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Books on Friendship

By 49thShelf
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tagged: friendship
Great books—fiction and non—celebrating the platonic loves of our lives.
Last Goldfish, The

Last Goldfish, The

A True Tale of Friendship
edition:Paperback

Twenty-five years ago and counting, Louisa, my true, essential, always-there-for-everything friend, died. We were 22.

When Anita Lahey opens her binder in grade nine French and gasps over an unsigned form, the girl with the burst of red hair in front of her whispers, Forge it! Thus begins an intense, joyful friendship, one of those powerful bonds forged in youth that shapes a person’s identity and changes the course of a life.

Anita and Louisa navigate the wilds of 1980s suburban adolescence ag …

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Excerpt

Prologue:

A fish story In early Grade 9, I teamed up with a girl named Meredith for a science project. She was quiet and skittish, like a shy rabbit. We went to the pet store together and purchased six goldfish, six bowls, then divvied them up: three to her house, three to mine. Our plan was to place the fish in different environments—a busy kitchen, a dark closet, a bright windowsill—and try to gauge their contentment level by their behaviour. Which fish were more active, more hungry? The question, mine, had been whether a fish would prefer a darker home because it mimics the experience of a more natural habitat such as a lake.

But right away I found myself troubled by the idea of keeping fish captive. Watching my three fish swim circles in their bowls, taking notes, trying to describe their activity levels, I felt like a fraud. I had no idea how to assess the happiness of a fish, nor what kind of research to undertake to better inform our experiment. I hadn’t the first clue how to penetrate the mysteries of the universe. Nor could I explain any of this to Meredith. I’d roped her into this, so I put up a brave front when we sat down to compare notes.

“How are your fish doing?” I asked.

She answered so softly I could barely hear. “One of them died.” I stared. She was wringing her hands. “Do you think it was sick when we bought it?”

“It seemed like the other ones, didn’t it?”

“I think so.”

We sat in silence.

Suppose Meredith’s fish had come home with me, instead. Say the guy at the store had pulled a different specimen from the tank. The fish’s bowl had been placed in a prime location, on the windowsill in Meredith’s bedroom, south-facing. Maybe fish, like African violets, shrivelled in direct sunlight? I was overwhelmed by potential variables; I was so not ready for science. I was sure that none of our classmates had a dead creature on their hands. But I also doubted any of them had taken this assignment so keenly to heart.

I’d picked Meredith for a partner because she didn’t make me nervous. Maybe it made sense, now that I was out of the little elementary school with a graduating class of 28, to start aligning myself with more kids like me, who were into such things as books. But I was relieved when our experiment was finished, our results handed in. In the drawings for our report, Meredith had attempted to depict the dead fish, floating in its bowl. It looked like a tiny piece of driftwood.

In French class, which came right after science, I sat behind Louisa. People called her Lou for short. She had red hair, brightly inquisitive eyes and hands that gestured energetically when she talked. She’d adopted the habit of tipping back her chair and tossing questions at me, so that I gradually came to trust she really did want to talk to me: “Are you reading the Merchant of Venice for English too? I love Shakespeare. It’s so dramatic.” “What did you do on the weekend? My mom’s friend took us to the art gallery. It was amazing!”

Louisa was impressed by the goldfish experiment Meredith and I had embarked on. She called it “ambitious.”

“We don’t have a clue what we’re doing,” I assured her. “It’s ridiculous.”

One morning, gravely, but hurriedly, so as to get the details out before the fierce Mademoiselle Vachon began conducting class, I told her what had happened to Meredith’s fish.

She laughed. “What a story!”

I was startled. Then I laughed too. Sure, it was tragic for the fish, but the creatures weren’t exactly known for their longevity. Hadn’t we all flushed one or two down the toilet, or seen a sitcom goldfish funeral, its tongue-in-cheek solemnity? I stopped noticing Meredith, stopped looking for her telltale slouch when I slipped into science class or walked, heart clenched, into the cafeteria that teemed with students I didn’t know. It seems cruel, in retrospect, you might even say foolhardy: the things I might have learned, the fastidious scientist I might have become, pushing onward with that studious girl. But I didn’t want Meredith anymore. I’d found a better prospect, off I went.

