Books that Transport You Elsewhere

Art by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

While thinking of a list of books that “transport you”, I could not help but think about Orientalism and its saccharine promises made to and made by people, much like myself but in different times, snugly sitting with fat cushions in a drawing room (or studio) with AC gently humming (a modern addition). Would the likes of Délacroix or Kipling be proud to know that I also could not help but come up with titles that have, indeed, made me think, albeit only momentarily, that I was somewhere I was not, that I knew things of the place that I could not possibly know. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling, to hold contradictory views with equal enthusiasm and doubt — while Orientalism, or a variant of it, is morally appalling and actually devastating, books can pull a fast one over anyone and I savor its power over me.

We could talk about the possible reconciliation of these views for hours on end, but the list, which was compiled after all, must be presented. But I think I am safe in saying that the books below, picked by our contributors Snigdha and Adina and yours truly, by no means claim to be authoritative documents of a place or time or people. They are the author’s views or perspectives; and in these books, they did an awfully good job at fooling us. (But I am writing this slightly prematurely as one of them has not yet given me their picks/reasons — if it turns out I’m wrong, poo-tee-weet.) So if you are feeling a bit tied down to the glum and monotony of Toronto and would like to see other parts of the world in the comfort of your AC, pick up one of these. — Hoon.

Hoon, Managing Editor

Slow Days, Fast Company: the World, the Flesh, and L.A. by Eve Babitz

Once, Eve Babitz played chess with Marcel Duchamp. Naked. It was photographed and Babitz’s wit, along with the photo, gained notoriety. In Slow Days, Fast Company, Babitz takes us through Los Angeles. The L.A. of the L.A. socialites. Some of the best parts of the book are descriptions of what she (or the narrator) ate and drank with who’s who at where’s where (copyright to where’s where pending). In this book, you can also learn to hate San Fransisco with L.A. smugness and imagine that you’re doing so on your way home from LAX.

Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

The first of four sections of Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day is set in post-Partition Old Delhi. Desai’s descriptions of the world around the Das family’s old house are so vivid that you can almost feel the walls around the house, its tree lines and wilting rose path. As the book travels back in time to Partition and pre-Partition times, alongside the Das’s family drama, we get glimpses of a country and family in crisis.

South and West by Joan Didion

One of the things Joan Didion does best is hide herself behind her words and sentences — her descriptions are authoritative, as though they were the sole truth to the incidents and objects they depict. South and West. From a Notebook. is definitely not Didion’s best or the most representative (my vote for the former category goes to After Henry), but it gives us intimate glimpses of the way she traveled around the Southern states of America. Rattlesnakes, the rain and mud, and the dilapidating effects of the road all come to life.

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje takes us to Sri Lanka through his personal and family history. Running in the Family is, at its best, like a family dinner — it’s utterly unremarkable and ordinary yet it shapes the way you eat. Or, in this case, the way Ondaatje thinks about the island. It’s almost a shame that I’ve not been to Sri Lanka prior to reading Ondaatje, since until I do, it will be tinted with his sentences and poems. Ondaatje is also full of stories, action, and shameful and tell-tale family histories that take place in — sometimes it feels as though the place predicated the histories and actions — the mountains and tumultuous weather of the island.

Adina, Contributor

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

I adore Haruki Murakami; his dreamy surrealist style, his intriguing characters, the way he layers stories within each other. When Sputnik Sweetheart begins, our narrator, K, (like most of Murakami’s narrators) is an ordinary 20-something man living in a small town in Japan, helplessly in love with his best friend Sumire. However, the story takes a turn for the unique when Sumire is swept up in a love affair with an older Korean businesswoman named Miu, who whisks her away to an exotic island in Greece, where she disappears. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I will say that as K reckons with his own loneliness and unrequited love, he considers the beautiful, empty island around him, full of life but lacking many people.

