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'Tis been a quiet day - which will likely become an increasing rarity in the months ahead, and so all the more precious. The busy season started early at work.

Anyway, in my continuing struggle to get all these to-review books off my pile, here's another from the Non-Fiction pile - The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald, an exposé of the religious right in Canada and their power within the Harper government.

Review continues - is there even such a thing as a non-fiction spoiler...?Collapse )
As usual, poking my head up for a rare update. A few more friends dropped LJ apparently forever, so it was easier to catch up this time.

(I think I'll stay. The great exodus has left the writers, and that's not a bad crowd. Even if I'm bad with the updates, it's worth being here.)

Most who are still here know about the death of Jack, which has been the big unhappy event. I didn't know him well - I had the pleasure of working with him a handful of times briefly, and I really admired his work.

Jack Layton really was as nice in real life as he was on camera. He only saw me a handful of times across the years, but - in spite of the thousands he met - he always remembered me, and remembered I was bad with crowds. Four months before he was dead, he was checking up on me. Funny, isn't it?

They used to say that Robert Stanfield was the best prime minister Canada never had. That title's been officially ceded.

Other than that, my own life has been going quite well. I increased my writing input, and I'm prepping myself mentally for a massive send-out to pretty much any Canadian publishing house I think might accept. That'll likely happen in October.

I've had a social life lately, too. Most recently at jenjoou's wonderful party on Saturday.

A lot of friends have been going through bad times, but because my own life's been going well I think I've been able to be there for most of them.

Anyway, for today's review, The King Must Die by Mary Renault.

Review continues, with some spoilersCollapse )
Bonne Saint-Jean à toutes et tous !

So the next book on the pile is Elsa Gidlow's autobiography, Elsa: I Come With My Songs. Which, in spite of its atrocious title, is actually a rather good book.

I don't read a lot of biography. I tend to prefer the little lies that add up to truth of fiction than the little truths that add up to lies of biography. So I have little to compare it with.

It's hard anyone not liking this book. Eighty years of observation of lesbian life, told in a fun and bouncing way. She can get moralistic and heavyhanded, but since I agree with most or her morals, this usually wasn't a problem for me. She jumps around a lot as well, and has a flair for the (melo)dramatic and occasional purple prose. But that's it for the bad.

Well, that and her poetry. She was nominally a poet, but I find nine-tenths of her stuff unreadable.

She begins in a suburb of Montreal which was then a village, where she found the Goddess among the trees at a very early age. Then there's the gradual realization she's a lesbian, her discovery of the community in the 1910s in Montreal, the roaring '20s in New York, her travels in Europe on the eve of World War II and glimpses of the lost gay world in Germany. She moves on to political battles and the commune she helped to found near San Francisco, and her involvement in Taoist and Druidic communities.

(Interesting, she omitted an entire early battle for control of the Amateur Journalist's Association against none other than H.P. Lovecraft. I had to dig that one up. Lovecraft hated her, and he and his buddies staged a coup to wrest the group from her - no mention of that, though. I wonder if it still stung, or if she'd forgotten it?)

I've been mining this book for my website, which after a long hiatus, I've begun digging into again. Her book is such a wealth of information, I'd almost forgotten how I did research before I could use it as a jumping-off point - there is almost nothing for this period aside from her book, and it's an insider's view. I'm almost going to have to re-learn, when my final installment based on it goes up in the coming weeks.

Well worth the read, for understanding the ages she lived, and her community, and our history, and a little bit more of this mostly-forgotten-but-fascinating character.
Happy (belated) Midsummer/Solstice/Litha to those who celebrate it, and happy first day of summer to those who don't.

I did my usual high-speed catch-up on LJ. Which is why some of you have spammed inboxes today :)

I keep meaning to review books I have in an ever-growing stack on my desk. One that really deserves more than the short shrift it's going to get is Douglas Coupland's Generation A. I believe this to be his best book. In fact it pretty much gathers together the best of his other work in one delicious, richly-written piece, and leaves the dross. So if you only ever read one Coupland, this is it.

It's a short, simple novel of a likely dystopian future - one where "Colony Collapse Disorder" has wiped out the bee population. Most flowers are dead. Most kinds of fruit are rare delicacies. As the novel progresses, the dystopia deepens, and even worse horrors are in the offing.

In the midst of this, five strangers are stung by the supposedly-extinct bee. They're isolated, studied, and strangely become friends. They wind up on Haida Gwaii, where they start to piece together the mystery of what happened to them, to figure out how they got there and where they're going.

After years of mid-quality and poor-quality efforts, Coupland's more than back in form with this one. He restricts his obsession with ripping plotlines from the headlines to just the bee extinction, so it doesn't feel like he's just cribbing Yahoo News to flesh out his books. The iciness and callousness of his later work isn't here. This one is sensitive, intelligent, and the themes and plot and character are all rich and engaging.

