Tag Archives: book

More Words the Dog Knows

Shiba Inu and BallHOME: Where they keep the kibble. The origin and the terminus of the walk. At home, all scents are known.

CYBERSPACE: The place where people go while dogs are sleeping.

CONQUEST: It is not enough to give chase to a ball, catch it in mid-air and bring it back for another throw. A victory lap is in order. Then give it a good shake to make sure it knows it has been conquered.

CONTINGENCY: If an orange ball has just been lost, look around. Maybe there’s a busted tennis ball nearby. Maybe there’s a stick waiting to be found.

PHENOMENOLOGY: When wind happens it happens in the ears. When rain happens all the smells are hidden. When thunder happens it happens inside the heart and head and there is no hiding from the fear.

CONSUMPTION: If it is put in front of you, eat it. If it is on the floor, eat it. If it is on the ground, eat it. If it is dead, sniff it carefully, and then eat it. Even if it smells like shit, eat it. Even if it is shit, eat that too.

SECURITY: Bark if the doorbell rings. Everyone knows danger rings before it enters.

WORK: The ball is a bird, see? Shake it, make sure it’s dead. The sticks need rounding up. Who left this branch here?

PERFORMANCE: If you bring them the ball they will throw it. If you stare at the door they will open it. If you come when you are called, you will usually get something out of it. If you lose a ball under the couch they will find it for you.

MELANCHOLIA: When playtime is over and the long nap in the dark is over, and the early morning walk is over, sometimes in a hurry, sometimes even in the rain, the people shut the door behind them and the dog is left.

Excerpted from J.R. Carpenter, Words the Dog Knows

Lapsus Linguae

Advertisements

Mirvish Books Leaves the Village

Mirvish Books

David Mirvish Books is closing its doors after more than three decades as one of Toronto’s premier spots for art, design and photography books.

The bookstore has been stitched into the fabric of the Bloor and Markham Sts. area since 1974. David Mirvish opened the store as a part of the Mirvish Gallery, which showcased the work of colour field sculptors, painters and abstract artists.  In the heart of one of Toronto’s Victorian-style neighbourhoods, the establishment became a landmark in the Mirvish Village.

Store manager Eleanor Johnston said the doors will close Feb. 28.

“We are moving all of the inventory online. We’re not going to be like Amazon, that just lists everything. We will only list things that we have. It’s just another part of the world of selling retail. This is the transition that we’re taking. We’re not doing it with an aim of saying this is a better business concept.”

Frances Wood, the co-owner of Southern Accent, a restaurant across from the bookstore, said losing the 34-year-old establishment will change the face of the Village forever.

Mirvish Books is not the first independent bookstore to close in the area recently. Ballenford Books, specializing in books on architecture, on Markham St. just two doors away from Mirvish, closed last year after 29 years.

Mirvish’s closing has left some customers asking what will happen to the 50-foot-long painting by Frank Stella that dominates the store’s interior. “We don’t have any plans to do anything with it,” said Johnston.

For customers like Tracy Dalglish, who has been coming to the store since it opened, losing the building will end the romantic experience of visiting the store.  Dalglish remembers visiting with her father as a 13-year-old in the late ’70s.

“I would come down with my dad for the Boxing Day sales,” she said about her trips from Rosedale to the store. “I found my love of books in this store with my dad. It’s sad when you see places you love disappear.”

Susan Warner Keene was a curious student in her mid 20s at the Ontario College of Art when she discovered the store in 1974. She has been coming ever since. She said it was the most beautiful physical space any bookstore in Toronto had to offer back then. She finds inspiration for her work with hand papermaking from reading a variety of books the store offers.

“I’ve found books here that have been tremendously helpful in my own work,” she said at the store yesterday. 

“It’s probably my favourite bookstore, so it will be very sad to lose it.”

A 21st Century Gutenberg

When photography dealer Howard Greenberg celebrated his 25th anniversary in the business last year, he mounted an exhibition at his midtown Manhattan gallery. Amid 25 seductive highlights from his collection – including an abstract pear by Steichen, a pointillist streetscape by Karl Struss, two pieces of Americana by Walker Evans, and a print of Ruth Orkin’s An American Girl in Italy – he’d constructed a shrine to a book.

American Gallery

The installation made a strong case for the book’s place of honour among the dealer’s rare and expensive artifacts, with a video showing its creation, from typesetting to printing to binding, in an old-fashioned process that even Gutenberg might recognize.

