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Funny books

By 49thShelf
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... that happen to be written by Canadian women. (With thanks to Claire Cameron.)
One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

Essays
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : essays, feminist

**National Bestseller
**A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
**Globe and Mail Best Book of 2017
**National Post Best Book of 2017
**A CBC Best Book of 2017
**An Amazon Best Book of 2017
**A Popsugar Best Book of 2017
**A Kobo Best Book of 2017
**An NPR Best Book of 2017
**A Chatelaine Best Book of 2017
**A Buzzfeed Best Book of 2017
**A Book Riot Best Book of 2017
**A Chicago Review of Books Best Book of 2017
**A Paste Best Book of 2017
**An Amazon Best Humour and Entertainment Book …

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Excerpt

Inheritance Tax
 
Only idiots aren’t afraid of flying. Planes are inher­ently unnatural; your body isn’t supposed to be launched into the sky, and few people comprehend the science that keeps them from tumbling into the ocean. Do you know how many planes crash every year? Neither do I, but I know the answer is more than one, WHICH IS ENOUGH.
     My boyfriend finds my fear of flying hilarious at best and deeply frustrating at worst. For my twenty-fourth birthday, he booked us a trip to Southeast Asia for two weeks, the farthest I’ve been from home in more than a decade. Plenty of people take a gap year between high school and university to travel, or spend a summer backpacking through Europe to “find” themselves. (A bullshit statement if ever there was one. Where do you think you’ll be? No one finds anything in France except bread and pretension, and frankly, both of those are in my lap right now.) I never did this. I talked about wanting to, sure, listing all the places I would go one day, hoping to have my photo taken next to a crumbling edifice in Brazil or with a charming street merchant in Laos. When I was thirteen, my mom asked me where I’d get the money to travel and I said, “From you, of course.” She laughed me straight out of her kitchen nook. Travelling tells the world that you’re educated, that you’re willing to take risks, that you have earned your condescension. But do you know what my apartment has that no other place does? All my stuff. All the things that let me dull out the reminders of my human existence, that let me forget that the world is full of dark, impenetrable crags. I have, I think, a healthy fear of dying, and marching forward into the uncharted is almost asking for it. But it was my birthday, and my beautiful idiot boyfriend was offering to take me some­place exciting. He suggested Thailand and Vietnam, because he likes the sun and I like peanut sauces. I agreed, my haunches already breaking out in a very familiar rash.
     As we made our way from Toronto to Chicago, then Chicago to Tokyo, then Tokyo to Bangkok, he was a paragon of serenity. (He’s older than me by more than a decade, and acts it whenever we do something new, largely because, comparatively, almost everything is new to me and nothing is new to him.) He was a latchkey kid, permitted to wander his small town in the ’80s and ’90s in a way that feels nostalgic to him and like the beginning of a documentary about child abduction to me. He smoked and drank and cried and laughed and was freer at twelve than I have ever been. While our plane started to taxi, I squeezed his meaty forearm as if I was tenderizing a ham hock—rubbing his white skin red and twisting his blond arm hair into little knots—and he just gazed dreamily out the window. When we took off, my throat started to close and I wanted to be home, stay home, never leave home.
     I wasn’t raised with a fear of flying. My parents were afraid of plenty of things that would likely never affect us—murderers lurking in our backyard, listeria in our sandwich meat, vegans—but dying on a plane was all too mundane for them. We used to take plenty of trips together and separately, and lengthy air travel played an unavoidable role in their origin story. They emigrated from India in the late 1970s and flew back for visits every few years. For vacations or my dad’s business trips, they flew to St. Thomas and Greece and Montreal and New York. Mom didn’t like bugs and Papa didn’t like small dogs, but I don’t remember either of them being particularly fearful.
     I wasn’t always afraid of flying either. When I travelled with my parents as a kid, air travel was exciting. I got to buy new notebooks and travel games, and flight attend­ants packed cookies and chips and mini cans of ginger ale in airsickness bags and handed them out to the kids mid-flight. 9/11 hadn’t happened, so our family wasn’t yet deemed suspicious at Calgary’s airport. I once loudly asked my brother while standing in a security queue how, exactly, people made bombs out of batteries while waving around a pack of thirty AAs intended for a video game. My parents let me eat a whole Toblerone bar and then I threw up in a translucent gift bag while we waited in line to board. I was alive!
     Flying became a necessity by the time I was seventeen, the only way to stay connected with my family rather than a conduit for mile-high vomiting. When I graduated from high school, instead of doing what so many of my classmates did—a month in Italy here, three months in Austria there—I moved across the country almost immediately to start university. If I wanted to see my parents (and I did, as my homesickness burst wide open the second my parents dropped me off at my residence), I would have to fly. Three, sometimes four times a year, I’d take a four-hour flight to see people who I knew were at least legally obligated to love me.
     But by my early twenties, years into this routine, some­thing shifted and made room for fear to set in. Turbulence wasn’t fun anymore; it didn’t feel like a ride, it felt like the beginning of my early death. I’d start crying during takeoff, sure that the plane would plummet. Flight attendants assumed I was travelling for a funeral and would offer extra orange juice or cranberry cookies to keep me from opening the emergency exit. Before I take off now, I text or email or call anyone I think would be sad about my death and tell them I love them and that the code for my debit card is 3264 and please help yourself to the $6.75 that may or may not still be in there, depending on if I purchased a pre-flight chewy pizza-pretzel, the World’s Saddest Final Meal. My stomach churns and my palms sweat and I think about all the things I should have said and done before this plane nosedives and the army finds parts of my body scattered across the Prairies. My legs in Fort McMurray, my arms in Regina, my anus somewhere in Edmonton.
 