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

If you don’t have to worry about money or time away from work when you’re only reading about traveling, why bother even staying on Earth? Why not travel with our narrator, Lillith, to an enormous, planet-like spaceship populated by a mysteriously benevolent alien race called the Oankali, who have chosen to rescue several thousand humans from a destruction on Earth. Butler is one of the finest science fiction writers out there, and she puts us right in the middle of the ship, its forest-like biome areas, the slippery aliens, and the stark, chrome rooms where the humans are kept, mostly. Butler alternates between fantastic wonder and frightful claustrophobia, and it works marvelously.

Snigdha, Contributor

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Kiran Desai transports us to three different places in this novel, from the Indian hill-station town of Kalimpong in the northeastern Himalayas to the rainy university town of Cambridge to New York City’s grimy restaurant kitchens. Shifting from the past to the present (the present being 1986, with the rise of violence within the Gorkhaland movement in India), the novel follows Sai, her grandfather Jemubhai, their cook, and his son Biju. Desai’s language appeals to all five senses, from describing how people look to how food tastes and to how the air smells — the words lift right off the pages, pull us into the novel, and have us stand in the midst of the love, the chaos, the excitement, and (as the title suggests) the loss Desai writes about.

Sphinx by Anne Garréta

Anne Garréta, one of the few female members of Oulipo (a distinguished experimental literary group in France), writes a genderless love story set in Paris. Indeed, it is a novel celebrated for its feminist inquiries and investigations, its reflections on love and loss and identity. But in addition to that, Garréta’s novel does a remarkable job of writing about the sounds of after hours Paris: bars, clubs, people — their voices, their dance moves, their bodies — all threaded together with the music of the night. The language is poetic. It is palpable. And even as I closed the covers and placed the novel on my bookshelf, I could still feel the city’s rhythm.

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Must-Have Pieces Every Girl Needs for Fall

Fall is the time of year when the old meets new to create looks that incorporate pieces we’ve loved since Spring with elevated touches and weather appropriateness. While Summer is the time for fresh styles and lighter looks, I have to say that I love Fall fashion as it allows room for more complicated pieces to come together. Our fashion editor, Chris, put together a list of Must-Have Pieces Every Guy Needs For Fall. Now, here is one that will help guide the most stylish ladies this season!

OVER-SIZED BOMBERS

The fitted bomber was a huge hit this past spring and fall. It adds a masculine edge to an outfit and can be extremely versatile. This fall, the bomber is coming back and in a big way (literally). Many fashion icons have been rocking this look four sizes up to add proportional depth to what they are wearing. Layering has always been a fall staple and the oversized bomber leaves ample room for this trend in many ways.

ROBE COAT

Your robe coat could be made of velvet, flannel, or silk. No matter the fabric, this is a great way to be comfortable this season while still maintaining a statement look. The silhouette that a robe gives allows the a wearer to remain feminine while staying cozy. This looks great over a body suit, a graphic tee, or whatever else you can fit under this flowing piece.

LAYERED TURTLE-NECK

Bundling up doesn’t have to look frumpy. The turtleneck has been a chic and sophisticated staple for the past few colder seasons. The look gets a bit of a facelift this fall as fashion-lovers are wearing additional pieces overtop in order to allow the high-neck to subtly work together with a statement piece. This unification allows for an ultimate high-fashion look. Put your layering skills to work!

LIGHT WASHED DENIM

The fall season has been known as a time to pack up the lighter shades and bring out the blacks and navies. However, light-wash is staying strong this fall and is transitioning into in-season by being worn with long sleeve bodysuits, graphic tees, button ups, and more. The look of a light washed jean is classic and always brings a vintage feel to an outfit. This is why you can be a bit daring when dressing up in this timeless colour.

FLOOR LENGTH SKIRT

Being girly in cold weather can be a bit challenging — you battle whether to look glam or to freeze. The long skirt allows you to do both and is an option that works with many types of styles. Casually, the piece can be great with a simple t-shirt or sweater. If you want to dress it up or give it an edge, your favourite fall jacket will go perfectly with this standout fall staple!

