Publication date: September 1, 2016
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Read this if you like: Historical CanLit, Edmonton and Calgary settings, funny family stories, non-traditional structure
Check out Paper Teeth on Goodreads
Thanks to: NeWest Press for the review copy and Lauralyn Chow for answering my questions
A few weeks ago, I reviewed Paper Teeth by Lauralyn Chow for Vue Weekly.
I’ve written reviews here on Reading in Bed for many years. Writing for print publications is new to me, and there are many differences:
- Getting paid
- Actual deadline
- No links or gifs
- No writing about yourself and your feelings
You also have to limit the word count. That’s not something I do here on the blog. I love a long review. I had to keep my review of Paper Teeth under 800 words, and I had about 1,500 in my first draft.
So, if you didn’t get enough of my ramblings in Vue, here’s a longer version, along with the full text of my Q&A with Lauralyn Chow. I loved this book, and if you’re into historical CanLit, especially Edmonton and Calgary settings, you’ll want to check this out.
The above image (used with permission) is pretty optimistic. Does anyone read all five books before voting? Don’t people just vote for the author they know, or the book that looks to be up their alley?
I love the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award in spite of my belief that it’s basically a popularity contest. Some great books have won (The Shore Girl by Fran Kimmel in particular).
I wrote about the Edmonton-heavy shortlist for Vue Weekly. For that article, I had to keep things pretty neutral. Here are my real opinions, for those who care. Voting is open till 11:59pm on Wednesday August 31.
So much for a preview: these festivals are underway! Get out there, #yeg.
This will be my third LitFest and I’m most looking forward to the Femme Memoir Hour event, featuring local memoirist Miji Campbell (I’ll review her book Separation Anxiety,) Aspen Matis (I’ll review her memoir Girl in the Woods which, between the on-trend “Girl” title and the Lena Dunham endorsement, is sure to be huge,) and Ann Walmsley (just added to the roster, author of The Prison Book Club, which sounds a lot more interesting than Orange is the New Black,) and moderated by Edmonton’s own Liz Withey and Laverne. See you there on Saturday October 24, 1:00 PM, downtown library.
- Free Word on the Square events taking place Tuesdays at lunchtime in Churchill Square Sept. 15 through Oct. 6. Follow #wordonthesquare for schedule & updates.
- Free lunch time events Take Back Your Food Thursday October 15 and Gender Talks Friday October 16, both at noon, both at CBC Centre Stage, which is in the downtown mall just before you get to Winners.
- Just Words #MMIW October 18 at 2:00 PM at the downtown library – social justice writers “discuss the challenges, setbacks, and struggle to find justice for Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.”
- Wab Kinew launches The Reason You Walk October 19 at 6:00 PM, Garneau Theatre.
It’s too late; you already missed Lawrence Hill. Now, make haste! Tickets are sellin’ fast. I could just list every event but here are my must-sees:
- Sandra Gulland, Friday October 16, 7:00 PM, Forsyth Hall: The Josephine B. Trilogy was one of my first historical fiction loves. Those titles, for one thing. It’s been many years, but I recall something YA about them (and I guess I was a Young Adult back then too,) but these books are certified classics, no matter the category.
- Clare Cameron, Wednesday Oct. 21, 7:00 PM Forsyth Hall: Cameron broke my heart and put it back together again with The Bear. I’m just going to try and not make a fool of myself when I meet her.
- Heather O’Neill, Friday October 23, 7:00 Forsyth Hall: Lullabies for Little Children is one of those reading experiences I can remember in such vivid detail – not just the book, but where I was (on holiday with family,) what I was doing (ignoring family,) and part of the reason I haven’t picked up her subsequent books is I’m afraid to break that spell. I might be convince to try, though.
Readings and Bookclubs and more
- Check Audrey’s and YegWrites for plenty of readings, including Jennifer Quist reading from Sistering on September 29.
- Upcoming #yegbookclub picks are Every Blade of Grass by Thomas Wharton on September 14, and Love Letters of the Angels of Death by Jennifer Quist on September 21. Join the chat on Twitter at 7:00 PM. Both books are heartbreaking and beautiful.
