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Once a library kid, always a library kid
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Once a library kid, always a library kid

At a time when there doesn’t seem to be much to look forward to, it’s important to find pleasure in little things.

For me, small but potent joy comes in the form of the daily Wordle puzzle, the happy-feet animation on my Fitbit that alerts me when I get 10,000 steps, and the email from the Winnipeg Public Library telling me one of the books I have on hold has arrived.

The kick the latter delivers is almost illicit. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s so easy: think of a book you want to read, put a hold on it and it’s yours, as soon as others are done with it. It’s so civilized and yet it feels almost too good to be true.

It can also deliver a bit of anxiety. Having recently decided to stay away from new bestsellers and plumb the catalogue, I went overboard — forgetting that less-in-demand titles will arrive more quickly — and suddenly had six books to pick up all at once (oops, seven: just got an email that P.J. Vernon’s psychological thriller Bath Haus, a long-awaited bestseller, is in.)

(Even though the library has done away with overdue fees, I am racked with guilt if I keep a book out “too long” — even ones that are renewable, because I am a rulesy nerd — so expect more book recommendations and fewer TV picks in the coming weeks.)

My mum was a children’s librarian (she and my father actually met when he came into her branch to ask for a book recommendation for his young nephew) and she made sure I was a library kid.

At one point, I think while I was home with chicken pox, I became obsessed with Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, a series of 12 collections of fairy tales from around the world, each with a different coloured cover. I loved how violent and bloody and vengeful the tales were — nothing like the sanitzed Disney versions.

I still remember how excited I was when my mother came home with the Olive edition, featuring stories from Turkey, India, Armenia and the Sudan; it just seemed like magic to me that these books kept coming when I needed them.

I also went through an Ed McBain and Dick Francis phase; those two prolific crime writers provided a seemingly endless string of titles, comforting in their formula. And I devoured Monica Dickens’ works: the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens came to Winnipeg to officially open the second-floor addition to the St. James branch in 1970 and it carried most of her novels, lovely, character-driven British stories that are criminally underrated (and sadly no longer available at the library).

While it’s always a thrill to discover a new author you like, it’s even better to discover one who has a deep catalogue. While waiting for the library to catch up to The Queen’s Gambit craze and order in some copies, I delved into some of author Walter Tevis’s other works and loved them (The Man Who Fell to Earth is a beautiful, delicate sc-fi story that’s much better than the film).

My next drop-everything book is Station Eleven author Emily St. John Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility (it’s due out in March; I’m No. 8 on the hold list). Until then, hold my calls: I’ve got some reading to do.

Got a favourite author who never lets you down? Something else that delivers a jolt of joy in trying times? Tell me about it at jill.wilson@winnipegfreepress.com

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

What’s up this week

The Manitoba government announced Wednesday that pandemic restrictions will begin loosening on Tuesday. This means capacity limits at theatres, museums, music venues remains at 50 per cent, with all patrons vaccinated, but attendance will no longer be capped at 250.

The Manitoba Museum reopens today and the Planetarium presents a new show this weekend. Magic Globe follows the adventures of eight-year-old Mia, who discovers a mysterious machine that changes the world’s seasons – and has to find a way to change them back once she realizes how important they are to life on Earth. Ticket are available here.

The planetarium will present a new show this weekend called ’Magic Globe’. (JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES)

Local writer/actor Steven Ratzlaff’s (Dionysus in Stony Mountain) play Sonja and Richard opens at the Gargoyle Theatre on Wednesday, Feb. 9. Starring Ratzlaff and Marina Stephenson Kerr, it’s the inaugural performance at the newly refurbished theatre at 585 Ellice Ave., owned by Pinawa-born novelist Andrew Davidson. Tickets are $20 here.

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The latest movie from The Florida Project director Sean Baker opens at Cinematheque on Friday, Feb. 4. Red Rocket is the story of an adult film actor (Simon Rex) who returns to his Texas hometown and tries to go straight, until he meets a free spirited doughnut-shop employee called Strawberry. Tickets are available here.

Recommended

Articles: I’ll admit to being dismayed by the news that my beloved Wordle puzzle had been purchased by the New York Times for an amount in the seven figures. While I’m happy creator Josh Wardle is being rewarded for making something that brings people pleasure, I’m concerned that the puzzle will be monetized, redesigned or changed in a way that saps its simple power.

In the Atlantic, Ian Bogost breaks down why Wordle tickles our brains the way it does (it partly concerns “juiciness,” a beautifully descriptive term designers use to describe the way a game creates drama and satisfaction), and why its time might be limited in any case.

Mamoudou Athie as Dan Turner in "Archive 81." (Quantrell D. Colbert/Netflix/TNS)

Television: It’s a slow burn, but Archive 81, now streaming on Netflix, has me pretty captivated. The atmospheric story of an expert in film restoration who is hired to work on fire-damaged footage at a remote facility has all the horror hallmarks: a possibly unstable protagonist (the excellent Mamadou Athie); potentially possessed video tapes; time loops; creepy chanting; cult-like activity; a psychic; a benignly terrifying possible villain (Martin Donovan); and the aforementioned remote facility, a brutalist structure in the woods with no Wi-Fi. All work and no play makes Homer something something…

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New on screen


Kids in the Hall doc to delve into early years

Mickey Guyton, Jhené Aiko to sing at Super Bowl

Goldberg regrets saying Holocaust not about race

The life and times of Pam and Tommy, plus a new “Celebrity Big Brother”: Here’s what’s streaming for Canadians this week

New in books


Nurse’s story highlights perils and selflessness of First World War service

Pioneering artists’ innovative style chronicled

Maritime thriller a graphic, gripping debut

Widow details husband’s shady bitcoin exploits — and the millions that vanished with his mysterious death

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