When you’re a kid, your parents are the bravest people in the world, but my parents’ provenance still feels impossibly brave to me. My father didn’t exactly “tell” my mother he wanted to emigrate from India before they got together. That’s the way she remembers it, that it was only after they got engaged that she found out he had paperwork ready to apply for permanent residency on the other side of the planet. My dad first saw her at his cousin’s house—my mom was her friend—and was flus­tered by her beauty. Ask my dad and he’ll wax poetic about my mother’s cheekbones, her rich eyes, her long hair, how he needed to get to know her. My mom didn’t even know he was there. Years ago, when I asked her about her first impression upon actually seeing my dad, she merely pursed her lips and continued folding towels, saying, “I thought he was okay.” This, the great love affair that spawned me, a woman who would one day get both of her hands stuck in two different salsa jars at the same time.
     My dad asked her father for her hand (and the rest of her, presumably) when she was just eighteen, about to head off to university away from their small town in Kashmir. My grandfather said no, but to try again when she was older. He was a police sergeant, but a gentle guy who rarely raised his voice or grew upset. My mom did not inherit his calmness—he yelled at her once when she was twelve and she felt so wronged that she launched a hunger strike, one that lasted entire hours. He apologized by placing his hat at her feet, begging her to please just eat something. (I did the same at eleven, but my parents just shrugged and said there were bagels in the fridge when I was ready—brown people don’t know what to do with bread.) When Mom was twenty-two, my dad was approved, and they were engaged and married within a year. Another year and some later, they had my brother. Soon after that, my dad moved to Southern Ontario; his family waited months before joining him.
     But before this, there was the big death that marked Papa just after the birth of his first child in India. My brother was small enough to sleep between his paternal grandparents on the flat roof of their home during a mercilessly hot night. My grandmother, in her fifties at the time, woke up and took him inside to change his diaper. When she returned, her husband didn’t wake up: he had died of a massive heart attack in his sleep. Mom says they found him with his hand on his heart. My dad was only thirty. He doesn’t talk about it. We don’t ask.
     My father’s mother, Behenji, lived with us in Calgary when I was young but she hated the cold and didn’t speak any English and I didn’t understand who or what she was. She opted to leave after a few years, something that infuri­ated Papa because wasn’t it his job, as the eldest son, to take care of her? It didn’t matter that she was generally in good health or always prickly or maintained her usual routines, he feared for her constantly. Near the end, she started to get confused and would forget things or people or where she was. Papa would sit in his armchair, clenching his teeth, ruminating on how he’d abandoned her years before. “I’ve asked her to stay put until I come, but who knows,” Papa said to me, two years before she died, as if he could tell her body not to retreat. “If she has to go, I hope she goes in my arms. That will be the culmination of a life. Of a life well lived. A hard life. She had a hard life.” He was on the phone with me at the time, speaking to me mostly in sighs and rueful grunts, a language I’ve since learned to speak myself.
     Behenji lived into her eighties, thirty-odd years after her husband had passed, dying when my dad was already in his mid-sixties. Now, he does long-distance running daily and takes multivitamins the size of horse tranquilizers every morning. He has high blood pressure and high cholesterol and does everything he can to try to reverse what his blood has given him. He says he’s pre-diabetic now, so every morning starts with a spoonful of fenugreek seeds, which I tried just once—they tasted so strongly of death that eating them seemed more like an omen than a cure. After his long runs, he does yoga in his bedroom, flipping over to do headstands next to his dresser. (His headstands are getting weaker the older he gets, though maybe avoid mentioning that if you see him.) Sometimes he recruits my niece to stand on his back, cracking his bones, and he lets out a delighted, “Ahhh-ha-ha-ha-haaa.”
