2008-11-28

2008-11-24

brain tired

So, check this out. On the one hand, I'm all, "ew, Barbie." But then, I hit the, "I love Amy Poehler." Followed by, "Will Arnett's dancing too! I love Will Arnett! Fingers crossed for an Arrested Development movie! Even though the Sex and the City movie sucked so, so much."

(I know I should be over how much the Sex and the City movie sucked. But I saw it on the plane to Paris and it made me angry all over again. And then -- salt in a wound -- the folks at HMV insist on sticking at least one of the movie DVDs alongside the TV show DVDs, sullying the very name of Carrie Bradshaw and all the ridiculous pre-recession commercialism she stands for.)

Brain so tired I have begun complaining, again, about something I've complained about many, many times before. Sorry. I should be talking about how fantastic Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road is, but I'll wait until after book club, after I get to hear what everyone else thought about the last chapter. What to read now? I will not start Garbo Laughs until I have a quiet day to sit back and read the whole thing in a single gulp. The Diviners has been sitting on my bedside table for a long time....

(Ooh! Wikipedia claims Margaret Laurence's final work has been dubbed blasphemous and obscene! Sweet!)

Did I mention I spent much of my evening watching MLAs debate whether rodeo should be the province's official sport? Seriously. I've never heard the terms "city boy" and "urban cowboy" tossed around so liberally. (Sorry, did I say liberally? This is Alberta, after all. I'm sure I meant to use another adjective.)

2008-11-22

cougars, chick lit and Christmas

Okay.... You know when you see a cougar at a bar?

(Yes, I know this is mean.)

Anyway, cougar at a bar. Sorry, two cougars at a bar, because cougars rarely travel alone. They are wearing something painfully horrifying, like white jeans and a vest as a shirt. You feel bad for them while hoping you are not going to become one. You take a quick look down to make sure your waist flab is covered by your shirt and jeans, not out there for the world to see. Anyway, besides the point. The point is, you see the cougars flirting with guys who are way younger, who are often blinded by drink, and the whole thing is just icky and embarrassing for all present. Also, reason enough to never let tequila pass your lips again.

On that note, I offer you this, which I assume happened sans tequila, but shouldn't have:



On the likelihood YouTube has wrested this video from its site, simply know Tyra Banks made the star of Twilight bite her neck. On daytime television. Yick.

Moving on.

Somehow, my blog was excluded from this list. Perhaps I should be happy, as this is sort of confirmation my blog is not all about chick lit. Or, I should be less self-centred for three seconds and recognize these here words are not an international cultural phenomenon in the making.

Um.... moving on again.

Today was a beautiful day in Edmonton. I'm not sure who needs to know this on the record, but it really was. It was the kind of day that made you feel good about winter (probably because it was like 7C), and a little excited about Christmas (even though Christmas decorations seem to be throwing up everywhere).

To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of Christmas is its romance -- not like sexual/love romance, but historic/times lost romance. I'm thinking of the way Anne describes a snow fall on Prince Edward Island over a hundred years ago, a snow fall completely unsullied by exhaust fumes and the constant background music of cars going past your apartment windows.

So, I offer this review, because nothing makes Christmas like Little Women.

2008-11-21

is it the weekend yet?

I don't necessarily want this set of shelves in my apartment, so much as I want to be friends with the person whose home these shelves live in. I like the lighting. And the general sense of coziness.

Must set off for work, though.

By the way, coworker and I have a newly updated political blog. Note to self: Always suck lemons before having picture taken.

2008-11-17

goop

Let's say you are not reading this fantastic book now. You are not drawn into Xavier's wandering history, into Joseph Boyden's unlinked narrative that reads like a spoken aboriginal tale, into the exciting revelation this is but one of three books apparently tied together. You are not sort of snickering at the idea of Boyden as a young Canadian literary voice for our time, then realizing 42 isn't really that old and you have nothing to snicker about after all Miss Not 30.

Anyway, let's just say none of these thoughts fill your mind or day.

Are you left with this? I sincerely hope not.

a "literate presidency"

There are so many ways to mock George W. between now and January, eh?

2008-11-16

favourite quote of the day

From my friend Andy: "Did a romance novel throw up on you today?"

Seriously. I don't know what is wrong with me lately. It really should have passed by now, but I have to admit the arrival of Christmas won't help. What with holiday-season Starbucks cups and lights on at City Hall.

