Tag Archives: Alan@WPL

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.

I Love the Smell of Rich Mahogany in the Morning! or Why eBooks are Okay Too.

Books! Good old fashioned physical books! Nothing beats them and it hurts to be beat by them. If you’re like me and I know a lot of you are, then you love books too. Books are made of trees. Wood is made of trees. Mahogany is a type of wood. Therefore, books, or at least the best books, smell of rich mahogany. Some people may try to tell you that you can’t smell what type of wood a book is made of. Those people are not discerning readers.

Now, you may have heard of these so-called ‘eBooks.’ These eBooks are not made of wood. They are made of wires. I know what you’re thinking; I was the same way—skeptical. After all, when you’re sitting next to the fireplace, in your leather arm chair, a snifter of cognac in one hand and a bubble pipe in your mouth, and you look down in your lap and see A PILE OF WIRES, you’ll know something is missing. The smell of rich mahogany.

 

carrieBut say you want to read a good horror novel. I recommend Carrie by Stephen King, mostly because it rhymes with scary, which it is. You don’t want to read this book next to a fireplace. You want to read this book in a house with creaky floors and tree branches tap-tap-tapping at the window. You’ll also want to be in bed so that when things are at their absolute most terrifying you can pull the blankets over your head. Now think about it, with the blankets over your head and a regular old physical book you’re missing something. Light! And without light you’re approaching heart attack levels of scary, compounded by the fact that you can’t read in the dark. It turns out most eBooks have a nifty feature called a backlight which provides just enough light to read under the covers but not enough to ruin the ambiance.

 

count-of-monte-cristoeBooks, I’ve discovered, are also fantastic if you lift weights. Now leg days will never be an issue. But if you’re like me, and I feel a lot of you are, on those days when you’ve finished a set of arm curls with 500lb.* dumbbells picking up a book can be jello-arm inducing. Especially when you’re reading a tome such as The Count of Monte Cristo which is over 1000 pages of dead wood. Now with an eBook you can bend the laws of physics and that 1000 page tome is going to weigh about as much as a paperback.

 

infinite-jest

As I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I’m smart. Smart enough to know that it’s spelled ‘smrt’ but when you write it out the ‘a’ is silent. That being said, I’m a humble man. So, when it’s time for my weekly read of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest I use a dictionary because that guy is mad smart and I need it. Every. Single. Page. Before eBooks it used to be a physical dictionary and that was kinda bad because the dictionary is like 1000 pages and Infinite Jest is like 1000 pages because it uses pretty much every word in the dictionary—so yeah, arm days. So I know what you’re thinking, bending the laws of physics. And yes, there’s that. But they’ve also managed a feat of alchemy and put a dictionary into every single eBook so that all you have to do is tap the word and BOOM the definition comes up on the screen!

 

masteredLastly, and this one is important because it involves safety, sometimes I like my books hot. This is a problem because as we’ve discussed books are made of wood. And I’m smrt so hot and wood make fire. So when I’m reading Maya Banks’ Mastered on the bus and it bursts into flames on my lap I can get some weird looks. eBooks don’t catch on fire so much so people on the bus just can’t tell how hot my book is getting.

 

So, yeah, I don’t often stray from that rustic mahogany smell (pine is nice too!) but when I do, I always choose eBooks. Let me know why you choose eBooks in the comments below.

~ Alan

*Editor’s note: We had a lengthy discussion about whether or not there was one too many zeros in this number. The discussion ended with the author effortlessly carrying a set of said dumbbells into my office. I’m currently in the process of fixing the hole in my floor.

Time Enough At Last

If all is well, by the time you read this blogpost I’ll be hunkered down in my living room taking a much needed vacation, and playing the highly anticipated post-apocalyptic video game Fallout 4 — hopefully, with my glasses intact. As I bide my time waiting for the (nuclear?) launch of this game, I thought I’d take a walk with you, dear reader, through the irradiated wasteland that is post-apocalyptic fiction.

Under the umbrella of science fiction and fantasy, post-apocalyptic fiction exists as a sub-genre.   But whereas fantasy is often used as an escape from reality and science fiction uses allegory to explore possible futures, post-apocalyptic fiction often strips us to the bone and forces us to look at ourselves separated from society.

Within the post-apocalyptic sub-genre there are a variety of sub-sub-genres which are usually identified by the way in which the world ends.

 

The Zombie Apocalypse

I’ve never really been a huge fan of zombies. As antagonists in fiction I find them lacking in intelligence. Luckily, in post-apocalyptic fiction, why the world ends is often much less important than the story of the survivors, so I find when the zombie apocalypse is written well I can often ignore the zombies themselves and focus instead on those left intact.  Among the best in this sub-sub-genre is the The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.  Both the graphic novel  and the television series have excellent characters who struggle to retain their humanity as they survive a world overrun by zombies.

 

wd

The Pandemic

Pandemic post-apocalyptic fiction is the realm where my favourite book of all time resides:  Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.  It follows the story of Snowman, the last surviving man in the wake of a global pandemic, and his begrudging role as caretaker to a group of primitive sentient beings known as Crakers.  Orxy and Crake is the first in a trilogy that includes The Year of the Flood  and MaddAddam, and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2004.

 

The Nuclear Apocalypse

My favourite post-apocalyptic sub-sub-genre, the nuclear apocalypse is often the most terrifying. It highlights man’s capacity for supreme self-destruction; not only of humankind, but of all life on earth. Most of the classic post-nuclear works were written in the shadow of the Cold War, when it seemed that nuclear annihilation was a real possibility.

My first experience with post-nuclear, post-apocalyptic fiction was when I pulled Alas, Babylon off my mom’s bookshelf.  The title had always intrigued me, as did the cover, which shows a group of survivors wandering a wasteland under a hot sun.  The story also had an impact on me and I will never forget the goldfish. Yes, the goldfish.

 

One Last Selection

If you’ve never seen the classic television show The Twilight Zone, I urge you to check out the first season of the original series.  I lifted the title of this blogpost from one of the episodes.

tz

If I’ve missed any of your favourite post-apocalyptic stories, please share them in the comments below.

– Alan

Alan can be found at the Transcona Library where he may or may not have grown a third arm after his vacation.