     Mom talks about moving to Canada as though my father had requested she start wearing fun hats. Why not try it? she thought, instead of This fucking lunatic wants me to go to a country made of ice and casual racism. Before I was born, my parents returned from their vacations to their new Canadian home with photos of my mother perched precipitously close to the edge of a cruise ship or drink­ing a flute of bubbles in a dimly lit restaurant. Mom never half-assed things; she had a kind of blind faith that made it easy to follow her. When I was little, too young to know how to swim, Mom took me to swimming pools and would wade into the deep end and let me hang off her shoulders like a baby koala. She rented Sea-Doos in Kelowna and dragged me onto the back of them, driving too fast for my comfort. Mom put her hand flat on a pan to check if it was hot enough (though could never answer my eternal question: What if it’s too hot?). Mom sucked marrow out of a lamb bone with shocking fervour, then stuck her tongue through the hollow to tease me about how truly, deeply gross I found it. Mom made rotis from scratch, kneading the atta with her hands and then dragging a knife across her skin to gather the excess, laughing at seven-year-old me recoiling in horror. Mom’s arthritis got worse but she kept cooking rogan josh so spicy it ripped the roof of your mouth clean off, whipping a wooden spoon around a pressure cooker with her aching wrist. Mom yelled. Mom told you how she felt, when she felt it, as much and as often as she needed to tell you. Mom cried all the time, happy or sad, her tears running a moat around a mole just under her eye, her face like a Shiva Lingam for feelings. And Mom was not afraid of you. When Papa was angry, or afraid, or nervous, or happy, or thrilled, he just seethed quietly because it was all too much to handle. Mom, on the other hand, hugged you with her arms and shoulders and suffocating bosom, burying you in all her soft, cool flesh. That, or she would kill you. These were your options.
     And yet even when my mom was at her bravest, I was gearing up for death. I invented diseases for myself and was sure they’d kill me. By the time I was seven, I started running my fingers up and down my forearm, inspecting my skin and the dark blue veins I could see through my flesh. None of the other girls I knew had visible veins, not like these. My parents didn’t have them, neither did my brother, nor any of my glamorous, tall, busty cousins with their long, sleek hair and full lips and did I mention their massive boobs? It was vein cancer, I decided—noth­ing else could explain the cerulean blue of these veins, how close they were to the surface, how they ran all the way up my arm and would appear and disappear across my flat chest. I never told my parents about it and quietly accepted death as I wrote my “Last Willing Testament” on a pink heart-shaped notepad. (This phase never entirely passed. At a dinner party a few years ago, I was seated next to an emergency room doctor. I stuck my arm under her nose and asked, “What does this look like to you?” She said it was nothing, but speaking as someone who once went to a university with a pre-med program, I’m pretty sure I know a little more than she does.)
     But even my worst dramatics weren’t all that bad. I was still a teenager and prone to typical boundary-pushing. I lied about dates and friends and drinking. I smoked cigarettes and wore poorly applied makeup. I was doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re young and hate­ful, and it was all okay because I was home with my mom. She yelled at me with unbelievable bluster, threatened to murder me in such a subtle fashion that “no one will know” or with such flare that “everyone will see.” She’d chase me around the house with a wooden spoon, threaten­ing a whipping if I ran my mouth one more time. None of it led to much of anything. I was never in danger. Nothing bad can happen to you if you’re with your mom. Your mom can stop a bullet from lodging in your heart. She can prop you up when you can’t. Your mom is your blood and bone before your body even knows how to make any.

