Monday, August 30, 2010

another mouth to feed

As mentioned the other day, something has been brewing. Meet Isambard (Izzy).

He's very shy, and is currently napping/hiding under the couch. There's a lot of very slow movements going on around here.

I finished Such a Long Journey. I had to push myself through it. Not that it was bad, I just couldn't concentrate or focus or get pulled into it.

So, now I'm on 16/72 Clara Callan (2001) by Richard B. Wright. So far, so good. It has a fabulous cover - well done, Harper Perennial.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Elle was an incredibly fast read. I wasn't even prepared for it, and realised 3/4 the way through that it was nearly over, and that I hadn't bought my next book from the list yet.

I went down to the Barnes & Noble in Union Square with a list of recent books on the list, thinking they would at least have one of the books. Title after title (even the ones published by big US publishers like Picador, tsk tsk) weren't in stock. In that huge B&N! The one they did have - and that one became #15. I had been dreading this one somewhat. I tried to read Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters once upon a time, and could not get into it at all. But now I've got #15 - Mistry's Such a Long Journey.

A few thoughts on Elle: I thought it was fab. It's the kind of book I really enjoy reading - a historical novel full of myth and humor. And maybe some dirty parts.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Last night I finished The Origin of Species, and solely for the benefit of Elissa I'll share a few comments on it.

I started off feeling negatively towards it (even before Elissa said she didn't like it), simply because it's not normally the kind of story I like to read. I fought off my own early judgements and tried to keep an open mind.

It's hard to get into a story when you don't like the protagonist. Maybe not always, maybe not when the protagonist is funny, but I didn't find Alex (or anybody in this book) funny. It's probably unfair and unreal to have been reminded of Mordecai Richler while reading this (I'm not sure exactly why I did - Montreal probably), but I kept thinking about how funny Richler's unlikeable people are, and missing that in this book.

There were a lot of times where I could identify with Alex - mostly at the worst times, like the most socially-awkward times. That probably also accounts for some of the discomfort I had with him - seeing bits of yourself in someone you don't like.

I think it was a really weird choice to win the Governor General's award. It wasn't badly written in any way, but it wasn't particularly fabously well-written, either. I didn't find it moving, and I didn't feel convinced by the transformation of Alex by the end. Not that I didn't think it was believable, it was just that I still didn't like him at the end, and I felt that his breakthrough was so slight.

And then, I thought at times it was trying to be some kind of anti-CanLit model - poking fun at CanLit when Alex teaches it as a boring course, or goes on about Margaret Atwood and her book Suvival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature. As though by recognizing these things it was disassociating itself with the stereotype. At the same, the book is also ultra-Canadian in details - there's even an ongoing imagined dialogue with Peter Gzowski. So much so that I thought, as I read on the subway, that people might peek over my shoulder and wonder how on earth I came to be reading something Canadian. Yes, I did think that. It made me wonder if the GG choice was political - as if they chose it because it was the anti-CanLit. Which is not to say that I think the award winners particularly exemplify the stereotype of "CanLit" - not at all. I dunno, I haven't read enough of the winners to finish this thought or make any accusations. Maybe if I get the energy I'll whip out Survival and properly think about The Origin of Species against Atwood's themes - because we all know that is the bible of the Rules of literature in Canada. That was an intentional capital R rules!

All in all, I didn't hate it. I didn't like it. I was glad when it was over, but I didn't hate my time with it. I'm a bit baffled by the overwhelming celebration by critics (and the cover blurb from Roddy Doyle - really did he think it was that funny?), but it is very interesting to note that all the reader reviews on Amazon (.com, haven't checked .ca) have been "meh" 3-star reviews.

Next on my list is Elle by Douglas Glover (2003), but only after I finish another, non-Canadian book for a book club of more than one.

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