Books Read and Recommended 2021

Ah, the season of lists… Here’s to curling up with a good book! Happy reading…

In this annus horribilis, I took refuge, as so many did, in books, both audio and print. My pleasure was to take out both versions of a title from the library: if I fell asleep listening, I could catch up by reading the text. Commentary was mostly quotes I loved from the books, so I have included only a few; scroll down.

Poetry highly recommended: Some of my favourite prose this year: all by Canadian women!:

An eclectic collection! I’m surprised at the gender balance in books I’ve read over the last two years: I would have thought I’d read more women. You can tell I go on author-binges… Most books came from London Library, with my thanks

Comments below.

May 2022 be shimmering!

Books Read

Garous Abdolmalekian; translated from the Persian by Ahmad Nadalizadeh and Idra Novey. Lean against this late hour

Jordan Abel, Nishga

Ayad Akhtar, Homeland Elegies

Rumaan Alam, Leave the World Behind

André Alexis, The Night Piece: Collected Short Fiction

Madhur Anand, This red line goes straight to your heart: a memoir in halves

Gail Anderson-Dargatz, The Almost Wife A Novel

Raymond Antrobus, The perseverance

Marianne Apostolides, I can’t get you out of my mind: a novel

Rae Armantrout, Conjure

Katherine Ashenburg, Her Turn

Margaret Atwood, Dearly

Oana Avasilichioaei, Eight Track  

Fredrik Backman, Anxious People

Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Café

John Banville, Mrs. Osmond

Pat Barker, The Women of Troy (Women of Troy #2)

Julian Barnes, The Man in the Red Coat

Sebrastian Barry, The Secret Scripture

Gary Barwin, Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy

Billy-Ray Belcourt, A history of my brief body

Matt Bell, Appleseed

SJ Bennett, The Windsor Knot  

Nina Berkhout, Why Birds Sing

Frank Bidart, Half Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016

Heather Birrell, Float and scurry

Yolanda Bonnell, Bug

William Boyd, Trio

Rutger Bregman, Humankind: a hopeful history

A.K. Blakemore, The Manningtree witches: a novel

Nic Brewer, Suture

Nicole Brossard, Museum of bone and water; translated by Robert Majzels and Erín Moure

Carol Bruneau, Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel Inspired by the Life of Maud Lewis

Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Day the Falls Stood Still
Cathy Marie Buchanan, Daughter of Black Lake

Gabriella Burnham, It Is Wood, It Is Stone

Catherine Bush, Blaze Island

Rhonda Byrne, The Greatest Secret

Julia Cameron, The Listening Path, The Creative Art of Attention (A 6-Week Artist’s Way Program)

Anne Carson, Norma Jeane Baker of Troy: a version of Euripides’ Helen

Louise Carson, The Cat Possessed

Jody Chan, Sick

Mary Jean Chan, Flèche

Victoria Chang, Obit: poems  

Deepak Chopra, Total meditation: practices in living the awakened life

Don Mee Choi, DMZ colony

Jillian Christmas, the gospel of breaking

George Elliott Clarke, Where Beauty Survived: An Africadian Memoir

Susanna Clarke, Piranesi  

Joseph Coelho, The girl who became a tree: a story told in poems

Henri Cole, Blizzard: poems

Bridget Collins, The Binding

Maryse Condé, I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem

Eduardo C. Corral, Guillotine: poems

Jeanine Cummins, American Dirt

Rachel Cusk, Second Place

The Dalai Lama, Advice On Dying, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins

