Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures

A Christmas gift with a festive red cover!

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam is an interwoven set of short stories centred around 4 med students who become interns who become doctors. Seamlessly sutured together with themes of death, sickness, sleeplessness, mental anguish, blood (of course) and sex (Lam professes inspiration from Atwood--no kidding!), this is sort of a Canadian, Lit-based version of Grey's Anatomy, mixed with the high-drama level of ER.

Best parts of the story. (Don't laugh.)
-one of the characters awakes to a melon-coloured light that tells him it's afternoon (awesome!)
-It's start at U of O and moves to U of T/popular Toronto locations. (Can't help but get into it when you can say "I've been there!" in relation to the geography as well as the emotional situation....)
-in anatomy class, the 3 med students are divided over whether or not to cut through a religious tattoo on their cadaver's arm. (Still unsure how the Mark 16 reference fits into the overall theme.)

One thing I'm still undecided on: the inclusion of SARS in the storyline. Seems a little sensational.

Chock full of medical terms, but that's just atmosphere. Although there's a glossary of terms at the back, there's no real need to understand the vocab. If you can watch ER with more concern for whether the doctor is mentally unstable than what the heck "one line of epi" means, you'll do just fine, my friend, just fine. ;)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Down and Out in Paris and London

Another of the books crossed off the ambitious list of purchases from Macondo books!

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell was an attempt to round out my Orwellian repertoire. Although it's still chock full of social commentary, Down and Out is reality-based (no pig dictatorships or Ministry of Love or anything quite so fanciful and quirky as that...).

In an attempt to be specific, here's a list! That's right, a list of "Things I loved most about DaOiPaL:"

OOh. Perhaps, before I start the list I should mention that I found the entire text of this book online! I don't, of course, regret buying the book. As much as I technology, I think that a book is a perfect piece of technology just the way it is. This online book, however, will make referencing my favourite parts quite simple. Here we go. On with the list...

1. Orwell's reflections on the secrecy of poverty. (Start reading at about the 4th paragraph here.)
Hiding poverty is costly-- and an interesting bit of science - ie. you buy the more expensive bread, because its shape makes it easier to smuggle in your pocket...

2. The grotesque 'truth' about manhandled foods and expensive Parisian restaurants. (Where food is just food, it's just slapped on your plate, haphazardly and shoved in front of you. Where food is art, it's pinched and poked with sweaty fingers. Chefs' thumbs are swirled in sauces, tasted, and swirled in sauces again. ...Hungry yet? Despite today's high restaurant standards, I will never look at swank menus without calculating the food's proximity to the various bodily fluids of the kitchen staff.) If you're brave enough to read this chunk, you'll want to start with the delicious paragraph, "In the kitchen the dirt was worse."

3. Orwell's commentary on the creation of swear words in any dialect. (Confession: I have a small fascination with how exactly a word becomes a 'swear' and why we're so insistent on creating and using these words...) Why can a swear world become so vile in one language and be a completely acceptable word in another? ((My)Short answer: it gives us something to muse and giggle about. Orwell's answer is a little more intellectual. Short of spoiling it, I'll let you read it for yourself. Start at "The whole business of swearing..." and enjoy...

4. A quote that sums up a common theme from the last 3rd of the book: "It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level." (Read it here.)

Orwell's DaOiPaL gives a perspective that is both historical and timeless. Get a glimpse into the backstreets of Paris and London and an eyeful and mindful of the problem of poverty. Although the conditions may be slightly different today, the overarching truths are disturbingly unchanged.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I Capture the Castle

A couple of Christmases ago, I bid on this book on eBay, on behalf of a friend, who was hoping to score a very cool Christmas gift. I lost the bidding war...but I'm proud to announce that I bid the book up to about $50.00, so it at least cost the other bidder a fair chunk o' cash.

Apparently Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle is a very popular book from many of my female friends' adolescent years. I found it in one of my favourite used bookstores (Macondo Books in Goo) and decided to read it and find out why. I ended up devouring the book last Sunday, sitting in the living room armchair.

What makes this book worth reading is its dynamic narrator, Cassandra, daughter of a world-famous novelist and aspiring writer. This young woman makes you want to write journal entries of your own! Smith does a good job of capturing the world through the perspective of a teenage artist.

This is the kind of book that I will have in my classroom library if I end up teaching intermediate and/or putting on my recommended recreational reading lists for intermediate/senior English.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Currently Reading

I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
Catch 22
Till We Have Faces - C.S. Lewis

Anna Karenina

Well, it took a while, but I'm finally finished Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. I'll admit that I remain a little confused about just how and why everyone in olden-days upper class Russia had to have 3 names--and I don't have an immense knowledge of Russia's political history....but it doesn't matter. I was drawn into this book by Tolstoy's amazing ability to portray humanity.

I still can't decide whether the author sounds masculine or feminine...

It's late, so I can't write much, but I must say that, if anyone were to tell me they were planning to read A.K., I would wholeheartedly encourage it, but couple my encouragement with the following cautions:
1. the beginning, until you get the hang of the whole name-change thing, is slow going
2. the only part more slow-going than the beginning is the ending. The infamous climax occurs at about page 700; 100 pages of only semi-related resolution follow...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing

I hit up the Rockliffe Book Fair last weekend and ended up with a handful of plays, purchased for about a dollar each. From that stack, I chose Thomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing to read on the train from Ottawa to Kingston.

Forewarned is forearmed: this is not a script for the faint of heart. That said, if you're a visual person, this is maybe not a play for you to see in person. The script may be as close as you want to get. And then again, maybe as close as you want to get is just to read this review of Dry Lips and its 'twin'(?) The Rez Sisters.

Graphic rape scene, issues of alcoholism, Christianity, etc. aside, if I can find one thing good to say about this book, it's that Highway does a good job expressing anger, confusion, helplessness, and frustration with concision.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dance of the Happy Shades

More Alice!

Okay, so I read this book this summer and forgot to blog it, but attached to this book are memories of... sitting in the radiology unit at the Kitchener hospital, taking the train from Kitchener to Kingston, and spending my first night in Kingston. This is Munro's first book, but in some ways, she was an amazing writer from the start. The stories in this book are threads of what were to come in Munro's other short story collection--ie., there's little bits of everything from Lives of Girls and Women to Runaway to Friend of My Youth on its pages. Lotsa ideas that were played out in later works.

