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Long live all maidens

easy and beautiful !

Long live mature women also,

Tender and loveable and full of good labor. 

Gaudeamus Igitur

Our lives became intertwined the day we began to slide clandestine notes back and forth during a writing course. Consequently, once the course ended, we embarked on a series of emails and surprisingly, an epistolary adventure unravelled. In these exchanges we bare our souls about love and life … things are never quite what they seem.

While we want to be courageous in our re-telling, we ask you to keep in mind the words of John Irving – please remember that all memoir is fiction.

Adria and Sarah


Things Change


How demanding the season is, even though all the regular, personal stuff gets put aside. I do hope your holidays are going well so far and I look forward to hearing about what you’ve been up to.

As you wrote - things change. So Every Christmas Eve, I return to the past, to what doesn’t change, to the memory of the réveillons held at my Grandparents’ (The Prévosts) home. After all these years, I can still see, smell and hear the Christmas Eves of my childhood: the six foot pine adorned with ornaments passed on for generations, the sound of boisterous French Canadian songs accompanied by my uncle on the accordion and my aunt on the piano, the aroma of home made tourtières and sugar and raisin pies, the sight of my aunts in their satin dresses and rhinestones and muskrat coats and the snap of crisp new playing cards (all under the haze of cigar and cigarette smoke). Although these all night parties have long left the realm of reality to become part of family lore, they remain my clearest and favourite memories.  

This year, Jess and Kate were with us on Christmas Eve and it was a lovely, quiet time. We shared an old-fashioned meal, but not really French Canadian like my family had when I was young, because one needs tourtière and so many special dishes. I served escargots, French onion soup, and cheese fondue, which is great for conversation and slow eating. (I have to give a special nod to Chabichou for helping me with this gourmet meal). Then we paused to open a few gifts and to savour some jasmine tea before dessert of Crème Brulé.  Jesse had been in Mississauga the day before and noted that shopping in the malls was so very different from shopping locally, the way he does here in the city or in Berlin. He said that the consumer mentality was almost palatable at Costco: great slabs of food and skids piled with every sort of Christmas decoration and mounds of toys. By comparison, all of our gifts were small, lovely, thoughtful purchases.  

Wow! This all sounds rather snobbish. I am reading Status Envy so I’m quite aware of this at the moment. Do you know where the word snob comes from?  I didn’t.  It’s really interesting. Oxford and Cambridge colleges would write s.nob - sine nobilitate -'without nobility', next to the names of students on examination papers ‘to distinguish them from their aristocratic peers.’ Ah, those Brits know how to keep everyone in their places!

Jess and I have also been playing around with the magnificent German use of compound words as many are used in Status Envy. One that came up recently in conjunction with Tiger Woods’ fall from grace, Schadenfreude, meaning, pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. Is it also joyful sorrow?  Learning German might just be another pastime to take up when I leave teaching.
I tried to buy Gardam’s, The Man in the Wooden Hat, but no luck. And, as I was scanning the The Globe, I came upon yet another one of their ‘best writers’ (sic) lists. I think it was Barbara Gowdy who chose a short story from Gardam’s collection People of Privilege Hill. The stories are an assortment of unusual tales, tragedies and the odd comedy, which you would probably enjoy as you really appreciate her short stories. I’ll try and get it this week. I did buy Amy Hemple’s latest book. I realize that I’m not a great lover of the short story genre, so I may be the wrong person to pass judgment on her work, but I can’t say I am intrigued by what I’ve read so far. It may also be because I have just finished Gardam’s short stories and again I’m comparing two absolutely different writers/writing. But then, it all does come under the same genre, so …  



The Young, the Old and the Restless

Hi Sarah,

I'm breathing normally again, I think. All that planning, all those decisions to make: dog, no dog, meatless breakfast or bring on the prosciutto, no seeds of any kind so … maybe herbs? We’ll see you afterwards then, on the day, but later in the evening, real cards or e-cards, gifts for the hostess and gifts for the kids? Endless, endless. My holiday destination should have been the Riviera (even the Mayan one). But I took it all in stride and following the wisdom of Buddha, went with the flow (the less opposition the better).

