What I read in Fall 2011

In October I moved to Victoria, and through the fall I left about 2/3 of my books in boxes. First in a stack on one side of the room, then arranged into the rough shape of a couch, to space out where a prospective couch might eventually fit. For all sorts of reasons, I managed to forget how to read again, after having haltingly relearned what books were all about in May.

Fall 2011

I finally put the shelves up in February 2012.


  • Victor Sebestyen, Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire (2009) – A history of 1989 in delicious and tangible pieces and the main lesson being that nothing just happens – Poland’s story starts here in 1981 to a finish in 1989 and ongoing of course. And what I love about it all, the shade and colour of each and every little country. And how much more open and grinding and mechanical so much of this history was, and, marvelously, how much pull there was for the status quo for the sake of stability, evil empire or no.
  • Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (1992) – I was looking on YouTube for this: http://youtu.be/z3_J5WA7iP0 (and part two: http://youtu.be/p-nZ6x1W3ug) and found this: http://youtu.be/sTBMYf9Zt7A and realized that I had absolutely no reason to not re-read The English Patient. What a thrill, once again.
  • Laurie Lico Albanese, Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir (2004) – This was on the shelf at the closing 30% off sale of the Book Warehouse in Yaletown. Subtitled “almost a memoir” and yes, it is a set of prose poems, 200+ pages of poems in memoir form, or memoir in poem form.
  • Diane Schoemperlen, The Language of Love (1994) – My favourite book of the fall. I went to Russell Books to find a novel and I found this: a novel in 100 chapters, each built around a word from the Standard Word Association Test. Is it a novel without a narrative arc? By forty pages or so the story line is clear, but the flesh and colour are spaced through and around another 300+ and nothing ‘happens.’ But this is the novel I read last year that might have stuck with me the most. I think I bought this at Russell Books just after I moved to Victoria, looking for a quiet new novel.


  • Edmund White, City Boy: New York in the 60s and 70s (2009) – I read this forever and I can hardly remember it. Books about New York are tending to blur together – City Boy and Neverland and Moon Palace and Great Jones Street and “Goodbye to All That.” This was on a cheap pile at Book Warehouse sometime last summer.
  • Paul Auster, Invisible (2009) – The only book that I read in less than a week, or maybe even less than two weeks, through the fall. I wanted a novel that I would go right through and this was it. I read most, if not all of this on a trip to Vancouver and then north to Whistler, a weekend at the old Camp David. I remember talking to my friend Kate about Paul Auster while she was reading Richard Florida, Who’s Your City. I’d like to read Who’s Your City, but not for another 10 years or so,  in order to read with the full context. (I’m a history student, not a futurist.) In any case, just as New York is blending together, so is Paul Auster. I loved this book for all the things that are in every Paul Auster novel and that is ok.


  • Kristin Hersh, Rat Girl (2010) – I waited and waited to read this and when I did it took weeks. I liked it but I just didn’t know how to read through the fall. Something that I used to do that I had memories of and something I intended to do again, somehow. I remember reading this in fits and starts at lunch, over pho on Fort street. I remember starting it on the ferry in November. I saved this little line at the time, and it is all just as wonderful: When I say playing music is owning violence, she says it’s owning love; when I say it’s math, she says it’s tap dancing; when I say it’s my gun, she says it’s her dance card.
  • Alan Furst, Dark Star (1991) – I remember trying to read this in May of 2011, when I ended up reading John McPhee, Oranges. I distinctly remember bending the cover back trying to put it into my bag while on the 99 bus, on the way to Kitsilano for my first meeting of the Point Grey campaign. I started this on the way back from Vancouver at the beginning of December, after the NDP convention, and finished it when I was back in Vancouver near the end of the month. It the same as Night Soldiers, when I think about it briefly. But when I recall the characters, no, it was different and it told an entirely different story and I’m glad that I have 10 more of these novels waiting on my shelf.
  • Alice Munro, The Love of A Good Woman (1998) – I say that I read just one Alice Munro set each year and I only narrowly did that this year and I am glad that I did. I started this on the ferry, or on the way to the ferry, at least, and I remember reading it over dinner at Baan Thai on Blanshard after I go off the 70x bus downtown. Ferry reading is a new and wonderful thing now.

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