Joseph Dandurand, The East Side of It All

Lauren B. Davis, Even So

Edmund de Waal, Letters to Camondo

Abigail Dean, Girl A

Barbara Demick, Eat the Buddha

Natalie Diaz, Postcolonial love poem

Joan Didion, Let Me Tell You What I Mean

Jenny Diski, Why Didn’t You Just Do What You Were Told?: Essays

Cory Doctorow, Radicalized
Cory Doctorow, Attack Surface

Anthony Doerr, Cloud Cuckoo Land

Naoise Dolan, Exciting times: a novel

Dom Domanski, Bite down little whisper

Avni Doshi, Burnt Sugar

Glennon Doyle, Untamed

Marilyn Dumont, The pemmican eaters

Klara du Plessis, Ekke

Kim Echlin, Speak, Silence

Francesca Ekwuyasi, Butter honey pig bread: a novel

Omar El Akkad, What Strange Paradise

Lucy Ellmann, Ducks, Newburyport

Síle Englert, The lost time accidents

Mariana Enriquez, The dangers of smoking in bed: stories

Louise Erdrich, The Sentence

Annie Ernaux, A girl’s story
Annie Ernaux, Hôtel Casanova: et autres textes brefs

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Untie the strong woman: Blessed Mother’s immaculate love for the wild soul
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, The Dangerous Old Woman: Myths and Stories of the Wise Woman Archetype

Sebastian Faulks, Snow Country

Elana Ferrante, Incidental inventions; translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein

Richard Flanagan, The living sea of waking dreams

Carolyn Forché, In the lateness of the world

Aminatta Forna, The Window Seat: Notes From a Life in Motion

Tana French, The Searcher
The Trespasser
Dublin Murder Squad Series, Book 6

Rivka Galchen, Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch

Benjamin Garcia, Thrown in the throat: poems

Gary Geddes, Out of the ordinary: politics, poetry and narrative

Doireann Ni Ghriofa, A Ghost in the Throat

Camilla Gibb, The Relatives

Chantal Gibson, How She Read

Malcolm Gladwell, The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War

Louise Glück, American originality: essays on poetry
Louise Gluck, Faithful and virtuous night

Peter Godfrey-Smith, Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness
Peter Godfrey-Smith, Metazoa: animal life and the birth of the mind

Seth Godin, The practice: shipping creative work
Seth Godin, Linchpin

Carol Rose GoldenEagle, The Narrows of Fear

Ariel Gordon, Treed: walking in Canada’s urban forests

Mary Gordon, Payback

Amanda Gorman, The hill we climb: an inaugural poem for the country; foreword by Oprah Winfrey

Vivian Gornick, Taking a long look: essays on culture, literature, and feminism in our time

Catherine Graham, Æther: an out-of-body lyric

Adam Grant, Think Again

Richard Greene, The unquiet Englishman: a life of Graham Greene

Lauren Groff, Matrix (William Heinemann)

Yaa Gyasi, Transcendent Kingdom

Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

Zakiya Dalila Harris, The Other Black Girl

Robert Hass, Summer snow: new poems  

Cate Haste, Passionate spirit: the life of Alma Mahler

Natalie Haynes, The ancient guide to modern life
Natalie Haynes, A Thousand Ships

Richard Heath, Sacred geometry: language of the angels

Steven Heighton, Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos

Amy Hempel, Sing to it: new stories

Gay Hendricks, The big leap: conquer your hidden fear and take life to the next level. Gay Hendricks.

Tara Henley, Lean out: a meditation on the madness of modern life

Catherine Hernandez, Crosshairs

Carl Hiaasen, Squeeze me

Anne Hillerman, Stargazer

Edward Hirsch, Stranger by night: poems

Alice Hoffman, The Dovekeepers
Alice Hoffman, Magic lessons
Alice Hoffman, The Book of Magic

Eva Holland, Nerve: adventures in the science of fear

Bettany Hughes, Venus and Aphrodite: a biography of desire

Helen Humphreys, Meditations on a year at the herbarium

Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun

Marlon James, Black Leopard, Red Wolf: The Dark Star Trilogy, Book 1

Natalie Jenner, The Jane Austen Society

Amanda Jernigan, Groundwork: poems; with wood engravings by John Haney | Biblioasis

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life.