More than that I couldn't say without giving too much away. Except that it's highly recommended.
'Tis not been all bad, I should hasten to add. I've been doing well in other ways. Better that I'm now mostly recovered from he election.

I finished a draft of the novel re-write. Editing proceeds apace, and I'll be sending it out by the end of the year.

Healthier, too. I discovered I lost 125 pounds in the last two years.

So, yeah. Things have been going very well locally for me. Now only if the national situation would fall into place with it.
So, yeah. No dancing in the streets.

It almost was. The Orange Wave swept Quebec - and to a lesser degree, the rest of Canada. But it wasn't quite fast enough outside this province. One more week of election, and we would have likely replaced the Liberals and formed the government. But now we're flash-frozen at a moment of the campaign, and our primitive electoral system has handed absolute power to Harper with 40% of the popular vote.

And I mean absolute power. Our prime minister has total control over the bureaucracy, implementation of policies, the military, judicial and Senate appointments, and can even make laws that violate the equality provisions constitution with a majority. Worse, a great many of his people are extreme-right evangelicals who spent the campaign masquerading as fiscal conservatives. We don't know how many, but certainly the majority of them.

Common wisdom is that Harper is going to move slowly to solidify his gains, and whittle away at Canada bit by bit. The extremists in his party have been muzzled a long time, though, with promises that they had to wait until they have a majority government. Well, they have it. They want an end to abortion. They want (at least) an end to same-sex marriage. Some believe Canada is courting their God's wrath by even letting homosexuality be legal. We won't know how many until the Trojan Horse opens.

It's their time now, as they see it. And they'll turn on their leader if he doesn't throw them some fresh meat. They're already making noises.

So that's it. Meanwhile, the media thinks the big story is that a single, unwed mother dared to win a seat for the NDP without even campaigning. The bestselling novel this year in Canada - and winner of one of our two most prestigious prizes - was about a grizzled old Scottish engineer doing just that for the Liberal party. The media and the pundits said that that's just what we needed. Apparently it's different when it's a single mother and bar manager winning for the NDP. Being elected while poor and female is an unforgivable sin.

I've been a zombie for weeks because of this. I'm beginning to get back on my mental feet, and I'll I've been able to do is talk politics for weeks. Now I'm sick of it.

So that's how it is with me. It cast a pall over my birthday :/

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May. 1st, 2011

Happy Beltane for those who celebrate it!

I wanted to post at length about the election - I have an excuse for being scarce, for once! - but as the election has eaten my life, I've had no time to.

Most of my Canadian friends are either just on Facebook, or here and on Facebook. The few of you who aren't missed an awful lot of wonderful spam on my part, about polls (within the margin of error, says Ekos today), and how the NDP actually has a good fiscal policy record.

Most of my LJ friends are not Canadian, though, and the politics of another country are probably boring. I will say it's by far the most exciting election I've ever been in, and one way or another it's going to reshape this country and probably for the good. It's been an election like elections in feel-good movies, not like elections in real life.

If you wake up on Tuesday, and there's a story in your country about how the social-democrat NDP party has taken power for the first time in our history - and there's a 50/50 chance of that happening now - know that there will be dancing in the streets. And know I'll be part of it :)
Quiet weeks. Lots of work, lots of writing. There is an election going on, but I've been working on it a lot less than I expected.

(There's only so much a person with problems with strangers and crowds can do for an election campaign. I've hung a few signs, done a little data entry, vacuumed a campaign office - and that's it so far.)

We're once again going to the polls to see if we can dislodge he worst prime minister we've ever had. The polling stats for the different parties are roughly where they were last time, though there are so many close races that a few numbers one way or the other can make a lot of difference.

I'm really hoping that non-voters will get more engaged, or that Harper will make some misstep that finally defeats them - though given all he's already done, it's hard to imagine what that would be.

In other election news, a CBC show this morning discussed scientific evidence that people vote more based on a politician's looks than their ideas. Anyone who thinks that applies to Canada has never seen photos of our leaders.

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So I really should get to the massive pile of reviews I have, here.

The next thing on the pile is Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. A video game.

There's not much I can say about it that wouldn't spoil this brilliant work of art - and it is a work of art. And that would be a tragedy for such a perfect plot.

Non-spoilery reviewCollapse )

In other news, the Canadian government will almost certainly fall today. That means an election. Here's hoping we can dislodge the worst prime minister in Canadian history.
I just wanted to wish a Happy Ostara to those who celebrate it, and a happy first day of spring to those who don't.

It's been a few weeks of minor frustrations as I try and get in the groove of re-writing the novel (again). It's always hard in the early days, and this time there are so many changes. I am trying my best not to get discouraged.

But then I look out at the news, and I realise a lot of people have a lot worse than I do. Half our exchange students in the school I work in come from countries that have been often in the news lately. I don't think any of them are going to want to go home anytime soon.

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