It’s National Poetry Month. Why April, you may ask? I did. Seems it was started when in 1996 some members of the Academy of American Poets gave away copies of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land outside of a New York post office. Canada NPMed two years later, making this the 20th annual celebration of April cruelty. I’ve celebrated by reading less poetry than I have since I started keeping track of my annual failure to read 95 Books in one year. I’ve followed Sandra Simonds on social media for a while. The other day she suggested to me on Goodreads that I might like her new collection Orlando and I thought that maybe I should read some of her already published stuff so I picked up Steal it Back and Further Problems with Pleasure, both of which, I should add, come with five-star reviews on Goodreads from Simonds herself. Who am I to argue? As it happens, I like both very much. Last fall one of my favourite people I’ve never actually met Sina Queyras AKA Lemon Hound released My Ariel, which Coach House described as “a poem-by-poem engagement with Sylvia Plath’s Ariel” so I decided that I should revisit Plath (whom I haven’t read since undergrad a lifetime ago) and also decided (since no one could have possibly thought of this before me) that I would read Plath and then the corresponding Queyras, which lasted all of three poems since Coach House are liars. Not to take anything away from Queyras; these poems are pretty great. These aren’t happy poems, but neither are the referral materials.
Don’t call it a resolution but this year I wanted to at least try to once in a while be a bit social and over a quarter into 2018 I haven’t done a very well so I decided this week that I would join the Vancouver Running Co. Thursday night Flight Crew run which sets out at a very reasonable 6:15 p.m. from 1886 West 1st Avenue (which is a very reasonable 2.5 KM jog from my place), for a very reasonable 10 KM weekday evening run. Except that I got Translinked on Thursday and didn’t get home until 6:10 so I missed out. Except that I should have remembered from the two or three other times that I’ve ever joined a social run that social runs never start when they say that they are going to, as Strava let me know later Thursday evening that the Flight Crew took off closer to 6:30. So maybe next week. This week’s long run I did some reconnaissance on the second half of the BMO half and finished feeling very confident that I will new or near my PR on May 6. Less encouraging is that Garmin dropped for the second time in as many weeks. I believe in second chances, which is why I believe it may be time for a replacement.
I loved The Flamethrowers so I was excited about this new Kushner book then I read what it was about and was less excited for no particular reason that I can put my finger on except that no matter how hard I tried and I did try I just did/do not like Orange is the New Black. Granted I only suffered through season one plus most of the way through S02E01 and maybe it got better. Who knows? All that to say nothing about whether liking one will or won’t ensure that you like the other, regardless of the fact that I, as it turns out, liked The Mars Room a lot. I found Romy Hall to be a compelling and sympathetic character, depicted vividly. The underlying commentary on the American justice system and prison–industrial complex equal parts frustrating and horrifying. I’m not thrilled with how the book ended for a couple of the characters that I had grown an affinity for, but this isn’t a happy novel, and no one should go into in expecting a happy ending, no matter how much ones sympathy for the characters grows through the 300-something pages. I will buy a copy of this to put onto my shelf next to Kushner’s others. The Mars Room will be released on May 1, 2018. Thanks to Simon & Schuster / Scribner for the advanced review copy.
Lots of time and distance on my feet and knee this week and it’s feeling pretty good — good enough that I ran yesterday and today without my knee brace without incurring disaster. A week ago I was beginning to think that the brace was mostly psychological at this point and I finally got the courage to put it to test. My speed is starting to get back to near what I could do at the end of last summer. But my endurance still needs work. My current hypothesis is that my endurance is tapped out thanks to those missing 700 to 1,000 extra calories from drinking the night before. I don’t I miss them but I’m having a bit of an adventure attempting to find healthy, palatable replacements. I’ll even sacrifice a bit on the “healthy”…no need to go from one extreme to the other. Today’s long run turned out pretty good, enough so that I tentatively may shoot for a new PR at the BMO Half. That felt impossible a week ago, but today (plus a session Wednesday and felt and turned in good results) and I’m feeling rather confident. Four weeks to go.
