Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thought of the Day

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

--Thomas Mann

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Radio Silence

If a blog is posted in cyberspace and nobody comments, is anyone reading it?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Reading and Rereading: Part 1

Today the Globe and Mail came out with its annual "top 100" books. And as usual, I've read very few -- three, to be precise. It's daunting how, with each passing year, I get further behind in my reading. Certain masterworks by, say, Proust or Henry James, which I pick up every other once-in-a-while fully intending to read, slide back on the shelf, abashed, their mature beauties shunned for the flash and dazzle of something new. Moby Dick: never made it past the first 100 pages. But there may certainly be a time in my life when an obsessively encyclopaedic novel about whale-hunting is the true and only thing I need to read and then it will be waiting, open-armed.

And there are those that I did read 30 or even 40 years ago which I want to reread, mostly the great Russians, but also things like Madame Bovary and Don Quixote, touchstones of literary culture that are not as vivid in my mind as I would like them to be. Books I enjoyed so much once that I would like to experience the resonant pleasure of rereading them. For if reading a good book for the first time is like drinking wine, rereading it is like drinking cognac.

When my daughter was in Grade Six her teacher, who had the kids keep a chart of every book they read and awarded stickers to those who read the most, called her a cheater for her habit of rereading favourite books, sometimes as soon as she had finished them the first time. This teacher insisted that there was no point rereading books when there were so many others one hadn't read yet. My daughter, as besotted with words as I am, reported this nonsense to me with justifiable indignation. We agreed that her teacher obviously didn't "get" reading, seeing it as a chore rather than one of life's most profound pleasures.

No one would ever counsel a child not to listen to a piece of music a second time, or not to view a painting more than once! How could anyone suggest that books don't repay a second encounter? Or even a third. You never read the same book twice, anyway, since you miss so much the first time and if the time between readings is long enough, have changed significantly in the interval.

To keep my bearings, I need to reread, from time to time, certain nonfiction texts that have shaped my deepest understanding of the world: among them Gombrich's Art and Illusion, Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses, In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin, The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott... And I reread poetry all the time. Certain poets, like Hass and Amichai, CK Wright, Rilke, Neruda, Seferis, Milosz, Transtromer--a long long list--are the stars I steer by. But I continue to feel the compulsion to go forward rather than backwards when it comes to fiction. Why is that, I wonder?

Perhaps it's the residue of having been an academic. In my youth I was driven to master the canon, and so read little contemporary writing except the odd faddish novel until I started writing poetry seriously and realized that my accent was archaic. And even then it was just poetry that I tried to keep up with; not fiction.

I have to go pick up the aforementioned daughter from gymnastics, so will pursue these thoughts further at another time..

Thursday, November 15, 2007

How to waste time when not reading other people's blogs

Play Boggle Online!

or, alternatively:

or best of all
free online scrabulous

Sunday, October 21, 2007

poetry versus prose: the cage match

SO I just got back from Montreal via Kingston, having read, in the space of 4 days, to students and profs at Queens' and McGill universities, Queen of the Angels High School for relatively well-behaved Catholic girls, and a large audience of mostly older people at the Jewish Public Library. The last event (the only paid one) was a talk about and reading from The Violin Lover, and the high school trip was to teach the girls how to write poetry; at Queens' and at McGill I did a mixture of poetry and prose, groping towards some kind of understanding of what I myself am doing and, not entirely coincidentally, nudging me towards writing a paper for the Bronwen Wallace conference next March.

was that all one sentence? no? good.

ANYHOW initially I was kinda stuck on the polarities of lyric and narrative, the former being a vertical slice of time, an exploration of all the qualities of the moment, resulting, most often, in images, while the latter is the engine of plot, horizontal, sequential cause and effect, etcetera. I've generally understood these not as genres but as aesthetic imperatives: "stop and explore the now" in tension, always, for the artist, with "go on and tell the story". But when someone at Queens' actually asked me what was the big difference for me,in my own work, between writing prose fiction and writing poetry I realized that it wasn't that at all, it was dialogue. After all, dialogue is the imitation of speech while the rest of it is unambiguously textual.