So far we've had a smattering of unique celebrations this season. Two weeks before Christmas Carlo and I drove to Philomena's through wine country, past barren fields and brown vineyards enhanced by Vivaldi's Four Seasons (Nigel Kennedy). Hamilton Beach (my teenage stomping grounds) presented as a series of white caps on little restless waves lapping against that low lying cloud filled sky I so love. Ribbons of navy unfurled in the background ... a perfect wintry effect.

Philomena was hard to hold down. We'd agreed to bring the entire festive meal so she could relax, save some strain on her hip while we worked magic in her kitchen: mashing, whipping, stuffing the turkey, stirring the gravy (no lumps ... I did it!) preparing the squash, the carrots and green beans (with almond slivers in butter sauce) and the always “from scratch” cranberries. She was limping much less and preferred to leave her cane in a corner. It was impossible for her not to stir this and that, wipe a dish or lift a pot lid. She was unable to sit still while we tried to make history. I noticed her little suitcase (a light beige sweater for cool evenings draped over it) packed and ready on the floor of her almost empty spare room. Once filled with her husband’s antique car collection, she’d made quick work of distributing the ancient models. The family now boasts a good many proud new owners of these once prized, four-wheeled gems. A new Dell laptop sat on the old blonde desk:  I’ll need that to play free cell on the way to Florida. After dinner Philomena exercised her jaws, three hours of story telling and we loved every minute: yes, she really did. Hazel saw him at the foot of her bed, kneeling there, and she said, come to bed Rich, come on, and get under the blankets. But then he disappeared … just like that. Later, back at home, Carlo overheard me talking once more about Hazel’s apparition. "So Hazel’s seeing Rich now ... I wonder if she’ll be next!" he said. Men!

A week later, my nephew, the DJ, invited us to his ultra minimalist dwelling on Queen, a place he proudly shares with three buddies. All the usual attention bestowed on older people was now bestowed on us, as we were it for sure! A cool fire glowed in the recessed fireplace. Straight-backed chairs of a dark lacquered wood were fitted with thin white cushions, placed just so. An oval marble counter served as both room divider and tabletop. The talented housemen boasted exotic delicacies: eggs, lots of eggs, coddled, poached, scrambled, with spinach, in ricotta, in garlic sauce. Cornucopias spilled Devonshire cream, Portuguese tarts oozed custard. The hypnotic beat of House drew us in and like the young people, we lived in the moment that blustery afternoon in Trinity Bellwoods.

And then one lazy morning there were surprise visitors from the boonies (Wasaga, actually). I had slept in and was still in bed. Fifteen minutes later my friend and I were at the piano, bellowing How Great Thou Art while Carlo patiently conversed with the husband in the living room. Wendy’s red-rimmed eyes were brimming and watery as the hymn came to a close. Would you sing this at my funeral? I am not that much younger and she is perfectly fine, I thought (her husband is the one who has Alzheimer's) but their parish priest would like things to be conveniently ready: the readings, their song choices, the proper psalms. 

And then it was Christmas Eve! Pope Benedict was attacked just before I sat down in the Abbey pews for my Christmas meditation with the nuns (Carlo does not go) and the priest offered up his prayers. The chapel was filled with happy children, obedient teenagers, and solemn parents who showed off their shiny new outfits: miniature rubies sparkled on oversized collars, black velour skirts were floor length, white blouses pressed and bright. Boys wore suits and men their long woollen coats. Sister Camilla (the only member of her order still addicted to the black habit) who taught me in grade eight sat off to the side in her own prayer stall. And there was Sister de Monfort who, one midnight Mass in another lifetime, had comforted Moira in her arms as a little baby. Sister Flora had sung at our wedding and was leading the congregation with great fervour. Although now slightly bent, I recognized Sister Ivanne, my mistress of boarders so very, very long ago. So much for my meditation!

The 25th it rained. The day began in silence with a little Messiah to bring on the spirit, as well as cognacked coffee for Carlo and me. In the afternoon I had a wet sauna at the JCC (it being Jewish and therefore open). That evening, Moira cooked us a perfect festive meal featuring Jerk chicken, her signature recipe: a nice Jamaican touch to a Christian ritual. Later on, Catherine and her new husband arrived in a state of fatigue from their multiple family visits to various parts of Eastern Ontario. We exchanged gifts, laughed, ate fresh fruit and Camembert and reminisced about the month of December so far. The coloured lights glowed on Carlo’s handiwork of cedar boughs that decked our great mantel.  

