Mythos & Marginalia

life notes; flaws and all

j.g. lewis

original content and images ©j.g. lewis

a daily breath...

A thought du jour, my daily breath includes collected and conceived observations, questions of life, fortune cookie philosophies, reminders, messages of peace and simplicity, unsolicited advice, inspirations, quotes and words that got me thinking. They may get you thinking too . . .

I'm like a pencil;
sometimes sharp,
most days
other times
dull or
Still I write.

j.g. lewis
is a writer/photographer in Toronto.

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A Book Takes You Places
Posted on July 25, 2018 by j.g.lewisLeave a comment

It’s one of those things that promises so much, but takes so little to become involved with; a book exchange.

It’s not that different from those chain letters that used to surface decades ago, or those personal exchange campaigns (I remember one involving bottles of whisky). It’s a Facebook thing of late, and totally trusting the person whose newsfeed I read it on, I got involved. I felt it was perfect for summer reading (and there is plenty of summer left).

The idea is to send a favorite book to the person whose name you are provided, then send out a specialized message to those who respond to the message on your own feed.

Figuring out the system was easy, deciding what favorite book to send was far more difficult.

I have many, many favourite books. Recently, as part of another FB exchange, I posted only the covers of seven favorite books, and I realized I could have kept posting. Books, and reading, have been an important part of my life.

Books enrich life. Each book you read tells you something more about life, the world, or yourself. It’s one of the reasons we keep on reading. A book takes you places, always.

Given this exchange is ‘worldwide’ in nature, I decided I should send something from my home country. Canada has so many fine authors, and even more wonderful books. Many of my favourites are Canadian, so deciding which one to send was tough.

Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient would have been a good choice. The 1992 novel was just recognized as the best work of fiction from the last five decades of the Man Booker prize, but it was not my favorite. I’ve also enjoyed, throughout my life, the literature of Mordicai Richler. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a perennial favorite, and the words of Carol Shields have often captivated me.

Instead I decided on A Complicated Kindness, the book which won Mariam Toews the Governor General Award in 2004, and many other top honours. It’s a damn good book, on so many levels, with Nomi, the 16-year-old protagonist, dealing with life in an ass-backwards, deeply religious community. There is a great deal of family reflection in her struggle to find both meaning and belonging.

It’s not a coming of age story, but more one of coming into being.

Heartfelt and horrific at the same time, A Complicated Kindness is full of emotion and a strong sense of place. It’s the type of novel that makes you want to read more of the author’s work, and I have. Toews is a masterful storyteller who weaves geographic and cultural references, and a particular wit. throughout her work.

A Complicated Kindness resonated with me. I could feel the landscape of East Village — a fictionalized version of Toews’ hometown of Steinback, Manitoba — and I know well the time and dates of the book. I grew up in the same province. and lived not that far away, in another prairie city surrounded by wheat and silence. I could feel the Canada described in the novel, and I wanted somebody else to feel it too.

The world needs more Canada is a theme promoted by a Canadian book chain, and I couldn’t agree more.

If you would like to be involved in this worldwide book exchange, reply to the link on my personal Facebook page. You are only required to send out one book and should receive more than 30 books in response. What a great way to increase your summer reading list.

Word Upon Word
Posted on July 18, 2018 by j.g.lewis // 5 Comments

Unorganized, like my life, I have stacks and stacks of words piled high.
   Hardcover notebooks and coil-bound scribblers with pages torn out or splattered with coffee, the cover crinkled or nonexistent, sticky notes peering out all over the place, their purpose no longer evident.
   A mass of words; random thoughts, heartfelt prose, messages of anger and liberation, or letters never sent. The skeletons of lonely poems are sketched out in some, partially presented prose full of rhyme and reason set out in others. This is my life.
   This is what I write.
   My handwriting as inconsistent as my days, it gets messy, it gets erased, sketches out a questionable trail, but I leave my mark. I hear the pencil press my soul into the paper. Sometimes I can hear the pain.
   I write. Often. All the time, and maybe not enough.
   While some of my works make it into a manuscript, essay, or rant, the rest of the notes rest silently between the covers. Right there, as sure as I am.
   I write things down to remind myself, perhaps for convenience, or maybe inspiration. I feel thoughts are better contained splayed out on a page than circulating through my mind (that can get dangerous).
   It doesn’t matter so much what I write as much as what I write into it. Details matter: questions to somebody who is not around, a laundry list of lost and found; theories that wake me at night, or delicious morning thoughts because I have them. There are disturbing missives when I can’t bare to say the words aloud, guilty pleasures are often allowed, and the remainder of the sentences and stanzas are held hostage. Until later.
   There have been magnificent ideas (at least at the time), or scenes that belong in a book of mine.
   I write out my life more for myself than those who are allowed a glimpse into this restless being.
   What then of those who do not write?
   What do people do when they think they have something to say? What about those who do not collect daring thoughts, or mundane messages that unexpectedly arrive? Do they leave memory to chance?
   Do they remember specific nights, purposeful conversations, a daughter’s encouraging words, or the events that seem to make it or break it in present tense?
   Do they not make plans, or set goals?
   How do they account for their sins, or the substance of their self? Have they none, or do they not care? Are they unconcerned about where they have been, or what they have put themselves through?
   Or why? How? And what about the when, as it changes over and again?
   I spend unaccountable hours writing for me and my accountability.
   I write not for proof, or validity, but to simply ensure these voices I hear have space to breathe. Thoughts without a place are uncontrollable, but give them a home, a notebook or journal, and they will behave (to a degree) for a while.
   I write because I want to read my own depth (which can be both narrow and flat, but entirely mine).
   I write because I need to write.
   I write because I don’t remember what it is like not to write, and I don’t want to forget.

© 2018 j.g. lewis


Something More To Say
Posted on July 11, 2018 by j.g.lewisLeave a comment

Before the Dear, before the date,
a letter is nothing more than
a receptive, yet vacant, page.
Nothing there except intention
and will to communicate.
All those thoughts, where you were,
what you sought, a point of view,
daily news, perhaps
of no consequence to someone
who was not there, and
that may be the whole point
of a letter.

Handwriting, immediate, as it was,
scratches steadily across the paper.
An occasional pause, yet
the mind flows freely. Topics
appear out of nowhere;
the weather where you are,
how is it there? Of course
you write, of course you care.
Tell it like it is, you’ve got
something more to say, and
no better way to say it
than a letter.

© 2018 j.g. lewis


The longer days of summer, a bit more time to myself, and a greater will to connect.

I can’t explain it any other way, other than a desire to catch up with people far away, but I’ve been writing letters consistently over the past week. I do write letters, often, but not quite this much (or not as much as I have been).

I’ve always enjoyed letters. I feel you communicate differently when you say it in a handwritten letter. It’s not at all like an email; and I won’t say it is better. It is just different. Letters take time to write and time to arrive. Often they are not expected, and in that way it might be a surprise.

A letter is how it used to be done, but it is not old-fashions. It is just the way it was.

A friend recently described a letter as “love in an envelope”. That itself is something to write about.

Write on.