Category Archives: Popular Posts

Ten Years of Literary Vice

Driving home last night I had a moment imagining writing the ten year post for Literary Vice, thinking it would be at least a few years before the anniversary arrived. So when I checked this morning and realized this thing launched in November 2009 (on tumblr!) I was surprised. And sad? Maybe sad. Or maybe nostalgia, remembering where and who I was when this collection of my reading reflections began: living with M. and Titus, finishing my PhD, surrounded by friends who loved to read as much as I did and we had All the Time in the World to do just that.

This year I’ve read fewer novels than in any of the past ten. I’m tempted to make excuses, but I’m sure a lot has to do with a smart phone and how I used to fill the quiet moments of waiting with novels, and now I fill with Twitter. Sad. (A sure sign I’m reading a book I love is when I slip back into my old habit of walking across campus with my book open to squeeze in just a few more minutes with characters).

Maybe more than sadness it’s an observance of change. Certainly to my life – where I am, what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with. But more the way and what I read has changed, I listen to audio books now because I commute for two hours a day. I fall asleep earlier and forget what happened pages before. I read many, many children’s books because I am raising a kid and one of my (too many) hopes for him is that he will find as much comfort, joy and light in reading as I do.

For all that changes that gift – the total love of reading – remains true. I wasn’t a popular kid in high school (shocked face). I remember being in drama class and every time (which was all the time) there were group activities, I wouldn’t have a group. And so I started skipping class and finding my way to the library to read. And it was in every way a better education in the expression of human emotion, I promise. Not that I had a Tragic time or anything, I had S., J., and J. and they got me. Just that I knew then and I know now that whatever else might be happening around me – and there is so much happening – there is this space of mindful, quiet, slowness. Of absorption and warmth. Of conversation with characters who evoke and provoke and we are so lucky.

And I have been and am so lucky to continue to be surrounded by people who love me and love reading, too. I’ve formed too many book clubs over the past ten years, and the one that remains is full of smart, caring and wise friends. I continue to have some of the best chats with my mum about what she is reading and what I am reading (and why I’m not reading more than I am) (and I know differently now, in the fiftieth recitation in one night of Where the Wild Things Are, how much I owe to her and my dad for giving me this reading joy). I swap book recommendations with friends and colleagues (and strangers) and in each of these moments of connection through books I am grateful.

Proud, too, I suppose. For ten years of writing here and ten years of reading. It’s about 500 books in the last decade. Almost all of them novels. You could look for trends in what I read and when and you’d probably find I read more in the summer and I read a lot of Canadian literature and I have attachments to particular authors and unpopular views about others.

At one point I imagined I’d stop writing at ten years. It’s one more thing and now I almost always forget until several weeks have gone by (see my latest post for evidence!) and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used the same adjectives to describe the same things in different books. And I’m not sure who my audience is or what the point is (is it a summary? a critique?). But in recalling the original purpose – to help me remember what I’ve read – it seems like it might be okay to continue. To scale down my expectations from the high of the 2010s when I wrote 3000 word thoughtful reviews to something smaller and more in line with what I can do right now: I read this book and I liked/didn’t like it.

And maybe you will continue to read here, too. Such a humble imagining to know there have been thousands of you checking to find out what I thought about a particular book. And I’ll try to keep thinking of you in writing reviews, but really – and selfishly – this is really for me.

So cheers to ten years. Thanks to each of you for reading. Reading this, sure, but reading.

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Not a Book Review; A New Blog Announcement – Pregnant Pause

I’ve only ever posted book reviews or book talk here, so I recognize I’m breaking with expectations. But I’m using this as a shameless platform to plug the  new blog project I’ve started (not to fear, Literary Vice continues without interruptions – I’m neck deep in A Brief History of Seven Killings which is (no spoiler) not at all brief).

The new blog is Pregnant Pause for stories about being not-pregnant. You can read more about the project (and some of our first stories) (and find out how to contribute) on the site, but here’s a teaser: Continue reading

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Break In Case of Emergency: On Being 32 and Childless (and not on purpose)

Break In Case of Emergency is funny. You’ll read it and laugh at the satire of office life. You’ll laugh a little at the portrayal of income inequality in 30 something friend groups (that sudden realization that your friends make way more (or less) money than you do; or that your friend inherited a heap of money and so never has to think about whether to replace their air conditioner). You’ll chuckle at the representation of hipster politics: the effort to be *seen doing good. It’s the story of Jen – 30 something artist, who starts the novel unemployed and begins working at a (parody of) nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of (all) women. The novel offers sharp observations on white, middle class feminism, on the changing dimensions of female friendship and a whole heap of a lot about fertility. Jen wants a baby. A lot. And she’s infertile. (and some stuff about New York, but who cares).
I guess if you’re an any-age someone you could stand to read this novel for how it demonstrates the extent to which (young-ish) women are bombarded All. The. Time. by messages about their (in)fertile bodies, the judgements heaped upon these bodies for reproducing (or not), the myriad of outrageous and hurtful things that get said out of assumptions about why you have (or more obviously haven’t) had a baby. Continue reading

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Filed under American literature, Fiction, Funny, Popular Posts, Reader Request

The Girl on the Train: Over-hyped, misogynistic nonsense

I admit I bought in to the hype around The Girl on the Train. I heard about it three times in two days and couldn’t resist the summer blockbuster appeal. I bought in to the point of buying the book (something I rarely do what with the existence of libraries and the scarcity of free money), though I got it for $10 as a ‘Heather’s Pick’ at Chapters (my local and fantastic bookshop was sold out and I had to have it Right Now). I’m embarrassed by the whole thing. (Would I be as embarrassed if it had been a better book? Or if J. hadn’t warned me that it wasn’t as great as people were saying?). Continue reading

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Filed under Bestseller, Book Club, Popular Posts, Worst Books