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Natural Beauty with Elly Mayday

Source: Forever Yours Lingere

Two years ago, model and social media personality Elly Mayday moved from her hometown of Aylesbury, Saskatchewan, to pursue dreams of traveling the world. She was on the verge of a successful modeling career when a diagnosis of stage-three ovarian cancer and subsequent treatments changed everything.

Mayday experienced many physical and emotional challenges, but she was able to use her illness as a platform to speak about the power of natural beauty and self-acceptance all over the world.

I wanted to show you can be beautiful when you are going through hell…” Mayday says on her website, “I worked really hard on all my shoots because I knew I was doing something that would help others facing cancer as well.”  

Mayday’s determination to embody self-confidence and body-positivity even during the throes of chemotherapy catapulted her into international fame. Since then, she has been featured on Good Morning America, in Women’s Weekly Australia, in documentary-film “A Perfect 14,” and has modeled for Lane Bryant’s “I’m no Angel” campaign.

One unexpected thing that had to change during her treatment, says Mayday, was her beauty routine.

Source: Elly Mayday Official Website

I had liked to do my hair,” she says, ”but when I lost it, I had my wigs… I stopped getting my nails done, [because] I would get sick from all the fumes involved in the process and couldn’t keep them on if I had an operation.”

Mayday’s heightened sensitivity to smells and chemicals found in everyday cosmetics led her to seek out natural alternatives for her favourite beauty products. “I started to do a bit of research and realized there were so many unpronounceable ingredients in something as simple as makeup remover,” she says, “I have some close friends in the all-natural, clean-eating world and knew going that route would be better for me.”

According to a research survey conducted by the David Suzuki Association, 80% of beauty products possessed by participants contained at least one of twelve “dirty dozen” ingredients shown to have potentially harmful effects on the body. For some individuals, exposure to these ingredients can cause very serious health problems.

Consumers are advised by health experts to read cosmetic labels and steer clear of toxic ingredients (such as BHA, PEGs, parabens, parfum, petrolatum, sulfates and triclosan) that can be found lurking in many common cosmetic  and beauty products.

For those wishing to try natural alternatives, Elly recommends her following top five favourite all-natural beauty items:

1. Coconut Oil.

I use this for my makeup remover and moisturizer. I like it because it’s available everywhere, travels easily and you can pre-soak cotton swabs for when you’re  on-the-go.”

2. Aluminum-free Deodorant.

“I use Green Beaver Natural Deodorant.”

3. Lia Reese Lipsticks. 

“These are allergy-tested, hypoallergenic, not tested on animals and fragrance free. They have great pigment and last all day, plus have a subtle scent of vanilla. There are a ton of options for colors and I like to support Canadian-owned companies.”

4. Taproot Organics Cocoa Face Bar. 

“I use this as my face wash. If I’ve forgotten my coconut oil, I have no problem getting my makeup off just using this. It lathers well and gets the job done, and it’s mainly made out of oils that don’t dry my skin out afterwards like a regular bar soap. “

5. Activated Charcoal.

“I use this for a face mask as well as teeth whitener.”

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We Are All of Us of Our Time, and Other News

 

Bauhaus Building, Dessau — view from the vestibule window looking toward the workshop wing (1926) Lucia Moholy (1894-1989). Tate Modern.

A Conversation with Tazito Garcia

In life, and often from a young age, we are often taken with the idea that we must map out our life. We are expected to know what career path we want to follow and wholeheartedly put everything we have into achieving our goals. When was the last time you reflected on your personal dreams and hopes for your future? Can you remember? We lose sight of what we first intend to do with our lives, pushing it aside for a more realistic career paths.

Actor, director, and pro-athlete, Tazito Garcia knows exactly what he wants in his life, and he does everything possible to achieve his dreams. Since he was very young, Tazito has been involved in many different high level sports, while maintaining an urge to perform at any given moment. He was born for the spotlight.

