metro mama

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Metro Reco: House of Leaves

It makes me happy when my course reading overlaps with the 1001 Books List as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves does. If you’re looking for something different to read, this is for you.

The narrative is framed: one thread is that of troubled tattoo parlour employee Johnny Truant, who becomes obsessed with a manuscript found in the apartment of deceased scholar Zampano. When he died, Zampano was working on an epic academic study of a documentary, The Navidson Record, created by photojournalist Will Navidson. Interspersed with Truant’s increasingly bizarre narrative and Zampano’s incredibly thorough research, is the downright scary story of Navidson and his wife Karen, who along with their two young children, move into a house in Virginia with the hopes of restoring their troubled marriage. One day a mysterious closet appears in the house, prompting Navision to take measurements, which reveal the interior dimensions of the house are greater than the exterior. Then a strange hallway appears, leading to a vast series of tunnels and a huge cavern that echoes the ominous growl of an unseen creature. Navidson becomes obsessed with the house, and determined to document its oddities. The product of his explorations, a series of short films, becomes the myth-like Navidson Record.

The book is a mosaic of genres: psychological thriller, satire, mystery; scholarship. Danielewski enjoys manipulating his readers: there are footnotes within footnotes; on some pages the text appears sideways, backwards, in a circle; the text becomes claustrophobic, imitating the action in the novel; there are many codes and puzzles interspersed through the text. Colour is used the novel, for unexplained reasons; for example, each time the word house appears, it’s in blue (two plausible theories I’ve heard are that it’s an allusion to hypertext, or a blue screen used in film).

The book has also spawned a very active community of fans who have countless theories about the text, and have taken the time to try to solve Danielewski’s puzzles (the author created an official forum for them, here). Folks have actually created their own versions of the Navidson Record and posted them on YouTube (some of these are pretty funny).

The book is complex, compelling, scary, inventive and very, very cool.

I’d like to read more experimental fiction like this—can anyone recommend anything?


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Resolution (for real this time)

McHotty and I were both home all day yesterday. I was on the computer all day, and he was a busy bee. He went to the gym. He cleaned the toilets and bathtubs. He cooked up a double batch of butter chicken. I commented on all of his activity, and he explained he was making good on his new years’ resolutions: to be consistent at the gym, help with the housework more (!), and leave me with leftovers when he goes on shift to help with my resolution to eat less processed food.

I shit you not!

These virtuous resolutions made me feel a little bad about my flippant ones (‘tho I am making good—I haven’t been to the cheese market yet this week). But I thought I might try to make some more serious resolutions, or at least one.

So, I hereby resolve to stop being so stingy with my time. Since school started I have been really consumed. If I have five free minutes my nose is in a book. Any other time is devoted to Cakes. For Christmas, all McHotty wanted was for me to give him a day of tech instruction (McHotty is many things, but technically inclined is not one of them—I wear the pocket protector in the family). I need to spend a day with McHotty showing him iTunes and Facebook and all kinds of other stuff I’ve been putting off.

I also need to spend more time with friends. I need a fix of the MBT crew soon. I’ve met some very cool people at school I’d like to get to know better. I have a couple of email addresses floating in my purse of folks I hit it off with in the ‘hood. We need to have the neighbours over to play dominoes soon--since the weather turned cold we’ve all burrowed into our dens.

Is anyone else seriously missing their social life? Hey, maybe it’s time for another Toronto Blogger pub. Who's in?


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Turn Down the Volume

Remember all my anxiety about Cakes not talking? I didn’t know a good thing when I had it. The gal is making up for lost time, and she has only one volume setting—excruciatingly loud.

My day starts with a sound more irritating than the loudest alarm, and even though we don’t even sleep on the same floor, she might as well be in the same room.

“Mommy! Mom-MY! MOMMY! GET UP!”

My plaintive shouts of “please, just a little more sleep!” are immediately terminated with, “NO! GET UP MOMMY!”

I’ve blogged before about my frustration with Cakes’ frequent use of the word “no”. Now her favourite word is “why”.

Met: Cakes, please take your finger out of your nose/ear/diaper.

Cakes: Why?

Met: Because it’s rude.

Cakes: Why?

Met: Because your nose/ear/ass is dirty.

Cakes: Why?

Met: Because I said so.

Cakes: Why?

Met: fuck fuck fuck

Today we spent five hours in total in the car. When we weren’t singing “Wheels on the Bus” at the top of our lungs, we were counting the cows in Spanish. Or asking, “Where are the COWS, Mommy? Where COWS! MOMMY, WHERE COWS!!!”

Oh, how I miss the days of grunting and pointing.

She’s never been more annoying; she’s never been more endearing.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Twice Bitten

I’ve been really happy with Cakes’ nursery school, but there is a little situation going on now, and I need your advice.

