About Me

My photo
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Globe and Mail: The Great Canadian Literary Quiz

I read a lot so I should ace this quiz, right? No way. Of the first ten questions I knew only numbers 3 and 7.

"1. What 2005 novel begins with this sentence? 'It starts off there's an alligator with its jaws open on a dirt road.'
2. What comes after Vidiadhar Surajprasad?
3. 'As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.' The quote is from a winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. What does that contest recognize?
4. I was imprisoned in Venice for practising magic. I was a librarian in Bohemia. I am a noted, if doubted, memoirist. Who am I?
5. It runs from Barbara Ward Jackson to Stephen Lewis. What is it?
6. What are the stomping grounds of these Canadian sleuths?
i) John Cardinal
ii) William Murdoch
iii) Eric Stride
iv) Ellis Portal
7. 'Every word she writes is a lie, including 'a' and 'the.' ' Who's dissing whom?
8. Nickels aplenty are found in what recent Canadian novel?
9. What book has new Nortel chief Mike Zafirovski been brandishing?
10. Who is the author of Touch Me: Poems, After the Fall, Wednesday's Children: Adult Survivors of Abuse Speak Out and Eat, Cheat & Melt the Fat Away?"

The Book 0f Illusions

I thought it was high time I read something by Paul Auster and The Book Of Illusions is what I had kicking around. David is a dead man, emotionally speaking. His wife and two children were killed in a plane crash and he sinks into depression. He sits in front of the TV isolated and drunk. One night he sees an old silent slapstick comedy starring Hector Mann. He laughs, the first positive emotion he's felt since the crash. He decides to research the life of Hector Mann and write his biography. Mann disappeared mysteriously many, many years ago shortly after making his last movie. The biography is considered to be a definitive work and leads to a contract to translate a work by Chateaubriand, Memoirs Of A Dead Man.
While working on the translation, still isolated and depressed, he receives a letter from Mann's wife telling him that Mann is alive, though unwell, in New Mexico and wants to see him. After that things move very quickly and melodramatically for David, his life is threatened, he falls in love, he discovers the horrible secret that drove Hector into the desert to do penance. The road to happily ever after is full of potholes because David also has to do penance. The book asks the big question, "Is a life unknown a life unlived?"
I've heard a lot about Paul Auster: in France he's a literary superstar. Perhaps this was the wrong book through which to make his acquaintance. It explores personal tragedy in an interesting way but I thought his manipulation of symbols was a bit heavyhanded - more allegorical than I'd like. This book got me thinking, it held my interest but, in the end, left me a bit cold. But then, I guess a book about three "dead" men is meant to do that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bookins Rocks

Bookins, allows book trading between users. You browse books listed for trade on the site and create a wish list and list books you're offering for trade.
Our members are “budget conscious bibliophiles” (try saying that three times fast!). Bookins makes you feel good about parting with books you have read. Instead of letting them sit on a shelf, we make your books happy by finding them new homes…and new readers! Plus, you get the books YOU want in return.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Gilmore's Comments On Winning the GG

"What I can tell you is, I can't do any better than this," he remarks. "I remember a scene in (the film) Apocalypse Now, where Marlon Brando does this improvisation, and at the end he says, `That's all I can do today. If you want something else, get a better actor.' I kind of feel like that. This book has all my technique, it's about a subject I really care about; I thought while writing it, if it doesn't work, I don't know what I'm going to do, but probably I won't write another novel for a long time.... In poker parlance, this was a hand I really wanted to win."
The award, he maintains, has rescued his writing career from the doldrums. "There have been moments in the last 10 or 15 years where I've felt deeply irrelevant — just really, really irrelevant — as if I could just stop doing this and not only would people not care, they wouldn't even notice," he comments. "That's a very depressing place to land. With this book I thought, `If I give this book everything and it just vanishes, I'm out of tricks.'
"The real enemy for a writer, it's not booze. It's vanity that will kill you deader than anything else. Well, my vanity over the last few novels — how should I put it? — has been really, really punctured."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Madame Bovary

It's taken me a long time to get around to reading this novel. What finally did the trick was the large print! Along with my attendance at two fiftieth anniversary parties for friends (not grandparents) my attraction to large print makes me realize that I'm getting on. As most everyone knows, Madame Bovary is a work of nineteenth century realism that resulted in an 1857 obscenity trial - a dirty book. Emma is a convent educated farmer's daughter who marries a country doctor. Her brief exposure, at a party, to a more elegant and sumptuous lifestyle makes her life with the simple yet kind Dr. Bovary seem all the more dull in comparison. Her evening at the Viscompte's estate is a turning point, a "that's the flavour I've been missing" moment. Emma recognizes her passionate nature, has a baby, has affairs that burn bright then fizzle out as she, wanting more, becomes increasingly possessive. She also buys lots of stuff, incurs debt and becomes the victim of a loan shark, all in an attempt to banish the ennui that has overcome her. When she can no longer hide the evidence of her profligacy from her husband, who surely would have forgiven her, she takes her own life. Then her heartbroken husband dies, abandoning her little daughter to a bleak future. That's it in a nutshell. It's not romantic but it is tragic. She commits adultery and is punished for it.
Flaubert's prose is economical - he' doesn't use two words if one will do and I think that's what I liked most about the book: his ability to create clear and vibrant images out of few words. And his descriptions of Emma's relationships ring absolutely true, even today. The constraints on women were considerable at the time the novel was written and Flaubert writes about the inherent conflict between these constraints and Emma's passionate nature. There is something of Emma in every woman. It's a very modern view and makes this a great rather than a briefly sensationalistic novel. But, course, no one needs me to tell them this.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Home Fweet Home

"This site houses a collection of over 71,000 notes related to James Joyce's last work, Finnegans Wake, amassed from numerous written sources. This site also houses a search engine to allow you to search the entire collection. "

Sunday, November 13, 2005

FRESH YARN presents Google This... by Harlyn Aizley

I love the Fresh Yarn site. Here's an entertaining essay:
"It took at least a year of therapy before I had the courage to Google my therapist. Digging up information beyond that which she had control over seemed wrong, antithetical to the whole process of transference and psychic healing in which I was personally, as well as financially, investing. I knew my therapist prided herself on being as close as any human being can be to a blank slate upon which I might safely plaster each and every one of my plentiful neuroses. She shared with me nothing about herself, and I knew better than to ask." More

Monday, November 07, 2005

Writer John Fowles dies aged 79

When I was in high school I used to pretend to like reading John Fowles. In truth, the only book of his I was able to finish was "The Collector". In retrospect I guess I was too young to appreciate him.