Lori's Book Nook

Archive for June 2006

I live in Penticton, British Columbia. It’s a lovely little city in the sunny Okanagan Valley, on a glacial morraine between 2 lakes — Okanagan and Skaha. We moved here two months ago, and we take possession of our new house in 7 days.

The best thing about this town must be The Book Shop;…an amazing secondhand bookstore that could possibly be the best one I’ve ever been in — and I’ve been in many. Knowledgeable staff, acres of space, active acquisition policy, huge poetry collection,…(you know what’s important). No real competition for an hour’s drive in any direction.

Anyway, I found the book I was planning on looking for yesterday: Slouching Towards Bethlehem, the collection of essays by Joan Didion. Her preface alone was worth the price of admission, the writing is so tight:

“….My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so tempermentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.”

The title of the book comes from Yeats:

THE SECOND COMING

by: W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

  •  
      URNING and turning in the widening gyre
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
      Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
      Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
      The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

      Surely some revelation is at hand;
      Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
      The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
      When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
      Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert
      A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
      A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
      Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
      Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
      The darkness drops again; but now I know
      That twenty centuries of stony sleep
      Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
      And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
      Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
“The Second Coming” is reprinted from Michael Robartes and the Dancer. W.B. Yeats. New York: Macmillan, 1921.

(Source: Poetry Archive)

Here is an excerpt from one of Joan Didion’s essays, from the book Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

There is some sinister hysteria in the air out here tonight, some hint of the monstrous perversion to which any human idea can come. “I followed my own conscience.” “I did what I thought was right.” How many madmen have said it and meant it? How many murderers?

Hmm.  

This post is more just a reminder to me to read this again…and to find some of her essays next time I’m browsing in a secondhand bookstore.

Or, one of my top 3 lists…

Are they still my favourite books, or have I not updated the list in awhile? Hmm…

Here goes:

LOTR
What can I say? Hold up your hand if you've read them more than once. More than twice? Keep your hand up. More than 10 times?
On the top 3 list because I've re-read these books every year since I was first introduced to them as a pre-teen. I don't remember reading them for the first time though…
For their re-readability, and film adaptability, they are true classics.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

One of only a few books to move me to tears….complicated tears too, not just a sad 'boo-hoo'. How does one classify this book? I've seen it called a mystery — which is odd. It's a compelling story of 3 damaged, but likeable, people living in New Zealand. When I find this book in a secondhand store, I buy it, and give it away. I once gave it to a friend for Christmas, and she was totally pissed off at me the next day, since she stayed up all night reading it instead of sleeping.

Read it, don't read about it. Any description could not do justice to the story, the characters, or the lush writing.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtney

The movie captured the tone, but not the wonderful depth of the story. This is another book that moved me to tears — and again, far more complex tears than just 'oh poor kid'. A great story about a little boy growing up in South Africa as apartheid takes hold. A moving story about a boy who learns to box. A fascinating story about….

Ack. Again. Just read it. But once you are utterly enthralled with Peekay and his life, do not read the sequel, Tandia. It's good, but disappointing in many ways…but mostly because it does not have the wondrous hope of the first.

I've been spending too much time in front of the computer, mucking about with email, money, job hunting….

Time for a bit of pleasure…Arthur Rimbaud's poem "Au Cabaret Vert, cinq heures du soir" (from this wonderful tribute site):

Depuis huit jours, j'avais déchiré mes bottines
Aux cailloux des chemins. J'entrais à Charleroi.
– Au Cabaret-Vert : je demandai des tartines
Du beurre et du jambon qui fût à moitié froid.

Bienheureux, j'allongeai les jambes sous la table
Verte : je contemplai les sujets très naïfs
De la tapisserie. – Et ce fut adorable,
Quand la fille aux tétons énormes, aux yeux vifs,

– Celle-là, ce n'est pas un baiser qui l'épeure ! –
Rieuse, m'apporta des tartines de beurre,
Du jambon tiède, dans un plat colorié,

Du jambon rose et blanc parfumé d'une gousse
D'ail, – et m'emplit la chope immense, avec sa mousse
Que dorait un rayon de soleil arriéré.

Octobre 1870. 

 For those that want it in English, here is a translation.

It is more a question of which one will I find first….the participants at BookTalk.org have had a hard time choosing the next book to read and discuss — it was almost a tie for the two front runners.

A Peace to End all Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin

or

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett

Gads — neither is light reading, and now the group is going to decide attempt both of them!

I'll keep you posted!

…says the cover quote, attributed to Neal Stephenson, a great SF writer himself.

So, who is this about? Sean Stewart, author of my latest library book, Perfect Circle: A novel about Texas, ghosts, and perfect pop songs. Sean Stewart's books are thoughtful, odd, haunting, and addictive. This one is no exception. It is unexpected and ennerving, and worth picking up.

My favourites of his other books (that I've read…) are:

Nobody's Son is the other half of a fairy tale, after the words: And they lived happily ever after.

The Night Watch takes place in Vancouver, BC…it is a future where Magic has taken over, and humans in the downtown core hold the line against the encroaching Forest, which has reclaimed the rest of the city.

Whew!

Posted on: June 12, 2006

We’ve all had those memories — the really cool ones from your childhood that, when you stop to think about them, may have been merely figments of your imagination?

I could swear I remember a secret passageway in an old barn, or even one of the old farmhouses one of my friends lived in…I remember climbing in, and climbing down….or do I? I was young — I could be remembering a (probably terribly dangerous) hay chute, or an old dumbwaiter. Or, did my neighbour read me some really impressionable novels? (She was older, and did read Charlotte’s Web to me when I was maybe 7….Christina, thank you.)

Well, for awhile now, I’d wondered if I’d dreamed my childhood favourite. Okay, no, I didn’t actually look up the author’s full list of titles, but I’d never heard anyone but me mention this book — and Gerald Durrell’s books get mentioned a lot!

Have you ever heard of The Donkey Rustlers? One of Gerald’s books for kids. I distinctly remember taking it out of the library at least twice…but I don’t really remember the story. I am now on the hunt for my own copy. Powells.com doesn’t have it…Abebooks.com lists 30 copies around the world.

Will it stand the test of time? How many childhood favourites do?


Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!