Writing less to say more

51lvoalt-2l-_sx323_bo1204203200_A few months ago, I moved into my first home! It’s a 600 square-feet condo, which isn’t considered small for Toronto these days, but certainly, it cannot be called big. So I whittled down my book collection and swore that I’d only buy ebooks going forward.

Those who read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up will recall that she says you should buy books and read them immediately. She tells her readers to throw out books they never got around to reading because they will likely never read them.

But that has been the case for me. In my cleaning, I found a copy of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. And I thought I’d hang onto it because he’s supposed to be a classic and I so rarely read classics.

But I regret not reading Hemingway sooner because his writing confirmed for me, that the best writing is simple. You don’t have spell things out with big words, fancy jargon and flowery descriptions. And when you’re as good a writer as Hemingway, you don’t need any of those things to convey exactly what you want the reader to feel.

fbf7be6f9c3dabeafe5bd13af1023e70I had always heard that Hemingway had a way of writing simple prose. He’s often said to have written the six-word story: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” As I learned from reading The Moveable Feast, six words from Hemingway can hit you like a bag of bricks. And in today’s 140-character world, brevity is important.

But enough crushing and gushing over Hemingway’s word count — The Moveable Feast is just a great read. I don’t love Paris but I love his Paris. Can there be a theme park where you get to play a broke writer who drinks with other tortured writers of the time?

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Passing Love is all that jazz, love & lies

*A big thank you goes to Hachette Books for sending me Passing Love via the Ontario Blog Squad‘s blogger meet-up. Passing Love by Jacqueline E. Luckett is available today!

Passing Love is a romance from start to finish. Nicole Handy leaves her home in California and against everyone’s wishes, goes to Paris for a month. What she finds there is more than the magnificent architecture in Paris, she finds her own story. But what she ultimately finds out is that history is indeed something to leave in the past.

The best part of Passing Love is when Nicole traces her aunt’s history in Paris, dating all the way back to the post-War jazz scene. The setting is rich, luxurious and scuzzy at the same time. And without the morality policing and discrimination faced by blacks in the Southern U.S., it’s no wonder that so many African-American musicians gathered in Paris during this time. Nicole’s aunt, RubyMae, is glamourous, precocious and well, she makes poor decisions. But she’s also everything that Nicole is not.

Photo credit: Martin Soler (martinsoler.com)

I had a problem with the pace of Passing Love. I wasn’t hooked until about 40 pages in. I fear many readers will give up on the book before it gets really good – and it does get very good. Nicole also runs into a lot of the same people over and over again in random places all over Paris. It’s too much of a coincidence for a city as large of Paris! If I were Nicole, I’d be asking all these random French men why they were stalking me.

Each chapter also starts with vocabulary list from Nicole’s French dictionary. I initially found the lists awkward and reminded me of my elementary school French textbooks. But as the story progresses, I started to see more meaning behind those vocabulary lists.

But Passing Love does a great job of describing the passion behind love – the kind that defies all sense of logic and reason. For some, it’s for a man or a woman but for RubyMae and Nicole that love is for Paris. Luckett tells a convincing doomed love story between people but ultimately makes us all fall in love with a city.

Related Penguins: Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon – a beautiful snapshot, The Sweet Sweeper reminds us how far we’ve come – or have we?

Photo credits: martinsoler.com

Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon – a beautiful snapshot

I heard so many rave reviews about Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon that I had to see what all the fuss was about. There are a lot of authors writing about Paris but Gopnik seems to be THE Francophile on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

I wasn’t in Paris long enough to be wooed by it. But I imagine Gopnik would have said that Paris doesn’t care to woo me. Paris to the Moon is the complete unpublished journal entries of Gopnik’s five-year New Yorker assignment. Despite being published in 2000, his reflections on life as an ex-pat are still remarkably fresh. He does a wonderful job at depicting all the insecurities of being the “outsider” looking in.

Some of my favourite parts of the book were his reflections on raising a child in Paris. There are also reflections on French life – another hilarious story about fitness centres in Paris, or the lack thereof. You can practically salivate at his descriptions of Parisian cuisine. It’s all a fantastic read till Gopnik starts trying to justify why soccer is so boring. I found that chapter so dull, I could barely finish the pages. Gopnik is by no means a sports writer.

Perhaps the best reflections are about French politics. He explains that his answering machine constantly gives a “distant erreur” message and that French politics is much the same way. The problems are always from someplace else. And in a lot of ways, this is politics everywhere.

Gopnik is truly, madly, deeply in love with Paris. He takes a great snapshot of a culture that is slowly losing its lustre thanks to the commercialization of all things good. Hundreds of years from now, we’ll read Paris to the Moon and wonder if we’ll ever see the bistros he describes again.

Photo credits: stylemepretty.compinterest.com

Library Finds: Malled & Paris to the Moon

Did I ever mention that I love my library? Here’s a couple of books that I had on my wish list, only to discover my library across the street had them. And they were just sitting on a shelf waiting to be picked up – no holds, nothing!

Is there an event for Library Finds? I’d like to start it. Let me know if you decide to blog about your library finds – think of it as a way to publicly support our public libraries.

Here’s what I picked up:

Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail

The author Caitlin Kelly chronicles her journey of reporter turned retail worker during the recession. Oh wait, sorry – THIS recession. My first jobs were in retail (mostly footwear) and I really enjoyed them. Except the hours were awful, the managers didn’t care and the customers were abusive. Sometimes, I even got paid. Still though, they were fun jobs.

Here’s what Bonnie Brooks, the long-winded president and CEO of The Bay had to say about the book:

“Caitlin Kelly’s glimpse into the world of retail provides it is one of the most challenging careers, but can also be one of the most rewarding – as every moment of every day provides a new experience and an opportunity to engage in an action that can bring a positive outcome which can actually enrich your own life more than can be imagined.”

In other (fewer) words, retail is hard work. But you get satisfaction by helping people buy stuff until they feel happy. And you get discounts. Once, I helped a man buy shoes for his wedding – TWO hours before his wedding. One of my proudest achievements of my career to date!

I look forward to seeing what Kelly has to add to these thoughts.

I also picked up, Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon. I had only recently heard about Gopnik, a regular contributer to the New Yorker, from a Globe and Mail article. Gopnik was offered an awesome gig to go to Paris for five years and write the “Paris Journals” for the New Yorker. Perhaps Caitlin Kelly should have asked him for advice before security tagging clothing till her fingers bled.

The byproduct of this assignment is Paris to the Moon – Gopnik’s previously unpublished journal entries. I have no doubts there will be plenty of gushings about how beautiful the city, how care-free the French and how snobby the waiters. But how will he do it?