Sunday, September 18, 2016

Vault of lost lyrics, chapter 23


Suzanne Vega is a fascinating singer-songwriter who writes wistful songs especially well. This is one of my favourites, not only because of the lyric but because of the delivery: so bouncy, lilting, and lurching, redirecting the listener’s attention from what the speaker is actually saying.

**

In Liverpool (Suzanne Vega)

In Liverpool
On Sunday
No traffic on the avenue
The light is pale and thin like you
No sound down
In this part of town

Except for the boy in the belfry
He's crazy
He's throwing himself
Down from the top of the tower
Like a hunchback in heaven
He's ringing the bells in the church
For the last half an hour
He sounds like he's missing something
Or someone that he knows he can't have now
And if he isn't
I certainly am

Homesick for a clock
That told the same time
Sometimes you made no sense to me
If you lie on the ground in somebody's arms
You'll probably swallow some of their history

And the boy in the belfry
He's crazy
He's throwing himself
Down from the top of the tower
Like a hunchback in heaven
He's ringing the bells in the church
For the last half an hour
He sounds like he's missing something
Or someone that he knows he can't have now
And if he isn't
I certainly am

I'll be the girl who sings for my supper
You'll be the monk whose forehead is high
He'll be the man who's already working
Spreading a memory all through the sky
In Liverpool
On Sunday
No reason to even remember you now

Except for the boy in the belfry
He's crazy
He's throwing himself
Down from the top of the tower
Like a hunchback in heaven
He's ringing the bells in the church
For the last half an hour
He sounds like he's missing something
Or someone that he knows he can't have now
And if he isn't
I certainly am

In Liverpool
In Liverpool

Monday, September 12, 2016

Spoiled


Here’s a picture of the tableau awaiting us when we went to Sunday dinner last night:
 


Delicious cocktails were soon served, followed by a sumptuous supper of barbequed rainbow trout and, for dessert, apple crisp. Wow!

And then midday today, I received a text and went out my front door to discover this gorgeous object:


Yummy fresh raisin bread! Still warm! SO GOOD!

So, for anyone who took seriously my threat to eat cereal for 20 of my 21 weekly meals, have no fear. C is taking excellent care of me (and Zak, of course). Thank you, Ms C!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Vault of lost lyrics, chapter 195


In the late 1990s I saw Sarah Slean at the Sidetrack Cafe, opening for Oh Susanna, aka Suzie Ungerleider. When Oh Susanna took the stage, Ms Slean came back out to accompany her on the piano for this song. It was a staggering performance from both, and the song has always stopped me dead since. It is alt-country at its peak, the recording is gorgeously layered, and this track is meant to be played LOUD. Relish that deep, dooming final note.

**

You’ll Always Be (Oh Susanna)

Well, the first time I saw heaven
you stood in my doorway
Scent of gardenia and lily
By your voice I was led into a forest of cherry
When you lay down beside me so softly you did say

You’ll always be my baby, my baby, my baby, yeah
You’ll always be my baby, my baby, my love

Well, you sure got some funny sense of forever
'Always' did end with the summer
I awoke in a bed that’s as wide as the river
And a voice in my head that softly did say

You’ll always be my baby, my baby, my baby, yeah
Now you’ll always be my baby, my baby, my love

Well, six seasons have weathered 
since you stood in my doorway
Now you’re stinking of blood and hard liquor
And you’ve come for a favour
for your sorry sight to cover
And you still got the nerve to softly do say

You owe this to me, my baby, my baby, my baby
You owe this to me, my baby, my baby, my love

Now I don’t need no tailor to sew this suit together
Your yarn is a worn-out old tether
And you better button that collar
for you’re going out to pasture
And I’ll be counting the bounty
when softly I will say

You owe this to me, my baby, my baby, my baby yeah
You owe this to me, my baby, my baby, my love.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

House in Calder

Good morning, and welcome to the first day of classes. Anxious? Why, no, what makes you think that?

Because my thoughts are somewhat scattered, here's a picture:


My father lived in this house for some time during his teens. I know little more of the story than that, but I have the address of this house and can confirm that it is still standing. A tenuous connection, but I'll take it.

And now, back to frantic prepping. Cheers!

Sunday, September 04, 2016

What dreams may come


Lately I’ve been rummaging through “stuff” both material and psychological, and my dreams show me the evidence at night. Last night I went back to my grade six classroom, to the seat I used to sit in, with all my grade six peers around me. I was the grade six me, but also aware of being contemporary me. The dream shifted, as dreams do, but when I awoke, I thought of this newspaper clip (actually published when I was in grade seven), and so here it is.


