Friday, January 08, 2010

Traces of a Empire

I've really become a fan of podcasts. I keep my ipod stocked with a number of musical and literary ones at all times. They make the boring days at work much more palatable. At home, they make doing dishes almost bearable.

My current favourite is the World Book Club from the BBC World Service. Try it out. An author reads from his or her work and then answers questions. Simple enough. What I love about this podcast is that the questions come from the studio audience and also from listeners around the world. There is just something so cool about hearing people from five or six continents talking books with an author. It makes reading almost seem like a communal exercise.

I also like this podcast because it is a reminder of just how much our world was and continues to be influenced by the British Empire. While there are readers calling in from other countries, most of them come from Great Britain and its former colonies. It's been close to sixty years since the empire finally disintegrated and yet a common language and, in some ways, a common world view remains. It almost feels like the dress down day at a school with uniforms - all those kids anxious to show their individuality but, when the day comes, they all show up wearing the same pair of jeans.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Canuck Book 7 - All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

Forget reading this post. If you haven't already read this book then you must go out and get a copy. If you can't find it in your local bookstore, get it from here ( While you are there, pick up Bok's Eunoia and Helwig's Girls Fall Down if you can but mostly just buy this book. It's a treat.

I tend to look at most books as meals. Really good meals, the kind you want to linger over. I read slowly and immerse myself fully in the experience. This book, however, is a really decadent dessert. It is short and moves fast. It's also a book that I have read a few times, partly because it's quick and mostly because it is a really smart story.

Basically the title says it all. All of Tom's friends are superheroes. Tom is not. From the Couch Surfer to the Sloth, they all have their special abilities. I won't ruin it for you by discussing their particular abilities as that is part of the fun of this book.

On the night Tom marries the Perfectionist, Hypno (the Perfectionist's ex) hypnotizes the Perfectionist so that Tom becomes invisible to her. The story takes place six months later when the Perfectionist has given up on trying to find Tom and flies to Vancouver to start over. Tom has the length of the flight from Toronto to Vancouver to convince her that he has not disappeared or he will lose her forever.

What follows is a book that is cute, funny and smart. The superhero conceit works amazingly well. Read it.