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!