We had the opportunity to get to know Tazito and discover where he comes from, what he’s up to now, and where he plans to be.

Kimberley Drapack: Can you tell us a bit about your early years?

Taz Garcia: Where do I start? I travelled around the world, thanks to my parents. I have a big mix in my family, so it was inevitable that I would go and visit my cousins and then visit my other cousins. They were on two completely different continents, not even countries.

It was fantastic. I got to see the different cultures, different food, different religions, and different architecture. It was such a great experience.

K: It’s fun being on the road, but did you ever feel like you wanted to settle down at certain points?

TG: I did. I did my pro-sports, that was one of the reasons that I had to travel around a lot when I was young, and it was a little tough when I was in junior school. You make friends in your early years, and then you have to say goodbye, and then you go and meet brand new people.

It came to a point where in 2002, I landed in Toronto and I decided to start University here, and I’m going to settle here for at least the next ten years. I’ve seen enough of the world, for now.

I had a little breather to sit and settle and when I get bored of the snow, I guess I’m going to fly out again.

K: I’m sure the first winter here in Canada was a shock for you?

TG: It was really interesting when I got to Toronto. It had the taste of Europe, and it had a mix of the U.S., and some of the other cultures all meshed into one, so it was really cool.

Weather-wise, I don’t know if I’m really fond of having six or seven months of winter… I like my sun. Other than that, it’s been really kind to me.

K: What was the first sport that you played? When did you realize you were such a gifted athlete?

TG: Since I was a kid. I can almost envision myself coming out with a jumping kick out of my Mom. Or rolling out, or some kind of stunt.

Fortunately, I’ve had very athletic parents and they always believed that having two boys, if they could channel that energy into something productive, they found a certain outlet for us, which was sports, we would do well for ourselves. We wouldn’t use that energy for something bad.

I got enrolled into tennis and soccer. I always had something for martial arts, which they declined for a big portion of my life and kept saying, “no, you’re hyperactive the way you are, so if you learn to kick and punch, we don’t want you doing that in school and then getting suspended.”

I was committed, and in a way, stuck doing tennis and soccer but it turned out to be really amazing for me. I ended up playing with a lot of the tennis pros. Nick Bollettieri, who was the trainer of Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras. He took me under his wing and I went to his academy which was very militant, but very awesome.

When I was thirteen, I ended up playing for Manchester United, and it was really fun. I grew up with my “older brothers”: Kasper Schmeichel, Dwight Yorke, and David Beckham. Not just myself, but all the juniors, really hated the first team. It’s the older brother syndrome, where they say, “no, no, no, we’ll do it ourselves, and when we’re tired, and we feel like it, you can sub for us.” It’s 88 minutes, and in the last two minutes they would let us on. I was like, “shut up!” (laughs).

Funny story: I saw David Beckham get famous in front of my eyes, which was really cool. Before that, he was just known as “Becks.” He was sitting on the bench, and it was just like acting, sometimes you have to be at the right place at the right time, and you get that one opportunity, that one shot. It worked out for him, he ended up becoming a starter after scoring a very long-range goal. It was really inspirational in a way, sometimes if it feels like the right thing to do, and you just do it. I’ve taken that and translated it into my acting or directing. In this industry, it’s really hard at times and you get people asking why I don’t just go and get a normal job, something routine, something safe. But that little voice inside you tells you to keep going.

K: With all of your successes, I’m sure it just pushes you to keep going and to get rid of that little voice and say, Look at what I’ve done and look at what I’m about to do. 

TG: You’re absolutely right. I get this all the time. They’ll see a certain award that I’ve won and ask why I don’t just chill, or relax. I’m up here right now and if I don’t keep going, you’re going to have someone that’s going to pass you because they’re just as hungry and where you were a few days or a few weeks ago. If you go into cruise control, someone is going to pass you.

K: What transitioned you from sports to acting? Was it a big change?

