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.