Wednesday, June 23, 2010

So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, goodnight!

Visit my new blog, Writer's Block, at

I plan on posting book reviews, film reviews, reflections on Canadian literature and culture, as well as criticisms of the state of education as it relates to my own experiences as a tutor.

Blogger, you have deleted my post mid-edit for the last time!

See you on the flip side,

Monday, April 19, 2010

To blog or not to blog

I've been lazy about blogging lately for a variety of reasons (including watching an unfortunately large number of movies about bloggers), such as:

1) Script Frenzy is upon us! I find the 100 page script goal to be much more attainable than the 45,000 words necessary to complete NaNoWriMo. I usually zip right through the dialogue in my prose, so it makes sense that I'd be a speedy playwright. I really enjoy the challenge of creating tension and movement in a scene with only the one tool - speech - at my disposal. I have a tendency to be a tad over-descriptive in my prose, a problem that is easier to avoid while staying true to each character's voice. During my undergrad in Montreal, I spent years helping my roommate find the perfect Stanislavsky verbs for her lines in acting classes, and it's all coming back to me now. I'm not at the half-way point yet, but I'm anticipating a surge of creative energy to kick in about the same time I run out of job prospects to apply to. So even if I'm still sans job, I can be like every other unemployed English major and start toting a manuscript around with me.

2) The employment scene in my area is picking up! Meaning I'm spending less time every day lying in bed thinking about how to turn a crack in the ceiling into a blog entry (haiku? Social commentary? Image?), and more time actually applying to jobs. Even if my best prospects so far have involved a drive through window or cleaning the aforementioned window at the end of the day, it's still a nice change.

Though, thanks to McGill's ever-so-helpful suggestions for future career paths, I did write-off a crossword puzzle book as a job-hunting expense.

3) The Tournament of Books was killer this year, and I'm trying to figure out how to fit another 1000+ pages of reading into my life right now. I'm going to start with Mantel's Wolf Hall, because I just read Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, and even Thomas Cromwell's life story has to be more uplifting than that. Sorry, Barbara. I'll get to The Lacuna one day. Somehow, I have a feeling your sales figures will do just fine without me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Canada Reads (In English)

My hate-on for Jian Ghomeshi and this year's CBC Canada Reads panel has abated in the last few months. I didn't listen to the round-table debates this year, for the first time since I became a pretentious, CBC-listening literati so many years ago. So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Nikolski had taken the tournament's top honors this weekend.

I discovered this by reading an electronic billboard in the Chapters at Granville and Robson. When I got over my initial reaction ("Oohhhh pretty colours!") I was doubly pleased to notice that the winner was indeed the only book in contention that wasn't a typical piece of Can-Lit canon fodder.

"Excellent!" I thought to myself. "So the competition wasn't a complete waste of time this year, and may even have met its supposed goal to bring the average Canadian's attention to a novel that would otherwise disappear into obscurity!"

Unfortunately, once I managed to find a copy of Nikolski in the store, I saw it had been marked down to ten dollars (a bargain-bin price if there ever was one in the world of Indigo-Chapters). Worse yet, the Canada Reads sticker was squarely covering the translator's information on the novel's cover.

The Canada Reads website, thankfully, has translator Lazer Lederhendler's name all over it. I don't mean to undermine the work of the novel's original French author, Nicolas Dickner, but rather to point out that the Can-Lit Powers That Be have a bad habit of down-playing the role of quality translation in the final production of an English language novel. As anyone who has ever had to struggle through the early translations of Pierre "Class Classifies the Classifier" Bordieu's works on communication theory knows, no matter how good the original work is, a shoddy translation can render it virtually unreadable. There exist a wealth of examples of well-publicized botched translations of non-fiction (Simone de Beauvior, anyone?), but when it comes to fiction the role of the translator is often treated as though it is a lesser occupation than the original author's, or somehow less creative.

While I still disagree with the majority of the selections in this year's head-to-head, the trumpeting of Lazer Lederhendler's creative role in the creation of the English version of Nikolski is one of the things Canada Reads 2010 has done right.

I may have allowed my ire to get the best of me when the competition debuted a dew months back, but the championing of Nikolski provides a small glimmer of hope that Canada Reads can regain its relevance with the cultural debate on what Canada should be reading, instead of just re-hashing what it already has stacked on the back of the toilet.