My enthusiasm for reading all of Munro's books in a year has waned, but my appreciation of her writing definite has not. ;)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Discovery of Strangers

I've been wanting to read some Rudy Wiebe, and A Discovery of Strangers was the book that I happened to find while used book shopping in Kenora. My copy bears a silver "Winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction 1994" label on the front, so I figured that it was worth a shot.

The story is creative. It examines the first meetings and interactions of the British and the Tetso'ine ("Yellowknives") as a mutual discovery of strangers. (Both groups think the other bizarre and somewhat foolish, secretly laugh at each other's creation stories, etc.) The story is also very carnal--consisting mostly of sex and survival--which I suppose would have been the main concerns of all people concerned at that point in time. I think I'd be careful about who I recommended this book to, so that they didn't think I was too wierd.

Other Wiebe books I'd like to read:
-Of This Earth
-Sweeter Than All the World
-Peace Shall Destroy Many

In a quick cut-and-paste effort, here's a good quote from a publisher's spotlight that explains, I think, why I'm so curious about Weibe:
Wiebe was called the first major Mennonite writer to place his community’s experience in a broader framework. Mennonites assert the fundamental authority of Scripture, especially the New Testament, as a practical guide to life. But while Wiebe imbues his work with a deep moral seriousness, his focus has always been on narrative. “I never consciously think of writing a so-called Christian novel. I don’t think Albert Camus ever thought of writing an existentialist novel, either. I think of getting at, of building, a story.” As a prairie writer, he has often concerned himself with Native stories, feeling place of birth to be more important than blood ancestry. “Those Mennonite villages in Russia are my heritage, but not my world. The world I feel and sense in my bones is the bush of northern Saskatchewan, of prairie Canada.” Native spirituality, with its vital links to the physical world, has always attracted him. But his fiction manages to transcend nationality and locale to explore the struggles of communities and individuals; his books and stories have been translated into nine European languages, as well as Chinese, Japanese and Hindi.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Truth About Stories

I love Tom King. He now officially tops this year's list as my most-read author. (Granted, that means I've read three books by him this year, but still...)

I picked this book up two summers ago in a used bookstore in Canmore, AB. I'm not sure what took me so long to read it. I think I've been saving it, like a special bottle of wine, or a fancy new shirt, for that perfect occasion. And I guess that occaision was this past week at the cottage.

I started reading this book on the bus, on my way to pick up a rental car at the airport. I was so engrossed that, when the bus hit a bump and I spilled half of my large Tim Horton's coffee all over myself, I didn't actually put the book down, but rather balanced the paper cup between my knees and used one hand to fish a napkin out of my bag and wipe up the mess, all the while continuing to read. I wasn't even really thinking about it until I looked up and saw that half the bus was staring at me.

By the time I got to the cottage, I had read the first lecture and most of the second. I was very excited about the book and attempted to read the first section to my friends at our evening story hour (yes, we had an evening story hour). I don't think anyone was quite as excited about it as I was, but we did manage to start talking about stories, storytelling, and what exactly it is that makes a story so important, so pivotal.

The book, I should note, is a series of lectures delivered by Tom King in 2003 for the Massey Lectures series.

Lecture 1 (Montreal): “You’ll Never Believe What Happened” is Always a Great Way to Start
Lecture 2 (St. John’s): You’re Not the Indian I Had in Mind
Lecture 3 (Victoria): Let Me Entertain You
Lecture 4 (Calgary): A Million Porcupines Crying in the Dark
Lecture 5 (Toronto): What Is It About Us That You Don’t Like

I'll add some summary notes on each lecture when I'm a little bit more awake.

The CBC has an interview with Tom King on its Ideas website.

I think I'm going to add the audio recording of these lectures to my Christmas wishlist.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I’ve spent most of my day today engrossed in Frank Parker Day’s Rockbound. Now it’s over and I’m left staring at the cover (the fisherman’s hands on the cover are unrealistically smooth) and listening to bits of East Coast dialect that are still rattling through my head. (The author does a good job of creating a dialect, but I have no idea how true-to-life it is…)

This book was the CBC Canada Reads winner for 2005--my 2nd C.R. 2005 read this month, coincidentally—and it’s easy to see why. There’s something classic about the story, first published in 1928, reissued in 1973.

I really like the segment in this book where David, the main character, learns to read, which mainly takes place in chapter 8. The first thing he learns to write is his name—and the name of the fishing boats. This would be an interesting passage to work through with an adult ESL learner. David’s hunger for literacy is a compelling one. (I should also note that, the illiterateness of the fisherman in the story was a point of contention for the real inhabitants of Rockbound, since, in letters of complaint written after the novel’s original publication, they claimed to be not only literate, but well-educated folk. –That’s according to Gwendolyn Davies’ afterword.)

I’d also like to point out that, by another coincidence, this very morning in my working through of 52 Women of the Bible, I was reading about Bathsheba, David and Uriah. As already mentioned, David is the protagonist in this novel and the antagonist is….Uriah! Interesting stuff. Except in this case Uriah is the King and David commits no sin against him. Not sure what exactly Day was going for with his use of names, but undoubtedly something was up….

My final memory of this book is that… it’s missing 16 pages! Good old U of T press. Or good old discount Benjamin Books. I’m not sure who to blame, but, near the middle of the book, 16 scattered pages are blank. I was able to continue on with the gist of the story in this section, but I’ll have to visit the library to find out what these missing pages contain—this includes an explanation as to why old Anapest attacked Uriah, and how, exactly, she managed to win the fight.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Brideshead Revisited

I’ve finally done it; I’ve finally read the book that my friend Emily has been recommending to me for years: Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. I do believe this is Emily’s favourite novel. (If not her favourite, it definitely ranks in the top 10, I’d say.) Strangely enough, I had absolutely no idea what this book was about before I finally opened its pages last Saturday on the Greyhound back from Kenora. I was surprised by the smoothness with which story unfolded, but quickly came to remember that I, in fact, enjoyed Waugh. I have read a few of his books in the past (A Handful of Dust, Scoop, Vile Bodies) and have more on my shelf for this very reason. How quickly I forget. It’s kind of like hanging out with an old friend who I haven’t seen in a while and being slowly reminded of why I cherish that particular friendship.

