Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.
--D. H. Lawrence's poem Piano, published in 1918
It's this last fact I hold closest.
Let me backtrack for just a moment -- bear with me, and apologies for the personal trek down memory lane.
In my family we do not have aunts. And certainly, I do not have any "awnts," as the Maritimers might say. I have tsias (the Italians) and aunties (the French-Canadians and Swedes). And Aunty Pam is my favourite.
There are many reasons for this -- geographical proximity when I was very young, my inability to remember a time when Aunty Pam wasn't part of my life and giggling, and of course, presents. What can I say? Like every other kid, I was pretty fickle when it came to likes and dislikes, and a good present went a long way with me.
She was the first person to give me a diary. It looked like a denim jean pocket and had a lock on its side, even though there was no one in my house with any interest in reading my diary. Still, I hid the key. Its clean white pages invited all the worries of an eight-year-old girl, and on its very first page my aunt scrawled a note. I don't remember the note, but I do remember the handwriting. I used to try to copy that handwriting.
Aunty Pam also offered a second inspiration to my young dreams of one day becoming a writer. She gave me the first three books in the Anne of Green Gables set -- Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island. My favourite was the first. My second favourite the third. Later, when I read the rest of the set, I had a serious soft spot for Rainbow Valley, and Rilla of Ingleside pulled up alongside the first favourites. (Anne's House of Dreams, though, bored me to tears.)
I wanted to be L.M. Montgomery. I wanted to be Anne. I wanted red hair, and to have my stories published in newspapers, and I wanted a posse of girl friends to boss around and make re-enact Tennyson poems. I wanted children to arbitrarily love me, and I wanted to be an adored teacher. I wanted to have silly adventures, although I had no interest in accidentally making my best friend drunk.
I know, I've talked about this before. The gift of these works, though, were they were my first ticket to CanLit. They bridged the gap between the Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume books I first read on my own, and all the books I would later read as an adult. They were stories of Canadiana, of a pastoral time before the time I knew. They made me imagine what fresh-fallen snow might look like if there were no cars, and what roads and highways might have looked like if Anne had had her way and farmers hadn't been allowed to hang advertisements on their fences.
For all these dreams and imaginings, I owe my aunty.
- I'm sick of the folks at my local Starbucks asking me if I'm sure whenever I ask for something other than a tall cinnamon dolce latte. (In a way I can't blame them, since nine times out of 10, I do want the CDL. But, as one of my coworkers recently pointed out, there's such a massive turnover at this particular coffee shop and, really, every single service place in the city, that no one should be able to remember my drink order. This says something about me, not them, I know.)
- No Logo.
- The after-taste of a latte at Three Bananas Cafe, for example, is incomparable. Life-altering, perhaps. Pure coffee goodness.
- Douglas Coupland makes me angry.
That last one threw you off, eh?
First, you're wondering how anyone could ever be angry at Douglas Coupland. (Who, by the way, has the best author website in the world. Honestly.)
But there are only a handful of "The Way I See It" messages to be found on the tall cups at Starbucks in Edmonton. One is from Madeleine Albright reminding me to stop hating women or being catty or something like that. One from Newt Gingrich about the battlefield of ideas, yadda yadda.
The one I get virtually every day is written by Douglas Coupland.
"I know a lot of morning people and I know a lot of night people but I have yet to meet a late afternoon person," it smirks self-indulgently, like Genius Douglas Coupland is the only person in the world who likes to sleep in. It mocks me when I have to get to work by 8 a.m. and I hate everything already, and then the King of Generation X is making fun of me because I'm bleary-eyed and angry at myself for not getting to the pool at 6:45 or some other ungodly hour I set my alarm for but couldn't muster the strength to meet.
I shake my fist at you, Douglas Coupland, you ironic genius of Canadiana. Shake. My. Fist.
(Wow, one of those authors does not belong in that sentence.)
