A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[URBAN NOTE] “A Carefully Curated Queen West Bookshop Takes Flight”

Torontoist’s Kate Fane reports on the interesting-sounded new Queen West bookstore Flying Books, run by a former book publisher who is curating collections.

In Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement address at the University of the Arts, he stresses the importance of establishing a mountain: a goal towards which you direct all your creative energies. When making career decisions, you have to weigh whether the path will take you closer or farther away from your mountain (regardless of salary) and then choose accordingly.

It’s an idea that keeps coming up during our conversation with Martha Sharpe, the owner of the newly opened Flying Books. Her mountain has always been discovering, polishing, and promoting excellent works of fiction, though her ascension hasn’t been without its setbacks. During her 12 years at House of Anansi press, she was credited with introducing the country to award-winning authors like Michael Winter and Lisa Moore. But after relocating from New York to take on the role of Editorial Director at Simon & Schuster Canada, Sharpe found herself laid off after just 11 months.

Sharpe’s now on a slightly different track to her peak, this time as a literary retailer who carefully selects each work she sells. And like with any responsible climb, she isn’t doing it alone. Flying Books is located inside the Weekend Variety, the “Cultural Gifts Shop” owned by gallerist Katharine Mulherin, whom Sharpe describes as a “community hub” unto herself.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 10, 2015 at 6:04 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes Uber competition could mean lower taxi rates.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the New Horizons data is starting to come in.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to some papers suggesting that the solar system is not exceptional.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the linkage between Enceladus’ surface features and its geysers.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel writes about efforts to convert Japanese in Hawai’i.
  • Language Hat links to an article on endangered languages.
  • Languages of the World reports on the complexities of describing the history of the Slavic laqnguages.
  • Marginal Revolution reports on the Syrian-Lebanese diaspora of Haiti.
  • Out of Orbit’s Diane Duane announces a new Young Wizards novella.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes the exceptional size of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
  • Spacing Toronto describes the complexity of education in inner-city Toronto.
  • Transit Toronto notes the repairs at Dupont Station.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the scale of the Russian HIV/AIDS epidemic.

[PHOTO] Milton Acorn and Gwendolyn MacEwen on the Toronto Islands

Yesterday was beautiful weather for visiting the Toronto Islands: hot, generally bright, with humidity spiking only into some sprinkles of rain. I circumnavigated the Islands from east to west, Ward’s Island to Hanlan’s Point. At Ward’s Island, among the houses, I visited a very new monument to Prince Edward Island-born poet Milton Acorn and his sometime partner and fellow poet Gwendolyn MacEwen. My parents had passed over the CBC report earlier.

Poets in memoriam #toronto #torontoislands #wardsisland #miltonacorn #gwendolynmacewen #poetry

The idea for the memorial came from Toronto’s current poet laureate George Elliot Clarke. He is a fellow Maritimer who is fond of the love story between these two.

“They met in Toronto. They had a brief marriage, their whirlwind love affair and both of them still went on to have very influential and very distinct literary careers in Canada,” said Candice McCavitt, the plaques and markers coordinator for Heritage Toronto.

The Heritage Toronto plaque will be located in a small park which is a short distance from their former home on Second Street on Ward’s Island.

Acorn and MacEwen lived there because it was one of the more affordable places to live in the city at that time.

Quill & Quire went into more detail, noting that the monument was at the intersection of Lakeshore Avenue and Second Street and identifying their home as 10 Second Street.

