I (heart) Michael Ondaatje

Oddly, as I was reading this story, I actually thought, "Sounds like a character from Murakami's work." You know, since I read one single Murakami book, making me an expert.

Moving on from being totally pretentious.

I've had In the Skin of A Lion on my coffee table for at least two weeks now, waiting to be reviewed. Or whatever it is I do here, with the books.

Michael Ondaatje's writing is just so lyrical. Whimsical. The man is my new best friend -- if he, like, knew me. So I guess I mean to say we should really be friends. I'd be all, "Hey, Ondaatje, tell me a fairy tale!" And he'd say, "Trish, do you really need another fairy tale? Hasn't your collection of chick flicks on DVD fed you enough lies about unattainable romantic love?" And I'd whisper uncertainly, "No...."

Moving on.

"In books he had read, even those romances he swallowed during childhood, Patrick never believed that characters lived only on the page. They altered when the author's eye was somewhere else. Outside the plot there was a great darkness, but there would of course be daylight elsewhere on earth. Each character had his own time zone, his own lamp, otherwise they were just men from nowhere." p. 143


"Official histories, news stories surround us daily, but the events of art reach us too late, travel languorously like messages in a bottle.

"Only the best art can order the chaotic tumble of events. Only the best can realign chaos to suggest both the chaos and order it will become." p. 146

I know these snippets tell you little about this book. I raced through the novel, sprinted through it in a single day at the airport (it was a long, long day, although I have nothing to complain about really).

The image that stayed with me, though, was that of a nun falling off a bridge, grabbed, then shedding her skin for another life. I don't want to ruin anything for you, but it's so, so good.

I fell a little bit in love with Patrick -- more so in his later, quieter days than his early eager ones. But there is this wistfulness in him, from childhood through fatherhood. And, at once, mourned him. I really have to re-read The English Patient at some point. (Thanks, S.)

In the meantime, however, I am finishing Happenstance, before starting a George Orwell book for book club. I am fascinated by the idea no two people can ever really know each other, can ever actually crawl into each other's minds and understand what's going on. And I can't get over the pent-up anger in Carol Shields's women. (Again, talking like an expert when this is only my second Shields novel. Sigh.)

I am also overwhelmed by the reality -- the absolute truth -- that a woman needs a room of her own. And that this was once a novel idea, an idea to hold your breath for or cross your fingers for or wish with your whole body that someone else would understand.

I've always been so curious about women my age who refuse to identify themselves as feminists. They shy away from seeming militant or scary. But I see that I, too, have just no idea.


away on an island....

Okay, this is my parting Christmas-themed posting.

Yup. This video, or I was going to revisit the classic, Winter Dreams, Christmas Love. My favourite Christmas book since I was about 12 years old.

That's right. Who wouldn't love this sentimental moment?

Finally Michael sighed and took her arm to walk back to the car. "That's what I call one special evening, Ellen Marlowe. It would be a shame to waste a snow like this on just anyone. Thank you for being a winter nut like I am."

At her door he lifted her chin, and looked at her for a long moment. Then he leaned over and touched her lips with his. In that moment, she realized that no other kisses but his could ever mean anything to her. Something almost like electricity tingled in her lips and down her entire body. She couldn't breathe but she didn't want to. She only wanted to hold him tight and keep that trembling excitement coursing through her forever. But almost at once he had pulled away and was smiling down at her. "Merry Christmas, Ellen, and I hope the rest of your freshman year is great." (p. 127-128)

Guh. Where do I start.... Why I have a faux sense of reality when it comes to romance.... Worst dialogue ever.... Sorry, I mean lame boy monologue.... Or do I mean lame girl dreaminess? Just, guh.

Merry Christmas, mes amies.


two months, three weeks, three nights

"A woman, if she is to write, Virginia Woolf once said, (or words to that effect), must have a room of her own. The garret bit never appealed to Morag unduly, but by God, it is at least a room of her own." p. 294

I'm just back from a short bit of lovely, homey holidays. Quiet days spent in southern B.C., where the snow was falling and wind whipping and I had every excuse in the world to wrap myself up in a blanket and read Margaret Laurence's The Diviners.

I have to tell you, I've found a new author to obsess over.

Laurence's work -- no surprise for any fan of CanLit -- is frankly brilliant. Thirty-four years after first publication, The Diviners still reads as absolutely ground-breaking. I marvel at the painful honesty with which Laurence treats her heroine, Morag Gunn.

This is the story of a woman who longs for something just out of reach, always. In the deep of the Depression, she wants to have money. In the heart of a loving but disgustingly poor home -- and Laurence marvels in the dusty, grungy, smelly corners of this small Manitoba home -- Morag wants to be clean, to smell good, to be smiled upon by fortune and neighbours.