The star of the 10-minute video was Michael Torosian, a Canadian little-known outside the small world of rare-book collectors. Since founding Lumiere Press in a garage at the foot of his yard in the west end of Toronto in 1986, Torosian has published 18 handmade books on photography. Printed on his vintage letter press, they are themselves works of art, limited editions in which the editorial content, design and printing is executed with an aesthete’s eye, an artisan’s hand and a perfectionist’s oversight.

Michael TorosianTorosian’s 19th book, An American Gallery, was produced by special order for the Greenberg anniversary and includes stunning high-tech reproductions of the 25 photographs from the exhibit accompanied by the dealer’s commentaries. The book took almost 12 months to produce, slowed down only slightly by the fact that the photos had to be printed separately and then placed by hand into each copy.

Lumiere editions include three volumes on Dave Heath and one each on Lewis Hine, Edward Burtynsky, Paul Strand, Gordon Parks and others. Torosian also has published three books of his own photography work.

The title page of An American Gallery went through 53 different designs before Torosian was satisfied. The typesetting ate up half a year. He took months to figure out how to insert the photographs, which are a different thickness than a normal paper page, to ensure they didn’t cause the book to spring open awkwardly.

“You have to be focused: every day, every week, every month. You can’t just sort of go through the motions, because it’s very unforgiving,” he explains. “I guess it’s like someone who makes violins or something: There might be monetary incentive to turn out 100 violins a year, but if you can only really do 18 credibly, then you’d better stick to the 18.”

“No matter how well a conventional mass-market trade book is produced, in their nature as a physical object, they all look the same: this sort of blockish object. They’re interchangeable. But when someone picks up one of my books, it has the same pedigree as other books, and yet it’s a different species. And that’s what they’re responding to. It’s familiar but it’s outside the ordinary.” A number of Lumiere Press books are in the collections of rare-book libraries.

The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York currently has a remount of the Greenberg anniversary exhibition, including the Lumiere video installation, which will stay up until June 22.

Excerpted from Simon Houpt, Globe and Mail, May 17, 2008

Lumiere Press

The 50 Best Cult Books

Yes, we love lists.

What is a cult book?

We tried and failed to arrive at a definition: books often found in the pockets of murderers; books that you take very seriously when you are 17; books whose readers can be identified to all with the formula ” whacko”; books our children just won’t get…

Cult books include some of the most cringemaking collections of bilge ever collected between hard covers. But they also include many of the key texts of modern feminism; some of the best journalism and memoirs; some of the most entrancing and original novels in the canon.

Cult books are somehow, intangibly, different from simple bestsellers – though many of them are that. The Carpetbaggers was a bestseller; Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a cult.

Cult Books

In compiling our list, we were looking for the sort of book that people wear like a leather jacket or carry around like a totem. The book that rewires your head: that turns you on to psychedelics; makes you want to move to Greece or conjures into being a character who becomes a permanent inhabitant of your mental flophouse.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
Sideways fantasy from the Diogenes of American letters, a comic sage who survived the firebombing of Dresden and various familial tragedies to work out his own unique brand of science-fictional satire. Like much of Vonnegut’s stuff, this is savage anger barely masked by urbane anthropological sarcasm. Very much the place to start.

The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (1957-60)
The great modern Baroque novel. Made it possible for the middle classes to embrace the Mediterranean. No such Alexandria ever existed, nor did the potboiler thriller plot of space/time exploration, Kaballa, sex, good food and drink (it came out during rationing) or philosophical enquiry. Some beautiful sentences, sure; but lots of them don’t make sense.

A Rebours by JK Huysmans (1884)
Plotless, morality-free salute to decadence. An individual based on its French author lounges about his luxurious home indulging in pursuits such as embedding gemstones in the shell of a tortoise until, loaded down, it expires. Dripping with Baudelairean ennui (and not a little dull itself), A Rebours was a bible for the Symbolists, Oscar Wilde and alienated creative types everywhere.

