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essays - non-fiction

By Carla Jean
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Flower can Always be Changing, The

Flower can Always be Changing, The

edition:Paperback

"A lamp and a flower pot in the center. The flower can always be changing."--Virginia Woolf. From the bestselling author of Rumi and the Red Handbag comes a new collection of brief essays about the intersection of poetry, painting, photography and beauty. Inspired by the words of Virginia Woolf, Lemay welcomes you into her home, her art and her life as a poet and photographer of the every day. Lemay shares visits to the museum with her daughter, the beauty in an average workday at the library, a …

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The Flower Can Always Be Changing

 

The bonsai, now. Purchased years ago from the hardware store. A wish, a pretension, a desire for peacefulness, with an envious thought to the serious practitioners, precipitated its purchase.

Relegated to the basement when it sensed I was not living up to its requirements for emptiness, calm, and a true tenderness. It became too lush and I could not be severe in bringing it back to balance. Years later, it re-emerges. Parts of it have died, irretrievable. Unbalanced but splendid and we understand the elegance of each other's broken loneliness.

At the stage where she was dreaming, conjuring, The Waves, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, "A lamp and a flower pot in the center. The flower can always be changing." There would be, "...a perpetual crumbling and renewing of the plant. In its leaves she might see things happen. But who is she?"

Quickly followed by the wish she remain unnamed. The leaves would most certainly see things happen.

I forge a plan that I quickly abandon, to ask women I know about the plants they have on their windowsills, kitchen tables, desks. I imagine receiving answers about geraniums being overwintered, about African violets, and about bouquets of grocery store tulips and about long stemmed, candy-coloured daisies, and roses that deliberately open. Once, someone told me about the aloe vera plant she has on her desk that has vast properties of healing and with which she conducts séances and hearing this made me too delicate.

We breathe the plant in and the plant receives our exhalations and our chakras align accordingly.

Of course, with Clarice Lispector, I've been thinking about the sadness of flowers in order to feel more fully the order of what exists for a very long time.

As Cixous said, we have all lived one or two flowers. We have felt the light of them, the light they attract and which goes right through them, and also the heaviness, the gravity, and we have known, perhaps, as the painter Francis Bacon called it, the violence of roses. Not just the thorns, but the colours changing and bleeding and seeping out of those generous, soft, petals. The way our souls might rise up and speak to flowers, met by flowers, their breathing, the faint breath of them. The pain of finding we can't quite sip, can't quite internalize the answers, to the question of scent.

I imagine the pots and vases of flowers on a table near a window in time lapse photography, one that encompasses several years. The first day emerges deliberately. In a veil of morning light, I place a vase of garden roses on the weathered table. The pink-orange petals are so various, each one a slightly different combination of pink fluttering into orange. They have opened under the sun, have been changed by breezes gentle and ardent and arduous. Insects have nibbled and continued on their way. And now the light becomes more diffuse, evens out, brightens, declines again, and then moonlight comes in and bathes the roses, they soften and at the same time become more radiant, full. The leaves droop a little, curl, the water clouds, the edges of the petals wither, turn a greyish brown, and the pinks become less vibrant, and the orange deepens, lessens. They begin to look tattered in the repetition of this cycle, more graceful, more noble. At one point a hand comes into the frame, and shoves the vase from the center of the table to the edge, to the far end.

In this way we come to know the unrepeatable secrets of flowers, and then to forget them. We learn opening, opening. And then empty, drunk, we succumb to their heavenly sadness. It is the sadness of flowers that reminds us to keep the secret.

The table is empty for several days. The time lapse speeds up. A geranium arrives in a terracotta pot. The stems are thick and gnarled. The plant has lived and lives on in the slips that have been taken. It grows, leaning toward the light through the day, a slow dance. And then the cuttings are removed, and it must grow more leaves, and it does, small sprouts emerge. At which point someone takes it to make room for a gift, a vase of flowers. A ghostly image enters the frame and leaves, which reminds one of security camera footage.

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Luminous Ink

Luminous Ink

Writers on Writing in Canada
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian

Twenty-seven writers in Canada were asked to contribute pieces of original work describing how they see writing today. From Atwood’s opening, through writing from Indigenous writers, the reader is given a sense of how twenty-seven of the country’s finest writers see their world today. With an introduction by the editors, Dionne Brand, Rabindranath Maharaj, and Tessa McWatt.
Contributors include:

Margaret Atwood
Michael Ondaatje
Madeleine Thien,
M G Vassanji,
Lawrence Hill
Pascale Quiviger
N …

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Ordinary Paradise

Ordinary Paradise

Essays on Art and Culture
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian

The essays in Ordinary Paradise muse on what it means to be engaged with literature, music, film and the visual arts, and celebrate the extraordinary power that creative accomplishment can have on our daily lives.

