Litographs: Word-shaded art

Litographs

I first learned about Litographs at the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Light Bash. Their posters were part of the swag bags given to guests at the end of the night. There were a variety of options from Moby Dick to Alice in Wonderland, however, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Pride and Prejudice one.

pride and prejudice posterIf you can’t figure out why one would get excited over a poster then you have never seen one of Litograph’s designs. To the left, you can see my poster inspired by the classic Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice. It’s gorgeous, right? Not only is it gorgeous, it is made entirely out of words, which are completely legible! Every Litograph design emerges from the text of a book. They use the words from the book itself to illustrate the memorable characters and scenes we have all imagined when reading one of our favourite books.

Litographs specializes not just in posters, but will place the same design on tote bags and t-shirts (for both men and women). You can watch their video here, detailing how they make their t-shirts.  All of the Litograph products come with a choice or colour from black and white to green or purple, and they are all printed locally in Cambridge, MA.

Another great thing about Litographs is their choice in books. They don’t just go the classics and instead have a varied list of book options for every book lover out there. Their genres include American Lit, British Lit, Children’s, Epics, Essay Collections, Mystery, Nonfiction, Plays, Poetry, Sci-fi Fantasy, Science, Shakespeare, and Story Collections. Recently, Litographs has also just started a chain of literary tattoos, which you can opt in to be a part of. I am eagerly awaiting their actual temporary tattoo line.

Litographs wuthering heights toteSince I already have a poster, I have now been eyeing their Wuthering Heights tote design. It is quite whimsical with the view from the window.

However, Litographs is always coming up with new designs, and if you subscribe to their newsletter they will notify you every time a new design is available to purchase. Their most recent addition is that of the Time Traveler’s Wife, and it is giving Wuthering Heights a run for its money. I especially like Litographs time traveler's wife designit as a t-shirt.

You can browse their collection here and see for yourself the endless options. Litographs would definitely make a great present for any book lovers you know or it would also make a great gift for yourself. We all need a little spoiling now and then, and I definitely like the idea of art lovingly made from the words that have brought me joy. What could be better?

 

 

 

 

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Penguin Turns 40 at IFOA

Penguin Canada 40th Anniversary

On October 28th, 2014, Penguin Canada celebrated its fortieth anniversary as part of the Harbourfront Centre’s International Festival of Authors (IFOA). To commemorate the event, four authors joined a round table discussion to discuss the transformative power of literature and Penguin books, specifically. The discussion was moderated by Jared Bland, the Arts Editor of the Globe and Mail, and the authors present were Joseph Boyden, Lee Henderson, John Ralston Saul and Johanna Skibsrud.

Unfortunately, I was a bit late for the event, so I missed some of the readings that happened. Each author picked a book Penguin has published in that the recent or distant past to read from, describing its importance in the literary world. The reading I particularly enjoyed was given by John Ralston Saul, a published author as well as the international President of PEN International. He read from Dead Souls a novel by Nikolai Gogol published in 1842. The novel is a satire meant to demonstrate the flaws and faults of the Russian population. This ailing social system is shown through the selfish actions of one man named Chichikov. The book is anything but subtle in its criticism and its obtuse obviousness was hilarious to behold during Saul’s reading from different sections of the book. I find myself intrigued to read the whole book, considering the love I already have for Russian literature.

IFOAAfter the readings, all the authors sat down with Jared Bland to discuss books, the act of reading, and their  favourite publisher, Penguin of Canada. However, I think the best conversation, or debate really, was on the phenomenon of e-books. As a publishing professional, I understand the value of this new technology and keeping up with the trend, but as a ready I haven’t joined in. I am a lover of the physical book, therefore, I can’t imagine giving up the sensation of feeling or smelling the pages of old and new books alike. Frankly, I don’t think the smell of technology is all that enticing. So when Lee Anderson started to berate the e-book’s existence, I was all for it.

Anderson went on to say he can’t leave the house without a book and that when he visits other people he loves browsing their shelves if they have a great library in their homes. He made it quite clear just how odd it would be to ask to see someone’s e-reader and be amazed at their collection. Hands down, it was the best rant ever! You had to be there to truly appreciate what was said and Anderson’s accompanied hand actions to support his opinion. Absolutely priceless, and many of the other authors in attendance agreed.

They also all agreed that Penguin is everlasting and infinite. Everyone knows that orange colour and that little penguin logo. Merged with Random House or not, Penguin will always stand on its own as a valued publisher and a friend to all readers and their shelf space. Anderson put it perfectly when he said, “You can always trust that little bird.”

