Showing posts from May, 2016


Oliver Sacks, Gratitude. Knopf, 2015.

I found this jewel, Gratitude by Olliver Sacks, at Mother Theresa's, one of the dozen or so used goods / charity shops within walking distance of my new place. In perfect condition, with good hand. Does that phrase apply to something as solid as a book with French cover as it does to fabric? Whatever. It feels wonderful. And the simple words inside are so inspirational.
When I moved here, into a condo in Chilliwack, a small city, out of my house in the woods of Hope where I had been happily ensconced for 20 years, I had an unsettling feeling of a kind of "sky burial" high on the top floor, looking at the mountains to the northwest and northeast. A feeling that this will be my last home and, love it as I already do, I don't really want to think of leaving, leaving it, along with the planet. Maybe I'm just missing my friends, and our artsy ritual routines of coffee, lunch, books, walks, Scrabble. Of course, leaving is inevitable.…

Visiting Hours

Shane Koyczan's Visiting Hours. House of Parlance, 2005.

I found this gem at Nuggets in Chilliwack. Can it be fifteen years since I first heard this name, Canada's new voice, when haiku-poet friend Chuck Brickley suggested that we invite Shane to Hope? This was shortly after Koyczan had won the National Poetry Slam Individual Championship for performance poetry. (I think it was in San Francisco but I can't confirm this.) Alas, although Hope is on the road between Vancouver and Penticton, the invite never went anywhere. One of life's regrets. Then in 2004 or '05 I attended an evening poetry slam at Cafe Deux Soleils, on Vancouver's Commercial Drive. Shane performed a piece about body image and sex. Alas again, that night, a much older woman named Irene won with her piece about infidelity, adultery, and STDs. Then in 2010, the world met Koyczan through his participation in the Vancouver Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies. Then a friend found his CD. I must admit, …

Riding the Skyline

M. Allerdale Grainger, Riding the Skyline. Horsdal & Schubart, 1994.

I bought this slim volume at Baker's Books in Hope. It is part of his local interest collection, the Skyline being the name of a mountain ridge and trail in the Cascades east of Hope.

M. Allerdale Grainger was a Cambridge University graduate who came to BC during the gold rush of 1897. He worked for the provincial government Forest Branch, as Chief Forester from 1916 to 1920, "before following his predecessor, H.R. MacMillan, into the lumber business." [intro, p vi] Grainger worked in an office in Vancouver and escaped by rail into the Cascade Mountains around Princeton every weekend that he could. Mrs Grainger accompanied her husband perhaps one or two weekends a year to the rustic cabin on a friend's ranch. Grainger kept records of his horseback riding adventures in the drafts of articles and in letters written to relatives and friends, including a Mr Denny in England. Travels to Colorado and th…

The Casual Vacancy

May 15, 2016

J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. Little, Brown, 2012.

My first reaction upon getting "into" this 502-page novel about one small town in England is awe. Awe. Wonder. Admiration at how much this writer knows about the inner workings of teenagers -- the beautiful, the popular, the jocks, the nerds, the abused, the cutters -- and how she rocks these young people in the ripples caused by the death of one man in one small pond. Pagford, hours from London, smaller and more conservative than neighbouring Yarvil, is dominated by the ruins of an ancient abbey and a fractious parish council. The death of Councillor Barry Fairbrother leaves "a casual vacancy" to be filled by an election of someone favouring one of the two camps -- the Mollison/Pagford complacents or the Fairbrother/Jawanda hopefuls. And the community is set atwitter by the hacked comments on the district website whispering, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, things the listeners in their h…

Kerouac's Ghost

May 5, 2016

Ken McGoogan's Kerouac's Ghost

Ken McGoogan's novel Kerouac's Ghost is about passing the baton. You know that scene at the end of The Tempest when Prospero hands his magic wand to the next generation. As does Morag Gunn at the end of The Diviners? In Kerouac's Ghost, it is ten months after Jack Kerouac has died (in St. Petersburg, Florida, October, 1969). Kerouac has been researching an acceptable biographer and now his ghost, like that of Hamlet's father, visits young Frankie McCracken. "I am not happy," he implies. "There is something I want you to do for me." An annunciation, of sorts, up there, in a fire lookout tower in the Canadian Rockies, where the ghost Jack explains to Frankie all the reasons why he is "the chosen one."
Personally, I was a few years too young to have been bitten by the Kerouac bug, the groupies hitching to Haight-Ashbury with battered copies of On the Road in their backpacks, stumbling towards e…