"Hey What Happened to You?": My Victory Over Leukemia

"Hey What Happened to You?": My Victory Over Leukemia is Bernard Gotlieb's memoir about the battle he has been fighting since he was eighteen years old. Gotlieb is one of the first--and now, one of the longest-living--patients to undergo a bone marrow transplant in Canada. "Hey What Happened to You?" at 134 pages is a brief retelling of his optimistic and life-loving story. Given a second chance by a life-saving transfusion of donor marrow by his sister, Gotlieb's time in the hospital does not end there. He is constantly going back, often for lengthy stays (in isolation at that) due to complications from the original transfusion, radiation and the drugs associated with it. Gotlieb never adopts a woe-is-me attitude, and after doctor visits often found out that he must check back into the hospital immediately. He credits his loving family, friends and compassionate hospital personnel for making him as comfortable as possible. Simple tasks that we take for granted, such as eating, were a chore for Gotlieb. Yet he found a way to make us laugh as we read about his experiences:

"Life was going along well enough for me, except that my body was suffering from a big dryness due to the radiation: my eyes (I must put eye drops in many times a day), my skin, my mouth... I couldn't eat like everybody. How my life would be so easy if I didn't have to eat! I always maintained that if I could take one pill for all 3 meals, I would save so much time! Despite my problems and those that I imposed on my parents--life at home resembled a rather normal life."

Yes, a normal life. That was tantamount to Gotlieb's happiness. He still went to work and school, and when he graduated, he couldn't resist injecting a little gallows humour:

"In 1994 I finally received ... while still being alive ... my Bachelor's degree in Tourism Management!" (ellipses in original text)

What drove Gotlieb to live this normal life was the challenge of Scrabble. As the founder of the Montreal Scrabble Club in 1978 he developed his game and friendships he made through it.

In spite of the trials Gotlieb has faced he has remained above all thankful for life. He wrote about the ulcers and squamous-cell carcinoma that plagued his right leg. The consensus was to amputate below the knee. Three years later the ulcers and cancer spread to his left leg, and when the doctor read his verdict, Gotlieb was already expecting it. Throughout "Hey What Happened to You?" Gotlieb treats us to his unwavering humour in the face of such adversity. Even the story behind the title of his memoir provokes a chuckle. However when Gotlieb left his family in the hospital to prepare for his second amputation, his gallows humour returned:

"Before going to the operating room I couldn't help but feel that I was going to my own execution: after taking some blood and my vital signs the nurse opened the curtains where my family was waiting to wish me well and said, 'Okay, you can say your good-byes now!'"

Photos and cartoons illustrated the text, however I did not see an artist credit, other than Emond. The cartoons certainly enhanced the story and captured Gotlieb's humorous demeanor that I know him for.

"Hey What Happened to You?" is a self-published memoir and unlike the sad majority of self-published works I have read this year, this one has been seen by an editor. I wouldn't expect anything less from a champion Scrabble player, where a spelling error would be a mortal embarrassment. Nevertheless, I did note tpansplant (p. 42); automony (p. 63); hositals (p. 82) and C Difficle (p. 109). "Hey What Happened to You?" reads like an oral memoir and thus flows rapidly where the pages turn themselves. Perhaps because of such an oral style there was a superabundance of exclamation marks, which was the only distraction to the reading experience.

Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.

I love to study languages and am keenly interested in regional variants. Most of my books about local idioms are for European languages (such as the variants of German as spoken in Germany and in Switzerland) however recently I have started to collect books pertaining to variants of Canadian English, such as that spoken in Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. Thus when my library acquired Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. by H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman I was immediately drawn to it. Its theme is black English in the United States and specifically Barack Obama's use of it as he sought the presidency. Both Alim and Smitherman are professors of language and linguistics and have written extensively about black American language and speech. This book, from 2012, was printed in a small typeface and in an even smaller print size for the voluminous endnotes. I liked the endnotes that were an entire page long because the explanations were so insightful, yet getting to the end of the page wasn't that easy on the eyes. However the language of the book made it a rapid read, as Alim and Smitherman often employed black American English in the text. Thus Articulate While Black was at times an oral/aural experience. While parts of the book were written in academic standard English, other parts were best understand if reread aloud.

The first part of Articulate While Black focussed on Obama's command of various idioms of English to convincingly styleshift, that is, to speak to different groups of people (defined by age, race, demographic) while adopting the language and characteristics of that language known to these groups. Alim and Smitherman parsed Obama's speeches and noted his drawn-out vowels or monophthongization of different vowels, as well as his use and conjugation of the verb to be (or lack of it). The authors state at the beginning of their book:

"In Articulate While Black, we...[view] language as central to racial politics in the United States. This is especially important to us since, despite the constant monitoring and mocking of Black Language, we maintain that Barack Obama's mastery of Black cultural modes of discourse was crucial to his being elected America's forty-fourth president. For some obvious and not so obvious reasons, we argue that the 'brotha with the funny name' (as some Black folks called him) wouldn't have gotten elected if he couldn't kick it in a way that was 'familiarly Black.'"


"...Barack Obama's mastery of White mainstream English ways of speaking, or 'standard' English, particularly in terms of syntax, combined with his mastery of Black Culture's modes of discourse, in terms of style, was an absolutely necessary combination for him to be elected America's first Black president."


"Our conversations and surveys further revealed that, in Barack Obama, America heard a speaker who was 'strategic' and 'hyperaware' of his audience. While being cognizant of your audience may come with the territory as far as politics go, what distinguished Obama was his successful stylistic performance. It's one thing to know that you gotta say 'the right things' in terms of content but quite another to be able to say 'the right things' in the right way in terms of style. Barack was seen as someone who could speak directly and comfortably with folks across regions, generations, socioeconomic divisions, racial and ethnic groups, and political and religious views."

