"An engrossing and charming memoir about getting back to basics: home truths, family, and the life-altering, life-saving power of books."-Emma Donoghue, author of Room
"The Reading List brims with frankness, provocative wit and acute insights into our hearts and psyches."-Kerri Sakamoto, author of The Electrical Field
"I’ve read a lot of good memoirs, but it’s a rare talent that can weave together so many threads – family, love, literature, career angst – so effortlessly as Leslie does in The Reading List."-Micah Toub, author of Growing Up Jung
- ► 2011 (37)
- Book #6: Kureishi's Eloquent Movements
- The Myth of the Joycean "Epiphany"
- Book #5: Imagining the Old Neighbourhood through J...
- Book #4: Enigmatic Houses in V.S. Naipaul
- Book #3: Didion's Extreme Vulnerability
- Book #2: Going the Way of Lily Bart?
- Book #1: Searching for Thoreau on a Cold Winter Ni...
- ▼ May (7)
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My Reading List
- Book #66: Possession by AS Byatt
- Book #65: Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang
- Book #64: A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay
- Book #63: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
- Book #62: Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig
- Book #61: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
- Book #60: Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
- Book #59: In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami
- Book #58: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
- Book #57: Alligator by Lisa Moore
- Book #56: Return Trips by Alice Adams
- Book #55: Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
- Book #54: The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq
- Book #53: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
- Book #52: A Mercy by Toni Morrison
- Book #51: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
- Book #50: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
- Book #49: Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
- Book #48: After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
- Book #47: The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut
- Book #46: TOK: Writing the New Toronto ed. Helen Walsh
- Book #45: Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje
- Book # 44: Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- Book #43: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
- Book #42: The Paris Review Interviews, vol. 4
- Book #41: Brick Lane by Monica Ali
- Book #40: Finding the Words ed. Jared Bland
- Book #39: Shanghai Girl by Wei Hui
- Book #38: Room by Emma Donoghue
- Book #37: The Paris Review Interviews, vol. 2
- Book #36: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- Book #35: Looking for Mr. Goodbar by Judith Rossner
- Book #34: Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
- Book #33: The Professor's House by Willa Cather
- Book #32: Growing Up Jung by Micah Toub
- Book #31: Dashiell Hammett: A Daughter Remembers by Jo Hammett
- Book #30: In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut
- Book #29: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- Book #28: Jewels by Dawn Promislow
- Book #27: February by Lisa Moore
- Book #26: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
- Book #25: Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes
- Book #24: Impounded by Dorothea Lange
- Book #23: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
- Book #22: A Curtain of Green and Other Stories by Eudora Welty
- Book #21: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
- Book #20: Obasan by Joy Kogawa
- Book #19: The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock
- Book #18: The Professor's House by Willa Cather
- Book #17: Paper Shadows by Wayson Choy
- Book #16: A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
- Book #15: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
- Book #14: Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
- Book #13: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
- Book #12: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
- Book #11: Corked by Kathryn Borel
- Book #10: Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa
- Book #9: On Photography by Susan Sontag
- Book #8: Illuminations by Walter Benjamin
- Book #7: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Book #6: The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi
- Book #5: Dubliners by James Joyce
- Book #4: The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul
- Book #3: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
- Book #2: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
- Book #1: Walden by Henry David Thoreau
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010
5:53 PM | Posted by Leslie Shimotakahara | | Edit Post
The streetcar this morning is almost empty. As it chugs along Spadina through the gritty mist, I’m reading The Year of Magical Thinking. With every lurch, my stomach turns to jello, and all the moments of loss in my own life come back with vivid force, lulled by the rhythm of Didion’s sentences:
“People who have recently lost someone have a certain look, recognizable maybe only to those who have seen that look on their own faces. I have noticed it on my face and I notice it now on others. The look is one of extreme vulnerability, nakedness, openness. It is the look of someone who walks from the ophthalmologist’s office into the bright daylight with dilated eyes, or of someone who wears glasses and is suddenly made to take them off.”
Not that I can claim to have suffered anything comparable to what she endured. Just days after her daughter fell into a coma for mysterious reasons, her husband John Gregory Dunne collapsed and died of a massive coronary. “Life changes in the instant,” she tells us throughout the book, folding us into the embrace of her grief.
But the beauty of Didion’s writing is the way it also triggers all the smaller gradations of personal loss and shock.
The slap of my surgeon’s words when, at age thirteen, I was told that I would need to have four vertebrae fused to prevent my spine from growing curved like a snake.
The death of my vain, beautiful grandmother, whose life only became interesting to me in the last six months of her life.
The feeling of heaviness that overtook my entire body after my first break-up. My father drove to McGill and I slouched down in the backseat of his SUV and the weight of my moondrop earrings pulled at my earlobes. Montreal vanished through the rear window, with all its shabby elegant brownstones, overflowing recycling bins, dépanneur wine.
“Life changes in the instant.” Wise words from a wise woman.
(A footnote on time: whereas my previous two entries explore my state of mind from two years ago, during the time I was still a professor in Nova Scotia, this entry shifts to the present, when I’m back in Toronto, taking the streetcar to work).
Photo from: here
- Leslie Shimotakahara
- Toronto, ON, Canada
- Leslie Shimotakahara is a writer and recovering academic, who wanted to be simply a writer from before the time she could read. Hard-pressed to answer her parents’ question of how she would support herself as a writer, Leslie got drawn into the labyrinthine study of literature, completing her B.A. in Honours English from McGill in 2000, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown in 2006. After graduation, she taught English at St. Francis Xavier University for two years. Leslie woke up one morning and realized that she’d had enough of the Ivory Tower. The fact that she wasn’t doing what she wanted to do with her life loomed over her, and the realization was startling. It was time to stop studying and passively observing life and do something real instead. She needed to discover herself and tell her own story. This blog and the book she has written under the same title (Variety Crossing Press, spring 2012) are her foray. Last year, Leslie was selected as an Emerging Writer in Diaspora Dialogues and read at The Word On The Street. Her writing has been published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and GENRE.