But, I had to share this -- another, if Fugified, example of why the Shopaholic movie isn't going to work. Perhaps the costume designer is Pat Field, and Pat Field wouldn't know Topshop if Kate Moss hit her over the head?
Yes, readers. You know what you've done. You all have me doubting my ability to read books by men. Sure, I might love Henry Fielding. And.... Shakespeare.... But I have a difficult time focusing on the finely-formed sentences of men.
Not all men, right? I really enjoyed Douglas Coupland and Nick Hornby in the last twelve months. But truly, my attention span is low -- take What is the What as an example. Excellent book, for sure, but I had to rush through the final three hundred pages in five hours Saturday night. I was up until 4 a.m. My eyes hurt. And I never, ever, felt any closer to the main character. Which is weird, because it was a fictionalized autobiography. Yet I felt there was a distance between me and him.
A failure on Eggers's part? I don't think so. A gender gap? Perhaps.
On this note, I am challenging myself to read more male authors. I've started with an easy one. D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.
That's right. A formerly banned book. A book published decades after Lawrence's death. But if there is ever a way to move past the the gender gap, it must be through the rhetoric of inappropriate sex.
Anyway, I'm already loving everything about Lawrence's matter-of-fact style. And I'm going to stop talking about this now. I think I'm blushing.
"Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen." (p. 1)
".... being a girl, one's whole dignity and meaning in life consisted in the achievement of an absolute, a perfect, a pure and noble freedom. What else did a girl's life mean? To shake off the old and sordid connections and subjections." (p. 3)
".... early in 1918 Clifford was shipped home smashed, and there was no child. And Sir Geoffrey died of chagrin." (p. 9)
In other unnecessary trinkets, Holly's Inbox has been updated entirely for its merchandising book-selling powers.
And, I found this today, which is not altogether uninteresting if not related at all to books.
Okay, must get going, back to the marathon read-fest.
With someone younger, too. Easier. More charming, even if she has a tendency to waste her talents on efforts that do no one justice.
I read the newest Sophie Kinsella novel this weekend. Overnight, really.
I know, I know. I'm supposed to be reading What is the What as quickly as possible (by next book club meeting, which is Sunday). I'm ashamed of myself, truly I am.
It was just so.... simple. Like brain candy. Or when Big chooses Natasha, or Hubbell cheats on Katie with the chick with straight hair and no personality.
Erm, back to books. Remember Me? was.... sweet. Simple. Sort of like "Samantha Who?" except the amnesiac is missing just three years of her life to memory loss versus a whole lifetime. Honestly, this plot decision actually makes the author's job harder -- we are expected to believe the main character, Lexi, has changed completely, inside and out, in less time than it takes to change over a U.S. presidency.
In some ways, it's cute -- imagine waking up one day with perfect hair, perfect teeth, and a perfect body. And you didn't even have to work for it. I mean, you did, but you don't remember it and so it's kind of like magic. Like Other You did it while you were sleeping. Cool, right? And I'm all for plots that ask you to suspend disbelief (Bewitched, for example, or Vanity Fair), but what gets me is the personality transplant. No person goes from doormat to uber bitch in three years. And, at the end (sorry, this is a titch of a spoiler), we're asked to believe Lexi was a bitch on the outside who regretted adopting so many evil characteristics....
Ugh. I guess you'd have to read it to get where I'm going on this one. Although I can't in good faith suggest you go out and read this book. I mean, I liked it, but I generally love Sophie Kinsella's poppy ridiculousness. Even when there are enough holes in the plot line for the whole thing to fall through.
What I hated, though, was the idea a woman at work has to be -- no, needs to be -- liked. That to be disliked, or avoided, is a bad thing. Now, I'm not saying I endeavour to be hated at work. Who would? And I'm not among the power-suited '80s generation who believed being evil and duplicitous was key to success. But I hated when Lexi started killing herself to be liked, when she started bringing muffins to work and crying in her office instead of paying attention to the fact her job was being yanked from underneath her....