The authors claim that we all styleshift, that is, speak in different styles by using different words, inflections and tones depending on whom we're talking to. Personally, I don't consider myself much of a styleshifter at all, as I tend to put on a formal front wherever I am. Obama however perfected the art of styleshifting, moving from milieu to milieu, each time adopting the particular styles and words to make him come across as a local homey. You could hear it as he addressed rallies for Hillary Rodham Clinton where he disparaged her opposition. Obama certainly is a master of the style shift:

"...while this journalist wanted Black Americans to abandon Black Language in an effort to 'talk like Barack,' the irony is that Barack Obama himself was employing Black Language in an effort to 'talk like the people.' In other words, unlike this journalist, he recognized Black ways of speaking as valued symbols of identity and solidarity for members of the Black community. From the basketball courts to the campaign trail to the pews of Trinity United Church of Christ and the barbershops of South Side Chicago, Barack regularly switched back and forth between multiple ways of speaking--without devaluing any of them. It is in this sense that he serves as a linguistic role model not just for Black Americans but for all Americans."

Another major part of the book dealt with the very word articulate, and how its use is intended to compliment black speakers but is often perceived as an insult:

"Most Black folks can get with adult references to children as 'articulate.' What they can't get with is when Whites refer to Black adults in the same way; it smacks of that same paternalistic attitude that infantilizes Black intelligence, bringing up images of articulate being uttered with an accompanying 'pat on the head.'"

Alim and Smitherman make the valid linguistic point that black American English is in and of itself a legitimate form of English, and is neither a nonstandard nor an uneducated idiom. Black Language, as the authors name it, has its own grammar and syntax and is governed by rules as any recognized "standard" form of the language. It is not a linguistic free-for-all spoken by illiterates. The authors made an excellent case for the grammatical rules of Black Language. As a linguist I lapped up their analysis of the rules that govern this particular idiom. Thus those who speak Black Language are already speaking articulately, and I can see how a black speaker would take offence at being "complimented" as articulate:

"It's no secret that many White and other Americans still view Black Language through the ideological lens of Black intellectual and moral inferiority--the overtly racist message boards following every single online news story about Black Language can testify to that. Although little acknowledged in these public discussions, what usually lies behind comments like 'Black Language is nothing but a lazy, ignorant way of speaking' are racist beliefs about Black people themselves as 'lazy' and 'ignorant.'"

The authors elaborated on Obama's own premise that the more one deviates from the dominant white culture in terms of speech, dress or demeanor, the more one is subject to negative assumptions. As long as anyone nonwhite speaks English--or even whites who speak with a drawl or twang--he is suspect of being "different" and his intellect is immediately cast in doubt. The authors challenge the presumption of white linguistic normativity:

"Simply put, why must Black Americans shift toward styles considered White in order to be 'successful'? These questions show that the way we talk can either grant or deny us access to social, political, and economic opportunities (think jobs, schools, etc.). Barack certainly knew this when he said that Black people who want to be 'successful' have to be able to 'speak several different forms of the same language.'"

The lengthy endnotes have given me many ideas for future interloan reads and the authors explored much more than black English in these notes. My interest was piqued by the Hawaiian language and how it was suppressed by the dominant forces of American colonialism. Articulate While Black will refocus your attention on what it means to be articulate in America, and will open your mind to the wonders of grammar and syntax and how each and every language and idiom is governed by strict rules.

Pete Burns of Dead Or Alive
I kept my own Top 10 Singles Charts from 1983-2001, and Dead Or Alive as well as lead singer Pete Burns made four appearances:

by Dead Or Alive:

"You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" peaked at #4 on 10 August 1985
"Lover Come Back to Me" peaked at #4 on 14 December 1985
"Brand New Lover" peaked at #7 on 21 February 1987.

by Glam with Pete Burns:

"Sex Drive" peaked at #7 on 14 January 1995.

Dead Or Alive had one Top 10 album, "Youthquake", which reached #3 on 14 December 1985.

The Basque Country: A Cultural History

As a lover of world languages I embrace all things Basque, and would love to immerse myself in a Basque language course as I did with Finnish, Romansch and Breton. I studied each of those three languages in locations where they are still spoken as everyday languages (although I admit finding Finnish courses in Finland was rather easy to arrange). If I ever study Basque it would have to be in Basque Country, or Euskal Herria. I would be in language heaven, yet after reading The Basque Country: A Cultural History by Paddy Woodworth, I would have a tough time deciding where to study: in the Basque Country of Spain or France? Woodworth makes attractive cases for both regions.

Basque is a language isolate, and is the oldest language of Europe. How did the Basques settle and where did their language originate? I had to chuckle at the opening lines of chapter two:

"The origins of the Basques, and of their language, Euskera, are at once enticingly mysterious and politically contested. This has been a complex combination, and at times a lethal one. A vacuum of hard evidence has sucked in a deal of lunacy."

Woodworth didn't deal with any of the lunacy, but debunked claims of the language to Neolithic or Stone Age origins. Book chapters dealt with the frontón and pelota, gastronomy, music, fiestas, Basque politics and the ETA, and "The Basques on the Other Side of the Mountains" = the French Basques. Basque literature was one of my favourites among the fifteen chapters. Bernardo Atxaga, undoubtedly the most famous Basque author of international renown was cited throughout the book and more so of course in this chapter. I read Atxaga's Obabakoak before I started to write book reviews and I recall seeing a beat-up Basque edition at Schoenhof's during my last visit. Woodworth wrote about many more Basque authors whose names I have recorded for future interloan requests or Abebooks purchases.