And, books like this won't help either. (But I withstood temptation, concentrating my purchases on friends' Christmas presents and another Elizabeth Hay book.)

Moving on. Completely random and off-topic, but can anyone tell me what the hell is going on on Grey's Anatomy? I know primetime shows are becoming increasingly soap-ish, and daytime soaps are dying, blah blah blah. But seriously? Bringing back people from the dead? What's next? Will McDreamy be possessed by the devil?

2008-11-13

Yann Martel, Yann Martel, Yann Martel

Inexplicably, this song is still stuck in my head....



Yes, I know the federal election has passed. Perhaps it's the coming and going of a rather important arts gala?

2008-11-12

portension

So, there's the kind of foreshadowing you don't even notice until a book is done. Then you are compelled to return to the start of the novel to track back to the points you wished you'd noticed before. (See Unless, when we discover why the main character's daughter stopped talking, why she signed out of civilization.)

And there is the kind of foreshadowing that keeps bonking you over the head, reminding you again and again that something is going to happen. Elizabeth Hay's most recent novel, Late Nights on Air, falls in this category. I didn't mind it until a friend pointed it out, really. And until I started reading A Student of Weather, in which Hay also exercises a heavy hand in hinting at the future.

But in reading her debut novel, I came to realize foreshadowing -- when done best -- is like a red velvet ribbon twisted around and through a narrative, holding it together, making it stronger. Yes, there are a few plot twists I would have preferred to be surprised by, but Hay's choice to lay the groundwork early on better draws out the character of Norma Joyce. Hinting at all the fragmented pieces of Norma Joyce's heart, all the places she will go and see, helps the reader better understand this little girl who becomes a woman in 364 pages.

Most important, Hay clearly knows when to hold back. The twist that rips a hole in Norma Joyce's story is never, ever hinted at. It comes almost out of nowhere.

Norma Joyce Hardy is one of the most fascinating heroines I've ever read.... For so much of the book she's described as something of a gnome, a negative little beast more typical of a villain. And her actions are those of an anti-hero, at least early on. But Hay allows for Norma Joyce to age, to become an adult. To fade, if you will. It's not quite Anne Shirley becomes Anne Blythe or anything (a sad example of a spirited character killed by marriage, age and children), but it's a quieting of obsession.

And at its heart, A Student of Weather is the tale of an obsessive love that crosses decades. The object of Norma Joyce's affection reminds me of Hubbell -- there's a practiced carelessness to him. Will he ever change? Is there any hope?

"Oh, men with twinkling eyes. You should be strung up at birth." (p. 87)

Hay is a gorgeous, gorgeous writer (I really have to purchase and read Garbo Laughs). I can't say enough good things about her books, about the spells she casts in her stories, about her ability to make me read and read without ever wanting to put a novel down. Hers are, at their heart, simple Canadian stories told in a straightforward way, as if you were telling your best friend the highlights of your life story. These are stories of land and heart, of family and solitude. Hay lends such an importance to place, allowing Prairie fields, or Ottawa's Rideau Canal, or Yellowknife's Pilot's Monument to be characters of their own. Characters that fill in the blanks the way people never can.

A parting piece to take away from this fascinating tale:

"This is always central to old fairy tales, the prince's tendency to forget. But then maybe charm and forgetfulness always go together. Maybe forgetfulness allows you to be charming because people don't register enough to be a burden. And so the Prince Charmings forget their true loves until something reminds them, a shoe that fits, or a ring they recognize, or a wave of water in the face. Certainly in those heady days after his return, Norma Joyce did her best to be unforgettable." (p. 151)

2008-11-10

insert relief here

Hello internet friends!

I feel like it's been ages since we last met.

In recent days, I have destroyed my computer. A computer virus took a page from Homer, and a Trojan invaded. Or so the kid at the store explained. Then he rebuilt everything. He treated me like a bit of a moron and at one point tried to talk to my male friend about my hard drive. It was not unlike that scene in Sex and the City where Carrie learns about backing up. Important lessons, but where does one put all these back-up disks?

The good news on the destroyed computer, by the way, is getting it fixed has made it all fast-like on the internet connection. The bad news is every single piece of fiction I've put to hard drive in the last three years is gone. Most of it was crappy, so it's not like a loss to humanity or anything. (Imagine if Chaucer had to navigate computers? and then screwed up?) But still.

At work, I have learned where I never, ever want to have a baby.