So, good old Evvie definitely likes to include a moral component to all his stories, and Brideshead is no exception. If there’s one quote that sums up the story, I’d say it’s Julia’s lament to Charles in the third and final book: “Sometimes … I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” The novel gives a really interesting depiction of Catholic (/Christian/Religious) guilt—regret over past actions and fear of any marks left on the soul while the threat of WWII hangs ominously over Europe. In one memorable scene, Julia has a guilt-induced breakdown based on the sins that she has committed that begins with a torrent of jumbled thoughts and images and ends with her slashing her lover Charles across the face with a homemade switch. (Is it fair to call it guilt? Or is it simply inexpressible/misplaced love of—and loyalty to--something greater than all that is in the world?)

I also have to scratch down some notes about Sebastian, who is—by far—one of the most memorable literary characters I’ve come across in a while. Charismatic, fun-loving, eccentric Sebastian, who brings a giant teddy bear named Alouicious with him to Oxford and treats the bear as a person. Blessed with a wonderful personality and cursed with alcoholism, Sebastian is the character who one can’t help but love—and probably the most human of all Waugh’s creations.

There are a lot of similarities between A Handful of Dust and Brideshead Revisited that would be fun to explore. Since I’m sitting at the picnic table on the porch of our rented cottage on Lake Missassogagon, I don’t exactly have ready access to my book collection, but I’m quite certain that Dust, too, begins in a modern setting and then moves back to earlier days in the protagonist’s history. Dust also involves a journey to South America (Waugh must have been a traveler, a worldly man?) and contains a bit of Catholicism and a lot of adultery. Scoop is set in a fictional country, but I can’t remember if it’s intended to be South American or African, and/or if that matters….? All have reference to war—proof that Waugh was profoundly (and understandable?) influenced by the big moments in history through which he lived?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Dressing Up for the Carnival: Stories

I picked this book up from "the bookstore in kenora" on Thursday while bumming around before Lynne and Josh's wedding. (This bookstore is very small, colourful, and filled with goodies. It's exactly the kind of bookstore I'll run in cottage country someday...)

I like Carol Shields, and short stories seemed like more appropriate reading material for the bus. (Confirmation: these stories were an excellent Greyhound companion).

This book reminds me of Amelie, choosing minor pleasures and details in life and focusing in on them, devoting all attention to such supposedly mundane (but delightful) objects as windows, keys, and meterologists.

A few of my favourites:

"Dressing Up for the Carnival" - The title story highlights costumes or props of about 1/2 dozen characters from the script of everyday life. These items bring joy not only to their users/wearers, but--thanks to Shield's descriptions--to readers as well.

"Weather" - A couple's individual and joined lives quickly fall into disarray when meterologists go on strike. (An entertaining commentary on how much our lives are defined and guided by something as simple and as indeterminable as the weather.)

"Mirrors" - A family who spends each summer at their cottage that is completely devoid of mirrors--and how the absence of physical reflection alters internal reflections.

"Absence" - A writer sits down to work only to discover that one of the vowels on her keyboard doesn't work. An exhortation on the frustrating limitations that one letter can have on a story. (The entire story is written without using the letter "i".) Contains many eloquent descriptions of grammar!

"Reportage" - The first line reads, "Now that a Roman Arena has been discovered in southeastern Manitoba, the economy of this micro-region has been transformed." An interesting look at how our history shapes our (geographic/anthropologic) identities.

"Soup du Jour" - Another story with cinematic story-clips reminiscent of Amelie. (Mainly about remembering the requested ingredient for soup.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Morgesons

This book was not the best choice for a bus read, but I plodded through it from Ottawa to Kenora this week (on my way to Lynne and Josh's wedding). This bildungsroman by Elizabeth Stoddard was recommended (and loaned) to me by a professor, so I figured it would be best to read it (and return it) before I'm no longer an Ottawan. So, I read it, and I'll return it shortly...once I think of something intelligent to say to the prof to whom the book belongs.

Really really basic plot summary: Cassandra Morgeson, rebellious even as a child, is the protagonist and narrator. The story recounts episodes of her childhood and youth, but focuses on her coming-of-age and her taboo relationship with Charles Morgeson ("no direct relation")--a relationship that is (perhaps subconsciously?) encouraged by Charles' wife, Alice. Secondary plot line tells the story of Cassandra's sister Veronica and her relationship with Cassandra's cast-off, Ben Somers. Charles dies tragically in a horse accident, which Cassandra surives because Charles flings her from the wagon. Later, Cassandra's mother dies. Veronica hooks up with Ben Somers, who is originally interested in Cassandra, but can't woo her away from Charles. Cassandra's father and Alice Morgeson hook up. Cassandra ends up with Ben Somers' older brother Desmond. Everybody's at least a bit twisted and crazy.

The novel is filled with sexual undertones so blink-and-miss-it subtle that I had to do some re-reading and convincing myself that no, that wasn't just my dirty mind adding a little spice to the work. Conversely, it's filled with dialogue and description so straightforward, that I had to re-read it and make sure that what I was reading really was happening.

Tinted with madness, and accented with thick strokes of envy, Stoddard definitely gives melodrama. The plot, however, moves incredibly slowly and climaxes about 3/5 of the way through the book.

Interesting items of note:
-Replete with references to reading and literature--similar to Jane Eyre
-Main (and other) character(s)'(s) rebellion against religion - might be worth reinvestigating (3rd-generation New England Puritans who've snubbed their forefathers' ideals...)
-Female characters' willingness to confine themselves to small spaces - emphasis on "the room"

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Volkswagen Blues

This book has been on my shelf since Christmas 2004. It was part of the Canada Reads selections for 2005, and I had high hopes of reading all of the books before the debates started. Because I was still studying English Lit at the time, my required reading unfortunately took precedent and Volkswagen Blues was left high and hoping for a while.

I don't know if something was lost in translation, but this book is a little strange. I don't really understand the relation happening between "the man" and "the girl" in this novel. I ran it by my bookish friends and they're willing to chalk it up to being just one of those "crazy French" things, but I dunno...

This history aspect of the book is cool. The protagonist picks up a hitchiker, nicknamed, "La Grande Sauterelle" and they set off across Eastern Canada and then the U.S. in search of the protagonist's brother. They end up following the Oregon Trail and learning about it as they travel. So I picked up a few interesting bits of Jeopardy trivia on the way, but...the book seemed a little sparse...and pointless?