This may help me think more clearly about Bron's decision to write stories after so many years arguing that narrative poetry could do everything fiction could. Obviously her short stories are longer than her poems, and have flashbacks, and are written in sentences rather than lines, etcetera, but perhaps the polyphony -- the sense of many voices talking -- was key for her.

Have to think about this more. If anyone else out there is thinking about it too, I'd love to hear from you!!

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm sorry but it seems to be my week for posting only UK items! But you have to read this.,,2190553,00.html

My new favourite song!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

Andrew Motion on the 13 volume OED

Every time I peer into it, which is several times a day, I think: "All the words I'll ever need are here; the only thing I have to do is get them out in the right order."

from this weekend's Guardian Review.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Last week of summer


Emily Dickinson [1830-1886]

These are the days when birds come back,
A very few, a bird or two,
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on
The old, old sophistries of June, -
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee,
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear,
And softly through the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days,
Oh, last communion in the haze,
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake,
Thy consecrated bread to break,
Taste thine immortal wine!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Not the south of France. But you can feel the warmth anyway.

My friend Michael Redhill has started a blog, On the Via Domitia, charting his family's adventures in the south of France. So far they have been entirely positive, dominated by extraordinary food, generous people, and affable lizards. Were I to try something analogous here, in my own backyard, what would I write about? The acrobatic squirrel who sways back and forth on the giant sunflower head while chomping around it, like a kid on a swing negotiating a melting ice cream sandwich? The brilliant yellow of the goldfinches, who also like to feed upside down? The overabundance of "Roma" tomatoes on every vine, ripening faster than I can cook or eat them? The indefatigable "Roxanne" cranesbill geraniums, in bloom for eight weeks and still going strong? The way the basil releases waves of scent whenever I water it?

I love my garden. I love that everybody on my street loves their gardens (the Roma tomatoes were a gift from my next door neighbour Diana, and the cranesbill geraniums were planted next to "moonbeam" coreopsis because that combination worked so well at Christie's house across the street). I've lived in Toronto since 1977 but only recently have I begun to feel at home here, largely because of this neighbourhood. When you walk down the street everyone says Hi and invites you onto their porch for coffee or wine; the lovely old couple at the corner store gets a New York Times just for my husband and lets the kids buy candy on credit; we look after each others dogs.

Toronto is often described as a city of neighbourhoods. Therein lies its charm. It is, in a microcosm, what Canada is in macrocosm: a loose confederation rather than a staunch republic. Its outlines are hazy-- who can tell exactly where the Annex ends and Seaton Village begins, or what the difference is between Riverdale and Danforth Village? And does anyone care except real estate agents?

And yes, I'm from Montreal. Call me a traitor if you will, but I like it here. C'est pas pire.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

We are stardust, we are golden

The Universe Invites You
to an exclusive viewing
The Perseid Meteor Shower
Saturday night August 11th
between 9 pm and 4 am.

Don't miss it!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Famous Poems as Limericks.

OK, so as if I didn't find enough ways to procrastinate, over at Bookninja that fiend, George Murray, issued an irresistible challenge: to rewrite famous poems as limericks. Here are my best ones:

There once was a mariner old
who wanted his damn story told
so he fixed passers-by
with a glittering eye
and bored them to death in the cold.

Larkin sat on a train and was grim
because no one was marrying him
no girls in loud dresses
would offer caresses
to someone so scornful and dim.

A traveller in lands antique
dug in the sand for a week
when he came up for air
he was filled with despair—
“This writing’s Egyptian, not Greek!”

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
went chortling through tulgey groves
“The Jabberwock’s dead!
Beamish cut off his head!”
“So what?” said the borogoves.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

By the time you understand this it will be too late!

The Empty Nest, Part one

Briefly, this summer, we were alone. Both kids were away at camp for two and a half weeks.

We were almost too busy to notice, but not quite. No one needed to be driven anywhere or suddenly discovered his or her soccer cleats (bathing suit, jeans) didn't fit anymore; nobody rejected a healthy home-cooked meal prepared according to rigorous nutritional guidelines in favour of Lipton's chicken noodle soup a la salt, nobody spent an hour in the shower or monopolized the DVD player night after night watching Smallville and refusing to share the obligatory glimpse of Tom Welling's six-pack.

