Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Belle Gardner's library (dead people's books)

through Lauren Elkin's blog about life in Paris, i discovered a marvellous virtual bookshelf: the "I see dead people's books" catalogue at Library Thing.

i was immediately intrigued by Isabella Stewart Gardner's book list. she's such a fascinating character - she lived from 1840-1924; her art expert friend Bernard Berenson said she "live[d] at a rate of intensity and with a reality that makes other lives seem pale, thin and shadowy." like some of Berenson's art opinions, many of tales told of her are probably untrue, but Belle loved art & artists, threw wonderful parties, and opened a phenomenal museum so that the public could enjoy her passion for collecting.

i'm intrigued by the breadth of her reading list...i do hope she read them all..for she had a copy of Francois Villon's ribald poems, a life of Sappho, the Decameron (she liked the medievals, by the looks of it), alongside a housekeeping book once used by Benjamin Franklin and James I's own copy of Francis Bacon's essays. one heck of a bookshelf, indeed. someday, i would love to read one of these books while sitting here in the courtyard of her museum in Boston...

"Don't spoil a good story by telling the truth."
- Belle Stewart Gardner

Monday, July 21, 2008

Stampede: horses & tipis

i finally have time to put up some photos from this year's Calgary Stampede. it was cool but beautiful on the afternoon of this tipi-raising contest.

it was really interesting & i had a lovely time, though i was reminded of a Globe & Mail quote from a Mohawk woman who was sent to residential school in the 1970s...she said her experience wasn't as abusive as many people's, and funnily enough she was even taught some traditional skills. like how to raise a tipi. which she found interesting, though peculiar, considering that Mohawk tradition has nothing to do with nomadic tipis. at least in Calgary, Northern Plains and Blackfoot tipis are in context!

this being the Stampede, there were lots of great horses...including this Paint Horse with her young sleeping foal, and the lovely chocolate-coloured Canadian horse and colt:

yes, this is actually the official Canadian horse. really it looks like the classic NorthWest Mounted Police horse, the kind of horse you expect to see in the RCMP musical ride.

the NorthWest history made me think of the Klondike. and at a bar around the corner from where I was staying, there was this Yukon-inspired new drink to try:

ugh. unfortunately, it was really really awful. i think moonshine brewed in an old Mountie's boot would have a better personality.

Friday, July 11, 2008

dinner at Frontenac House

sometimes i think my amazing publishers, Rose & David Scollard of Frontenac House, run a writers' bed & breakfast alongside their press. whenever i'm in Calgary, there are writers dropping by for dinner, new books being delivered, guests arriving with bottles of wine & suitcases in tow, conversations that last late into the night, reviews being dissected out on the back deck, new promotional ploys plotted, more books brought out...and in the morning, Rose always manages to rustle up some eggs for whoever has spent the night on their couch.

this month, they're launching their first art book, Breathing Stone: Contemporary Haida Argillite Sculpture, and it is GORGEOUS. next week, there's an event on the 19th at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


just got to Calgary for the Stampede...and discovered that the Banff Centre for the Arts is celebrating its 75th anniversary. i have great memories of working on my upcoming novel, Rats of Las Vegas, at the Banff Writing Studio two years ago...having a chance to work in such an encouraging, exciting, and special atmosphere was such an amazing gift. so a BIG tip of the hat & happy 75th! to the Centre.

love for sale

a sidewalk artist at a recent Toronto street fair:

and true to their practical Big Smoke roots, Toronto residents were chucking most of their spare change towards the lunch hat...but love was a close runner-up.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Betancourt free

a bit of good news for a change...six and a half years after being taken hostage by Farc rebels, French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt is finally free.

here's the BBC report