Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!

Charles Dickens House Museum

Charles Dickens House Museum, London UK

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

~ A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens turned 200 years old today. I was first introduced to Dickens by my Grade 12 English teacher Mr. Sutton. My OAC English teacher Mr. Durant helped feed my new passion for Charles Dickens by allowing me to do my independent study project on Dickens, even lending me some Dickens books from his own collection. Dickens continues to be one of my favourite writers, so, of course, I visited the Dickens House Museum in London when I visited in 2010.

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Fantastic Flying Books

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo. (found via Strand Books).

I think the whole traditional books versus e-books is rather moot. E-books are happening whether Jonathan Franzen likes it or not, although flying Kindles and iPads wouldn’t be as magical.

In Memory of Wislawa Szymborska

I was very sad to hear that Polish poet – and Nobel Laureate – Wislawa Szymborska passed away on Wednesday. I was introduced to her poetry several years ago and I love her simple elegance. The Joy of Writing is one of my favourite poems and captures the power of writing better than any other poem I have ever come across.

The Joy of Writing

Why does this written doe bound through these written woods?
For a drink of written water from a spring
whose surface will xerox her soft muzzle?
Why does she lift her head; does she hear something?
Perched on four slim legs borrowed from the truth,
she pricks up her ears beneath my fingertips.
Silence – this word also rustles across the page
and parts the boughs
that have sprouted from the word “woods.”

Lying in wait, set to pounce on the blank page,
are letters up to no good,
clutches of clauses so subordinate
they’ll never let her get away.

Each drop of ink contains a fair supply
of hunters, equipped with squinting eyes behind their sights,
prepared to swarm the sloping pen at any moment,
surround the doe, and slowly aim their guns.

They forget that what’s here isn’t life.
Other laws, black on white, obtain.
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof’s full stop.

Is there then a world
where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?

The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.

Ode to the Independent Book Store

This video has been taking the interwebs by storm and you’ve probably already seen it, but I absolutely adore it. It was filmed in one of Toronto’s finest independent bookstores, Type Books on Queen West. A team of volunteers spent many sleepless nights moving, stacking and animating the books. A few weeks ago, I shared this lovely video shot in the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris, so it was nice to come across a video shot in my home town.

I’m as guilty as most of us in shopping in the big chain bookstores, mostly because their loyalty programs make it easy to save money. Since I buy a lot of books, this is important to me. But I shop at the big chain bookstore when I know exactly what I want, it isn’t the place I go to explore or discover new authors or new books. The big bookstore chains are designed to sell books and book-themed trinkets, they are not designed for book lovers.

But independent bookstores are designed for book lovers. Browsing in a store like Type Books or Nicholas Hoare is more like looking through the shelves of book lover’s library. Here the books are curated based on literary merit, not on saleability. I love shopping in an independent bookstore because I can count on discovering new books, new authors, or at least books and authors new to me. I love the sense of discovery. So, while I like to save money, I still splurge in an independent book store because I value the sense of discovery just as much as being able to take home a book (or three).

* I also adore this animated video based on the Charles Bukowski poem “The Blue Bird” (found via Brain Pickings).