You die on a bright and sunny Tuesday near the start of November. The crisp autumn air has a sweet taste to it, and
it rattles out in warm puffs until you breathe no more. (It looks like you’re really trying, but air is for the living,
after all, and ghosts have no lungs with which to pull it in.)
And then you’re getting up, looking at the body that’s turning pale and waxy at your feet, and you must be wondering: what now? Everyone wonders what now before long. Fortunately for you, you’ve been murdered (imagine that– fortunately! Oh, I do crack me up) and so you have a natural first step: figure out whodunit, and then find a way to communicate that to those of us with bodies and larynxes.
Sarah Bigham begins her impressive collection, Kind Chemist Wife: Musings at 3 a.m, with the poem “Gettysburg” — an excavation of memory as much as it is an examination of it. The poem closes with the lines “Beauty / or not?” — a fitting description of the collection as a whole: equal parts witty and wise, breezy and poignant. It’s a collection that focuses not only on life’s snapshot, shiny moments but on the kind of invasive memories that plague us in the early morning hours.
Over the last couple of decades, the term “YA fiction” (or young adult fiction) has been increasingly used in literature and is now a major category in publishing – but what is it exactly? What age group is it targeting? Who are its main readers? How is it different from regular “adult” fiction? Its definition is imprecise, and it depends on who you ask.
Downtown Toronto is a paragon of late night, big city affairs. The ROM stands an eight-minute subway ride away from the CN Tower. Toronto’s extending crowds lead into the University of Toronto’s Varsity Centre and the Royal Conservatory of Music, across the street from the slimmer crowds of young adults and teens equipped with fake IDs entering their selected bars for the night. The Bloor-Yonge intersection lies just a few blocks east. Turning south on Yonge reveals a different sense of a big city: one of detachment and poverty, wonderfully depicted within the Yonge-Charles McDonald’s.
Despite his admirable positions, Bernie’s refusal to back out of the Democratic primary, ignoring the potential risks it poses for Americans and the Democratic Party’s hopes of defeating Donald Trump, has shown a reluctance on Sanders’ part to do the right thing when it matters most: in the midst of an international crisis.
As far as individual books go, controversy is normal and often welcomed. In terms of disagreement on entire genres, however, one category up for discussion is that of self-help literature. These types of books have been around for over a century, even if they seem to be a relatively modern occurrence, and their popularity has been on the rise. In 2018, sales of self-help books in Britain were up 20% from the previous year, landing at a solid three million books sold. Celebrities have even gotten in on the business, with Russell Brand and Fearne Cotton having written and published their own books. It is estimated that the genre will be worth 13.2 billion dollars in the US market by 2022.
Thinking about Kaur and her success reminds me of another young, talented, Canadian artist: Drake. Both Kaur and Drizzy are among the most successful artists in their respective fields, now and of all time. Whether you like them or the genres they operate in or not, chances are you’ve heard of them. And if you look into their numbers, you’d see that their success is not a matter of opinion, it’s a fact. So, objectively speaking, they must be the best, right?
On January 17th, Marshall Mathers — aka Eminem — quietly released his 10th major-label album, entitled Music to Be Murdered By. The title and cover image are a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s eponymous work from 1958, and the “Alfred” interlude and outro are the famed director’s orated introduction and closing from his own album. But Eminem didn’t use the theme to make a concept album. Instead, with production by Dr. Dre, Tay Keith, and D.A. Doman, among others, the 64-minute album has Eminem performing a balancing act that invokes his crude alter ego — Slim Shady — with rabid foolishness. It has him rapping alongside younger artists such as Juice WRLD (in his first posthumous musical appearance) and Young M.A, all while still trying to provoke nostalgia by emulating his D12-era self and sharing the scene with established rappers like Black Thought and Royce Da 5’9”. Unfortunately, for a body of work that takes its title from the so-called “King of Suspense,” the album leaves the listener largely unmoved.
I stopped using the TTC when I discovered that I could bike my way through the city instead. I bike my way now through shadowy neighbourhoods, through the slips and knots of intersections. At the intersection of Bloor and Yonge, I enter the interdimensional shift of this land we call Toronto. Sacred and occupied Anishinaabe land. Sometimes you don’t claim the land, the land claims you.