TG: I was born a performer. I strongly believe that some people were born to perform or entertain, whether they’re mimicking actors or cartoons, or something they’ve seen in a commercial. That was me. I told a lot of my family that it was eventually something I wanted to do. I was probably seven at the time.

It wasn’t hard at all because as an athlete at a very elite level, you have to perform. It’s the same mechanics. You have to have your fans and you have to be a good performer in order to maintain your fans or gain new ones. You have to push, or you become old news, and someone who is better, faster, and stronger than you will out perform you.

K: So, you have to keep a lot of energy up.

TG: On point, you have to be. You’re on your toes all the time.

K: The Briefcase (2011) was your big-screen debut in Hollywood, as the director and star of the film. It earned you several nominations and awards, notably the “Breakout Male Action Star” (2013) at the AOF International Film Festival in Los Angeles. Can you tell us a little about this experience?

TG: The Briefcase is a homage. You go back and you want to relive some moments from a certain time. That’s exactly what I did with The Briefcase. There are people that sit back with their hands tied back and wait for the phone to ring, and there’s people that get up and make things happen. I didn’t go to film school for it, it was my second production as a director and said: “let’s make this happen.”

I wrote the story, directed it, cast the actors, and starred in it. It’s sometimes hard to star in it, because to direct yourself, you have to break out of character, but it turned out really well and was well received by the audience. All the funds that we made for our screenings I donated to Sick Kids Hospital.

K: Do you prefer one role more than the other in terms of either directing or performing?

TG: I’ve worn many hats, but at the end of the day, I think everyone would call one hat their favourite, and I call acting my favourite.

I can’t deny that being behind the camera has made me become a better actor. You have an idea and a vision and know why you’re standing this way, and you know why it may take a little longer for someone to set up the lights, because you have been on the other side. You know how to get that perfect picture that sometimes takes a little bit of a set-up.

As an actor, you can sometimes get a little impatient, and ask, “what’s taking so long? You just move the camera from the left to the right. Just hit that rolling button.” But when you’re behind the camera, you see. Just two degrees can make that massive difference between lighting and how it’s hitting your face, whether you have your marks, the depth of field. You learn a lot and you get to appreciate everyone’s role from behind the camera to in front of the camera. Everything makes that complete picture in the end.

K: Did you feel as though you had a team behind you that could help you spot those little things, or was it a little hard to get into at the beginning?

TG: One of the toughest things is when you are directing yourself, but once you have a solid team behind you and have a good Director of Photography, or a good First Assistant Director, that’s there when the actual director is not available for whatever reason, it’s one of the easiest things. It’s smooth sailing and you trust their opinion and their vision and you share it. You don’t want someone to come up with their own version of what you want.

K: You starred in Lost in the Pacific (2016), one of the largest Hollywood/Chinese co-productions where you were the sole Canadian actor selected to join the international cast alongside Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Russell Wong (Romeo Must Die), and Vincent Ward (Walking Dead). Tell us about this experience.

TG: It was amazing. They called me up and said they had a mercenary role for me. I wasn’t sure because I’ve done way too many army/mercenary/police roles, and I asked if they had anything else. They called me back and they had a prince role, and I thought, “sure, I’ll play Prince Charming.”

It was a really fun cast and crew to work with. We shot it in Malaysia at Pinewood Studios. I’ve never been to Malaysia, so it was another experience of culture and food and everything that makes Malaysia beautiful.

K: Working in film, you’re often on set in various locations around the world. Is it ever too much? Do you ever feel like just being at home?

TG: I’m not going to lie, if you’re in this industry, it is expected that you’re going to live out of a suitcase some of the time. I always say that I live at 22 Suitcase Avenue. My friends understand why, they will call me up and ask if I can come out, and I’ll reply with, “sorry, I’m in Vegas.” It’s really cool and a blessing. It’s something positive.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have said they’ve never been out of town except to go to Niagra, or Montréal. I’m not going to bash it.

K: You are known for performing your own action scenes and stunts. What are the challenges of this, or do you see it as just another part of your character?

