Archive for December, 2010

Old Year/New Year

Since tidying it up a few days ago I’ve been really taken with this little corner of my office. (The rest of the room remains much less photogenic.) On the desk is one of my Christmas gifts, The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition. Look out, manuscripts. I’ve got a thousand+ pages of authority at my fingertips. And it’s current.

I love making New Year’s resolutions and I think this year I’ll include building myself a better editorial/biblio resource library at home. Chicago, of course, will have a place of honour (maybe even a little stand). I’ll also want to upgrade my house dictionary from my mum’s 1954 Oxford Concise, sans spine, to the newest Oxford Canadian. And if the Dalhousie library system is determined to stick to its three renewal limit, I’m going to need the History of the Book in Canada set, which I mentioned last post but have made only a very small dent in since. Hmm. What else?

The Zs

I found out several months ago that it was possible to use my public library card at the university libraries in the province, and this weekend I finally wandered over to the Killam Library at Dalhousie University to fill out the necessary paperwork. Then I braved the hoards of Ugg boots and withering undergrad stares until I located my favourite section: the Zs – Bibliography and Library Science.

I was looking for the first volume of the mammoth The History of the Book in Canada, a major research project that (I think) wound up a few years ago and resulted in three large volumes of essays and an online database. I have been doing some very amateurish research into early book publishing in BC and a librarian acquaintance suggested I check this out. He also recommended Ocean Paper Stone by Robert Bringhurst (1984), and while I was in the neighbourhood I found Influences on California Printing by James D. Hart and Ward Ritchie (1970). I mentioned Ward Ritchie in another post, as a printer I’d been interested in. The whole California printing and publishing scene fascinates me, as it seems to be, or at one time have been, surrounded by a fairly vibrant community of librarians (including Lawrence Clark Powell) and enthusiast societies who held talks and published various ephemeral items of their own.

Three more days at the office and then I can dig into all my new finds (and the baking and the brie and the antipasto).

Winter survival

I’ve mentioned before my love of travel literature (on the nightstand right now is Paul Theroux’s first railway saga The Great Railway Bazaar). My other escape genre is the DIY/cheap living/how-I-dropped-out-of-society-and-lived-to-love-it treatise. Although book editing is a pretty good gig, Christmas and winter both make me especially susceptible to the gospel of simple, jobless living. I thought I’d share a few titles that I have not yet read but that will likely be in this winter’s lineup, in case you want to read along.

First is Possum Living by Dolly Freed, which was published in 1978 when the author was in her late teens. Her father quit his job and pulled her out of high school, and the book is her story of how they got by on little to no money and what she did with all the time she had to self-educate. It has experienced a recent resurgence with a new edition released by Tin House Books in Portland, Oregon, last year. Dolly also has a blog, which I see is on hiatus now but has included some interesting reflections on her old life.

Second is Novella Carpenter’s Farm City, published last year. I read a review and then devoured every last post on her blog and have still not got around to buying the book – I intend to remedy that soon. For the past several years Carpenter has squatted an empty lot in Oakland, California, raising goats and chickens, gardening, and hosting classes on such things. She is ambitious but also very frank about her failures. She also makes no bones about enjoying life in the city and is not a purist back-to-the-lander in that regard, which I find quite refreshing. She’s a journalist, too, and has interviewed some like-minded people, including…

…Philip Garlington, whose book Rancho Costa Nada: The Dirt Cheap Desert Homestead (2003) has been out of print for a few years and goes for about $60 on Abe. Garlington was also a journalist who, back in the 1980s, quit his job and moved onto a $300 piece of Nevada desert. He doesn’t actually recommend the lifestyle, but it combines two of my favourites, deserts and dropping out, so I can’t resist.

In the meantime, presents need wrapping and the job needs going to.

So you want to write a novel

An editor friend sent this along and it completely slayed me. If you’ve ever told me you were working on a book and received an unimpressed squint in return, it is because this video is not much of an exaggeration in terms of some of the expectations of a particularly naive brand of aspiring writer. The makers of this nailed so many of the finer details. Clearly an inside job.

Atkinson at last

After almost a month of waiting, my copy of Kate Atkinson’s new book, Started Early, Took My Dog, finally arrived at Bookmark. I was in Chapters the week before for David Sedaris’s reading and dutifully did not buy it there. The wait was worth it (although I made good use of that time calling them twice, stopping by twice in person and giving them both my home and work phone numbers). I read the first few chapters Sunday night and then did a marathon on Monday night, stopping only to spoon cold leftovers into a bowl around 9 p.m. I missed Louise Monroe, the cranky Scottish detective, conspicuously absent, but Jackson Brodie is in good form. And…has taken up reading poetry, which makes this latest installment a bit more like the early Kate Atkinson. Split the lark!

Emotionally Weird, her third novel, remains my favourite and the one I recommend most to people I’ve decided need to partake in the Atkinson obsession. It’s odd to see an author you’ve liked since their pre-mass-popularity days become massively popular. But if you’re going to be a snob about reading the fun’s gone out of it, right?

In an interview I read recently Atkinson said she’s ready to move on from Jackson Brodie and I’ll be curious to see what she does next. In the meantime, though, I see from her website that a Jackson Brodie BBC mini-series is in the works. To watch or not to watch? I love these characters. I don’t know if I’m ready.

Although it’s not a thoroughly positive review, this one from the Guardian gives a good overview of the feel of the whole quartet, for the uninitiated.