Scanlit, Canlit

Since I have been living in Canada, it is much easier to get Canlit to read and so I have been dipping into it.   At the same time, since I have been exposed to Scanlit, when some comes my way, I am more likely to take it home to read, as it is usually quite interesting.

young mgt atwoodActually, as far as Margaret Atwood is concerned, I more than dipped, as several of her older books came my way.  One of them, Dancing Girls, made me wonder what kind of drugs she was taking when she was young. Probably the same ones I was, except her outcome was more creative.

our ladyOne very interesting Canadian book I recently finished was Our Lady of the Lost and Found by  Diane Schoemperlen.  I had not heard of her before, but the title seemed interesting.  When we read novels, we often wonder how much of the characterization reflects the author herself and I think this writer addressed that.  The basic story is that one day Mary, as in the Virgin Mary, the Madonna, shows up in the writer’s living room and asks if it is ok if she stays for a while.  She seems quite normal, as the two women share coffee and breakfast and cleaning.  From there the writer tells us many stories about Mary and Marian miracles, along the way pointing out that she is rarely mentioned in history books.  And of course we learn about this middle aged single writer.  The book was quite interesting, not only for the histories, but also for the characterization.

forms of devotionI checked at the library and found another book by Schomeperlen, Forms of Devotion, Stories and Pictures.  I don’t know how she actually wrote it, but I am guessing that she found the pictures and built stories around them.  The pictures are old, probably from the 19th century, etchings or gravures.  I wonder if she sat down with the pictures, put them in the order she wanted and started writing.  They often poke fun at being ladylike and also make us wonder about the people being written about.  I thought it was a very interesting approach and enjoyed the stories.

bears houseI realized that I had not read many books by Canadian male writers, so I can report that I enjoyed In the Bear’s House by Bruce Hunter.  It is told in alternate chapters by Clare, the mother, and Trout (Will), her oldest son, who is deaf.  It is set in the 50s in Calgary, which at that time was still pretty much a cow town.  They are both very feeling people, but at that time and in their straitened circumstances, they often did not know what to do about that.  At one point Trout is living in the forest with his uncle, who is a ranger, and the description of the people and the mountainous nature around them brings you the reader into it.

leopardWhen I went to Dallas recently, I took with me a copy of The Leopard by Jo Nespo.  I had read The Snowman before, but here the cop, Harry Hole, was tired and beat up, the sort of cop we see in other cultures’ police mysteries.  Like so much of Scanlit, the story went in unexpected directions.  Harry is dealing with a serial killer and also getting over a descent into addiction at the same time. This was a 600 page book that I finished in two days.  It was not cheerful reading but wow, Nespo can really tell a story.

phantomI gobbled my way through Nespo’s Phantom a few days ago.  I was at my sister’s, so it was a perfect place to read, in their beautiful living room overlooking the river, in the gazebo on the dock, or on the swing seat on the deck.  I followed the twists and turns of Hole’s story once again, as it is not only following his detection, but also his relationships with people, which tend to be strained.  It’s dark but it doesn’t pull you into depression, unless that is where you want to go, I suppose.

returnAt the library, I found a Swedish writer, Hakan Nesser, near Nespo, amazingly enough, and took out The Return.  I read his Woman with a Birthmark and remembered that I had liked it.  This was not nearly as dark as Nespo, which was a bit of a relief, but it also had some turns. It was based on a headless corpse being found, so you can imagine where it might go from there.

I actually used to turn my nose up at mysteries, but I learned to enjoy them when I lived in Turkey, where especially I was more likely to read what was there because there wasn’t much of a choice.   I think what people like about mysteries is that the mystery is solved.  There are clues, like augurs.  Finally we can explain everything.  This is what we would like to do with life.

balanceThis is an interesting opportunity to delve more into Canadian literature.  I took a course in it when I was in university, but I don’t remember much of it, as it was a long time ago.  I am sure there was some Susannah Moodie (a settler in Ontario in the early 1800s—pretty wild here), who I had read anyway and I am sure early Margaret Atwood, who had taught at our college. Michael Ondaatje was another writer, who was connected to the college, and The English Patient was on the list.  Personally this is a time when I am more interested in what women write, so it is a definite contrast that I read Canadian women, kind of feeling writing, and the hard Scandinavian mystery adventures.  Eh, balance is good, if you can find it.


