The scariest story ever written for your Halloween pleasure

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Totally unrelated to the text but a sort of spooky photo I happened to have on my phone.

“The pit and the pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe is, in my estimation, the scariest short story ever written. My choice of this story might have something to do with the fact that I was only seven or eight when I first heard it (wildly inappropriate campfire-story choice, YMCA summer camp leaders) and the terror of that first encounter with Poe’s lyricism and cadence has stayed with me. But don’t take my word for it. Here, in its entirety, for your Hallowe’en reading pleasure, is “The pit and the pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe.

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Please listen to Serial so we can trade conspiracy theories

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Searching my phone for a photo to accompany an unplanned blog post is always a fun exercise. Today you get a screenshot.

Serial isn’t a book but it is a piece of reporting (piece of art? piece of work?) that I am currently obsessed with because it is brilliant but no one else in my circle seems to be talking about it.

(What’s up Toronto friends? You’re too cool for pod casts now?)

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But why Jane Austen?

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Quite belatedly, I read The Jane Austen Book Club on my recent holiday. Ordinarily this is the sort of book I would never pick up but Karen Joy Fowler so charmed me with We are all Completely Beside Ourselves that I thought I was being a title snob and missing out on a good thing. And I got it as an ebook so I didn’t have to worry about others judging my reading material.

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But what if I am that kind of girl?

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I am sometimes cynical and that cynicism makes me suspicious of the success of people like Lena Dunham. I read the work other cynics (I’m looking at you Gawker); this adds to my suspicion of the success of people like Lena Dunham. So imagine my surprise at learning that Lena Dunham is intelligent, engaging, charming, funny and entirely deserving of her success. At last night’s reading and interview about Not That Kind of Girl at the Toronto Public Library I had a fantastic time listening to a smart and thoughtful person answer questions and I’m not afraid to say so.

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How to write a memoir, how to be a genius and other lessons from Questlove the Great

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This photo isn’t from a Roots show. I promise that I’ve been to both a Roots concert and to see Questlove DJ in the past six months, but I was too overcome by genius at both events to snap pics.

Is there anything better than a music man? I read Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s memoir Mo’ Meta Blues during my vacation last week and it confirmed the things I already thought about Questlove and The Roots. Questlove is a better musician than you are. He may not be as cool as you but he has access to cooler things and people than you do. He’s definitely smarter than you.

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Where’d you go?

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I’ve resisted reading Where’d you go Bernadette because of its popularity. Everyone knows popular books can’t be good. But I was on a beach holiday this week and the book is available in paperback (rare for literary fiction) so I picked it up, knowing that none of my travel companions was bookish enough to judge me for my choice.

Why didn’t you make me read this book ages ago you jerks?

Here is a list of reasons Red Brick Readers should have told me I was missing out on a good thing and a list of reasons you should read Semple’s best selling book if you are exactly like me.
1. The titular character is constantly making digs against Canadians. As a Canadian, I feel validated when mentioned in American publications.
2. The book is set in Seattle, where I visited earlier this summer. Reading books or watching films where I am familiar with the location makes me feel smug and worldly.
3. The main character is a high strung, slightly crazy, female genius. Sound like anyone you know? [me, obviously]
4. Physical comedy! There’s a bit with a mudslide knocking out a PTAish event. Gold.
5. The novel is (sort of) written in the epistolary style meaning I got to feel like I was creeping someone’s private correspondence which is a feeling I enjoy almost as much as smugness.
6. Humour at the expense of tech firm employees. Microsoft inferiority complex humour.

If I were using my serious voice today I would tell you how refreshed I was by Semple’s style or how much I enjoyed the mother-daughter relationship but I’m still on holiday so I’ll just tell you to get this book for the Canada jokes and stay for the PTA passive-aggression.

Bad wedding books to get you ready for some rough nuptials

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I love weddings! Last weekend I attended the wedding of my oldest friend. We laughed, we cried, we ate, we drank, we danced. Perfect. But not all nuptials are created equal. I once attended the wedding of a coworker who, days before the ceremony, hung up on his fiancĂ© and declared to me “I hate that bitch.”
At another wedding, the groom had been caught having a six-month affair with a teenage restaurant hostess the week before his big day. They decided to go through with the marriage and there were a lot of uncomfortable glances across the aisle that day.
I’m leaving today for a destination wedding. Destination weddings are awful enough (they’re never anywhere you actually want to go) but this one in particular is going to be awful. So to gear myself up, I’m listing books with weddings even more awful than the one that lies ahead of me.

Jane Eyre
There’s a reason that “speak now or forever hold your peace” line has gone out of fashion. Because if we’re being honest, there’s always an impediment, isn’t there?

The Age of Innocence
Loveless marriage? One of the best kinds of bad weddings.

Gone Girl
Do we talk about this book too much? The massive marketing campaign for the recent film has kept it top of mind and even if Nick and Amy’s wedding went smoothly, everything that came after did not.

Great Expectations
We couldn’t forget fiction’s most famous left at the altar story, could we?

A Song of Fire and Ice
And Miss Havisham thought she had it bad. George R. R. Martin is rarely kind to brides and grooms but the red wedding really takes the (wedding) cake.