Sorry, Jacques Poulin. Perhaps I should try reading this one in its original French...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Summer of My Amazing Luck.

Miriam Toews still places near the top of my list of Canadian writers. (She's at the very top of my Menno-Canadian writers list.) On the bus to Toronto, and then on the Train to Ottawa, I read her earliest (?), recently edited and re-published novel, Summer of My Amazing Luck and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Summer's story revolves around two single mom's on welfare in a community housing project in Winnipeg. Lucy is an 18-year-old mother of one, who is just learning the ropes and the culture surrounding her situation. Lish is Lucy's surrogate mom and a social assistance lifer--a hippyish, eccentric mother of 4. Lucy and Lish's friendship develops as the plot progresses, and their adventures culminate in a cross-border trip in a ramshackle van (kids and all) in a search to find the father of Lish's twins. Throughout the book, Lucy is struggling to find her place and her purpose and to comes to terms with her mother's death and to learn how to reconnect with her father.

I would place this book into the heartwarming, beach-read category. So good!

This is probably the most lighthearted of all of Toews' novels. While it still has tinges of the dark humour that made me love A Complicated Kindness and hints of the sentimentality that made Swing Low: A Life resonate with me, there is something less heart-clenching and gut-wrenching about this one.

Toews, as always, creates a cast of characters that you're intrigued to meet and get to know better. She also has these little episodes that stand as hilarious unto themselves.

There are many reasons why I can identify with Toews characters. One reason is the cultural references. A couple of excerpts to make my point:

"You know," she said, "I feel like that puppet in Mr. Dressup, what's her name? Casey?"

"I think it's a he," I said.

"Whatever--have you ever noticed how bitchy she is?"

"he," I said. "Yeah, he's got a short fuse. I would too if all I had for company week after week as an old man and a dog."

"And if you were a puppet," added Lish.

'Right," I said. I nodded.

"And Lucy! You're Finnegan! You're the dog! You keep nodding and not saying much." Lish loved this idea, she was laughing. She put her head next to mine. "What's that, Finnegan?" she said in a high voice. "You want to get going?"

"Woof," I said.

Letita was staring at us. "Finnegan doesn't make any noise at all, Lucy," she said in a serious tone. Lish just laughed.

(That's off page 178 of my copy.)

And Excerpt #2, on the Massey-Ferguson/John Deere divide in rural communities:

...when their daughter, Lish's mom, began dating her neighbour, Lish's dad, the shit hit the fan, because Lish's father's family used Massey Ferguson equipment. In that area there was an ongoing feud between John Heere users and Massey Ferguson users. Something about the French buying one brand and the Ukrainians buying another, originally. Both campus swore up and down that theirs was the best, and because farming was their life, it was a big deal. So, for a John Deere girl and a Massey Ferguson boy ot be dating, that was asking for trouble. It was like the Montagues and the Caulets. In the only café in the neighbouring town, the John Deere clan sat on one side and the Massey Ferguson sat on the other. Sometimes the more good-natured farmers would try a little bit of friendly debate with someone from the other side, but they'd get glared down so fast even the waitress forgot to refill their coffee cups for the rest of the day. The waitress's family was a Massey Gerfuson family, but she said as long as there was no fighting, she'd serve the John Deeres in the restaurant same as everyone else.) Everyone waited eagerly for someone from the other side to get their arm cut off or a piston blown because of a faulty part, but when it happened to one of their own it was very hush-hush. Repairs were done in the night, so no one from the other side would notice there was a problem.

ps. Summer of My Amazing Luck has been re-written as a play. (Go figure that it was performed at Ottawa U last summer and I missed it!) Here's a description and here's a review.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The God of Small Things

Arundati Roy is a poetess. I left the book in Drayton, or I'd be adding a couple of quotes here for momentos.

This book has been recommended to me by the wierdest assortment of people that I felt compelled to read it. I actually think I signed it out of the library when I was in high school, but I don't remember reading any of the text. One day this winter, walking by the BookMarket, it was in the window, so I bought it. I think I was in school at the time, because I remember reading the first chapter and feeling incredibly guilty about the fact that I was reading it when I was supposed to be reading something else.

Anyway, I lent the book to Lynne (in an attempt to get it out of my sight and focus on schoolwork) and she enjoyed it. Then we went to a book sale and I bought another copy. I gave Lynne one copy and kept the other and finally--finally!--I've read it. Satisfaction is mine!

I love the way the book unfolds like memory--slipping back and forth between past and present with a level of fluidity and confusion that matches real-life recollection. I also love Roy's compound word creations--when two words are joined to make a new one--there's an English Lit term for this and I've completely forgotten it. Again, no book handy to quote from or give examples. Sigh.

Everyone compares Roy to Rushdie. I've never read any Rushdie. Perhaps I should...

In terms of interesting Web resources linked to this book, Washington State University has a study guide for the book that fills in some interesting background detail on some of the terms, etc. used in the book.

p.s. Backdating these comments because I finished the book a few days ago...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Million Little Pieces

I picked this book up for a steep $2.00 at the Grand Bend Flea Market earlier this summer. It's a memoir of a 23-year old man's six weeks in drug rehab, following about 13 years of drug and alcohol abuse. It's not your average memoir. Written in free form (irregular grammar, lack of punctuation, no quotation marks to delineate different speakers, etc.), with blunt language and graphic descriptions, it's not typically the kind of book I would read. There is something, however, completely captivating about this book. From the first few pages, you want to read the narrator to success. Knowing full well that it was the narrator who wrote the memoir, obviously success is going to appear on the last few pages. All the same, it's a gripping story.

What's interesting about the book is the narrator's flagrant disregard for AA--for any sort of standard treatment program, actually. While it's honourable, it's a bit overdone. One too many times, the narrator delivers the same lines: God doesn't exist, f*** AA, the Blue Book is for the weak, etc. etc. On occasion, this humble story borders on arrogance. I'd still recommend it, though, because it seems like an awfully real depiction of the recovery process.

