metro mama

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Metro Reco: Blood Meridian

In my contemporary novel course, each week we’re comparing two novels, one American, one Canadian, with something in common, be it themes, style, form, genre. Our first two novels were Westerns: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy and The Englishman's Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe.

First, Blood Meridian. Wow. I don’t have the words. First of all, I’ll warn you, this book is incredibly violent; it’s probably the bloodiest book I’ve ever read (and you know I’m not squeamish). Set in the 19th century Wild West, the novel tells the story of the Glanton gang, a group of scalp hunters on the US-Mexico borderlands. The gang’s leader and the novel’s antagonist is Judge Holden, an enigmatic Kurtzian figure. He’s diabolically evil; he’s also fiercely intelligent. He is fascinating—and he’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

The violence in the novel is relentless, and it’s deliberate. McCarthy describes cruelty using language so beautiful and dense it is like reading poetry. The result is a very unsettling read you can’t stop thinking about. The book provoked a very interesting response in my class—folks either loved it or hated it. I think it’s genius, and I highly recommend it to you.


Guy Vanderhaeghe’s The Englishman's Boy was my second Western in as many weeks, and I’m a new fan of the genre.

An absorbing mix of fact and fiction, the novel looks at two historical periods, both steeped in mythology. Recounted by a narrator in 1950’s Saskatoon, the book centres around two narratives: the story of a screenwriter in 1920’s Hollywood, and the tale of the Englishman’s Boy, who took part in the Cypress Hill Massacre of 1873 in the Wild West.

Poetic, sometimes raw and brutal, always fascinating, the novel drew me in gradually, but as the chapters progressed, it became harder and harder to put down; I turned the pages faster and faster until I reached the stunning, tragic climax.

Guy Vanderhaeghe was born in Esterhazy, a mining town in Saskatchewan. He won the Governor General’s Award for his first novel, Man Descending (1992) and won it again for The Englishman's Boy (1996). He is probably best known for The Last Crossing (2001), a bestseller that was selected for the 2004 Canada Reads.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Better Way?

I’ve been all self-congratulatory lately about taking the TTC most of the time, but in truth, the “better way” has been pissing me off a lot lately.

Yesterday I left early so I’d have time to hit the library before class. I took the streetcar to University and the University line was down between Union and Spadina. I had to walk back to Yonge, transfer at Bloor, and transfer again at Spadina, totally killing my extra time. And of course, once I was back on my route the problems on the University line were fixed. I just about lost my mind.

Also driving me crazy lately is the other people. I can usually tune them out, but in the past few days I have been inundated by the TTC folks I hate the most:

The Stinkers

Don’t people know not to wear scents when they’re going to be in close quarters with other people? It’s so fucking inconsiderate. It wouldn’t be so bad if they wore good scents, but the strong smellers are usually wearing some Avon shit that makes me gag. Even worse is when the scent is a poor attempt to cover some underlying BO. And no, don’t read this and think I’m pregnant, I always have the nose of a bloodhound.

The Fidgeters

I’m so easily distracted when I’m trying to read, it drives me crazy when people are pacing back and forth. The other day I was sitting down, reading and the guy next to me wouldn’t stop jumping all over the place. He kept grabbing the pole right next to my face, startling me every time and making me lose my place. To add insult to injury, he kept pressing his buttocks on the plexiglass just inches from my face. I had to move.

The Crazies

I sat down on the streetcar the other day and bumped the seat in front of me. The woman occupying it turned around and glared at me, which I just ignored. A couple of stops later, a guy getting off the car brushed against her—she kicked him and shouted “that’s what you get!” I made a mental note to be careful not to bump her and kept my nose in my book. A few stops later, she turned around and shouted at me, “if you do that one more time I’ll smash your fucking head in!” I quietly changed seats.

However, as irritating as all these folks are, I’m still more tolerant of them than I am of the asshole on the 401 who cuts me off in his SUV while he talks on his cell phone.