Santa Rosa and North East by Wendy McGrath
My rating: 2.5/5 stars
I’m new to verse novels and I don’t think they’re my thing. I enjoyed Karma by Cathy Ostlere, which was very structured and straightforward, but I struggle with books like these, or, like Corey Greathouse’s Another Name of Autumn, which tend more towards stream of consciousness. Kind of verse, kind of not. I can’t find the right pace for reading and I lose track of the story.
The subject matter, and the characters, and the setting, are all of interest to me. In Santa Rosa and North East, we witness the crumbling of a marriage and an Edmonton neighbourhood through the eyes of a five year old. Child narrators are tricky. At times Christine seemed too savvy for her age, too empathetic maybe. I can’t help but compare to my own five year old. Maybe there are depths to him that I don’t see yet.
There is a third book coming, to complete the trilogy. I will probably read it, as the story is compelling enough that I want to find out what happens to Christine (I already know what happens to Santa Rosa; the neighbourhood isn’t there anymore.) I found North East a smoother read than the first, so maybe I’ll hit my stride at last.
Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
My rating: 5/5 stars
Hypothesis: Bartleby the Scrivener is the inspiration for the classic 1999 film Office Space.
- Bartleby “would prefer not to.” Peter Gibbons’s “just not gonna go.”
- Bartleby regularly stares out the window (which looks out on a brick wall.) Peter “spaces out” for about an hour every morning. “It looks like I’m working, but I’m not.”
- The less Bartleby and Peter do, the more their respective workplaces do for them. Bartelby’s boss assumes there’s something wrong with his eyes, and tries to be compassionate. The Bobs deem Peter a “straight shooter with upper management written all over him.”
- Bartleby’s quirky colleagues would totally take out a printer. “PC Load Letter? The fuck does that mean?”
- Bartleby also has much in common with Milton. Once fired, he simply won’t leave and hangs about in the stairwell. Milton ends up in the basement taking care of that little cockroach problem.
- Oh, and Bartleby works in what may be the first cubicle ever. “I procured a high green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though not remove him from my voice.” As Peter says, “Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements!”
Both the book and the movie are a meditation on doing nothing, but end very differently. There’s no “fuckin’ A” coming for poor Bartelby. I don’t know what else to say; this book was amazing. Hilarious and weird and sad and strangely relevant to all the office drones out there, 160 years later.
I seem to have run out of November! I finished one more novella and aim to review that in the coming days. Tell me, whether you read along or not, what’s your favourite novella? Or, what’s your favourite line to quote from Office Space? Mine is “this place… is nice,” which is great for breaking an awkward silence.
Fall Preview Part I was all about the books I’m excited to read. Today, we’re talking Edmonton literary festivals and giveaways.
Actually, three giveaways. Edmonton hosts three excellent literary festivals, and despite my grumbling about a lack of Word on the Street (but for real, Lethbridge and not Edmonton?) I am excited to get into festival season. Read on for my picks, and for your chance to win your way into three of my most-anticipated events!
I had a great time at my first LitFest last year and I’m super bummed that I can’t make it to any of these fine events. If I could, I would go to:
- And Home Was Kariakoo (M.G. Vassanji) October 23, 7:30 p.m. at Stanley Milner Library. I am so sorry to miss this. I read The Magic of Saida last year and it was brilliant. Here’s my review in which I dub the author M.G. “Mother-effing Genius” Vassanji.
- Me, My Selfie, and I October 23, 5:30 p.m. at Kids in the Hall Bistro. I went to this event last year and it was so fun! They’ve changed it up a bit this year and are including selfie lessons which I sorely need. My kids take better selfies than I do.
- Headliner Naomi Klein was on The Colbert Report this week and you can see her October 20, 7:00 p.m. at the Winspear. She’s pretty feisty on Twitter, too:
LitFest is also running Words on the Square, in partnership with Edmonton Arts Council, bringing authors to Churchill Square at lunch time on Tuesdays to read and… well I’m not sure what else. I just have to run across the street to get there, so I’m in!
