Monday, January 14, 2008


O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows,
As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

Juliet James McEntyre - January 9th, 3:46 am. 7lbs, 3oz.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Book Review: Blindness – Jose Saramango

Recommended to me over a year ago by a friend, this book idled on my wishlist overly long. A truly stunning work of imaginative fiction, it should be experienced by all. Since I know you’ll be running out to the store to buy it right away, I’ll keep the synopsis spare: everyone goes blind and all hell breaks loose.

Like so much disaster literature (apocalyptic, dystopian, war, holocaust, Russian) the revealing bits are not so much the events or scenarios but how the people react to the atrocities. And I find it fascinating to see how quickly relatively stable social institutions break down when the animal spirit dominates. Surely everyone has pondered their behaviour under duress: who would you take with you in a fire, would you throw yourself in front of a bullet for your lover, would you starve to feed your child, would you kill, who? Saramango has the answers. And most of them are disappointing.

While the style seems intimidating, there are no quotes or paragraphs, just page after page of square blocked text, he is such an adept writer that it doesn’t seem cumbersome. Plus there is a very clever conceit revealed about the style which makes it all the more rewarding.

I understand that after many years of rebuffing Hollywood advances this book is finally being made into a film and by talented people too. It will make a great movie, I have no doubt. There is a great deal of nudity, dirty sex (literally), violence, horror, and plenty of occasions for strong acting moments. But because the truly stunning moments of the novel are inward looking, fans will be well served to spend a couple of hours alone with it before it gets laid out for them. It would seem fitting too that a story about the blind be heard rather than seen. Call me. I’ll read it to you.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Political Update

In light of this being an election year and all, people have probably been wondering where I stand on the issues. Specifically and of most immediate importance is the age-old Westcoast vs. Eastcoast Hip Hop issue. In fact, amid all the indie rock and electro pop I’ve been pushing on my wife and friends, I too had begun to lose sight of myself.

But this last weekend, I was able to put it all to a test. Due to a series of stereophonic mishaps, I found myself facing a long solo drive down the 401 without any music.

(The 401 is the number that designates the Trans-Canadian Highway. The most frequently trafficked stretch of this four lane highway is that between Montreal and Toronto and it is to this particular long, strait, ugly stretch that most mean when they refer to the “401”. Newly renamed the Highway of Heroes in honour of the Canadian Veterans returning in one way or another from battles abroad, it is also occasionally referred to as “the armpit of Canada”. I’ve always felt that “Canada’s Grundle” is a more apt analogy, both for its better inference of the look and feel of the highway and for the parts that it joins.)

So I zipped to HMV and picked up a whole deck of new albums for examination on my trip. My selections were pretty broad, but knowing how pressing your interest on my rap geopolitics, I got right into the hip hop, and loud. Back-to-back I played new albums from Snoop and Nas, and let mid-western mid-tempo Kanye play referee. Without suspense, I’ll tell you that as good as Snoop and his (many, many) friends may be, there is simply no comparison. I am still Eastcoast. Stark, mean, licks of jazz and hard rock, Nas and the New York sound are for me.


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Book Review: A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway wrote simply and beautifully and was an asshole.

In his posthumously published memoir, A Moveable Feast, Hemingway writes about his time as a struggling artist in Paris in the 1920s. In his stark, almost childish style he offers up a rather detailed series of vignettes of his life and times there and they were wonderful. Some are poignantly sad, some are quite funny, and some are downright bitchy. All are staggeringly self-aggrandizing.

It is clear to me that as much as the world has loved Hem, no one could love Hem as much as Hem did. His best times were when he was alone, walking the deserted streets of the city. Or fishing, smoking. Or at the track, betting. Or skiing, and climbing. Hem was no team player. His worst times were when someone interrupted him. In many a scene he proudly recounts how he berated some idiot for even sitting at the same café where he worked. And there were plenty of idiots.

And so it was with great ambivalence that I motored through this little book because truly, he writes beautifully. There is complete clarity of message. No room for nuance, whatsoever. Which, if you think about it, only contributes to the arrogance: not a single word is hedged; without adjectives, nothing is modified. It was as I say it was. It is as I say it is. I do what I say I do.

In addition to the anecdotes of his friends and lifestyle (oysters, bookstores, cafes, banging models, skiing with the rich, talking about art with Gloria Steinem, and bopping around in a topless convertible with an effete and desperately drunk F. Scott Fitzgerald) he talks a great deal about writing. How he feels about it, how he did it, where he did it, why he did it. And it is in these passages that pretense and romanticism are finally shed. It makes them less sensational, but there is a palpable sense that he’s finally telling the truth.

The truth is a theme that comes up a great deal when he talks about writing. He feels that the truer you write, the better you write. So if truth is the essence of writing, and the truth is always accessible to you if you really look hard enough, then good writing will always be there.

Vaguely addressing writers block and why it’s simply never been a problem for him, he says: Whenever I am not sure where the next story will come from, I simply sit down and force myself to write one true sentence. Once that sentence is there, the rest will follow.

So I tried it. See above. He was right.

(To be fair to the man, I do understand from subsequent reading that his fourth wife, Mary, had a heavy hand in editing his nearly finished work going as far as to outright cut a lengthy apology to his first wife, Hadley. Perhaps Mary trimmed some of the humility too, but somehow I doubt it.)