here are 10 of the books i enjoyed in 2010, either reading or rereading. there are many lists out there and wonderful choices therein. so what makes my list novel (to use a pun)? i am a quirky reader. i eschew the sentimental, enjoy the transgressive.. i love to read but have no patience for the cormorants and the lichens, the precious, my precious. there are books out there that everyone loves that i haven’t been able to bear. i am not hip, i am not a hipster. i am not cool in anyway. i am a geek, a book nerd and somewhat of a slut when it comes to reading and yes, other things…i’ll take my literature salty with a dash of hot sauce, thank you. i give to you my hot and salty best for 2010:
[these weren’t all published in 2010, but that’s when i read ‘em.]
1. Sandra Beck by John Lavery (House of Anansi, 2010)
I have recommended this book highly all over the place because of Lavery’s fine language skills and ability to create compelling characters that I can relate to, especially PF Bastarache and his daughter, Josée. All three of Lavery’s books, Sandra Beck, You, Kwaznievski, You Piss Me Off (ECW Press, 2004) and Very Good Butter (ECW Press, 2000) are worthwhile reads. He is one of the most imaginative contemporary writers I have come across in the past ten years and with Sandra Beck he upsets the CanLit teacup and saucer in a delightful and provocative way.
2. The Little Seamstress by Phil Hall (Pedlar Press, 2010)
Phil Hall's "The Little Seamstress" is humble, no big enunciations; astonishing with gorgeous sound & image play & humour. "It is true that I encourage my poems, increasingly, to subvert the expected, whether that be sentiment, next word, or rhythm. I especially have it in for verbs these days. In syntax, they are the wax. Verb wax. A verb keeps nouns from torting each other. I don't think the poem wants to go anywhere. It wants to stew in its own juices." (quote from http://www.openbooktoronto.com/news/conversation_phil_hall_with_beth_follett )
3. been shed bore by Pearl Pirie (Chaudiere Books, 2010)
Pirie is another writer who plays with words and sounds. She also packs a lot of variety into her poems, plus recurring images that have lingered with me enough to make me open the book once more.
4. Jailhouse: 99 Canadian Sonnets, edited by Zachariah Wells (Biblioasis, 2008)
This book has sass. There’s an amazing range of sonnets from fairly strict Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets to playful variations. And in the back are Wells’ comments about each of the poems. While I don’t always agree with his comments, I enjoy the fact that he would step out there and voice an opinion. So many writers and editors are unwilling to show their opinions., which bores me. Wells makes me think more about the inner workings of the sonnet. [Another great book of contemporary sonnets I recommend, with perhaps more of an experimental flair, is The Reality Street Book of Sonnets edited by Jeff Hilson (Reality Street) also published in 2008. what is it about 2008 and sonnets? must be something in the Thames.]
5. Fear of Fighting by Stacey May Fowles with illustrations by Marlena Zuber (Invisible Publishing, 2008)
This book was given to me by a dear friend and I must admit I read the whole thing in one day, lazing about in bed and munching on salted tops. It’s that kind of a book, you see. And this is fighting against a certain ennui I have about reading about 20 something women and their life struggles. Yet Fowles succeeds with her compelling characters and their zany circumstances, much in the same way Michelle Tea succeeds in her wonderful fiction. And the drawings by Zuber are a fun complement. Read this in bed when you’re snowed in.
6. Missed Her by Ivan E. Coyote (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010
That same dear friend gave me this book. She clearly knows my taste. I love all things Ivan and have read all her books. The stories here are more of the same type she writes, interactions with young people who are not comfortable in the gender role they’ve been assigned who relate to her, stories of Coyote’s family’s reaction to her identity. I love the way Coyote tells a story. Of Coyote's oeuvre, I particullary enjoyed Bow Grip (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2006. I have to admit it’s fun to see Coyote playing with a different voice from her own in Bow Grip or another voice of her own, perhaps, but I respect her choice to tell her life story through these personal stories. And just as her columns on Xtra.ca and her visits to schools across the country, I believe these stories help. And because I am so tired of all the gender stereotyping that goes on in this world and the hatred for people based on their gender (or anything else for that matter), Coyote’s work is always a refreshing relief that perhaps not everyone is so damn stuck in their binary bias.
7. Except the Dying # 1 by Maureen Jennings (McClelland and Stewart, 2004)
I love a good mystery but loathe a bad one. This be a good ‘un. Jennings’ main character Detective William Murdoch’s sleuthing ground is Victorian Toronto. I have a soft spot for Victoriana and know very little about that period in Toronto or Canada at all for that matter and found the perspective interesting. Murdoch and the cast of characters in this series are compelling folk: the landlady and her ailing husband, her remedies, her attempts to fix Murdoch up with women, the victims and perpetrators of the crimes themselves, the various social circles to which they belong. As someone who loves this era, including such books as Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White (Mariner Books, 2003) and many of Sarah Waters books, I am enjoying this series very much.
8. Glenn Piano by Gladys Pridis by Jason Dickson (Book Thug, 2010)
This is a mystery story cum poetry book about a woman who is under the spell of a doctor with unusual methods. And meanwhile she writes her jejeune poetry and we are all somehow happy. I do so love it when a writer takes on a character’s voice. I don’t mind an autobiographical voice but here’s an example of what happens when the choice is not to write in the I, close to the self, to go in an entirely different direction. You get an unforgettable character and a tale that is more off kilter than most. And as a bonus, it is a small and beautifully made book.
9. Rhapsodomancy by kevin mcpherson eckoff (Coach House Books, 2010)
This is a playful and compelling exercise in using different little known alphabets to create poetry and visual poetry. It’s not often that these two blend in books and I wish this happened more. The work is highly imaginative and full of whimsy.
10. Missing Persons by rob mclennan (Mercury Press, 2009)
I very much liked the character of Alberta in this novel and wish only that mr. mclennan wrote a longer book so that I didn’t have to leave her so soon. i am not of the Prairies, but this book felt like it had the landscape right—the desolation, the vastness. once again i am pleased that mclennan is writing in a voice that is not straightforward autobiographical. [as an aside, I must also recommend his poetry collection Wild Horses (University of Alberta Press, 2010). i return often to these intimate little couplets for their minimalistic elegance and lyricism. and what if the title is a reference not to the Rolling Stones song that goes thru my head every time i see the title, but to the Patti Smith album?]
that’s all folks. although i have a feeling my next list will include Gary Barwin’s the Porcupinity of the Stars (Coach House Books, 2010), Rob Winger’s the Chimney Stone (Nightwood, 2010) and Lisa Robertson’s R’s Boat (University of California Press, 2010), all of which i’m currently reading.
please note the wish list beside this blog entry in case you have any ideas about buying books for me, she says with naïve optimism…