Overall, it was a great evening at IFOA and a beautiful celebration of Penguin and the art of publishing. And upon filing out of the Brigantine Room, all the attendees were given a Penguin bag, a miniature Penguin notebook, a key chain in the shape of the infamous penguin, and best of all, a Penguin poster with the statement “Go Away I’m Reading” (there was also champagne!). Pretty awesome perks from a pretty awesome publisher.

Penguin Poster

Happy Anniversary, Penguin Canada! (now shush, I’m reading)

 

 

Tumbling the building blocks: A review of Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl

Cover of How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

“So what do you do when you build yourself—only to realize you built yourself with the wrong things?”

How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

 It is 1990 and Johanna Morrigan is fourteen years old, living in Wolverhampton, a city in the English West Midlands, with her unemployed rock-star-wannabe father, depressed mother, two brothers, and twin babies. Johanna has more childcare duties and financial worries than any teenage girl should have to deal with and she ultimately dreams of finding a way out.

In order to make this happen, Johanna reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde–fast talking, hard drinking Lady Sex Adventurer and freelance music journalist. Johanna is determined to build herself in the best way she knows how: on the fly. As Johanna navigates her way through this adult world as a working class girl, her notes are as follows:

How to Build a Girl

By sixteen, Johanna is living the life of lots of sex, lots of drug, and lots of rock ‘n’ roll all in an attempt to build herself, but she soon wonders if during all these wild adventures whether she has gone about this whole “building herself business” in all the wrong ways, and can she change it?

How to Build a Girl is a fast- paced tale of a working class girl whose brains and way with words ensure that her everyday actions will lead to wild parties and unexpected opportunities that allow her to escape the drudgery that is Wolverhampton and somehow find success in the most round-about manner feasible.

This new book reads very much like Moran’s semi-autobiography; she also grew up in a large working class family and became a successful music journalist at a young age (although Moran declares it is pure fiction). Whatever the truth is, Moran has created an authentic teenage voice through her character Johanna. Moran puts the pubescent roller coaster on full display from the exaggerated emotional response to ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to the self-conscious body image moments in front of the mirror.

While Johanna is often over the top and highly excitable in all that she does, it is a very true-to-life portayal. Everyone as a teenager has had moments of exclaiming that it is the end of the world as he or she knows it because this or that happened etc. I believe I said this more than once while growing up…I sometimes still say it on occasion.

How to Build a Girl is also very frank about sex, specifically female sexuality. Moran does not shy away from the subject, but places it front and centre with a wank (specifically, Johanna masturbating in the dead of night next to her sleeping brother with a pillow between them for privacy, because, yes, young girls have urges too and those urges need to be satisfied). Aside from the occasional wank, Johanna also goes out and has lots of sex with lots of different people because, as Moran puts it, “it is what young teenage girls will do. It’s what I did. It’s what my friends did.” Moran said her intention behind this book and the character Johanna is to reclaim the word “slag” and “slut” from society’s shaming culture and renaming it fun names, such as “lady sex pirate” or “swash fuckler.” It’s not about shaming but experiencing. When I attended Moran’s launch at the Toronto Public Library’s Appel Salon, she described the teenage girl’s life in the perfect fashion: “It is about going out and having amazing experiences and awful experiences, which later turn into amazing anecdotes.” And she’s right, you know. After all, how many of us have gone out for drinks talking about our latest adventure in bed or otherwise, both good and bad? All of us, I would think.

While the reader may not be able to relate to everything Johanna goes through in the book, it is all honest and it is all written in a hilarious fashion that only Caitlin Moran is capable of. You may not always be able to say, “I’ve done that,” but you don’t mind going along for the ride with this fun and easy read.

Essentially, How to Build a Girl is about class, social privilege, feminism, and building yourself and rebuilding yourself as you go through life. Johanna may think she has the right building blocks at first, but she soon learns there is no right or easy way to build yourself. Johanna Morrigan is a beautiful work in progress and Caitlin Moran’s book ends with a promise that we haven’t seen the last of this spunky teenage girl.

5 out of 5 book thumbs up

Image of a green book giving the thumbs upImage of a green book giving the thumbs upImage of a green book giving the thumbs upImage of a green book giving the thumbs upImage of a green book giving the thumbs up

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran, published in Canada by HarperCollins Canada, © 2014

Available at Indigo, Amazon, and independent bookstores everywhere.

“Let’s all have a good wank”: Caitlin Moran at the Appel Salon

howtobuildagirltour

**Some explicit content**

There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe what it is like to actually meet Caitlin Moran. This British columnist, feminist goddess has taken the world by storm. She is a gigantic earthquake that has taken the world between her hands and has shaken it with laughter: laughter that has brought awareness and revitalization to the word “feminist.”