Someone just offered me an eggnog! To be continued …

Happy Holidays,



Double Humbug

Hi Adria, 

For some reason I reread my last email and asked myself who the hell cares what I served on xmas eve. Humbug. And really, if it hadn’t been for Jess being here I would have been satisfied with a glass of wine and a piece of cheddar. Obviously, I have not found the xmas spirit yet, nor has it found me. I’ve even started to covertly de-decorate; I take one thing from here and another from there and bring them down to the trunk in the basement. All the wrapping and saved bags and the stockings have disappeared as fast as they appeared. Why would I want it all to be over if it hasn’t really begun for me? And at times, after a few hours of endless sitting and eating and chitchat, a type of ennui sets in and I start thinking of a book I’d rather be reading. (Double Humbug).

I’ve started the new assignment. It feels so good to be back at the computer. I think Francine asked for Dark Memories of Christmas Past, didn’t she? I hope so – that’s right up my alley. I wonder what sweet, baby-face Mark will write about. How he didn’t get the right toy last year?  What do you think of some of these dark remembrances? Of course I’ve spiced them up and taken some from previous writings. I know it’s supposed to be memoir, but hell - who’ll know?

 ....  As soon as the boys were in bed, I placed the gifts that my brother and I had managed to buy at Woolworth’s with our meagre savings, under the tree. I knew my Mother would be relieved. Usually she waited and worried and prayed that my father would bring home a few presents. And he always did, but never before Christmas Eve, and only after spending a few hours celebrating the forthcoming birth of Christ at the local tavern. It was a good thing that in Quebec taverns stopped serving beer early before religious holidays. That had always left him with enough time to scurry along Masson Street to get what he could find before the stores closed. It was a tribute to my Mother, that much I knew, that somehow, all of my Christmases as a child had been special and magical, even through the darkness. (This may be too much for Francine to take.)   
          My brothers and I stood like sentinels behind the white lace curtains, every Christmas Eve, waiting for Grandfather Garski to appear. “He’s here!” we would yell when he pulled up along the white snow banks in his long navy Lincoln and later in his gold T-Bird. Then he would climb the stairs, deposit a brown cardboard box on the gallery, wave and get back in his car. My Mother always waited in the kitchen and the year I turned thirteen I waited in the kitchen with her. The hope of any surprise was long gone. I was too old, I told my Mother, to join my brothers in their childish squeals. Only when Grandfather had driven away were the boys allowed to run outside, grab the box and carry it into the kitchen. For years I could not comprehend the sadness on my Mother’s face as she watched her children empty the contents: one medium–sized turkey, a five-pound bag of potatoes, six oranges, one tin of hard Christmas candy, and a small box of Laura Secord chocolates. But that year, when I saw the turkey sitting abandoned on the shelf in the empty refrigerator, I realized Grandfather’s donation had more to do with charity than generosity and that my Mother had been powerless to prevent me from realizing this.

Is this gruesome enough? It’s so much easier (for me anyway) to write about this than Joy to the World. When we meet later this week we can share our stories of misfortune. What a good way to end the year. Cheers to Francine!

Dark Sarah


Hot Prospects for a Cold Winter

 Well, well Sarah!

Such fascinating Christmas experiences you’ve been describing: the réveillons of the past, your own recent account of your accomplished meals (even with the help of Chabichou) and now the long ago tales of your grandfather Garski. If I dug deep enough I might come up with some pretty "Dark" stuff myself but I have this lifelong habit of remembering only the good and deleting the bad from my memory (check out a neat book; "Delete: the Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age ( Mayer-Schoenberger). Snippets of Christmases past roam around in my mind but not entire chapters. My baby sister used to say, "all Adria has to do is smell the roses and she's happy". It's true. So even if my memories of Christmases past are not really considered “dark” they are nevertheless still so very defining. Here goes, Francine:

