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Beyond Honey Boo Boo: Scary Little Monsters in Fiction

September 24, 2012 | Viveca | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

The current fascination with TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo proves that children, real or imagined, can become projections of adult fear and loathing.  For many, cheerful little Alana appears to be responsible for the impending fall of Western Civilization.  If this seems a tad unfair, and you would like to meet some truly terrifying children, try this reading list:

Bad Seed We Need to Talk About Kevin Blueeyed Boy Turn-of-screw

The Bad Seed by William March. This 1954 classic introduces Rhoda Penmark, an 8-year-old sociopath. You don't want her in your kid's playgroup.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.  Kevin's mom insists that something is "off" about her boy from the day he is born to the final, horrific act he commits as a teenager. Book clubs debate: whose fault is it?  Winner of the Orange Book Prize.  The film starring Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller is available at your local branch.

Blueeyed Boy by Joanne Harris.  Is this blue-eyed boy a murderer? If we believe his blog, yes. A dark, psychological thriller from the author of Chocolat.

The Other by Thomas Tryon. Niles and Holland are identical twins - and yes - one of them is evil. Don't reveal the ending. This 1971 bestseller continues to creep out readers today.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.  This 1898 classic is very sneaky in avoiding who or what is evil  - but Flora and Miles are two very creepy kids who drive the nanny insane (critics argue that it wasn't a long drive).  The 1961 film, The Innocents was based on this.

The OtherFifth Child Illustrated ManLord of the flies

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing.  The Lovatts live in domestic bliss with their four lovely children - until the birth of Ben.  Lessing, a Nobel prize-winner, says she hated writing this book because it was so upsetting.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A plane crashes leaving a group of young British boys stranded on an island. Twelve year-old Jack wants to be the leader - by any means necessary (he is nothing like the Jack in Lost.)

"The Veldt" in The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury.  Little Wendy and Peter are spending hours in the nursery using virtual technology to project an African veldt.  What are those lions eating?  Written in 1951 by one of the great sci-fi visionaries. Careful, parents: there may now be an app for this.

And if the classic sociopath fails to interest you, there are always the supernatural/demonic kiddies: 

Carrie Exorcist Bad Girls Don't Die The Ring

Related post: Psycho Killer: Qu'est-ce que c'est?

Eat Your Heart Out: Cookbooks to make you drool!

July 6, 2012 | Soheli | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

I openly admit it: I'm addicted to cookbooks. I like to gaze lovingly at their rich covers, leaf slowly through their glossy pages, and, of course, silently promise myself that I'll try each and every mouth-watering recipe I stumble across. The truth is, however, I rarely end up actually making anything (and let's face it, you probably fall in that category too!)

Every once in a while, though, I do actually try something out. It becomes immediately clear that I have a few preferences of any cookbooks I pick up with intentions of actual cooking -

1. Simplicity is key. I can't stand instructions that begin with something like: "Now drizzle the sauce over the..." and then goes on to tell you how you should have prepared this sauce two days ago. Sigh. I don't mind a challenging recipe once in a while, but I don't generally start planning a dish days in advance.

Mmmmmmm!
Colourful and delicious!

2. I need photos. And lots of them. In high-def colour, please. A cookbook without pictures is a sad, sad thing.

3. Give me options! I'm usually pretty relaxed when cooking, and I actually rarely use recipes. My mother taught me to cook as a kid, and her idea of measurement was more along the line of: "Here, take some cumin and throw it in until it starts to smell amazing." At the same time, when I'm trying out a new recipe that involves flavours or ingredients I'm not very familiar with, it can be difficult to make my own substitutions or variations.

A cookbook that works in some variable ingredients is great, especially for a less experienced cook.

With BBQ season in full-effect, I've been going a little crazy with the grilling guides, but I'm always dipping into all cuisines. Here are a couple of books that are sure to get you inspired (or at least drooling)!

The New SteakThe New Steak: Recipes for a range of cuts and savoury sides
by Cree LeFavour
Place a hold on this book.

Don't be alarmed by some of the fancy sounding ideas in here: a lot of them are pretty easy. Check out the super simple roasted tomatoes (p. 40) or purple slaw (p. 69) as side dishes. I've yet to try out a steak recipe (I know; strange!) but so far, the ingredients listed for most of the recipes sound manageable, and the amount of time needed in the kitchen is reasonable.I like that there's a decent mix of meat and veggie-friendly recipes, so if you're cooking for a mixed crowd, you have a few items to choose from.