While a joy to read for those who love Basque culture, I found that my notes were dominated by references to check on-line for photos. Woodworth unfortunately only included a few black and white photos with the text, and dark ones at that. I don't have a cell phone to Google for photos as I read, so I had to wait till I got on-line to find out what some buildings and places looked like, such as the parish church of San Salvador in Geraria, which is described as:

"...so much in the building, from the floor to the obscure complex of arches that makes up the roof, is tilted, uneven, askew. But the curious architectonics of the church are due to something much more deliberate, and much more radical, than awkward location and idiosyncratic workmanship. Move right around the building and you will often find elegant curves, but rarely be offered a straight line."

The Basque Country wasn't the first book I had read about the Basques but it was, thankfully, the least sensational. The most striking observation I found wasn't about the Basque past, but rather the present. Woodworth, in exploring the shops that dot the French Biscay coast, lamented the kitschy nature of merchandise. Both the Spanish and French sides realize that Basqueness is marketable and a selling point for tourists who like a "Basque experience" in B&B's and at restaurants, yet in France the stores go overboard with tacky souvenirs. Granted, the French side of Basque Country encompasses the Biarritz beach resorts, yet the shopping experience must nonetheless be a disappointment. I wonder if Woodworth had the same impression that I had when I first visited Amsterdam: every fridge magnet in every souvenir store depicted either a marijuana spliff or a lady of the evening. It was an effort to find a magnet not associated with sex or drugs. When compared to the kitschy French side, Woodworth noted in Spain:

"...you can scour the streets of the old part of Bilbao and only find a single shop selling Basque souvenirs. Even in that one shop, they take third place, after suitcases and belts in the window display."

There were a couple grammatical errors in the text, most of them caused by missing words. However I did encounter the nonword empherality on p. 133, when Woodworth likely meant ephemerality. Woodworth included three pages of further reading resources, and I have already copied the titles by Basque authors.

Unbuttoning America: A Biography of "Peyton Place"

I read both Peyton Place and its sequel Return to Peyton Place in 2009, before I started to write book reviews. When the Mississauga Library System withdrew the two-in-one book that I had read, I was able to keep it:

In 1956 no one had written a book like Peyton Place and it caused a scandal. It was even illegal to import copies into Canada. How times have changed, where everything now is a shade of grey. Unbuttoning America: A Biography of "Peyton Place" by Ardis Cameron is an academic study about this groundbreaking debut novel by Grace Metalious and the New England environment and social conditions of the mid-fifties. It was not a biography of the author or a retelling of the novel itself (for that, I will have to read Inside Peyton Place: The Life of Grace Metalious by Emily Toth). Cameron covered the state of sex in the US, focussing on sexual repression in the early part of the twentieth century and attitudes towards domestic life, premarital sex, infidelity and abortion. The reader must plow through some, in my frank opinion, boring histories about American sexual mores which were all the more unpleasant to read since the text was set in an unfortunately tiny typeface, with endnotes and photo captions set even smaller. I did not enjoy reading this book since the layout was so hard on the eyes. Cameron included several photos of Metalious and Peyton Place book covers and movie posters, so the break from the tiny text was most welcome. I also enjoyed the quotations from letters sent to Metalious, which illustrated the impact the novel had on a wide demographic of readers. That said, the subtitle was nonetheless accurate, as this was indeed a biography of the novel and how it was born out of post-WWII and post-Kinsey America.

Sixty years after it was written, Peyton Place is now moving from the smut pile to join the ranks of feminist literature. How? Metalious gave women a voice in their personal lives, and the courage to speak up for themselves about all matters sexual. Before the novel, no one talked about back-alley abortions or women who enjoyed fooling around. Those who suffered the pain of incest read about a character in the novel and found the courage to speak up:

"As with so much of Peyton Place, it blasted open silent topics and propelled secrets like incest and abortion into the public domain. Through the characters it was possible to talk about behaviors that were otherwise difficult to discuss."

Letters sent to Metalious read like correspondence between the closest of friends. Writers unburdened themselves of their most intimate sexual secrets, and Metalious even wrote back:

"Because it was frank rather than romantic, female-centered rather than sentimental, Peyton Place represented a radical leap in its conception of women characters, encouraging readers to recognize themselves or one of their neighbors in its pages. 'What hurts in Peyton Place,' one reader notes, 'is that it hits home a little hard.'
"New Englanders were not alone. Across the nation, readers felt the stab of recognition. The women of Peyton Place touched a national nerve, their true-to-life stories simultaneously well known and silenced, the subject of clandestine gossip and a will-to-not-know."


"Compelled and buoyed by her story, they named the problems women faced but no one would talk about: unhappy marriages, the difficulty getting a divorce, low wages and poor jobs, the stigma of widowhood, single motherhood, and the sheer lack of public discussion."

Peyton Place opened up the bedroom door and its readers found out that they could escape if they wanted to. Others saw the open door as a welcome sign to enter.

Craig plays SCrAIGH
Today at the Mississauga Scrabble Club I finally got to play "my name". With a rack of ACGHIS? I played SCrAIGH for 90. Scraigh is a variant of scraich, which means "to utter a shrill cry".

The Last Romantics

The Last Romantics is the fourth novel by Fareh Iqbal. I have read Iqbal's three prior novels and it is necessary to read all of them first, since Iqbal references storylines and characters from all three in The Last Romantics. All of Iqbal's works were rapid reads because they are pushed ahead by constant action. The pages turn because the characters grab their edges and flip them for you as they gallivant through Paris. The four young women who are the last romantics are in the city of light with Jordan Castlemoore (from Fernweh) as she prepares for her wedding with William. We relive all of their dramas and love stories from the preceding novels and share their joy as they prepare for a wedding in the most romantic city on the planet.