Until then, we can all thank god for the Tournament of Books. What it lacks in Canadian content, it makes up for in, oh I don't know, relevance? Intrigue? Innovation?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Oh, Joy.

Whilst on the job hunt, I was browsing through the supposed "resources" that my new Alma mater offers to its graduates from the arts faculty. My query as to what kind of jobs my English major can get me produced this ever so helpful pdf document.

Pupeteer or professional crossword puzzle maker? How shall I ever decide between the two?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Final Countdown

When I was in my senior year of high school, I remember how irritated I was by people's constant inquiries into my college plans. The Big Question would slip out from the lips of teachers, friends, parents of friends, and the creepy men who struck up conversations with me on public transit. I learned to avoid the icky-deep-in-my-chest feeling that The Big Question gave me by robotically listing off all the schools I had applied to while trying not to freak out about my own sense of uncertainty about the future.

Tomorrow morning, I start my last. exam. period. EVER. (In case you were wondering why I'm blogging)

And WHAT I wouldn't give to be thinking of answers to The Big Question that plagued me three and a half years ago instead of the one that does now.

I don't know if people realize how confrontational they sound when they pose The Big Question 2.0, but my answers should clue them in.

"Oh, what are you studying?"
"English Lit."
"Oh. Huh. Like reading? (dramatic pause) Well, what are you planning on doing with that?"

Anybody who has been in the final semester of their arts degree should recognize that grunt as the sound of homicidal fury. I have nearly perfected it, but unfortunately, it doesn't bring me any closer to an idea of what the fuck I am going to do with my degree/life.

If you're looking for me any time in the next three weeks, I'll likely be hiding under the covers.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Canada Reads

Am I the only one who finds the list of contenders for CBC Canada Reads 2010 particularly uninspired?

I was pretty jazzed this morning when I was not only awake, but also semi-conscious as Jian Ghomeshi introduced this year's novels and their defenders. For those who may be unfamiliar with the contest, here's the jist: Five Canadian personalities of relative degrees of notariety pick the novel they think every Canadian should read, and debate head-to head until a winner is crowned. The novel that outlasts all others is the Canada reads winner, and is rewarded with a shiney pink sticker on its cover and a sudden spike in sales.

Now, I'm not debating the fact that the novels selected this year are good. In fact, some of them are downright amazing. But as I was listening to Jian introduce the competition this morning, I noticed that he kept mentioning how the competition in the past has served to bolster the popularity of the novel, causing unprecendented pickups in sales. For some reason, the fact that he was emphasizing this aspect of the competition made me think there would be a focus on new talent this year.

I was wrong.

I think the only nomination that is the least bit unexpected is Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner, as defended by Michel Vezina. The CBC usually likes to leave the franco stuff to Radio Canada, so the inclusion of a French-Canadian work in translation this year is refreshing.

The rest of the list reads like a Can Lit 101 syllabus.

Okay, that might be an overstatement. A Can Lit 101 syllabus would probably be too stuffed full of the usual Atwood/Munro/Ondatje/Ricci that was nominated for last years (and every years) Giller and Governor Generals. The Canada Reads 2010 list is more like the syllabus for a Can Lit 101 class taught by an overeager grad student during the summer semester. Except, wait! Marina Endicott has been nominated for the Giller before.

I'm not gonna lie: I've read a lot of Douglas Coupland. I've even seen him read live, and he was pretty entertaining. But Generation X was published NINETEEN years ago, and shows its age. Cadence Weapon is going to have to fight an uphill battle.

Anne Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees was published in 1996. Not only has it been a Giller nominee, it Was an OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB SELECTION for God's sake.

And I don't know about Jian Ghomeshi, but anybody who went to high school in BC has had their fill of Wayson Choy.

My point is this: if Canada hasn't already read these books, they've had their chance. There are no first time novelists on this list, so how is the competition supposed to be even a little bit exciting? There's no point of even pretending that its about promoting Canadian fiction when clearly, its just reinforcing the value of the canon.

Monday, November 30, 2009


So, Nanowrimo ended up dead in the water at day 15, but I've made my peace with that. Still, 4500 words of output in a month is pretty good for me, especially considering none of it had to be MLA formatted.