One thing I've learned: we always miss our friends, no matter how long they've been gone. Seeing them in dreams is bittersweet, but at least they're still with us. in our memories and hearts.


Saturday, September 03, 2016

Misty water-colored memories


It’s Labour Day weekend, which is akin to New Year’s Eve for me (Labour Day itself being New Year’s Day, I guess). I’m eager to get back to the classroom but am still struggling to feel grounded. My most recent counselling session raised many old, sad themes and that, alongside other events this week, has left me quite wrung out. But pictures are often a good antidote.

Here's an obviously old photo — it's been in its frame for a couple of decades. It sits on top of my piano now. 


This picture was taken in Brooks more than twenty years ago. Can't say it seems like yesterday, but it also doesn't seem like twenty-plus years.

More importantly, this photo is inspiration to do that Janus thing and look back while looking forward. Alors: here's to what's gone before and to what's coming next. May the road rise up to greet us. Cheers!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Southern exposure

Last night, B, C, and I went to Fort Edmonton to see the film South Pacific. I'd never seen it before, although it was one of my mother's favourite soundtracks when I was growing up. The film was so-so, but there was entertainment before the show started, thus:


The girls providing the accompaniment were impressive percussionists.

When we exited the Capitol Theatre (built 1918) at roughly 10:30 — such a late night for an oldster like me! — this was the scene:


No, the theatre obviously wasn't on fire. I just like the distortion of the exposure.

So that was the Thursday night that was, one rare night on the town.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The vault of lost lyrics, chapter 144

OK, so it’s difficult to imagine that anything involving Rihanna could truly be “lost,” but it is possible that these lyrics have not found most of the small audience of this blog. Anyway. This song has been a touchstone for me lately. If you know the back story, you know why.

**

“Hard” (Rihanna)

Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Ah yeah ...

They can say whatever
I'ma do whatever
No pain is forever
Yup, you know this
Tougher than a lion
Ain't no need in tryin'
I live where the sky ends
Yup, you know this
Never lyin', truth teller
That Rihanna reign just won't let up
All black on, blacked-out shades
blacked out Maybach
I'ma rock this shit like fashion, as in
Goin' til they say stop
And my runway never looked so clear
But the hottest bitch in heels right here
No fear
And while you getting your cry on
I'm getting my fly on
Sincere
I see you aiming at my pedestal,
I better let ya know

(chorus) That I — I — I — I'm so hard
Ah yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm so hard ...
So hard, so hard, so hard, so hard

All up on it
Know you wanna clone it
Ain't like me
That chick too phony
Ride this beat, beat, beat like a pony
Meet me at the top
Gettin' loaded
Who think they test me now
Run through your town
I shut it down
Brilliant, resilient
Fan mail from 27 million
And I want it all
It's gonna take more than that
Hope that ain't all you got
I need it all
The money, the fame, the cars, the clothes
I can't just let you run up on me like that
I see you aiming at my pedestal
So I think I gotta let ya know

(repeat chorus)

[Jeezy raps: Go hard or go home
Back to your residence
Soon the red dogs will give the block back to the presidents
I used to run my own block like Obama did
You ain't gotta believe me, go ask my momma then
You couldn't even come in my room, it smelled like a kilo
Looked like me and two of my boys playing casino
Trying to sell they peeping my bag they can't afford it
Tell 'em to give me back my swag, they tryin' to clone me
See my Louis tux, Louis flag, Louis frames, Louis belt
What that make me, Louis Mane?
I'm in an all white party wearin' all black
With my new black watch call it the heart attack
Cardiac arrest, cardiac a wrist
Yeah, they say they're hard
They ain't hard as this
Hard! The one word describes me, if I wasn't doin' this
You know where I be, too hard]

Where dem girls talkin' trash, where dem girls talkin' trash
Where they at, where they at, where they at?
Where dem bloggers at, where dem bloggers at
Where they at, where they at, where they at?
Where your lighters at, where your lighters at
Where they at, where they at, where they at?
So hard, so hard, so hard, so hard ... 

(repeat chorus)


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Catching up

Oh dear. It's been a while since I've written here. But since it's Thursday, here are some photos of things from Victoria and environs — things I haven't posted from the last year or so. Throwing back and catching up ... oh, how I love multi-tasking!