Money was tight. It must always have been. In Holland, when I was eight years old, the wealthy Feurmans across the street passed their children’s cast off toys on to my mother who wrapped them up and created amazing tables laden with wonders we never suspected were hand-me-downs. I remember life-sized dolls with reddish cheeks and siren hair and wide eyes that opened and closed when you jerked their heads back and forth …  and oranges, always oranges. Once we had arrived in the cold northern wilderness of Canada, my father became handy at crafting wooden toys and I can still smell the fresh paint on the orange sled that I had to share with all my sisters and our Indian playmates on the hills of Queen Mary School. Did my mother feel inadequate? Was she disappointed? Did she feel shame in having to pretend? I'll never know. I do know that I have always felt privileged and that I was the luckiest girl in the world. But why then did I disappear from the warmth of my family living room one cold winter night to go carolling in the neighbourhood and return with a thousand coins jingling in both pockets that I turned inside out for my mother to see? Children have a sixth sense.

Just curious as to why you insist on the X of Xmas (and even use lower case)? I hated that word the very first time it was used and can't recall why it came into existence. It just seems to obliterate everything by putting a big X through it all like a No Frills Christmas. It sounds cardboardish and fake to me. No offence.

Carlo has been quick to remove much of the festive decor, with my permission of course. The greenery snapped and fell to the floor every time someone brushed by it. Although I’m greatly influenced by seasonal ornaments and their transforming powers, I do like starting off the New Year with a Tabula Rasa. 

January seems to be shaping up nicely and it does not look dull or cold when I consider my social calendar. Francis and I have agreed to meet at a neighbourhood Starbucks, actually not far from our ‘dirty’ days hangouts we’d escape to when I boarded with Mrs. Thurber in North Toronto. Francine has suggested an early dinner sometime before one of our Monday classes. Preferably Indian food. She’ll mention it next time. Here’s your chance to get real close and personal with baby face Markie. You won’t back out will you?!

I feel like the pub on Prince Arthur for our next literary tête-à-tête, as long as it's not a Friday suppertime. Their fireplace seems so welcoming with this sudden cold spell.



All the world's a stage  …

Hello Adria,                                       

Sorry I couldn’t meet or even respond to emails this week, but 2010 has begun with The Week From Hell - a bad cold and a case of shingles. I can only hope that I have purged my body of all illness for the rest of the year.

But at least we did meet last Saturday, although our meeting was too short. And no wonder! First, our attempts to find coffee and a quiet place in Hart House took up much of our time. And then The Weirdo/Stalker who seemed to appear out of nowhere, but yet was everywhere, followed by The Mopper, whose job it was to clean the very room we chose and then The Musician (well, we can forgive the Musician). You made the perfect comment – it was as if we were all part of a play. There was something definitely surreal about the whole thing. It’s a wonder we got any work done. And all for naught!  But Francine sounded really sick when I spoke to her. 

Yes! I am definitely up (I hope Mark will be) for Indian food some time this month. 

And you asked why I put an x on xmas? Actually, I’ve never thought of that before, so it’s not insistence, but I guess it is a deliberate sign of irreverence for exactly what you say: The No-Frills-Fake and Frivolous-Christmas. Although on a personal level, I love the traditions and take great care in making Christmas a special event. I’ll try to remember (Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting) to write Christmas, for you. I can’t be spoiling your positive outlook.

The movie, The Lovely Bones, will be out this Friday and I’ll be taking my class to the matinee. Maybe you can join us. I’ll let you know the details.

Jess is back in Berlin (more snow than he has ever seen there) and Dan is in Texas visiting his brother and he also said that the south was quite cool. And I am here at my computer, sneezing and coughing and planning for a few days in the sun for March Break. 

By the way, I went on line to begin the process of retiring, but it is too early yet. They are handling only the retirements that begin in May. But I did attempt it. 

 Blue Sarah 



Through the Looking Glass

Sarah, you are never sick!

Just get that itch under control and count your blessings that Dan doesn't have to see you suffer. Men like their women to be well. Really! Get better fast. Class tomorrow won't be the same if you're not there! 

Everyone seems to be where they planned to be this January: daughter Catherine and hubby Kurt are enjoying beach volleyball in Los Cabos (yet another Destination Wedding), my mother-in-law is hooked on Florida and contemplating investing in property, daughter Moira is elated at the fact that holiday festivities have finally come to an end and is working with new zest for her theatre (she called me Muma, a slip of the tongue and improvised on the spot ... that stands for Museum of Motherly Arts). Carlo is seriously contemplating the eating habits of squirrels in winter. 