In two weeks, I will be done my undergrad (assuming my advisers back in Montreal figure out how to do their jobs sometime in the next month). While I CANNOT WAIT to be done with in-text citations and reading journals and the like, a part of me wonders if I will ever have the self-discipline to just sit down and write without the constant threat of looming deadlines. I'm worried that if nobody is holding Chekov's gun to my head, I won't think about books and poems and stories and art the way I do when I'm in school.

I'd like to think that having a whole shit-ton of spare time while I'm looking for my first "real" job will motivate me to work on my novel (which I've theorized the shit out of but haven't touched since August). I'd like to think that I'd put that spare time to good use, even if its not through writing.

But sometimes I think I give myself too much credit.

Facing graduation (fingers crossed) and unemployment begining next month, I have been confronted with how difficult life will be for me if I do try to make it as a novelist, or a freelance writer, or a finger snapping, poetry reading artiste. My head is stuffed full of all these romantic ideas about being a writer, and while I've always known they weren't realistic, I've never had to confront that disparity until now.

There are some things about being a student that I like: making my own schedule, working independently but with a lot of guidance, an excuse to be obsessed by old dead white men. I like being surrounded by people who are eager to learn and excited about art and who still think they really can change the world with theatre.

Well, maybe not that last one.

I'd like to think that I don't have to give those things up just because I wont be on a campus five days a week anymore, but I'm really not sure if I'm just trying to reassure myself.

Friday, November 6, 2009


When I attempt to do too many things at once, it usually results in my doing all of them very poorly. I think this month is an excellent example!

Not only am I supposed to be like, you know, finishing my last semester as an undergrad and reveling in the glory that is heavily subsidized post-secondary education in a welfare state, but I also have a part time job. I spend more time thinking of ways to get out of my shifts that I actually do working each week, so this in turn eats up a big part of my already meager spare time.

This being November of all months, I've also committed myself (loudly, publicly) to finishing my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo by the end of the month. Throw in the usual family commitments, boyfriend time and freaking out about my future, and you've got an all-time high of multi-tasking for me.

End result? I'm already 6,000 words behind, I've got a pile of readings and assignments clogging up my desk, I still don't know how to conjugate Italian verbs, and I'm neglecting my social obligations. Somehow, I've managed to convince my superiors that I am "Team Captain" material, though I haven't been bothered yet to figure out what that means (or if it comes with a pay-raise).

But at least now I don't have to feel bad about neglecting my blog, too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here We Go

I'm going to blame my spotty updating on the fact that I'm gearing up for my first ever NaNoWriMo. I've been coming up with tangents that I can go off on that loosely relate to the main theme I'm going to try to stick to (zombie apocalypse), and jotting those down/making a mental notes like crazy, so there just hasn't been time for blogging, you see.

I'm unsure if attempting to write a novel in one month is going to make me more prolific or less; in the past, I've either gotten used to the crazy rush that comes from writing under a deadline, or conversely crumbled under the pressure and given up. But I've blogged about it, god dammit, so now I have to do it, or else the three people who read this (hi mom) will know that I've failed.

Le sigh. If I don't update again until December 1, you know what I'm doing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vive le zombie libre

Everyone ever should watch (and love/be fascinated by) Pontypool.

Linguistic puzzles and zombies in one film? What more could I ask for!?
It is set in Canada, you say? EVEN BETTER.

If you never thought you would ponder the problems of living in a bilingual zombie-state, you should probably start living your life more realistically, and then go watch this movie.

Seriously. I don't know how I lived and loved zombies before this.

Its going to be a lot harder for Zombieland to wow me now, unless they happen to have a few jokes at the expense of French Canadians thrown in there for good measure.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dear aspiring playwrights

Hey, its kim here with a bit of advice you might find useful the next time you want to write a play that is simultaneously extremely degrading and essentialist towards women: If it happens to be a one act, and happens to clock in under one hour, there is really no need for four separate blackouts.

Or to write your play at all, really. Unless you happen to be Eugene O'Neill. Are you Eugene O'Neill?

I didn't think so.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Do Objectivists Dream of Socialist Sheep?

So summer is almost over, and I am facing the dreaded Ayn Rand deadline. I'm planning on trying to get through Atlas Shrugged while on a family road trip next week. I'm sure Objectivism is going to make being trapped in a tin can with people who share my genes that much more delightful.

