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Jonathan Ball's Night Table recommendations

Tuesday, Jan 19, 2010 at 10:19am

Reading is part of a writer's job, and in 2010 I will chronicle my reading (along with others) at a website called the 95 Books blog. McNally Robinson has asked what's on my night table right now, and there are two books:

The Blue Books by Nicole Brossard

Nicole Brossard is one of this nation's best, most innovative writers, and The Blue Books collects and republishes three of her early, groundbreaking novels, which appeared decades ago in slim blue covered editions. These books are still as exciting and strange as when they were first published, and the Winnipegger in me delights in the fact of three books for the price of one.

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura

Okakura wrote this book to introduce the ways of tea-drinking, and Japanese thought in a general sense, to Westerners. I love tea but what I'm enjoying so far about this book is the way Okakura writes-his is a fiery, passionate style, a sharp contrast to the measured, restrained mood of the tea ceremony he describes. Although this book is ostensibly about tea, Okakura writes also about philosophy, nature, history, and art-all fine complements to a cup of tea.

Jonathan Ball is the author of Ex Machina (BookThug, 2009), available at McNally Robinson Grant Park. Visit him online at

Categories: Reviews, Discussions, buzz, Winnipeg

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The Blue Books, The

- Nicole Brossard

Trade paperback $24.95
Reader Reward Price: $22.46

Nicole Brossard's lucid, subversive and innovative work on language has influenced an entire generation of readers and writers. But three of her seminal works of postmodernism and feminism have been lost to us for years. The Blue Books brings them back.

A Book: A novel about a novel; five characters in 'search of a narrative, a narrative in search of an author.' Brossard's first novel, and a key work in Canadian postmodernism. Turn of a Pang (Sold-out in French): Quebec's 1943 Conscription Crisis and the 1970 War Measures Act weave together to form the texture of a woman's life. French Kiss: a celebration of the energy of women and language in the face of the male authorities of Montreal politics and the physical authority of the printed (and bound) word.

The Blue Books collects these three long-out-of-print, groundbreaking Brossard titles, in their original Coach House Press English translations (A Book by Larry Shouldice, Turn of a Pang and French Kiss by the acclaimed Patricia Claxton). Don't be blue: these Brossard classics are back!

The Book of Tea

- Kakuzo Okakura

Trade paperback $15.50
Reader Reward Price: $13.95

"A seminal guide to Asian life and thought. . . . Very highly recommended."--Midwest Book Review The classic 1906 essay on tea drinking, its history, aesthetics, and deep connection to Japanese culture. Kakuzo Okakura felt "Teaism" could influence the world: "Tea with us becomes more than an idealisation of the form of drinking; it is a religion of the art of life."

Ex Machina

- Jonathan Ball

Trade paperback $18.00
Reader Reward Price: $16.20

A long poem at the fringes of the Canadian tradition, Ex Machina is a latticework of poetic and philosophical statements concerning the symbiosis of humans, books, and machines. A series of three intertwining sequences, the reader is encouraged to move back and forth from statement to statement, seeking development but meeting frustration. The reader thus becomes a larval stage in the poem’s development, forging connections between its disparate parts during the course of this mental processing, as the text evolves over multiple readings.