The War and Peace Newbies Tag

July is officially go time for the War and Peace Readlong at Reading in Bed, but Laura has a few questions in advance before we all abandon our friends and families for 12 weeks.

It’s the War and Peace Newbies tag, in reference to the fact that everyone doing Laura’s readalong will be a W&P virgin.

Hot, right?

Here we go.


Have your read (or attempted to read) War and Peace?

Not even a little bit. I’m not a big classics guy, to be honest. But for whatever reason, I was one of the people who pressed Laura into reading War and Peace for her readalong this year (she does one every summer).

Despite the fact that I essentially haven’t read any of it, Russian literature is fascinating to me. The grandiosity is nothing if not commendable, and these guys–Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov–tackled some pretty big themes. War, death, existence, God, family, love, hate, etc.

In short, these guys didn’t fuck around.

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A Novel for the Judd Apatow Generation

It’s something of a paradox, but the thing that first intrigued me about Domestic Violets—its cover—is the one thing I’d change after reading it. I mean, look at that thing: it’s bright, it’s simple, it has commercial fiction written all over it. It suggests a lighthearted rom-com full of domestic friction. When I read it I was looking for something light, the literary equivalent of a Paul Rudd movie. Which is what Harper Collins wanted me to think I was getting.

However, like the best romantic comedies, Matthew Norman’s debut novel has a lot going on under the surface, so much that its cover actually does it a disservice. This is more than just a fluffy piece of entertainment. Domestic Violets is smart and insightful, and paints a wonderfully muddy picture of love and passion in the 21st century.

This is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.

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The Burden of Childhood Friendships

For the past fifteen years I’ve been saddled with a disturbingly incessant childhood friendship. Despite my best (or, rather, worst) efforts, I cannot seem to shake it. We’re now in our thirties, live drastically different lives, and have not a single unifying hobby. Yet, this person persists. She will not let things go. Whether I like it or not, I am bound to her forever.

Oh, I should mention I cannot stand this person.

For reasons that escape me, she is blissfully unaware of my utter indifference towards her. I am checked out of every conversation. I make no effort to see her. Her husband is one of the most annoying people I have ever met and have said this to her face. Still, she remains.

As when faced with an undying lich, my only means of survival is avoidance. The game, then, is to stay away as long as possible. In the end, I always lose.

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Book Bingo: An Update

Back in January I wrote a 2017 preview post that included a game of Book Bingo: 24 themed reads I wanted to tackle over the course of the year. Now that we’re entering June, it seems a good time to check in and see how I’m doing (since I haven’t paid the slightest attention to my bingo card).

The results: not great.

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Franzen in February in May

Every February, Laura Frey takes a pause from her regular book blogging to “love, hate, and love-to-hate that great American novelist”, Jonathan Franzen. The event, aptly titled Franzen in February, is hosted at Reading in Bed and attracts a delightful array of guest writers.

I promised to supply an article this year, but, as I am wont to do, I didn’t write one.

Why? I’m enigmatic AF, that’s why.

Instead, I reserved the right to submit my piece 84 days late. As everyone knows, the number 84 resonates with creative expression, making today the perfect day to write about Franzen’s not-exactly-awesome sophomore novel, Strong Motion.

And yes, I totally knew about the 84 thing before I wrote this, and no, I didn’t just Google “significance of the number 84” mere seconds before writing that last paragraph. Who would do that.

So without further adieu, I present Franzen in February in May. Now get off my back, Laura. Gawd.

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The (Un)Official LiveBlog: After Canada Reads

If you’re a fan of the Canada Reads “battle of the books” debates, if you’re not a fan of them at all, or if you just can’t get enough of great book discussions with great people, head on over to the WriteReads blog (or download the WriteReads podcast) for the latest and greatest book battle: After Canada Reads.

After Canada Reads is a two-part podcast that does much of what Canada Reads does: it pits five Canadians against one another as they argue for and against some of our country’s greatest pieces of literature.

The big difference is that After Canada Reads features five people who actually know what they’re talking about.

Originally, I was asked to be a part of the program but declined due to some unforeseen circumstances. That doesn’t mean I’m any less invested, though! So I thought that, rather than participate in the show itself, I’d hang back and callously judge them all from the safety of my relative anonymity. Just like Canada Reads.

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A Magician, a Conqueror, and a Man with One Eye

I’ve written book reviews for several different sites over the years, all of which are now defunct. This is the first in a series of mini-reviews that will parcel out some of my favourite reads over the past few years. 


CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL

by Glen David Gold

Carter Beats the Devil opens with Carter the Great executing a particularly risky trick. He murders President Warren G. Harding on stage before feeding him to a lion, only to have Harding burst from the lion’s stomach alive and well. The show is an unbridled success. But a few hours later Harding is found dead in his hotel room and Carter is considered a prime suspect. He flees, only to be pursued by Secret Service agents, most notably aging Serviceman Jack Griffin.

The novel then jumps back in time to tell Carter’s life story, of how he came to perform magic, how he met the girl of his dreams and then shot her out of a cannon to her death, how he befriended Houdini, made arch-enemies, married a blind woman, and used the invention of the electric television to propel him to heights no other magician had ever dared.

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