New Books and Featured Reading Lists

Each week on the 49th Shelf homepage, we highlight new releases. We also make theme-based lists and showcase lists from guest contributors and 49th Shelf members. This page archives these selections so they are always available to our members.

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New Fiction for the week of July 19th : Fiction: New and in Paperback
The Retreat

The Retreat

A Novel
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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The Rebellious Tide
Excerpt

Chapter 3: The Glacier

Seagulls soared overhead in undulating patterns. They would form perfect concentric circles, their outstretched wings frozen in the air, before darting across the sky in every direction. Of all the new things he had seen since leaving Petit Géant two months ago, these birds brought him the most joy.

The sun beat down on Civitavecchia, the clay-coloured port town outside Rome. Heavy beads of sweat made the journey from Sebastien’s forehead to the base of his neck.

The dock was alive with the sights and sounds of the sea. Everyone moved with purpose. Sailors stamped out cigarettes and hurried across the concrete. Merchants sold balls of deepfried dough to hungry travellers armed with suitcases with indestructible shells. Smoke and salt were infused in the air, but he liked the scent.

The hiking backpack he sat on was stuffed with almost everything he owned. An elegant woman in sunglasses dropped a handful of coins in the cap on the ground in front of him. He realized he looked like a beggar. “Signora!” he called out, wanting to return her money. She quickened her pace. He pocketed the change.

Fuelled by rage and a desperation to flee everything he knew, Sebastien had spent the last two months fixated on a plan. He had a purpose now. It brought him to Civitavecchia and, more specifically, to the Glacier.

It wasn’t a real glacier, of course. It was a ship. Towering above him like a steel behemoth, its hull was white like snow. A thousand eyes stared down at him — panels of blue-tinted glass held in place by silver bolts. The ship exhaled a thin plume of smoke from the pyramid-shaped funnel at its summit several decks above him.

“Sebastien?” A woman in a turquoise pantsuit stepped off the gangplank that led to the ship’s crew entrance. A silk scarf decorated with golden anchors was tied around her neck. It was his first time hearing a South African accent. “Sebastien Goo?”

He stood up and waved before slinging the heavy backpack over his shoulder. She smiled brightly as she approached, her heels unsteady on the concrete dock.

“It’s Goh,” he corrected her with a smile. “Like ‘Go home.’ Not Goo.”

She held her palms to her chest with her mouth open, embarrassed. “I’m so sorry!”

Sebastien laughed. “It’s fine. It happens all the time,” he lied.

The woman introduced herself as Claudette, manager of the photography department. She led him up the gangplank into the belly of the ship. Two uniformed men in blue shirts and dark pants stood guard. One of them made small talk with Claudette while the other checked Sebastien’s passport and employment papers. The guard handed back the documents and gave him a decisive nod.

“Thank you, sir,” Sebastien said with an overly enthusiastic smile. The guard jerked his head in the direction of the metal detector beside him. An X-ray machine devoured the backpack before spitting it out on its conveyor-belt tongue.

“Why is this ship called the Glacier?” Sebastien asked, as he followed Claudette through a maze of steel corridors.“Seems like a strange name for a Greek ship sailing the Mediterranean.”

“It used to do the Baltic route. I guess they didn’t bother to rename it.”

She stopped abruptly at a door painted the same ivory colour as the walls. “This is your cabin,” she said as she knocked.

The door opened seconds later to reveal a man in his early thirties, wearing nothing but a pair of orange soccer shorts. A fresh layer of sweat coated the well-defined lines of his torso. His close-cropped hair was the colour of sand.

“And this,” Claudette said, her cheeks blushing, “is your cabinmate.”

“Welcome aboard!” The man took Sebastien’s hand in a crushing grip. “I’m Ilya. Sorry for looking like such a beast. I was just doing a quick workout.” He pivoted to grab a towel, revealing constellations of little round scars across the otherwise smooth skin of his back.

“I’ll let you boys get acquainted,” Claudette said. “Ilya, be a doll and give Sebastien a tour of the ship. Sebastien, I’ll come by in three hours to brief you on your first assignment.”

“My first assignment?”

“The captain’s cocktail party. You’ll be taking photos.”