 

RasoiRasoi: New Indian kitchen
by Vineet Bhatia
Place a hold on this book.

This is a beautiful book: the photos are stunning, and Indian food takes on a glam that I never quite expected, despite having grown up cooking it! Most of the recipes come with a somewhat intimidating ingredients list, even if you have a well-stocked Indian spice cupboard. Try the simpler stir-fried rice varieties (p. 206), where you can easily toss in leftover odds and ends to suit your style. Bhatia actually even mentions that these dishes are "LOVE" dishes that consist of "Left Over Vegetables, Etc." For the most part, this was more of a book I'd consider for its visual appeal, although there are some great ideas.

ToomanytomatoesThe too many tomatoes cookbook:
classic and exotic recipes from around the world

by Brian Yarvin
Place a hold on this book.

This is one of those books that really is great when you have too many tomatoes. There is a good blend of recipes, as the title promises, and most require ingredients you probably already have. Yarvin almost mentions that a good number of the recipes call for "fresh, chopped tomatoes" and the kind of tomato really depends on you - so you can use whatever you have and still end up with a tasty dish. I personally love tomatoes, so I've made a few of the recipes in this book with satisying results. Try the Tomato-Brown Rice Pilaf (p. 131) which has only 2 main steps and less than 10 common ingredients! The Salsa recipe (p. 203) is also really easy and delicious, although I adjusted it a bit here and there.

Have a favourite cookbook? Or a cookbook you loved to look at (but avoided trying out...)? Share with us in the comments!

Dispatches from the War on the Internet

January 27, 2012 | John Elmslie | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

When Wikipedia darkened it's site last week to protest the passing of laws that would have placed new restrictions on our use of the internet to share books, music and video, I was very glad to have just finished reading two excellent collections of essays by Cory Doctorow on the issues involved.

Photo by Derryl Murphy

Cory Doctorow by Derryl Murphy

Content smallDoctorow was born in Toronto and has a reputation as an author of fine science-fiction and as a co-editor of the wildly popular blog Boing Boing. He has also been writing marvelously entertaining articles on the internet using down-to-earth, easy to understand language and examples from everyday life.

In his first collection -- Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future he writes in detail about the negative effects of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and other forms of control on the internet.

Doctorow's argument boils down to his belief that whatever we lose in the free exchange of information on the internet, we will gain in innovations which will enrich our culture in ways that cannot yet be predicted. Call him an optimist.

Doctorow has given away free downloads of all his novels from the beginning of his career. He has found that by making these copies free and encouraging his fans to share them online he has expanded the market for the printed editions of his books.

Context smallIn his latest collection -- Context: Further Selected Essays on Productivity, Creativity, Parenting, and Politics in the 21st Century he writes about how these issues affect him as a creative writer and as a new parent.

He explains intellectual property, the "information economy", copyright enforcement and digital licensing in clearly understandable ways.

His warnings about the vulnerability of our passwords and our personal data online are frightening and sobering.

He explains why streaming will never replace the downloading of music online.

He also talks about how he manages the hundreds of non-spam emails he gets every day, and why he will never buy an iPad.

Together these books cover ten years of exciting, insightful coverage of these increasingly important issues in a highly readable way.

 

Christopher Hitchens: 1949 - 2011

December 16, 2011 | Viveca | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

  Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens, British author and essayist, died last night of complications related to cancer. A fierce intellectual and polemicist, Hitchens was no stranger to controversy. Indeed, his impressive body of work has both engaged and enraged his many readers over the years - and his passing has resulted in an outpouring of editorials reflecting on his life and work.  

Read obits from the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, the BBC, CNN, the Guardian, the National Post, the Wall Street Journal, The Daily Mail and Vanity Fair.

See Vanity's Fair's photo essay.  Read some of his memorable quotes here and here.

Watch Hitchen's inteview with Sally Quinn of the Washington Post in which he reflects upon his life's work. 

 

The Guardian reports on a forthcoming memoir, Mortality, based on his Vanity Fair columns.

Until then:

God is Not Great Christopher HitchensArguably Christopher Hitchens Hitch-22 Christopher Hitchens Quotable Hitchens Christopher Hitchens




 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Hitchens Young Man
Hitchens in 1968.