About a week ago, Cakes was bitten by another child (the two of them had been fighting over a toy). Her teacher talked to me about it; the skin wasn’t broken, and Cakes wasn’t upset. They said the other child was going through a tough transition (new baby I think), and I was sympathetic. They said they’d talk to his parents and we left it at that.

A couple of days ago, she was bitten again, by the same kid (they were fighting over a chair). I talked to the teachers, as well as the school administrator. I asked them what they’re doing about it and they said they have talked to the parents again. I asked for copies of the incident reports.

Now I’m not sure what to do. They say this is fairly common—is it? Has anyone else been on either end of this? I understand there isn’t a lot we can do. The teachers are great—they try to really watch the two kids, but they gravitate towards each other. Cakes plays well with the other kids, but she and this boy seem to clash.

I know the boys’ parents are in a tough situation too, and I’m sympathetic towards them. The more attention they give this behaviour, the more it’s rewarded.

So, wise internets, what can I do? I’m worried she’ll be bitten again, and worse next time. Should I talk to her, and tell her to stay away from this boy? (I doubt she’d listen anyway). Is there anything else the school can/should be doing?


I found out a friend of mine (also the mother a gorgeous girl Cakes’ age) is blogging. She’s a wonderful writer and she speaks her mind. I’ve been raving about the mommy blogging community, so prove me right and go on over and say hello (another Toronto blogger, yay!)


Monday, January 14, 2008

Metro Reco: The Lost Highway

David Adams Richards’ latest novel, The Lost Highway, is a suspenseful and contemplative meditation on ethics and morality.

Alex Chapman is a misanthropic intellectual. He spent most of his life feeling alienated, from his family, classmates, pretty much his entire community (down on its heels Miramichi). Having thought he’d finally found a home in academe, he’s left in the cold when he’s abruptly fired under stupid circumstances, before completing his doctorate.

As a teacher of ethics, Alex has mastered the ability to rationalize any moral position, so when he has the opportunity to swindle his estranged uncle out of a winning lottery ticket, he has ready arguments for doing whatever it takes. But when he reluctantly enlists a former nemesis (and alter-ego) to help him in his scheme, the situation becomes unbearably complex, and he enters into moral territory even he is unequipped to handle.

The Lost Highway is classic Richards—poetic and deliberate, he’s in no rush to reach his dramatic denouement, but perseverant readers are rewarded for their efforts.

David Adams Richards is the author of the Giller prize winning Mercy Among the Children and Friends of Meager Fortune, his most recent novel.

I have copies for the first three Canadians to email metro[underscore]mama[at]hotmail[dot]com. Please include your mailing address in your email. And I’d love to hear your thoughts once you’ve had a chance to read it!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

50 Greatest Books

I love lists, so I’m happy the Globe and Mail has launched a new series, called 50 Greatest Books. They’ve assembled an international panel, and in the coming year will reveal a book per week, in the Saturday Books section. Each week, a single work will be discussed by an “expert or a writer passionate about the work in question.”

I can’t wait to see the selections. This weeks’ pick is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain--a sound choice, in my opinion. What do you think? You can read the full essay here.

This should be fun to watch unfold. They’re going to create a discussion forum, so we can give them a piece of our minds (let’s do that).

I’m also still working on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die challenge. I’ve managed to knock a few more off, bringing me up to 117. Whew, long way to go.

And, I'll have a new book recommendation tomorrow, and I'll be giving copies away, so be sure to check in!


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Capsule Reviews

We managed to catch a few movies during the holidays. I didn’t see anything fantastic enough to write a whole post about (except No Country for Old Men), but I thought I’d give you a sentence or two on the rest:

This Film is Not Yet Rated

Very engaging documentary about the MPAA, those fickle folks in charge of rating movies. Humorous and eye-opening.

Blades of Glory

What can I say? Will Ferrell as half of a male-male figure-skating couple. What’s not to like--had me choking on my beer and popcorn.


This one surprised me. Super stylized violence (if you liked Sin City you’ll probably like this), lots of phalluses (oh yeah), great pace. I wouldn’t count on it for a history lesson, but highly entertaining.


Loved this one—visually stunning, like 300, but with more depth (though I can’t say anything about how it compares with its source—I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never read Beowulf). Very pleasant surprise.

The Brave One

Fucking terrible! What was Jodie Foster thinking! Did she read the script? Don’t even bother.

The Last King of Scotland

Riveting. This one actually deserves a whole post. Forest Whitaker is marvelous. And who is this hottie James McAvoy!? Is this a party I’m late to, or what!

BSG (I’m one of you now, I'm using the acronym)

We’re now several episodes into Battlestar Gallactica and are fracking LOVING it!

Now my flixlist is getting low again. What can I add to it?


Monday, January 07, 2008

Finding My Groove

I’m home after twelve hours on campus, bug-eyed but exhilarated.

