Friday, January 27, 2012

9. Crowd Control

Before Pierre could count two he heard and felt Gerry’s forehead break his nose. Pierre dropped to the ground.

"Fuck you, fatty!" Gerry yelled, kicking Pierre in the gut.

Pierre felt nothing but the crowd around them getting closer, laughing louder. He could smell the mud off the boys’ boots at the periphery of his sight. He knew the girls would be at the back, peering over shoulders pretending to be disgusted. He winced and looked down, noticed Gerry was wearing shiny black rubber boots. What a loser. Pierre caught and yanked Gerry’s foot as he tried to kick him again. He climbed on top and sat on Gerry's chest, pounded his face.

His own pain was sinking in now and he felt blood rolling from his nose over his lips. His head was ringing. That was fine. He had to win the crowd back. That was the main thing.

"Up - yours - with - a - rubber - hose," Pierre grunted, one word for each time he punched. The crowd was laughing with him now. Every punch got harder.

Gerry was kneeing Pierre's back but it didn’t hurt. Pierre wailed on him harder. It was easy to connect; Gerry didn’t protect his face and he kept his eyes closed.

"Say uncle," Pierre said.

Gerry opened his eyes. There was blood all over his face and a drop of it rolled into his eyes. He didn’t blink. "Hockey sucks," he panted.

Sadly, Pierre was going to have to kill this kid. "OK," he said, pulling his fist back.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

32. Best Friends


"Tell me again about these guys."

Jamaica’s voice was soft, like a small sharp needle pushed ever-so-gently into the neck. He’d explained it before.

Outside he could hear the increasing pitch of a 767 engine as it went airborne. He patted down his cargo shorts until he found the Maalox pills. The crinkle of the plastic wrap was reassuring. He popped one.

"They're my best friends," he said.

"I thought Travis and Pete were your best friends."

He squinted water from his eyes and gagged a little on the Maalox. She was looking at him so he shook his head. "Nope." He burped softly. "Not even close."

"If these guys, neither of whom I have ever met, are your best friends, why you so nervous?"


He snapped his head sideways and peered back. It was Gerry. What were the odds of that? His flight must have come in early.


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Monday, January 23, 2012

Favourite Albums 2011

Here's the music I enjoyed most last year, though it didn't necessarily come out then [edit: I almost forgot one I picked up in Toronto right after Christmas, by the great Paul Simon]:

Mike Evin - Do You Feel the World? - he plays with a smile on his face and you can hear it.

Drive-by Truckers - Go-Go Boots - musical storytelling, esp. "Used to be a Cop"

Robert Earl Keen - Picnic - slightly more hillbilly musical storytelling.

Los Lobos - The Ride - and "and friends" album featuring old and new; bluesy, soulful, musically accomplished.

Matt Andersen - Something in Between - off-the-chart guitar and voice chops

Amy Winehouse - Back to Black - started listening to this six months before she died - what a freakin' voice.

Moonshine Ramblers - Moonshine Ramblers - trippy folk, roots, bluegrass, blues and country with a boot to the head.

Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What - an old master working his bountiful bag of tricks and astute rhymes, his best since Graceland.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best Books I Read in 2011

It's time for my annual "Best Books I Read Last Year" list, this time featuring 13 works of poetry, novels, nonfiction and anthology. As usual, these books didn't necessarily come out in 2010; that's just when I read them. This year, you should too. [Click on the picture to find out more about the book.] Happy reading!


Goyette’s imagery is evocative, precise, tangible yet layered with meaning:

I'm beyond biased here because I've got two poems in this anthology of Halifax guerilla poetry, and I like the idea so much I've written a feature about it. But I was genuinely impressed by the quality of work from my town's closet poets:


Rogers elucidates how the failures of "green" or "natural" capitalism are the failings of capitalism itself:

Paradoxically dense and sprawling, but worth the effort. You know when people say, "This is how the world really works!" Well, this is part of it:

It's actually a novel interspersed among reflections on a campaign to ban uranium mining in Nova Scotia. I never quite figured out how they fit together, but the former is engaging and entertaining and the latter is inspirational and thought-provoking:


Rushdie, having accomplished everything a writer could hope for, seems to be just having fun now. And it's a lot of fantastical fun to read too:

This novel was a rollicking fantastic adventure through the idealism of the 60s and the coming of age bestowed by Vietnam. Above all, it had an enormous sense of wonder:

Counter-intuitive to the title, for me these stories resonate with the sad truth of being a grownup:

MacDonald is a natural story teller and he connected all the emotional dots, providing a poignant tale of cultural change, the erosion of old ways and the maturation of young talent and pride:

The lady dialing 911 for love with all the wrong paramedics, the crack-addicted mathematician scoring rock for Robert Oppenheimer, the single condo-dwelling web designer more easily accepting the flaws of his Andalucian woolfhound than those of human companions – all serve Christie well as he masterfully illustrates the interwoven highs and lows of urban isolation:

Takes you right there, with the protagonists, feeling their fears, anxieties, pain and stress:

This is a good old-fashioned slog that probably wouldn't be published in the modern Canlit scene. It's prose is poetry and it's best scenes are heart-wrenching. In its entirety it is an unforgettable, honest portrait of rural life, its hardship and its absolute dependence on community even when community gets nasty:

Once again I'm totally biased because I have a short story in this one. But once again I was genuinely impressed to find myself in such accomplished company:

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