"Summer reading" is usually a euphemism for "not too demanding." But light doesn't have to mean content-free. Here are some lit picks for the lazy, hazy days.Scream scene
Sometimes the best way to get an author's point is to experience his or her voice live. Where better to do that than in the open air? Hear the Scream In High Park July 14, when rising stars Sheila Heti and Elizabeth Ruth join Motion, Fred Wah and others in what's become a T.O. tradition - except, as you can tell from the event's title, there's nothing traditional about it. Dream Stage, High Park, 7 pm. Pwyc. www.thescream.ca
Any summer reading list should include good dipping material, and Dropped Threads 2 (Vintage) definitely qualifies. The second edition of short essays edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson pursues the original's strategy of asking women writers to tell not-so easy-to-hear stories from their own lives. Contributors include Jane Urquhart, Susan Swan and Alison Wearing.
Life, with all its terrible violence and pointless wars, goes on, even after Victory Day. So don't let a good political read slip under your radar. Peter Scowen's smart and snappy Rogue Nation: The America The Rest Of The World Knows (McClelland & Stewart) catalogues the ways the United States has bullied its way across the globe - often illegally - in its efforts to maintain its supremacy. Starting with the nuclear bombing of Japan - the scope of which makes 9/11 look like a firecracker in comparison - and moving through the U.S.'s political machinations in Latin America and the Middle East, Scowen explains why the United States' rep is so crappy. Great anti-war ammunition.
The political scene closer to home gets skewered again by Jim Miller and Roz Owen in Trust Me: A Handbook Of Tory Contortions. The authors made their mark with their Calendar Of Harrisees and Calendar Of Common Sense, which used graphics and info bits to roast former premier Mike Harris. Now our king of the flip-flop, Ernie Eves, gets the treatment in a slim but powerful pamphlet that will spark your mind without weighing down your luggage.
What's summer without a travel book? Courageous emotional explorer Sylvia Fraser's The Green Labyrinth (Thomas Allen) is like no other. It follows her trek to the Amazon, where she dove into the experience of its history and mystery. The hallucinogen ayahuasca plays an essential role in Fraser's journey, which takes her back to her journalistic roots and forward to self-knowledge - ours, too.
Virago Press, one of the most important publishers of women's work, celebrates its 30th anniversary at the Harbourfront Reading Series on June 18. Check out the lineup: Gail Anderson-Dargatz (The Rhinestone Button), Margaret Atwood (Oryx And Crake), Emma Donoghue (The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits), Lisa Gabriele (Tempting Faith), Shaena Lambert (The Falling Woman), Lori Lansens (Rush Home Road) and Lisa Moore (the Giller shortlisted Open). All these books would make excellent summer reading, and the fact that the UK's Virago picked them up gives us the occasion for a huge party. Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room, 235 Queen's Quay West, 7:30 pm. $8. 416-973-4000, www.readings.org
Timothy FindleyTimothy Findley
Why do great writers release bad books? Why don't their editors stop them? HarperCollins should have saved Findley from himself and spared us Spadework, his flaccid take on unfettered ambition at the Stratford Festival.
Rock and Roll NovelsRock and Roll Novels
In 2001 Canadian fiction lapsed back into its comfy relationship to period. With the exception of Timothy Taylor's Stanley Park, all the books shortlisted for the Giller Prize fell into the category of historical fiction, and every nominee had that all-Canadian obsession with landscape. Edgy urban fiction was painfully low-profile, and the rock 'n' roll novel was almost invisible. Yashin Blake's Titanium Punch had some energy -- Blake really kicks it in when he's writing about music -- but no craft or characters. We're still desperately seeking a book that reflects contemporary T.O.'s city slickness.
Rita Mae BrownRita Mae Brown
The once edgy role model for lesbian writers is coasting. She used to write about the clash between southern manners and Yankee values, but Alma Mater, her tale of wealthy college coeds' southern discomfort with coming out -- how 70s! -- marks her as a writer who's out of touch with anything that matters.
They're not dead yet, but the fact that most major publishing companies have discontinued their e-book-only releases doesn't bode well for the cyber-lit movement. E-book companions to paper publications are still being produced, but let's face it, tech editions aren't exactly taking over. People still love the feel of a real live book.
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