As I posted earlier this evening, I purchased a number of books from used booksellers this weekend, including a beautiful edition of Francois Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, translated by Jacques LeClercq, illustrated by Lynd Ward, and published by Heritage Press. When I went to catalogue the volume a few moments ago, I discovered that it had belonged to the library of one Fred Kerner, and when I searched this name, I discovered that he had been a publisher, an author, and a journalist in Toronto, recently deceased as of December 24th, 2011. Though I had not known his name before, I know it now, and I will now keep a sliver of his memory in my library.
While in Toronto for the Hot Docs Festival, I have taken the opportunity to explore every used bookstore within reasonable walking distance both of the apartment where I am staying and the festival’s industry center. Here are the books that I will be taking home with me. May my wife forgive my addiction.
Roberto Bolano, 2666 – hardcover
Roberto Bolano, Nazi Literature in the Americas
Roberto Bolano, The Skating Rink
Elias Canetti, The Play of the Eyes – hardcover
Colette, Flowers and Fruit – hardcover
Colette, The Ripening Seed – clothbound
Gilles Deleuz, Nietzsche and Philosophy
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Notebooks for The Brothers Karamazov – clothbound
Ralph Ellison, Flying Home and Other Stories – hardcover
Carlos Fuentes, The Years with Laura Diaz – hardcover
John Gardner, Michelson’s Ghosts – clothbound, first edition
William Godwin, Fleetwood
Graham Greene, Doctor Fischer of Geneva – clothbound
Graham Greene, The Human Factor – hardcover
Martin Heidegger, Off the Beaten Path
Ernest Hemingway, Under Kilimanjaro – clothbound, first edition
Arthur Koestler, The Call Girls – hardcover
Milan Kundera, Ignorance – hardcover
Milan Kundera, Immortality – hardcover
Doris Lessing – The Marriage Between Zones Three, Four, and Five – clothbound, first edition
Mario Vargas Llossa, The Bad Girl – hardcover
Mario Vargas Llossa, Captain Pantoja and the Special Service
Mario Vargas Llossa, The Cubs and Other Stories – hardcover
Mario Vargas Llossa, Death in the Andes
Mario Vargas Llossa, The Green House
Mario Vargas Llossa, The Language of Passion
Mario Vargas Llossa, Making Waves
Mario Vargas Llossa, The War of the End of the World
Mario Vargas Llossa, The Way to Paradise
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera – hardcover
Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing – hardcover
V. S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival – hardcover
Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural
Ben Okri, Infinite Riches – hardcover
Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel – a gorgeous, clothbound, illustrated edition
Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands – hardcover
Salman Rushdie, Luka and the Fire of Life – hardcover
Jose Saramago, All the Names
Jose Saramago, The Elephant’s Journey – hardcover
Mark C. Taylor, Nots
Paul Theroux, Patagonia Revisited – clothbound
Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring – clothbound, illustrated
Some of these may seem like odd choices for me, but I was often choosing on the basis of price and edition, and I am well pleased with the additions to my library.
The Guelph Festival of Moving Media has sent me to the Hot Docs Festival for four days this year to identify some films that we might want to screen at our own festival, and though I am only two days into my trip, I have seen some really wonderful films.
Most of my viewing has been in the Doc Shop, where industry representatives can access most of the films on demand through computer terminals. The viewing experience is not quite the same as the theatre, of course, but it is much more convenient that running around Toronto from theatre to theatre , and it enables me to see films that are not actually playing while I am here. Of those that I have been able to see in theatre, I particularly enjoyed the festival’s opening night doc, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, about Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Weiwei’s story alone would probably carry the film, because of the issues it involves, particularly those of censorship and activism in modern China, but Weiwei’s art and personality add a depth and a humour and an intimacy that make the film stand apart from the others that I have seen so far. Though the choice of which films come to GFOMM is certainly not mine, I will recommend this one very highly to those who are making the selections.
There are several other films that I will recommend also: Smoke Traders, which explores the role of cigarette trade in Canadian native communities; Crayons of Askalan, a partly acted, partly animated, partly documented look at an imprisoned Palestinian artist, though this one may be a bit experimental for our audience; One Day After Peace, the story of an Israeli woman pursuing reconciliation in the wake of her son’s death by a Palestinian sniper, which includes some absolutely astonishing scenes, like a former South African minister coming to wash the feet of a woman whose son his orders had killed; Planet of Snail, a really lovely portrayal of the relationship between a deaf/blind poet and his physically disabled wife, which includes a great scene of him changing a complicated lightbulb that she cannot reach and he cannot see; Breath, the life of a female chimney sweep in Estonia; Mom and Me, a partly animated look at the Hell’s Angels turf wars in Quebec; Canned Dreams, an almost surreal portrayal of how a can of ravioli is made; and Brooker’s Place, in which a filmmaker returns to a documentary that his father made during the civil rights movement that may have resulted in a man’s death. I think any and all of these would make great editions to our festival, and hopefully we will be able to bring at least some of them in this year.
I am rereading Jorge Luis Borges’ Collected Fictions, and he has a lovely list, a literary form that I have grown to appreciate more and more since reading Georges Perec’s Species of Spaces. The list appears in the story, “The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell”. I included it here, its spacing slightly rearranged, in its entirely, for your enjoyment.
In 1517, Fray Bartolome de las Casas, feeling great pity for the Indians who grew worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines, proposed to Emperor Charles V that Negroes be brought to the isles of the Caribbean, so that they might grow worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines. To this odd variant on the species of the philanthropist we owe an infinitude of things:
W. C. Handy’s blues;
The success achieved in Paris by the Uruguayan attorney-painter Pedro Figari;
The fine runaway-slave prose of the likewise Uruguayan Vicente Rossi;
The mythological stature of Abraham Lincoln;
The half-million dead of the War of Succession;
The $3.3 billion spent on military pensions;
The statue of the imaginary semblance of Antonio (Falucho) Ruiz;
The inclusion of the word “lynch” in respectable dictionaries;
The impetuous King Vidor film Hallelujah;
The stout bayonet charge of the regiment of “Black and Tans” (the colour of their skins, not their uniforms) against that famous hill near Montevideo;
The gracefulness of certain elegant young ladies;
The black man who killed Martin Fierro;
That deplorable rumba The Peanut Seller;
The arrested and imprisoned Napoleonism of Toussaint L’Ouverture;
The cross and the serpent in Haiti;
The blood of goats whose throats are slashed by the papaloi’s machete;
The habanera that is the mother pf the tango;
This poem is for my wife, who gets too few of them.
I dreamt I saw a market girl,
I dark-eyed apple seller girl,
Shy ruler of the autumn dawn,
Of frost-etched windowpanes that shone
Their lace-light on the still-dark street,
Of mulling spices, strange and sweet,
And of the applecart propped door,
Through which I looked to see her more.
My wife has been home for a few days, giving me some opportunity to write truly at leisure, which is when I usually find myself writing poetry, not when I am working on writing, but when I am merely writing. Here is something that I wrote yesterday.
Through the afternoon window,
More cloud-silver than sun-gold,
Tracing lines on my water glass,
Quivering and refracted,
In the flesh,
The incarnation of a setting sun.
I have heard people claim that they do not pray because prayer does not work, but I suspect that the opposite is true, that they do not pray because prayer really does work, only in ways that they do not want or expect. They would like prayer to be primarily about what they ask from God, and they discover that it is actually about what God asks of them. They go asking God to change the world, to alleviate their problems, to send down wrath on their enemies, and they find instead that God is asking them to be changed themselves, to alleviate the suffering of others, and to love their enemies. They do not pray, because prayer asks too much of them.