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Nobody Cries At Bingo

Nobody Cries At Bingo

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : humorous

In Nobody Cries At Bingo, the narrator, Dawn, invites the reader to witness first hand Dumont family life on the Okanese First Nation. Beyond the sterotypes and clichés of Rez dogs, drinking, and bingos, the story of a girl who loved to read begins to unfold. It is her hopes, dreams, and indomitable humour that lay bear the beauty and love within her family. It is her unerring eye that reveals the great bond of family expressed in the actions and affections of her sisters, aunties, uncles, brot …

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Not Being on a Boat

Not Being on a Boat

edition:Paperback

Rutledge, an aging, divorced man, has treated himself to a Cruise on the Mariola. The Cruise is not just any cruise. It's the whole shebang. It's around the world. It's a lifestyle change: G & Ts and tuxedos and cigars and cognac galore. The service is top-rate. And Rutledge's steward, Raoul, is a good kid.

But then a day trip to a Caribbean port ends in commotion. Some people don't make it back onto the ship. Rutledge, nonplussed, makes use of the vacant machines in the Fitness Room and the unoc …

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Pulpy and Midge

Pulpy and Midge

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary

Brian Lembeck – ‘Pulpy’ – takes life slow and steady. He likes his office job, and he likes his gentle, figurine-collecting boss, Al. He even likes the bitter receptionist, though he’s the only one who does. He likes his wife, Midge, too, and their ice-dancing lessons. Midge works as a candle-party hostess – she quit her office job when Al’s dog ate her pet pigeon and Al promised Pulpy a promotion.

But when Al retires and the tyrannical Dan takes over, the promotion vanishes. And th …

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Malarky

Malarky

edition:Paperback
tagged :

SHORTLISTED FOR THE AMAZON.CA FIRST NOVEL AWARD A NEW STATESMAN READ-ALL-ABOUT-IT SELECTION FOR 2012 A BARNES & NOBLE DISCOVER GREAT NEW WRITERS PICK, 2012 A SALON.COM WHAT-TO-READ AWARD-WINNER, 2012 A TOP FIVE BOOK PICK, CHATELAINE AN ITUNES CANADA BEST OF 2012 FICTION PICK AN AMAZON.CA BEST BOOK OF 2012 EDITOR'S PICK A LARGEHEARTED BOY FAVORITE NOVEL OF 2012 A NEXT BEST BOOK BLOG TOP 3, 2012

When Our Woman catches her son in the hay with another man and is soon after accosted by Red-the-Twit ab …

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Come, Thou Tortoise

Come, Thou Tortoise

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

A delightfully offbeat story that features an opinionated tortoise and an IQ-challenged narrator who find themselves in the middle of a life-changing mystery.

Audrey (a.k.a. Oddly) Flowers is living quietly in Oregon with Winnifred, her tortoise, when she finds out her dear father has been knocked into a coma back in Newfoundland. Despite her fear of flying, she goes to him, but not before she reluctantly dumps Winnifred with her unreliable friends. Poor Winnifred.

When Audrey disarms an Air Mars …

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Excerpt

The plane is a row of gold circles and a cockpit. One of those circles will carry my head halfway home. I count back fourteen. That circle. In the cockpit the pilots are having a good time. Boy are they. Coffee cups have to be put down. They are really laughing. One puts a hand on the other’s shoulder. Then the one with the hand leans over and kisses the other’s cheek. A quick impulsive happy peck.

