Vanity Fair

On Friday, I decided to end my work day with a walk downtown for a much-needed haircut.  It’s always a pleasant experience for me at Icone Coiffure.  Brenda Desmarais has been cutting my hair for approaching ten years now  – it’s a sure thing.

Another sure thing is that afterwards I take the Sainte Catherine street route home.  Contrary to my wife, Carol, I really like visiting the shops.  So I went that way.

I must say I was disciplined to walk right on by the audio shop where I most recently purchased a centre speaker for my home theatre system.  I considered whether I should look at the next possible addition to the home theatre system, but, like I said, I was disciplined and stayed away on the other side of the street.

Immediately after, I crossed over the street for the H & M store where they promised special one-day only bargains.  H & M specializes in cheap fashion.  When I found the men’s ware – moved from the top floor to the basement floor I thoroughly investigated. I tried on one dark green shirt – seeing if it would go with the dull green pants I was wearing and also enjoined a blue shirt and similarly coloured T-shirt.  Trying them on was a revelation.  Not a pleasant one – my belly, which Carol used to comment on as “cute” now was making me take a pledge to cut down on the food that I’m eating as well as maintaining the winter skating and skiing.  So I decided to leave H & M with no purchase.

Next block – H.M.V.  The liquidation signs in the window were real.  Montreal is losing its last dedicated music store – I mean for CD’s and now DVD movies and TV series and concert DVDs and all kinds of frivolous music and movie merchandise.  I really thoroughly looked through DVD’s.  (Why would I want to own a movie or TV series when I can stream it on demand?)  Descended to what was left of the music industry on CD’s in the basement.  (Why would I want to own music on CD when I can have anything I want for $10 per month on Spotify?).  Left H.M.V. with nothing but a mild depression about the limited revenues left to artists (like Jireh) from recorded music.

When I skate or ski, there is nothing better than to have the right clothing for staying outdoors comfortably for hours.  Decided I might need a better toque and sought to fill that need at Sports Experts.  Up to the third floor where I found where they were hiding winter apparel.  Contemplated the high prices and inadequacy of the toques available.  Looked at high quality long underwear.  You can never have too much of this stuff.  Prices in line with what I might have spent at the audio store.  Decided that the old-fashioned Stanfield long johns that I got from dad were retro-cool.  Left this store down the stairs (they were renovating the escalator) with nothing.  Woops – why do I still have this knit neck warmer still in my hands.  Back up to return it….and exit with no purchase, and no criminal record.

I had a reason to go into Indigo Books, but I don’t recall at the moment what it was.  They have some reasonably-priced books…$6 or so and I looked through those.  Remembered when it used to take a lot longer for this sale browse.  Remembered when I used to occasionally buy books before the e-books at the library became so conveniently available on my iPad.  Similar reflections about the limited revenues left to writers as I had in the H.M.V. store about recorded music.

Then I left Sainte Catherine street and went inside to the parallel underground inter-connected malls.  I can’t remember stopping much here.  Briefly in Winners – but they had no winter-ware.  Into the McGill metro station skipping the last couple of malls and then a brief last chance past racks of clothes in the men’s section at the Bay, up the elevator and north toward home.

At the supermarket just 2 blocks from home I refreshed my memory of my earlier belly-reduction resolution and didn’t buy the 10 lb. bag of potatoes for $2.49 or any of the clearance baked goods.  A bag of quick oatmeal and a can of coconut milk (Kayin’s rice cooked in coconut milk made an impression) and I was on my way home.

Some excellent reading & music

Texture magazines

This morning, in my long run which effectively completes my training for the half marathon in Montreal on September 25, I ran with my Eers earbuds in playing this week’s Discover Weekly playlist put together by Spotify.  This is exceptional for me to run with music but since I needed to stretch my distance out and I would be running alone for two hours without a companion, I thought that doing this to jazz music would help “diminuer les ennuies”.  And so it did – I finished 16 km of running with 8 songs left still unplayed in the 30 song playlist.  If you use Spotify, clicking on the previous link will open up the playlist that I enjoyed this morning.

