Giller Light 2012

Wednesday 31 October 2012

A kilted Will Ferguson, author of 419, took home the $50,000 Giller Prize last night, but not before unleashing his flask and toasting the written word. For the second year in a row, I watched the award be handed out, this time by Jian Ghomeshi, at Toronto's Giller Light bash at the Burroughs in Toronto, an event which supports Frontier College.

Giller Light was a great night of amazing prizes (though I left empty-handed again), a live band, a signature martini, a sexy cowboy, and most importantly, the chance to connect with a lot of book bloggers and publishers. There are few things better than cramming a few hundred book lovers in a room buzzing with wine and bookish conversation.

Night of the Living Dead

Sunday 28 October 2012
Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
As a book blogger, my comfort zone is a fairly cozy place. It's mostly author readings at art galleries and coffee shops, with familiar friends and good books. That's why when I got an email inviting me to Screemers Hamilton, with the option of dressing up and lurking inside a haunted house, I was a little indecisive. But you can't spend your entire life living inside your comfort zone, so last Saturday night I was one of two bloggers lucky enough to experience what it's like to be undead.
Equipped with a gallon of make-up, a frizzy yellow wig, a few beers (that I had to drink out of a straw so I didn't smear my make-up), and very little training, I was transformed into a demented clown who lived among hanging clown corpses inside Screemer's Terror in 3D attraction. "You take this one," was my only instruction from a fellow clown, and suddenly it was up to me to jump out of the shadows, stomping my feet and screaming. To my surprise, I actually scared people. And I mean really scared people! It definitely wasn't my typical Saturday night.
During the night, I was also able to enjoy Screemers myself, riding the tilt-a-whirl in full clown garb, and experiencing the other haunted houses and maze. There are still a few days left to visit Screemers, and I'd definitely recommend it. I don't scare easily, but there's something about being chased through a maze by a man wielding a chainsaw that can scare even the bravest sceptic.


Jian Ghomeshi in Hamilton

On the day that Lincoln Alexander died, the handsome and charming Jian Ghomeshi read from his debut book, 1982, at the Lincoln Alexander Centre in Hamilton. I tried my best not to fangirl (yes, I just used fangirl as a verb), when I got the chance to meet Jian after the reading. You'll all be happy to read that he's such an upstanding citizen that he wouldn't deface public property by signing my library copy* of 1982.

*That makes me sound incredibly cheap, asking an author to sign a library copy. Don't worry. I bought a copy of his book, too.

Reading Local: Naked Trees by John Terpstra

Friday 19 October 2012

When I was young, maybe under ten, I appreciated trees far more than I do today.

In youth, trees fuel imagination. Branches cast eerie shadows on walls and drum against windowpanes. For my sister and I, branches were pillars, holding up mismatched sheets, when we built forts. We climbed trees, knocking crab apples to the ground, careful not to land on them when we descended.

I still remember the smell of walnuts on my hands after collecting buckets of them, my grandfather following behind us on his tractor, so they wouldn’t get stuck in the blades. The same grandpa gathered abandoned nests, still clinging to trees, for us to wow our peers with at school. The three of us would go on hikes, finding shelter on the soft and needly ground beneath pine trees.

Each fall, when the leaves exploded into colours like they are right now, in classrooms and at home, we’d press leaves between sheets of wax paper, the residue clinging to our hands. We’d paint autumn trees, dipping our brushes into red, orange, yellow, brown, and gold paint.

Today, three medium-sized trees jut from the lawn of my apartment building, but I could hardly describe them. Despite the unique characteristics of each type of tree, I couldn’t tell an ash from a chestnut, or a maple from an elm.

Hamilton isn’t a city one would quickly associate with trees, but local, award-winning writer John Terpstra, himself a woodworker, does. In 1990, he wrote Naked Trees, a collection of prose and poetry that has recently been rereleased by Hamilton publisher Wolsak and Wynn. Terpstra’s words are accompanied by, fittingly, woodcuttings by Ontario visual artist Wesley Bates.

Inspired by what is missing from Native Trees of Canada by R.C. Hosie, a volume that gives the names and identifying features (shape, leaves, bark, habitat) of trees, Terpstra’s goal is to write about the experience of trees, which he does with great passion.

Many of the trees, all deciduous, in Terpstra’s collection predate the buildings that line our city streets, yet they are in constant conflict with urbanity. Terpstra writes with affection about urban trees that are pruned to accommodate overhead wires and the limbs of trees that are “neatly sliced” by chainsaws. In the continuous battle between nature and urbanity, there is no clear winner. In one piece, a branch cuts through power lines after being sliced from a tree trunk, cutting electricity on its way down.

“The silver maple stood between the house and the street, overhanging both. But it made a tactical error this past winter when it dropped one of its branches during the storm,” writes Terpstra. “The branch cut through the power line on its way down, so we lost the electricity for a few hours, and landed on the street, completely blocking traffic.”

Naked Trees subtly urges readers to pay more attention to the maples, walnuts, and other trees that punctuate Hamilton's urban landscape, not simply walking by them, but pausing to enjoy them for both their strength and fragility.

Sometimes a certain book is perfect for a certain time of year. There are books I reread every Christmas, and some that are best read on a beach in the summer. Autumn, and the "liberation of leaves," are important themes in the second half of Naked Trees, making it the perfect read for these shorter, cooler days, accompanied with some apple cider and maybe a pumpkin loaf.

Feeling Fall-ish

Tuesday 16 October 2012
“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I'm a summer girl. I'm happiest when the temperature climbs above thirty degrees and I'm sitting on a patio with a Caesar in hand or lounging near a lake reading a great book. It's been six years since the fall meant a return to school, but there's still a feeling of finality when the days begin to get shorter and the temperature dips closer to zero. But despite these feelings of gloom, I am still a huge fan of fall. It’s the perfect time to grab an apple cider (or peach cider, which I didn’t know existed until this past weekend), and stroll through farmer’s markets and used bookstores. Hamilton is the perfect place to live this time of year, with so many small towns, farms, and green space so close by. In the last few weekends alone I’ve managed to make trips to Lindley’s Farm and Market, Carluke Orchards, and to St. Jacob’s farmer’s market and antique market. 

Happy Birthday, Charlotte's Web

Monday 15 October 2012
“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” 
 E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Today is the 60th anniversary of one of my all-time favourite books, Charlotte's Web, so I dusted off my copy and found this adorable inscription from my seventh birthday. I can only imagine how many times I've read this creased and torn copy. 


Jesse and the Typewriter Shop

Monday 1 October 2012
First I stumbled upon A Typewriter Ribbon Stretching Back to Old Lister by the Hamilton Spectator's Jeff Mahoney, and now I'm swooning over this short called ADLA No. 1: Jesse & the Typewriter Shop. Both are beautiful glimpses of these old machines and the people who have spent decades caring for and preserving them.

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