A fellow passenger joins me at the terminal window. Hey, I tell her. Our pilots just kissed.

No response.

I’m thinking that kiss bodes well for our safety.

She pretends she has a cup to throw away.

That is my plane. With the word nap resolving on its tail. How do I feel about that acronym. Not great.

My phone rings and it’s Linda.

What’s up.

Winnifred isn’t moving.

Never assume a tortoise is dead. Rule Number One of Tortoise Ownership. What’s the temperature in your apartment. Remember it’s winter. It’s still dark. She ’s not nocturnal. These and other environmental factors have likely caused her to withdraw into her shell. Her heart beats maybe once an hour. Be patient. Wait an hour.

Still, I crouch down next to the window. Feel the heat coming up from the vent. Is my tortoise dead. Should I go back.

My own heart is all apatter. This is being alive. Can you feel the body worry before every beat. I can. Will this be the last. No. Will this be the last. No.

Should I go back.

I look up at the pilots who are possibly in love and I don’t want to catch any other plane but this one. This is my plane.

Yesterday I peered down into her castle and she was beside the pool making the same journey I’d seen her start two days ago. I knocked on her shell. Excuse me, Winnifred.

No legs emerged. No little ancient head.

I picked her up and held her under my armpit. This usually worked. I did have a heat lamp, but paper castles tend to be flammable.

Finally she woke up.

There, I said. I put her in the pool.

I knelt down beside the castle with windows that look out onto my kitchen. Many times I have seen Winnifred poke her head wistfully through one of those windows. Many times I have seen her drop a piece of lettuce like a note.

She climbed out of the pool and creaked over to the window.

I have to go home for a while, I said.

Winnifred is old. She might be three hundred. She came with the apartment. The previous tenant, a rock climber named Cliff, was about to embark on a rock climbing adventure that would not have been much fun for Winnifred. Back then her name was Iris. Cliff had inherited Iris from the tenant before him. Nobody knew how old Iris was or where she had come from originally. Now Cliff was moving out. He said, Would you like a tortoise.

I would not say no to a tortoise, I said.

I was alone in Portland and the trees were giant. I picked her up and she blinked at me with her upside- down eyelids. I felt instantly calm. Her eyes were soft brown. Her skin felt like an old elbow. I will build you a castle, I whispered. With a pool. And I was true to my word.

Hold her under your armpit, I tell Linda.

Ugh.

Trust me.

And I hang up.

That was rude, but I am not myself. I am unslept. I am on automatic pilot. This image brought to mind by the pilots who clearly aren’t. What does automatic pilot mean. I picture an inflatable pilot, but that is from a movie. Automatic pilot is just a computer. It is what flies the plane when the pilots take a nap or make out. It is what kicks in metaphorically when your dad is in a comma, sorry coma, and you are summoned home and you must make arrangements for your tortoise.

Last night I stepped outside carrying Winnifred in her castle and the sky was busy with stars.

Look, Win, I said. The past. Because the past is what you are looking at when you look at the stars.

Winnifred looked up.

That’s where I’m going tomorrow, I said.

We drove out to Oregon City where the streets are all named after presidents in the order they were elected, so you can’t get lost if you are American and know your presidents. Linda and Chuck live on Taft. When I pulled up, Chuck was outside smoking with his actor friends.

Evening, Chuck.

Hey.

As I climbed the steps, one of the actor friends said, Am I hallucinating or is she carrying a castle.

Yes, a castle.

Four people at my gate are knitting. Knitting needles are allowed on planes again. At security there was a new and definitive list of Objects You Cannot Take in Your Carrion Carry- on Luggage. All the usual weapons from the game of Clue were there, minus knitting needles, and with the addition of snow globes.

I patted my pockets and said, Where’s that snow globe.

The security woman in blue pinched the bridge of her nose like I was causing her pain right there.

Move on, please.

In the little kiosk inside security there were knitting needles and wool for sale. Christmas colours. So knitting is enjoying a revival.

I limped on to my gate.