Baby and Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock (1946)
Childcare experts go in and out of fashion, but Dr Benjamin Spock remains the daddy of them all. From his reassuring first sentence – “You know more than you think you do” – he revolutionised the way parents thought about their children, asserting the right to cuddle, comfort and follow your instincts. He also tells you how to deal with croup.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (1991)
The woman who made feminism sexy by being gorgeous and shaving her legs also taught her readers to eat a hearty meal. This book argues that a cult of thinness has desexualised and disempowered women just when, after the acceptance of free love and the introduction of the contraceptive pill, the opposite should have happened. The most important feminist text of the past 20 years.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
In one of the original misery memoirs, Sylvia Plath delivered an intense, semiautobiographical story of growing up at a time when electroshock therapy was used to treat troubled young women. The narrator is a talented writer who arrives in New York with every opportunity before her, but buckles. The Bell Jar became a rallying call for a better understanding of mental illness, creativity and the impact on women of stifling social conventions. Plath killed herself a month after its publication.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
Bitterly bouncy military farce, responsible for inventing the dilemma to which it gave its name: you’re only excused war if you’re mad, but wanting an exemption argues that you must be sane. Literary history would be entirely different if Heller had followed his original intention and called it Catch-18: it was changed to avoid confusion with a Leon Uris book.

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)
Ur-text of adolescent alienation, beloved of assassins, emos and everyone in between, Gordon Brown included. Complicated teen Holden Caulfield at large in the big city, working out his family and getting drunk. You’ve probably read it, be honest.

The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (1993)
Deep in the South American jungle an intrepid explorer is about to stumble on a sequence of ancient prophecies that could change our way of living, even save the world. If only we didn’t have to buy the other novels in that the series to find out what they were! For a similar effect on the cheap, rent an Indiana-Jonesalike film – Tomb Raider, say – and ask a hippy to whisper nonsense in your ear while you’re watching it.

The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart (1971)
Blame a burgeoning mistrust of conventional psychiatry for the immediate impact of The Dice Man – a novel whose hero, a disillusioned psychiatrist, vows to make every decision of his life according to the roll of a die. As one might have expected from the times, chance sends him into violence and anarchy, which also explains the book’s enduring appeal.

Chariots of the Gods: Was God An Astronaut? by Erich Von Däniken (1968)
Those Easter Island things, they’re blokes wearing space suits, aren’t they? Er, no. Hugely influential work of mad-eyed fabricated Arch & Anth, responsible for decades of pub pseudoscience as well as for splendid stuff such as The X-Files. Increasingly common at jumble sales these days, though Von Däniken happily got another 25 books out of the idea.

See the next 39 selections and full story at The Telegraph UK

The Next Chapter for Bookstores

Stephen Temple bookstoreOnly a few years ago, bookstores helped define neighborhoods. They were physical and cultural markers on the landscape – showcases of what mattered, there and then.

“It’s an antiquarian business model in a changing world,” admits Melissa Mytinger, manager of Cody’s Books in Berkeley. That Mytinger still has her job is cause for celebration of a sort: Cody’s is a storied institution in more ways than one, but the saga of late has turned bleak.

In the past two years its 10,000 square-foot Telegraph Avenue flagship on boutique-lined Fourth Street has closed, and the business has moved to a 7,000-square-foot outpost one block from UC Berkeley.

But survival beats the alternative: locked doors that mean there’s no chance you’ll stumble across some unexpected volume of insight or delight. It’s a fate known to anyone who loves bookstores, who visits a familiar shopping street and remembers what was.

Mytinger and the 18-person staff are doing the right thing by tailoring the selection to Berkeley’s distinctive academic clientele. They’re even scheduling afternoon appearances by authors who might appeal to readers from nearby Berkeley High School. The shelves are filling up, and more books are on the way.

“We’ve had to give up on the idea that we can stock every book that we love,” says Mytinger, 60, who joined the staff of Cody’s in 1982. “That model doesn’t work anymore. It isn’t viable.”

The hope is that this year’s model – lean but not mean – will evolve into something that attracts people willing to buy books in person rather than simply adding to their online shopping carts.

Cody’s might also help downtown Berkeley emerge as a cultural and artistic destination. At the end of the block, construction crews are pouring concrete for the future home of the David Brower Center, conceived as a four-story clubhouse for environmental advocacy groups. Work also has started on a new home for the Freight & Salvage folk venue. On the drawing boards are more ambitious projects, including a home for the Pacific Film Archive and Berkeley Art Museum.

Why should we care? After all, who needs a building stuffed with paper in the age of clicks and mortar?