After returning home and being greeted as a hero by Carol for accomplishing such a distance (my training for this major run next Sunday has been, admittedly, spotty, I showered, brunched (oh, how I love running for the way that it makes everything taste better) and then rested my weary bones with some reading.  In a similar manner that I use Spotify to find any and all music that I want to listen to, just this week, I signed up for the magazine service put out by Rogers which gives me unlimited access to a whole panoply of magazines.  My iPad is the ideal device to read on.  I have these magazines listed as My Favourites: Bicycling; Canadian Business; Canadian Cycling; Canadian Running; Consumer Reports; L’actualité; National Geographic plus these from same publisher – History, & Traveller. Continuing: New York Magazine; Popular Mechanics; Québec Science; Popular Science; Rolling Stone; Smithsonian; The Atlantic; Travel & Leisure; Vanity Fair; Vélo Mag; Wired; The Official Program of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and, finally, Zoomer.  Missing from this list are weekly or bi-weekly magazines like Time, Newsweek, McLeans, The New Yorker, Billboard and People.  I opted for the Basic $9.99 per month subscription that includes only the monthly magazines.  From a point of view of costs, I simply cancelled my New York Times digital subscription (too much of the American election) which cost me $14.99 per month.  I am quite happy that the $10 per month gives me access to a fair slate of Canadian content including magazines en français that will help me expand my vocabulary.

Am I reading?  Yes!  Besides the reading from the library, much of this also coming across my iPad as e-books from the Montreal Library, the Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Québec, and the Ontario Public Library system.  Thank you Baysville Library for access to the e-book wealth of an entire province.  My Goodreads links to my updated reading list with very short reviews for my completed books.

Now back to Québec Science magazine’s fascinating article on the history of the Saint Lawrence river.


Mountain top reading

Mount Royal picnic site

Me voici dans les environs ou il me plait prendre mon petit-dejeuner-le-matin de temps en temps.  L’arbre dont son nom j’ignore (en francais je viens d’apprendre les noms des arbres et c’est un bouleau!) Je continue – cette arbre, le bouleau, est fixe dans une niche [ je pense c’est le bon mot] entre un plateau [??] de roche ou je me trouve assis.

[Hey, my incredibly awkward beginning to this blog – in the original version – seems to flow much better when I expressed it en francais.  Malheureusement, je suis assis devant le clavier chez mes parents et icitte, les accents, grave et aigu, les tres mignons cedilles sur les c, sont cachees qq-part et c’est pas ecrire en francais sans les accents. Pas de tout, pas de tout, pas de tout.  Et puis….. je retourne a mon originally-blogged language which is Capital E-nglish (with a little help from our German friends).]

[This is the original beginning to the mountain-top reading blog of Sunday, August 4 re-written when I saw that the original beginning had language that just-didn’t-flow, way-too many commas and well, it just didn’t please me in the way that this place that I sometimes eat breakfast at and linger and read at…not a great linguistic construct, that, but at least it’s a parallel construct…this place pleases me, but the description, not-at-all.  Here, I’ll bring my breakfast hot-from-home, and, when my schedule permits, I continue here and read books.  The birch tree which is rooted right in the middle in a small space between this large flat rock reminds me of a large rock along the Dickie Lake Road which has a similar birch growing, somehow, in a small space.  At first glance, both trees – the Dickie Lake birch and the one pictured here – seem to be growing right out of the rock.

The view from my picnic table looks down over a large picnic area which is situated just above (or behind) the chalet and the belvedere.   I can sometimes be distracted by others in the vicinity doing various martial arts, or throwing frisbees or playing catch with their kids.  But in the morning, at 8:30am,  it has the advantage of bird sounds and amazing light, and I climbed maybe 160 metres of elevation (with my bicycle) to get here, so I have an appetite and am already somewhat focused for my reading.  Not many users in this large area in the morning and the other users of this area, if any, are usually alone and into their own meditative pursuits.