 

How to Live, Work and Play in the City

November 25, 2011 | John Elmslie | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

ChairsAll of us have at least one brilliant friend with endlessly fascinating ideas and opinions, but few of us do anything about it. Toronto novelist Sheila Heti decided to sit down with her friend Misha Glouberman and write down everything he knew.

The result of their collaboration is a lively and very readable self-help book that distills the culture of downtown Toronto.

It's called The Chairs Are Where the People Go: How to Live, Work and Play in the City.

Most of the chapters are a page or two long.

The opinions are Glouberman's. The editing is Heti's.

Glouberman is a wonderful talker. I was impressed by his good sense and the down-to-earth nature of his sometimes surprising opinions. Here is a sampling.

  • From Why a Computer Only Lasts Three Years -- "The typewriter that lasted for fifty years wasn't built in a world where the machines we type on on become a hundred times more powerful every three years."
  • From Kensington Market [on Pedestrian Sundays] -- "Neighborhoods that are really good, I think, are places that feel like people live there. When you throw a huge, noisy street party every Sunday, it really creates the impression that people don't live there... Who would think that what their own neighborhood needs is to have a drum circle and an amplified performance poet outside their own home every single Sunday all summer? So a festival like [Pedestrian Sundays] creates the message that the neighborhood belongs to the people who come there as an entertainment destination, not to the people who live there."
  • From Why Robert McKee Is Wrong About Casablanca -- "The idea that love is something magical, almost supernatural, in your heart, that has nothing to do with the day-to-day encounters with a real person ... has probably created more unhappiness and ruined more marriages than just about anything."

A Spy in the House of Food

October 21, 2011 | John Elmslie | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

GarlicWhen the New York Times newspaper approached Ruth Reichl about becoming their new restaurant critic, she was already reviewing restaurants for the Los Angeles Times and was in no mood to make a change.

Her husband was supportive. 

"Why on earth would you want to work at the best paper in the world?"

The Times hires her and Reichl quickly discovers that every restaurant in New York has prepared for her arrival by putting a picture of her face on their staff bulletin board. So with the help of a theatre make-up artist she creates a well-to-do, but very dowdy, disguise for herself.

Reichl's account of the shabby treatment this unfashionable character gets at the fashionable restaurant Le Cirque is refreshingly scathing.

She returns to Le Cirque as herself, the reviewer for the New York Times, and her account of the splendid treatment she gets is just as scathing. She writes a hilarious review about both experiences , and postitive responces roll in from readers.

One reader praised her as "a spy in the house of food".

So begins Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, her memoir of reviewing restaurants in New York City, published in 2005.

Reichl is good company, never takes herself too seriously and seriously loves good food. I picked this up when I was in the mood for something light, urbane and hilarious, and I could hardly bear to put it down.

Also in Large Print.

Who's *That* Woman? Madonna and Mrs. Simpson

September 10, 2011 | Viveca | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...

    Duchess-of-windsor-wallis-simpson-late-1930s B-image-3-875478112

The Duchess of Windsor, previously Wallis Simpson, is 'that woman,' the American divorcĂ©e for whom King Edward VIII abdicated his throne to marry (leaving baby brother Bertie to stutter his way to the top job).  Sex, power, and glamour: Wallis was reviled by a scandalized (yet fascinated) public. No surprise that Wallis' brunette ambition captured the imagination of Madonna.  W.E., her film structured around the Wallis and Edward romance, is now at the TIFF.  For critics, reviewing Madonna's directing (and acting) is a bloodsport. After its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, the Guardian describes W.E. as "a primped and simpering folly, preening and fatally mishandled." 

Upcoming books revisiting Wallis are in the works, including That Woman by Anne Sebba due out next year.

Ms. Ciccone identifies with Ms. Simpson: "I think she felt an existential loneliness."  Read more about her interest in Wallis here.  Read Gus van Sant's piece on Madonna for Interview.

Madonna has another bizarre mission: to prove that the Duchess was not a Nazi sympathizer. In the Globe and Mail, Madonna states ..."after years of research, I could find no empirical evidence proving she was a Nazi or Nazi sympathizer." 

Madonna could have visited her local library to get help with her research.

Wallis-simpson

Interested in Simpson and the royal abdication that rocked a nation?  Further reading:

If you happen to get tickets to catch W.E. at the Toronto International Film Festival, let Madge know what you think.

Just don't give her any hydrangeas.

"One or Two Lumps, Mr. Mortenson?"

