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My Life With Spirits P
My Life With Spirits P
by Duquette
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 23.70
18 used & new from CDN$ 16.72

3.0 out of 5 stars An excellent survey of how religiosity turns into aesthetic roleplay, June 30 2008
This review is from: My Life With Spirits P (Paperback)
For all of those kindred spirits out there who have dabbled in magick, perhaps achieved cosmological bliss or perhaps turned to bitter reproach, this is an excellent read that will equal a single summer afternoon and a bottle of good wine.

I have the utmost respect for DuQuette, whose widely praised sense of humour and informed *but unorthodox* commandeer of knowledge makes for a GREAAAAAT read. Really excellent. What I'd like to point out in this review, brief as it is, that DuQuette has filled a void left my Crowley's _Confessions_: an honest account of how mystical fervour, usually connected with institutional dogma, becomes transformed into counter-cultural esoterica. Even for people who could care less about Enochian codes or vivid spectrum of locusts Gods, this is a fun read which analyses, without Freud or other bastions of pretentious theory, how adolescent infatuation with religious imagery becomes transformed into eclectic occultic "mysticism". I have no interest anymore for the Wise Man archetype, but this book provided a high degree of religious honesty that you will never find in the New York Times or 'Soccer Mom Catholic!" podcasts.

Excellent, quick read, for the fallen and the devout.

Blackouts
Blackouts
by Craig Boyko
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 2.78

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The latest, greatest messiah of the short story, April 6 2008
This review is from: Blackouts (Hardcover)
We get a new wunderkid every two years or so here in Canada . . . remember Timothy Taylor? I guess this is Taylor 2.0, or Alice Munroe for the hemp shirt set. Why do only 14 people subscribe to CanLit journals, as the other reviewer commented? And why are the same people who write the reviews also the ones who judge the contests who also graduated from the same MFA programme? Seeing the pattern yet? Hmmm.

This collection is fine, being in turns generic (sci-fi substitute person story) and operatic (Stalinist learns to love life via classical music). Everyone says it's all incredibly inventive . . . I guess so, if you know many fourteen year olds who use phrases like 'textual condensation' in their convos.

The showpiece of this collection, the $10,000 Journey Prize winner 'OZY', is about video games and childhood . . . and, wait for it . . . wait for it . . . mortality and lost innocence. Did you ever see the /Seinfeld/ episode where George cooks up all kinds of schemes to preserve 'GLC' for posterity, that his 'Frogger' score should never fade away? Boyko ripped off that episode.

Wait for the softcover. Of course, like everything else that the Globe and Mail backscratchers praise, it's very very well crafted and workshopped. Bravo. If your goal in life is to be lauded by tiny journals from the Prairies, study Craig Boyko as he held an abbreviated Talmud in his hands. Boyko definitely know the prevalent aesthetic of our land as good as anyone out there -- which will guarantee a lot of appreciative fame, in the short term. Overall? Over time? Ahhh. Well, man, we can't produce a Kerouac out here in B.C., can we?

But I have been told repeatedly that this is short story genius. Which it surely must be, if everyone says so? Then I suggest everyone buy up as many 1st editions you can, b/c Boyko must be destined for Bookers and Nobels and all the rest of it? Well, that's what they keep telling us, right?

So why does his work push the limits of 'nobody cares'? People readily drop ten quid for anything touched by Seamus Heaney, right? Why, despite the overtime publicity industry (ooops, I mean 'reviews') which support Boyko, and others like him, failing to produce so few (if any) young writers of truly international capabilities? Japan can do it. Ireland can do it. Hey, even Iceland can do it . . . but Canada? Migrant tales of ghostly origins and bad accents of countries never encountered (see Boyko's version of 'Russia', qv).

What I don't get . . . and bear with me here . . . hit the brakes on your PRISM pride for a second . . . if this stuff is as brilliant as everyone says, why does hardly anyone plunk down the coin of the realm for it? Why does it attract so little attention abroad? Don't answer now . . . have a long think over a coffee for a while, maybe pick up Marquez's "Leaf Storm" and see just how far behind we are in terms of literary skill.

But forget what I said. This collection is brilliant. My eyes melt with jealousy, and my laptop does a dead cockroach impersonation in awe.

Orphic Politics
Orphic Politics
by Tim Lilburn
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.48
12 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So archetypal!, March 22 2008
This review is from: Orphic Politics (Paperback)
Necromancy cross-faded with random selections from a dictionary of Hindu Cosmology. Plenty of elite allusions to Eurotrash philosophy. Underworld martyrdoms and solar rebirths. It's Jung, it's Yeats, it's a Tori Amos concert all in one. Fellow initiates take note: esoterica now requires an obscure pathology. If the references to Nessim go over your head, delight in this poet's medical fetish. Sliced eyeballs in the mode of Dali. SURREAL.

This is what you write when the government gives you lots of money.