What am I reading up here?  Well, if it’s in my Goodreads recently, I may have read parts of it here.  Last summer, which was before I discovered the advantages of this particular picnic site spot, I was bringing Pilgrim at Tinker Creek on my bike rides up the mountain.  But this summer and fall, I’m reading novels – literature, I hope.  Right now I’m reading a Michael Crummey novel set in the fictional outport of Paradise Deep in Newfoundland.  And then I have my regular 4 track Bible reading program which in September has me in Isaiah, Proverbs, Luke and Hebrews (some top notch Biblical writing, to be sure).  I’ve been reading a 1950’s Short History of Christianity by Martin Marty and “Credo” by Hans Kung.  Books like that I’m not reading in a hurry, but at a pace where I can contemplate what the author is really saying.  There is another book that is so complicated that I have to be in a spot where I can really concentrate before I can make any progress in aligning my thinking with that of the author.  This would be my best reading spot and probably the one where I am least likely to fall asleep mid-page.

And this is me re-establishing my Sunday blog on the Labour Day weekend, 2016.

Cottageday 1 Ambitiously realistic

Day one of my cottage vacation has me delving into the books from first light in the bedroom window, with James Alan McPherson “Elbow Room”.  This is a Pullitzer prize-winning short story book from a black American author who died earlier this week.  Ted deems it “prize-deserving and thoroughly enjoyable”.  Its city settings totally out of context with life in Muskoka.

After swim, breakfast, run, breakfast, swim, I reclined in zero gravity (??) next to a maple sapling and checked out the maples in Donald Culross Peattie “A Natural History of North American Trees”.  This writer, who died in 1964, has the perfect educational background for me:  French Poetry at University of Chicago and botany at Harvard before working for the Department of Agriculture”.  [See inside jacket photo]

Culross Peattie bio
Culross Peattie bio

The language usage is outstanding.  Noted: rachitic, elegiac, dietetic, mayfly, wraithlike, sesquipedalian.  Searching for the Latin expression used by Peattie, “Horribile dictu” I came across the Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary, available for a 14 day trial – SOLD!  Will be looking to expand my knowledge of words over this vacation.

Here’s a two paragraph quotation from Peattie which I cite, not particularly for the language, but for the subtle yet precise way that the author expresses an opinion on the landscaping uses of the Silver Maple Tree:

“A tree with so many charms has naturally been planted far beyond its natural range, and everywhere within it.  In the South, where it is rare as a native tree, it is common as a street tree. In the West, even in southern California where deciduous trees usually find little favor, it is a favorite, for it cannot grow without lending grace to any spot; it makes a railroad station look like a home, and adds a century to the appearance of a village street. It is the fastest growing of all our Maples, one of the fastest among all trees suitable to our climate, be they native or exotic.  It is as charming in its childhood as in age, and in its youth goes through no awkward stage.

Yet landscape architects have little good to say of it.  They complain of the insect pests that attack it, and of its comparatively short life, as well as the breakage of its brittle and too-long boughs under wind and ice damage.  They urge that it be planted, if at all, in the full knowledge that it’s quickly achieved effects will not last long, and that more permanent if slower plantings be started at the same time.  It may be that we should always listen to cautious and sensible people and not allow ourselves to think too highly of a tree that will perhaps only live three times as long as we do.”

Natural history and language brought together, like Annie Dillard also capably accomplishes in “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”.  A treat to consider Culross Peattie’s writing and learn natural history, American history and language, all together.

book cover photo Donald Culross Peattie: A Natural History of North American Trees
Excellent language use forces a first day cottage blog

Prepared for a cottage vacation



The above view is a good summary of what I expect of my 10 or so days at the cottage this summer.  Taken from the hammock where I read, read, read, it looks over the water where I swim, swim, swim and when conditions are right – Windy, mais pas TROP venteuse – I set out on my Laser sailboat.

