.

But the main obstacle to my goal, the problem that hounded me for years, was trying to track down a copy of “The Destructors” a short story by Graham Greene. In Donnie Darko the Greene’s story is banned from the titular character’s high school because it is seen to promote vandalism. So too, in my life, did it seem to be banned. I scoured bookstores of all shapes and sizes:  from corporate edifices to fly-by-night street sellers. Graham Green was prolific and I found many of his novels, my favourites being:  Doctor Fischer of Geneva and A Burnt-Out Case. But it wouldn’t be until years later that I was able to track down a copy of “The Destructors.” I found it at a place that doesn’t ban books. I found it, if the opening paragraph didn’t give the ending away, at the library.

Alan

1 Part of what put Atlas Shrugged on my list was Mad Men, but that’s a blogpost for another time.

2 Alice in Wonderland reference AND Donnie Darko allusion!

3 Track 3 on this album.

4 Someday I’ll think of it.

You Maniacs! You Blew It Up!

So this happened this morning: I was on the phone, making sure this blog post would go according to plan, when the person on the other end started telling me things I didn’t want to hear. My legs went wobbly, I stumbled forward trying to maintain my balance and as the cord on my phone grew taut I fell to my knees and wailed: “You maniacs! You blew it up!”

But I should probably start at the beginning. I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Monday. [Editor’s note: at this point the author goes on to recount his life in a verbose manner that blatantly rips off David Copperfield. It was cut for the sake of brevity and the reader’s sanity.]

It was at this point in my life that I stumbled across Everything That Remains, a memoir that recounts two guys’ journey from a lifestyle of corporate excess to a minimalism. And that was my eureka moment! I would write a blog post about minimalism. My frantic research on the subject quickly drew my attention to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I thought I was set, but to my horror further research revealed it was a #1 New York Times best seller AND over 3 million copies had been sold. Minimalism was mainstream. Too old hat to share with my readers.

I needed a new angle and quick. Wracking my brain resulted in a quote from Everything That Remains. But it wasn’t just a quote. The authors were quoting themselves having a conversation in which they were quoting another book.1 This was my egads moment! The quote nested itself so beautifully it was as if it were straight out of the plot of Inception. And this, I thought, was my lightbulb moment!  For the book they were quoting was Fight Club.

It became so clear: nerd minimalism. I could recommend Inception (the movie) and Fight Club (the book or the movie). One more recommendation and the nerd trifecta would be complete. Following the tenets of minimalism I conducted a thought experiment. If I could keep only one book on my shelf, what would it be? Obviously, the nerdiest book on my shelf. A book so nerdy, many nerds don’t even know this franchise started as a book.

As excited as I was, my lightbulb quickly shattered. When I double-checked the library catalogue to ensure it was available to borrow, it wasn’t.  The last copy had recently been withdrawn. Of course, it’s nobody’s fault. It happens all the time. Books get dirty, and worn, and damaged to the point where they can no longer stay on the shelves. An Old Yeller moment, to be sure, but it has to happen. I made the necessary calls2 to try and get another copy re-ordered and every effort was made, but ultimately, the book is currently out-of-print.

There is a bit of a silver lining. You can borrow the movie, the remake of the movie, the sequel to the movie, the prequel to the remake of the movie, or any number of graphic novels based on the franchise. And, best of all, the truest form of the book is still available to borrow in the original French (which, alas, I cannot read3). Barring all that, you can still see if the library is able to bring in an English translation using our Inter-Library Loans service.

So what is this franchise you ask? Alas, still so distraught are my feels, I can’t yet bring myself to type its name. Though, dear reader, if you Google the title of this blogpost the answer will be revealed. 4

Alan

1Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, Everything That Remains: A Memoir by the Minimalists (Asymmetrical Press, 2013), p. 90

2See the first paragraph.

3My good friend Tim, who does read French, swears the original version is so much better because the author makes clever use of verb conjugation that just isn’t possible in English. I believe him, mostly because ‘Tim’ is such a trustworthy name.

4“You maniacs! You blew it up!” if you’re too lazy to scroll back up to the top.