[Insert sigh here.] Okay, I'm going to stop looking for deeper meaning in stereotypical chick lit. Shockingly, there is no feminist undertone. I just have to live with the fairy tale of it all.
[Complete sidenote for everyone who hates Daylight Saving Time. Which, surprisingly, includes many people.]
But I have to hand kudos to David Eggers for calling it what it is, a fictional biography. Because, obviously, there are those who don't.
What I've never gotten about these people is why they do it. If your completely fake story is totally awesome and fictional, why not sell it as awesome and fictional? Similarly, on the journalism front, doesn't it take, like, a thousand more hours to create a whole fake story than it does to just pick up the phone and call someone, then ask them questions, then write a true story?
Okay, no, seriously, I'm getting over it. And so, I have to share an election win I can totally get behind.
In other news -- book related! -- What is the What has certainly picked up. I'm still not in love with it, though. It's odd.... on the one hand Eggers is a brilliant writer, his subject matter is fascinating and moving and certainly exciting. On the other hand, I keep falling asleep while reading the book. I can't explain it. As exciting as the story is, the prose is somehow extremely passive. I'm sure many people disagree with me on this.
I would like to share, though, a line I just love:
Humans are divided between those who can still look through the eyes of youth and those who cannot. (p. 116)
(These people point out that Paul Martin stepping down minutes after defeat did no favours to the federal Liberal party. Point taken.)
It does not matter whether you come to politics from the left or right of the spectrum. It does not matter if you think the current (reigning) government has done a good job or not. No party, no democracy, benefits from not having any opposition at all. When I last saw the head count, the Tories had 73 of the Legislature's 83 seats. The Grits had eight. The NDP schlepped in with two, cutting its caucus in half.
Meanwhile, voter turnout was a pathetic -- absolutely pathetic, no matter how you cut it -- 41 per cent. The lowest this province has ever seen.
This was my very first Alberta election. I felt more like I was a part of this province 24 hours ago. Now I'm just really, really sad.
So, I'm just 60 pages into What is the What, and I'm torn.
It's written so well, but somehow seems like a slow start. It's hard to call it a slow start when the main character is bound and robbed in his American apartment -- I'm not ruining anything for you, fellow book club members, as this happens in the first 10 pages -- but I really want to get to Africa. I want to get to what happens to the Sudanese Lost Boys, to the story. I'm feeling slightly sidelined by the main character's memories of his daydreams from when he was a child.
Also, every time I read the words "TV Boy," I think of "Sick Boy." And then I think of Ewan McGregor (but not, ironically, Jonny Lee Miller), and then I've lost focus altogether.
Where was I? What was I saying?
Hm. In other news....
- Alice Hoffman has a new book coming out this spring. This is very exciting. I love Hoffman; she can make a strawberry seem fascinating, mysterious and somehow ghostly. A summer's day, in her hands, is shadowed by danger. A clear night is a dream. The moon has power. I can't wait to read this.
- While I have given up on Jennifer Crusie's blog, I appreciate it when an author has a full list of upcoming projects.
- I can find nothing new on another favourite author, Ann-Marie MacDonald. This makes me sad.
- Quarterlife apparently did very poorly in its television premiere last week. I didn't watch it either, but that's mostly because I'm addicted to its internet presence. I was especially addicted during the writer's strike, but even now I tune in every Sunday and Thursday. Even if it's horrifically overdramatic at times. But I think the hero and heroine, Dylan and Eric, remind me so much of people I've known (and The Sweet Edge, actually) and been and mocked that I can't help but enjoy.
But I read Rick Mercer's blog this morning (afternoon), and thought, "I have to share this with everyone, immediately." Because tomorrow is election day in Alberta. And the polls foresee another Tory majority (duh).
But seriously, in the province that has the highest number of young people in the country -- er, thanks to the oil industry, so I'm thinking the Green party's still out of luck -- what do the polls tell us?
I'm still sitting by my two completely innocent cell phones, waiting for someone to pencil me in as "undecided."