Franchesca (Ray) Driftwood is still the owner of a bookstore but now she is a famous writer. In The Last Romantics she is troubled by a lack of inspiration and a state of depression where she often refuses to eat. Her fellow romantics are worried that she might be suffering from anorexia since Ray is prone to wearing baggy sweaters and there are frequent references to her bony figure. I hoped that Iqbal might have chosen to explore this deeper side of the author's personality by painting Ray as a suffering artist, however Ray is quickly gorging on crepes and croissants once she arrives in Paris.

Like Iqbal I have been to Paris and before I left I asked a beloved colleague about her own trip there. I wanted some of her recommendations for must-sees. She sent me to one place I simply had to visit first. Not the Eiffel Tower and not Notre-Dame Cathedral, but the city's most famous bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. I highly enjoyed reading about Ray's visit to this store and I can certainly identify with the cases of books she brought back home. I usually pack a collapsible suitcase in my own luggage for this very reason. Iqbal's literary talent is her gift for description. Wind-swept Parisian streets and the romantic lights along the Seine are given a new life in what must be the most described city on earth. Hungry readers will salivate at Iqbal's lush choice of words when she describes French delicacies, and her sense of humour is keenly observant:

"Ray tentatively poked at the pastry, 'It looks like a poodle exploded all over it.' She caught Sophie's scandalized expression, 'A delicious poodle. One made out of strawberries and cream.' Ray cut into the pastry shell, her fork emerging victorious with clotted cream."

The choice of dog breed, poodle, or specifically a French poodle, seems entirely appropriate. I was touched by one poignant scene in the novel which centres on Jordan's brewing doubts about marriage. She is surrounded by her three friends and opens up her heart and mind such that the cliché of "cold feet" would seem a sorry understatement. In particular I liked Iqbal's simile "Her face crumpled like a forgotten paper doll" to describe Jordan's sudden crestfallen countenance.

I chose to read all four of Iqbal's novels because I was interested in the work of a local author and wanted to see her develop as a writer. I could only do this if I read each book in chronological order. It must be exhilarating to have your own work published. I can only imagine what it must feel like to see your name on the cover and your words on the printed page. This is your work, your art and the sum of your passionate efforts. Unlike those who may have read Iqbal's work as each book came out, I embraced the Iqbal oeuvre after all four novels had already been published. The span from the first novel to the fourth was a mere fifteen months, hardly a time for an author to evolve when she's churning out books at a Barbara Cartlandian velocity.

I sometimes assign themes to my year of reading, while in other years the theme only reveals itself after I discover a pattern in the choice of books I have read. 2016 will go down as the year of the self-published novel. I have read more self-published works than in any other year, totalling seven books by three authors. It is sad to state, and indeed unfortunate to declare for the sixth time, that I cannot fathom how any author can release her work to the general public without making the effort to have the work edited first. This is a remark I am getting pretty damned tired of making. One must wonder why two of these local authors (whose combined efforts total six books) forsook the publishing necessity of showing their manuscripts to another set of trained eyes. Were they in such an ebullient rush to get their books to print, that editing slipped their minds? Sure, your book is in print, and you can say to yourself I am a published author two or four times over, but can you really be proud of yourself when your work is teeming with errors? All six books were embarrassingly full of them.

Where oh where do I begin? I am a line editor, and I can let a lot of stuff slide as I read the overall sloppiness of the printed pages of today. I have to, otherwise I wouldn't be able to read anything. But show me a work that hasn't been edited at all, and I morph into a monster who wields his blue pencil like a shiv. I become the Canadian version of Michiko Kakutani and when I get so fed up with an unedited text I let nothing pass. While I can often forgive a spelling error or grammatical faux pas, if your book is such a thorough mess that it makes me want to slam it shut and throw it against a wall, the author will suffer the consequences. I do not suffer bad writing and I do not suffer unedited works.

In my reviews of these six self-published books by two local authors I claim, nonetheless, to be supportive of their work. I think I fall over myself trying to convey that each of these six books has its own merits, however the presentation of such a sloppy manuscript overshadows any of these merits. A sullied text detracts from the reading experience, and an assembly-line of spelling errors and grammatical gaffes ruins it. Supportive readers read the entire book cover to cover. A supportive reader writes an honest review and offers an assessment. Friends and family members who also write reviews might be reluctant to share anything less than five-star fawning praise. These two self-published authors, Fareh Iqbal and Karen E. Black, write under their own name, and as a reviewer, so do I. I do not hide behind an alias on Amazon or Goodreads and I will defend any review I post there or on any other book review website. I will defend my review even to the authors themselves. Most importantly, though, supportive readers are always on the author's side. I could have dropped reading any more of Iqbal after book one or two, but I stuck with her because I like the author and her stories. That's what supportive readers do. I may have enjoyed the images, simile and stories in the works of both Iqbal and Black, but I pilloried both of them for the sorry state of their works' unedited presentation. This criticism is entirely separate from their artful gift for writing. I like and admire both Iqbal and Black. They are authors and that to me is an honoured profession. I want so much to rave about their work and brag about them. I cannot do so if the presentation of their work is so overwhelmingly substandard. What has prevented either author from showing her work to a skilled pair of editorial eyes? I can't fathom an answer, although I have floated several theories. No author should serve as his or her own editor, and it would be temerarious to think otherwise. I mean it when I say that I'm supportive when I declare publicly that I will volunteer my services to line-edit these authors' next works. They might never want to see me again much less hand over their next manuscript to me, but I will forgo my editorial rate to help them present a work worthy of their artful skills. And if that offer isn't indicative of a supportive reader, then at least hire and pay for an editor. Please. No one may have written or told you two that your works are editorial messes, but everyone is thinking it.