“Cocktail party?” Sebastien hadn’t known what to expect on joining the staff of a ship, but he didn’t imagine sipping a negroni with the captain.

Claudette let out a pretty laugh and looked at him as if he were a puppy learning to swim for the first time. “This is no oil tanker. This is the Glacier.”

* * *

The Glacier was a 90,000-ton floating hotel that offered guests the same grandeur they’d expect to find in any European capital. “It’s a luxury liner, not a cruise ship,” Ilya explained an hour later as they marched through the winding passageways of the staff quarters. “At least that’s what they want us to call it. Cruise ship is a dirty word here. It’s more or less a cruise ship, though, but with a superiority complex.”

The two men were dressed in identical uniforms the staff members wore while visiting the upper decks of the guest quarters. The gold buttons on the turquoise blazers were embellished with anchors. Their white pants had perfect creases ironed down the fronts. Sebastien tugged at the collar of his shirt. He wasn’t used to being strangled by a necktie.

A gold badge was pinned to the lapel of each jacket. His cabinmate’s badge said:

Ilya Tereshchenko
Fitness Trainer
Ukraine

He glanced down at his own badge.

Sebastien Goh
Photographer
Canada

Ilya strolled through the corridors like he owned the ship, explaining every stop along the tour with the flair of a maestro. He seemed to know everyone they passed, swapping smiles and air kisses.

“We call this Styx,” Ilya explained, sweeping his arms outward as though revealing the grand prize of a game show. The wide passageway was the main artery in the lower decks of the staff quarters, stretching from one end of the ship to the other. “There are seventeen decks on the Glacier. The top fourteen are where paying guests wine, dine, and sun themselves into a stupor. The bottom three are where staff and crew live. These lower decks we call Hades — the underworld. Styx is the river that runs through it. In Greek mythology, the newly dead are ferried down the River Styx but only if you’ve paid the toll.”

The Glacier’s version of the River Styx was a social hub for the ship’s staff and crew. There was the cafeteria (“The food isn’t too bad, if you’re a zoo animal”), the staff bar (“The crew bar on C Deck usually gets wilder”), the staff purser’s office (“Uma will be your favourite person. She’s the one who pays us in cold, hard cash”), the computer lounge (“Since they installed Wi-Fi everywhere, nobody goes here except for the Filipino Mafia”), and the medical clinic (“As many free condoms as you need!”).

Over a thousand people worked aboard the Glacier. They lived on the three lower decks of Hades, ordered by the ship’s strict social hierarchy.

Located just below guest quarters was A Deck, where the ship’s white-suited officers lived. An exclusive wing near the stern was home to the captain and his commanders. If the officers were the upper crust of Glacier society, the commanders would be the aristocracy. “You need a special key card to enter, unless you make friends with one of them,” Ilya said with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “Their cabins are much nicer than ours. They don’t have to share with a mate. They have portholes so they can look outside and not feel like they’re rotting inside a coffin. There’s even carpet!”

Directly below the officers was B Deck, home of Styx and all members of staff, including Ilya and Sebastien. This was the realm of the turquoise-suited middle class comprised of people holding titles deemed respectable, such as massage therapist and art auctioneer. They generally came from wealthier countries. “As staff, we get more privileges than crew. We can hang out in the guest areas when we’re off duty as long as we’re dressed appropriately and wearing our name badges. Crew aren’t allowed to do that. We can go to the crew bar, but crew can’t enter the staff bar. Class division is a cruel reality here, I’m afraid. It’s sickening, but I guess we’re the lucky ones.”

Near the bottom of the ship were the crew quarters of C Deck. This was for the lower class of servers, cooks, bartenders, housekeepers, and deck cleaners. Most of them came from countries in Asia and Eastern Europe. “They work longer hours and get paid worse than staff. Plus, guests and officers treat them like servants.” Ilya shook his head in disgust. “Most have families back home. The money here is better than it is there. They deserve more respect.”

“It sounds a lot like the real world,” Sebastien said with a shrug.

“You’re wrong, my friend.” A devilish smile returned to Ilya’s lips. “This is as far from the real world as you can get.”