Earlier, in the apartment, I had tripped over my carry- on bag in the dark. I had lain in the dark and thought, I won’t go, I’ve been hurt. I lay there and looked up at the sloped ceiling, still bumpy with Cliff ’s climbing holds. Cliff liked to refer to the ceiling as an overhang.

I had sent him an email saying, My dad is in a comma and waiting for me to open his eyes. Must depart. Apartment available for your use. Tortoise with Linda and Chuck.

No reply.

I sent him a second email: I meant coma.

I lay on the floor. My cab with its little Napoleon hat was puffing in the street.

Get up. Go.

When the right person arrives at the bedside of the comatose person, the comatose person opens his eyes. Everyone knows this. This is Rule Number One of Comatoseness.

Yesterday Uncle Thoby called and said, Oddly. There’s been an accident.

Which word made me sit down on the kitchen floor. Accident, I said.

Your dad received a severe blow to the medulla oblongata as he was walking home. From, this is unbelievable, a Christmas tree. Hanging sideways out of a pickup truck.

Uncle Thoby’s voice was okay until he got to pickup truck. Then it broke down. I didn’t understand. Hit by a Christmas tree. Or walking home from a Christmas tree. Or what.

Hit by. On his way home.

I thought about this. Finally I said, I have a question. Are you ready.

Okay.

Here it is. I’ve got it. What is a medulla oblongata.

A brain stem.

Oh. Right. So a Christmas tree stem had collided with my dad’s brain stem. And now he was in a coma. I put my hand on the back of my neck. I had forgotten that the brain has geography. The human brain is 1,400 cubic centimetres of geography. Our heads fit inside airplane windows for Chrissakes. We are small and we can be pitched out of our geography.

I’ll come home, I said.

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Mean Boy

Mean Boy

edition:Paperback
tagged :

Earnest, small-town Lawrence Campbell is fascinated by his poetry professor, the charismatic and uncompromising Jim Arsenault. Larry is determined to escape a life of thrifty drudgery and intellectual poverty working for his parents' motel and mini-golf business on Prince Edward Island. Jim appears to the young poet as a beacon of authenticity - mercurial, endlessly creative, fearless in his confrontations with the forces of conformity. And he drinks a lot.

Jim's magnetic personality soon draws L …

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Excerpt

1.

He sat on his desk, positioned in front of this enormous window with the sunlight streaming all around his outline. I could barely look at him without going blind. He saw me squinting and shading my eyes and squeezing them shut when they started watering, but he didn't move, or close the curtain. He had a little teapot on the desk beside him and he kept picking it up and listening to it. He told me my poem should have a dead person in it.

"Maybe a murder or something," he said, "to make it more exciting."

I didn't know what to say so I talked about what was in the poem already. I said I thought that maybe it was a little wordy, that I hadn't figured out how to distill my ideas yet. I figured he could speak to this - none of his poems are any more than ten lines long, and half the time each line has no more than three or four words in it. He just sat there listening to his teapot as I rambled away, carefully using words like distill and cumbersome.

"I think maybe it's a little cumbersome?"

Everything I said went up in a question. I sounded like I was still in high school. I knew I had to learn how to stop talking like that, especially around this guy, but it got worse when I was nervous.

"No, no, it's not cumbersome. It just needs something to happen. Nothing happens in it. There's nothing wrong with a lot of words - I like words."

"But your poems are so..." I wanted a really perfect word for this. Terse. Brief. Scant. Scant? Scant was good. But did it have any negative connotations? Would he think I meant insubstantial?

"...short," I said, before the silence could thicken.

"Those are my poems," he said. "And my poems are great. I'm trying to learn not to insist that other writers write poems like mine. In fact I prefer that they don't. Listen to this for a minute." I thought maybe he was going to recite something, but instead he extended the little teapot so that I was compelled to get up out of my chair and come toward him.

I listened. It was full of tea. I could feel the heat radiating toward my cheek. It was making a buzzing sound, sort of like a horsefly.

"Hm," I said.

"It's buzzing," he said. "Why do you suppose it does that?"