There was more hot water, and more space; more movie-watching time, more time in general. Also a lot more quiet. A spooky amount of quiet. Which is strange because even when they are home, our kids aren't home all that much. But still.

Up and down our street people are having babies. Gosh, those babies are noisy, and insistent! They cling until they can toddle, then toddle until they fall down , then cry and cling again. Their parents are so burdened with buggies and diaper bags and toys and snacks they can barely move. By contrast, my kids grab a cell-phone and a house key and are out the door so fast I can barely get a kiss goodbye. And one day, too soon, they will take the rest of their stuff with them, and the house will not only be big, and quiet, it will be very very empty.

Luckily, not yet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why do I keep taking these quizzes? Because they come up with answers like this!!

***You Are a Purple Flower***

A purple flower tends to represent success, grace, and elegance.
At times, you are faithful like a violet.
And other times, you represent luxury, like a wisteria.
And more than you wish, you find yourself heartbroken like a lilac.

What Color Flower Are You?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

But how do I pay???

I find this screamingly funny. That probably says something about me.

Friday, June 29, 2007


OK. So like everyone else, I got sucked in to joining Facebook. And now when I sit down to work in my ergonomically correct chair, I can procrastinate indefinitely by reading my e-mail (3 accounts), updating my blog, browsing Bookninja and various other web-blogs, before finally prowling around on Facebook and sinking into a swamp of complete inertia. I suspect I am going to have to disconnect from it, as I formerly did from instant messaging, as being too much of an interruption to my already-sufficiently-distracted-and-undisciplined self. But I must say, it's fascinating to see how the format of cyber-chat brings out everyone's flip side: everyone's much wittier on Facebook than they are in person.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bookstores shake down publishers and dupe public

Insiders in the publishing industry have long been appalled by the practice of "co-op"-- the outrageous fees demanded by big box bookstores to promote books. It's no longer enough to write a decent book and make it past the agents and editors and reviewers: to get your baby into the loving hands of an actual READER you have to bribe Books R Us to put it somewhere the public can actually see it.

Here's an article from the Times revealing the fees charged in the UK. I would love to know what it costs to be "New and Hot" "Recommended" or something "Canada Need More" of at Chapters/ Indigo.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Advice from the Buddha

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Outside of a Dog

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
-- Groucho Marx

(This is when Tobytheincrediblycutedog starts getting fan mail from people who never comment on my blog. But after
disconsolately wandering the aisles of Book Expo all day Monday, I'm the one who really needs a hug...)

Friday, June 08, 2007

4 things meme

Four Jobs I’ve Had:

  • Chicken inoculator (Kibbutz Barkai, Israel)
  • Receptionist (Sidgwick and Jackson Publishers, London, England)
  • Chambermaid (Oxford University, England)
  • Waitress (Carroll's Colonial Diner, Medford, Massachusetts)

Four Movies I Can See Over And Over:

  • The Princess Bride
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Casablanca
  • Le Roi de Coeur (it's been many years since I last saw it, but I remember it fondly)

Four Places I’ve Lived:

  • Athens, Greece
  • London, England
  • San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
  • Boston, USA

Four TV Shows I Love:

  • Dalziel & Pascoe
  • Star Trek Next Generation (who is more adorable--Picard or Data?)
  • Hercule Poirot with David Suchet
  • Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett

Four Places I’ve Vacationed:

  • San Francisco
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quintana Roo (I just love saying that! great birdwatching.)
  • The Pays Basques

Four Of My Favorite Dishes:

  • Moules marinieres
  • Greek salad
  • A simple perfect omelette
  • really dense stone ground whole wheat toast with ginger marmalade

Four Places I’d Rather Be Now:

  • Anywhere on the Mediterranean, but especially Crete
  • Kew Gardens
  • At Les Granges, the most amazing bed and breakfast near Giverny, France, drinking Normandy Cider
  • At my friend Natalie's cottage on Lake Kashebog in the Kawarthas (Natalie, call me)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My Garden

Lovely photo of alium, mallow and mysotis by my sister Lisa. Instead of a poem.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

my favourite word

At the Hay on Wye festival they were polling people for their favourite English word. I didn't see mine anywhere. It's

as in


Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Violin Lover wins award!