1.  There's a lot to look at in Alert Bay. This was a particularly striking piece of modern art.


2. Outside a store that delights me, at Market Square, Victoria.



3.  What a crow looks like from below, as seen from inside the boat.



4.  A character door in Fan Tan Alley, Victoria.


5. My birthday dessert. SO much chocolate!


6. Turtle pond at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria. Yes, those lumps on the log are turtles!


7. One last look at Garrick's Head pub, the night before we left Victoria.



And if you're willing to sit through the slide show, B has more than two thousand additional images of our West Coast sojourn.

More soon! (More writing, I mean.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Toward my hippie-girl street cred


Just for fun, I did two quick tarot spreads with a deck I don't often use. It's a Shakespeare tarot and much more positively toned than most decks. Still, I thought these spreads were fascinating.

First spread
1. Context of the question: 5 of Pentacles: Material trouble
2. Obstacles facing the questioner: 2 of Cups: Love, support
3. The questioner's resources: 5 of Wands: Struggle, competition
4. What precedes the question: 4 of Swords: Serious contemplation
5. The best possibility: The Empress: From the struggle, strength
6. What is to come: The Hanged Man: Judiciousness, biding one's time
7. The questioner's attitude: 8 of Cups: Dejection, retreat
8. The questioner's influences: Knight of Pentacles: Readiness to serve, being of use
9. Hopes/fears: 7 of Cups: Artifice, ephemera
10. Outcome: Knight of Wands: Flight, change

In short, major changes ahead.

Second spread
1. Context of the question: The Hermit: Deceit
2. Obstacles facing the questioner: Strength: The ability to act
3. The questioner's resources: Queen of Wands: Love, possibly the love of material things
4. What precedes the question: 9 of Swords: Death, failure
5. The best possibility: Page of Pentacles: "Pay attention"
6. What is to come: 9 of Wands: Endurance
7. The questioner's attitude: 7 of Swords: Trouble
8. The questioner's influences: 2 of Swords: Balance from going along to get along
9. Hopes/fears: Knight of Wands: Flight, change
10. Outcome: The Moon: Danger, deception, darkness

In short, something bleak ahead.

So much for a light-hearted reading!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Thoughts about Midway


I know it's not quite midway through the year yet (and it's been a while since I've posted here), but it's midway through mine, alors...

In less than two weeks my sabbatical term comes to an end. It's been productive time. Most importantly, I've rediscovered parts of myself I've subdued for a long time. Still don't know what kind of academic I want to be, or whether I want to remain an academic at all. But I've found the joy of writing again, and that's been beneficial in many ways.

My first real book (that is, not a thesis or dissertation or something written as part of a job) will be published later this year, and another book is partly written. My first paid reviews have been published, and I've been invited to submit two more. And my first magazine article in a decade is poised to be published in July. I've enjoyed the writing and submitting while also, like any writer, being terrified of rejection. As an editor, I fear growing complacent about my own sense of what's "right," so being edited by and learning from other editors has been amazingly valuable. I'm grateful for these chances.

Living in Victoria was wonderful. Living on our boat has been wonderful, too. Actually doing something that many people dream of doing has been a gift. I've learned so much — mostly that I don't want to be a rat — and hope I can recall what I've learned once I've stepped back into the race. Again, I'm grateful this year worked, even though some costs (and I don't mean economic) were high.

Meanwhile, on the quantifiable side ...

LibraryThing: 4340 books catalogued
iTunes: approx 14,500 tracks (the counting system is imperfect)
Books read to date: 75 (quite unlikely to hit 200 this year)

In short, although it's raining this morning in Nanaimo, the sun is with us. Here's to the light!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A few of my favourite things


Last week I threw away a skirt I've owned for more than a decade. It was a reversible double skirt: the inner skirt formed the lining for the outer skirt, either way it was worn. It was a truly clever design, and I've never found anything similar since. You might recognize one or both of the patterns in the image below. (I bought two of these skirts, with different colour palettes, when I originally found them; I threw the first one away a few years ago.)


Throwing away clothing (there was no passing the skirt on to Goodwill: it was in very poor shape) got me thinking about other clothes I've loved and lost. So this week's Throwback is a short list of faves (sadly, with none of my own pictures).