That said, The Last Romantics was, like all of Iqbal's works, a charming and enticing read. This book was easy to fall into and dream, all the more if the reader has been to Paris. Iqbal took me back to the Parisian summer streets when I was there in 2009, and I thank her for the travel through time. Her characters are believable, uttering lines that flow rapidly. Stilted dialogue is awkward and requires rereads, while Iqbal's characters speak like real people. It is not easy to write dialogue resemblant of real life, and Iqbal has nailed it in her work. In my review of Im(mortal), I felt that her third novel was her strongest work to date. She continues on this strength with The Last Romantics, her best book yet. I have so much praise for Iqbal; it is simply a shame that her books are not presented in a flawless edited state. Instead of putting this promising author on centre stage, my focus is on the substandard stage of production, which--especially by her fourth novel--cannot be ignored.

I refrain from reading any reviews before I write and post my own. I will not be influenced by anyone or by any book's Amazon star count. Therefore reviews like mine may serve as information for the reader after he or she has already read your book. Reviews like mine may also embarrass authors into wholly reprinting or editing their work. My merciless blue pencil has seen two authors do just that in the past two and a half years. Authors who took my editorial advice deserve to be congratulated and praised, not gloated upon. Heed my forthcoming editorial advice or not, but the line-editing has been done for you. Emphasis in italics is mine, except for the French passages, which were rendered in italics in the original text:

When I first read The Bookkeeper's Daughter I made a note, but did not comment on it in my review, that the protagonist Ray Driftwood sure did an awful lot of sighing. Breath was expelled so often that I thought Ray would pass out. I noticed the same propensity for sighing in the next two novels. By the time I picked up The Last Romantics, I thought it would be interesting to track how often the characters sighed. Each time someone sighed, I'd record the page number. I was strict in my count; Iqbal also employed verbs such as exhaled and breathed but I only tracked the number of times characters sighed. In a book of 246 pages, the four leading women were breathless after sighing on the following pages: 5, 33, 40, 56, 59, 75, 85, 94, 96, 109 (twice), 128, 143, 154, 160, 161, 165, 174, 192, 197 (twice), 214, 218, 219, 220, 221 (three times), 226. An editor would suggest other ways of expressing exasperation, contentment, concession or any of the myriad other feelings in ways other than by always sighing.

This story takes place in Paris and the French in the text should have been vetted by a native speaker or at least a fluent speaker first. The following are the faux pas en français:

Repeated references to William as the fiancée of Jordan (pp. 49, 182 and 192, among others). This is the feminine form. For men about to be married, use fiancé. Iqbal also refers to a male waiter's blonde hair on p. 69.

"It was known as Place de Revolution." (p. 65). It should be Place de la Révolution.

"...merrily humming along to Edith Phiaf." (p. 70). Her surname is spelled Piaf. I myself do not like to render accents on French capital letters so I congratulate Iqbal for not writing Édith.

A reference to the French dish duck l'orange (p. 77) when the correct term is duck à l'orange.

Repeated references to the cookie macaroon (p. 84, but I did not record its occurrences elsewhere) when I am certain Iqbal meant the decidedly French confection called the macaron.

"...and that French je ne sais qois." (p. 160). Should be je ne sais quoi.

Usage of the term toute de suite, when the correct spelling is tout de suite.

"In the immortal words of Julia Child, bon apetit!" (p. 188) when Iqbal does get it right as Bon appétit on p. 227.

"Shore-zan, sil vous plait..." (p. 194) when Iqbal does get it right as s'il vous plaît on p. 201.

"Comprendez?" (p. 199). The correct form of the conjugation is Comprenez.

"Oui! Ce'st bon!" (p. 209). Should be C'est.

A reference to Sacré-Cœu on p. 216 instead of Sacré-Cœur. Bonus points for employing the œ ligature, though.

French gaffes now over, here are my notes about the rest of the text:

A flipflop between pajama(s) (p. 1) and pyjamas (p. 13) which continues throughout the text. Iqbal spells it pajamas on pp. 149 and 156 but as pyjama on p. 162.

Ray Driftwood runs a bookshop yet it is alternately called a bookshop as well as a book shop. On p. 7 both terms are used. Her store is located in England where the pound sterling is the official currency but early in the book Ray conducts a book transaction using euros.

"The past two years been particularly wonderful for Ray who had finally published her novels." (p. 9).

"...she was nimble enough to climb on top of counters to reach high shelves. shelves." (p. 21). Erroneous repetition.

I rail into authors who render the possessive form of it with an apostrophe S. I have never encountered the opposite of this grammatical gaffe, namely employing the contraction without the apostrophe. Iqbal committed this fault on pp. 36, 67, 139 and 173 (twice). On p. 74 the S is missing, as in "It' pretty public, right down to the lingerie."

"If that's what you kids are calling it these day..." (first word in the original text in italics; p. 46)

References to clothes designers Langfeld and Marc Jacob (both on p. 64) when their names are Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs.

"...which at first glance looked like as though it was embedded..." (p. 66). Remove like.

Greengrocer's plurals: corner's (p. 43), friend's (p. 139), café's (p. 175) and a wholly incorrect plural form in "That's the thing, these crisis's affect us all..." (p. 82). The correct and only form of the plural of crisis is crises.

"Jordan pointed to Ray with a long finer adorned with a stack of gold rings." (p. 45)

"I've become of those girls that are entirely too comfortable..." (p. 73)

"Jordan's face with bathed with a golden glow..." (p. 76)

"All we have to do it look close enough and recognize them." (p. 87)

"I don't think people made rules, per say." (p. 115). The Latin expression is spelled per se.