Now for the scandalous bit. Being selected as a feature for Oprah's Book Club was only the beginning of publicity for this book. This is a work of non-fiction that, as it turns out, is not completely true. The author, for example, did not face more than a few hours jail time, although the book tells quite a different story. Frey writes:

A Million Little Pieces is about my memories of my time in a drug and
alcohol treatment center. As has been accurately revealed by two journalists
at an Internet Web site, and subsequently acknowledged by me, during
the process of writing the book, I embellished many details about my
past experiences, and altered others in order to serve what I felt was the
greater purpose of the book. I sincerely apologize to those readers who
have been disappointed by my actions.

(Amazon has a full copy of the Note to the Reader included in later editions of this publication.)

Disappointed? Nah. But perhaps that's because I knew about the truth-doctoring before I read it. It's still a good book; it just probably doesn't deserve to have the words "Memoir" stamped on it, without "Fictional" stamped in front of it.

Monday, July 31, 2006

James and the Giant Peach

It's been a rolled-up-in-a-blanket, Roald Dahl kind of day, dahling.

James and the Giant Peach was the other Dahl treat that I packed into my backpack for my week at home. I remember reading this book in grade 3 and being scandalized by the fact that a school book had the word "ass" in it. (The centipede has a bit of a sass-mouth, what can I say?)

Anyway, having read the book in grade 3, the plot was a bit foggy for me. I didn't remember the ending at all. But I did remember particular parts of the story and how absolutely enchanting I found them as a 9-year-old. This book falls into the "good books to read aloud" category and, if I ever end up teaching 3rd or 4th grade, there is a very good chance that this book will be among the books we study.

The Twits - Roald Dahl

I've got a 76-page pleasure read in front of me, heavy on the illustrations. I'd like to say that my whole reason for choosing this book is to discover another piece of children's literature that I can use while teaching next year. While this may be true, my real reason for reading it, is simply because I want to.

There's a line in Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson, that states something to the effect of, "a large part of reading used books is finding treasures inside--receipts, bookmarks, notes in the margins, etc. This particular copy of The Twits was purchased at a Goodwill store. "Marcie" is neatly but crudely inscribed on the inside cover in multi-coloured gel pen. It's a Scholastic publication and, nestled between the pages of this book is the Arrow Book Club order form from September 2001, with "Twits" neatly checked off, at the list price of $2.00. (I love book orders!)

Well, here we go: off to devour this little snack before lunch time!

Yup, you really can't go wrong with a little Roald Dahl. This book has the usual twistedness of a Dahl plot, but it also has the usual humour and simple language. Very cute! In sum, the twits are these two cruel and stupid people who are mean to each other and to the animals and children around them. Thanks to their meanness, Mr. and Mrs. Twit get what's coming to them.

As a p.s., the official Roald Dahl site is info rich and adorably entertaining. (It even has teacher resources!)

The Well of Lost Plots

My 2nd foray into Jasper Fforde's insanely delightful, imaginative book world ended up being the 3rd book in the series. (The 2nd book wasn't among the $5.99 bargains at Benjamin Books, but the 3rd and the 4th ones were.)

Grown at least slightly accustomed to the bizarre-ness of Fforde's fiction, I was worried that this book would be slightly boring, or simply old tricks beneath a new cover. Happily, this is not true!

The Well of Lost Plots combines a plethora of English Lit. classics, including:
  • Macbeth
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • Great Expectations
  • The Mill on the Floss
It also combines a plethora of characters from literature:
  • Sir John Falstaff
  • Ms. Havisham
  • Mr. Toad (from Wind and the Willows)
  • Beatrice and Benedict

I am going to start recommending that every English Lit. grad add the Jasper Fforde series to their post-grad reading list as a means of entertaining --"silly reading for smart people" as the back cover review puts it.

3.5 / 5 stars for this lovely book.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Eats Shoots and Leaves

I think my roommates like it when I'm reading. It keeps me quiet. Today, while halfway through The Red Tent, Jer dropped another book in my lap. "It'll probably take me two years to read this," he said, "but my Dad says it's really good."

Having had little contact with this book--aside from an occaisional brief browse through its pages once or twice at the bookstore, I'm up to the challenge of reading a second book this weekend.

Eats Shoots and Leaves shall be my dinner companion....

The Red Tent

I just finished reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

This book was left on my desk with a note from Jenny, shortly after I finished reading The Da Vinci Code at her urging. I will happily take any scraps of praise I tossed at Da Vinci and heap them on top of the loads of praise I'm bestowing upon this novel.

Following on the tails of another between-the-lines Biblical narrative that I read earlier this summer (Findley's Not Wanted On the Voyage), Diamant uses the story of Dinah--and the stories of Rachel, Leah, Jacob, Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph--as the basis for a creative imagining of everything that happened in Dinah's life, aside from the brief mention of her rape and her brothers' revenge.

Like the women in her work, Diamant is a skilled storyweaver. She portrays womanhood eloquently, beautifully, and powerfully. She makes no claims to truth telling: her story isn't meant to be Biblical, but it is meant to be humane--and she succeeds.

A couple of things I want to make note of, from the cover and included notes, before returning this book to Jenny's shelf:

-According to the cover, this was a NYT Bestseller.

Excerpt from the included readers' guide:

Anita Diamant says it was the relationship between Leah and Rachel that stimulated her thinking about The Red Tent. "The Biblciacl story that pits the two sisters gainst one another never sat right withme. The traditional view of Leah as the ugly and/or spiteful sister, and of Jacob as indifferent to her, seemed odd in light of the fact that the Bible gives them nine children together. As I re-read Genesis over the years, I settled on the story of Dinah, their duaghter. The drama and her total silence (Dinah does not utter a single word in the Bible) ried out for explanation, and I decided to imagine one."

Aiding her work was "midrash," the ancient and still vital literary form, which means "search" or "investigation."

"Historically, the rabbis used this highly imaginative form of storytelling to make sense of the elliptical nature of teh Bible--to explain, for example, why Cain killed Abel. The compressed stories and images in the Bible are rather liek photographs. They don't tell us everything we want or need to know. Midrash is the story about what happened before and after the photographic flash."

She points out that "The Red Tent" is not a translation, but a work of fiction. Its perspective and focus--by and about the female characters--distinguishes it from the biblical account in which women are usually peripheral and often totally silent. By giving Dinah a voice and by providing texture and content to the sketchy biblical descriptions, my book is a radical departure from the historical text."