The holidays were lovely, but seriously? I was pretty fucking happy to get back in the swing of things. I love my family, but three weeks of non-stop togetherness is a bit much. And I don’t know why I was in such a hurry for Cakes to talk--most of the time she’s saying “no”, or “I want to watch Dora”. So, this morning I was awake before my alarm went off, at 6:00. I had breakfast, caught up on blogs and actually put on makeup before she even started stirring, and I was out the door by 7. I can’t get over what a change this is from my last few months in my old job in IT. I was so miserable with what I was doing, I would hit the snooze button four times every morning.

Now that I’m no longer intimidated, grad school is really fun. My course load is slightly lighter this term and all my classes are in one day (it’s a very long day, but it saves me shlepping to Jane and Finch). I just started a new class I’m really excited about called “Black Song”, about African-American poetry. We’re going to read lots of poems, and listen to music. And the prof is really excited about her subject (actually, all of my profs are—it’s so refreshing).

A couple of weeks ago, my program director asked me if I was going to apply for the PhD, and I did start to give it some more thought. I was tempted. It’s a pretty cosy place. I totally understand now why people stay in grad school for so long, even when they don’t have definite plans. But I just can’t justify it—I know I don’t want to be a professor. I wish there were something between MA and PhD. I’d love to do a second MA actually, in film studies or something, but I don’t think McHotty’s too thrilled about that idea.

Anyway, my thoughts about my future scholarship were confirmed today when I received my first piece of negative feedback:

This essay is impressive in its literary perception and fluent writing, but not sufficiently rigorous in its critical analysis and scholarship.

The truth hurts.

Actually, it didn’t really hurt. I know this. I know I’m much more interested in what I have to say than what others do.

I’ve decided my next move will be a publishing certificate program (probably Ryerson). A lot of it can be done online and there is an internship at the end. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time now, and I think it will be a good fit. So, if you have any advice for me, I welcome it!

Anyone else really happy to go back to work today?


Friday, January 04, 2008

Metro Reco: The Road

A few months ago I recommended Blood Meridian, the first Cormac McCarthy book I’d ever read. I’ve been somewhat obsessed with McCarthy ever since (I’m just finishing up a paper on Blood Meridian actually).

So I’ve been reading a ton of McCarthy criticism and now I’m dying to read the rest of his books (but who knows when that’s going to happen). I did however manage to squeeze in The Road over Christmas (in about five hours, late into the night). Two words: holy fuck.

Set in post-apocalyptic America, two survivors, an intrepid father and his compassionate, fearful son, traverse a desolate landscape, needing to reach a warmer climate if they’re to continue to survive. And survival isn’t easy. The pair forage for food in homes long-stripped of their valuables while the permanently horror-stricken husks of their former occupants look on; they flee savage tribes of cannibals who kill and eat their young and keep stores of slaves to rape and snack on; they huddle for warmth on sodden ground during nights that get longer and colder. All the while, the father aware he is dying, knowing he’s running out of time to teach his son all he knows.

In a world where everything is dark and dead and sick (even the falling snow is grey) the father forges on, relentlessly, for the sake of his son, who he urges to "carry the fire". In the depiction of a world so abominable and heart-stoppingly terrifying the reader finds beauty in the language, and in McCarthy’s searing characterization of a father’s tenderness towards his son.

If you’ve never read McCarthy, The Road is a great book to start with. It’s much less dense than Blood Meridian and not as graphically violent. But it’s no less stunning. And while never, ever sentimental, it manages to be, dare I say, hopeful.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008, Bring It On

I’m feeling a little less cantankerous today. Yesterday’s shopping spree helped. McHotty fortified me with a birthday omelette, and about four cups of coffee. I headed for the Eaton Centre nice and early, before it got insane. I’m pretty frugal when it comes to clothing, so I do love the post-Christmas sales. I got all of this stuff for about $200.

I even managed to buy a pair of jeans without wanting to slit my wrists. I’ve gotten over caring what the sales guy thinks anymore. I don’t have time to screw around—I just say, “I want something in a dark colour that will help hide my muffin top”.

Our New Years’ Eve was a success. McHotty’s meal was fab. I was in charge of the drinks--Cava and mango juice is a fine accompaniment for spicy food by the way.

We brought in the new year with our guests, then brought it in again with the next-door neighbours. Cakes kindly slept in until eight, bless her.

Today I’m trying to do some work, but I’m slightly hungover and tired, and I keep fucking around on facebook instead. Now I’m doing this instead of writing my paper.

I’ve decided to make a few resolutions this year:

1. Fuck around on facebook less.
2. Read some non-fiction.
3. Cut back on the wine and cheese a little.
4. Sign up for a dance class.
5. Eat less processed food (that includes PC butter chicken!)

This list seems doable, I think.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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