When I heard that Caitlin Moran was coming to Toronto, I was beyond excited. I introduced myself to this courageous, funny woman’s writing when I gave How to Be a Woman, Moran’s first book, to my sister as a random gift of sisterly affection (yes, I am awesome). I never imagined the possibility of Moran coming to Toronto as part of her book tour for her most recent book and first novel How to Build a Girl (I sense a theme…). Apparently, living in Toronto isn’t always bad (just most of the time).

Unfortunately, my sister decided it would be a good idea to leave the province and go work and live out west, so she wasn’t able to attend the Toronto Public Library’s special event  at the Appel Salon. Therefore, I went alone, which in retrospect can be consiered a very feminist action, independence and all that jazz, so I felt perfectly aligned with the evening already.

It was a full house at the Appel Salon (Moran is a very popular woman outside of Britain…something I’m not surprised by). And Moran also made quite the entrance, as was only right, arriving with a bouquet of gigantic balloons. I was already in awe of her. It was going to be a great evening.

And it was.

To write about everything would make this blog post extravagantly long, so I won’t indulge myself in recounting every detail of that spectacular program. However, I will highlight a couple of really great moments.

Moran lived up to her reputation with her funny, outspoken, matter-of-fact-don’t-give-a-fuck manner of talking about life, drugs, feminism, and being a girl in general. It was refreshing and liberating. I have also never laughed so much in my life nor felt so inspired by one woman’s words, who, up until that point, I only knew through words on a page.

Interviewed by Globe and Mail‘s Johanna Schneller, Caitlin Moran lit up the room with her banter. She is definitely not one to sugarcoat anything. She admitted to taking drugs in her youth and making silly mistakes in interviews she’s conducted as a journalist (her comment of how Benedict Cumberbatch is “big everywhere” certainly brought the house down).

Moran and How to Build a GirlBesides talking about basically everything, Moran did discuss her new book How to Build a Girl, and how she wanted to write a book about being a girl and figuring out what being a girl is all about. Basically, she wanted to beat the “porn industry,” as she put it, by writing an insanely explicit book that wrote about female sexuality in a frank and open manner. It is about self-discovery in all its forms, and masturbation. Yes, Moran is an advocate of female masturbation and for good reason. As she says, “I can simply make myself happy, and it hasn’t got any calories in it, and I can do it pretty much anywhere!” Sound advice, I think. I mean, when we think of masturbation, we often think of men with their hands on their dicks vigorously pumping away, but that is one gender and one way. Moran brings female sexuality and exploration out of the shadow in this book and places it front and centre. What movies have always left in the dark or demonized (remember Carrie’s period?), Moran cleanses in a new and enlightened way by saying it’s okay, it’s normal, it’s healthy.

The book is also about sex, and having lots of it. “That is what teenage girls do,” Moran says. Therefore, she is not encouraging girls to be promiscuous and have lots of sex. It is already HAPPENING, and she is simply bringing it to the forefront as a conversation that should happen and that there should be no shame in sexual self-discovery. This is a philosophy I also truly believe in. Many people I know squirm at the idea of talking about sex. During my undergraduate degree, I volunteered for my school newspaper as a copy editor and I had the most funny and amazing conversations with the group of girls I worked with. These conversations earned me the nickname “Dana After Dark,” but sex was an active and fun anecdotal topic we all tossed around into the wee hours of the night (that newspaper was never done on time!). So I completely support Moran’s intentions for writing this book, which leads me to her lovely reading and accompanied acting of a section in her book regarding her main character Johanna and her advice for future women who are caught having sex with a largely endowed man or as Moran described it: “Having sex with a man whose penis is ‘medically inadvisable.'” Tip #1: Place your hands flat on his chest and BRACE, BRACE, BRACE with your arms. Tip #2: In doggie, you can keep subtly but essentially crawling away from the penis, making it possible to only get the first 5 inches inside. Moran demonstrated both the missionary and doggie position on stage in a hilarious fashion while telling us these tips, which is a sight I will not soon forget (a demonstration that she also at her family Christmas during charades that mortified her brothers, she later told us).

Well, I have already wrote more than I intended (Can you tell I enjoyed myself yet?), but I must mention one more moment that has stuck with me since the event. A lot of people tell you not to care what other’s think. Of course, we all do anyway. The media bombards us with images of perfection, so we naturally don’t think we are good enough. I know I have looked at my body image and wondered: “Am I skinny enough?” It is a terrible question to ask yourself, because you are basing the answer on what society thinks and that is something you should never do! Moran set the record straight that evening in the most unexpected way possible when she was discussing the idea she had for How to Be a Woman‘s book cover that she pitched to her publishers. She called it Her Feminist Smile, and then Moran proceeded to not just tell but SHOW us what she meant by this. She wanted to draw eyes on her tits, or rather her bra, draw a nose above her belly button, and then manipulate her belly fat into a big smiley mouth.