Incorrect verb agreement in "...and a tempest of emotions begin to stir in my mind" (p. 143). Should be begins. Also, "A soft knock on the door snap me out of my reverie..." (p. 144). Should be snaps. And "A stack of well-used English grammar books are lined haphazardly..." (p. 168). Should be is.

"T-thank you" (p. 148) should have been rendered as "Th-thank you" to represent stuttering.

There are some grammatical errors that make me livid. I encountered two such travesties on opposite sides of the same page:

"...Jax yelps, almost spilling her tea all over Sophie and I" (p. 153) and "...William calls once more to a chorus of goodbyes from Jax, Sophie and I" (p. 154). In both cases the pronoun that follows the prepositions (over and from) must be in the accusative, thus me. Write the same sentences without Jax and Sophie. How would you write the first one? Would you write "...Jax yelps, almost spilling her tea all over I"? Would you? Of course not. You'd write it using the pronoun me, which is also the correct form of the pronoun in the second sentence.

Then I encountered this error again on p. 168: "Squinting I examine it closer, it's a picture of Jordan and I..." (I will get to Iqbal's run-on sentences and lack of comma placement later.) The pronoun I follows the preposition of, thus write "...it's a picture of Jordan and me..." Take Jordan out of it; would you write "...it's a picture of I..."?

"...I can do nothing but offer words of compassion that roll of her shoulders..." (p. 160)

It was at this point in my notations (after page 160) that I remarked, after making a mental note of it throughout the book, that Iqbal always capitalized the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. Why?

I found fewer run-on sentences in The Last Romantics than in Iqbal's three previous books. A sentence does not have to be long in order to be considered a run-on; the example above beginning with "Squinting" simply needs a comma after the first word. Without it, the words pile up like a car crash when the first punctuation mark is encountered. A lack of punctuation forces the reader to start the sentence over, which ruins the flow of reading and puts the distracted reader on alert for when to mentally insert missing commas. I bypassed many run-on sentences when they only required a single comma for proper punctuation, but the example below could not escape my criticism. Please, divide it into several sentences:

"My mouth waters as William carries out the chicken on a platter, followed by Jordan with the pizzas arranged artistically on a pale yellow tray, I trail behind with the salad bowl and as I hear Sophie's squeal of delight and Jax's yelp of surprise as she pops a pizza in her mouth too soon, followed by William's deep laugh and Jordan's plea for everyone to settle down so we can still catch the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower in the evening, I feel warm contentment flooding in my veins, the dull ache in my heart temporarily forgotten." (p. 151)

All of Iqbal's works can be transformed into praiseworthy examples by a budding new author if they were corrected in their next printings.

PaulaPaulTom ans Meer

PaulaPaulTom ans Meer by Gabi Kreslehner is an Austrian novel for teen readers. The story is about the adventures of three teens. The parents of fifteen-year-old Paula are holding a family birthday party for her grandfather, and Paula has been sent to pick up her seventeen-year-old brother Paul from the home where he resides. Paul does not live with his family due to his mental disability. His disability is never mentioned, although Kreslehner mentions that Paul has the intellectual capacity of a child:

"Dein Bruder ist ein Kind, Paula. Und er wird immer ein Kind bleiben. Das weißt du doch."

= "Your brother is a child, Paula. And he will always be a child. You know that."

Paul is prone to episodes of wandering, preoccupation with repetitive tasks, nonsense phrasing and breakouts of screaming. Although Paul is two years older than Paula, he will always be, in this particular sense, her "little brother".

While on the train to pick up her brother, Paula meets a seventeen-year-old saxophone player named Tom. Paula is attracted to him and tries throughout the length of the book to get him to offer her his phone number. There is a mutual attraction but Tom plays aloof. Paula and Tom are typical teens of today with their noses buried in their chirping cell phones. They sometimes engage in text chats while travelling on the train, even when they're sitting opposite one another.

The title of the novel comes from Paul, who instead of wanting to go to his grandfather's birthday party wants to take the train to the seaside. His rapid flow of speech renders not a request in the form of a question, but rather a repeated demand, as "PaulaPaulTom ans Meer" ( = "PaulaPaulTom go to sea"). Paula finally relents and calls her father to ask permission to take this rather lengthy detour. The parents are wary of allowing Paul to go on such an extended trip because they don't believe that he actually wants to go the sea. In the parents' eyes, Paul could have asked to go anyplace, even to the moon (the father does indeed provide this hypothetical example).

Tension reverberated off the pages when the train reached its seaside destination and Paul decided he would not leave the train. Paula must deal with her brother who is determined to stay on board. His screaming sends her into a panic while she cowers under the glares of departing passengers. This is too much for Paula to endure, so she abandons Paul and leaves him on the train. I will not spoil it for readers as to what Paula does next, but I could feel the stress in Paula's voice as she tried to convince her brother to leave while throngs of passengers stared and said awful things to her.

The flow of the story was rapid and the perceptions were focussed on a teen's world. I raced through the narrative whenever the three teens were on the train, however I had to reread some passages because I couldn't understand what and why events were occurring. What I thought was my lack of attention or perhaps even poor language skills ended up being neither. Kreslehner often jumped into the future. She intermixed her chronologies and it was confusing to go back and forth because these future events were alluded to, but hadn't been formally introduced yet. Thus I was left with plenty of questions which nagged at me. I wondered Why is she writing about this? in the middle of some other story which was obviously predating the chronological insertion. The author repeated these paragraphs of future occurrences word-for-word when the storyline "caught up" with the progressive narrative. I had many a feeling of déjà vu when I caught myself rereading a paragraph that I knew I had encountered earlier. It seemed much clearer the second time around.