Was on the way out the door to Pilates when I received the kind of phonecall worth delaying virtuous exercise for! The Violin Lover is the fiction winner of the 2006 Canadian Jewish Book Award. The ceremony will be at the Leah Poslun Theatre in Toronto on June 21. Robert Fulford will be the invited speaker, preceded by a strawberry & champagne reception. Now, if there's anything I like almost as much as winning awards, it's strawberries & champagne. So I'll be the small person with the large smile.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Are you in your right mind?

This is a fun test.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Nietzche Family CIrcus

I am the Empress! Who knew?

You are The Empress
Beauty, happiness, pleasure, success, luxury, dissipation. (well 3 out of 6 ain't bad...)

The Empress is associated with Venus, the feminine planet, so it represents, beauty, charm, pleasure, luxury, and delight. You may be good at home decorating, art or anything to do with making things beautiful. (I really love spray painting pasta gold and gluing it to paper plates)

The Empress is a creator, be it creation of life, of romance, of art or business. While the Magician is the primal spark, the idea made real, and the High Priestess is the one who gives the idea a form, the Empress is the womb where it gestates and grows till it is ready to be born. This is why her symbol is Venus, goddess of beautiful things as well as love. Even so, the Empress is more Demeter, goddess of abundance, then sensual Venus. She is the giver of Earthly gifts, yet at the same time, she can, in anger withhold, as Demeter did when her daughter, Persephone, was kidnapped. In fury and grief, she kept the Earth barren till her child was returned to her.
(Don't mess with me!)

from What Tarot Card are You?"
Take the Test to Find Out.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


It's finally spring and I'm gardening like a mad thing. Today I got some nifty hostas at Ye Olde Loblaws for only $5.99 each-- those Epic Perennials are always a good deal though they tend to be a bit forced and leggy so need calming down once they're transplanted. We've spent the past couple of weeks laying a winding flagstone path in the back with discarded stones scavenged from fancy neighbourhoods. Rather a lot of work but lovely looking, especially now I've planted thyme between the cracks.

Nice metaphor for most of what I do -- planting thyme in the cracks...

Here's a poem influenced by all this recent activity.


Faded, bent, and obdurate

its yellowing lace deceptive

the delicacy of old ladies who survive their mates

to work on in the garden

season after season

with arthritic fingers

who know the names of all winged visitors

and can recognize their songs across the twilight

as the nicotiana releases its scent

who plant verbena, penstemon, lobelia and monarda

for the butterflies and birds

and David Austin roses for themselves

who do not deadhead the sunflowers

so the creatures will have something to eat

who keep cats, but never set mousetraps

who use their best china every day

and jump the queue at the grocery store

because they have so little in their baskets

and no more time to waste

copyright Susan Glickman 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

About Writers in Electronic Residence

I’ve been thinking about what to say about this term’s crop of WIER students for several days. I was going to talk about their wit and liveliness, their love of suspense and trick endings, their wonderful ease at writing dialogue, their sophisticated manipulation of stock plots and genres (the western, sci fi, fantasy, horror, even soap opera). I intended to applaud their seriousness, the willingness of so many to revise, and at the same time, their confident defense of their writing choices in the face of other people's criticism and advice. I doubt I would have had such conviction about what I wanted to say when I was in High School! But anyone who wants to write has to be stubborn and strong and have a sense of humour, which so many of these students do.

And then there was a massacre at Virginia Tech University, 33 people slaughtered by a friendless, solitary young man who never talked to anybody but whose creative writing projects alerted his teachers to the possibility that his jaws were clamped shut not in shyness but in rage. And I started to think about how communication is not just a “subject” to study but a means of staying alive, and well, and connecting to each other.