My Life with Expats and Turks in Istanbul


I lived in Istanbul for sixteen years.  At first I prided myself on not trying to hang out with yabanci, foreigners.  This was in spite of the fact that I was the director of a school and hired foreign teachers.  Over the years I became known for giving house parties and finally I ran Molly’s Cafe for six years.  As a result, I did indeed hang out with a lot of foreigners, local or visiting, but I also knew a lot of Turkish people.

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inside my first cafe. i am now sitting on the sofa, as i brought it with me

Having the cafe was the peak of my interactions with people from all over the world, literally.  People would ask about the Canadian community, but I would say that Canadians do not clump together as much like some other groups. Perhaps because people assume Canadians are American they can blend in more.  In fact, when things got tense, such as during the Iraq war, several Americans claimed they were Canadian, which ticks most Canadians off, fyi.

Now that I am not an expat but a repat, I have spent some time thinking about expats who live in a place.  This is different from travellers or tourists.  Or perhaps expats who stay put for several years are a kind of slow moving traveller.  At any rate, there seems to be a sense of ownership because expats live in an exotic place that they are coming to know well.  When expats go to a place it is like it attaches to them, like things do, and then both sides have possession.  I think there can also be a sense of arrogance– how cool am I to live in such a fabulous place?  Which of course is when a slapdown happens.


these young people were all deaf, from Holland and Denmark. they were travelling all over

Of course people who were travelling from their home countries in various ways often stopped into my cafe.  Sometimes they had been on the road for a while and were pleased to come across more familiar comfort food.  Often a local expat would offer advice for these people.  Some tourists were taking a day off their cruise ship or from their travelling.  People who lived in another foreign country but were visiting Turkey because it was close came by.   These included exchange students in Europe stopping by to explore or occasionally Fulbright scholars. Some people were visiting Turkey for a rest. In this category were aid workers from Sudan or Somalia. Istanbul was interesting, but quieter, at least until the Gezi protests.

Often business brought people to Istanbul and they stayed on a bit to see the city.  There was one Scottish man who when he first came to my cafe, announced that he was from God’s country.  I asked which one that was– Scotland.  But he actually lives in France, as he works for Airbus.

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Jonah, who told me what a zimmerman was

Zimmermen discovered my cafe.  I had never heard of zimmerman, so when the first one came into my cafe, I asked if he was a musician.  He was wearing leather pants, a white shirt, and an embroidered vest, topped off by a fedora.  A zimmerman is a travelling carpenter who is doing his apprenticeship on the road– hence journeyman.  When they came in, I would give them coffee and cake, as is the custom.CIMG0005


this man, born in what was then my cafe, was jewish, lived partly in istanbul and partly in israel

Sometimes history would walk in the door.  At my first cafe some guys came in who had lived there and one woman stopped by to say her grandmother had lived upstairs many years before.  At the third cafe, a woman came in who told me she had been born in what was now the cafe and a man arrived who said he had been born in the building.  He was Jewish, as that had been a street for upper middle class Jews.  An elderly woman came in to tell me she had grown up in the building and had raised her daughter there.  She and her friends had played in the garden.  She asked to look at the garden and when she came back in, we both teared up. And finally a man came into my last cafe and announced that he had been born in what was then my kitchen.


my friend and helper Arun, from Sri Lanka

Since Turkey has such fractious neighbours on one side and somewhat resistant neighbours on the other, there are many involuntary expats in Istanbul.  If you came to one of my special dinners, you probably met Arun and some of the other Sri Lankans. There were also Afghans and Syrians, of course, as well as Africans.  It brought the difficulties of these places closer to home.


shirley verrette and mike berg. shirley showed her work in my cafe


trici venola with her work

Local expats made up such an interesting and diverse group. Teachers from around Istanbul came by to get their home cooking. Because of the cafe, I could host art shows by Shirley Verrette or Trici Venola.

julie doxsee

julie doxsee


mel kenne and john ash

Some very well known poets such as John Ash or Mel Kenne, Julie Doxsee read their work.


jerome rothenberg, one of the original beat poets

niels hav

neil hav, from denmark

bill berkson

bill berkson


edward foster


hugh pope talking about his book, dining with al qaeda


barbara nadal

Internationally known poets such as Jerome Rothenberg, Neils Hav, Bill Berkson, and Edward Frost stopped by to read.