Donna Kane, Orrery

Patricia Keeney, Orpheus in the World

Kaie Kellough, Magnetic equator
Kaie Kellough, Dominoes at the Crossroads

Thomas King, Sufferance

Barbara Kingsolver, How to Fly in Ten Thousand Easy Lessons

Theresa Kishkan, Euclid’s Orchard & Other Essays

Rachel Kushner, The Hard Crowd

Jhumpa Lahiri, Whereabouts

Kevin Lambert, You will love what you have killed; translated from the French by Donald Winkler

Shari Lapena, The End of Her

Mary Lawson, A Town Called Solace

John le Carré, Silverview

Fran Lebowitz, The Fran Lebowitz Reader

Amanda Leduc, The Centaur’s Wife

Jessica J. Lee, Two trees make a forest: travels among Taiwan’s mountains & coasts in search of my family’s past  

Donna Leon, Transient desires

Jonathan Lethem, The Arrest

Deborah Levy, Swimming Home
Deborah Levy, Things I don’t want to knowDeborah Levy, The Man Who Saw Everything

Ada Limón, The Carrying

Penelope Lively, Family Album: A Novel

Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking About This

Randy Lundy, Blackbird Song

Annick MacAskill, Murmurations

Tanis MacDonald, Mobile

Carmen Maria Machado, In the dream house: a memoir

Margaret Macmillan, War

Alberto Manguel, Fabulous monsters: Dracula, Alice, Superman, and other literary friends

Hilary Mantel, Mantel Pieces: Royal Bodies and Other Writing from the London Review of Books

Daphne Marlatt, On the Threshold of the Page
Daphne Marlatt, Then Now

Bobbie Ann Mason, Dear Ann  

Meg Mason, Sorrow and bliss: a novel

Francesco Matteuzzi, Mark Rothko: the story of his life

Imbolo Mbue, How Beautiful We Were: A Novel

Karen McBride, Crow Winter

Susan McCaslin, Heart Work
Susan McCaslin, Cosmic Egg

Charlotte McConaghy, Migrations
Charlotte McConaghy, Once There Were Wolves

Elizabeth McCracken, The Souvenir Museum  

Hollie McNish, Nobody Told Me: The Poetry of Parenthood

Tessa McWatt, The Snow Line

Sandra Meek, Still: poems

Maaza Mengiste, The Shadow King

Meg Mason, Sorrow and bliss: a novel

Francesco Matteuzzi, Mark Rothko: the story of his life

Sue Miller, Monogamy

N. Scott Momaday, The death of Sitting Bear: new and selected poems

Lorrie Moore, Bark

Virginia Morell, Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mexican Gothic

Valzhyna Mort, Music for the Dead and Resurrected Poet

Walter Mosley, Blood Grove

Sarah Moss, Summerwater

Paul Muldoon, Frolic and detour

Sachiko Murakami, Render

Téa Mutonji, Shut Up You’re Pretty

James Nestor, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art

Alice Notley, For the ride

Sigrid Nunez, What are you going through

Okezie Nwoka, God of Mercy

Barack Obama, A Promised Land

Mary Oliver, Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

Susan Orlean, On Animals

Nadia Owusu, Aftershocks: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Identity

Ruth Ozeki, The Book of Form and Emptiness  

Louise Penny & Hillary Rodham Clinton, State of Terror
Louise Penny, The Madness of Crowds

Charlie Petch, Why I was late

Marlene Nourbese Philip, Blank: essays & interviews

Jodi Picoult, The Book of Two Ways

Signe Pike, The forgotten kingdom

Michael Pollan, This is Your Mind on Plants

C.L. Polk, The Midnight Bargain

Vasko Popa, Vasko Popa: selected poems / selected and translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Charles Simic

Richard Powers, Bewilderment

Beth Powning, The Sister’s Tale

Francine Prose, The Vixen

Ian Rankin, A Song for the Dark Times

Iain Reid, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

David A. Robertson, Black Water

Lisa Robertson, Baudelaire Fractals

Eden Robinson, Return of the Trickster  

Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future

Marilynne Robinson, Jack
Marilynne Robinson, What are we doing here?