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Memoir of Friendship

Memoir of Friendship

The Letters Between Carol Shields And Blanche Howard
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged :

A Memoir of Friendship is a rich collection of the letters Shields and Howard exchanged from 1975 to 2003. Carol Shields took her place on the world literary stage when she won the Pulitzer Prize for The Stone Diaries. Blanche Howard, 22 years older than Carol and herself a published, award-winning author, became Shields's mentor and confidante.Written with humour and insight, this window into their daily lives explores their friendship, their disappointment and joys, their ambitions, and their …

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Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits

edition:Paperback
tagged : friendship

Who is your kindred spirit? Who kindles the fire in your soul?

Driven by curiosity about her own intense friendships and soul-to-soul connections, Dianne Hicks Morrow devoted the last 10 years to asking Atlantic Canadians these questions.

In Kindred Spirits, people as diverse as composer Norman Campbell, lyricist Elaine Campbell, country doctor Jim Bowen, author Sheree Fitch, photographer Freeman Patterson, comedian dentist Marina Sexton, theatre director Duncan McIntosh, minister Elizabeth Steven …

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A Secret Sisterhood

A Secret Sisterhood

The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf
edition:Paperback
tagged : literary

Male literary friendships are the stuff of legend, but what about the friendships of women writers?A Secret Sisterhood, drawing on letters and diaries, some never published before, brings to light a wealth of surprising female collaborations: the friendship between Jane Austen and one of the family servants, amateur playwright Anne Sharp; the daring feminist author Mary Taylor, who shaped the work of Charlotte Brontë; the transatlantic friendship of the seemingly aloof George Eliot and the ebu …

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Bina

Bina

A Novel in Warnings
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

The extraordinary bestselling novel from the acclaimed writer whose previous book, Martin John, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and whose debut, Malarky, won the Amazon First Novel Award.

"My name is Bina and I'm a very busy woman. That's Bye-na, not Beena. I don't know who Beena is, but I expect she's having a happy life. I don't know who you are, or the state of your life. But if you've come all this way here to listen to me, your life will undoubtedly get worse. I'm here to warn you ..." …

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Excerpt

I always found fellas very difficult. I never got tangled up in them for that reason. I put my head down and lived a rea­sonable life. Or rather once I put the head down, I lived a reasonable life.

Women are no easier. So don’t be fooled thinking other­wise.

They are all awful, awful, awful.

All humans are awful.

All of us are awful.

Be very suspicious.

Stick to cats or carp.

Goats are less trouble than humans.

He’s mad as a goat, they’ll say. Yet I never met a goat as mad as a man.

Goats never caused me mounds of grief.

Goats never sat like a pile of rank mush in my kitchen.

Worse thing they ever did was eat something they couldn’t digest, yet you’d no more go down their throat after it. You leave them be. You let them decide, do you want to live or die? Do you want to carry on or take a left turn?

A man though, he could get into your kidneys and irritate them & you in a very special way. It’s why women are up in the night to go to the toilet as they age. They are widdling the confused strain of anger gathered up in there all day. I’ve no explanation as to why men are up piddling all night too, except perhaps it’s God’s subtle way of tormenting them. He goes straight for the pipe does our Saviour.

Out of the toilet quick, Bina!

Before I’m distracted.

I’m an awful woman for distraction.

Curiosity was my downfall.

You’ll see yet.
 
 
But let us return to the goats.

Not demanding, goats.

Unless they sneak out.

Then and even then, and only then, it’s the humans cause a big fuss. The goats don’t much mind the humans; they carry on doing what they do, a simple desire to eat briars unim­peded. Armoured tongues. Clipping nibbles. Head in. Chomp crunch. Down. Down. You could be dying on the ground and a goat would eat all the way around you, and not take a lick or a bare sniff at you. He’d follow the feed.

Not the humans! Oh no, big fuss when goats escape. They’re out on the road! Mad. Arms waving. Phones ringing. Thumb-stabbing slipped texts to the wrong farmer. They raise their voices. They’ll shout at any man who’ll hear. Any ear. Or woman. And amid shrieking carnival and lifeboat dispatch you’d wonder wherever did they think goats were before we put them into fields and sheds? Where do they think the wild goats are? The goats just keep on eating and buck about. They don’t mind your trumpet or your texts.