Links of Note:
(1)Online preview has cover shots, prologue, family tree.
(2) Book info on the author's website.
(3) Reading Group guide

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

DreadfulWater Shows Up

"So, your sister likes to read?" my little sister's boyfriend's mom asked her.

"Yes. A lot."

"What does she read? Mysteries?"

"Um...not really."

(Katie and I snickered about this little bit of conversation later. And in honour of this little bit of conversation, I decided to read a mystery.)

The latest book to move off my "To Read" list is DreadfulWater Shows Up by Thomas King, writing as Hartley GoodWeather. I didn't know that T.K. wrote under a pseudonym, and actually, the copy of the book that I have has THOMAS KING in giant letters across the top, so I guess his publicists decided the pseudonym wasn't working? (Is King that much of a name brand?)

Anyways, it took me a long time to get into this book. I read bits while waiting at bus stops, etc. but continually shoved the book back in my bag with no real desire to continue. Today--a sick day, without a TV--I decided to truck through it, and I actually kinda sorta got into it.

I'm not a fan of mysteries, so this book isn't exactly my style. And well, I'm not really sure that the mystery novel is King's key genre. But I still like his sense of humour that pervades all of his writings, and I love the way he peppers even a mystery with social commentary.

The basics: Thumps DreadfulWater is a retired cop-turned-photographer, who gets himself involved with investigating a murder case at the new casino/condo development on Native land in the U.S. Originally, he shows up at the scene to take pictures of the body, but when he finds out that his girlfriend's son, Stanley, is the prime suspect--and when his gut instinct tells him that Stanley's being framed--he starts back on the detective beat again.

After finishing the book tonight, and while washing dishes, I flipped on the CBC and was entertained by T.K. once more. I had forgotten about King's return to radio: "Dead Dog in the City" is pretty decent!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Currently on the Go:

The Self-Completing Tree by Dorothy Livesay.
Thumps Dreadful Waters Shows Up by Thomas King, writing as Hartley Goodweather

Women of the Bible - Jean E. Syswerda
The Red Tent
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh
Impact Teaching

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Literary Lapses

Lord love Leacock! This book is brilliant.

Today, I'm going to aim to be a little more Leacockian in my words and deeds.

Here's a small sampling of some favourite quips:

"If a girl desires to woo you, before allowing her to press her suit, ask her if she knows how to press yours. If she can, let her woo; if not, tell her to whoa." (So sexist, but such fun with words that I'm willing to let it slide...) (p. 29)

"You know, many a man realizes late in life that if when he was a boy he had known what he knows now, instead of being what he is he might be what he won't; but how few boys stop ot think that if they knew what they don't know instead of being what they will be, they wouldn't be? These are awful thoughts." (p. 19)

My favourite stories:

-My Financial Career
-The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones
-How to Make a Million Dollars
-The New Food
-A New Pathology
-Number Fifty-Six
-The Conjurer's Revenge
-Hoodoo McFiggin's Christmas (this will be read aloud this December, I promise you that)
-The Life of John Smith
-On Collecting Things
-Borrowing a Match
-Helping the Armenians

The Inimitable Jeeves

I just finished The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. This is my first foray into the Peej's stories and i think it's safe to say that my curiosity has been satiated.

Although my conclusion's a bit backwards (having read Alexander McCall Smith's stuff first), I'd like to assert that the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series that I read earlier this summer is decidedly Wodehousian.

Anyway, The I.J. was 50c well spent at the Rockliffe Book Fair last fall.

The best things about Bertie Wooster are:

-his penchant for short forms ('I could feel the persp. starting on my forehead' and 'that was understandable, given the circs')

-his illuminating nicknames ("I took a sip of the fragrant and steaming")

-and also his love of flashy fasions: mauve shirts, purple socks, blinding cummerbunds, and jazz spats in Eton's trademark hues. (Life's better in colour; I'm with you on that one, Bertie, buddy.)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Not Wanted on the Voyage

My first foray into Timothy Findley has left me with mixed feelings. Not Wanted On the Voyage has an incredibly appealing preface, but after that, things get a little too bizarre and (on occasion) a little too boring!

I have a deep respect for any artist willing to explore the gaps in long-accepted truth, to feel around in the dark caves of uncertainty and make guesses about the odd shapes they're grabbing at (that's what I call creativity), so when I started this book, I had incredibly high hopes.

The Preface is brilliant. It gives good reason to hope so highly. Here's a taste:

"And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him into the ark, because of the waters of the flood..." (Genesis 7:7)

Everyone knows it wasn't like that.

To begin with, they make it sound as if there wasn't any argument; as if there wasn't any panic... an excursion.

Well. It wasn't an excursion. It was the end of the world.

After that, things get a little depressing. There are some beautiful, bleak moments, such as this one:

Mrs. Noyes was all at once acutely aware of the darkness and the walls around her and the roof above her and the floor below. Her arms ached -- and part of the ache was the memory of why they were in pain. We are truly captives here, she thought; every one of us -- and yet they have called this: being saved.

Maybe that was what she had meant by safety and sadness: that she and all these creatures with her shared their captivity in a way they could never have shared the wood. That when you are caught in the same trap, you share the same fear of darkness and of walls and you also have the same enemy. You fear the same jailer. You share the dream of freedom -- waiting, all together for the same door to open. You also learn to survive together in ways the uncaged would never think of.

The ultimate message, however, that God is dead and that this God-less world, where compassion must bow to paranoid patriarchal fanatics, doesn't exactly make Mr. Findley's novel good bedside reading material.

It is, however, simply because of its subject matter, a fun book to read in the tub. (I'm not the first to admit that: Bill Richardson's Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast makes a similar proclamation...)

Monday, May 22, 2006

At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances

And the trilogy comes to a close. I don't have too much that I really want to record, except that Alexander McCall Smith's set is preposterously delightful. There are no consequences to reading these books, except a brief experience of intellectual vocabulary, and a temporary escape from anything stressful.

That, and I most enjoyed Professor Igelfeld's ironic disgust at British humour (all of the stories, being overtly humourous in that stiff-lipped, heady, British sort of way...)

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs

It just gets better. Book 2 in the series is a continuation of the hilarious antics and characters of book 1 (go figure) and Germany's finest feature--sausage dogs--plays an important part.