10 Second Street #toronto #torontoislands #wardsisland #miltonacorn #gwendolynmacewen #secondstreet

I think this is it.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 8, 2015 at 12:07 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly asks her readers what work means to them.
  • Centauri Dreams considers Saturn’s A ring.
  • Crooked Timber examines a mid-19th century horror story.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze reports on the circumstellar disks of supergiants in the Magellanic Clouds and on TW Hydrae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the Donbas war.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the interactions between science fiction and social media.
  • Geocurrents looks at Argentina’s north-south economic divide and examines controversial energy policies.
  • Joe. My. God. and Towleroad react to Kim Davis’ claims.
  • Language Hat considers spelling reform.
  • Language Log explains Obama’s strange Chinese nickname.
  • Languages of the World notes controversies over Spanish pronunciations.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes bootleg Soviet liquor in the Afghanistan war.
  • Marginal Revolution Looks at China’s surprisingly mixed experience of the 1930s and notes China’s weak growth prospects.
  • pollotenchegg maps language and identity in southeastern Ukraine in 1926 and finds continuities with the present.
  • Strange Maps depicts the distribution of refugees across Europe.
  • Towleroad notes the success of Truvada in preventing HIV infection.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes how people can claim religious exemptions on the job.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the solidarity of Belarusian soccer fans with Ukraine, notes the vulnerabiliy of Belarus to Russia, examines controversy over the Rail Baltica project, and wonders if the Donbas war will be to Russia what the Afghanistan war was to the Soviet Union.
  • Zero Geography celebrates the publication of a new book.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • The Big Picture shares photos from the European migrant crisis.
  • Crooked Timber takes issue with the writing of numbers on the arms of refugees.
  • The Dragon’s Tales updates readers on the war front and on the domestic mood.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a Tennessee judge who denied a straight couple’s divorce because of marriage equality.
  • Language Hat notes the perils of translating Alice in Wonderland with its rich wordplay.
  • Languages of the World considers the question of the identity of the Black Jews.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests the United Kingdom and Latin America should take on more Syrian refugees.
  • Spacing Toronto suggests Toronto can stand to learn from Philadelphia about preserving art in public spaces.
  • Torontoist maps the rooming houses of Toronto.
  • Towleroad follows the Kim Davis saga.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy warns of restrictive copyright law lurking in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the high male mortality in Russia and refers to a writer who compares Putin positively to Alexander Nevsky.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO shares photos of Yonge and Bloor from the 1960s.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin looks at trigger warnings in education.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that Barnard’s Star cannot support a massive planet in its orbit.
  • The Dragon’s Tales has more on the Ukrainian war.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog examines racism.
  • Far Outliers notes how the Ryukyus fared under American occupation.
  • A Fistful of Euros looks at the divergences of Spain and the United Kingdom interest rate-wise.
  • Geocurrents notes another small Kurdish-speaking sect.</li
  • Joe. My. God. notes an attempt to appeal the Irish marriage referendum.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe notes a 2016 conference on fictional maps in Poland.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a microhistory of a block in New York City.
  • The Power and the Money examines Ukraine’s debt negotiations and argues that Russia is not as big a player in global oil markets as it might like.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog and Window on Eurasia note how ethnic Russians in Ukraine are continuing to identify as ethnic Ukrainians.
  • Understanding Society considers realism in social sciences.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi talks about the Sad Puppies.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Tatarstan’s potential separatism and suggests some Russian Germans still want an autonomy.

[LINK] Three links on the past, present and future of science fiction

First comes an article by The Atlantic‘s Philip Eil, “The Unlikely Reanimation of H.P. Lovecraft”. After noting Lovecraft’s immense success in the early 21st century, he also notes the extent to which Lovecraft was racist, and to which Lovecraft’s racism drove his stories.

Lovecraft’s ascendance has also brought an uncomfortable truth into the spotlight: He was a virulent racist. The xenophobia and white supremacy that burble beneath his fiction (which may have gone unnoticed, had he remained anonymous) are startlingly explicit in his letters. Flip through them and you’ll find the author bemoaning Jews as “hook-nosed, swarthy, guttural-voiced aliens” with whom “association … was intolerable”; New York City’s “flabby, pungent, grinning, chattering niggers”; and New England’s “undesirable Latins—low-grade Southern Italians and Portuguese, and the clamorous plague of French-Canadians.” In 1922, he wrote that he wished “a kindly gust of cyanogen could asphyxiate the whole gigantic abortion” of New York City’s Chinatown, which he called “a bastard mess of stewing mongrel flesh.” In another letter, he wrote, “In general, America has made a fine mess of its population and will pay for it in tears amidst a premature rottenness unless something is done extremely soon.”