I’ve had to give up my goats on account of the humans. Let me be clear on that, it wasn’t the other way round. I haven’t given up my goats for any reason aside from Eddie. Don’t listen when they say oh it’s her age or her health or the diabetes or she needs to lose weight. I haven’t the diabetes. It’s Joanie, God rest her, who had the diabetes. None of us knew. She kept it quiet and now she’s dead and that’s what happens when you keep things quiet. Though I do believe in keeping some things quiet. Phil had it too, the diabetes.[1]

I am as strong as steel. Unbendable Bina. It’s just the humans are doing me in. Not the goats, not the diabetes. I don’t even eat cakes. If I start eating cakes, it’s because they drove me to it. Eddie would drive you to eat cakes. I’m surprised I didn’t plunge my face down into a Victoria sponge, with him and now this other tall fella breaking my brain to crumb.

* * *

There has to be a plan. I’ll have to kill the cat if I’m to go. That’s a pity. For the best. Nice cat though. Except when it piddled all over the place early on. Including on my new pil­lows, because Eddie locked the poor craytur in my bedroom. Them’s the sort of stupid thing Eddies do.

I didn’t want it to get out, he said.
You locked him in my bedroom for two days and gave him no food because you didn’t want him to get out?

He didn’t get out tho’, he said.

He couldn’t get out! He was locked in!

That cat’s not dead, said he. As if there were some fear the cat would be dead if it lived a normal
cat’s life.

It’s very hard to get run over when you are locked inside my bedroom.

Most cats die. Most cats let out die. They die on the road.

And he believes it. He holds fast. Plain, dry, seasoned obliv­ious. Smothered with fungal oblivion. He could live, die and rise again entirely oblivious that man. Every time the thought revisits me that I should have left him in that ditch. I am thinking it as I write this to you. I’m warning you not to lift men out of ditches and don’t trust the common declaration “all he needs is a bang on the head.” Eddie received a big bang on the head when he landed off his motorbike in my ditch and there is no evidence of it improving him. I don’t know how I didn’t take the cat and brain him with it. Except the poor crea­ture had suffered enough. My pillows never recovered and the smell of cat piss still lingers. It’s a reminder. Heed your remind­ers. Your mistakes always come with reminders. Often there’s a smell of a reminder. Log it. Sniff it. Choke on it. Make your nose passport and border control. Let no one in.

Since Eddie’s gone, I’ve put items in his bed to remind myself he is gone. But I had to throw out the mattress,[2] the pillows and sheets he’d slept on for years, because he was filthy anytime he lay down on them. You could never wash the smell of him away. I’ve one room stinks of cat’s piss and another of Eddie. I hesitated though, because according to my prophecy I thought the smell of him could, if I left it, serve as a warning. I’m happy to say I’m past needing a warning, which is why I am able to batter this out to yourselves. I’ve transcended.

I often wonder at the women who give birth to awful young fellas like Eddie. I think there’s a case to be heard for shoving the likes of Eddie back up and starting all over again. I believe in abortion since I met Eddie. It’s only a shame you can’t abort a 40-year-old.
 

* * *

I believe in obliteration. I believe in removing useless speci­mens from the planet. I don’t say it aloud, but I’m committed. You can only say it aloud if God has told you to do it. He hasn’t, but On My Oath if I were called I would serve. Likewise, I believe that the more useful amongst us should also have some choice about when we go. That is why I joined the Group when the Tall Man came to my door.
 
Eddie’s gone quiet now.

So we are waiting. That’s all I do now.

Wait.

Suspiciously.

Primed.

[1] See, Malarky: A Novel in Episodes.  
[2] I wonder now if I hadn’t had the delay on needing to get a new mat­tress might I have saved Phil. Maybe, in the end, Eddie will have killed the pair of us without even trying.

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Notes from a Feminist Killjoy

Notes from a Feminist Killjoy

Essays on Everyday Life
edition:Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback

Winner of the Atlantic Book Awards 2017 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award
Winner of the East Coast Literary Awards 2017 Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award
Finalist for the 2017 Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing

Erin Wunker is a feminist killjoy, and she thinks you should be one, too.

Following in the tradition of Sara Ahmed (the originator of the concept "feminist killjoy"), Wunker brings memoir, theory, literary criticism, pop culture, and feminist thinking together in this colle …

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