The Stubborn Season
The Stubborn Season
by Lauren B. Davis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.99
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ms Davis and the altar of historical fiction, Jan. 28 2008
This review is from: The Stubborn Season (Paperback)
Toronto malaise, retrospective feedback narratives about alcohol and insomnia, prose as thin as the bacon they eat on every other page. Another triumph of Canadian Lit and its wannabe high brow!

Mishima's Sword: Travels in Search Of a Samurai Legend
Mishima's Sword: Travels in Search Of a Samurai Legend
by Christopher Ross
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.38
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.08

3.0 out of 5 stars Bow to your sensei!, Dec 29 2007
I'll be pithy like the other reviews. If you really like MMA, cheap samurai swords, and wandering around in a hoodie imagining yourself a ninja . . . you'll find good company here. Ross returns to the condescending nugget dropping that make 'Tunnel Vision' a pop favorite with the post-Oxford elite . . . well, to the point: in the opening, Ross stands, fondling his samurai sword (iaito), fancying his superiority as BUDÔKA to some poor chav doing aerobics.

The concluding scene is Ross, bathed in a multi-rayed Rising Sun, proclaiming his enlightenment, having achieved satori, and no longer fearing death.

In between, a reasonably well-written travelogue which shows off Ross swordmaking knowledge, some pedestrian views of 'Old Japan', some cheezy comedy scene in an SM club . . . Ross is only an 'observer' and isn't getting off in any way, of course . . . and more quotes from Zen masters . . . and some description of Ross getting a 'nose tampon . . . and then some information on how to cut your slave in half to test the metal of a blade.

This book is about Ross, a pudgy guy looking to beat back the bullies of the past by taking on the persona of the samurai. In this regard, it's a BRILLIANT satire of how martial arts enable a kind of exotic fantasy for imaginary self-empowerment. Well, some people like arranging flowers . . . Ross likes to learn how to kill 'with one spectacular slice'. The back cover portrait -- Ross waving his sword -- puts Freud into a whole new framework.

But amongst all the 'bow to your sensei!' propaganda, some real zingers in here:

* Ross gets a PHANTOM PAIN because of his spiritual elevation -- he, pathologically, takes on Mishima's wound!

* Japan needs to return to its life/death non-duality and the Zen ideal of warrior purity.
= Uh, see Brian Victoria's book _Zen and War_ to see how this macho bravissimo, robed up like a monk, inspired the imperial war machine.

* Ross shops for Nazi uniforms and how-to manuals on bombs.

Of course, his interest in neo-fascism is only from a journalist's perspective. He doesn't really endorse the Mishamian code, he only roleplays it . . .

Oh, and Mishima? Hardly a word about his novels in here.

If you liked 'Ghost Dog' and keep a copy of the Hagakure under your pillow -- you will very much identify with the kind of self-absorbed preaching in this work, the worship of anachronism, the idealisation of a myth that got Japan into a lot of trouble. That's why books like this keep getting written in English. Ross, who mentions repeatedly his fluency in Japanese, wouldn't dare try pushing off these imagined constructs to his beloved 'Land of the Rising Sword'.

All Our Wonder Unavenged
All Our Wonder Unavenged
by Don Domanski
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.14
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Buddhist!, Nov. 28 2007
Don Domanski appeared onstage at the recent G-G awards bearing his Buddhist rosary for all to see. He lectured the rapt audience, decked out in black ties, about the ephemeral nature of ALL THINGS. He then accepted the prize and the cash that goes with it. Damn, what happened to guys like Ikkyû who eschewed all worldliness in the name of Dharma?

Anyway, Domanski's a good geezer from Cape Breton (from whence all folksy Canadian coolness arises) and his collection of poems beat out Atwood. Is it Pablo Neruda? No. But Canada isn't producing much that is memorable these days.

The poems are OTHERWORLDLY and ASTRAL, so lay down your yoga mat and trip out to Domanski's chillout verse. Much like Vancouver's Olympic mascots, his style is a cross between mysterious Canadian forest and misty Asian art.

Chorus of Mushrooms
Chorus of Mushrooms
by Hiromi Goto
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.58

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Really shatters the template, Nov. 24 2007
This review is from: Chorus of Mushrooms (Paperback)
This is the greatest Asian/Canadian-GLBT-prairie prose-coming of age-multicultural novel in the history of Canadian literature. It's almost as if no one before has ever described the Japanese-Canadian milieu, ever. And stunningly original -- ethnic foreplay between generations as give and take, ah! And this theme about heritage as something left behind, but kept in the imaginative grip. Oooh! Find your roots! Negotiate the WASPs! Can you feel the pain? You better or else you're a fascist.