"'I want to be glamorous and adored and get married and have kids. I still try to kid myself that I don't want that. But I do. I want all that. As well. All I want is everything,'" (p. 182) Morag tells her friend.

In finding herself, Gunn learns all the uses of a man. I don't mean that to sound shallow or vulgar. What I mean is, this is no romance novel. This is no tale of happily ever after.

In marriage, she wants to know her husband absolutely. Completely. She wants to be his equal, she wants him to take care of her. She wants a child. And so, over time, she learns man can be provider. Lover. Father. Friend. One-night stand. A man can be used for what a woman needs, the way a woman can be used for what a man needs.

For me, the haunting aspect of the novel is that, sometimes, a lifelong search can leave your hands empty. Depending on what you're looking for. I know that sounds cryptic, but I don't want to ruin this novel for you if you've not read it. On my little holiday alone, I read over the book almost three times. Before I'd gotten halfway through, I needed to go back and skim through again, review for lost clues. Once finished, I read it all one more time, studying Laurence's great attention to the importance of culture and personal or imagined history. Her decision to use sex as illustration of loneliness, love, isolation and one woman's choice to drop everything expected of her.

I'm not the first or last person to analyze Margaret Laurence. And, you could probably find much better analysis in a high school English class. But I was so very moved by the rich detail.

"You can't go home again, said Thomas Wolfe. Morag wonders now if it may be the reverse which is true. You have to go home again, in some way or other. This concept cannot yet be looked at." p. 302


on book clubs and snobbery

Dear Jocelyn Bowie:

We totally don't know each other, which is probably a good thing, as you apparently hate book clubs.

Which, of course, explains why things didn't work out so well for you. It appears you joined a book club in your new town for the sake of networking, which was probably your first mistake. Book clubs aren't about making business connections, they are about eating good food and making new friends and enjoying general awesomeness.

You got all snobberiffic about your new friends' book picks. I kind of get that. We've all had those moments. I recently got totally high school because a co-clubber chose The Catcher in the Rye, and I followed up his selection with Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. It was a bad move. All revenge-y, very ninth grade. But generally, I am in a book club so that I can read stuff I would never think of picking up on my own. If I only wanted to read books I expect to like, why would I be in a book club?

(Imagine all the beautiful works I would have missed if not for book club? Like Sweetness in the Belly? Black Bird? The Time in Between?)

But, Miss Bowie, did you really have to give an interview to the New York Times mocking the hell out of your former fellow book clubbers? If you think you were being polite when you told them you weren't into fiction, you totally scratched that by telling the New York Times you lied. People, like, read that newspaper, eh? All over the world.

Not cool, dude. And the Library Girl glasses only make you seem more pretentious. But maybe I'm the only person in North America who read this article and felt the need to share?

Assy McJudgesalot


  1. How glad am I that blogger.com doesn't allow you to see how many people read your stuff? When it comes to this little space in the world wide web, I'm pleasantly clueless as to who really reads my posts. A couple friends, my parents.... I'll never know and I'm totally cool with that. My work blog, on the other hand, presents a dashboard that makes me absolutely crazy. I am bizarrely driven to load stuff onto the site in hopes of watching numbers go up, not down. This must be -- almost -- what it's like to be a TV reporter and have to live through sweeps. Gah.
  2. Less about my neuroses, let's look at other people's.
  3. This bookshelf reminds me of Lost. Only 46 more days until the season premiere!
  4. Reading Margaret Laurence's The Diviners, I'm struck by how fake most descriptions of the Depression are when written by people who didn't live it. Sorry, that's a little unfair. Elizabeth Hay's A Student of Weather certainly speaks to a sheer grittiness of the times, and Richard B. Wright's Clara Callan covers off a sense of hopelessness. But Laurence's work is something else. You can almost smell the times in the pages. No one in Morag's childhood is beautiful, not even a little bit. Laurence does not put makeup on these people, she does not make them better than they are. She gives them massive fault lines that you could absolutely sink into if not for the fact she brings you back to her present (the 1970s) again and again.
  5. I think we'd all like to know a little bit more about how this blind date ended. Because I'm thinking it couldn't have lasted very long. Perhaps Quebec's best friend called her on the phone to make sure she could escape after 30 minutes if things weren't going well. Yes, girls do do that.
  6. More poetry, please. It's what a good life needs.


so much to mock, so little time....

Right -- who hates Jacques Parizeau? Hands up.... yes, yes. That's what I thought. Glad we're all on the same page.

Now, back to 2008.

So how much do I love the idea of a slavering Jane Austen cult "fuelled by Colin Firth in a wet blouse?" Why, as much as the next girl, of course.

But the insanity of this story? Priceless. Best line: "But there is a line and yes, mounds of human remains left in gardens crosses it!"