And, at home, I have been sucked into another Elizabeth Hay book -- despite what I must now admit is slightly over-the-top foreshadowing. But I think this bodes well for my ability to think at the same time as I work and do other activities.

So, time to sign off and get back to Hay's textured, Depression-era Prairie world. In the meantime, I offer you deep thoughts on the future of marketing literature. (Thanks to Sarah!)

2008-11-02

Dear Germany:

I forgot to tell you I love you.

This kind of reminds me of the unspoken lending libraries you find in youth hostels. I doubt it would work in Canada, though -- and not because of a lack of mutual trust. I'm thinking about weather, people.

two more sleeps

What I learned from book club today....

  1. There is another book, also by the name of Cloud Atlas. Or actually, The Cloud Atlas.
  2. The Cloud Atlas at hand, however, is about man's predatory nature. Or so my friends tell me.
  3. I should also be reading Salman Rushdie. How have I not gotten on that?
  4. And Oscar Wilde.



In other news....

The FT decided not to go Obama-related in its books section this weekend. But it never hurts to contemplate how Google has become a verb and a starting point for virtually everything in our universe....

John McCain was on Saturday Night Live this weekend. It hurt to watch. Like Stephane Dion in the English debate, when he turned to the camera and said, "Don't believe this man." Oy.

Washington Post + book blog = Nov. 4 talk, of course. It's, like, three breaths away from Nov. 4, people! Eeee....

Last of all, for S., a dreamy tour of Calgary. You's got places to go, girl. Ooh -- and look who else is headed to Cowtown? Clearly this is a happening place :)

2008-11-01

love, love, love....

It’s gorgeous out there today, so I’m keeping this short.

First off, welcome to November! No snow on the ground yet! (Knock on wood. Apologies now to all fellow Edmontonians if I jinxed us.) I feel like this is going to be a good month. A great month. A month of blogging in a timely fashion.

Admittedly, I’m not off to a fantastic start. In about 24 hours I am expected to meet at book club to discuss a novel of which I have read 40 pages. Despite T’s advice not to leave it to the last minute. Note to self: Always, always listen to T.

What I did read while on vacation, however, was this.

Oh, come on!

It’s all in good fun. Author Jennifer Cox preps herself to go on 80 dates with men all over the world -- it’s real-life rom-com! Exactly the kind of travel book I can buy into, because apparently I’ve become the most romantic person ever lately. All cuddly and smiley. Don’t worry -- I will get over it.

So, this woman went out there, into the world, to find her soul mate, on the theory we all spend so much time at work these days we take no time for romance. And any time we do take is from the seat in front of our computers. And why don’t we treat our love lives with the same focus and attention we treat our jobs? Why not be goal-oriented? Why not write out your relationship resume, then make all your friends set you up on a series of dates that really do take you hop scotching across continents?

Well, maybe because it’s a bit irritating. And crazy. And does anyone want to admit to being so obsessed with finding a mate? Not to mention, does anyone actually have time for this?

But the thing is, Cox comes across as super endearing (for most of the book -- towards the end, the inevitable happens and she starts to sound like one of your friends who Won’t Stop Talking About Themselves and you kind of want to toss the whole thing, content in the knowledge she’s content despite her bitching). And her dates are actually interesting. Some are completely over the top -- apparently men in every single non-land-locked place on earth think a romantic date involves a big… boat…. Others are brutally hilarious -- at one point, she finds herself getting a foot rub with a date when her masseuse discovers a disgusting wart and hacks it out mid-conversation. Yikes. I laughed out loud on the plane, couldn’t help myself.

And some of her dates simply aren’t dates. This saves the book, too, because at points you need a break to enjoy the scenery and pure quirkiness of humanity as much as she does. She spends a quiet afternoon at Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris, and has a fascinating conversation with a “love professor” in Sweden. She goes on a date with Romeo, and meets a man dedicated to a love long dead…. (sorry, but I thought it was super creepy)….

At times, her writing devolves into Carrie Bradshaw-esque questioning: “Clearly the Laureates were accomplished, unique people. But was being accomplished and unique at the expense of something more everyday and vital to our happiness? In short, to be a great idealist did you need to be pretty self-centred and emotionally unavailable? Were they just a smarter, more noble version of me: choosing a job over a partner? But since they were making the world a better place rather than writing about where to go on holiday, did that make it okay?” (p. 96)

But mostly, the book is a romp. A silly, easy-to-read, not un-educational romp.