In no order, except the first one.
Hanging out with Spike:
Pictured here leading me into a bog to look for berries and wild orchids
Writing book reviews:
Since October 2012 I’ve written over two dozen book reviews for Cult MTL and, more recently, for the Rabble.ca Book Lounge. Some memorable ones include Tom King’s searing Inconvenient Indian, Chris Kraus’s latest novel, an interview with a punk legend about his photo book, and Sarah Liss’s incredible community history of Will Munro. There is an embarrassment of riches coming to press every month, and I’m excited to see what independent publishers like Coach House, Biblioasis, Conundrum, the Sister Spit imprint at City Lights, and more have in store for the new year.
Reviewing Giller Prize winner Hellgoing by Lynn Coady at Clam Harbour Beach – photo by Spike
Touring with Aaron Cometbus:
As you may guess Mr. Cometbus was one of my early literary heroes. So bringing him up for Expozine and a short jaunt to Ontario for his first-ever readings in North America was a major triumph and a lot of fun. The immense enthusiasm we encountered every step of the way was incredibly gratifying, especially from our gracious hosts at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal, the Academy of the Impossible in Toronto, Hammer City Records in Hamilton, and Pressed Cafe in Ottawa. It was awesome. Thanks so much to everyone who helped out and came out, and to Aaron for taking me up on my invitation.
Going to Newfoundland:
I’ve been bugging Spike to take me to this giant rock in the Atlantic forever and this year it finally happened. We took the ferry to Argentia and over the course of seven days she drove us all the way across to the western ferry at Port aux Basques. Along the way we saw colonies of birds on sea stacks, took in the incredible Mary Pratt retrospective at The Rooms, heard fairy stories at the Cape Spear lighthouse, ate cod every day (in fish n brewis, and fish n chips with stuffing and gravy, and on its own), drove through the fog, saw puffins up close, hung out in root cellars, and fell in love with the vernacular architecture and amazing place-ness of Tilting on Fogo Island. We also camped in Gros Morne, came across a giant beaver lodge in a marsh, saw leaping salmon, and so much more. My tenth province did not disappoint.
Insert puffin pun here – photo by Spike
UNA BÈSTIA INCONTROLABLE – Observant com el Món es destrueix LP (La Vida es un Mus) & live at Katacombes [listen / buy]:
Spike and I watched this band from the balcony at Katacombes, where footsore adults can enjoy hardcore shows from comfy seats. This band was wailing and harsh like the others on the bill but the curlyheaded bass player remained anchored in a groove that kept the heavy music surprisingly light on its feet, preventing it from veering too far into the pit of distorted noize. He wore a sleeveless t-shirt and bounced around the stage with a huge grin on his face, and his joy is embedded in this heavy, deep, and dirty music. I immediately bought this LP from the merch table and returned to it all year long. This isn’t a sub-genre, just four Barcelona punks relentlessly experimenting with the tropes of hardcore and coming up with something new and exciting.
Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize:
The day the prize was announced I tuned the radio at the bookstore to Radio One and nearly teared up listening to the World at Six cover Alice Munro’s Nobel win as the top story. Alice Munro writes about small lives in unremarkable places with masterful precision. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading her I recommend starting with “The Turkey Season” and “The Moons of Jupiter,” followed by the final quartet of autobiographical stories in her latest collection Dear Life (you can read my review of the book here).
Get Out “Culture of Defeat” CS (Thing Itself) & live at Brasserie Beaubien [listen / buy]:
Just as Una Bestia Incontrollable capture the rage and rhythm of the crisis in the Eurozone, Get Out offer a particularly Canadian view on austerity economics. The music on “Culture of Defeat” inhabits the hinterland between the tunefulness of Anorak City and the lyrical heft of Drag City. Their songs capture the struggle of being broke in a world-class city, the failure of artistic endeavour, and the futility of just about everything.
Lunenberg Folk Art Festival:
After wanting to go for several years, Spike and I finally made it to the Lunenberg Folk Art Festival this year. Nova Scotia is famous for folk art, and over the years we’ve picked up several amazing pieces by artist Barry Colpitts, who lives up the road from Spike’s parents. Held in a hockey rink, this art fair brings together the best folk artists in the province and is an amazing opportunity to see a wide variety of colourful and idiosyncratic works in one place. But you have to get there early, because all the pieces are sold in the first two hours. We bought a number of pieces and I even won the yellow fish as a door prize! It’s by Craig Naugler, who also made the intricate spotted owl in this picture and is one of the best young artists working today. Incredible.
New friends – photo by Spike
Finishing my MA in English Literature:
For my major research paper I mostly wrote about beaver imagery in the Canadian Whole Earth Almanac. It changed my life.