Today, I am all packed, as when I did the wash yesterday I assembled the appropriate clothes directly into my suitcase.  I kept telling myself that this year I will keep my expectations of what I am going to do at the cottage simple – besides the above, we’ll be eating, running or walking a lot (1/2 marathon to prepare for this fall) and after expending all that energy, sleeping so soundly, like only the cottage environment allows me to do.

Other years I may have included non-traditional cottage tasks, which strangely, I never accomplished.  Some of them:  Learning another language, making speakers – an alternative sound system for my truck, doing calling for an August market (this year it is Sept. 10); so many projects / so little time – the cottage is not conducive for THAT!

It is always a pleasure to make the 6-8 hour drive to the cottage.  Because of the anticipation.  Passing familiar places that you just see once a year.  Much of the route is itself cottage country.  Once past Ottawa we’ll be passing lakes on the left and the right, past Round Lake (Camp Mishewah – camp of my youth), through Algonquin Park, and stopping to provision along the way (but not over-doing the food purchases this year).

And arriving – unloading the trunk – it is all going to be in the car trunk this year – but for the canoe paddle which must go in the back seat. It will be such a quick unload; and then we’ll put clothes in a drawer and pull out one of three bathing suits and swim in the lake – just for fun – we’ll leave the laps of exercise up and down the shore for tomorrow.

To throw you off my trail a bit...
To throw you off my trail a bit…

Thoughts at lunch time

While slicing a dried Portuguese roll today at lunch I had this look-on-the-sunny-side thought:  the definitive way to brighten up the prospects of dried bread is to read Solzenitsyn’s “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”.  Make soup and put some beef in it and you’ll know you’re not in the Gulag.

Lives enabled pure

It is a Saturday morning and I am so well situated on a wooden lounger next to a most elegant lake and it is quiet except for the hum of traffic on Rue de la Parc Lafontaine and the footsteps of the occasional jogger.

CarreSaintLouisVectorTomorrow at this time I’ll be singing “I am souled out”, for that is the song that Jireh uses as Julien balances the individual mike levels and then the section levels. Tomorrow is work, at the “Lanaudière” festival, and the pleasure of performing, but today, in a swap for Sunday, is reflection and satisfaction in God’s blessings.

I read scripture daily and this morning, instead of the usual breakfast table or living room setting, I took the Bible down Prince Arthur to Carré Saint-Louis, that most Français of Montreal parks and sat next to the two-tiered fountain and opened the Psalms. I have a fountain psalm – one of my very favourites, Psalm 87, but this morning I stuck with where I am in the structure of my read-in-a-year program: Psalm 140; and then Solomon dedicating the temple (and preaching a really good sermon) in 2 Chronicles 6 and 7; and Jesus teaching a lawyer the meaning of the word “neighbour” in Luke 10; and Paul, about controlling my body in 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 (NIV). “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” All of that – all 4 readings and the Psalm that sprang to my heart in view of the fountain that says “we belong” – spoke to me this morning. God gives us his Holy Spirit. Being holy is my calling, and it looks entirely like Jesus. “Pure” is my word of reflection for this year et, le voilà, there it is, just like that, God’s Holy Spirit, teaching me what pure looks like in all 4 readings. His Holy Spirit, convicting me and showing me the better way.

And there’s even more in store – God speaks through nature and I have Annie Dillard along as an interpreter of that. I have 3 fruits, bought on the way, with me. A fig from the near East, framboises provenant du St-Joseph-du-Lac, and half of a dragon fruit from the Far East. May God’s fruit which comes from lives-enabled-pure be in evidence here in Québec and throughout the whole earth. Selah.

so I could worship

Do you know the Scripture where Jesus passes by a fig tree, somewhere near Bethany, if my memory is correct? [Matthew 21:18-22. We do fact check our blog so as not to lead the Internet-gullible astray.] There are a whole range of trees mentioned in the Bible and while many of the references are figurative, some are literal trees, like the oak or terebinth trees of Moreh (where Abram built an altar) and then his living place for a long time became the oak trees belonging to an ally, Mamre.