Journalists and other writers came by.  These included journalists Hugh Pope and Scott Peterson and mystery writer Barbara Nadal.


cowboy the cat checking out the tempest ladies


luke playing oscar wilde

There were even theatre evenings with the Tempest Ladies and Eric Wilcox’s play, Oscar Wilde in San Francisco.


maori flute and turkish folk


sicilian folk


natalia played classical, modern, jazz, and maori

.  .

Most of the music at my place was played by foreigners as well as Turks.  The most exotic was probably the Maori flutes or perhaps it was the Sicilian throat songs.


lois deloatch singing jazz unplugged


donovan mixon


grace sang bluegrass


george wabisca and the orvilles from canada

We had jazz, bluegrass, blues, a little rock by the likes of George Wabisca and the Orvilles.


nicholas, from canada, hasan, from turkey, jeremy from the u.s. = ivir zivir this time


elisabetta lanfredi singing italian folk

Nicholas brought together Ivir Zivir in its many permutations and Elisabetta Lanfredi sang Italian folk songs.


cam neufeld

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cyclown circus


darius and oshan


petrovich blasting company. they had been playing on the square and i invited them to play at the cafe



thanos from greece and serkan from turkey

Cam Neufeld, from Alberta, fiddled and the Cyclown Circus played old style.  The Petrovich Blasting Company blasted out their music (and had the neighbours in a fit). Darius and Oshan, both Brits with Iranian mothers, played rousing music from India and the Middle East.  Thanos and friends came several times to play Greek taverna music.

Who were the Turks that I met? Certainly with the cafe, the customers included, for example, Robert College students as well as Austrian High School students.  Sometimes Turkish teachers came by.  Certainly poets, writers, musicians.  Parents waiting for their child’s lesson to be finished.


the yogurt and cheese man. 2500 grams of wonderful yogurt for about $5


the flower guy. he was a waiter when it was not flower season. kurdish of course

manavci 2

this man came from the east to sell his wares until the city took away his cart

knife sharpener

the knife sharper

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the salep seller. he had been coming from his village in karamanmaras for over 30 years to sell hot salep, made from a certain orchid root

My favourite Turks to deal with were the ones who were kind of grizzled, even if they were young.  I loved the fact that people would come by my cafe to sell me things or services.  There was the egg man, the yogurt and cheese man, the cut flower man, the potted flower man, the fruit cart man.  The knife carver came once a month. The salep seller came every day during the winter.  At my last cafe the local drunk, who was maybe 30, would find random things and bring them for me to buy.  If there was ever any question, I knew that my Turkish esnaf, my business neighbours, would help me.  One time the tea guy ran after someone who had stolen my phone.  They would assure me that they were there keeping an eye on things.  Of course they were also nosy, but I was nosy about them too, so it was fine.

My years in Turkey were some of the best in my life.  My years doing the café, in spite of the hard and long hours, were definitely a high point of my life.  I am so glad I had the life I did in Istanbul.  It opened my eyes to history, culture, and the different lives of others.  I am so much richer as a result.

Istanbul boat parties

ist map

Istanbul is surrounded by water: the Marmara Sea, the Black Sea, the Bosporus, the Golden Horn.  As a result, there is a lot of water traffic.  There are a lot of different kinds of boats, from tankers to ferries to small boats.  Amazingly, the Bosporus is relatively clean, considering the traffic, since there are two strong currents.  One current flows down from the Black Sea to the lower Marmara Sea and the other one flows up due to the different salt content.  For several years I went to or hosted boat parties and here I want to share some of them, spurred on by photos of a recent boat party I saw from my friends on Facebook.  It made me very envious!