 

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Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent

A Creature X Mystery
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Excerpt

Chapter One

Dad’s interest in myths, monsters, and cryptozoology had started with episodes of In Search of … when he was a boy growing up in Wyoming in the 1970s. Each week brought a new mysterious phenomenon to explore: Could plants respond to people’s thoughts? Did ancient Phoenicians visit New Hampshire? Were the images carved into the Nazca plains made by or for extraterrestrials? But nothing held Dad’s imagination hostage like the mystery animals — Bigfoot, Nessie, the swamp monster of the Louisiana Bayou. It took years to gestate, but when he came back from the Gulf War, he was obsessed. He started taking road trips with army buddies, visiting dark forests and quiet lakes, looking for creatures that conventional science scoffed at. Sometimes he’d take me along. But as the trips, which usually took place on school days, became more frequent, he usually ended up driving off by himself, leaving Mom and me waving in the driveway.

Eventually, he acted as if he was still travelling even when he was at home. He crashed on the couch or slept on the air mattress in the basement. His relationship with Mom became more that of lodger and host than husband and wife. He gave up looking for substantial employment altogether, opting to make just enough money to pay for his expeditions.

But for all his research, all his hours sleeping on hard ground and cooking over a campfire, the only things he had to show for it were a collection of blurry photographs and overflowing boxes of notebooks. When Dad took off, the notebooks were all that was left of him. Mom couldn’t bear to throw them out.

Every entry in those notebooks began the same. The name of a monster, or cryptid if you’re in that community, was written in capital letters, my dad tracing each letter in blue ink multiple times and underlining it with the same thickness. Then came pages upon pages of background — everything Dad had picked up at the local library or from TV documentaries. Finally, the entry became a journal, marked with the dates and times of his own explorations.

When I was a girl, I had no idea how far he drove on those trips. Only looking back can I compute the distances between Washington State, where we lived, and places like Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Lake Champlain, Vermont. He even crossed the border into Canada, which seemed to have as many lake monster legends as it had lakes.

Dad’s last complete entry was about a lake monster called Cressie that supposedly lived in Lake Crescent on the island of Newfoundland in eastern Canada. Though Dad had written pages of background information about Cressie, there were almost no notes about his visit there. The only thing he had recorded, in the margins of the notebook, was the location and departure date and time for the ferry from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland. The date he’d jotted down was one week after the last time I ever saw him.

I remember the day he left. Mom tore into him right there as he was packing the station wagon, her voice resounding through the trees that separated our property from the neighbours’. Dad never came back inside the house after that. He didn’t hug me or kiss the top of my head, just gave me his half salute and smiled. Soon, the back of the station wagon disappeared as the road curved around the splayed-finger branches of the evergreens. I never dared to cry in front of him, saving that for later, once I was sure he was long gone and I was in my bed, a pillow muffling my sobs.

I wonder how far he got before realizing he’d left his notebook behind.

___

Our expedition to Crescent Lake would be a wild goose chase. I knew that going in. But the terms of my deal with the TV network stated very clearly that I could pick any cryptid anywhere in the world to cover in our second episode. So, why not Cressie?

You couldn’t tell it was late April when we landed. The Deer Lake airport was thoroughly dusted with snow, and high winds whistled through the automatic doors as the oil patch workers ahead of us went outside to greet their waiting loved ones. We were officially one month into spring, but this part of Newfoundland had apparently missed the memo.

The season, however, seemed to change sometime during the hour-and-a-half drive to Robert’s Arm. The sun was out, and it truly felt like a spring day, though with a definite chill in the air. I was surprised to see the harbour nearly empty, with the fleets of fishing boats already out on the water.

I suppose they had to get out on the water as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Gone were the days when, as Captain John Cabot’s crew remarked, the sea was “full of fish that can be taken not only with nets but with fishing-baskets.” The catch each individual boat can now expect has, in the past few decades, decreased significantly.

Much of the island of Newfoundland is a scar left over from the ice age, the soil having been scraped off into the oceans long ago by the receding glaciers. The harbour at Robert’s Arm was cradled by tree-covered hills that rose up to the rocky cliffs, as if protecting it from the ocean that swept in through a narrow gap. The main road led to the docks and boats; smaller roads criss-crossed up and along the hills, leading to houses, huts, and cabins nestled among the wind-swept trees and lichen-covered rock. Forces of nature left their fingerprints all over this landscape, and though it was weathered and cracked, it refused to break.