I see the google spell-check does not recognize "objectivism" as a word. That makes me feel a little bit better.

I'm trying to get back into reading the Victorian stuff as quasi-research for my novel, but so far I've only been able to stick with Lost In Austen: Create your Own Jane Austen Adventure by Emma Campbell Webster. Worse, reading it is leading me to believe I've been wasting my time with P+P for all these years when Northanger Abbey seems way more interesting. I think the fact that I can only get into re-imaginings of Regency era novels might be a sign that I don't like the originals that much. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is one thing, but Jane Eyre? I don't think I need to tell you which one of those has been sitting untouched on my bookshelf for three months. Personally, I blame Jessica; she is, afterall, the one who keeps lending me better versions of these classics.

I also stumbled upon a copy of Love's Civil War in the library this afternoon, which means I will likely be diverted from the horrors of Ayn Rand and the Bronte sisters yet again. Something about Elizabeth Bowen - the stutter, the espionage, the convoluted sentence structure - keeps sucking me in. Letters, diaries, doomed eternal love, and canadian characters are some of my favourite things, so of course I'm already 200 pages into it.

Thats the thing about truly great books like those of Bowen; you don't need to dangle ten-thousand dollar scholarships in front of kids to get us to read them. Cough.

Friday, July 24, 2009

You can split my infinitive any day of the week, baby

I have no idea how I made it through an English degree without The Elements of Style. I had to buy a 600 page canadian grammar guide in my first year, and I only opened it once. I got The Elements of Style for 50 cents at a rummage sale, and in only 70 pages, it has changed the way I think about the English language.

The best part is how delightfully bitchy William Strunk, Jr. can be when it comes to the minutiae of sentence construction. For example, during his discussion of the difference between like and as (page 42 in my battered 1959 edition):
Like has always been widely misused by the illiterate; lately it has been taken up by the knowing and the well-informed, who find it catchy, or liberating, and who use it as though they were slumming. If every word or device that achieved currency were immediately authenticated, simply on the grounds of popularity, the language would be as chaotic as a ball game with no foul lines.

And that's not even getting into the section on style. I feel safe in assuming Strunk would have hated blog culture and the weird mishmash language it has spawned; but what would he think of this?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summertime, Summertime

Reading Paulo Coelho while unemployed and in the midst of a degree-related breakdown is not a good idea. At least its just Veronika Decides to Die, and not the Alchemist. I'd rather be reading an extended allegory about the nature of insanity than an extended allegory about the purpose of life.

Man, that is some heavy shit. I fail at summer reading.

So anyway, my stupid reading choices are making me think think think about, like, life and stuff. Coming off of The Corrections and going straight into another dissection of social values is making my unemployment unbearable. To the extent that the economic system has come to define aspects of my social world, my unemployment has made me more like crizazy Veronika than I would like to believe.

Fuck, do you see what cultural studies has done to me?!? Thank god I only have one more semester of school until sweet, sweet freedom/poverty. Once I don't have to dissect theory anymore, I can start aplying my neuroses to the aspects of my life that can be immediately damaged by them, the way God intended.

What sucks even more is that my lack of funds has compelled me to enter the Ayn Rand essay contest in September, which means I am going to have to spend at least a few weeks cozying up to the objectivist hell that is Atlas Shrugged.

I need some serious beach reading, ASAP.


In searching for a link for Veronika Decides to Die, I stumbled accross the IMDB page for the upcoming film adaptation staring Sarah Michelle "Buffy" Gellar as the comtemplative heroine. I have subsequently spent the last few minutes puking in my mouth.

But I'll still end up seeing the movie when it comes out.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Deep in thought.

Is entering writing contest a legitimate summer job?

Its pretty much all I've got to work with right now, so I'm going to say yes, yes it is.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

and another thing...

I know, I know; a week of nothing and then two posts in one day. I obviously have an exam tomorrow.

I'm sitting here pretending to read my notes on the stories for my American Lit class, and all I want to do is read something FOR PLEASURE. I'm staying with my friend Beth right now, and her stack of Orwell and Dostoevsky is beckoning to me.

Thats right, I would read Dostoevsky right now if it meant I could curl up with a blanket and a cup of tea and drift off into another world. A world full of prostitutes, criminals, and spitefull old men maybe, but a different world nonetheless.