• Denim duster: I bought a distressed-denim duster during my first year in university and loved it to pieces — literally. A couple of years ago I gave away the fabric, which had been taken apart as the potential, but unrealized, pattern for a replacement. It looked something like this (but longer, at least on me):

• Black balloon skirt: It was a gift for my seventeenth birthday and is still tucked in a closet, although long unwearable. It was satiny and swishy, but never quite as balloon-like after the skirt was mis-washed once. It looked a lot like this, minus the bodice and bow belt:


• Red bolero hat: I'm not normally a hat person, but I loved my bolero hat and wore it often during the last year of my undergrad — once with a Flashdance–style cutoff t-shirt and a pair of men's jeans. I also had a black bolero jacket and a red-satin basque (with black polka dots) to complement it. The hat looked something like this, except the body was brilliant red and the band and braid were black:

 • Granny boots: After slouch boots in the early '80s, I owned several pairs of granny boots and loved them all. My favourite pair had kitten heels and silver hardware; I wore them until the heels were ground down to almost nothing. Wish I still had them! They looked a little like these, minus the detailing on top and with delicate, ornamental hooks; and they were all leather, not leather and suede (although I did have another pair very similar to these):


 • Band jacket: Inspired by Sgt Pepper et al., I bought an old-fashioned, navy-and-gold marching-band jacket, complete with braid and brass buttons. Sorta retro, sorta punk. I gave it away when we moved out of St Albert. My parents once had pictures of it.

As I type I'm thinking about so many other clothes I've loved over the years. My wardrobe on the boat is limited, to say the least, and the purging will continue over the next few weeks (I chose many of my clothes assuming that they would remain in BC after we left). Looking forward to rummaging in my closet — and buying a few new things — in a few months' time.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Thank the gods I'm a verbal communicator

The submission of the "figures" to support my manuscript has been preying on my mind for a few weeks, and my deadline for submitting these materials is today. (I uploaded them yesterday, though, for the win!)

It's been difficult for me to imagine what my book will look like in finished form, and as I was writing I tried to include many different kinds of supporting materials, all loosely categorized as "figures." Some of these materials are sample documents, such as letters and reports; some are photographs, to demonstrate visually what I'm explaining with words; and some are illustrations. The illustrations have caused me special grief because ... well, take a look at the evidence below. The publisher asked me to submit sketches of what I want for each figure.

1. Sketch of a sewn book block: This is my sketch of someone else's illustration that had been photocopied several times. It gets the idea across, I guess, but it won't teach anyone the technical mechanics of manufacturing a sewn binding.


2. Sketch of hardcover case: Another sketch based on a model, in this case, a photo I took of an open hardcover book. I have no sense of line, proportion, or dimension, clearly.


3. Sketch of alternative bindings: At this point I was getting tired and frustrated, hence the somewhat sloppy drawing and the bizarre crenelation of the Cerlox binding. This was the last sketch I made, again using the model of an illustration in its seventh or eighth generation as a photocopy.


4. Fused sketches of perfect binding: This sketch was drawn based on two different Internet images; I made each sketch on a separate page, but soon realized that was an error: I wanted the images together. Rather than redraw them again (which might have caused my head to explode, as these were the third or fourth versions already), I folded the pages together. Et voilĂ . I particularly like the show-through of my first attempt on the verso.


Thank goodness a professional illustrator will redraw each sketch properly!

And that is how I spent most of my Thursday (and several hours back in December, too).


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Missing Ms C

Hey-o, it's Thursday and I haven't been writing here much this month. Busy busy busy, y'know.

But I stumbled across this picture yesterday and was reminded how much I miss my people in Edmonton.


This cake was made in 2012. It was a big year, as you can read.

Thanks again, Ms C. See ya soon!

xx




Friday, April 08, 2016

Truer words ...

Yesterday morning while getting ready for the day, I heard the following lines emanating musically from the main cabin of Never For Ever:

Shout! Shout!
Burn my ears out!
These are the songs I complain about.
Come on...

OK, so we had listened to seven or eight mashups or remixes at that point. But still ...


Monday, April 04, 2016

A few more picture books

One of the many benefits of working in the library every day is the chance to read far more picture books than I normally would. Here are the ones I read in March.

Jennifer Adams, Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart
Anna Dewdney, Llama Llama Red Pajama
Nikki Grimes, A Pocketful of Poems
Nikki Grimes, Words with Wings
Joyce Sidman, Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry
Joyce Sidman, Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature
Chris Van Dusen, The Circus Ship
Kobi Yamada, What Do You Do with an Idea?

You'll notice that I'm reading a lot of children's poetry right now — and a lot of poetry in general. Not yet sure where that's leading, but it feels like a positive direction so far...

Can't believe it's April already! March certainly did leave like a lamb in Victoria, and today's forecast is for some of those April showers.

Here's hoping our last few weeks at GVPL will be productive. Onward!

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Puff it!