This was a beautiful wild place, but I was just too tired to fully appreciate it. I hadn’t had a moment to truly rest since we’d left Silver Spring, Maryland, hours earlier.

___

We dropped off our luggage at the Lake Crescent Inn, had a late breakfast that included lots of coffee, then climbed right back into the two rental vans. Our schedule was tight, and we had to get started.

Robert’s Arm was a picturesque town, with old houses dotting the shore and aluminum boats with outboard motors and other pleasure craft listing gently in the harbour. It was also eerily still, but for the odd sign of life now and then: a car would appear for a moment, then disappear behind an outcropping of trees; a small aluminum boat with an outboard engine would tear through the water, then vanish just as quickly as it had arrived.

After we parked, I got out and stood gazing out over the water, breathing in the cool sea air. I noticed a huge building perched on the hill at the edge of the narrow peninsula that pinched the bay before it flowed out into the ocean. The peaks of its roof and the chimney jutted up over the trees like a castle guarding the entrance to Robert’s Arm. At the bottom of the hill, the trees opened to reveal the entrance to a driveway. The road that curved around the bay ended there, and on the side opposite the driveway was a dock that looked lonely so far from the others.

“Interested in a spot of ghost-hunting?” someone whispered in my ear.

I’d been in a trance and started at the interruption.

It was Duncan Laidlaw, a British paleontologist who’d joined our team for this expedition.

“It does look like a beautiful old place. But look where it is. Like it was built by someone who wanted to lord their wealth and power over everybody else,” I replied.

“I imagine that was precisely the idea. Why it was built up there, lording over all the other houses in town. Probably comes with a dungeon for deformed heirs or something of the like,” he said, laughing.

Duncan and I turned and walked down the dock toward a white-and-blue fishing boat, patches of paint peeling off it like diseased skin. Next to the vessel stood a hunched man. I assumed this was Phil Parsons, known locally as “Captain Phil.” We’d arranged for him to take us out on the waters of Lake Crescent in his boat, the Darling Mae. The purpose being to search for giant eels.

“Captain Phil?”

“That’s me,” he said, removing his Greek-style cotton fisherman’s cap and walking across the dock, hand extended. “How d’you do, my dear?”

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Songs for Angel

Songs for Angel

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : literary
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Novels in Pieces

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New Non-Fiction for the week of July 5th : Sounds of Summer: New Books on Music
Limelight: Rush in the ’80s
Excerpt

 

“The right time, the right place, the right song, the right parts.”

Pleased with the living/working arrangements for A Farewell to Kings, Rush tried it again for Hemispheres. Pleased with the living/working arrangements for Permanent Waves, Rush tried it again for Moving Pictures. Fortunately, the sequel effort this time didn’t disappoint, and the guys found themselves more Canadian than ever. Living and raising families in Canada, writing on Canadian farms, recording immersed in the Canadian forest, bridging the divide between English Canada and French Canada, winning Junos and paddling canoes . . . Rush were celebrating everything it meant to be Canadian.

“We went out to Ronnie Hawkins’s farm, out in the Stony Lake area,” begins Alex, on preparations for the record that would serve as Rush’s Machine Head and Paranoid, or Fragile and Not Fragile, as it were. “I guess it’s just north of Peterborough. He had a really nice little home up there, nice cottage with a big barn on it. We converted the barn into the studio, and set Neil’s drums up, and had areas for Geddy and myself. And it was a really nice location.

“We were there in the summer, and everybody was in good spirits. There was a good energy to the work. We started writing there and basically wrote everything in rehearsal there, and then moved into Le Studio later that fall and started recording. There was a real positive energy, not unlike what we went through with Snakes & Arrows years later. But at that time, there was just something that was very strong and positive about where we were with that record. I don’t want to say it was effortless, but the effort seemed to be very smooth. We had some guests visit, and we had a lot of fun across the whole process. It wasn’t just in the studio — it was a really nice place to be at that point in our lives.”