Soucouyant
Soucouyant
by David Chariandy
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.40
25 used & new from CDN$ 3.98

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Diversity personified! The Great Canadian Novel!, Nov. 17 2007
This review is from: Soucouyant (Paperback)
EGADS! Shapechanging voodoo hags and poet-professor sons -- immigrant songs of the Caribbean cross-faded with academic viewpoints and Vancouver Lululemon clothes (would you like soy or seaweed underwear?) -- Chariandy must be the most complete package of postcolonial memoir-fiction-manifesto going! Wow! I've never seen such an ensemble performance that hits all the right buttons. I'm so pleased to hear that it's acceptable again to describe the rum soaked coasts of Trinidad in terms of archaic superstitions, transformed by a Canadian ID card. Shiver me timbers and can(n)on balls across the treasure chest map of house, home and political prose! Sand, sun, sangria, and santeria! Trinidad! Tenure, trophies, theses, and transnationalism! The best of both worlds! At least our poet-professor hero didn't get tasered. The accent changes but the old hearth does not! A tour-de-force from the hefty genre of cross-cultural place changing. Expect a sequel! Many of them! All very readable and cultural. Guaranteed to cure guilt ridden liberals. Expect multiple award nominations! Homey Barbapapa! Ahoy and hoorah!

Director's Cut
Director's Cut
by David Solway
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.56
8 used & new from CDN$ 2.97

5.0 out of 5 stars WOW! There's shouting at the margins. Is anyone listening?, Nov. 2 2007
This review is from: Director's Cut (Paperback)
David Solway's blustery book is a genuine tour de force of the highest polemical timbre. His core argument, bound to offend the literary elite of the Canadian 'creative writing' citcuits, is that 'Canadian writing' has become such a carnival of boosterism. The culprits? Literary journals edited by undergrads who follow the backrub policy of swapping publications. Creative writing departments, run by so-called professionals with disposable collections under their belt, who enforce a 'mentorship' process in which carbon copy stylistics and formulae are taught to the next generation. Stilted poems, about politically correct social issues (Vancouver Downtown Eastside or internship of Japanese citizens . . . written by university profs who have never lived ont he downtown eastside, and whose knowledge of the treatment of Asian immigrants doesn't extend to the nannies who wash their kids soccer socks). Or how about those well-intentioned 'arts funding' council that allows pretentious lit journals to start up, and keep going, regardless of their failure to appeal to anyone but their own clique of editorship. Globe and Mails and Vancouver Suns, which call just about any novel written by someone under the age of twenty as 'breathtaking genius' and 'incredibly original' owing to the use of a talking parrot and lack of semi-colons. And, the blame ultimately? A blase intellegensia that long ago lost its nerve and fire.

Now, all of this is bound to annoy people, particular in academia, whose vested interests (with SSHRC funding) are under attack. Still, I suspect . . . and I don't think I'm alone here . . . that this book will strike a chord with many Canadians who are sickened by the second-rate books and poems we keep pumping out, which generally fail to make it big and large on the international scene. Even our booker winner, Yann Martel, nicked his ideas from a Brazillian novelist.

It's sharp stuff. And of course people will whine that it's mean spirited or spiteful. I'm just glad someone finally is saying something different! Every week, the 'Globe and Mail' book section tells me of how someone from Calgary has just written a collection of short stories that prove he/she is the reincarnation of Borges. You buy the book, and is it? NOOOOO! Notice that the G+M book review magazine is stashed inside the 'Style' section? Yeah, exactly.

Of particular interest to me was Solway's penetrating analysis of 'fey orientalism' in Canadian literature. This includes the kind of heritage worship found in certain third-generation authors who write epics about the 'old country' . . . or glib pundits like Roo Borson who, without a hint of shame, write fortune cookie poetry and claim to be able to channel Bashô. I'm not kidding . . . in the 'Ôishida' book, which won the biggie money prize, she claims such a thing. Did anyone flinch? Of course not! In Canada, it's best to just heap praise repeatedly, without showing the slightest bit of criticism . . . after all, Borson might be a judge on your funding request proposal.

I, for one, am incredibly grateful to David Solway . . . finally, some one out there is calling it like it is. He's dead on. Unfortunately, I think the parties who most need to hear his message will be busy looking the other way . . . at Giller shortlists and Canada Council wish-lists. The sad fact is . . . most of what is published in Canada is absolute garbage. True, maybe most of what is published in Spain is rubbishy as well . . . but they can still produce a Bolano.

Godwin's Cabalistic Encyclopedia: A Complete Guide to Cabalistic Magic
Godwin's Cabalistic Encyclopedia: A Complete Guide to Cabalistic Magic
by David Godwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 30.06
18 used & new from CDN$ 25.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A terrible mishmash, Sept. 14 2007
Just a quick note in support of the other negative reviews of this work: the (unvocalised) Hebrew in this work is a perfect example of magickal bluffery. By that, I mean that transliterations are horrific, the translations skewed, and the methodology of selection strange to say the least. If you really are interested in Hebraic/Aramaic origins for certain key phrases, you honestly would be better off with a proper lexicon by a reputable scholar (Davidson's analytical lexicon, for example).

Otherwise, what you have is a disorganised collection of decontextualised Hebrew served up in a patchy fashion. It looks appealing from a dabbler's perspective, but fails to deliver any kind of authentic background (linguistic, historical, or cultural) for appreciating the Hebraic origins of Qabbalah. Look elsewhere.

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