And I am back at St. Hildegarde's. It’s like nothing ever happened. Well not totally. One of my students has started heavy-duty medication for her sudden manifestation of seizures. Her mother tells me she is mostly zombied and is trying to get used to it. She had great difficulty deciding which pill to take, the one that may cut her lifespan by ten years, the one that might adversely affect her endocrine system or the one that could cause dangerous skin rashes. 

Franca (the student who didn’t show up for her lesson before Christmas) has been put on a regime of low dose Prozac ... as if that will just solve everything. The medical profession these days definitely promotes pill popping when dealing with depression. Talk therapy (psychotherapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) are all so much more trouble and can be costly. Just think of the improved world we’d have if people resorted to some of these alternative, more sensible ways (although I do recognize the benefits of medications in certain instances). She played her Two Part Invention by Bach along with a Glenn Gould CD at her lesson this week. Music will save her. Candy (of phlox house) reminds me of a wise old gnome marching her way to Middle Earth, the way she tromps around the school with that screwed up forehead. There's more than meets the eye.

These days my obsessive curiosity has me googling "libido in the aging female", Cougars ... “older women dating younger men” ... “middle-aged men and andropause and effects on libido”, among other topics of pressing interest. Here I should be visiting shut-ins and I'm thinking that if I have to sit at a window later and reminisce, it better be good.

We need to talk. Hopefully you'll be OK to have a tea after class tomorrow. You know, a heart to heart. 





Great class! Francine is a hoot!

I like a little weird ... Yahh, I do, really. It's hard not to fixate on the coarse chin hairs (I could lend her my tweezers). The countless times she reaches back to tie that mane of unruly hair, but then ... eccentricity can be tolerated when you're that smart. A fashion statement she is not, with that long cashmere sweater on again, off again. Typical menopausal attire … layers. Would you say she's fifty - something? God … she's read every book, every periodical, seen every movie going. And then all those sayings: "to hold a pen is to be at war" or, "writing a book is like riding a car…”. Definitely food for thought. I am motivated already. 

I was mesmerized by Markie's account of his wild adventures on the Asian seas, all that bravado with him battling those waves as high as apartment buildings and then how he was delirious arriving at the Balinese shores sighting the beautiful island women. And you wondered what he'd have to write about! No doubt he’s done a stint teaching English as a second language. Well, here's your chance to get into Markie ... next Monday at Kamasutra (Francine picked a good one if you like Indian food). Did you think it was going to be this much fun? 

Read the article in today's Star on 'salami slicing' and depression studies. Quite revealing. It verifies what has been a known fact about the pharmaceutical industry all along. Data from clinical trials is carved up into smaller slices, which are then used to write papers for competing academic journals (published) that push Cymbalta for depression in place of other available drugs. Such distortion and what about the confused consumer? I’ve resolved to get “educated” at CAMH’s next info. session. Time to make up my mind and pick a course: The Brain and the Body, Common Mood Disorders or Mindfulness in Everyday Life. Lots of personality quirks in our family ... how can one escape from genetics? I recall my grandfather’s obsession with clean nails, a few fanatic house cleaners (see attached piece), and plastic bag hoarders. Vague stories circulate: my mother’s cousin’s son runs into the street naked … on more than one occasion; a cousin traps hundreds of exotic birds in cages housed in her tiny garden; an inebriated uncle falls off his bike in the gutter and is found dead. Did you know that there’s a link between parental alcoholism and childhood mood disorders? So many afflictions of the soul and spirit. I’m wondering what Francine’s affliction is. I thought she might appreciate the piece (slightly hot) I’m attaching for you (in the body of my email), the one I’m considering bringing to class. You said you didn’t mind to read it, right?

Carlo is enamoured with Anne Michaels and is reading her poetry, Skin Divers. It's been a bit of a mid-winter evening ritual here ... me reading aloud from her Winter Vault by candlelight (yes, there is romance). Annabel Lyon's The Golden Mean, in contrast, is entertaining and reminds one of how primitive the culture actually was that existed in Aristotle's time: crude medical practices, long trips via horse and cart, lovemaking free-for-alls (take your pick, male or female) and, of great interest to us both because of our noble professions, the teaching methods of the day. Even though it is set around 360 BCE the book somehow feels more medieval to me.