The guys were enthusiastic about carrying on the concept kicked off with the last album. “Yeah, it was great, really exciting,” Alex continues. “Because instead of one story you had five stories in the same time span, but you could link them with a sentiment or with an idea. A little bit less so with Permanent Waves but more so with Moving Pictures — that whole idea of a collection of short stories is what we were after and that’s what Moving Pictures is.”

Consensus is that Moving Pictures is the record where Geddy toned down his patented high shriek. “I bought it at Kresge’s,” laughs Lee on coming up with it in the first place. “I keep it downstairs in my studio for when I need it. Lifetime guarantee.

“I think I can still shriek if the music requires it,” figures Geddy. “I have no conceptual adverse feelings about it. As the music changed, it became more interesting for me to write melodies as opposed to shrieking. It was basically used for cutting through the density of the music. And sometimes we would write without any consideration for what key we were in in the early days, and I would find myself with twelve tracks recorded in a key that was real tough to sing in, so I didn’t have a choice at that point. Re-record the record in a different key or just go for it.

 

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Beneath Springhill

Beneath Springhill

The Maurice Ruddick Story
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Excerpt

SCENE ONE

A shadowy figure is crouched stage left. He is cold and shivering. Cramped. It is dark. There is the sound of cracked wood, bending metal. It is MAURICE Ruddick. Eight days after the 'bump'.

MAURICE: (In the dark.) Oh dear Lord is there anyone there?/

Anyone to hear this miner's prayer?/ Trapped underground when the great Bump roared/ In the coal black dark can you hear me Lord?

Lights come up on a figure crouched in the corner. He continues to sing, but he's coughing and feeling weaker.

Trapped in the dark two miles underground. Two miles below the good folk of Springhill town. Oh dear Lord hear this miner's prayer. Is there anyone there. Is there anyone there? Please God. Help me. Say this isn't the end. Tell me I'll see my wife. My kids. My freedom....Who's there?

Music swells. Fade into CBC theme music.

REPORTER: This is Jack McNeil coming to you live on this cold day of October 23rd, 1958 in Springhill, Nova Scotia. News has just come in that an earth tremor has caused a 'bump' in North America's largest coal mine, The Cumberland No.2. It is now reported that one hundred and seventy four men are trapped thousands of feet below the earth's surface. It is hard to say how many are dead and how many are alive. Even though this small community is used to catastrophic events, the mining disaster of 1938, the mining disaster of '56...

(He becomes very excited.) but this is the largest disaster ever. As we keep you posted on the current events, we ask that you hope and pray for the family and friends who are waiting anxiously for the outcome of their husbands, their brothers, their fathers, their sons. This is Jack McNeil, CBC News, Springhill, Nova Scotia.

SCENE TWO

Springhill, Nova Scotia. Lights up on centre stage. We see MAURICE. Two years after the 'bump'.

MAURICE: Good day to you. I'm Maurice. Maurice Ruddick. I'm forty six years old, and I'm an AfricanCanadian living in Springhill, Nova Scotia with my wife and twelve children. Some people call me 'the singing miner' (Sings.)

Way way down digging down in the deep/

I'm a coal diggin' Daddy diggin' coal for my keep/

Filling box after box/ That's how I earn my pay/

It's down underground I sing my blues away.

Other folks call me a mulatto. Person of mixed race. Some people call me a nigger. But, I prefer you just call me Maurice. Ever since I could remember I wanted to be a musician. I would be the kid at church waiting for the choir hymns to be called out. I knew them all by heart.

(Plays a guitar lick.)

I wanted to sing under the big, bright lights. But, when you have a wife and twelve kids to feed, well sometimes you have to put those dreams aside. So I became a coal miner. That's what you did in Springhill. You were a coal miner. That's what my father did and his father before him. I was born in the town of Joggins, twenty-eight miles outside Springhill. On my days off, if you didn't see me wrestling with one of my kids, you could find me hiding in my backroom singing and writing songs on my trusty guitar. Some nights, if the night was just right, I'd tip toe to my little one's bedroom and sing them to sleep.