Monique Roffey, The Mermaid of Black Conch

Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You

Matthew Rubery, The Untold History of the Talking Book

Muriel Rukeyser, The collected poems, 1913-1980

Kate Elizabeth Russell, My Dark Vanessa

Kay Ryan, Synthesizing gravity: selected prose; edited and with an introduction by Christian Wiman
Kay Ryan, The best of it: new and selected poems

Sadhguru, Karma

Jennifer Saint, Ariadne

Mark Sampson, All the Animals on Earth

George Saunders, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life

Sara Seager, The Smallest Lights in the Universe

Vijay Seshadri, That was now, this is then: poems

Hana Shafi, Small, broke, and kind of dirty: affirmations for the real world
Hana Shafi, It begins with the body: poems & illustrations

Robin Sharma, The Everyday Hero Manifesto

Lionel Shriver, Should we stay or should we go: a novel

Daniel Siegel, Aware

Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering How the Forest Is Wired for Intelligence and Healing  

Goran Simic, Immigrant Blues

Sue Sinclair, Heaven’s thieves

SJ Sindhu, Blue-Skinned Gods

Richard-Yves Sitoski, No Sleep ‘til Eden
Richard-Yves Sitoski, Brownfields: poems
Richard-Yves Sitoski, No Downmarket Oldies FM Station Blues

Jake Skeets, Eyes bottle dark with a mouthful of flowers / poems by Jake Skeets

Johanna Skibsrud, Island

Danez Smith, Homie

Ali Smith, Summer

Rebecca Solnit, Orwell’s Roses

Dani Spiotta, Wayward

Mirabai Starr, Wild mercy: living the fierce and tender wisdom of the women mystics  

Edward St. Aubyn, Double blind

John Elizabeth Stintzi, Junebat
John Elizabeth Stintzi, Vanishing Monuments

David Stones, sfumato: new and selected poems

Elizabeth Strout, Oh William!

Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain

Graham Swift, Here We Are

Arthur Sze, Sight Lines

Lisa Taddeo, Animal: a novel

Katie Tallo, Dark August

Jordan Tannahill, Liminal

Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Jeff Vandermeer, Hummingbird salamander

Katherena Vermette, The Strangers

Vendela Vida, We Run the Tides: A Novel

Sara Wainscott, Insecurity system: poems

Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

Natalie Zina Walschots, Hench: a novel

Jo Walton, Or what you will

Phoebe Wang, Admission Requirements

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Awakening the Sacred Body

Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing

Ruth Ware, The Turn of the Key

Marina Warner, Inventory of a life mislaid: an unreliable memoir

Bryan Washington, Memorial

Elizabeth Waterston, Railway Ties 1888-1920
Elizabeth Waterston, Plaid

Phyllis Webb, Selected poems: the vision tree

Pip Williams, The Dictionary of Lost Words: A Novel

Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs: Maisie Dobbs Series, Book 1

Kathleen Winter, Undersong

Peter Wohlleben, The Heartbeat of Trees: Embracing Our Ancient Bond with Forests and Nature

Elana Wolff, Swoon

Yi Lei, My name will grow wide like a tree: selected poems /; translated from the Chinese by Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi   Yi, Lei, author.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Prince of Mist

Julia Zarankin,            Field Notes from an Unintentional Birder: A Memoir

Lindsay Zier-Vogel, Letters to Amelia: a novel

Kathryn Aalto, Writing wild: women poets, ramblers, and mavericks who shape how we see the natural world 

Caroline Adderson, editor. The Journey prize stories: the best of Canada’s new writers

A very few comments

The foodie mystery series I love are by Louise Penny (of course!), in Québec Donna Leon in Venice and Martin Walker in Provence.

I love how books, movies and dreams find one another in corresponding themes.

Peter Kingsley, Reality: Profound and beautifully written. This book will shift your perception of the whole of Western culture from Plato on!

