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2012 Wanna Reads

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The Fearsome Particles

The Fearsome Particles

edition:Paperback
tagged : literary

Trevor Cole’s bestselling debut novel garnered rave reviews and comparisons to Truman Capote and Kingsley Amis. Now the Governor General’s Award finalist is back with The Fearsome Particles, a brilliantly observed comic tragedy about the widening cracks in a family’s picture-perfect veneer.

Gerald Woodlore, a window screen executive, wakes one morning to find, to his utter dismay, that he has reached the limits of what he can control. The company he works for is rapidly losing market share …

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1
An animal that small, that dextrous, could be anywhere. An animal that silent. There was no defining its limits. What troubled Gerald was not the threat of the threat per se, but his sense of helplessness in the face of it.

In his imagination, in those thoughts that lay just beyond his control, the cat he called Rumsfeld was stalking him. It was an absurd idea, but as he stood in his slippers at the foot of the bed, with the new light of April stealing across a floor of cinnamon cabreuva, Gerald could not quite reach the absurdity and smother it. So he was forced, in the sense that addicts are forced by their addictions, or invalids by their infirmities, to picture the cat mincing through the cavities and recesses (what interior design people liked to call “dead spaces”) of the sprawling turreted house on Breere Crescent. He was obliged to see in his mind’s eye its white whiskery face peering around the pants press and shoe trees of his closet, looking more resolute, more purposeful, than a cat’s face should be capable of looking. He was compelled to imagine it — ludicrous as it might sound to the great majority of people who ­weren’t him and ­didn’t live at 93 Breere — planning.

All Gerald Woodlore could do, and so did with conviction, was curse himself for thinking about the cat. Because this was not the time to be getting cat-­fixated; this morning there were other things of far greater importance to be addressing, mentally. His son, Kyle, was returning home from a hostile territory with an uncertain injury. His wife, Vicki, was edging toward madness. Work entailed its own many, many challenges. For these reasons there was no force in the world worthier of invocation, in Gerald’s view, than the will to ignore the cat’s presence in their lives. And if there had been a way to call forth the will, and impose it on his thoughts the way he imposed plastic wrap on a freshly lopped lemon, to keep its spiky lemoniness contained, of course he would have. But Gerald had to acknowledge, unhappily, that he ­wasn’t built to ignore sneaking threats to normalcy, to order, to the way things were supposed to be. He was much too conscious; he was conscious to the point of affliction. And so to him, the black-­and-­white cat, which a neighbour named Lorie Campeau had brought to the door in a wild panic three weeks before —

LORIE CAMPEAU: It’s my mother. They’ve taken her to the hospital. She fell. She lives in Vancouver and she fell! So I have to fly there today, and of course I have to take my daughter, Jewels. But we just got her this cat. Literally just got it. And we ­can’t give it back because Jewels is completely in love. And I ­don’t know what to do. We haven’t even named it!

— the cat that Vicki had taken in without consultation though he, Gerald, was in the nearby den, listening and perfectly consultable, was a threat. It was a rogue presence. It was their own small, fluffy insurgency.

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Bird Eat Bird

Bird Eat Bird

edition:Paperback

Bird Eat Bird, Katrina Best’s first book of short stories,is a funny, smart, offbeat, and insightful collection thatexplores themes that are equally poignant and hilarious:a middle-aged Cockfosters housewife decides totravel to Albuquerque in search of enlightenment; athirty-year-old woman who still lives at home anticipatesthe experience of a third date; a teenaged vegetariansupermarket cashier struggles to scan a packageof offal; an inscrutable pelican in a crowded Londonpark decides to try …

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Various Positions

Various Positions

A novel
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback
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Nuanced, fresh, and gorgeously well-written, Martha Schabas' extraordinary debut novel takes us inside the beauty and brutality of professional ballet, and the young women striving to make it in that world. Shy and introverted, and trapped between the hyper-sexualized world of her teenaged friends and her dysfunctional family, Georgia is only at ease when she's dancing. Fortunately, she's an unusually talented and promising dancer. When she is accepted into the notoriously exclusive Royal Balle …

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I found the envelope in a pile of letters on the hallway radiator. It was white, flat, ordinary as any envelope except for the strange look of my name across the front. I wasn’t used to getting mail. There was a logo in the corner, the curving, antique script of the Royal Toronto Ballet Academy. I took the envelope up to my room. My fingers were stupid with adrenalin, and as I ripped off the top, I tore the letter too. I read the time and date of my audition aloud and recorded the information on the Gelsey Kirkland calendar above my desk, filling the March 27 box with tiny handwriting.
 