Instead of giving even treatment to all the stories in my coursepack, I am compulsively going back and rereading the last paragraph of Rick Moody's "Demonology", the titular story from the next collection I am going to blow my non-existant cash on. I can pretty much quote it by now, but I'm not going to, because once I get a copy of that book, I am going to forcibly lend it to everyone who reads this pathetic excuse for a blog anyway.

You might think I'm joking, but if there's anything I've learned from this Lit class, its that irony and humour died on 9/11.

This exam is going to murder me slowly.

Why I will never take summer classes again

...or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Cultural-Studies Kids.

"Hi, I'm Katie, and my favourite book is George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Nine."

Guy: "Its like, he knows that we know that he knows that we know."
Prof: "Hmm, that's a good point. Let's come back to that."

Me: "Did you see the scene when he just slapped her across the face? It was so ridiculous! French movies are hilarious."
Cultural Studies Guy: "If you're laughing at that scene, you're laughing at all of the victims of Hiroshima."

Cultural Studies Girl: "I don't do books. Are we watching a movie soon?"

I realize that most of these quotes, devoid of context, make me look like a huge lit snob. Which I kind of am even IN context, so whatever. I still stand by my assertion that you should not be able to get an English degree without ever taking a lit class.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

winner, winner, chicken dinner

I found out today that I placed in a creative writing contest through my university's English department, which is pretty cool beans. A few of the other winners were from my creative writing class last semester, and honestly, that was really flattering; knowing what great writers they are, I feel pretty pleased to be included among their ranks.

Also, this means I can FINALLY stop obsessively re-writing the same story over and over again. Now that it's been published (or accepted or whatever) , it is done. I am not going to pull an Auden and go rewriting poems for years after I've published them. I've heard stories about howAuden would go over to friends' houses, find anthologies of his work, and start correcting his poems in the text, years after they'd been printed.

Though, in retrospect, Auden was pretty bad ass. There are worse authors to be compared too... Like Stephenie Meyer.

But hell, who am I kidding? I would totally write a vampire abstinence-fest if it would score me a four book deal and franchising rights.

Still, especially because this story was based on personal history (writing what you know can be really effing hard, btw), I found myself cutting and rewriting massive chunks every time I came back to it. There were huge discrepancies in voice simply because I've been working on it off an on since I was in highschool. Obviously its a good thing that my style has developed since I was seventeen, but it makes it hella hard to reconceptualize your family history while its staring at you in 12-point font and all you can think about is what a whiner you were in highschool.

I dont know if I'll ever want to write about family stuff again, if only because I know now that I've won something, I can't put off showing it too my family, and I'm worried they'll take it too literally. It was a personal essay four years ago, but its fiction now; the fine distinction makes me uncomfortable.

Now thats a problem I'm sure Meyer doesn't have.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Like the Dickens.

I still love this even though I've only ever made it through "Hard Times," and even then grudgingly.

Why can't all reading be this fun?

Here we go

So. The first post. No pressure or anything, right?

I haven't had a blog since highschool, since I got sick of writing about my own life all the time. Fiction has been a lot more exciting, since I can, you know, make stuff up whenever the hell I want. I guess I could do that on a blog too, only the people who know me in REAL LIFE would ever figure it out, but I honestly lack the imagination and energy to bother with all that.

So why blog?

Mostly because I need a swift kick in the ass to get me writing anything, be it fiction, journalism, obits, or otherwise. Case in point: I opened this blogger account over a week ago, and have put off writing anything until now. I haven't updated my profile because little text fields that want me to describe my self (worth), hobbies, and interests in 200 characters or less freak my shit out. And even now, I am blogging about how I am unsure about this foray into shameless internet-based self-promotion.

In the last few weeks, every time something notable or quotable has happened to me, I have either been saying I could write a masters thesis on it for cultural studies, or that it sounds like the title of a new blog. The most common responses I have received are
1. "Ha, cultural studies!"
2. "I would so read that." (Hopefully refering to the blog and not the masters thesis)

So here it is. Another way for me to waste time, bring the wtf moments of my day to the attentions of my friends and potentially creepy internet strangers, and, uh, pose deep and philosphical questions about life or whatever.

All you jerks who said you'd read my blog, you have no one to blame but yourselves. For those of you that were hoping for the masters thesis, its going to be a much longer wait.