Portrait of a Lady on Fire: After reading Undersong, I watched Portrait of a Lady on Fire: so interesting on the female gaze sans men, the artist’s gaze. Marianne, a painter, and Héloïse, and the countess’s maid Sophie: Orpheus and Eurydice live! Director: Céline Sciamma

The Spanish Princess: Watched while reading Hilary Mantel’s Mantel Pieces: Royal Bodies and Other Writing from the London Review of Books. Her one word for Philippa Gregory: minced!

Feeling isolated? Then read Rumaan Alam’s Leave the World Behind, and you’ll feel much better. Or worse. How fiction plays out: in the Netflix movie, Denzel Washington will play his namesake, George Herbert Washington. Amanda even comments that they look alike: “Has anyone ever told you that?” Well, yes.😜

Reading Tanis MacDonald’s Mobile directly after Madhur Anand, This red line goes straight to your heart: a memoir in halves is a scrumptious act of apophenia: “gratuitous pattern-finding in random data”. How I loved the play of form in free fall, O bricoleuses! After Gavin’s death in September, I’ve been mired in bureaucracy and practicality, removed from poetry, even from reading. Then MOBILE! Mad MacDonald hurtled me back to poetry. “From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs, Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives, A way of happening, a mouth.” W. H. Auden, “In Memory of W. B. Yeats”. How I loved the Jane poems: Jacobs would have too! Tanis spun so many words in the air, O Juggler, that I caught the drift and wrote all that I could not say about this huge transition (well, a start…) So, gratitude for your verve, and hugs in the swerve~

I didn’t think much of Natalie Haynes’s-A Thousand Ships but enjoyed Pat Barker, The Women of Troy (Women of Troy #2): a feminist take indeed! Briseis: “elation is one of the many faces of grief…Like savages, we ingest our dead.”

Gary Barwin, Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy: Begin at high noon, as Motl might suggest, and you will be still reading long into the night, impelled by plot and even more by language to conclude. A picaresque, quixotic triumph.
Here’s celebrating all the balloons Gary keeps suspended in the air… and makes manifest! I must have known (but didn’t!) that it was your birthday, having started your novel on June 22, and then read that was the day the Nazis invaded Lithuania! It’s a master work, hovering between tragedy and the humour you bring to all your work… very like Indigenous writing in that good regard! The novel reads like Salmon Rushdie on a very good day in its exuberant inclusivity… but the writing is so much tauter than Rushdie’s rush, and it never totters. Nor does it falter in its picaresque but sure dash toward safety, somewhere, surely!
“those three dots in a row…Ellipses. They mean something’s missing. If you erase them, you have to put them back in to show you’ve erased them. We’re like that. We’re the absence of absence. We didn’t have a future, but we’re going there anyway.”

SJ Bennett, The Windsor Knot: Yep, watched The Crown. Speaking of the monarchy, I loved The Windsor Knot: the Queen at 90 as detective at Windsor Castle, portrayed as a Superior Being. The audio captures her clipped voice to perfection. Really fun and fascinating. A new series!

A.K. Blakemore, The Manningtree witches: a novel: I think you’d enjoy Alice Hoffman’s The Book of Magic: herbal fun and sweet plot. I followed it with A.K. Blakemore, The Manningtree witches: a novel. This book gives context and historical accuracy and is much better written and also heavier!

Nic Brewer, Suture: You think as an artist you sweat blood? SUTURE literalizes the metaphors! Should be on every creative writing course as a warning 😊

Completely wrapped up in Carol Bruneau’s Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel Inspired by the Life of Maud Lewis. Thanks for shining this light in dusty & dark corners. Such a tender, illuminating book! In this #pandemic, #publishing is tough & #selling #books even tougher. So when we #read something grand, it’s glorious to #SpreadTheWord! @ValueCdnStories

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Cathy Marie Buchanan, Daughter of Black Lake: It’s a marvellous re-creation of such little-known history! By chance (which means when the book is due back at the library!), after finishing Signe Pike’s The forgotten kingdom, I open the evocative, moving Daughter of Black Lake and couldn’t put it down. Women healers who foresee Roman invaders, a few centuries apart!