I observed what I’d written as though I didn’t trust it, staring, squinting, trying to look at the ink askance. I muttered patchy sounds under my breath, little words like yes and good. March 27 needed to be distinguished from its meaningless neighbours, so I drew a green border around the date and added jagged diagonal strokes that tied like a knot in the middle of the square. I stepped backward, examined my work. It all looked a bit like the kind of flammability warning you’d find on a hairspray bottle. I worried this was a bad omen. Symbols of explosions might not lend themselves naturally to good luck. But maybe it could be a kind of reverse jinx, like whispering merde before going on stage, or grabbing your partner in the wings and screaming
 
“Go to hell!” beneath the opening chords of the overture. That’s what they did in Russia.
 
Above the March grid of the calendar was a black-and white photo of Gelsey in rehearsal. She was standing with her back against a studio barre and bending at the waist to fiddle with the ribbon of her pointe shoe. Her oversized leg warmers crawled up to the middle of her thighs and she wore a leotard that reflected light like tinfoil. The material pinched at her chest in the shape of a tiny accordion. On either side of this accordion there should have been boobs, but there were no boobs; there was virtually nothing at all. Ha! It was a laugh in the face of everything.
 
I had been watching Gelsey on the Arts & Entertainment Network since my mom ordered specialty cable three months before. I had seen her in five different ballets and I loved her. She didn’t look wet and brainless like some other ballerinas, dancing across the stage as if they were lost in heavy fog. She attacked her steps as though she had something against them, pouncing ferociously from one to the next. These pounces were punctuated every few minutes by close-ups of Gelsey yearning into the camera. Sometimes her pale face would take up the entire frame and just hang there in a look of incurable distraction. Pain hammered deep around her crystalline eyes. A tenderness pillowed her lips. It was a beauty I had never seen before, too extreme for human beings. Somewhere along her vacuumed cheeks, inside the pout of her ruby mouth, Gelsey became less girl and more creature, so feminine she cancelled herself out.
 
I folded the letter back into the envelope and sat down on my desk chair. I would e-mail Isabel and tell her about my audition. I turned on my computer and waited for my e-mail account to load new messages. I had a separate folder for Isabel that I’d labelled sister. This wasn’t really necessary, considering she was the only one who ever e-mailed me. The file name also wasn’t technically accurate. But Isabel had told me it was tacky to always call her my half-sister in front of other people, and I wanted to make up for the mistake.
 
I imagined scenarios where Isabel would happen to see the title of the e-mail folder. She’d be home at Christmas and we’d be hanging out in my room. She’d be telling me about the stuff she usually tells me about, her most recent semester at university, about after-dark activities and theories on gender and meaning. At some point I’d have to get up to pee. Alone in my room, she’d glance at my computer screen, see the only folder in my e-mail account and smile to herself. When I came back into the room she’d poke me in the ribs and tell me how grown up I seemed.
 
My inbox loaded zero new messages. I clicked on the sister folder and scrolled through old messages instead. Isabel always filled in the subject lines, titling her e-mails things like “W’sup” and “Hola Infanta” and “Georgia on My Mind.” I clicked on one e-mail with the subject line “Gelsey.” It was from a few months ago, soon after I’d told her about my new idol. Isabel had written that she was “skeptical of a society so predicated on celebrity-worship.” I had typed “predicated” into www.dictionary.com and written back that I wasn’t trying to “derive, base, found, proclaim, assert, declare or affirm anything.” Isabel hadn’t been convinced. She’d done a little Googling and had written back that Gelsey was a cokehead who’d dated Pat Sajak in the eighties, and that her lips had been injected with an amount of collagen that Health Canada considered “unadvisable.” When I hadn’t believed her, she’d sent me Dancing on My Grave, Gelsey’s tell-all autobiography, via priority post.
 
I looked at the bookshelf across my room. I could pick out the spine immediately, the font reflective like a speed sign on the highway, the rose wilting onto the word Grave. The spine looked worn, even from a distance, with a deep wrinkle scarred through its middle. I had read the book three times now and knew the quotations on the back cover by heart: “the dark side of fame,” “a descent into drugs and madness,” “a tortured quest for perfection.” I loved Gelsey more with every read. Not only was she the most wonderful ballerina the world had ever seen, but she had suffered something horrifying and her face was brimming with poisonous chemicals.
 