TG:  It’s always part of my character. I love it and I always look forward to the action.

I never see it as a bad challenge, but as a positive challenge and an opportunity for me to grow. If in every movie I do something that I’ve done before, it’s boring for myself and for the audience. You always have to create something. They’ve seen you jump out of a car, and then they say, “ok, let’s get this car moving.” Or, let’s jump out of a helicopter. You always want to push yourself that much more and not only is it a challenge for yourself, but it’s that much more pleasing for your audience and your fans.

If you keep doing the same thing, it becomes like a bad joke that you keep repeating, or, it was really good back then, but now it’s not funny anymore. It’s the same thing with the action, you always want to reinvent some of the older stuff; put it in a blender and come up with a new mix.

You have to listen to the fans. They are your compass.

K: What is the best way that you get input from your fans?

TG: Social media right now is huge. It’s one of the easiest ways for us to connect way across the oceans and borders. I can just hop on social media and check their feedback to see what they like and what they want less of. You’ve got to deliver it because that’s what they look forward to.

K: What can we expect from you in the near future?

TG: I’m at the Action on Film Festival right now in Vegas and I’m returning as the youngest recipient of Dr. Goldman’s Icon Award from last year. This year it’s huge for me and a for a lot of the stunts in the action community because they are commemorating all of the action stunt heroes and performers. It means a lot to me to be here. You may have recently read what happened on set of Deadpool and Mad Max. You hear about all the accidents and these performers and talented people who put their skill, sweat, bones, and sometimes even life on the line and then they just get a pat on the back. This is one of the few times that someone actually stood up and wanted to give them a proper thank you.

K: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

TG: In five years from now I see myself as the next top, or highest paid action star. I’ll make Canada proud, because I don’t remember the last time the highest paid action star was a Canadian. I would use that to inspire the younger generations and help the younger generations.

K: Do you have any family members that come with you on big trips?

TG: I travel with friends and family and a crew. If I can have fun, why can’t I share the fun? There’s no point in success if you keep it all to yourself. There’s no true happiness unless you can share it with people. It’s that family feel that I love.

K: That must be really exciting.

TG: It is. This is why I always tell people, and I tell them all the time, to remember that you are going to hear that people find this industry unorthodox. It’s not your typical doctor, engineer, sales position. It’s tough. You have to listen to the little voice inside and give it a thousand percent. Not one-hundred percent. You have to go all in, have that thick skin, and show them that it can be done.

K: Do you feel as though you often have to fight to prove to people why your dreams are valid and prove to them why this is what you are supposed to be doing?

TG: It’s kind of like a hiccup. If I run into someone and they say they’re a doctor, or in sales, and I reply that I’m an actor, they don’t know how to follow up with it. To them, it’s unorthodox and usually hits them in the head.

I always felt that you should listen to your voice. If you can give up the typical path, the nine to five, if you stop for one little second and go back to when you were a little younger and remember your dreams, what would have happened if you pursued that? Maybe you would have been phenomenal or one of the top ten people in the world within that field.

K: Of course. You don’t want to be ten years down the line and feel as though you haven’t pursued what you wanted most.

TG: I strongly believe you never want to look back and wished you had spoken to someone, or played more of a certain sport, or spent more time with family. Do it right now, just do it now.

K: Do you have any films in the works at the moment?

TG: I have something that is still in the preproduction stages and is something we want to be camera ready early 2018. It’s based on a short film called First Bust. It’s an action-comedy with a touch of fantasy. We’re looking to have A-listers and B-listers, but my main goal is to have it as the biggest Canadian-Chinese co-production.   

We are finalizing everything with the script, locking in producers and locations. I don’t think there has been any Canadian-Chinese co-productions, but I know that Hollywood and China have done a couple in the past year.

We’re looking at shooting in Shanghai right now. They just opened a brand new mall that is the size of ten football fields. It has an indoor beach and the entire thing is marble.

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