Second-hand Prose: A Field Guide

In this era of big box bookstores, it’s becoming harder to find shops that offer more than row after row of the latest best-sellers and recent releases. Fortunately, relief from this monotonous sameness can be found in Toronto’s second-hand bookshops, where the standard of what’s interesting and relevant encompasses the past as well as the present.

The best second-hand stores carry fine volumes of mixed vintage, displayed in inviting surroundings. While wandering their aisles, readers may happen upon out-of-print books that demand to be read as well as gems they didn’t know existed. It’s this possibility of discovery, coupled with the prospect of bargain buys, that makes browsing in these stores so exhilarating.

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Why Ladies Go A-Thieving

Winona Ryder surely didn’t need those clothes she’s accused of stealing. She could be facing three years in jail. DEBORAH VIETS reports.

What do Winona Ryder, Rex Reed and Hedy Lamarr have in common? If you said tinseltown, close but no cigar. The correct answer might be sticky fingers.

Ms. Ryder is accused of using the five-finger discount during a bizarre shopping spree last Christmas. According to Beverly Hills police, the Hollywood star cut off security tags from $4,700 (U.S.) worth of women’s clothes at Saks Fifth Avenue, then walked out of the store without paying for them.

She entered a not guilty plea in response to the charges, but the judge ruled there is enough evidence for her to stand trial. The highly publicized and long-postponed trial finally began on Tuesday. If convicted, Ms. Ryder faces a three-year prison sentence.

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The Love That Dared Wag Its Tail

Like many dog lovers, my father was a reluctant master who let his pets have the upper hand and turned a blind eye to their faults.

This arrangement suited his favourite dog, Chester, a magnificent golden retriever. Chester was friendly and curious, with a keen zest for life, but he also had a dominant streak, which meant he could be disobedient and aggressive with other dogs.

From my father’s perspective, though, his best friend could do no wrong. I once overheard him telling his cousin Geoff, a retired CEO, “Audrey and the children think Chester’s disobedient, but he’s not. He comes when you call him – most of the time.”

“I see,” said Geoff.

“It’s not that he tries to be captain of the ship. He just is.”

“A born leader.”

“That’s right,” my father replied without a trace of irony.

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At Toronto’s Dog Day Care Centres the Play’s the Thing

As a dog lover who currently finds herself dogless, I am always looking for excuses to expand my circle of canine acquaintances and my repertoire of shaggy tales. The perfect opportunity presents itself when I learn that two people I know have enrolled their pets in day-care centres, of which there are two in downtown Toronto, namely, Dogs’ Paradise and the Tire Biter Depot. My friend Linda takes Thomas, her two-year-old golden lab, to the former twice a week to be de-energized; Ian, a friend of a friend, sends his lab, Lucy, to the Depot every day because he feels she needs company while he is at the office. I call Linda and Ian to see if I can accompany their charges to day care. They are both willing.

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The Dog in the Hat: A Christmas Story

My father is the impossible-to-shop-for member of my family, but this Christmas the gift he has been dreaming of for years will await him under the tree.

Although my mother may find its scent pas à son goût, for him it will evoke Proustian memories redolent of happy days spent in the company of his friend, Chester. Sadly, Chester died of cancer suddenly the summer before last, leaving dad devastated. His friend was not human, but he might as well have been: My father can distinguish between a person and a dog—in this instance it was a golden retriever—but he chooses to ignore the difference.

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A Different Kind of Chocolate Soldier

There’s something liberating about an occasion like Halloween that encourages children to take candy from strangers, as has been noted. But there’s something strange about taking candy from an armed soldier.

That was the prospect I faced as a 10-year-old living in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park during the fall of 1970. The October Crisis had reached its height. In response to the FLQ kidnappings of British trade commissioner James Cross and Quebec labour minister Pierre Laporte, who was ultimately murdered, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had imposed the controversial War Measures Act and dispatched soldiers to guard the many diplomats, cabinet ministers and other notables with homes in our area. I had gleaned this much from my parents’ discussions of the newspaper headlines.

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