July 18, 2011 | Viveca | Comments (5) Facebook Twitter More...

Three Cups of Deceipt Book Cover In Three Cups of Deceit, Jon Krakauer alleges that humanitarian Greg Mortenson bent the truth about certain events in his bestselling memoirs Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools and furthermore, that his charity, the Central Asia Institute, is not exactly what it seems.  Mortenson, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, has gained global recognition for risking his life to bring education to women in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. His memoirs kept countless middle-class book clubs enthralled while the military made his books required reading

Watch CBS's 60 Minutes episode that broke the story. Read about the allegations here.  Krakauer, who was working on his own investigation, was interviewed by 60 Minutes. The author of Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven, Into the Wild, and Where Men Win Glory is no stranger to controversy - his books deal with difficult topics and with subjects living on the edge.

Read the Daily Mail article which includes Mortenson's response to Krakauer. Mortenson has his defenders: his mountain-climbing friend, Scott Darsney, responds.

Mortenson is also reported to be facing a class action lawsuit. Read the article in the Wall Street Journal on the recent rash of class action suits from readers against authors for 'misleading' them.  (Good thing the villagers didn't know they could sue the pants off Copernicus for the innaccuracies in his de revolutionibus orbium coelstium).

In the end, these allegations are a matter for the courts to decide - but in the meantime, both Mortenson and Krakauer make for excellent reading: 


Three-Cups-of-TeaStones For Schools Into Thin AirWhere men win glory book cover Under-the-banner-of-heaven
    

Go the [Bleep] to Sleep: Tender Tales for Sleepy Adults

June 21, 2011 | Viveca | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Go-the-@-to-sleep
No one was more surprised than Adam Mansbach when Go the Fuck to Sleep became a bestseller in advance sales.  Definitely not for children, this book is intended to reflect the frustration of parents whose little (non-sleeping) angels remain wide awake long after their bedtimes. Mansbach, a prof at Rutgers University, a novelist (The End of the Jews), and a first-time parent, was inspired to publish this book after he joked on Facebook that this would be the name of his next novel - and received an overwhelmingly postive response. See his interview on ABC news.  Listen to his interview on CBC.

Samuelljackson 061708herzog Now, I don't know about you, but when I think of childrens' storytellers, American actor, Samuel L. Jackson and German director, Werner Herzog naturally spring to mind.

Listen to Samuel L. Jackson's tender interpretation. 

And here is Werner's version.

Read what the NY Times, the Washington Times, and the Globe and Mail have to say.  The U.K. Guardian writes about the curious phenonemon of children's books for adults.

Read what the New Yorker says about nervous publishers dealing with profanity-laced bestsellers in a post-Cee Lo universe.  Forget you, indeed.

Will pareAdam-Mansbach-007nts find this funny?  Of course.  No doubt some parents will find this offensive, or dismiss it as a one-joke gimmick.  Serious parenting pundits will wade in to argue for or against the book's "premise."  One thing is for sure - this book stands to make a lot of money. 

For those who prefer to hear bedtime tales with an old lady whispering 'hush,' there is always the classic Goodnight Moon.

(author Adam Mansbach with his daughter)

"You tweeted a photo of WHAT??"

June 9, 2011 | Viveca | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

Breen
Anthony Weiner's recent admission of inappropriate conduct via the social media is simply the latest scandal involving icky behaviour by people who really should know better. This member (no pun intended) of the U.S. House of Representatives for New York was a Democratic hopeful destined for higher office. This article appeared in today's Toronto Star.

Spectacular falls from grace make for great comedy, cautionary tales, and of course, great reading.

One Nation Under SexTigerJohn EdwardsElizabeth EdwardsJesse James  Art of the Public Grovel Spitzer
 

 

 

 

Further Research:

  • Try Jennifer Weiner's (no relation to Rep. Weiner) novel, Fly Away Home, about a politician's wife who gets blindsided by her husband's infidelity.
  • Check out the the L.A. Times helpful reading list compiled for Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Maria Shriver.
  • Watch the Daily Show's coverage of "Weinergate" (just wait - the video starts after the ads).

The Big Wang Theory June 2, 2011

Jon Stewart Press Conference June 7, 2011

Weird fact: Weiner was Jon Stewart's old roomate after college (Weiner's remarks in this 2009 article in New York Magazine are uncannily prescient with regard to his current predicament)

 

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