Caitlin MoranThe room erupted with laughter. Moran, in front of this huge crowd, lifted her shirt and jiggled her belly fat for everyone to see. Reconciled with her body, Caitlin Moran literally does not give a fuck! And I admire her so much for that. There is no “circle of shame” and Moran makes that perfectly clear.

After the talk was over, I was completely thrown and I had never felt more womanly or more of a feminist in all my life. Gushing about it on my phone to my boyfriend later, I called the entire experience a “femaganza.” I had to make up a word to even begin to describe how I felt about it!

Caitlin Moran and IBefore I left, I did stand in line to meet this awe-inspiring woman, who I could listen to all day. Moran gave me one of her infamous free hugs, which is nothing like hugging a stranger. Immediately you feel known and loved by this woman who doesn’t even know your name. She left me feeling like a rock star. Her final words to me: “Go change the world.” I only hope I can change it as much as she changed me in one evening.

 

She also said she loved my blazer. I was thrilled!

 

To finish, I will leave you with Caitlin Moran’s 5 rules of feminism (this woman is, after all, a genius in her own right):

Rule #1: Women are equal to men.
Rule #2: don’t be a dick.
And Rule #3: there are no more rules.

If you feel particularly inspired by how enraptured I was by Moran then you can watch her entire laughter-inducing, life-changing talk below (the Toronto Public Library did us all a favour by filming it thereby allowing us to experience it over and over again—all glorious 1 hour and 24 minutes of it!!! It’s worth the invested time if I haven’t already convinced you by now)

For more Appel Salon programs you can visit the Toronto Public Library’s website here.

To keep up with Caitlin Moran and all her hilarity you can find her personal website here and follow her on Twitter at @caitlinmoran

Caitlin Moran

 

A lacklustre sci-fi cliché: A review of the movie Divergent

Divergent the movie

Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet

There was a fair amount of excitement surrounding the release of Divergent as a movie. It was supposed to be the next Hunger Games. I didn’t hold any high hopes for the film to begin with but besides the sexy casting of Theo James as the moody and mysterious character Four, the movie fell short of any expectations I could have raised to begin with.

Tris vs. KatnissShailene Woodley, however, did live up to my expectations. My first experience with Woodley’s acting skills was in The Secret Life of an American Teenager. I was willing to blame the script, but watching Divergent confirmed for me that Woodley still has a long way to go before she impresses me. She is very wooden in her portrayal of Tris. Even her soliloquies were cliché and dry to the very end, pointing out the obvious, which is highly aggravating. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss succeeds where Shaileen fails. Lawrence as Katniss evokes a response from the audience. You grow with her, feel with her. That connection never happens with Tris. Overall, I failed to see Tris develop as a character in the same way that she does in the book, and this is mainly due to Woodley’s limited supply of emotions (I will add that Woodley’s acting is heading in the right direction now since her role in the film The Fault in Our Stars).

Tris and FourThere is also a lack of chemistry visible between Tris and Four. Theo James and Woodley just don’t have the same on-screen presence that Katniss has with Peeta or Gale. You can feel the tension, the confusion, the desire. In Divergent, these emotions look forced and muted between Tris and Four, and any effect their relationship could have on the audience is lost. Frankly, I just wanted Theo James to myself, as I can’t root for a romance I don’t believe in.

However, Woodley wasn’t the main issue with the movie Divergent. While changes that were made in The Hunger Games movie worked well, the changes made in Divergent were to its detriment. For example, the plot felt very much staged when Tris’ mom came to visit her. Instead of coming on “visiting day” like she does in the book, she shows up randomly and is somehow not spotted by the Dauntless guards who are EVERYWHERE. And I’m sorry, but that ending was not worthy of a twenty-first century film. It resembled more of the old movie endings we giggle at with its very pointed heroic quips that shouldn’t be said aloud, especially not these days. Needless to say, there were a lot of unbelievable moments for me in the movie.

Divergent ending

Usually I will fight tooth and nail to support a movie my boyfriend dislikes and I have forced him to watch, but this time I agreed with him. I’d rather reread the book (and I rarely reread anything due to my large stacks of unread books waiting for me) then watch Divergent for a second time. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the sequel.

On a happier note, who’s excited for Catching Fire this November? ME!!!!!

Jennifer Lawrence