Tell me your commuting tales of woe.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nothing a Few Cocktails Can't Fix

I’m feeling a little better about things after a little holiday from mothering this weekend. My mom’s been here for a few days, allowing me to hit the pub with my new classmates Thursday night. McHotty was even able to hook up with us later in the evening too. I had a really good time. And once a few beers loosened my tongue, I talked to a few people about feeling intimidated and it turns out I’m not alone. Phew.

My dear mom got up with Cakes the last two mornings and took her to the park, freeing me to read my ass off and get ahead a little. I also managed to hit my neighbours’ annual bash last night, which was, as always, a riot. I managed to refuse all but two of the many trays of shooters floating under my nose, and put the cap on my wineglass at around 1 am, allowing me to hit the books unencumbered by a splitting headache this morning (wish I could say the same of Thurs night).

So, I’m thinking I can manage all of this after all. The only problem is, since Cakes started school she has given up on napping. This is my worst nightmare. I don’t need to tell you how much my thin thread of sanity depends on a reliable nap time.

Anyone else experience this during transitions? Please tell me it’s temporary.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Who What Where? Fuck Me

I just emerged from the third class this week where I spoke barely two words. How can I be the only one in a room who's never read Foucault?

I'm feeling a little intimidated. And overwhelmed by the amount of work.

On the bright side, tonight is the first pub night. Now there's a settting where I'm in my element. Let's just hope they don't spend the whole night talking about fucking Foucault.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Invisible Woman

When Cakes and I walk to school, part of the trip is along a very busy road, and we share our path with joggers, cyclists, city workers, all the characters of a busy city morning. On the way to school, when I’m pushing Cakes’ stroller, I’m an invisible woman--nothing more than an obstacle to be navigated around. This morning a cute construction worker caught my eye. He deferentially allowed us to pass, looking the other way.

When I drop Cakes off, I leave the stroller at school and walk home, unencumbered. I’ve lost my invisibility cloak. On the way home today, I counted one whistle, one honk, and two up-and-down looks. I rolled my eyes on the outside, but I was smiling inside.

Does this make me a bad feminist?


Friday, September 14, 2007

Buried in Books

I started the MA full-time last week, and I’m already a little overwhelmed. I’m in three classes this term: 19th Century Canadian Lit, The Canadian and American Novel Since 1980, and Victorian Sexuality. I think I’m going to love the classes: the reading list for the novel course is fantastic; the Victorian Sex will be super interesting (I think I have a paper about lesbian vampires in me begging to be written). The 19th Century CanLit might be a little tough going: it’s at 8:30 am on Mondays, and there’s only 9 of us in the class. No flying under the radar. Some of the reading is a little, um, let’s call it dry. But the profs seem great so far, as do my classmates (the classes are a nice mix of people—my worries about being the oldest were unfounded).

But it’s so busy already. Cakes is in school three days a week now, but I’m reading three novels per week, plus presentations, papers, and research work. I already have a bit of a sick feeling in my stomach. On the other hand, I think I’m pretty fucking lucky to be getting paid to read books.

On the positive side, I received my first masters level grade, for the summer course I took: an A! That gives me a little more confidence. Plus, I’m 90% sure I won’t go for the doctorate, so the pressure for grades is a little lightened (it’s more a matter of pride).

Oh, and if you’re interested, I’ve posted the Alice Munro paper here (I’ll warn you, it’s long!)


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Absentminded (but sweet!) Husband

The other day I stepped into the backyard to do some reading. My mom had taken Cakes to the park, and McHotty was off to the gym. I was excited about a couple of hours of peace and quiet around the homestead. I got comfy on the patio, but a few minutes later had to pee. I impatiently went to the door. And it was locked.

I was locked outside, shoeless, braless and having to pee. I peered through the house to the front door and it was locked too. McHotty absentmindedly locked me out of the house. He’s usually gone more than two hours when he goes to the gym. Fuck.