LITFEST GIVEAWAY: I have two tickets to the M.G. Vassanji event to give away! Just comment on this post and let me know you want the tickets. I may ask you to take my copy of The Magic of Saida and get it signed. If that’s cool with you.
I’m excited to attend the St. Albert Reader’s Festival for the very first time. I love that the focus is squarely on readers. Sometimes at literary events I feel like I’m the only one who’s not an author too. It’s weird.
- Joseph Boyden: The Soul of an Author October 23, 7:00 p.m. at Arden Theatre, St. Albert. This is the reason I can’t attend the LitFest Vassanji event. How did two of my favourite CanLit authors end up appearing at the same exact time? Talk about #CanLitProblems! I’d already bought my tickets for Boyden and he probably would have won anyway, as I have a well-documented crush on him.
- Yann Martel: The Power of Literature October 29, 7:00 p.m. at Arden Theatre. I enjoyed Life of Pi and hope to watch the movie one day; as soon as I get a spare couple of hours alone in the house (i.e. never.) Martel has done lots of other stuff since LoP and I need to catch up.
- Padma Viswanathan: Loss, Identity and Faith October 19, 2:00 p.m. at Forsyth Hall. I’ve had Viswanathan’s The Toss of a Lemon sitting on my shelf for a few months now. Its time may be coming.
Boyden hitting us with some content marketing:
STARFEST GIVEAWAY: I have two tickets to the event of your choice to give away! Just comment and let me know which event you choose. Pick a back up if you want to see Boyden as it may sell out. Maybe reveal your own literary crush, too.
Festival of Ideas
When Margaret Atwood is the appetizer, can the main course compare? Atwood and Alanis were here last year as a pre-festival event. Joyce Carol Oates is like the crazier, American version of Atwood (on Twitter, anyway) and I must find out for myself what she’s really like. My picks:
- Joyce Carol Oates November 23, 7:00 p.m. at the Winspear Centre ($30) for reasons stated above. I snagged We Were the Mulvaneys at a library sale and have had it recommended it me more than once.
- Colm Toibin November 20, 8:00 p.m. at The Citadel ($24) because The Testament of Mary is brilliant. It earned a rare five-star review from me (obviously, everyone’s go-to metric) and showed me that brilliant novellas are not just found in the classics section.
There are more controversial tweets, yes, but to book bloggers, dissing Jane Austen is a throwdown:
FESTIVAL OF IDEAS GIVEAWAY: I have two tickets to Joyce Carol Oates to give away! Just comment and let me know you’re interested. Maybe tell me your favourite JCO book, or link to her craziest tweet.
Did you catch all three giveaways in this post?
All you have to do is comment on this post and let me know which pairs of tickets you’re interested in:
- M.G. Vassanji at LitFest (October 23)
- Winner’s choice at STARFest (events in October and November)
- Joyce Carol Oates at the Festival of Ideas (November 23)
You can say you’re interested in more than one. Go for all three if you like! I’ll do a random draw for each pair of tickets and announce the winners on Friday, October 3. No airfare or hotel, I’m afraid, so make sure you’ll actually be in town. I’m not going to make you subscribe to my blog, or follow me on Twitter, or share this post, to enter. You should definitely do all those things, though.
Thank you LitFest, STARFest, and Festival of Ideas for generously providing these prizes! I’d love to hear what you’re looking forward to this festival season, whether you’re in Edmonton or not.
My rating: 3.5/5 stars
Taking its facts from Austen’s own words, Follies Past opens almost a year before the opening of Pride and Prejudice itself, at Pemberley, at Christmas. Fourteen-year-old Georgiana has just been taken from school and is preparing to transfer to London in the spring. It follows Georgiana to London, to Ramsgate and into the arms of the charming and infamous Mr. Wickham.
