An American Tail: Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya

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.

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A booklist for the ladies of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

UnknownI’m late with this post. You’ve all been talking about Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. for a year and I just read it last week because sometimes it’s exhausting reading about people who are exactly like the people you’re around everyday.  So, a year after its release, there’s not a lot I can offer in terms of original thought on the text.

I liked it; appreciated the well drawn characters, loved the kale jokes, but you’ve heard all that from any number of reviewers already.  I also don’t want to talk about Nate at all because he’s a dumb jerk and his whole persona is a little too close to home. I live in a hip literary centre too and there are always Nates around and devoting attention to Nates is like feeding gremlins after midnight. So let’s talk about books instead. Let’s talk about the wonderful female characters of Adelle Waldman’s novel and try to understand them a little bit better by what we imagine their book choices to be.

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The Strand Bookstore

imagesIf we want to talk about independent bookstores, we should probably start with the North American grande dame of them.

A bookstore with a unionized work force of over 200 people?

A bookstore with an entire floor devoted to the arts?

A bookstore that still utilizes the $1 cart by the front door?

The Strand has you covered. The catch, if you consider it one, is that these are used books. The Strand’s buyers are careful about condition and I don’t mind someone else’s inscription of my frontispiece if it means paying half of the cover price for a recent release. The place is huge and crowded but well organized and staffed by an army so the shopping experience is more Indigo and less used-book charity shop. Continue reading