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Excerpt

Suddenly, it seems, everyone is turning sixty. The baby boomer generation-born after World War II, between 1946 and 1960-has had a profound impact on North American cultural, economic and political life, and they're about to be at it again. Over dinners, at parties, in busy business corridors, they're reassuring each other that 'Sixty is the new forty.' Well, good luck. But how will the publishing world face the onslaught of spending that the boomers are going to enact? What will happen to serious and popular fiction, and books in general? What, in the end, will matter to the boomers, and what might they change?

I ask these questions because I'm part of the boomer generation too, and I've completed a novel, Winter in Hollywood, that looks directly at some of the issues about aging that the boomers-and all of us, eventually-have to face. It's a truism that our culture likes to emphasize youth, from the stories of young love that dominate TV, the movies, and popular culture in general, to ads and articles hawking Viagra, Botox, and plastic surgery. Age itself has come to be seen as something unnatural, to be avoided at almost any cost. Or, as the 75-year-old heroine of my novel remarks, while walking down a street of fancy shops in Los Angeles: 'age hid itself-bad news, bad luck.' The reasons for our fear of aging are complex and perhaps ancient. And it's ironic that the boomers, who were always youth obsessed, now have to put their own stamp on aging. Can book publishers and booksellers help humanize this process, and offer an alternative to fear and loathing? There has to be more than Andrew Weil's bestseller Healthy Aging, sensible as it may be.

One of the most popular non-fiction books of 2005 was Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir about the death of her husband, the novelist John Gregory Dunne, and the fatal illness of their daughter. Apparently everyone in the book business was surprised by Didion's runaway success, as if no one had noticed the boomers at the gates. One newspaper critic, commenting on the phenomenon, concluded rather too cleverly, 'Translation: Aging boomers are becoming interested in their own mortality.' The snide tone here is common when aging and mortality rear their twin heads. Yet when Annie Leibowitz photographed Didion for Vanity Fair, she avoided the soft focus often reserved for elderly celebrities (Didion was 71) and instead recorded the novelist in her wrinkled glory, with claw-like hands, in an image that evokes famous portraits of Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) made by Richard Avedon and Cecil Beaton several years before her death, at age 77. The fierce expression on Didion's face will fool no one who has read her memoir. This is a woman shocked by mortality hitting so close to home. Despite years of bearing witness to late 20th-century injustice and angst, Didion, it seems, never quite expected to be part of the passing scene of suffering.

[From "On Books and Baby Boomers"]

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The Year of No Summer

The Year of No Summer

edition:Paperback
tagged : essays

On April 10th, 1815, Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted. Th e resulting build-up of ash in the stratosphere altered weather pat-terns and led, in 1816, to a year without summer. Instead, there were June snowstorms, food shortages, epidemics, inventions, and the proliferation of new cults and religious revivals.

Hauntingly meaningful in today’s climate crisis, Lebowitz’s lyric essay charts the events and eff ects of that apocalyptic year. Weaving together history, mythology, and memoir, The Y …

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The Best Canadian Essays 2017

The Best Canadian Essays 2017

edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian, essays

Featuring trusted Series editor Christopher Doda and acclaimed guest editor Marina Nemat, this ninth installment of Canada's annual volume of essays showcases diverse nonfiction writing from across the country. Culled from leading Canadian magazines and journals, The Best Canadian Essays 2017 contains award-winning and award-nominated nonfiction articles that are topical and engaging and have their finger on the pulse of our contemporary psyches.

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Sonny Assu

Sonny Assu

A Selective History
edition:Paperback

A stunning retrospective highlighting the playfulness, power, and subversive spirit of Northwest Coast Indigenous artist Sonny Assu.

Through large-scale installation, sculpture, photography, printmaking, and painting, Sonny Assu merges the aesthetics of Indigenous iconography with a pop-art sensibility. This stunning retrospective spans over a decade of Assu’s career, highlighting more than 120 full-colour works, including several never-before-exhibited pieces.

 

Through analytical essays and per …

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