Lori's Book Nook

Archive for the ‘Drama of Life’ Category

More reading! I must admit, I’m enjoying this…it’s been awhile since I put reading on my priority list. It’s helped that I’ve been a bit sick the last few days, so I’ve done nothing but read!

#8 – Leslie Darbon‘s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced. A play! Yes, I’m sure I’ll read a few more in the coming weeks. I do enjoy plays, the theatre and the like – as evidenced by my other blog, Theatrical Thoughts (also a bit neglected unfortunately). This one we had around because my husband had been in it years ago…and to be honest, I didn’t know the story. Turns out, it’s a Miss Marple story, so there was an added bonus!

#9 – Ronald Millar’s Abelard and Heloise: A Play. This one I’ve had hanging around for a bit, waiting to read it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been fascinated for awhile about the tragic story of Héloïse D’Argenteuil and Peter Abelard. The play dramatizes events of the story, with a strong philosophical/religious angle. Not bad, in that it humanizes the characters a bit more, and gives Heloise a very strong role.

#10 – Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (now a movie!) A friend loaned me this absolutely delightful, cinematographic novel, and I can see (get it?) why it was snapped up as a film. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will soon. It’s truly a wonderful little novel, although at 500+ pages it seemed far more daunting than it was! Selznick, being an illustrator, has drawn a goodly part of the book, so it was really a matter of a couple of hours of looking and reading.

#11 – Roger Ebert‘s Life Itself: A Memoir. The first movie reviews I ever paid attention to were his and Siskel’s – how could I not pick up a copy of his memoirs? Some things stand out in a book full of interesting moments and pithy observations:

“The main thing wrong with a movie that is ten years old is that it isn’t thirty years old. After the hairstyles and the costumes stop being dated and start being history, we can tell if the movie itself is timeless.” (page 157)

“There is a test for an actor who, for a moment, is just standing there in a scene: Does he seem to be just standing there? Or does he, as John Wayne did, seem to be deciding when, why, and how to take the situation under his control?” (page 253)

(Regarding his inability to eat/drink/speak) “What’s sad about not eating is the experience, whether at a family reunion or at a midnight by yourself in a greasy spoon under the L tracks. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. Unless I’m alone, it doesn’t involve dinner if it doesn’t involved talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments, and memories I miss. I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to start reciting poetry on a moment’s notice. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it’s sad. Maybe that why writing has become so important to me. You don’t realize it, but we’re at dinner right now.” (page 383)

Overall, a highly enjoyable, meandering memoir. I didn’t realize that they’d made a documentary of this book, and his life. Now I have to look that up!

That’s 11 books in a month, at this rate, I should be able to finish 95+!

 

 

 

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My #1 pleasure in life? Browsing in a bookstore, esp. a second-hand bookstore, or one with piles of discount, ‘remaindered’ books…I love the never knowing of rummaging these piles.

Anyone else with me? (If you’re ever in Victoria, check out Munro’s Books, for those sale tables and extensive selection of new books)

Today’s treasures:

The Book of Martyrdom & Artifice: First Journals and Poems 1937-1952, Allen Ginsberg.

Random excerpt (p168 in my copy):

“January 13 [1947]

Tried tea and junk tonite for second time.

Hip conversation:

“You bug me.”

“I bug you?”

“Yeah, you bug me.”

“I bug you.”

“You bet you bug me.”

“Well, you bug me.”

“So, I bug you.”

Hmm. Art?

I also picked up Rita Mae Brown‘s memoir, Rita Will: Memoir of a Literary Rabble-Rouser. First couple of chapters are fun…but then her writing is always fun.

Well, I seem to have been in a gay mood, now that I look at it. Must have been the discussion this morning over breakfast about the local baker who discriminates against those of alternate sexual persuasion. Guess where I don’t buy cupcakes?

Lori

So, yet again, the Internet has come through on its promise of connecting people. (It’s not all kittehs, bacon and jokes!)

Awhile back, I followed an incoming link to this blog to a literary publicist who it turns out represents a talented author, Cheryl Rainfield.  An email exchange resulted in me being sent a review copy of Rainfield’s new book Scars, undergoing its Canadian launch June 24th in Toronto.

First impression? The cover is striking, fraught even, featuring the author’s own arms. The audience? Ostensibly for the Young Adult set, but accessible to many. The subject matter? Not my usual fare, on the surface grimmer than I like…

But what a book!

I’m not going to go into a synopsis of the story here (check out the book link above for a review that does that job very well). I do want to say that once I started this book, I plowed through it quickly. During the last chapters, as the story reaches its crescendo of tension, I literally could not put it down. My husband had to serve me dinner on the sofa, where I was curled up reading.

The autobiographical element is evident in the ringing truth of the main character’s experiences, but the book is also clearly a novel. This is definitely not some maudlin woe-is-me semi-autobiographical work…instead, it’s a powerful, realistic and positive story of a young woman who finds her way out of her own little corner of hell. Once the story is done, and the main character Kendra has found her home in that corner of your mind reserved for the most real of heroines, the extensive collection of resources at the end of the book underline the seriousness of the issues raised. And those issues? Self-mutilation, rape, homophobia…a stew well-balanced with the love, support and clarity that the main character finds.

As I said earlier, this astounding book has its Canadian launch on June 24 in Toronto, at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre (details on the author’s website).  I think a West Coast event should also be arranged…what do you think?