(Sings.) Go to sleep Colleen, Sylvia and Valerie/

Close your eyes Alder, Ellen and Dean/

Sweet dreams, Chickie, Revere and little Leah/

Catch the train to dreamland, Jesse and Iris/

And don't forget to bring along our brand new little baby/ Sweet little sister darling Katrina.

 

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Anthem: Rush in the ’70s
Excerpt

 

Like Geezer Butler in Black Sabbath, to reiterate, Geddy indeed began on guitar. Alex, however, missed this part of Lee’s evolution.

“I didn’t know Ged when he played guitar. So the transition was already completed by the time we started jamming together and playing. Because that’s what we did after school. We’d plug into his amp and play. There was one guitar and one bass. So I’m not really sure about that transition. I’m sure he was interested in guitar like everybody was interested in guitar. But once we actually started playing and learning instruments, that was his chosen one. Just think John Rutsey in that early days—the drums became his thing but I don’t know if in his heart he wanted to be a drummer. I think he wanted to be a guitarist as well. But everybody had their job that they sort of gravitated to.”

Says Geddy, “I was nominated to be the bass player when the first band I was in, the bass player couldn’t be in our band. I think his parent’s prohibited him or something, and we had no bass player so they said, ‘You play bass’ and I said okay, and that was how simple it was. That happens to a lot of bass players. Everyone wants to be a guitar player, but I was happy to be bass player. Bass player is like being a major league catcher. It’s the quickest way to the majors. Nobody wants to be a bass player. It’s a great instrument, it really is, awesome way to spend your time. I had teachers you know; I’m just carrying on the tradition of Jack Bruce, Jack Casady, Chris Squire, a fine tradition of noisy bass players that refuse to stay in the background. So I feel that’s my sacred duty, to carry on what they started.”

 

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Music at the Heart of Thinking

Music at the Heart of Thinking

Improvisations 1–170
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian, chinese
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Begin by Telling
Excerpt

Vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with the same family we always take these kinds of trips with, because the children line up in age and we get along. The daughter-in-my-age-slot and me play mini-golf, feet away from our family suites. My turn to putt again. I decide to wind up like a pro and really whack the ball. It flies over or through a row of hedges into what we know on the other side is The Main Drag. No big thing. We have retrieved balls, kicked balls, racked balls, caught balls, dodged balls, served balls, teed up balls, inflated balls our whole life. We are old enough to do this.

We cross to the other side of the hedge and I spot the one that got away. (I believe I look both ways.) I start out across the multilane blacktop but don’t get far. Something flashes out of the corner of left eye. Body puts hands up just in time for the loudest sound I’ve ever felt. I’m fly—ing through the air, suddenly silent and magical. Now I’m skid-d-d-ing, exposed flesh kissing and rubbing asphalt as sound returns. People I don’t know gather above me. I’m-a-nurse takes off her shirt to reveal a sports bra. Don’t move an inch…hit by a van. Someone is screaming. It’s just my friend, she’s fine, always trying to make it about her. The sun is beating down on the scene. Cold sweat mixing with my blood, now peppered with little street rocks. I can feel when Mom is notified. I can hear her fear-footsteps landing one after the other, getting closer to what her new reality could be. When the paramedics arrive, I accept this fate. I am put on a stiff board with a neck brace and I am taken to a hospital in my bathing suit.

Mom and I take a cab back from the hospital to the hotel. I get out sore, shoeless, and road-rashed, but really actually fine, physically. People on a balcony somewhere are applauding the miracle. I know that if people are applauding me, Dad will be calling. I don’t feel like explaining. I want to disappear into something larger than anything having to do with me. I will never hear the end of this. They’ll all say I got hit chasing a ball like a dog. Your story in the wrong hands can be such a cruel poker.

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Harnessing Harmony

Harnessing Harmony

Music, Power, and Politics in the United States, 1788-1865
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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New Fiction for the week of June 28th
Shadow Life

Shadow Life

by Hiromi Goto
illustrated by Ann Xu
edition:Hardcover
tagged : fantasy
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Mary Pickford, Queen of the Silent Film Era
Excerpt

Afterword

The houselights come back up while the final credits roll. Light-borne illusions that have been dancing in front of our eyes fade. We are left with memories that seem as ineffable as dreams and as fugitive as the starlight growing ever more faint on the screen and in our mind.