At the risk of jinxing myself, not just because it is week thirteen, I decided to gasp admit to reading two books this week. Which, if you’re following me on Goodreads you’ll know is not the case at all. I’m considerably ahead of pace to read 52 books in 52 weeks, so I’ve decided (and here’s the jinx) I’ll double up here and there. So here we are. A book that encourages you to give no (or few, he contradicts himself a few times) fucks, and a book that seems to argue that, in America at least, too many fucks are given about what we do with our bodies after we die. So they’re sort of similar. A lot of people found the Manson book rather meh, or thought that it started well and then went downhill. I too found it meh overall, but I started out really disliking it and found that it got better later when Manson dropped (or forgot to so fervently continue) with the crass too cool dude thing. I did have a couple personal a-ha moments in the book, I’ll admit without getting into details. But I also picked this up during the height of my newfound no-fucks-given sobriety, and I still believe that if you really want to learn to give no fucks then try giving up drinking. I picked up the Doughty book and do not know why I decided to read it before her earlier Smoke Gets in Your Eyes that was also on my to-read list. I say was because I’m no longer sure. From Here to Eternity was an easy, entertaining read but I went into it wanting more substance, à la Mary Roach’s Stiff, which, admittedly, I read quite some time ago and may over-romanticize. I wanted Eternity to have more meat on its bones. It was good, but I think could have been better. Worth reading though.
My (fingers crossed) final physiotherapy appointment came and went on Wednesday. We talked about the tools I now have to take better care of myself and about my missing Alex Hutchinson’s talk at Forerunners and his new book Endure, which is now on my to-read pile, and the lab-tested notion that smiling makes you run faster. And I’ve thought about that a lot, especially that my favourite races, the races that I remember having the most fun running, turned into personal bests. I spent the Easter long weekend in Oak Bay on Vancouver Island running into hills and headwinds and in my head not worrying about my meniscus. Not exactly smiling, but staying in the moment and enjoying running for running’s sake. Maybe the smiling will come.
This is Beverley McLachlin’s first novel. She turns 75 this year. I assume she was distracted by being the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. So if you’re worried that your first novel isn’t coming along quite as quickly as you had imagined, don’t fret. There’s still time. There’s probably still time. You should worry instead about becoming a household name so that someone will publish whatever it is you decide to write just because. Or you could write a decent novel and hope that there is still a publisher out there publishing decent novels. This novel, as it turns out, is decent. I found it to be an engaging read overall, with enough drama and suspense to keep me interested in spite of a bit of a slow start. It follows Jilly Truitt, an up-and-coming criminal defense lawyer, relatively fresh with her own law firm, as she takes on the biggest case of her career so far. I expected a simple narrative and was pleasantly surprised by the nuanced story arc and character development. There’s a plot twist that is alluded to early and often that becomes somewhat predictable. My only real complaint is that the end is a bit of a sprint to tie up all the loose ends. I liked the many Vancouver references, and I feel like Truitt has enough going for her, and unresolved, that could make for a sequel or serial, assuming McLachlin has another in her. The novel is released on May 1. Thanks for Simon & Schuster for the advanced review copy.
I capped off week 12 with my first long run since the First Half back at the beginning of February after realizing that I’m quickly running out of opportunities to get a 21+ into March since I’m heading to Victoria for the long weekend, and other excuses that don’t make much sense if you pause and think about it for a sec or two. I was apprehensive about taking my on-the-recovery knee out for a Sunday LSD but I really wanted to give it a test. So I decided to run a long route with no opportunity to tap out — over Burrard and up West 4th/Chancellor then back along Marine Drive. And it turned out okay. I’m pretty sure that it is my slowest 21+ run. It is my slowest since I started tracking with Strava. Before Strava I used the WalkTracker Pro app for iPhone, which I got for free from one of those freebee cards that Starbucks used to have on their pickup counter. I loved that app. The developers, apparently, did not, as evident from the fact that it hasn’t been updated as it hasn’t been updated since 2014 and no longer works on current or recent iOS. So I linked to it for sale in the App Store for nostalgia. My point is that once it stopped working for good I deleted it, and along with it all my running history, such as it was. Something in the back of my mind tells me that I probably downloaded all the data and stored the file away somewhere that I would probably never lose it, which it turns out is also somewhere I’ll probably never find it.