Remember last year when I did Austen in August and decided that even though Austen is Awesome, she kind of wasn’t for me (with the exception of Persuasion because let’s face it, Captain Wentworth is for everybody?) It’s a credit to Ms. Kerr’s persuasiveness (sorry) that I decided to read Follies Past. I didn’t want to set myself up for a disappointing read, or deal with the awkwardness of a writing a bad review of a local, self-published book. But over the course of a few weeks’ email correspondence, she wore me down. I picked up the ebook and girded myself.
It wasn’t just Kerr’s salesmanship (thought it was impressive) that convinced me. She created a series of wonderfully overwrought book trailers that are far more entertaining than those of best selling authors. And she blogs. Her blog is neither in your face promotion nor dubious writing tips; rather, it’s an interesting and educational look at what goes into writing a historical novel and publishing it yourself. Kerr’s expertise in the Regency era comes through in her fiction, but her blog really drives it home. My favourite posts are those about about peculiarities of Regency language, but she also rants about misuse of “beg the question,” one of my pet peeves.
What about the book?
Right! The best thing about Follies Past is that the writing style comes oh-so-close to Austen, it feels completely natural and not at all like that “put a Zombie on it” brand of adaptation. Kerr’s wit isn’t quite as razor sharp, but that’s like saying you are slightly worse at playing piano that Mozart. I don’t know about you, but I read Austen for the sick burns more than the romance, and there are plenty here. Speaking of romance, here’s our hero contemplating marriage with Caroline: Continue reading
Come Barbarians languished on my shelves for months, despite the fact that I attended the book launch and was immersed in a rather impressive media campaign that included digital billboards and bus shelters (for a book! For a LOCAL book!) I was afraid of a couple of things:
- That I wouldn’t like it and would have an Awkward Moment with Todd on Twitter (that sounds like a terrible new comedy series or something)
- That I wouldn’t “get it” because it was compared to Le Carre, and the one time I tried to read Le Carre, I was like that person in the theatre who’s whispering, “Who’s that? Why are they doing that? What is happening?!”
- That I wouldn’t be able to stand reading about the death of a child the same age as my own. It’s a terrible cliche, but it’s true: the older my kids get, the harder it is for me to read anything about a child being killed or hurt, real or fictional.
I got a kick in the butt from #yegbookclub, a monthly Twitter chat dedicated to an Edmonton-authored book. Come Barbarians was the first selection, and I started reading the next day.
Around this time, I listened to an interview with Todd on The Next Chapter wherein he reminded me of his BOOK CLUB PROMISE (his caps, not mine,) including “magical” hummus and “ninja vacuuming” and I knew what I had to do. I rounded up a few of the Edmonton book bloggers and created an impromtu book club. On to the reviews!
4 out of 5 stars
In addition to the reservations listed above, I had a feeling Come Barbarians wasn’t the right place to start with Babiak’s work. Come Barbarians is a departure, a genre book, a political thriller; whereas his earlier stuff is (I understand) funny, smart, and literary. I’ve had my hand on Toby: A Man several times (That’s What She Said) but never took the plunge. It doesn’t really matter, though. A good book is a good book. I’m glad I read this one first. It was surprising and dark, action-packed and violent, but also contained and cerebral.
I feel like this one could have been called Kruse: A Man (though I’m glad it wasn’t) because despite the action and intrigue, it’s a character study and a mediation on what makes a “good” man. Is it being good at something? What if the thing you’re good at is basically beating the crap out of people? Is it loving your family? What if your family doesn’t love you back? What if you lose them anyway? What’s left after that’s all gone?
And if these types of questions bore you, there’s plenty of other stuff to get interested in, from martial arts to French politics and organized crime.
I thought this book would be different from what I usually read, and it was, but I found myself comparing it to an old favourite: Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. Maybe it’s the (North) Americans in Europe, or the sudden turns of tragedy and violence. Actually, I know what it was. It was this line, as Kruse laments the loss of his daughter and his wife:
He would swim to Europe with them on his back.
It put me in mind of the death of the mom and Egg over the Atlantic, and also that repeated line, “Sorrow floats.” It also made me at once wistful (how romantic!) and cynical (easy to say now, bub.) That’s a lot of stuff going on for ten-word sentence.