Catherine Bush, Blaze Island @goose_lane: On the BEST BOOK List! Oh & a mysterious birder searching for irruptions at the start of the marvellous Blaze Island novel :et in Newfoundland but with The Tempest ever present, including a young Miranda on a remote island. Thanks for this glorious, essential work that makes a riveting novel out of necessary science. Redolent, relevant, and haunting, it’s still gleaming in my mind. Have been recommending it to everyone.
We live in such synchronicity. The night before I began your novel, I dreamt: A sparkling blue lake and sunshine. I run along over the hills, looking for the Island out in the water, looking for the ferry. But have I overshot the city? There are no signs of anything urban, though I have trekked miles, back and forth over the terrain of woods and fields. Have I travelled back into a pre-colonial paradise? There’s no Indigenous presence either. Nothing human here disturbs the natural cycle. How shall I return to my friends? I’m happy here in this other dimension, but will I be able ever to step back?

One of the advantages of the Pandemic is how many of us are outside, even in the cold. And there are bald eagles in London ON, swooping down the river!

By chance, right after Blaze Island, I read Montreal fantasy writer Jo Walton’s Or what you will. Also playing with The Tempest and another Miranda:), it really bridges that mean-spirited gulf between genre and literary fiction (even if it needs a bit more tweaking). I think of Jung’s precognitive (what an interesting word, pre cognition!) apocalyptic dreams of a flood of blood, pre-WW1. We surely are herd animals, and thoughts of dread and fear sweep through into stampede. My work these days is to stay alert to what is mine and what is communal… to expand to a plane beyond fear into spaciousness.

Victoria Chang, Obit: I write down her name as Change.
“Who would want to speak prose over such poems,” cries Jorie Graham. Jorie Graham hosts today’s powerful readings live now and up later on https://www.youtube.com/c/TheBrooklynRail/videos
“The way we assume all tears taste the same. The way our sadness is plural, but grief is singular.”

For Black History Month, I read Maryse Condé, I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem.

Speaking of cattails, I loved Rachel Cusk’s new Second Place, , set in marchland: by far her most interesting and based on Mabel Dodge, D.H. Lawrence:)! And by far her most interesting and based on Mabel Dodge, D.H. Lawrence:)!

Delighted in the new Rachel Cusk, Second Place. Mabel Dodge and D.H. Lawrence:) in second place, second phase! Truly remarkable perceptions, by far her best work…. no longer that detached null-at-centre narrator of the trilogy. I think Cusk has learned from Joan Didion’s concision in remarking on the peripheral that has not yet been articulated! Fascinating re art, and the background Laurentian story…. Highly recommend Paul Fulcher ‘s reflections in Goodreads, comparing Second Place with Mabel Dodge Luhan’s Lorenzo in Taos. Dodge ‘s book has a new half-life, a palimpsest… a second Second Place, with a wet Norfolk marsh replacing dry New Mexico.
If you enjoyed Cusk’s trilogy, I can’t wait for you to read SECOND PLACE! Individually, I’d assign four stars to each of the three books. But they are so interesting as a formal whole, that five stars works.

Lauren B. Davis, Even So A paean to the Sisters of St. Joseph and the work they do!

Joan Didion, Let Me Tell You What I Mean

“We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the ‘ideas’ with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience,” Joan Didion

 “In many ways, writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It’s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions – with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating –there’s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space” Joan Didion, Why I Write

afterthought, the saddest story.’ Well, he would not have to fail at writing them, either.’”

the shimmer of her writing! I think Rachel Cusk has learned from Joan Didion’s concision in remarking on the peripheral that has not yet been articulated!

Delighted in this collection of essays, tracing “Why I Write”. You can breathe easily and trust Didion’s perspicacity, her wry wit and oblique perceptions that so clarify a worldview that is unflinching. To quote her on Hemmingway: “the very grammar of a Hemmingway sentence dictated, or was dictated by, a certain way of looking at the world, a way of looking but not joining, a way of moving through but not attaching”
“ ‘Now he would never write the things he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well,’ the writer in ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ thought as he lay dying of gangrene in Africa.