The It thing to do this weekend was to make a PowerPuff girl avatar of yourself. Like a good lambie, I have done so, and here is the result.


C'est moi, non?


Monday, March 14, 2016

Fib poems

 
Last week I discovered "fib poetry," a poetic form named and described by UK writer Ben Macintyre. A fib poem, he says, is "a six-line, twenty-syllable poem in which the number of syllables in each line is the sum of the syllables in the two preceding lines. This corresponds to the Fibonacci sequence, one of the most elegant patterns in mathematics, in which each successive number is the sum of the two previous numbers: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 ....”

Nerdy, no? So, perfect for me. Here's my inaugural effort.

Daylight: Saving Time

Sun.
Light.
At last
winter ends
with longer evenings
but I'd save daylight for mornings.

Like it? Hate it? Try it yourself!


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Advertising error?

In a women's magazine I was reading recently, I noticed this fine print running alongside the ad (turned for ease of reading: it originally read vertically on the image).


Sorry, what is the point of advertising — or buying— this mascara if the ad doesn't show what the product actually does?!?

I know that most advertising is enhanced. This text simply made the illusion a little too illusory for me.

There is aspiration and then there is delusion. I think we've crossed a line if people will actually buy this product. I wouldn't — and obviously I looked at the ad.

Not sure why the advertisers even bothered ...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Friends & family


#TBT in recognition of my family's visit yesterday.

1. My paternal great-grandfather, early 1970s. I have no memory of this man.



2. My father with neighbours, Riverdale, mid 1940s.



3. Akemi and B, photo shoot at Earl's apartment building, summer 1998. Earl took this picture (thanks, Earl!).



4. B and me, Greg and Melody's backyard, summer 1999 or 2000.



***

Meanwhile, holy f*ck, Amanda Palmer's "Machete." Just go listen to it, OK?



Sunday, March 06, 2016

Book hauling



If you know me at all, you know how much I love books. Part of my sabbatical has, unexpectedly, been an education in how other people express their love of books through social media. That brought me to booktubing, which brought me to book hauls, which is my subject today.

A book haul, as the name suggests, is a booktuber's brief show-and-tell about all the books she has read and acquired in a given period — the month of January, for example. With all the books I receive for reviewing, buy for my studies and pleasure reading, rescue from various book stores, and borrow from various libraries — not to mention receive as gifts — I should be the queen of book hauls.

But I am never going to make a YouTube video about books, reading, or book hauls. Unless I could do it in costume. Say "Gorilla Professor Reads Books," a YouTube series hosted by an eccentric academic in a gorilla costume. Meh, it's probably already been done.

Anyway...

Here is a low-key book haul. No YouTube, no giddy spoken narration, no video editing, and only two of the amazing books I read or received in February. But with photographs!

1. The History of the Book in 100 Books



The title is fairly self-explanatory. Published in 2014, this book surveys various eras and themes in book history and print culture through individual titles. The treatments are brief but well annotated, and the text is supported by full-colour photography throughout. I'm thinking about it as a supplementary text for print culture in the future.

2. Treasures of the Library of Congress



I purchased this gently used book through ABEbooks for $7.27 US, plus $3.49 shipping — a steal! What this photo doesn't show is how gigantic this book actually is — or how heavy. Printed in 1986 (there was an earlier printing), this book is a photographic catalogue of some of the most impressive and most important objects housed in the US Library of Congress: documents, photographs, maps, artwork, and books. SO MANY BEAUTIFUL BOOKS!

**
 
So. Perhaps blogged book hauls could be a thing for me. Of course, there is the problem of storing books on the boat ... and of getting them back to Edmonton ... and of finding shelf space ...


Saturday, March 05, 2016

Time of the season

It's a warm, sunny, breezy day in Victoria, and spring is definitely here. The daffodils and crocuses have been in bloom for weeks — as were the cherry trees in mid-February — and trees are ready to leaf.

Meanwhile, in the retail world, Easter is coming. The Shoppers Drug Mart near the marina hadn't even taken down the Valentine's Day chocolate before the Easter display went up. I've been ignoring most of the sweets, but this morning at Thrifty Foods I found a treat that reminded me of home. I couldn't resist: an Easter lamb.


It was so sweet, but it hit the spot. Now, back to springing.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Poetic heroics


Found this lovely poem in a collection called Going Out with Peacocks by Ursula K. Le Guin. There are many striking poems in the collection, but this one particularly sounded for me today. 
 