Where do you pile your books? My hubby and I have piles on our bedside tables mostly, then some in the living room, the kitchen, the dining room…and they all live in the basement library/movie/party room (technically the ‘family room’).

The other day I was tidying the bedroom, and emptied the already-read and not-going-to-get-read-soon books off the two bedside tables:

Putting books away...

Then, I pulled books from the living room and kitchen to complete the tidy:

More books being put away..

This post for your voyeuristic enjoyment.

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I’ve been reading a  lot in French lately.

[My that sounds pretentious. My apologies. I’ve been studying la belle langue for work, and my own pleasure, and I read. Seems logical]

Last fall, I read Ensemble, c’est tout by Anna Gavalda…a lovely story of 4 unlikely friends who find themselves sharing an elegant apartment in Paris for a time. It’s an absolutely lovely book, the characters are fascinating and realistic, and some moments will move you to tears. I mentioned it awhile ago on this blog, where the only thing I really said about it is that they’d made a movie out of it. I’ve since read the book and seen the movie — my suggestion? Forget the film. Find the book. The movie hits the bulk of the plot points without delving into the characters at all deeply — and the characters make the story truly live. (The English title chosen was Hunting and Gathering — odd.)

So then the book L’Élégance du hérisson by Muriel Barbery was recommended to me by my tutor. And I would like to thank her deeply for both (1) pointing me in the direction of this brilliant book and (2) assuming that my French was up to the high-brow erudition of this novel en français!

From the first chapter, first paragraph:

I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our respective kindred species. Because I am rarely friendly—though always polite—I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: I correspond so very well to what social
prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusion according to which life has a meaning that can be easily deciphered. And since it has been written somewhere that concierges are old, ugly and
sour, so has it been branded in fiery letters on the pediment of that same imbecilic firmament that the aforementioned concierges have rather large dithering cats who sleep all day on cushions that have been covered with crocheted cases.

(Source: the sample chapter on the US publisher’s site)

So there I was, reading this in French, marveling at the gorgeous sentence structure, and then I got bogged down and unfortunately had to put it aside. I found it in the wonderful English translation, and continued reading…and was not disappointed.

The publisher’s reading group guide is available, for those that enjoy filtering their reading through themes.

Any other suggestions pour des livres en français pour moi?

The advantage of having an active book fetish is that it attracts other bookish people, and their books.

I recently received a copy of Kathrin Lake’s new book From Survival to Thrival: How to catch the boat to y our successful, thriving life (even if you thought you’d missed it) from the author:

#1 Thrival Guide for Career, Love and Life

#1 Thrival Guide for Career, Love and Life

It’s a mouthful of a sub-title, but it reflects Kathrin’s chatty tone quite nicely. (I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her Kathrin…after reading her book, I feel like we’ve chatted more than just briefly through email.) The text does read like you’re having a sit over a cup of tea, and your wise friend keeps refilling your cup and feeding you very useful metaphors along with the plain spoken advice.

I’ve done my own share of self- and soul-searching over the years, and have delved into it all. I’ve read the weird and the wonderful, the odd and the inspiring…but I can say quite definitively that I have not read a self-help guide so down-to-earth.

The simplicity, no, the clarity of Lake’s advice is a bit disconcerting. Her ideas are not revolutionary or novel, just presented without the bells and whistles that jazz up the more colourful (and less credible?) presenters. This unadorned prose resonates with my own thinking and sits quite naturally with me.

As a linguist myself, I appreciate a woman who points out that the word success has other meanings…as in to come after in time or order or follow. And she asks the simple question: What if success were defined as progress, instead of a result? What if success were defined as not where you end up, but how you live your life every day?

What if we stopped keeping our self-praise and self-esteem building blocks for special occasions, like your mother’s good china, and let it out every day (the Good China Syndrome)?

The discussion on need vs. want sets up a very important distinction. It reminds me greatly of June Singer, a Jungian analyst and author, who discussed the difference between using a verb vs. a noun to describe your profession (in the brilliant book Boundaries of the Soul). Do you tie your work to who you are? Or to something you do? (Try it on for size: “I am a teacher” compared to “I teach” — if someone criticizes my teaching, my self is more at risk if it is part of my identity, instead of one of the things I do.)

I will stop here, and recommend that you visit her website — there’s lots to see!

Lori

One of the books I’m reviewing is, well, rather brilliant — mesmerizing even. Zed, authored by Elizabeth McClung (Arsenal Press).

If you can read the first paragraph and not be drawn in, then okay, you don’t have to buy it. But if you can’t wait to read more, here’s the first chapter online.

Her name? Zed. Age? Eleven, twelve, maybe thirteen – it wasn’t like she was getting three square a day and multivitamins. She was small, four-foot nothing: thin, grubby, but with a thrust to her chin which told you, as you saw her beetling down the hall towards you – best step aside. Most people were fairly certain Zed was female. Her soft features and long lashes were contrasted by grey uniform coveralls, slick and shiny from constant wear. The hair was the deciding factor, because it fell, wildly uneven, to shoulder length. Once a year, Zed assaulted it with her knife, hacking it back above her ears. She had a habit of tilting her head down and staring up at people from under her bangs. She just showed up one day – no relations, no history. No one knew much about her, and those who did never passed it on. People didn’t gossip about her, at least not more than once, because if she caught them she’d stick her knife point somewhere soft on them and ask, “Got anything more to say, Chuckles?” which, invariably, they didn’t.
Yes, she fit right in with the Tower.

C’mon, Elizabeth! Get working on another one!


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!