Nothing roots a story in history, so much as a tree. I guess it is because trees outlive the humans who live near them. If I am a Canadian who knows something about sycamore trees, it’s not only because I’ve been reading Annie Dillard, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”, but because, as every Sunday School kid can tell you, Zaccheus was in that kind of tree and he was destined to meet Jesus.

This infamous fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22, however, was not mentioned because of what it bore, but because it did not bear any figs. So Jesus cursed it; the disciples heard him doing this, saw the result and reported it in Scripture; and almost 2000 years later, one Saturday night, I’m Googling “fig trees” so I can make sense of the story to my grade 2-3 Sunday school class. You might say like I did, “Do we have to incorporate in our Sunday school curriculum stories like these that are placed among the difficult-sayings-of-Jesus?”. But it was right there in the middle of the lesson plan with a Sunday school moral like, “Be fruitful, or else…” attached to it. As a responsible grade 2-3 Sunday school teacher I felt I had to give the kids something more than this, so I delved into fig tree research.

I learned many things about fig trees and when they should bear fruit and all, but the thing that sticks with me that has me writing this blog today was about a particular variety of fig tree that has male and female trees or flowers or something (don’t make me do the research again) and there is this one particular type of wasp that hangs around the male tree long enough to get pollen on the feet and then flies into the female flower and dies there. The wasp gets incorporated into the fruit, the fig, and it is only by this wasp that the tree can produce figs at all. Now don’t worry, adults, I was discrete in how I passed on this VERY interesting bit of fig info along. The author who put this info on the internet made it clear that it was only one particular type of rare fig variety that had these male / female trees and associated wasps. This wasn’t something I used to explain Jesus cursing the tree as it is highly unlikely that the type of fig tree between Bethany and Jerusalem operated like that. This was treated as bonus info for a grade 2 / 3 Sunday School teacher who has a keen interest in nature but, who, unfortunately already had enough science credits in high school so he never took biology [sad, but true].

Right after the fig tree lesson we served up the name brand Christie Fig Newtons which I had splurged on since my kids deserve only the best. There was a higher than normal amount of half-finished cookies that day, which I put down at the time to “kids-these-days” but, now that I think of it, might also have been accounted for by a certain wasp-like crunchiness to that snack.

Now that I’ve raised this difficult-saying of Jesus in a blog, some of you might want to know why Jesus, indeed, did this. Was the fig tree symbolic of Israel? Maybe, but I wasn’t using that with my grade 2 / 3 kids. Don’t want no part in raising more miss-guided anti-Semitics. Here’s what I take from this story: Jesus, knowing that this would be reported in Scripture, taught in church (and even in some Sunday school curriculums), and studied by teachers, wanted to create a special “wink-of-the-eye” to me and my kin in the 21st century who would delve deeper and learn something of the intricacies of creation as it pertains to figs. I don’t write this tongue-in-cheek, as my reaction at the moment that I read about the wasps was nothing more or less than throwing up my hands to creator-God and Lord of all trees in WORSHIP. He knows my name. He knows how I hang out on my terrace garden at watering time happy that my flowers have created an urban environment for bugs and bees. He knows each tear that falls and, believe me, my tears are all about God’s goodness.

Picture of a half-eaten fig

Reading through the alphabet

This is year 2 of reading through the alphabet.  In 2013 I decided that instead of looking through all of the fiction bookshelves it would be more efficient to limit my search to one letter at a time.  So I started with A and would look through all the A authors.  Invariably I discovered authors that were new to me through this technique and putting on the blinkers in this way had me spending less time in the library searching for that “one best book”.

In 2014 I took a break from this technique and decided I would read history and biography – something that wasn’t excluded in the “reading through the alphabet series” but often came about by browsing the new books – you don’t find history (except for historical fiction) and biography in the fiction book racks.