Knowing my mother ALWAYS forgets to take her key, I decided I better figure something out (I could see Cakes’ diaper bag sitting on the counter, meaning they had no snacks, drinks or extra diapers). Luckily I had my cell phone with me (only because I had forgotten my watch up north and I needed to keep track of time). So I called my neighbours, and got their voicemail.

“Um [sheepish tone] we’re locked out of the house, and I don’t know the name of McHotty’s gym. Can you look in the yellow pages and call me back with the number?”

I left this embarrassing message on two neighbours’ voicemail as well as my mother-in-law’s. I don’t have many numbers in my cell phone as I rarely use it, and was running out of people to call. But since I used to work with k-girl I remembered her office number and gave her a call. She quickly hooked me up, and I called McHotty at the gym with a very curt request that he “get his fucking ass home”.

Luckily, he had given me these the day before (for our fourth anniversary):

How can you stay mad with those on your table?


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Metro Reco: October

I devoured Richard B. Wright’s new novel, October, in one lazy day by the lake in Kingston. In this gorgeous novel, retired literature professor James travels to London to see his daughter, Susan, who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. While James tries to process his daughter’s bleak prognosis, he runs into an acquaintance from his youth, Gabriel, a rich, temperamental man looking for companionship during his last days of life.

October is a taut, intelligent, beautifully written reflection on mortality and humanity. I highly recommend it.

Richard B. Wright was born in Midland, Ontario and attended Trent University in Peterborough. He has published eleven novels, including Clara Callan (2001) which won three of Canada's major literary awards in 2001: the Giller Prize; the Trillium Book Award; and the Governor General's Award. He currently lives in St. Catherines, Ontario with his wife.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

BlogHer's Act: September Challenge

Over at BlogHer’s Act Canada, the challenge for September is to go back to school/work/daycare with less packaging.

This is how I plan to make a difference:

I will bring my own water, saving about 25 plastic water bottles per month.

I will use my own coffee mug, saving 20 paper coffee cups per month.

I will pack a lunch, eliminating my use of styrofoam, plastic cutlery, and all the other over-packaging of fast food, not to mention saving countless calories.

In addition to reducing packaging, here are a few more environmentally friendly things I plan to do this fall:

I will exclusively use the TTC to travel to school. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes each way, but think of all the reading I will get done. And I will save a fortune on parking.

I will try to cut down on the paper I consume. Whenever I can, I’ll refrain from using photocopied handouts and check the book out of the library instead. I will continue to get most of my texts from the Toronto library system (where you can keep them for three weeks and renew three times). Because I’m cheap, I’m used to never having the same edition as anyone else (not easy when looking for a passage in a nine-hundred page book). I will use electronic sources for research whenever I can.

Cakes’ school is a twenty-five minute walk. Weather permitting, we will walk at least one way each trip.

How do you plan to reduce packaging? Write your post by September 12, and leave a link over at BlogHer’s Act Canada. Get busy--there are prizes!


Friday, September 07, 2007

July and August "Shat on My Keyboard" Awards*

* Renamed as suggested by jen during a drunken conversation at BlogHer which I completed forgot.

Chicky and I apologize for our hiatus from hosting the awards last month. There was a lot going on for us, and little happenin' in the blogosphere, so we decided to save up for a double-header this month. So, here you go! Double your fun...

Sober Briquette awarded Julie Pippert

slackermommy awarded Wiping Up Snot

Oh, the Joys awarded Zen Proof

Cheezwhiz and Mustard awarded Queen of Shake Shake

Foggy City Mommy awarded Here in Idaho

One Plus Two awarded Where's My Cape

Oh, the Joys awarded Queen of Shake Shake

Playgroups are no place for children awarded It's like I'm Mmmagic

Rusti awarded Oh, the Joys

Cheaper than Therapy awarded RockstarMommy

Table 4 Five awarded I Am Bossy

Red Stapler awarded The Imperfect Mom

Chicky Chicky Baby awarded Suburban Turmoil

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Moving On

Day 2 Update: Cakes was excited to go back to school today, but she cried when I went to leave this morning. I called an hour later and they said she was laughing and having fun. Fingers crossed!