And now there's the Novexcel (fast novel) and 'post modern' is gone, replaced with 'alter modern', yet another 'industry trend'. Give me my books with their catchy covers and give me newspapers that blacken my fingers and land in my porridge. Where's the ritualistic experience of the tactile in twitter and blogs?

Have I gone soft? Maybe for now!                          


A Bad Habit

He was watching her again as he changed the filters and poured water into the top of the coffee maker. He stifled comment. Every morning she’d be on all fours, this semi-naked woman, in the strangest positions, going at it with a vengeance. There was a rhythm to it and the sagging neckline of her powder blue nightshirt revealed two lily-white protrusions swaying in time to the circular scrubbing motions. He seemed amazed at her ability to snake around the elbow plumbing. 

She hadn’t even had her morning coffee. Crawling alongside table legs and pushing away chairs obstructing her path, she busied herself scouring the perimeters of the apartment. On the prowl for dead skin, petrified nail clippings, silvery pubic hairs ensconced in floating dust balls. “Always have the right tool for the job”, she would preach and definitely knew that the wad of lightly moistened toilet paper could work wonders. 

He marvelled at her multi tasking ability, the way she clenched her toothbrush between tightly pursed lips, made reminders about the day’s agenda on sticky notes, ran the bath.  All the while, meticulously getting rid of the debris that mysteriously somehow collected over the last twenty-four hours. At periodic intervals she’d glance at the clock on the kitchen wall, controlling her progress accordingly. A wonderful aroma of percolating coffee began to permeate the steam- filled bathroom--her daily cleaning ritual was coming to an end. She shucked her nightly trappings and traded them for a luxurious yellow towel. 

     “ Shall I put your coffee in the bathroom, dear?” he offered.

     “ Oh, yes please. Thanks.” she mumbled. 

Balancing the cup in his right hand he faltered in his steps.       

Swooping and swivelling she whirred by him. She emanated the intensity of a delicate hummingbird, focused on its task. 

Suddenly it was finished. A calm came over her. Her towel fell to the floor. Bending down she folded it into a perfect thick triangle, laying it down alongside the tub ready for her wet feet. A sigh of satisfaction rose up from the hot foamy regions where she rested her crab red legs, spread eagle on either side of the tub. 

She took her first sip of coffee.         


The Lovely Man  

Hi Adria, 

You can tell what our weeks are like since we seem to email only on weekends now, even though we see each other on Mondays. But, I guess there is always so much to talk about and so little time before and after class and No talking during class! We know that rule, don’t we? 

Before I forget (as if I ever would), guess who (whom??) I saw yesterday? I was coming out of Manulife after seeing the LB (more about that later), and Little Mark spotted me first and greeted me like an old (don’t like that word) friend and introduced me to his father. Well now I know where the kid gets that face. Daddy is a cross between George Cloony and Cary Grant. I have to admit that Mark immediately disappeared into the background, as did my students. We chatted for a few minutes. Lovely man. He offered his apartment for a meeting if we ever need a large space. Hope springs eternal ...
By candlelight, you say! Very touching, Adria. So why look at younger men? Do you think they are into poetry by candlelight?

I will bring Amy Hempel for you tomorrow. Her writing is very clever, too clever, and full of every catchy phrase from previous generations. The collection is dated, and I can’t find one sentence that takes my breath away. But that’s my mistake actually, because one should not read Hempel with this in mind. She is a minimalist and there is no place for any sentimentality in her writing. In some ways, I learned to write like that, as Creative Writing Courses in the 80’s taught this compressed, very precise writing style. But a whole collection? No thanks. I’ll also lend you two other books (more Gardam short stories). I still can’t find The Man in the Wooden Hat. May I borrow your library copy when you get it?

I also started reading, Every Man Dies Alone /Jeder stirbt für sich allein - also titled Alone in Berlin (British Title) by Hans Fallada. He wrote the book in less than a month and I read, It is an astonishing achievement with or without that knowledge. But sometimes his haste shows – tenses change mid-scene with alarming frequency – and too often his thumb is on the scales, with melodramatic chapter endings and authorial intervention. … Curiously, the rough edges seem to enhance rather `than detract.”  