Kreslehner incorporated plenty of German slang, which I expected in a 2016 teen novel. I did however have to use my enormous German dictionary to learn some idiomatic contexts. Because we were reading about a reluctant teenage girl sent by her parents to fetch her mentally disabled brother, she used various slang words for "idiot" or otherwise to designate "stupid". Paula expressed her resentment for being sent on this task by using disparaging terms for Paul's intellectual disability. Aside from referring to him in these terms, Kreslehner presented Paul alternately as an annoyance who was shipped off to a group home in order to free his parents from caring for him, as well as a beloved and wanted member of the family. The contradiction is poignant: the father convinced his wife that sending Paul to a home was in their son's best interests, yet they don't pine for him and no one wants to go there to pick him up so that he could attend his grandfather's birthday party. Yet, when Paul does attend the party:

"'Hast schon recht gehabt, Lene', brummt Papa, 'er hätte uns gefehlt auf dem Fest!'"

= "You were right, Lene, growled dad, "we would have missed him at the party!"

So the family appears only to be able to tolerate Paul being around them in small doses, yet by the end of the story they all feel good about themselves for bringing him to the party.

Rufus, spesiaali lapsi

Rufus, spesiaali lapsi by Marianne Kulmala came my way via a suggestion from a colleague. It was not as a recommendation to read this specific book, but rather as a result of my response to a callout from the Toronto Public Library. The TPL has a collection of over four thousand titles in forty different languages, specifically for young people with disabilities. The International Board on Books for Young People owns this collection and it is housed at the North York Central Library Children's Department for reference use only. The TPL was looking for library staff who could read and review juvenile books in certain foreign languages. Naturally my curiosity was piqued and I made some enquiries. Two of the languages for which they needed readers and reviewers were Finnish and German. I eagerly accepted the assignment.

I do not do enough reading in any foreign language that I do speak. By that I specifically mean reading a book thoroughly from cover to cover, as I do with all the English books I write about. I seem either to read my foreign-language books while on vacation or while coming home from them, or in bits and pieces after I get back. I can look at my shelves at the books which I picked up while on vacation and tell you all about them, but I have never spent any formal time reading them, that is--literally--from cover to cover. No time spent during work meal breaks, no time spent with them while in transit, and no time curled up on my couch next to my birds reading for hours at night. This assignment would give me an opportunity to read, and more importantly, to review, foreign-language material.

My Toronto librarian contact coordinated a delivery for pickup at the branch closest to where Mark lives, and last week he picked up both the Finnish and German books. Fortunately I had finished reading my last book before I embarked on this read and review project. I do not like--ever--to have two books on the go at the same time. The TPL has put me on a deadline so I knew I had to concentrate on reading and writing as soon as I got the books.

My review for the TPL must conform to their standards and thus is different from one that I would normally write. Nonetheless it is still my review, and I have incorporated everything in the TPL review here. Rufus, spesiaali lapsi is about a nine-year-old boy with Tourette syndrome, and the book is divided into two parts. The first part, which takes the reader to page 79, is narrated by Rufus's Boston terrier, Boris. The second part is told by Rufus's mother about her son when he was a baby and toddler, and how she detected symptoms that were later indicative of Tourette's. This part takes the reader to the end of the book at page 101 by the time Rufus is nine years old.

Rufus, spesiaali lapsi is a book aimed at children who are just like Rufus. The reader learns that Rufus is valued because he has been especially chosen by his pet to be his loving caregiver. Boris loves Rufus and it was he who chose him to be his caregiver, because:

"Kun valitsin ihmistä, halusin jotain erityistä, spesiaalia. Halusin jotain mielenkiintoisempaa. Ja sitten löysin Rufuksen."

= "When I chose my caregiver, I wanted someone special, really special. I wanted someone more interesting. And then I found Rufus."

Boris states this his biggest dream is to tell people what Tourette syndrome is all about, so that they will understand the disorder and realize how beautiful people who have Tourette's really are. However, Kulmala also gives Rufus the opportunity to tell others about his condition. While on an outing to a farm with two friends, one of the friends, Saku, asks:

"Miksi sinä teet noin?"

= "Why are you acting like that?"

Rufus then has the opportunity to describe Tourette syndrome himself, in his own words. He does so calmly and states the circumstances that bring on his nervous tics.

Kulmala included several fill-in-the-blanks sections where the young reader, perhaps with a parent, can share details from his or her own life. For example, Boris tells the reader that sometimes Rufus has good days and sometimes he has bad days. This is the same for any child. For Rufus, his bad days often make him cry and become angry. Rufus yells out:

"Miksi juuri minun täyti saada tämä tyhmä häiriö! Haluan olla aivan tavallinen lapsi! Rufus huutaa silloin äidilleen."

= "Why did I have to get this horrible disorder! I want to be just like any other normal child! Rufus yells to his mother."

This is followed by a small interactive section where the reader is asked:

"Onko sinulla joskus huonoja päiviä? Mitä sinä silloin teet?"

= "Do you sometimes have bad days? What kind of things do you do?"

The reader is invited to participate in listing characteristics of his own bad days. He is made to feel not alone, as boys like Rufus have bad days as well. Accompanying this section is a consoling drawing of Boris licking Rufus, whose cheeks are streaming with tears.

The book deals with the topic of teasing, and Kulmala raises the issue by introducing a showoff cat named Virtanen. Since Boris is a Boston terrier, he has a short stubby tail and Virtanen loves to strut about, shaking his long tail to taunt Boris. Virtanen even has a rhyme which he sings to throw jabs at Boris:

"Jos minulla ei häntää ois, muuttaisin varmasti Suomesta pois!"