Today was Cakes’ first day of preschool: the first time she’s been in anyone’s care other than family. As recently as yesterday I was telling people I wasn’t worried at all—Cakes does well with transitions; she’s social, adaptable, etc. and I was sure all would go well.

And then I barely slept a wink last night.

I won’t go on and on about all the things I worried about last night, because it’s all moot.

The day went better than I could have expected. I’m so thankful and proud of her.

It went unbelievably well actually (with the exception of skipping nap). I’m really curious to see how tomorrow goes.

She woke up five minutes after my alarm went off (the first time I’ve set an alarm in two years!) Over breakfast I explained to her she was going to school.

“I go to school?”

“Yes, darlin’.”

“Buddy go school too?”

“You bet babe.”

McHotty and I both took her. We met her teacher, chatted for a while, played with Cakes for about ten minutes, then said goodbye and told her we’d be back later. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously, then went back to her blocks. We went home to our oddly quiet house. I worked for about an hour, then called the school to learn she didn’t shed a tear, she was laughing, and having a grand time.

I’m so fucking relieved.

We went back at the end of the day to pick her up. She was playing outside and I watched her unobserved for a little while. She was beaming, laughing, and chasing her exuberant teacher and her new friends around the yard.

And you know what? Her willingness to move on didn’t make me sad today. I’m so happy for her. And happy for me. We’re both moving on to the next thing.

But she’s still my babe. As happy as she was this afternoon, she lit up even more when she caught me spying. My hours with her today were much more precious than any others have been lately.

This is a good thing.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Weekend Recap and (Finally!) My Take on Potter

Photo courtesy of my sister-in-law, M.

I’m back in the t-dot after our adult weekend up North. Cakes didn’t miss us one bit; she was too busy going to the farm and the beach and everywhere her heart desired with her grandparents. McHotty and I were a couple of teenagers, sleeping in, drinking beer at noon, reading on the dock, watching movies. I actually managed to see three movies; here are my one-sentence reviews:

Ocean’s 13: how could something with so much eye candy suck so bad?

Knocked Up: very funny and charming, though highly unbelievable that she would a) have sex with that guy in the first place (she wasn’t that drunk!), and b) give him another chance without the beer goggles. Loved the supporting cast.

Shooter: I watched this for hubby’s sake, once reassured it starred Mark Walhberg wearing no shirt. It was better than I expected (damn, the man has some hot abs).

We had some fine food this weekend. Holy fuck the Ontario produce is good right now, the tomatoes particularly. Add a little fresh basil, olive oil and some feta, bocconcini, or goat cheese and blow your fucking mind. Before we left the city we filled up the cooler with some goodies from our new neighbourhood T&T Supermarket, aka the Asian Loblaws(we’ve been there three times in the week since it opened—post on MBT coming soon). We watched the sunset on the dock with fine cheese and a bottle of wine each night. Now that is the way to live.

Harry Potter spoiler alert!!!

I FINALLY read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’m very happy with how Rowling tied it all up. I won’t go in to a lot of analysis here as I’m so late to the party, but I love how she continued the theme of ambiguity in this last book. The “good” characters, particularly Dumbledore, acknowledge their weaknesses. The “bad” characters, like Draco’s mother, reveal their humanity. The most interesting character continues to be (for me) Snape. I always believed he was loyal to Dumbledore. What’s problematic is how easily he is forgiven—he’s been much more cruel than necessary to keep up his cover. But, he’s also the one who is most heroic with the least reason to be. More things I loved: the Nazi Germany allusions; how Neville steps up to the plate; Harry’s recognition that power corrupts. Now I just need some time to read the series again in its entirety. Next year maybe.

Did y'all love it?


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