 So much for following all the rules. 

 Here are a few facts taken from an excerpt of a review by "Dalya Alberge

Written in 1947, the novel is a chilling portrayal of extreme fear under dictatorship. It is about an ordinary Berlin couple, Otto and Anna Quangel, who in a small way stage a protest against the Nazis after their only son is killed in action in 1940 by denouncing Hitler in postcards which they leave across the city. It is also an exciting thriller about the Gestapo detective pursuing them.

The story is inspired by the real-life heroics of a working-class couple, Otto and Elise Hampel, who were eventually caught and beheaded in 1943.

Fallada died of a morphine overdose aged 53, shortly before Alone in Berlin was published. It was a tragic end to a tragic life. The son of a judge, he was plagued by mental illness, drugs and alcohol, spending years in psychiatric hospitals and prisons, and was denounced as an anti-Nazi conspirator.

I guess, you have to be in the right mood to read it. 

Regarding the movie, The Lovely Bones, I did not enjoy it, but the kids did. As one of my ‘brainers’ said, it was made for a general audience and not only for academics! I thought that was a brilliant comment on her part. Such unabashed new found confidence! Too much CGI for me. I like real drama. And I thought the actors were not well cast. Anyway we can discuss it more when I see you on Monday. 

I seem to be taking a long time to do everything today and I still have to vet department exams and start my own (it’s that time again), plus I have to work on tomorrow’s assignment. 

Take care,



Do it!

Hi Sarah,

Exactly! That longed-for luxury of extended free time in December was just so short (and stressful with entertaining plans). We'll have to wait until March Break to experience that again. I wonder how it would be if we didn't have to fit our every action into little compartments all the time: 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there: read, walk, workout, meditate … back to marking, back to practicing and of course the bulk of your day is spent at THE JOB. You wonder how we ever fit in our writing classes, choir, friends let alone any semblance of house upkeep or quality time with family! 

About my dilemma (young men vs. older, more seasoned men), we 're mature enough to know the merits of both, you and I. It's true Carlo is very romantic and I appreciate him even more as I become … wiser! Look at you! Now you're on about Markie's father, for god's sake! So where are you coming from? Keep that apartment in mind though and mention it to F. She likes to carry on with classes right through the winter break and Hart House might be closed at that time.

Never read much Margaret Drabble until this year and find her the opposite of minimalists such as Amy Hempel. All this listing she does, of sweet stuff, of birds, of plants, violence: it filled the air: anti-man, anti-woman, anti-prostitute, anti-police, anti-press, and most dangerously, anti-black violence. None of this is condoned much in writing classes. Yes, I do find some of F.'s recommendations quite 60ish like the poetry of Allen Ginsberg or the non-fiction of Lee Gutkind. I bought a copy of beat writer, Joe Brainard’s, “I Remember”, as recommended, and just had to get rid of it. Who needs to hear about Joe’s sexual conquests ad nauseam? So full of himself! I'm learning though! F. is a walking library. I’m excited about the personal essay anthology she recommended by Phillip Lopate … already bought it. Thanks for the Hempel and the Gardam. Hempel’s "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried" is apparently the perfect miniature!

I’ve got a review of the Lovely Bones for you. We’ll discuss that Novexcel further (will bring the article from the on-line Star.).

The sun is bright, the air is mild, yes, get something uplifting to read! Do it! 



Of Men and Books


I guess I am not in the same league as those who think that In the Cemetery is a ‘perfect miniature’. I’ll admit I liked it better than the other stories, but it is also filled with ‘useless stuff’ (what happened to the minimalist theory?), which you’ll understand when you read it. You are right about Drabble. Then again, we could list every writer and analyze his/her work, and in the end, it’s all a matter of personal taste. Chaque personne à son gout. 

Also, very true what you say about spending the whole day ON THE JOB. This seems to be the malaise of middle class professionals and responsible for so much of our stress.

In reply to your question with regards to men, I don’t really know where I’m coming from or where I’m going these days, so … young, old, none - all have merit.

I should be working. This is a perfect example of what we are talking about, feeling guilty on a Saturday for not being productive. But I am trying to answer great existential questions. That has to have some merit.



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