Are there three words in the English more disheartening than “no unplayed episodes,” (maybe “you have gonorrhoea,” but only by a hair)? After twelve weeks of hand-wringing episodes from the podcast Serial, I found myself, at the end of December, without a mystery to solve. The series had ended and a new season wouldn’t be coming for at least a year. This was particularly disconcerting because my job provides two weeks of holiday for Christmas and the New Year so I would be waiting in airports, taking long car rides, going for leisurely runs through the city, all without the benefit of Sarah Koenig to keep my brain busy.
Don’t you hate it when someone [who is more talented than you] comes up with an idea that you know you could have done something great with [though probably not as great as they thing they did with it because they are more talented than you] but they came up with it first? This is just like the time Kanye released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy so I had to shelve my own album-length contemplation of black male angst. Megan Mayhew Bergman’s decision to write a collection of short stories about women who were on the edge of [capital I] Importance feels like that to me.
Fifteen years into the twenty-first century and BBC Culture is trying to get the lay of the (literary) land. They asked several dozen book critics to name the best English-language novels published since the turn of the century. The brief and wondrous The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz was ranked first by the critics, meaning that all is right with the world. Diaz is a magician with language, story and character and this choice by the critics cements the fact that book people>movie people. Hear that Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? We don’t need your sprawling epics, formulaic biopics or chest-thumping war tales. We just want stories about genuine-seeming people, told beautifully.
“Some kinds of pain make fine antidotes to others.” That’s a quote from Merritt Tierce’s debut novel Love me Back as well as the entirety of the novel captured in one sentence. I don’t imagine I’m anything like Merritt Tierce; the Iowa Writer’s Workshop alum who finished her undergraduate degree at the age of nineteen is certainly smarter and more motivated than me, but we do share a history spent in restaurants. If you haven’t been there, worked a line, tended a bar, served a table, then you probably think it’s a small thing Tierce and I have in common but I assure you it’s not.
There’s a ‘Polish Yellow Pages” for the Greater Toronto Area. 200 pages for business listings of all types. Ostensibly, it’s to promote the growth of business that are operated by Polish immigrants. Practically, it’s a tool for Polish people to use to find business so they don’t have to worry about being cheated by a stranger. A Pole who shares your homeland is never a stranger and so is always trustworthy. When I was ten, my dad hired a Ukrainian guy to do the floors in our house. The Polish guy just couldn’t match the Ukrainian’s rate. Months later, my dad discovered that a wrench was missing from his set in the garage.
“It was the Ukrainian,” he cursed. For years, he talked about the wrench and the theft he had suffered for letting a stranger into his house. We found the wrench on the floor of the garage when my parents moved out of that house. No matter. The lawyer who handled the real estate transaction for the sale of that house was from the Polish yellow pages. It’s the exact sort of thing that would have infuriated Pasha, the hapless poet at the centre of Panic in a Suitcase.
Good year for pop art in Toronto. The TIFF Bell Lightbox just announced that they’ll be mounting an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s works and personal artifacts drawn from Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. I’m calling this a book event because the exhibition will include his personal scrapbooks and other manuscript material (and also because I’m the boss around here).
This exhibition will come on the heels of a large scale exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario so it’s generally an awesome year to be here if you love contemporary art and very cold weather.
The exhibition will run from October 20, 2015 to January 24, 2016.
The English translation of Valeria Luiselli’s essay collection Sidewalks is a slim volume that you can finish in an afternoon or on a couple of commutes to and from your job in the city. You’ll be sad to see it end when you look back out the streetcar window at a place less beautiful than what Luiselli describes in her book. Because you are more mature than me, your first thought won’t be “oh cool, another successful work of creativity by someone younger than I am.” You’ll probably just think you want more.