Tag Archives: curling was full

Book Clubs

“Book clubs are totally dope – like English class if you were allowed to read only books that you actually like and snack and sip while discussing them.”

Sam Maggs, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks

…and by “sip” I assume Sam means kegstands with beer and wine straight from the bottle, and by “snack” she means stuffing your face with greasy food straight from the back of a pub.

Last night my book club talked about Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach. According to one of my fellow bookies who shall remain nameless but has a history of bibliophilic illness, “Manhattan Beach is a book about a beach. The beach is called Manhattan Beach. In between going to the beach and Anna’s home, people go diving and die. The end.”

Excellent summary.

Anyway, aside from plugging my own book club (did that come out right?), I thought I would use this opportunity to highlight the awesomenesss of book clubs. On top of meeting new people (hopefully), being in a book club means you have an excuse every month to rip it up while discussing pretentious subjects like art, literature, the art of literature, and literary art. Oh, and artistic literature, too.

I started this book club, Curling Was Full, in August 2009 and I’m proud to say we’re still going strong. Members have come and gone (there are only an Original Three left), but we always seem to have more requests for membership than we can handle. No surprise, then, that when Random House (before it was Penguin Random House) had a book club contest called Books Are Beautiful, we won!

Actually, we finished in second place (we all received a copy of Jowita Bydlowska‘s Drunk Mom) to We Don’t Bake Muffins, but I’m still convinced the contest was rigged. Something about screeching the judges and kissing a cod, I’m told.

Long of the short, though, if you’re not in a book club, start one. If you are in one, lament the fact that you’re not in Curling Was Full because, well, we’re full.


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The CAMH One Brave Night Challenge

Image result for one brave nightIn the wake of Bell’s successful Let’s Talk campaign, and in support of the good folks at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) – the leading institute of its kind in Canada – my book club is taking part in the CAMH One Brave Night for Mental Health™ challenge, which  just launched its 2017 campaign and runs through to Friday, April 7, 2017, in an effort to “defeat mental illness.”

Per the website:

CAMH One Brave Night for Mental Health™ is a Canada-wide challenge to share one night to inspire hope for the one in five Canadians living with mental illness in any given year.

You can participate as an individual or, like me and my Curling Was Full book club, as a team.

Check out the above link to get more details, but every dollar counts and CAMH really is doing great things for the 20% of us Great White Northerners who is/will experience mental health issues in their lifetime.

As a related aside, peruse this article on addiction and the fallacy of willpower, entitled “How To Overcome Addiction And Make Lasting Changes In Your Life,” by Benjamin P. Hardy. If you think “addiction” is strictly limited to alcohol and drugs, you’re sorely mistaken and could benefit from this thought-provoking piece.

Otherwise, I hope you take a moment to consider if you, your friends/colleagues/co-workers, and your family can contribute to a genuinely worthy cause through CAMH.

All the best in staying up as late as you can in helping make a difference to so many men, women and children out there among us.

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Zoe Whittall & The Art of Making It Work as a Writer

Image result for zoe whittall

I’ve been fortunate to spend some time with the extremely talented Zoe Whittall. A few years ago, my friend Jaclyn L. chose Holding Still for as Long as Possible as our book club’s selection of the month. Zoe was a gracious guest and provided some very cool insight into her novel and the community of Toronto’s Blue Shirts. (Sadly, when we asked her to join Curling Was Full, she told  us she’d just signed up for improv classes).

Recently, shedoesthecity.com posted a great article on the acclaimed author called “Zoe Whittall on Giller Prize-shortlisted Novel The Best Kind of People.” (The Best Kind of People was actually named one of Heather Reisman’s two top novels of last holiday season, the other being Joseph Boyden’s Wenjack) While the article is an interesting read if you like the author and her fiction/poetry, what caught my attention as a professional freelancer was her determination to make this thing called writing a viable career, even if it meant straying from her traditional domains of writing novels and poems. Give it a read when you have a chance, especially if you’re a starving artist and looking for inspiration about how to pay the rent while also pursuing your passion.

Many congratulations to @zoewhittall on her newfound – and well-deserved – success on multiple writing fronts.

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A Writer Considers an Alternate Life as an Undercover Agent

An interesting essay on the Lapham’s Quarterly website by Jennifer duBois entitled “MFA vs. CIA.” Ms. duBois is the author of two novels, one of which, A Partial History of Lost Causes, I read with my fellow curlers as a book club selection of the month. Although Curling Was Full did not go coo-coo-for-cocoa-puffs ecstatic over the book, Ms. duBois certainly shows great promise as a young writer.

If you don’t have the time/desire to read the entire essay, here are some of the more golden-like golden nuggets:

“Intelligence failures, like literary ones, tend to stem from failures of empathetic imagination.”

“Writers and spies share an ability—and a willingness—to hide in plain sight, to deflect attention not only from the nature of their role but from the fact that they have any role at all. A spy obscures his relationship to events in order to affect them, just as a writer hovers anonymously beyond the page in order to exert her tyrannical, obsessive control.”

“[A] condition of knowing the truth is to never, never tell it.”

“Writers and spies also tend to inspire related suspicions, though they differ (as ever, and by an order of magnitude) in degree. Both are thought to exist on some level apart from normal people, even while living in their midst. Both are known to have skewed relationships to consensus reality and predatory attitudes toward other people’s information.”

“[S]uspense comes from the feeling that things might have gone differently. In real life, we call this free will—and just as in fiction, it may be an illusion.”


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All the Light We Cannot See

Read this book.

Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is an immaculate work of art like few other novels published in recent years. Set during World War II, from occupied France to the farthest edges of Eastern Europe, All the Light We Cannot See is about the intersecting lives of a young boy entering the German Army early in the war and a blind girl living in France. However, it’s also a tale of greed and a German sergeant major’s quest to find the “Sea of Flames,” an incredibly valuable diamond said to both bring immortality to its possessor and death to the owner’s loved ones. At the same time, it is also a story of underground radio broadcasts that reminded me of the excellent German movie The Secret Lives of Others.

What is perhaps most alluring about this book is Doerr’s prose, which is nothing less than spine-tingling, and reminiscent of another master of the craft, Michael Ondaatje.

Here are some examples of Doerr’s literary magic from his multiple prize-winning novel:

“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

“She walks like a ballerina in dance slippers, her feet as articulate as hands, a little vessel of grace moving out into the fog.”  

“To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.”

“To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air.”

“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.”

My book club, Curling Was Full, read this book last month and in a rare moment of solidarity, everybody agreed that this was a very, very special book. The lesson to take away from this? Do yourself a favour. Go and get a copy of All the Light We Cannot See.

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