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.