I haven't laughed aloud at a book in a long time...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Portuguese Irregular Verbs

I did some shopping in downtown Guelph today and lost all willpower in a used bookstore. The first of my purchases--Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith of No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency fame has made its way from the "want to read" list to the "have read and would recommend" list.

I read this book aloud, perched in the oversized armchair in my mom's living room, to the respectfully quiet audience of the two family cats--Simon and Harley--while home visiting this Mother's Day weekend. The cats didn't laugh along with me, but I'm sure they found it entertaining all the same. Alexander McCall Smith has such a delightful innocence to his writing, employing delicious words and eccentric characters in preposterous plots. I love it.

(I also love the fact that I picked up all 3 books in this set this morning--and that they all match and will look fantastic when I line them up on my bookshelves in Ottawa tomorrow. Vanity revealed.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

So, I was curious enough about mark haddon's novel to swallow my pride and read it even though everyone (and I really do mean everyone) who saw the book in my hand with my eyes flitting across the page had the nerve to tell me that they could not believe that they had read a book that I hadn't. (I think this book--or rather the mass of people who have read it--is responsible for me grinding about 3 mm off my molars...)

End verdict: neat concept, but I was bored before the end of the story. There were some good quotes at the beginning, but my interest sorta faded as the story progressed. Here's my favourite few lines:

Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.

There. That's about as mathematical as I get.

I think I need to mix things up with some non-fiction....

Friday, May 05, 2006

Ten Good Stories, Those Ones

I think that Thomas King is a genius. I've finally read all the stories in his short story collection that was given to me as a birthday gift a couple of years back. The book was actually a replacement gift, since two friends ended up getting me the same book--the children's version of A Coyote Columbus Story, which I suppose offers some evidence of my esteem for King's stories.

Two stories to highlight are: "The One About Coyote Going West" (I read it aloud to my roommate, who loved it, although she was a bit disturbed by the singing butt hole) and "Joe the Painter and the Deer Island Massacre" (I love the way it portrays the gruff elderly man and calls the reader to examine his/her own unexpected biases).

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Shipping News

This is a beautiful book that I've taken great pleasure from reading over the past few weeks. E. Annie Proulx carries a beautiful metaphor of knots throughout the book and gives language you can savour--words that your imagination can use to create something richer and truer than a picture alone. Here are the opening paragraphs, just to give an example:

Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns.

Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over his chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence. Stumbled through his twenties and into his thirties learning to separate his feelings from his life, counting on nothing. He ate prodigiously, liked a ham knuckel, buttered spuds.

His jobs: distributor of vending machine candy, all-night clerk in a convenience store, a third-rate newspaperman. At thirty-six, bereft, brimming with grief and thwarted love, Quoyle steered away to Newfoundland, the rock that had generated his ancestors, a place he had never been nor thought to go.

Early on in the book a widowed Quoyle heads off to a new job in Newfoundland with his two young children, Bunny and Sunshine, and an eccentric old aunt, who appears out of the woodwork, with a tragic, secret story of her own. Proulx proceeds to write life into the people of The Rock and creates an endearing community of characters that are, at one and the same time, both bizarre and beautiful.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was the equation of becoming a Newfoundlander with entering a new religion. Quoyle is baptized in the briny sea, pulled from the water by a man who then symbolically becomes his father figure, hauling him from near-death into rebirth. The same father figure--Jack Buggit--is included in a bizarre reworking of a resurrection scene (I'll leave out the details to save the plot).

There's also an interesting juxtaposition of Newfoundland old and new. I think I'll need to think this through a little more before I can write comments.

I guess the last thing that I'll write for now is that I don't understand how a film could ever do this book justice: it's the text that brings it alive, and there's way too much happening to cram into a 2-hour film. Still, I suppose I'll have to watch the movie version made a few years back and see how it compares...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Before there was Brokeback...

After the mediocre at best writing of Dan Brown, I'm spoiling myself with the wordsmithery of E. Annie Proulx. Yep, she's the author now famous for penning Brokeback Mountain but another book of hers became a movie as well. Remember The Shipping News?. Despite its success as a movie, there's more than just plot happening here. I'm only 1/3 of the way through (I fell asleep on yesterday's train....) but more to come.

al purdy, you coarse, crass, eloquent beast, you

rooms for rent in the outer planets. Go. Read. Now.

Da Vinci: Decoded

The Davinci Code is done. Stay tuned for details...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Da Vinci Got Me

Okay, so I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I'm currently reading Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. I had promised myself I would never read it, basically, because I consider myself a bit of a book snob and I leave the bestseller list for those who are just looking for something trendy and discounted at Chapters.

I am intrigued, however, by the hoardes of people who are reading this book and all the vague comments from my fellow English majors about its "spiritual profundity." My roommate is also hounding me to read it because she thinks its great. So, I'm making an attempt...

I'm reading it in private, though. I don't want any public eyes casting judgement on my choices of literature. (I'm kidding. Sort of.)

Mrs. Golightly and other stories

I have been bad at updating this little beast at all, but, partly out of guilt for abandonning a project, and partly out of my real wish to document what I've consuming, word-wise over the past while, I'm going to play catch up over the next while.

A month or so ago, I dove into Ethel Wilson's Mrs. Golightly and other stories. The only other thing I've read by Wilson is Swamp Angel, which was required reading for a Can Lit survey course I took four years ago. I remember loving that book, mostly because I hated it. (That makes sense, right?) I remember feeling like the book held some pretty patriarchal ideals, and being satisfied when learning that Wilson was, in fact, a bit of an anti-feminist.

I think I even remember my prof saying that Wilson didn't even start writing seriously until late in life because her primary duties were to her husband and children. (Oooooh.)

Anyways, Mrs. Golightly is special for a few reasons. First of all, it's a lovely hardcover edition of the book from 1961. Second of all, it came from the bookshelf of a zany feminist friend of mine who is in her 60s and was giving all her books away before she moved. (I was intrigued to find such a book on public display in her house! Granted it was outnumbered by Atwood and a lot of non-fiction oddities...)