Because a good bookstore is like a good city block: varied and rich, with layers that bear evidence of imagination and pride. There’s a tactile connection to the ephemeral world of ideas. This is merchandise, but it’s not something to be worn for a season or hung up on a wall; it’s something to be discussed and shared, maybe even something that will shape your thoughts and actions. There’s more going on than the creation of a scene. It’s the slow formation of identities, of thoughts and passions and who knows what else.

In the grand scheme of things, bookstores’ long retreat isn’t a crisis on par with climate change or the war in Iraq. Some stores will survive at least for another generation, Cody’s among them, I hope.

But the landscape has changed irrevocably. Ultimately, we’re all the losers – in ways we don’t even yet know.

Excerpted from SF Gate

Consolation: One Book by Michael Redhill

Consolation“There is a vast part of this city with mouths buried in it… Mouths capable of speaking to us. But we stop them up with concrete and build over them and whatever it is they wanted to say gets whispered down empty alleys and turns into wind…”

These are among the last words of Professor David Hollis before he throws himself off a ferry into the frigid waters of Lake Ontario. A renowned professor of forensic geology, David leaves in his wake both a historical mystery and an academic scandal. He postulated that on the site where a sports arena is about to be built lie the ruins of a Victorian boat containing an extraordinary treasure: a strongbox full of hundreds of never-seen photographs of early Toronto, a priceless record of a lost city. His colleagues, however, are convinced that he faked his research materials.

Determined to vindicate him, his widow, Marianne, sets up camp in a hotel overlooking the construction site, watching and waiting for the boat to be unearthed. The only person to share her vigil is John Lewis, fiancé to her daughter, Bridget. An orphan who had come to love David as his own father, John finds himself caught in a struggle between mother and daughter all the while keeping a dark secret from both women.

Interwoven into the contemporary story is another narrative set in 1850s: the tale of Jem Hallam, a young apothecary struggling to make a living in the harsh new city so he can bring his wife and daughters from England. Crushed by ruthless competitors, he develops an unlikely friendship with two other down-on-their-luck Torontonians: Samuel Ennis, a brilliant but dissolute Irishman, and Claudia Rowe, a destitute widow. Together they establish a photography business and set out to create images of a fledgling city where wooden sidewalks are put together with penny nails, where Indians spear salmon at the river mouth and the occasional bear ambles down King Street, where department stores display international wares and fine mansions sit cheek-by-jowl with shantytowns.

King Street 1856Consolation, by Torontonian Michael Redhill, is the winner of the 2007 Toronto Book Award, and nominee for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. It has been selected as the One Book for the community to read together during the month of February, as part of the inaugural Keep Toronto Reading program of the Toronto Public Library.

Consolation moves back and forth between David Hollis’s legacy and Jem Hallam’s struggle to survive, ultimately revealing a mysterious connection between the two narratives. Exquisitely crafted and masterfully written, Michael Redhill’s second novel reveals how history is often transformed into a species of fantasy, and how time alters the contours of even the things we hold most certain. As complex and layered as the city whose story it tells, Consolation evokes the mysteries of love and memory, and what suffering the absence of the beloved truly means.

The book tells about a city only too keen to bury all existing remnants of its past. “It’s just one more link to the place that we come from that was carelessly removed, and it’s unfortunate that no attempt at preservation was ever made.”

Redhill began writing Consolation in the late 1990s, motivated equally by the desire to alert his fellow citizens to the historical toll taken by Toronto’s “developmental frenzy” as he was to write a book rooted in his city’s soil and tell a story that connected two eras in Toronto’s relatively brief but criminally neglected civic history.

Of the reason for that neglect, an apparent civic amnesia blighting Toronto more dramatically than just about any other centre of its size and significance, Redhill muses, “In part because it’s a young city. We live in a place that’s just over 200 years old now and although it’s as old as it’s ever been to us who live there, in the context of world cities it’s not a very old city at all.

Redhill recalls being overwhelmed by a series of photographs he discovered in book by William Dendy called Lost Toronto. A 360-degree panorama consisting of thirteen shots of the city taken in 1856 from a hotel at the corner of Simcoe and York Streets, the pictures sparked in the author a kind of hypothetical reverie of the city that once was. In fictional form, the photos would also come to play a key role in Consolation.

Toronto Star Books

Toronto Public Library: One Book

The Toronto Panorama

Michael Redhill’s Blog

Michael Redhill: Poetry and Publications

Reading Cities

Toronto Book Awards