First, let me tell you how to rent a yacht or small or large boat in Istanbul.  Probably you can find them online, but if you go to where the boats are, you can find a kaptan and a boat.  The price went up over the years, but it cost anywhere from 700 to 1000 lira.  We brought our own food, including meat or fish to barbecue, as most boats had a mangal, a grill.  There was always lots of great food.  We also brought our own music on a memory disk, as otherwise it would be Turkish pop. I had a collection of blow-up air mattresses and tubes, which was great for the smokers…  People often rent boats for parties and weddings, which are often in the evenings, so day rentals work well.

tekne fal

I went to a boat party with some people in 2004.  It was a little strange, but since we were on the water, it was still very nice. The boat party started with a Roma woman who read our fortunes– the usual love, money. travel. i spent money, travelled, and did not find love on this trip.

sultan kayik2

a copy of a kayik, once used by the aristocracy to get around. now for rent

buff guys2

showing off on a neighbouring boat

funny boat

traffic on the bosporus

mystery gate

an old bunker

kanlica for yogurt

we stopped in at Kandilli for its famous yogurt

yogurt time

arriving at carters 3

carter at his place (just the apartment on the lower left, btw, in case you were wondering…)

In 2005 I rented a small yacht and filled it with friends.  We stopped by my friend Carter’s place, though he was unable to come with us.  However, it was very cool to stop by on the water. The kaptan was very nice and let us take turns driving the boat. molly kaptan Luckily, unlike most of Istanbul, there was little traffic.  We stopped in a bay near an Ottoman garden ottoman garden   ottoman garden 2and then went on to Buyuk Liman, where we encountered a sunken boat that people were trying to raise. sunken boat    Along the way back one of the air mattresses flew off the boat and was retrieved by a small boat.  By then we were far away from it and did not try to get it back.getting it   getting the air mattress


stefan and bayram in karakoy as we were waiting for the others


karakoy wild life

Two years later, we rented another boat, but that was the day that the cross Bosporus swim was happening, so the Bosporus was closed and we were not able to go up it.  Instead we went to the Princes Islands and went behind Burgaz Ada. IMG_1379It was actually not as nice, as there were a lot of jellyfish.  There was some discussion as to whether they would sting or not (no decision) and we just tried to avoid them.  They tend to live in quieter and dirtier water, so I was not impressed.



huswyin kaptan. we used his boats for a few years

However, we had a good time anyway.

These are Celal and Bayram narrowly averting tragedy.





charlie and luke

charlie and my son luke

My son had come to live with me in 2008 and he was just about to go back to the States, so the boat party was a few days before he left.  Once again we went up the Bosporus, a motley crew of his friends and mine.  It was a great day.

collecting at karakoy

gathering at karakoy

gaye and bruce

gaye and bruce


ciragan palace, now a fancy hotel

high dinner

high dining

mosque in ortakoy

the mosque in ortakoy

rumeli hisar

rumeli hisar, across from carter’s place

picking up carter

picking up carter and friends

mother and son

mother and son

cevdet and molly

unimpressed cevdet

feet first

luke jumping

on the way down

on his way

pensive bruce

pensive bruce and skyline of the old city


almost home


nancy karen marcia

My old friend Nancy and her friend Marcia visited the next summer, so once again we rented a boat and headed up the Bosporus.  By then I had opened my café, but I closed it for the day and off we went.  Nancy is a great dancer, so on the way she taught Deniz a few moves.SL370286


merve buying fish at the karakoy fish market, which sadly was recently bulldozed by the city

yali renovation

this was a historic school, supposedly burned down by the mafia to make parking

SL370283SL370290      we were here


vicki and laura

In 2013 I hosted two boat parties.  The first one was so fun, we had to have another!  And these were the last ones.  We went up again to Buyuk Liman and were shocked to see that the new bridge construction was taking place there.  A lot of debris had fallen onto the small beach and the whole thing was ugly.  This is one of the government’s new boondoggles.  However, in spite of that, we had fun both times.


the ortakoy mosque under renovation


the egyptian consulate, one the home of an egyptian prince. it is known for its art deco decor


rumeli hisar


anadolu hisar, on the asian side


this grand red place is supposedly haunted


this apartment building recently sold for a few million dollars. it would have been a cool place to live, except for the bridge


bosporus homes, once derelict, now very expensive


yenikoy, home of several churches. this one is greek orthodox.


german summer consulate


tarabya hotel in what was once terapia. i used to see it from my window when i lived in tarabya. there has been a hotel here since 1880s, though not always this building


i lived way up this valley


once a genoese castle


new bridge european side


new bridge asian side


arun darcy eric






It is wonderful to see the Bosporus from the water.  There are so many palaces and yalis (summer homes) and ancient structures, all with stories to tell.  If you don’t rent a boat for a party, at least take a ferry  up to Sariyer in order to see it all.  I remember our boat parties with great nostalgia.