For the length of time we have been immersed in this silent shadow land, time has stood still. We watched, rapt and mesmerized by the ways black and white pictures can cast us instantly into another time, another dimension.

This is the power of monochrome, of a spectrum made up of tones and tints. Their endlessly complex interactions hypnotize, cast spells transporting us to realms of heroines and villains, fear and loss, hardship and triumph, love and longing.

The wonder of Mary Pickford's palette is that it comprises just the one hue-black-that is tinted by light rays. Through the great technologies of motion picture projection, animating sequences of single, printed images on celluloid just by illuminating them from behind, she discovered a mystical means of telling stories by making light itself her agent of self-expression.

The miracle of her art is that she created vast imaginative universes as if from nothing but shadows penetrating the eye and mind, breaking the barriers between reality and dreams. Her theatrical tableaux are not much more that fluttering figments made from radiant light.

In the darkened cinema, at the very moment when mind and body dissolve in the presence of a Pickford creation she has you in her spell. A grand manipulator of emotions and passions, she gives us characters that incarnate from entirely different realities than the place we sit. Certainly they are in front of our eyes as projections on a screen, but as emanations they come from and commune with some space deep inside us, from a place that is foundational to the human condition.

Mary Pickford's subject is as singular as herself and as universal as humanity. She taps the human heart by offering up versions of her story bathed in vulnerabilities and doubts, wrapped in cloaks of strength and frailty, and accorded with the virtues of justice and truth.

She crafts a presence that is both an element of her life story, and a fictional world fully transformed by a pure and mystifying artistic alchemy. This is her magic charm. We believe that her life and art are one and the same.

Triumphs and disappointments-hers and ours-are reflected in the tales of invented heroines. Shaded divisions between creation and lived experience are so indistinct that Mary Pickford dissolves into her art and we readily follow her. She disappears into the roles she acted out. Enraptured, we meet her on her stages as co-stars in an uncanny theatre.

In a dimmed, flickering, black and white sanctuary we acquiesce to this cunning artist's power transforming a living actor into idealized characters we accept as eternally alive.

We surrender our thoughts and actions to her and them. Movie-born personae illuminated by their author's life grip us. We embark on mute celluloid odysseys that ring true for the time it takes to view the art in front of our eyes, yet also, upon leaving the cinema or closing this book, forever afterward.

Tom Smart
August 2019

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Bubble

Bubble

edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
tagged : fantasy
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From A to Z!

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New Non-Fiction for the week of June 21st
Tinned Fish Pantry Cookbook

Tinned Fish Pantry Cookbook

100 Recipes from Tuna and Salmon to Crab and More
edition:Paperback
tagged : seafood
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Occasionally Eggs

Occasionally Eggs

Simple Vegetarian Recipes for Every Season
edition:Hardcover
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The Zero-Waste Chef

The Zero-Waste Chef

Plant-Forward Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen and Planet
edition:Paperback
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A Perfect Bowl of Pho
Excerpt

(The beginnings of a dope beat play in the background. TEACHER enters with a classroom full of students, ready to be victimized by JEN.)

TEACHER

Alright, class, remember that tomorrow is World Cultures Day, so I hope you’re all ready to set up your country’s booths with your yummy, yummy foods!

(The students cheer. JEN emerges from them, screaming.)

JEN

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

TEACHER

Jen? Jen, I – Jen! I appreciate your enthusiasm, but –

JEN

Brap brap brap brap!

(The dope beat goes ham. JEN raps with terrifying aggression; the classroom is destroyed in the process.)

JEN

YO, THERE’S A SHARK IN THE WATER, OUGHTTA GET OUTTA THE POOL

VIET DAUGHTER ‘BOUTTA BRING THE HOTTEST STAND TO THE SCHOOL

I TELL YA, OTHER BITCHES’ BOOTHS HAD BEST PREPARE FOR A BEATING

BECAUSE IT AIN’T WORLD CULTURES DAY UNTIL SOMEBODY IS BLEEDING

BEST PREPARE FOR MEAT-EATING, IT DON’T BEAR NO REPEATING

I’M SPEEDING DOWN THE LIST OF REASONS WHY MY FEAST IS LEADING

JEN / ENSEMBLE

GOT SOME CHICKEN / WHAT!