I’ll try to fill in here by memory the authors that I read this way and give a few comments:

A – hmm let me go browse at the BANQ and I may remember

B – same – let’s sign into my Goodreads account on the internet – they should be listed there

With help from my Goodreads abcdefgh shelf

A is for Sherwood Anderson, “Winesburg, Ohio”.  I bet you can find this for free on your e-book reader.  Don’t rule out books because  they were written in 1919.

B is for Anita Rau Badami, a Vancouver writer, whose first novel was “Tamarind Mem”

C is for Michael Crumney, a Newfoundland writer who has a book of Newfoundland-based short stories “Flesh & Blood: Stories”.  Thanks to Paulette Cake who (I think) encouraged me to read this writer.

C is also for Ann Cummins, “Red Ant House: Stories” and for Roch Carrier, “La Guerre, Yes Sir! which I had the pleasure of reading “en francais”.  Carrier has also written some good history.  In June 2015 I finished “Montcalm & Wolfe”.  Found myself cheering for the English on this one.  Now I’m ready to explore the Plains of Abraham on my next Quebec (City) visit.

DanticatD is waiting for me to write a book, apparently, as I got bogged down in Stig Dalager’s “Journey in Blue: A Novel about Hans Christian Andersen” and did not finish it. At the beginning of 2016 I went to the super-library with the intention of filling in the two or three small gaps in completing the alphabet. Edwidge Danticat, an author of the Haitian diaspora (writing in English, however) filled my ‘D’ gap with ‘The Dew Breaker’, a collection of short stories connected in one way or another with the Tonton Macoutes, who terrorized Haiti under the reign of Baby Doc Duvallier.

E is for Louise Erdrich who hooked me with a title: “The Master Butchers Singing Club” and then another, “The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse”

F is for a classic “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner begun at Parc Lafontaine, overlooking the lake.

G is for Richard Gwyn, “John A: The Man Who Made Us”.  If you have to ask who John A is, this book might not be for you.  It was definitely for me.  I also found Volume II on his later years and thoroughly appreciated this biography of our first prime minister

H is for Louis Hémon’s “Maria Chapdelaine”.  Every Quebec student had this on the reading list, like it or not.  I chose to read it (et, en français, bien sûr)

I is a Canadian author, Frances Itani “Leaning, Leaning Over Water”.  Liked it and added this author to my go-to list.

J is Pete Jordan, “In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist”.  Learned some things, but this book was too long.  Skimmed the last chapters so that I could say I completed it.

K is for Ivan Klima “No Saints or Angels” fiction about a Czech dentist.  I note that this author’s “My Crazy Century” a non-fiction memoir won the Czech literary prize in non-fiction in 2010.  I can’t get enough from Eastern European writers, especially in history or historical-based fiction.

L is for C. S. Lewis “‘Till We Have Faces” and in 2015 I read “The Great Divorce” as well.

M is for Alister E. McGrath “C.S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet”.  This is, no doubt, the biography to read on C. S. Lewis.

N is for Fae Myenne Ng “Bone”.  About three Chinese American daughters growing up in the author’s real childhood hometown of San Francisco Chinatown.

O is for Yury Olesha “Envy”.  Though I was drawn to this thin volume I ended up skimming it to finish.  Find another O author, is my advice.  Ondaatje is an obvious one, but he doesn’t click with me.

P is for M. Scott Peck “In Heaven as on Earth: A Vision of the Afterlife”.  Some of Peck’s images stayed with me.  The Mad Men final episode at times brought to mind Peck’s Amalgamated Systems souls working in the bottom of a garbage can.

Q is for Qiu Xiaolong “Years of Red Dust”. Short stories and history from the author’s native Shanghai.

R is for David Adams Richards whose “Mercy Among the Children” I am reading again.  I picked it up in Toronto for $1 recently and was part way into it  when I realized that I had already read this.  Reading  it again with greater attention – I couldn’t believe that I didn’t recognize the characters earlier in the book.  I like David Adams Richards a whole lot.  Writes fiction set in the Miramichi and non-fiction set there as well.  He has new books coming out to add to the 8 to 10 that I’ve already read.

