Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Are You Getting More Reading Done At Home, On The TTC or On The Toilet?

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Are You Getting More Reading Done At Home, On The TTC or On The Toilet?

Wow, that biography Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove, penned by The Roots quick-handed drummer is a great piece of music memoir writing. So today I’d like to graciously thank the management and staff at The Bookstore (aka Chapters Indigo) for freeing up them Big Comfy Couches for a brotha to read the book on. Next up on my in-store reading list is Autobiography by Morrissey. I hope it’s a good read; that he says some truly irritating yet profound things; and that I can find a suitable chair in the store – maybe with a foot rest – to get through all 464 pages. In 2014 it seems that I am getting most of my reading done either at various Toronto Public Library branches or at Chapters Indigo. For the latter reading destination, I’ve gotten through whole thick soft cover books, and even knocked off two parts of a certain book trilogy. I’m not sure if Chapters Indigo has a policy, like some restaurants do, that limit your idling or stay time, but I ain’t trying to encourage them to implement one either, because like I said, I have a few books I need to get through by the end of March. Here’s the point. The growing, teeming masses of working poor Torontonians need to flip through these tomes before they drop down their hard earned cashola at those cash registers, man.

There are some other distinguished reading hotspots that I don’t mind sharing with you, however uncomfortable some of them may sound. The reality is this. Wherever you go in the megacity, you’ll notice that everybody has their head bent down, shoulders slumped, reading something on their mobile devices on in their hands. So, where is this critical mass of Hunchbacks of Notre Dame (or North York) getting most of their reading done?

Is it on the TTC? The TTC’s, ahem, daily “technical difficulties” delays and announcements (you know the ones that end with those annoying “the system has now been cleared, we apologize for any inconvenience” messages) has been a blessing in disguise in my life. And I also imagine these delays have been a Godsend for any other passengers with a voracious appetite for literature. Many of my trips that are supposed to take 30 minutes tend to stretch to 45 minutes due to “passenger alarm” calls and a whole pile of other bunk that daily public transportation riders have to endure. But if you’re an astute reader of periodicals and books like me, I say God Bless TTC CEO Andy Byford. Those perpetual TTC system delays he seems hell bent on fixing are actually freeing up more in-train reading time for me! The delays I can deal with (uhh, more reading time!). The annual increase in fares and subsequent decrease in quality of service, maybe not so much.

Honestly, where are you getting most of your reading done? I write straight no chaser, so is it while doing the daily defecation thing? If you are drinking your eight glasses of water a day, and are getting your daily recommended fix of bran and veggies, the likelihood of you visiting your porcelain throne is quite high. While sitting on said throne like the Pharaoh of the Exodus of Trinity-Bellwoods, your average stay could be between 10-20 minutes. I’m not sure if what I’m writing about here is the sweetest (or grossest) taboo, but when you are doing a number two (sorry, I mean a numero deux, because Canada is a bi-lingual country, so je m’appelle whateva) on them kingly thrones that are housed in some of the quietest rooms in one’s apartment, town home, condo or house, you are actually indulging the arts. Supporting the arts has always been big in the bathroom, like for example when people sing in their showers and can hit some reasonably high notes. A family friend once told me that her son writes some of his best rap lyrics in there. So why not take in some literary delights in the washroom too? Walmart sells these great bathroom magazine racks, but you can also store books in them too. The point I’m trying to make here is that there’s rapper Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collaborative Watch The Throne album, and then there’s another throne that needs to be watched (or sat on regularly for literary inspiration).

The reason I am trying to create some dialogue around freeing up these newer unconventional reading spaces is to challenge the thinking that we don't read as many books as we used to. If we juxtapose these theories with the fact that people are cranking out all kinds of self-published titles, like widgets at a factory in Scarborough, hey, somebody's gotta read these titles – and it might as well be you. At the dinner table maybe? Like, where else are you going to find the time to wade through this dreck? I know, I know, people are supposed to exhibit proper dinner etiquette. There should be no talking or reading while you’re eating, blah, yada. But I must confess. I ain’t never been to one of them cotillion balls where teenagers are supposed to learn social etiquette, how to eat and drink with grace like the Queen, so if you see me digging into some Long Division by Kiese Laymon while equally digging into some fine home-cooked jerk chicken with rice n’ peas, then so be it.

The idea of finding a few hours of free time during your work day or home life to read has gone the way of the professional book reviewer - extinct. We all need to find more time and venues to read in for pleasure. The recent National Reading Campaign’s Pleasure Reading Survey (I couldn’t make the fact that such a survey exists up) reports that based on a sample of 1001 Canadians, 62 per cent of them read for pleasure. But what does that really mean? Reading for pleasure after pleasuring your partner? Schlepping through some Robert Allen “R.A” Dickey on the Queens’ white porcelain throne after eating some questionable four day old sushi?

It doesn’t quite matter to me when, where or how you read your books, whether on Kobo’s, Kindle’s or Nooks, or via soft or hard cover, them books still need to get read at some point in time. And I’m just suggesting a few off the beaten path venues you might want to consider to read them in.

Dalton Higgins is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist and radio and TV broadcaster who blogs and therefore is. His latest book Far From Over: The Music and Life of Drake (ECW Press, Oct. 2012) sheds light on the cultural conditions in Toronto that helped create the Drake phenomenon. His four other books (Fatherhood 4.0, Hip Hop World, Hip Hop, Much Master T) examine the place where the worlds of technology, diversity, hip hop and hipster culture intersect. His daily Daltoganda, musings, rants, jabs, pontifications and fire-and-brimstone blather can be accessed from his digital pulpit on twitter: @daltonhiggins5

Click here to read Dalton's archived articles on Open Book: Toronto.