One of the things I appreciate most about WIER is that way that it liberates kids to listen to each others’ work with attention and respond to it with respect. Obviously, some of these kids aren’t in the same classroom and would never have seen each others’ work except for WIER! But for others, the opportunity to experience someone else’s writing isolated on the computer screen, out of the busy give-and-take of the school environment, inspires a higher degree of responsiveness than usual.

So often in daily life we are distracted, preoccupied, eager to speak our own piece, impatient to get on to the next activity. WIER makes us stop and focus on someone else’s words. It invites us into the space of those words and asks us to engage only with them, to let our imaginations fill up that space. And that active listening, my friends, is a huge life skill not just for writers and editors, but for all of us, all the time, who need to connect to each other in order to stay alive.


Susan Glickman

Friday, April 13, 2007

There's no SPRING in my step ...

because of the blustery, bullying, cloudy weather, slinging sleet, cold wind and lots of mud, that saps the spirit -- or mine at least. Plus I recently finished another novel and am feeling more useless than usual. Plus I fell down a hill! One of the more shocking things that can happen to a grownup, I think, is to go ass over teakettle. My illusion of control is already so fragile.

SO I'm on the hunt for jollification. The news re Canadian domination of the International Booker Prize was welcome, as was a simultaneous sighting of cardinal, mockingbird, grackle,house finch, house sparrow, junco and squirrel all companionably noshing at the backyard feeder. But these are transient flares of sunshine. I need more cheering up!! You are welcome to send in your jokes and funny stories as part of this ongoing campaign.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Anti-Romantic Rent

Just returned from a March break of excessive driving - to Long Island and back by way of Montreal. Took my 12 year old daughter to see RENT in New York as a present for her upcoming birthday; she adores the movie and has watched it countless times. I guess I never realized how sexually explicit it was, or perhaps seeing live actors made it seem more so than it did on film. Still, my little girl, having grown up on hip-hop music videos, seemed unperturbed by Mimi's pornographic writhing, transforming it, as the play expects you to, into romantic yearning.

Like Mimi herself, the play is an odd combination of vulgarity and tenderness: no wonder it is such a hit with teenagers! "La Vie Boheme", a scene set in a cafe, explains charmingly that the two main incentives of its characters, as refugees from conventionality, are to get laid and to piss off their parents. There really aren't any artists in Bohemia anymore: Mark (Marcello) is no longer a painter but instead a documentary filmmaker; Maureen (Musetta ) has been demoted from a singer to a narcissitic "performance artist." Aesthetic idealism is hardly even alluded to, except perhaps by Roger (Rodolfo) who wants to write one true song before he dies.

It is the omnipresence of death, in the form of AIDS, which transforms these mediocrities into Romantic figures, because they are condemned to die for love. Of course, sex and death are the standard themes of opera, but opera usually aspires to transcendence through extraordinary music, which RENT does not attain except, perhaps, in one great song, "Seasons of Love." It is, in fact, resolutely ordinary in its singing, in its musical compositions, and in its characters.

I find this fascinating. And disturbing.

Monday, February 19, 2007 up and running!

OK folks, I did it! My web-site is posted. Not too terribly amateurish for someone who doesn't know her html from her css.

Monday, January 29, 2007

OK. Now I've changed the look of this blog, even adding a photo, but can't figure out how to change the colour of some of the text below! So let's see if I can give you the link to the Zadie Smith essay -- two successive Saturdays in the Guardian Review (one my regular weekend pleasures). I know I should have a whole list of recommended links etcetera but really, there are hundreds of literary blogs out there already all linking to each other, so I'm sure my recommendations would be superfluous!,,1989004,00.html

Monday, January 22, 2007

I've been trying to make a web site

Just finished my new novel, Esther, Star of the Sea and was feeling at loose ends so thought I'd try to move myself even further into cyberspace.
And it ain't as easy as it looks. Using Nvu, the freeware from Mozilla, which is very user-friendly, but I still can't seem to get the banner or buttons right for linking -- maybe because I'm working off line. Anyhow, I thought I'd update my blog in the mean time.

If you're looking for inspiration you won't get it from me, but here are some things you should read:

Zadie Smith's two part essay in the Guardian Review
Orhan Pahmuk's nobel prize speech