I love the first story in this book, "Mrs. Golightly and the First Convention," and when I have my short story club (this summer, maybe? one short story a week for a month?) this will be one of the stories we read. It's just so fun... gives such a humourous picture of the stress of being a trophy wife at a business convention and the whole subculture of coiffed, cultured, bridge-playing bored stiff women of the 50s. Love it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Amazing Adventures of Father Brown by G.K. Chesteron

I am not usually a mystery story fan (although there is a soft spot in my heart for Mwa Ramotswe and the No. 1 Ladies Dectective Agency series), but I've always wanted to read Chesterton. I finally cracked open one of the handful of 25-cent Chesterton's I picked up at last year's Great Glebe Garage Sale, and I was pleasantly surprised!

(more to come...)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Saturday Satisfaction - swing low: a life

Miriam Toewes writes with an unmatched beauty. This book is a terrific compliment to my already favourite, A Complicated Kindness and has many interesting correlations. The fact that the main character is Toewes' own father makes the story that much more interesting and real.

Good quotes:
-I love the introduction. I will tell anyone interested in reading the book to read the intro. If that interests them, I'm sure they'll be hooked.

-C.S. Lewis reference about "We read to know that we are not alone." I need to find where this comes from...because I love it.

Mel Toewes is a teacher whose public/private spheres are very different.
Paternal loyalty as a theme?
Chicken--egg connection between swing low and complicated.

I loved this book. It doesn't have the sass of complicated but it makes up for that with tenderness. The two complement each other quite nicely.

This book was a gift from my friend Lynne. It arrived by mail this summer. I confidently place it in the "perfect, thoughtful gift" category.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Alice Munro's Latest

I just finished Alice Munro's Runaway. I can't say it's my favourite bit of Munro that I'v read, but this is pure talent, nonetheless. I'll still label Lives of Girls and Women as one of my favourite books ever, but this book is definitely worth a nod.

The last short story (60 pages is hardly a short story, BUT) did a good job of taking my mind off my nausea this morning. It's kind of hard to just pull quotes from Munro's stuff and say "this part is so good" because there's something lacking in meaning, especially with her stuff when you do that. Still, there are some elements in this book that reminded me of why I like Ms. Munro's writing so much.

The details. The odd details...the observations of observations...that's what makes this stuff special:

Mr. Travers never told stories and had little to say at dinner, but if he came upon you looking, say, at the fieldstone fireplace, he might say, "Are you interested in rocks?" and tell you where each of them had come from, and how he had searched and searched for the particular pink granite, because Mrs. Travers had once exclaimed over a rock like that, glimpsed in a road cut. Or he might show you such not really unusual features as he himself had added to the house design--the ocrner cupboard shelves swinging outwards in the kitchen, the storage space under the window seats. He was a tall stooped man with a soft voice and thin hair slicked over his scape. He wore bathing shoes when he went into the water, and though he did not look fat in his usual clothes, he displayed then a pancake fold of white flesh slopping over the top of his bathing trunks. (162-163)

or this one:

A Japanese boy with the sweetly downcast face of a young priest was chopping fish at a terrifying speed behind the counter. Ollie called out, "How's it going, Pete?" and the young man called back, "Fan-tas-tic," in a derisive North American voice without losing a bit of his rhythm. Nancy had a flash of discomfort--was it because Ollie had used the young man's name and the young man hadn't used Ollie's? And because she hoped Ollie wouldn't notice her noticing that? Some people set such store on being friends with people in shops and restaurants. (316)

At some level, I read this book guility. It felt like reading trash. The stuff is just so...far-fetched on some level, and at the same time so very...accurate? Impossible and believable at the same time. Both and intellectual and superficial entertainment at the same time. And perhaps that's why it's so fascinating?

One final quote that sums up the whole reflective, wise old woman quality of the book:

Her children say that they hope she has not taken to Living in the Past.

But what she believes she is doing, what she wants to do if she can get the time to do it, is not so much live in the past as to open it up and get one good look at it.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Run with the Horses

I am also reading Eugene Peterson's Run With the Horses ("A Quest for Life at its Best") which I started after Christmas. It's not quite as exciting as I had hoped, but once you get through the first through chapters (which I actually read and re-read) it gets better.

It's been a nice complement to my recent reading of the book of Jeremiah.

Shakin' Some Salt Again.

Although I didn't write it here, I did actually finish Out of the Saltshaker last summer. And it was great! Anyways, I've started a book study based on this book and we had our first meeting Tuesday, where we read the into and started a little bit of discussion. This will be exciting!

Disappointment With God by Philip Yancey

Also on the reading docket this weekend (travelling to York meant that I spent a lot of time of the Greyhound!) was Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey. The cover art on my book is much better than the one on the amazon link I've got there, but it's all I could find.

While it wasn't all I hoped it would be, it is pretty good (Yancey generally is pretty good) and I actually am using a couple of paragraphs from it as part of my talk at IVCF tonight on why we're doing acts of service. I think I'm going to call the talk, "What's in it for ME?" but we'll have to wait and see. Yancey is a good writer, though, and respected in his field, which is important to me. My second favourite thing about him, though, is his hair--the white man 'fro really is pretty cool.

Anyways, generally, this book looks at three questions that "no one" asks aloud. And by "no one" Yancey really seems to mean doubtful Christians who are anxious about rocking the boat with their skepticism. The questions are:
1. If God wants a relationship with us so badly, why does he keep his distance?
2. Why would a loving God let bad things happen?
3. What can we expect from him after all?

More to come on this book. But I must say that it has attracted some interesting looks while reading it in public....

I just checked on Abe Books and there are 238 used copies available, starting at $1.00 US. Hopefully that's a reflection of it's popularity and not is quaility....

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Okay, so it's been a while since I've used this blog, but I'm going to try and make at least a casual commitment to keep it semi-updated. Last weekend, I read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and pretty much loved it. One review called it, "a silly book for smart people," and I pretty much agree!

This was recommended by my friend Emily and was the perfect after-dinner mint for my Jane Eyre/Am. Lit Seminar last semester. It really is funny, and basically anybody who has read Jane Eyre should read it. I believe the next book by Fforde is based on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson, so I shall have to read up on Alice before diving into that next phenomenon.

The Eyre Affair earned me some possible brownie points, too. I had my teacher's college interview at York U on Saturday and shared with my interviewers that I was a bit of a bookworm. One of the two teachers who interviewed me asked me for a book recommendation, and I told her about Fforde and she was very exited. It's the book that keeps on giving, I guess!