Trevor Abes: Writer

Tag: essays

The Peanut-Butteriness of Sunday Afternoons

Bookcase by Job Koelewijn.

Bookcase by Job Koelewijn.

I don’t know about you, but Sunday afternoons can feel raw, heady, like that moment of pride after plugging in a dying phone for charging, multiplied by a thousand. Teeth are brushed with the care of a kiss, every word of Friday’s leftover mail is read, not skimmed over dinner, and speed limits seem just inventions, the thorns bound to those platonically pristine roses we are sometimes reminded to smell.

Some of my happiest memories as a child happened half asleep on a chair or in the backseat of a car in mid afternoon, a haze of semi-dry heat pressing itself against my cheeks. I’d start to nod off and, instantly, I’d accept my body’s call to shut down, oblivious to the scenery –whether the dutifully green lawns of a Brampton suburb or plastic furniture and extended family, barbecue smoke and the smell of chlorine– and oblivious to the unfinished e-mails that could wait another hour or two. Then, awake and restored to the Earth, maybe by the rush of someone across damp swimming pool cobbles, scanning an article for overused gerunds no longer seemed so apocalyptic. Sunday, for me, is synonymous with this kind of small-time careless abandon.

Yet Sunday is closer to nothing than any other day of the week, not nihilism, but the total availability of space and time. Sunday is when breakups happen, when poems are finished. Sunday is when habits are given up and sons and daughters are disowned for good. It is the best day for first-time experiences, because they will seep into your attention and stain it like turmeric.

Even if your time off or week’s end is frequently found on Mondays, Mondays are your Sundays, those days when you lounge on the couch a little longer than you normally would,  forget the dishes soaking in the sink, and ponder for pleasure because you can without interruption.

The freedom to pick a file from the universe’s library and look at it as a toddler does an ant that doesn’t bite: this is a savory activity, one that merits more than a few minutes before bed. Through it people change, get better at being themselves, and imbue the daily grind with sweet, sexy meaning.

If you are, then let us see. 

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Classics Envy: Why No Book Is Better Than The Next

Photo by Michael Fritz.

Sam Beckett. Photo by Michael Fritz.

Thought they are facts, and highly intuitive ones at that, reading a novel doesn’t necessarily offer more mental benefits than watching a film, and reading a short story isn’t guaranteed to make you a better person than an episode of your favorite TV show. If the relationship between readers and literature was that simple and self-aggrandizing, book critics would be falling over left and right from persistent genital arousal disorder. I did not understand any of this until roughly halfway through university.

In university, I was the kind of English major that looked down on “trashy” fiction for being what it is: easy, popularly-themed reading that hopefully appeals to everyone and your grandma. Authors like Grisham, Patterson, and Coelho didn’t deserve to be called literature because their aesthetics lacked complexity, and their books too-much resembled the products of an assembly line. These authors were, in a sense, garbage.

Where did I first encounter these views? The likely answer is through my fascination with literary theory, the writers of which still hold the places in my psyche that many tend to reserve for rock stars and celebrities. Their personal lives aside, I took reading suggestions from Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon, I read Derrida like he was the Oracle of Delphi, and Barthes, well, his style and grace just couldn’t be matched. The logical consequence of believing in and defending a theorist’s teachings is thinking that whoever disagrees is wrong. Now, Derrida never said Danielle Steel’s novels were shit, and Barthes thought a lot of well-respected books were– Bloom, it’s worth remembering, reserves his wrath for Harry Potter and Stephen King; the connection between lit theory and looking down on grocery-store-rack fiction is the presence you keep: People that write about books write about the ones that offer the most mileage; your Austen, your Proust, your Beckett, and your Kafka require a considerable amount more unraveling than the latest Alex Cross thriller. Comparatively, does that mean The Metamorphosis will do you more good than bad? Clearly not. If the relationship between high-literature, an aptitude for learning, and the smooth development of the self was that straightforward, Jackie Collins wouldn’t be allowed near a television studio. And the issue is well beyond different books appealing to different people, because a love for the classics doesn’t preclude a love for what is perceived as kitsch.

‘Appeal’ may not be the right word. Mere interest isn’t what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about life-paths, and passing fancies are but small fragments of their multifoliate makeup. Whichever books you dare crack open, the only way to guarantee they affect you to their fullest degree is to read them without preconceptions; in this way, Twilight and Waiting for Godot are essentially the same. 

Roland Barthes. Photo by Aly.

Roland Barthes. Photo by Aly.

Record Store Roundup: She Said Boom! Roncesvalles

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From the Toronto Review of Books

She Said Boom! takes its indelible name from the first song on Toronto post-punk band Fifth Column’s All-Time Queen of the World. It has two locations (393 Roncesvalles Ave and 372 College St), under separate but amicable ownership, that serve two very different communities. The College store is close to Kensington Market and the University of Toronto so it caters to younger customers, mostly college students, while the Roncesvalles store gets more young families and people from Parkdale.

The storefront sign at She Said Boom! Roncesvalles is proof that written explosions are just as eye-catching as hot ones. Open since 1999, it’s one of the first businesses in Toronto to sell both books and music. “The reason was largely accidental,” says owner John Bowker. “I wanted to open a record store, and my partner wanted to open up a book store, and neither of us were able to pay the rent on a full store by ourselves. I remember wondering whether people would be willing to shop for books in a store where loudish, non-classical music was playing. Turns out, books and music worked very well together. And so obviously Chapters and Indigo stole our idea. Now Indigo sells candles.”

Read the rest here: Portrait of a Record Store: She Said Boom! Roncesvalles.

You Are A Dust Cloud That’s Going Places

Neil Turok. Click to purchase The Universe Within.You’re a bag of bones, a windswept soul, your very own cross-section of it all. You are in a specific slice of space when someone is looking at you. You are everywhere when someone is not looking.

When you are aware of yourself, you occupy the space you do. When you are not thinking about yourself, you are everywhere.

When you are everywhere, you are considering your options.

As an analogy, consider the problem of choosing a seat on a train.

There are over 1000 positions on a standard six-car-fixed train, sitting and non-sitting, that you could occupy on your trip. Before you step over the gap and onto the train, you have some ruling out to do: if you like inertia to push you forwards then draw you back, you’ll have to sit facing the direction the train is traveling; if you’re bothered by a crying infant, certain areas will be off limits; if you like a window to stare out of, isle-seats are a no-go; and so on until there are only a few seats left to choose from that mean no more and no less in your mind. That’s when you plop it and wait until your stop is announced.

Before you solve a problem, before you act on it, you weigh the available solutions, and you are able to follow more than one of these solutions through at the same time. You cannot sit and stand, but you can take two seats, or stand as wide as two or three people.

There are histories within your grasp.

You are a spinning dust cloud of possibilities before you do anything.

If you like, you are here.

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