JEN / ENSEMBLE

PORK / WHAT!

JEN

AND YOU KNOW THAT I’M BEEFING

AND ‘EM SPRING ROLLS READY

WITH A BIT OF REHEATING

PICKLED VEGGIES ON THE SIDE, AND MILKY COFFEE ON THE ICE

TRY SOME RICE, FRIED OR WHITE AT NO ADDITIONAL PRICE

NOT ONLY THAT, GOT A BURNER STOVE AND CANS OF GAS

SO YOU CAN SLURP A BOWL OF PHO WHEN I’M THROUGH KICKING YO ASS

HO! SO, YOU MIGHT AS WELL NOT SHOW

LEAVE YOUR DUMBASS PIEROGIES AT HOME

I DUNNO HOW THE FUCK YOU BURNED NACHOS

BUT YOU DID IT, NOW YOU’RE FINISHED ‘CAUSE THE DISHES I MADE ON MY OWN

With my mom's help.

She did the cooking.

I rolled the spring rolls.

Bitch.

VIETNAM PIMPIN’, YO, STOP YO BITCHIN’

I’M DISHING OUT THE DISHES AND YOU’RE RIPE FOR THE PICKIN’

WE ARE READY STEADY GO, TO GO INTERNATIONAL

AND WE’RE NEVER GOING SLOW, WE’RE VIETNAM PIMPIN’

(Jump to after school. JEN’S MOM is driving JEN home.)

JEN’S MOM

So tell me how you got detention.

JEN

Ms. Jones says I “destroyed” “the classroom” “with enthusiasm.” And “made gratuitous use of the B-word.”

JEN’S MOM

(stern) Jenny.

JEN

But it’s okay! She let me keep my booth for World Cultures Day! And tomorrow, we’ll see who’s giving who detention.

JEN’S MOM

That’s not how that works.

JEN

Did you start the ch? giò?

(Projection: “in case you didn’t know: ch? giò; a Vietnamese fried spring roll, usually pork”)

JEN’S MOM

(sigh) Yes, I finished them this morning.

JEN

Finished? But that means they won’t be fresh tomorrow. They’ll be in the fridge all night.

JEN’S MOM

Huh?

JEN

Whatever. It’s fine. What about the pickled vegetables?

JEN’S MOM

You want those too? Honey, that’s gonna take a whole day at least.

JEN

Why didn’t you start earlier?!

JEN’S MOM

I have work, Jenny!

JEN

At least tell me I’ll have the pho.

(Projection: “in case you didn’t know: ph?; a Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, rice noodles called bánh ph?, a few herbs, and meat, primarily made with either beef (ph? bò) or chicken (ph? gà)”)

JEN’S MOM

Of course! (gestures to grocery bag beside driver’s seat) I just came from the supermarket.

(JEN pulls a bag of broth powder from the bag.)

JEN

... instant... broth powder? I told everyone I was going to have authentic, slave-away-over-a-stove-for-eight-hours broth!

JEN’S MOM

It tastes the same.

JEN

No it doesn’t! You ruin everything, mom!

(JEN throws a tantrum. JEN’S MOM tries to calm her down.)

JEN’S MOM

Jen! Jennifer! I think you’re taking World Cultures Day a little too seriously. What do you even get from it?

JEN

The satisfaction of crushing my enemies. And a twenty-dollar gift card to McDonald’s.

JEN’S MOM

Jenny. I’ll take you to McDonald’s myself if that’s what you really want.

JEN

But that’s not it. The other kids make fun of me at lunchtime. They see me with leftover noodles, and they all have... Lunchables.

(Projection: “in case you didn’t know: Lunchables; how your parents tell you that they don’t love you”)

JEN’S MOM

(grimaces) Lunchables.

JEN

I just wanted to show them that our food is the best.

close this panel
The Distilleries of Vancouver Island

The Distilleries of Vancouver Island

A Guided Tour of West Coast Craft and Artisan Spirits
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also available: Paperback
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