The only parts of the book that didn’t work for me were the more outrageous scenes. One involves a vegetable peeler used in creative and disturbing ways, and one involves the shaming of a child abuser. Neither were necessary to my experience of the book, and neither did much for me. I feel like I should have been a lot more grossed out about the vegetable peeler thing, but mostly I was wondering where I could purchase such an efficient utensil. For vegetables, calm down!
So, don’t be afraid. Whether you’re a Le Carre fanatic or and Irving lover or neither of these, if you like moody, thoughtful writing, you’ll like this.
Other reviews worth reading:
Fellow book-clubber Tania of Write Reads
The original Edmonton Book Blogger Kristilyn of Reading in Winter
Laurence Miall (who has a Babiak-blurbed book coming out soon, incidentally)
The Book Club
After a little awkwardness and jitters (none of us had done the author-visit thing before) talking to Todd about his book and a million other things was totally natural. We talked about marital arts, acts of kindness, vegetable peelers, and growing up in LA (that’s Leduc, Alberta.) I was most surprised by how autobiographical this book was. I was most nervous about how to talk about the book critically with the author right there but it was no problem at all. He even asked us questions about how authors and publicists should pitch to bloggers, which is always a ripe topic!
Part of Todd’s book club promise is to bring a wine from the region the book takes place in. He couldn’t find the exact one he wanted, but assured us the grapes were the same, whatever that means. It was so good that when I got home, I immediately emailed to find out the name of the wine. It was Bila Haut by Chapoutier. Todd sent me a detailed description of the region and the grapes, which didn’t mean much to me. Bottom line: The first glass tasted like a second glass. I picked it up for $16 at Liquor Select.
This pains me, but the hummus not only displayed limited magical qualities, but it needed more garlic. The texture was good but it wasn’t flavourful enough for me. Sorry Todd!
Watch for book two in the Christopher Kruse series sometime in 2015. Todd would not give us an exact date no matter how much we hounded him.
The next #yegbookclub selection is Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk and it sounds amazing.
You know you’re in a blogging slump when: a monthly update becomes quarterly. At least I came up with a sassy new name?
Reading has trumped writing lately, and I blame all the wonderful books. In the first three months of 2014, I’ve read three five-star books, one that was ever so close, and many that rate a solid four-stars.
I’ve read 17 books to date this year. Here are a few that I would recommend to almost anyone.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick. See my guest post over at ebookclassics and get ready to have your mind blown.
- Villette by Charlotte Bronte. Check out me Bronte fangirling here.
- The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. I knew this one was special after the first 15 pages and was a wreck after the last page. Review to come.
- Mad Hope by Heather Birrell. Seriously cannot wait to reread this when I review.
- The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart. My favourite of this year so far. As much for the translation as for the author’s work. It’s unbelievable that this was not written in English, because the language just soars.
It was enlightening to count up the diversity (or lack thereof, sadly) in my reading last year, so I thought I’d track it more often in 2014. Of the 17 books I’ve read so far:
- 10 written by women
- 5 written by people of colour
- 3 written by Dead White Dudes (and just 1 by an Alive White Dude. Hi Todd!)
- 7 Canadian, 4 American, 4 British,1 Russian, and 1 Caribbean
So, still heavy on Canada/US/UK and heavy on white authors. A work in progress.
I read some great local Edmonton books recently. Reviews for these are all to come.
- The Shore Girl by Fran Kimmel: Complex and satisfying.
- Follies Past by Melanie Kerr: Unexpected and authentic.
- Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak: A cross between Le Carre and Irving.
There are also some great recent and upcoming events in Edmonton:
- Sadly, Richard Wagamese (author of Indian Horse) couldn’t make it to the Macewan Book of the Year event, so it’s being rescheduled.
- I attended my very first CanLit Book Club at Jasper Place Library, and Indian Horse was the March pick. I think a full blog post is in order, but I’m so happy to have found this group! Our next book is Emma Donoghue’s Astray.
