Stay With Me: The Cure for Insomnia is Nightmares

I have insomnia. Or at least, I think it’s insomnia. Is it insomnia when you can’t fall asleep? I eventually fall asleep, just after hours of attending to my breathing, and doing progressive muscle relaxation and reading. I think that’s insomnia. You know what does not make insomnia better? Reading a novel about babies dying.  Just as a general rule I advise against dead baby novels before trying to fall asleep. Because even if you can fall asleep you inevitably dream about babies dying. Aka: nightmares. Continue reading


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Anything in Possible: Short Stories Are The Worst

I still don’t like short stories. And Elizabeth Strout’s Anything is Possible is a short story collection. It helped that characters appeared in multiple stories, and that Lucy Barton shows up in lots of them. Helped because my memory is terrible and I don’t like getting to know a set of characters only to have them change 25 pages later.

All of the stories are brilliantly written with believable and raw characters. And an overarching tone of menace and melancholy (put that on your book jacket).

That’s all I have to say because it’s three days later and I’ve forgotten all of the stories in their particulars. It’s not the fault of Strout, but of the genre. I dislike Black Mirror for the same reason. Probably people who are better equipped for the world would just love the collection and be able to tell you specific moments as justification. But not me. So you’ll have to take my overarching feeling as proof. Flimsy though that may be.

(Also – what’s the name for the thing you use to steer a ship? Like does it have a particular name? I looked at once for 15 minutes and couldn’t place the name for it, getting increasingly worried that I am losing my mind.)

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Filed under American literature, Book I'll Forget I Read, Fiction, Prize Winner

The Only Cafe: Confusing, but (maybe) good (And more missing parents)

What’s with all the novels about dead/missing parents? Linden MacIntyre’s latest novel, The Only Cafe, adds to the recent spate of missing-parent novels I’ve read (see Manhattan Beach and Last Snow, First Light). I’m sure there’s a Master’s thesis to be had examining the relationship between the search for absent parents and our current cultural/political moment which we might imagine as one of absent political authority and a desperate search to understand where and how this authority has been abdicated… Continue reading


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Filed under Canadian Literature, Fiction, Mystery, Prize Winner

Cat’s Eye: Margaret Atwood, #metoo, feminist-not-feminist-bad-feminist, and… a 1988 novel

Margaret Atwood is (back) in the news. With the adaptation for television of The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Alias Grace (1996), readers are returning to these earlier works in droves, with both novels (once again) atop the bestseller lists in Canada and the United States. With the renewed interest in these publications comes the reminder-of-what-we-always-knew (or thought we knew) about Atwood and feminism: she’s never been all that keen to call herself a feminist (see this great explainer from vox). She’s more interested in the women-are-‘human’-and-we-should-all-like-to-be-human approach to feminism. (She and JT probably both liked the recent ‘peoplekind‘ flap). Continue reading


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Filed under Canadian Literature, Fiction