These writings leave Lovecraft fans in an uncomfortable spot. Leeman Kessler, who plays Lovecraft in the popular “Ask Lovecraft” YouTube series, has written an essay, “On Portraying a White Supremacist,” in which he says, “As long as I take money for playing Lovecraft or accept invitations to conventions or festivals, I think it is my moral duty to stare unflinchingly at the unpleasantness.” In 2011, the World Fantasy Award-winning novelist Nnedi Okorafor wrote a blog post calling attention to Lovecraft’s poem, “On the Creation of Niggers.” “Do I want ‘The Howard’ (the nickname for the World Fantasy Award statuette…) replaced with the head of some other great writer?” she wrote. “Maybe … maybe not. What I know [is] I want … to face the history of this leg of literature rather than put it aside or bury it.”

Last year, a petition demanding Octavia Butler replace Lovecraft as the face on WFA trophies received more than 2,500 signatures. A counter-petition soon followed, titled, “Keep the Beloved H.P. Lovecraft Caricature Busts (‘Howards’) as World Fantasy Award Trophies, Don’t Ban Them to be PC!” Similar exchanges play out regularly on the many social media pages dedicated to Lovecraft.

But as vexing as Lovecraft’s racism is for fans, his views are also one of the most useful lenses for reading his work. In March, Leslie Klinger delivered a lecture on Lovecraft at Brown University’s Hay Library, home to the world’s largest collection of Lovecraft papers and other materials. Toward the end of his remarks, Klinger—without excusing or defending Lovecraft’s racism—refused to separate it from his achievements. Lovecraft “despised people who weren’t White Anglo-Saxon Protestants,” he said. “But that powers the stories … this sense that he’s alone, that he’s surrounded by enemies and everything is hostile to him. And I think you take away that part of his character, it might make him a much nicer person, but it would destroy the stories.”

What responsibilities do his contemporary fans have?

Meanwhile, io9’s Rob Bricken has “The He-Man Movie Just Got a New Writer, and Here’s Why It Actually Matters This Time”.

There have been a lot of screenwriters hired to pen a live-action movie adaptation of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but none of theme have managed to turn the story of a tan, mostly naked barbarian/bodybuilding enthusiast for modern audiences. But I have high hopes for the newest writer to take it on.

It’s Christopher Yost, who penned Thor: The Dark World and the upcoming Thor: Ragnorak scripts for Marvel. I actually really like The Dark World, but even if you didn’t, Yost is also one of the masterminds behind the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, which was Marvel’s brilliant, shockingly overdue answer to Bruce Timm’s DC animated universe.

(I watched He-Man, in the 1980s. Even then I had no sense of it being anything lasting, or meriting revival.)

The Guardian‘s Richard Lea, finally, has “Science fiction: the realism of the 21st century”. Drawing from interviews with Kim Stanley Robinson, Alistair Reynolds, and Ann Leckie, Lea considers the role of realism in science fiction. What does it mean? I like Leckie’s take on the question.

Ann Leckie, whose Imperial Radch novels are set thousands of years in the future, says the distinction between plausible technology and the kind of hardware that is – in Arthur C Clarke’s memorable phrase – so advanced as to be “indistinguishable from magic” isn’t important for fiction.

“Even in real life I’m not certain the boundary is particularly solid,” she says. “The ‘indistinguishable from magic’ thing is highly dependent on where a viewer is looking from, and not something intrinsic to any particular sort of tech.”

Sometimes Leckie delves into the background of a technology to see what would make it work, and at other times simply tells herself “Yeah, I just want one of the variations on wormholes for interstellar travel, I’ll glue some glitter to mine,” but the starting point is nearly always, “What would make my story work the way I want it to”.

[. . .]

“I just put it all together in as artful a form as possible, in a way that will ask interesting questions, or illuminate the issues I’m pondering.” Leckie can hop over any gaps between currently achievable technology and what’s needed for the story and “go on with the adventure. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about that disjunct, of course, just that it’s not something that’s going to trouble me too much once I get going. I only need something to seem like it might mostly fit what we know, I don’t really need to worry too much about the details of how it might happen.”

By definition, Leckie continues, science fiction is concerned with science, but the demand for realism hides a host of assumptions about what’s real and whether fiction can convey objective reality.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 21, 2015 at 3:56 am


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