Isabel had been e-mailing me approximately twice a week since she’d moved downtown for university. She lived in a three-storey house with six other girls, one working shower and no TV. Every time I visited I felt cold inside my knee caps and smelled old beer and Pantene Pro-V. Still, I loved visiting her. My dad had only been once, and he called the house Moldova. How are things in Moldova? he’d ask when Isabel came home for dinner and he wasn’t at the hospital. Have you girls managed to get a land line yet? Isabel’s mouth would fatten into a smirk. Moldova isn’t so bad anyway, she’d say. It has a thriving viticulture industry. It’s the crossroads of Latin and Slavic worlds. My dad would lift his hands on either side of his body, palms facing Isabel as if she were a bandit with a gun. I would stand absolutely still, do my best to embody neutrality so that no one could accuse me of picking sides.
 
Right before she’d left for university, Isabel had taken me to the park for a talk. We sat on the swings and I followed her lead, digging my heels into the gravel beneath us, engraving hearts and then wiping them clean with my soles. The kid swinging next to me was pumping his legs hard, trying to propel his body towards rooftops, but Isabel was unmoving, so I would be too. I watched a tiny bulge in the middle of her neck and then another, as though she were swallowing her thoughts.
 
Half an hour went by and she still hadn’t done any talking. Pins and needles fried the underside of my thighs. Finally she looked at me. The greyness of her eyes had deepened. They were the colour of the sidewalk after a thunderstorm.
 
“Things might be difficult when I leave, George. You’ll have to be extra grown up.”
 
“Sure.”
 
“Just—” She paused, stabbed the rubber toe of her sneaker into the middle of a dusty heart so that a cloud of sand wafted up her ankle. “I know it’s difficult when Dad’s always—” She cut herself off and looked at the sky. “Just don’t let it get to you. They’re adults and it’s not your problem. And call me if you need anything. Like anytime, whenever.”
 
I nodded slowly, trying to put lots of meaning into it because I knew that’s what she wanted to see. Isabel generally talked about my mom that way, ran circles around the problem without ever stopping to look it in the face. In her last year of high school, Isabel had stayed with us less and less, and this had distorted her perception of what was happening between my parents. Isabel never saw my mom’s tiny provocations, the way she would stare out the window and announce the strangest things out of nowhere—that she missed smoking cigarettes in her old Ford Cortina, that she was curious about neo-punk. One time after dinner, I passed my mom the lasagna dish and she said she’d rather ram her head into the kitchen sink than wash it. Another time, when there was a segment on the radio about the fruit bat, she stepped out into the backyard and started to cry.
 
I swiped my finger on the trackpad to wake up the computer screen. I clicked on the Compose button and typed Isabel’s e-mail into the address bar. I told her about my letter and asked how things were going at Moldova. I paused over the subject line. Then I brought my fingers back to the keyboard and typed My Audition. I sat back in my chair and looked at the title. I deleted Audition and wrote Career.

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Up Up Up

Up Up Up

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Up Up Up heralds the arrival of a writer of astonishing range, compassion, and acuity. In this stunning short story collection, Julie Booker grabs the reins from writers like Lydia Millet and Miranda July and takes off at full speed, and in directions all her own.

A pair of plus-sized friends make tracks for a kayaking trip in Alaska. A woman vacations with her parents at a Texas trailer park, wondering why she can't meet a man. A worldly member of a tour group selects sacrifices from among the m …

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Girls Fall Down

Girls Fall Down

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary

The 2012 One Book Toronto title
Shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award

A girl faints in the Toronto subway. Her friends are taken to the hospital with unexplained rashes; they complain about a funny smell in the subway. Swarms of police arrive, and then the hazmat team. Panic ripples through the city, and words like poisoning and terrorism become airborne. Soon, people are collapsing all over the city in subways and streetcars and malls.

Alex was witness to this first episode. He’s a photograph …

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The Juliet Stories

The Juliet Stories

edition:eBook
also available: Paperback

Shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award: Fiction and selected as a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book

 

Juliet Friesen is ten years old when her family moves to Nicaragua. It is 1984, the height of Nicaragua's post-revolutionary war, and the peace-activist Friesens have come to protest American involvement. In the midst of this tumult, Juliet's family lives outside of the boundaries of ordinary life. They've escaped, and the ordinary rules don't apply. Threat is pervasive, danger is real, b …

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Life Is About Losing Everything

Life Is About Losing Everything

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

From the author of the wildly controversial books Liar and Paul's Case comes one of the most anticipated — and perhaps, in some quarters, feared — books of the year. This is author Lynn Crosbie at her most honest, most cutting, most hilarious, and most heartbreaking. The stories told here are at once a cache, a repository, of a seven-year period in the author's life; and, too, a gymnasium, a place where she can flex her prodigious wit and her dazzling stash of literary tricks

Deft with matte …

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