"My Hero"

               for Caroline

Hesitant, frozen by the face
reflected in her shiny borrowed shield,
my hero stands —

and does she drop the sword?
Does she behead herself?

No. There are better things to do
with anger, with beauty,
with a headful of serpents
who can hiss wisdom; there must

be a story for my dear young hero.

It will not be the old story.


— Ursula K. Le Guin

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Yes, read


Well, hello! It's March — already! Here's another round of books that I have not recorded as "read" in my annual count but did in fact read in February. B despairs. I think I can chalk these up to research, though.

Kids' Picturebooks
Jennifer Berne, On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
Guojing, The Only Child
Ruth Krauss, The Backward Day
Ruth Krauss, Open House for Butterflies
Ruth Krauss, Charlotte and the White Horse
Ruth Krauss, The Carrot Seed
Dennis Lee, Bubblegum Delicious
J. Patrick Lewis, The House
Barack Obama, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
Kathryn Otoshi, Zero
Chris Raschka, Simple Gifts: A Shaker Hymn
Adam Rubin, Dragons Love Tacos
Kathy Stinson, The Man with the Violin
Joyce Sidman, This Is Just to Say
Joyce Sidman, Dark Emperor and Other Poems
Kay Thompson, Eloise in Paris
Hervé Tullet, Press Here
Ed Vero, Max the Brave
Alice Walker, There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me

Graphica et al.
J.K. Rowling, Very Good Lives
— and —
Kate Beaton, Step Aside, Pops (I'm a fan-girl for this series)

And the onslaught will continue this month. I'm still waiting for a few Krauss books to arrive at our branch of GVPL, I'm pursuing several writers who write poetry for children, and I'm in the queue for a couple more graphic novels. Hope they arrive by the end of the month — I'll let you know.

And for what it's worth, March arrived in Victoria like a lion, so fingers crossed it will leave like the oft-invoked lamb. Later!
 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Absence

How quickly the week goes! It's Thursday again, and I was in danger of failing to make a TBT post. My brain has been pulverized by linguistics and anthropology and sociology for the last few days. But here are some pictures, right under the wire.

1. Zak and Memere at the Bonnie Doon house. Not positive, but I think this is Easter 1993.


2. Memere, Pepere, and Dale in Brooks, house at Evergreen Park. Again, not positive, but I think this is Christmas 1996.



Missing people, missing home. At least there are pictures ...


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Top-Ten Tuesday: Banned Books

Apparently the new thing on Tuesdays is a top-ten list. Well. You know how I love being on trend, and here in Canada it's also Freedom to Read Week, so I've compiled a top-ten list of censored, banned, and challenged books I've read.

(OK, after starting to compile the list, I decided to make two: one of books intended for adult readers and one of books intended for kids and teens. And, so that my method is clear, these are my rankings of these books, NOT how often they have been challenged or banned.)

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Laurence, The Diviners
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness
William Styron, Sophie's Choice
Kate Chopin, The Awakening
Hugh MacLennan, Barometer Rising
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials trilogy
Judy Blume, Tiger Eyes
Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
Lois Lowry, Anastasia series
Robert Cormier, I Am the Cheese (my favourite of the many Cormier novels banned or challenged)
Robert Newton Peck, A Day No Pigs Would Die
Virginia Euwer Wolff, Make Lemonade trilogy

Notice, because top-ten lists are short and restrictive, that I haven't mentioned several key Modernist novels I've read — Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ulysses by James Joyce, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck — nor several hugely important later-twentieth-century works I've read like The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Wars by Timothy Findley, Beloved by Toni Morrison, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, or The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. All of these books have been censored, burned, pulled from libraries, or challenged, as have dozens more that I haven't read or that I have read and haven't listed here.

I've invested a lot of academic energy in learning about censorship, book banning, and freedom of expression. As an editor, I recognize that editors hold tremendous power over which books are published and which are not — but I also know enough history to recognize that at least some editors take chances, take risks, to ensure that books are published. I feel strongly that editors have an obligation to defend freedom of expression — particularly those texts we wouldn't read ourselves and prefer that others would not read.

When I teach print culture, we do a unit on censorship and banned books. Recently I've asked students to write reflective commentaries on their experiences with "challenging" books and their feelings about keeping books from younger readers. The number of students who have experienced some form of restriction on their reading and who intend to apply similar restrictions to upcoming readers is striking.

Our freedom to read — and write — whatever we choose was hard won; we shouldn't take it for granted. I hope my foray into top-ten lists has suggested some "challenging" texts to explore. These books can take us on amazing journeys — if we let them.