I love having a birthday in early January. As the numbers for the calendar year change, along with my age, it feels like the right time to look back at the year just past. And what a wonderful year it was for bookish adventures.
The books I read were fun, challenging, intriguing, and covered more genres than ever before. I read poetry, non-fiction, biographies, mysteries, YA, short stories and literary fiction, with themes that included sports, mental illness, history, exploration, relationships and coming of age. Of course there were some disappointments but there were also some absolute gems. I laughed out loud to Jess Walter’s Financial Lives of the Poets, and fell a little bit more in love with Commissario Guido Brunetti each time I read one of
Leon’s wonderful Venetian mysteries. Chad Harbach charmed me with The Art of
Fielding, as did Anne Giardini and her Advice to Italian Boys; both are tender
stories told with insight and humour. I enjoyed Annabel Lyon’s depiction of
Aristotle in The Golden Mean and finished up the year with the wonderful The
Juliet Stories by Carrie Snyder. But I think my overall favourite for the year was
Mr. Roger and Me by Marie-Renée Lavoie. How could you not love Hélène/Joe with
her sense of adventure, love of family and salty tongue?
In addition to the reading, several book-related things happened to make this year one of the most memorable for me. First of all was the Twitter phenomenon/movement called #todayspoem, which began right at the end of 2011. This is how it all started: http://bit.ly/XfUfLX The basic idea is to begin your day with a poem (or end it, or just take a poetry break at some point during the day) and tweet a line or a link to it on Twitter, to share with fellow poetry lovers. The idea spread gradually, and now includes something like 240 contributors. When you search for #todayspoem you are presented with a stream of poetry tweets from a wide range of styles, in several languages, sometimes with audio or video. They are beautiful, amusing, evocative, graphic, and arresting. I’ve read more poetry this year than ever before in my life, and it is a constant delight. Some of my favourite poetry books were Richard Sommers’ Cancer Songs, Runaway Dreams by Richard Wagamese and Hologram by P. K. Page.
Something else that grew out of Twitter was meeting other women who enjoy both knitting and reading, especially Canadian Literature. How lovely to find kindred spirits. After some discussion, it seemed that the most obvious thing to do was to form a book club. Thus, the unique CanLitKnit was born! We meet at a pub, bring along our knitting and discuss the latest book on the agenda. So far we have picked short stories (Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner, Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro and Sleeping Funny by Miranda Hill) all written by Canadian women but all so very different. It is a fun, lively way to spend the afternoon and I feel privileged and grateful to be part of this group with so much energy and enthusiasm for reading and for creating beautiful hand-made items.
Partway through the year I discovered a book called The Anatomy of Edouard Beaupré, by Sarah Kathryn York, a work of fiction based on the life of the Willow Bunch Giant. It really touched me and I am still pondering how to put my ideas and feelings down on paper. I grew up knowing about the Giant, as my parents came from Willow Bunch and Beaupré was my Uncle Ovila’s uncle. Beaupré lived a short, troubled life. He died at the age of 23 on July 3, 1904, while performing at the World’s Fair in
. His parents
could not afford to bring him back to Willow Bunch for burial because of his size, and eventually his body ended up at the St. Louis
where it was used in teaching anatomy. My uncle Ovila discovered this by
accident in the 70s and it took another 20 years of negotiations with the
university before he was able to bring Beaupré’s remains back to Willow Bunch
for proper burial. Reading this book brought back memories of summer visits to Willow Bunch, but
also made me think about what life must have been like for The Giant, so
different and yet the same as all of us. A very powerful little volume. (In the
meantime, I have come across another writer intrigued by Beaupré’s story, this
time a poet. Her book of poems about him is currently under review with a
publisher—fingers crossed.) University of Montreal
Last but not least, I started participating in the reading program Paws4Stories which I wrote about in my last post. My dog, Charlie, spreads happiness wherever he goes, and the fact that he is encouraging new, young readers to discover the joys of reading makes my heart swell.
The past year was wonderful and the new one has begun with David Bergen’s Age of Hope, one of the books in contention for Canada Reads. With such a great start I have high hopes for 2013.