- This week, I’ll be staying up past my bedtime to attend Green Drinks: Local Literature. I’m not sure exactly what will go on, but I’ve been told it involved “literati,” possibly “glitterati,” and also high-fives. I will attempt to take selfies with the likes of Jason Lee Norman (Americas, 40 Below Project), Matt Bowes (NeWest Press), Diana Davidson (Pilgrimage), and Alexis Keilen (13, She Dreams in Red.) There are 24 tickets left as of 10:30 Monday night. Get on it!
- Guest hosting on Write Reads: I haven’t been much into podcasts until I realized that my gym has free wifi and I can listen to them while I work out. I listened to Write Reads this week, and soon enough, I’ll be guest hosting with Tania and “Kirtles” (that’s what Tania calls him. I don’t know if I get to call him Kirtles right off the bat or not!) with my choice for Canadian New Release month: Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music.
- Reading for The Afterword Reading Society: The National Post books section came up with a quasi-book club of it’s own. Each week there’s a new book, and members can request a chance to read. 25 are picked and you get a review copy of the book and a set of questions to fill out. The results are summarized in the paper. I’ve been trying for months and finally got picked to read Dinaw Mengestu’s All Our Names. One of the questions asks, “what would you ask the author?” I had a real hard time coming up with something more intelligent than “why are you so awesome?” I’ll post all my answers on the blog soon.
- #1Tale2Cities Readalong: Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is the first readalong I’ve hosted since Moby-Dick. Watch for a sign up post soon! We’ll start reading on April 20th.
- Madame Bovary Readalong: I feel like living on the edge, so I’m signing up for this readalong the day before it starts. ebookclassics, Cedar Station, and a scandalous heroine? Yeah, I’m in. Sign up here, soon.
How about you, book bloggers and readers? Are you reading diverse or local or anything else we should know about?
I’m still catching up on 2013 reviews, but 2014 reading is well underway. Here’s what you can expect this year on Reading in Bed.
I am pretty dismayed that off all the books I read last year, only 12% were by authors of colour. Here are some of my current and planned reads that will help tip me over 25% this year:
- The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. It’s my current read and HOLY CRAP IS IT GOOD.
- The Bridge of the Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart. nybooks.com says: “This is an intoxicating tale of love and wonder, mothers and daughters, spiritual values and the grim legacy of slavery on the French Antillean island of Guadeloupe.” Yeah. Plus, that cover.
- Inside Out: Reflections on a Life So Far by Evelyn Lau. An excuse to write about how Lau’s first memoir, Runaway, changed my life.
- Six Metres of Pavement by Farzana Doctor. My favourite calendar girl in Bare it for Books.
Follow book blogger Leonicka for lots of resources on diversity in Canadian literature. She’s going all out and reading 85% authors of colour this year!
My next local read will likely be Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak. As for new #yegwrites stuff, so far I’m looking forward to Marina Endicott‘s fourth novel, Falling for Hugh and Laurence Miall‘s debut novel Blind Spot.
- Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. She’s got a way with titles. I loved Room and Slammerkin, so my expectations are high.
- The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill. I’ve been waiting eight years for O’Neill to write another book. Bring it on!
- Crime Against My Brother by David Adams Richards. Apparently brings the main character of Mercy Among the Children back – one of my favourite books of all time.
I will also solider on with the Storytellers Book Club challenge. It helps that I won a set of all five books in their contest last year!
I haven’t forgotten about The Classics Club! In fact, I’m right on pace. I chose 50 books to read over five years, and approaching the one year mark, I’ve read eleven.
Back from the DNF
I might set this one up as a challenge hosted here on the blog. I’ve abandoned a few books over the years, and this is the year I give them another shot. I’m including books that I straight up DNF’d (did not finish) and books that I finished, but didn’t really appreciate, often because I read them too young. Here is a sampling, with my excuses for not finishing in the first place. Watch for an introductory post soon (and if anyone wants to help me design a button, that would be cool…)
- Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne: Pregnancy brain
- Tinker Tailor Solider Spy by John LeCarre: Baby brain
- The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje: Too young. Attempted at 22 or so and got really lost.