= "If I didn't have a tail, I'd leave Finland, without fail!"

Kulmala then included an interactive box where the reader is asked if it is nice to make fun of dogs with short stubby tails. Rufus states that Boston terriers are all born with such tails and that it is one of the breed's noted characteristics. Thus Rufus is given the chance to come to the defence of his beloved pet dog, who like anyone can be the target of teasing. Even prized dog breeds can be teased.

Rufus, spesiaali lapsi is filled with moments that are part of any child's life, like visiting grandparents and playing in the snow. One funny recurring theme is Boris's fear of anything white and fluffy. After he watches Rufus's father shave, where he removes his stubble with the aid of shaving cream, Boris is afraid of any fluffy white substance. He is afraid that if he goes out in the snow, his furry coat will disappear. This is accompanied by a drawing that shows a smiling Rufus in a puffy green winter coat with arms flailing and jumping in the snow. Boris, on other hand, is petrified and has eyes the size of saucers.

The second part of the book is intended for parents to read before they read the book with their children. The narrator is Rufus's mother, who describes how her son was like as a baby and toddler. It wasn't until he was five years old that he started to exhibit symptoms like rapid eye fluttering and restless wandering. The mother expressed worry over the mysterious changes she saw in her son, and took him to several doctors. Once she got a diagnosis and name for his condition, she felt relieved:

"Diagnoosi oli meille suuri helpotus ja suuri shokki yhtä aikaa."

= "The diagnosis was a great relief to us yet a huge shock at the same time."

It was a relief for the parents to know that Rufus's fits and yelling episodes weren't caused by anything that they themselves did. Rufus's mother even wondered if she somehow caused the Tourette's while she was still pregnant with him. They learn that Rufus's fits are compulsive and involuntary, and that they should not view them as their son personally lashing out at them. One can, however, learn how to control them by reducing situations that may lead to Rufus feeling anxious. It was sad to read about the mother's frustration in her son's inability to find friends. The worst of all are the parents who openly forbid their children to play with Rufus. The book ends with proclamations of her son's uniqueness, qualities of his which enrich the family. For example, Rufus is a gifted storyteller, and she admits that her own storytelling abilities pale in comparison:

"Minä annoin periksi ja totesin, että pojalla on taito, jota minulla ei ole. Rufuksen aistit vievät aivoihin ainutlaatuisella tavalla."

= "I gave up and discovered that my son has a skill that I don't. Rufus's senses of perception take over his brain in a unique way."

Rufus, spesiaali lapsi can help children and their parents understand who they are. Children can feel empowered both by seeing Rufus lead a life like any other child and by asking questions which they know Rufus will have the answers to.

One Thousand Languages: Living, Endangered, and Lost

One Thousand Languages: Living, Endangered, and Lost, edited by Peter K. Austin was a Christmas gift from Mark eight years ago. The book was divided into geographic regions and then broken down into the major languages within each region. Small maps accompanied the longer language profiles as well as charts showing the numbering system from one to ten. I liked the charts showing various lists of words in related languages and loanwords (which may or may not be from English). The final three chapters were devoted to endangered languages, extinct languages, and to larger and more colourful maps. One Thousand Languages was only 288 pages long but took me eleven days to read. I normally lap up anything written about languages but this book's format--as well as its overall heft, as it was printed on a heavy paper--made me only want to take it in small doses. Each language profile started the same way, identifying its history, number of speakers, writing system as well as one or two particular traits. The structure of each profile never varied. Austin also lifted word-for-word entire paragraphs to describe similar languages. There was no variety in the reading experience. I understand this was meant to be a reference book, one which the reader picked up and read about a certain region or a specific language or two. It was probably not intended to be read cover to cover. As I did read it just like that I found the experience tiring. That does not mean at all that I didn't find the book itself enjoyable. I just couldn't curl up with it for hours at a time. The font was another reason to keep my reading time down to a minimum: it was too thin for my eyes to read without a magnifying glass. The font was similar to Century Gothic or Futura but a visit to the Identifont website didn't turn up any matches. The microscopic size of the type used in captions was impossible to read without a magnifying aid.

I took plentiful notes about alphabets and linguistic phenomena which I will research later. This book will serve as a valuable launching pad to discover characteristics of other languages I had never heard of. As I turned each page I recognized names of languages that I had only heretofore encountered at Schoenhof's. My notes reveal that I took particular interest in extinct alphabets and how they were supplanted by others, for example the Roman or Cyrillic. Wonders of world languages abound, and I learned about the three degrees of vowel length in the Ghanaian language of Ga (short, long and extra long). Sindhi has four implosive stops. There are three sets of pronouns in South Efate, the choice of which depends on whether the action is in the past, present or future. Thus the three words for the pronoun I are: kai (past), a (present) and ka (future). I took a keen interest in the indigenous languages of North America, particularly Cherokee, but found the following statement derogatory:

"The Cherokee self-name is unpronounceable in Cherokee and has been adapted as Tsalagi."

Wouldn't the Cherokee self-name be unpronounceable for an unskilled English speaker and not for a Cherokee? In the chapter on the indigenous languages of North America I also learned that Bungee was a Cree creole with Scots Gaelic, spoken in Manitoba. My curiosity about Cherokee has been piqued and since I had already been looking into books on other First Nations languages such as Michif and Oji-Cree I think I will investigate these indigenous languages first. (I hope to travel to northern Ontario. To me, "northern Ontario" means north of Lake Superior, and the language of the First Nations there is Oji-Cree.)


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