Book Haul: The Remains of the Day

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

I was thrilled to find Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day at one of the charity book sales a couple weeks ago. I recently read one of his books for the first time (you’ll find out which one when I post a review sometime in the next 50 years) and it was great. But this is the famous one.

Again, a great example of how book sales can be a source of fun older editions, for a fraction of the cost of a new one. I’m always on the lookout for old Penguins.

Also, my browser has been changing “Kazuo” to “Kazoo” which I think is also a good name for a writer. Pynchon would approve.


Book Haul: Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

One thing I always look out for at charity book sales: classics I should already have. Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is a good example. I knew I should have a copy, but could never fork out $20 for a new one at the store (or even $10 for a used one).

This one cost $3, which is just about right, and I’m a sucker for retro paperbacks.


Book Haul: Two big sales in YYC

A stack of books on a desk, lit by a desk lamp

Every year, Calgary has two charity book sales in the same month, usually within a couple weekends of each other, and occasionally (as happened this year) overlapping on the same weekend. The first is the Servants Anonymous sale at Crossroads Market, and the second is the CBC Calgary Reads sale at the Calgary Curling Club. Last weekend I went to both of them. Continue reading “Book Haul: Two big sales in YYC”

9. The Lottery and Other Stories

Shirley Jackson book, The Lottery and Other Stories, sitting on a bed of stones.

Shirley Jackson


“The teacher spanked a boy, though,” Laurie said, addressing his bread and butter. “For being fresh,” he added, with his mouth full.

Around eight years ago I was dutifully reading my way through an anthology called The Art of the Short Story, edited by Dana Gioia. I sometimes forget it now, but this book was a great supplementary education, even for somebody who had ostensibly begun to study literature. I’d recommend it to anyone. It was here that I first encountered “The Overcoat” by Gogol, “The Dead” by Joyce, and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman, to name some. Among all of the gems in this collection, slotted between Zora Neale Hurston and Henry James, was a story by an author I had not heard of until then. The editor’s introduction noted that, after this story was first published in The New Yorker in 1948, the magazine received more letters from readers—most of them puzzled or upset—than they had received for anything else they had ever printed. That alone is an intoxicating fact to carry into a story, and like seemingly everyone else who reads “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, I was horrified and delighted, and probably uncomfortable about the ancient tribal reflex that it stirred faintly within me. Continue reading “9. The Lottery and Other Stories”

8. Gravity’s Rainbow

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, Penguin Edition

Thomas Pynchon


Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.

You’re confused, and you’re supposed to be. You’re lost, but not for lack of information: if anything there’s too much, covering more abstruse topics in more detail than you ever wanted. No, it’s something else: the shrouded logic, the elusive plot, the expansive setting over which the action spreads like a Poisson distribution across the maddening globe. There’s nothing to guide you. Yet a few signals make it through the chaos, and they all point to a single image that unites everything, the central enigma of Gravity’s Rainbow: the Rocket. Continue reading “8. Gravity’s Rainbow”

More on Rachel Carson, and blog updates

The Sea
The seaside.

PBS recently put out a fantastic documentary on Rachel Carson. Watch it to learn more about her life:

American Experience: Rachel Carson

I wish I had seen this before I published my last review. For one thing, I was mistaken to suggest that Silent Spring was the breakthrough work of an unknown civil servant. Her previous book, The Sea Around Us, from 1951, was a bestseller. By the time Silent Spring was published over ten years later, Rachel Carson was already a known and beloved chronicler of the natural world. Continue reading “More on Rachel Carson, and blog updates”

7. Silent Spring

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson


The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized.

Fifty-five years ago a voice emerged to report on a little known and unromantic cause: environmental destruction due to chemical pesticide use. Rachel Carson wrote a steady and meticulous essay, calling for environmental protection with a keen feeling for the damage being wrought on the world’s ecosystems, and confidence that her readers would share in her outrage. Her book Silent Spring was not only a well-researched polemic—it was also an ode to the natural world as she saw it: a wonder of complexity, a system of checks and balances in which every piece was necessary to the health of the whole. Carson’s descriptions of environment and biology broke new ground in popular writing on science and are still some of the finest examples of the genre. She shows us nature as a delicate machine, which, if tampered with, can run itself into grotesque and alarming shapes. Recklessly transforming the natural world, she wrote, would have effects on humanity that could last generations. With its enormous popularity, Silent Spring kick-started the environmental consciousness of a nation and, along with the ensuing denials and smears from the chemical industry, sparked a new phase of the never-ending battle between commerce and the defenders of a clean and hospitable planet. Continue reading “7. Silent Spring”