Reading the riveting and essential Cory Doctorow’s Attack Surface. The whole issue of moral compliance, complicity and compartmentalization, with Masha the expert in same. How to use one’s talents throughout life? “we weren’t trying to use technology to open up a space to change the system… to organize political change.” Afterword by Ron Deibert, Citizen Lab at U. of T.

Don Domanski, Bite down little whisper

As I write about Don Domanski’s Bite down little whisper I dream Don as tufted lynx! What a loss to the poetry community. But we have his words:
“Quietude is called returning to life Lao Tze says
…chocolate irises
gleaming outward from their arterial darkness
with the unborn standing high up in the trees
like cemetery angels
one finger pointing to heaven  the other to earth”

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Kim Echlin, SPEAK, SILENCE

What a powerful, lucent book to read as Canada mourns our own shame. Mothers and daughters, intergenerational trauma. Kim, your words are inscribed in me.

Kim Echlin’s SPEAK, SILENCE is essential reading. Long ago, I coined a neologism, SIOLENCE to express exactly what this book delivers, in its title and its text. SPEAK, SILENCE should be hollered to the mountain tops. Written in Kim Echlin’s lucent prose, SPEAK, SILENCE rings as clear as a bell, tolling for thee. Mothers and daughters, intergenerational trauma expressed with eloquent clarity and compassion. Listen to these women and you too will be inscribed by their stories.

Quotes that inspired me

“I am interested in metaphor, that is where I get my fix of transcendence,” Anne Enright, The New York Review of Books, February 20, 2021

“What if the fantasies of our childhoods, mixed in with childhood’s grief, are the obscuring coil around our adult lives?” Madeleine Thien

“Mêtis was the Greek term for cunning, skillfulness, practical intelligence; and especially for trickery. It was what could make humans, at the most basic and down-to-earth level, equal to the gods. Mêtis might sound like just another concept. But really it was the opposite of everything we understand by concepts. It meant a particular quality of intense awareness that always manages to stay focused on the whole: on the lookout for hints, however subtle, for guidance in whatever form it happens to take, for signs of the route to follow however quickly they might appear or disappear.” Peter Kingsley, Reality

Everything you might need to know about writing fiction! “Artists talk a lot about inspiration, but perhaps they ought to talk more about filing.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/oct/04/hilary-mantel-wolf-hall-mantel-pieces

“To be a poet is to have a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge.” George Eliot, Middlemarch

“In one direction, we’d reached the border at which clairvoyants stand gazing into the future, and in the other we’d gone backward to the zone where the present turns ghostly with memory and yet resists quite becoming the past.” Stuart Dybek, “Paper Lantern” #sundaysentence

“I have heard articulate speech produced by sunlight! I have heard a ray of the sun laugh and cough and sing!… I have been able to hear a shadow, and I have even perceived by ear the passage of the cloud across the sun’s disk!” Alexander Graham Bell #sundaysentence

“A poem is a finished work of the mind, it is not the work of a finished mind.”
Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle #sundaysentence

“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.” Antonio Gramsci #sundaysentence

“Does one become a visionary or, rather, is it not that one has been blind until then?” Alexandra David-Néel, Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929) #sundaysentence

All of a sudden he has that sensation he kept getting…an intense awareness of the spread of the dark countryside all around his house; a sense of being surrounded by a vast invisible web, where one wrong touch could shake things so far distant he hasn’t even spotted them.” Tana French, The Searcher #sundaysentence

“Leaves learn to fly at the end of their life.” Rilke

“I have a close relationship with silence, with things withheld, things known and not said.” Colm Toibin

2 thoughts on “Books Read and Recommended 2021

  1. Phyllis Tofd says:

    Thankyou for taking the time to compile the list of books that you have read in 2021. You must read very quickly.
    I also appreciated your comments on some of the books.
    I was glad to note that we both enjoy Louise Penney’s books. I also read State of Terror and enjoyed it.
    Cheers! Phyllis Todd

    Liked by 1 person

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