- The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubuois III: Too young. Read at age 20.
- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies: Too young. Forced to read in high school, I hated it. Read a description of it recently and it sounds AMAZING.
This sounds like a lot of books, but I’m leaving room for random books, recommendations, read-alongs, and review books; you know, the four Rs.
Obligatory end-of-post question: what are YOU planning to read this year?
My rating: 4/5 stars
What’s the best way to poison one’s husband? What happens when the body itself becomes a source of food? Can a potato be political? EAT IT ’s contributors explore these questions and more with equal parts humour and gravitas, revealing that for many women food is about love but also power, biology, social obligation, experimentation, nourishment, pain and pleasure.
My husband says that my sister and I are obsessed with food. It’s true that any time we’re together, the conversation tends toward it, but, isn’t it normal, almost necessary, to talk about something you do three, (okay, seven,) times a day? I suppose it’s true that a vegan (her, not me) always has more to consider and plan. But are we really that weird for talking about recipes and restaurants and our mutual crush on Chef at Home?
Eat It made me feel a little more normal. Here’s a whole bunch of people just talking about food, and writing poems about food, and imagining menus and remembering childhood meals. Of course, it’s not only about food. As the subtitle suggests, there’s more at play, and for women there are usually extra helpings (sorry) of guilt and shame on the one hand, and love and acceptance on the other.
Let’s address the all-women thing: this book isn’t *for* women. Anyone who enjoys a good short story or poem or creative non-fiction will get something out of this. But I love that this book is written, edited, and published by women. I’m paraphrasing @snpsnpsnp (again!) when I say that feminism isn’t making stuff for women, it’s women making stuff, and so this right here is feminism in action!
The stories are grouped into sections that correspond to life stages. This made me wonder: what is it about relationship status and food? The ice cream for the single and broken hearted, the home cooked meal for the domesticated, pickles for the pregnant? Why are these images so enduring in our culture? I don’t have an answer after reading this book, but I do have a whole bunch of perspectives on food and life from some awesome writers.
Now, the stories: I have a few favourites to tell you about, but the whole collection is quite strong. There aren’t many big names; former Giller short lister Sarah Selecky is probably the biggest. The variety of forms and tones and voices is quite impressive for such a slim book. It really would have made a perfect stocking stuffer for my food-obsessed sister; I just wasn’t done reading yet.
- “Pot Luck of Nutritional Tips” by Sara Hennesy. You may have seen Sara on Video on Trial, which I shame-watched regularly back before I had to worry about my kids repeating everything they hear. Her monologue had me laughing and nodding (“Slather my lady junk in yogurt for all the right reasons? Done and done.”) and it’s a pretty good commentary on the ridiculousness of media messages about women and food.
- “A Lady’s Gotta Eat” is the story of one woman’s quest for the perfect hamburger and also maybe an orgasm? I don’t know, I was reading all sorts of stuff into this one.
- “Left Over” by editor Nicole Baute is a very short piece about loss and remembrance and it made me cry.
- “Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows” by Katie Daubs, for the title, and the first line, “Girls started dressing like sluts for Halloween in 1997,” because that was the first year I did it, too.
- Stories about breastfeeding! There are two, one poignant and one hilarious. This is very relevant for me as my two year old nursling shows no signs of stopping, and even I, pro-breastfeeding, quasi-attachment parent, am questioning whether it’s time to shut it down. The whole “if he can ask for it, he’s too old” thing is clearly baloney, but where’s the pithy saying for a 35 pound toddler who motorboats you and screams “I need it,” because this was not covered in What To Expect. Uh, your mileage may vary on this one.
A note on how to find this book: it’s a little tricky, as it’s likely to be stocked with literary journals, but I’m told the easiest way to is to order online here. I would lend you mine, but it’s going to my sister next.
(Psst, Cait: I made Isa Chandra’s vegan chocolate cookies last night and they were amazing. It’s the molasses, I think. We ate them all, sorry.)
Thank you to the editors for providing a review copy of this book!