R is for Mordecai Richler as well.  If I was watching the movie of “Joshua Then and Now” I might not finish it.  In the midst of the book this weekend.  Entertaining, yes, but if I don’t finish this novel it will be because it doesn’t rise above that.

S is for J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”.  I did not have to read this for high school English.  Kept me entertained.  Perhaps it was considered profane or racey for 1951.  Stylistically interesting.

T is for William Makepeace Thackeray.  “Vanity Fair” is a big chunk to read, a tome of 883 pages.  I left unfinished an equally weighty Solzhenitsyn – part of his Red Wheel cycle of novels on the history of the Russian Revolution.  Will I succeed in “Vanity” where I failed in history?  Will see.  I recall seeing a movie based on “Vanity Fair” as the initial scene with Rebecca throwing the dictionary out of the carriage window is rather memorable. Vanity Fair

Done! And quite enjoyable. Laughed a lot. Though author thought of as cynical by some of his peers. he may have had more insight on his world than many. Much biting satire, but all quite believable, even though the characters are exaggerated. There was never a point in the 800 plus pages when I thought of abandoning my read.

U is for John Updike – returning to the consummate pro of short stories for “Pigeon Feathers and other stories” a collection published in 1962 (which is one of my birth years). U is also for Thrity Umrigar “The Space Between Us”. An accomplished author, this is my first read of any of her books.

V is for M. G. Vassanji, though I must confess, I don’t think I have read a novel by this writer, resident of Canada,VilaMatas since “The In-Between World of Vikram Lall” (in 2011).  New Year’s 2016 resolution to read another Vassanji as, with X, this is my only missing letter of the alphabet.  As of January 2016, I am reading an English translation of Enrique Vila Matos, called ‘Dublinesque’.  I also read  Miklós Vámos, “The Book of Fathers” which I picked up at the Word Bookshop on Milton Street.  This author is Hungarian, so he nicely rounds out my portfolio of international authors.  “The Book of Fathers” traces a family history (only interesting characters, as it is fiction) from the beginning of the 18th century until the debut of the 21st century.

W is for Andy Weir, “The Martian” (see my comments on Goodreads) and Rudy Wiebe, “Come Back”. The Rudy Wiebe is a heavy read, but it prepares you for life.  I appreciate this author’s honesty about his Mennonite roots.

X –  I thought I had an X author with Qiu Xiaolong, but Chinese list the family name first, so add X to my resolution found above (under V).  When I finished my first reading through the alphabet I found an author who writes about girls in China.  I read ‘Miss Chopsticks’ by Xinran.

Y is for Yu Hua – a Chinese author, so family name first.  I read “The Seventh Day” which is about the first seven days after a Chinese man dies.  It is really a review of this man’s life as he searches out those people with whom he has had meaningful relations with prior to his death.  The author through this book makes satirical comments on how the Chinese culture understands death and relates the story of the life of Yang Fei.  I’ve made note that Yu Hua is an acclaimed Chinese author and is known for “Brothers” and “To Live”, so I will let the benefits of discovering new authors by reading through the alphabet continue by investigating these books which seem to have established Yu Hua’s fame.

Z is for Rafia Zakaria “The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan”.  You have to take your more obscure letters of the alphabet when they present themselves. An intimate history of Pakistan written by a woman – reads like a novel.  Excellent.

As of January 1st, 2016, I’ve now finished this project of reading through the alphabet.  I’ve greatly benefited from my self-imposed program as it has introduced me to authors that were entirely new to me (Badami, Crumney, Cummins, Erdrich, Itani, Klima, Ng, Qiu, Thackeray, Yu and Zakaria).  Almost all of these authors are accomplished writers with other books just waiting on the shelves at my library.  The reading project has more than doubled my list of “go to” authors.  Now when I enter my gi-enormous local library, le Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec I have many new friends waiting to spend time with me within.