"I think maybe air is trapped in there or something."

"Well, it's weird," said Jim Arsenault, the greatest living poet of our time.

I sit obsessing on this, fingers poised over my typewriter keys. Every time I blink, the silhouette of Jim outlined against his sun-filled window flashes inside my head, like it's been burned into my corneas. I hear him saying, Well, it's weird. I hear him saying everything but what I wanted to hear about my poetry. I hear more exciting, which means not exciting. It's hard to come up with something new, hearing that. It seems like it might be easier - more fun, more inspiring too, somehow - to tear the page from my typewriter's grip, slowly, without releasing the catch, so that it kind of shrieks as if in drawn-out pain.

I have a poem called "Poem Poem" taped to the window above my typewriter - by Milton Acorn, who is my hero because he is an unschooled genius who, like me, is from Prince Edward Island. The poem is about the good days and the bad days of writing poetry. The first stanza talks about a good day, how Poems broke from the white dam of my teeth. / I sang truth, the word I was... Heart and fist thumped together, it says, a line I love.

Then the second stanza describes the poem "I write today," how it "grins" at him while. It is truth,I chop it like a mean boy / And whittles my spine says Acorn with regard to this poem, the word I am not.

That's the poem. I look at it when I'm feeling lonely, and when I feel like a moron - a not exciting moron - for sitting in front of my typewriter thinking I'm a poet. Sometimes I love it, though - some days are as different from one another as the two stanzas of the poem. That's why I have it up there. Sometimes, even if I'm not writing, just the feel of being alone in my apartment in front of the typewriter is enough. I take off my shirt. I can see myself, I can see what I look like sitting here wearing nothing but jeans and glasses, me and my pale teenage limbs. I look like a poet. I know that I do. I believe in it, those days.

I, I'll type. And that will be enough.

Then there are the other days, when nothing is enough. The poem grins. It grins because it knows it is a terrible poem. It grins in embarrassment. It grins in pity. It grins in superiority. I may be a terrible poem, it grins, but at least I have one comfort. At least I'm not a terrible poet. At least I'm not the guy who sat in front of a typewriter for two hours coming up with the likes of me.

A girl named Sherrie is busy reading her work for Jim and the rest of us - mostly for Jim. I am busy being made uncomfortable by it. It's all about desire and sex, but there is nothing arousing going on in the least. I expected to not like it because it would be sentimental, but that isn't the problem. It's just Sherrie standing up there with her yellow curls going everywhere like a doll or a crazed cheerleader, semi-whispering about "folds in flesh" and "shimmering" this and "shuddering" that - it makes me queasy. It's only our second class, for God's sake. Meeting, Jim wants us to call it.

Jim doesn't seem to mind Sherrie's stuff. He stands with the same demeanour he has whenever anybody reads. He leans slightly against his desk, stares at the ground, and folds his arms way back behind his head, so that his elbows stick out on either side of it like huge animal ears, a rabbit man. He'll stand that way for as long as twenty minutes sometimes, depending on whatever anyone's reading. There is a guy named Claude from Moncton who writes villanelles. These villanelles go on forever sometimes, and Jim will just stand there all contorted until the very last line.

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The Odious Child

The Odious Child

and Other Stories
edition:Paperback

What would you do if your child was a furry feral creature or your new love interest a potential serial killer (or worse, a fictitious cliché)? In The Odious Child, Carolyn Black invents her own blend of urban fantasy, crafting a unique storyscape that she populates with a series of mostly nameless figures who are trapped in social roles that they anxiously try to fulfill - and sometimes manage to escape. With a refreshingly clear voice and dark, offbeat sense of humour, Black tempers her incis …

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There are two ways to make a reading list

This way:

  1. Click the "Create a New List" button just above this panel.
  2. Add as many books as you wish using the built-in search on the list edit page.

Or that way:

  1. Go to any book page.
  2. In the right-hand column, click on "Add to List." A drop-down menu will appear.
  3. From the drop-down menu, either add your book to a list you have already created or create a new list.
  4. View and edit your lists anytime on your profile page.
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