Covered In... Rain and Busy Days

To chill out, to calm myself, get rid of the aches of the working day, I like to shop for books. Where I live, there is no book store. Only a newsagency with a back shelf full of over-priced new releases. When I need a buyer's fix, I go to the St. Vincent de Paul and grab ratty, smelly paperbacks for a buck a piece. When I want new books, I go online.

Yesterday was a particularly tiring day. It was a public holiday here in town, and it was raining. So my video shop was hectic. For the most part, my customers understood that service can be slower when the rain-rush hits. But some people -- you know them -- decided that if the rain was going to get them down, it might as well get everyone else down, too. I argued, debated, bartered, and bent -- all day long, to every need. This is scratched, that wasn't late, you never said Sweeney Todd was a bloomin' musical, what do you mean I can't use my free coupon on a public holiday?

And at the very end of the day, I got full-on threatened by a guy on the phone who tried to convince me that his rented copy of I Am Legend destroyed his DVD player. Fix my problem, he demanded, or expect a visit from a "very nasty customer".

Some days, you know, you remember how quiet unemployment was.

So, I came home, de-uniformed, and shopped for books. Is there any pursuit more calming than browsing bookshelves? Even if they are virtual? Keep your baths and massage oils -- for me, ultimate relaxation comes in the knowledge that Amazon US ships fast. I picked three books last night, mostly because my shoulders un-tensed just that little bit when I saw their front images.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewski


June 2008, 566 pages, $25.95

This struck me with its serenity: the boy and his dog wandering the farm. It beings to mind The Yearling or Sounder. Reading the synopsis, though, the picture takes on new meaning. There's an urgency about it, suddenly, that the boy and his dog are heading to that barn with greater intent than simply to pass the time. Or perhaps they're unaware of what awaits them? At any rate, the barn's got me hooked.


by Debra Winger

Simon & Schuster

June 2008, 224 pages, $23.00

Debra Winger makes me think of strength. There's something about her, probably tied to her movie, Searching for Debra Winger, that stirs in me feelings of empowerment and longevity. Winger may not have conquered Hollywood, but nor did she need to. This is her memoir, and its Autumn-coloured cover is the perfect antidote to my rainy, Winter blues. The image is really something -- the actress standing on the other side of what appears to be a closed door. It's a feminine, natural recreation, perhaps, of the "road less travelled" concept. There was one way, but Debra chose another, and there were colours there.

Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization

by Nicholson Baker

Simon & Schuster

March 2008, 566 pages, $30.00

Normally, a history of the Second World War would not be on my Winter reading list. But there's just something about that cover. Its floating, dying hand gives the impression of reaching and grabbing. Maybe guiding? And you just can't help but go where it leads. It wasn't just the cover that had me, though -- Colm Toibin's review, as posted on the Barnes and Noble site (where I do much of my browsing), convinced me, too:

It is possible that Human Smoke will infuriate those who believe that Churchill was a hero and that war, in all its viciousness, is often the only way to defeat those who declare or threaten war. Human Smoke will not be admired by those who argue that methods used to win a war may seem, especially to novelists writing more than 60 years later, impossible to justify. Nonetheless, the issues Baker wishes to raise, and the stark system he has used to dramatize his point, make his book a serious and conscientious contribution to the debate about pacifism. He has produced an eloquent and passionate assault on the idea that the deliberate targeting of civilians can ever be justified.

Maybe it's a hand raised in surrender?

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.