contemplating neuroses

"I honestly do not know why I feel the daft sting of imagined embarrassments. The ones that occur are more than plenty, God knows. I must not let myself think like this. I don't know why I do. Unless to visualize something infinitely worse than anything that could possibly happen, so that whatever happens may seem not so bad in comparison." -- p. 68



My great mistake was in being born the younger. No. Where I went wrong was in coming back here, once I'd got away. A person has to be ruthless. One has to say I'm going, and not be prevailed upon to return.

But how could I? (p. 13)

I'm wading through Margaret Laurence's A Jest of God.

I say wading, because I can't bear to sink into it and the loneliness of heroine Rachel Cameron.

Really, "heroine" -- so far -- is an overstatement. Rachel is so sad! Possibly depressed. She is a school teacher in her early 30s, living alone with her widowed mother in her hometown. She sleeps in her childhood bedroom, teaches in her childhood classroom, gets her hair done by the same dresser she's known all her life....

But here's what I like: It's bloody honest.

This is my second Laurence novel, first released in 1966. And yes, on the surface Rachel is a lovely martyr. But in her head, she's railing against her mother's bridge parties. She shakes her fist -- in her head, again -- at her smug married sister. She purposely turns a blind eye to children being bullied in the school yard, not because she doesn't care, but because she can't let them know she cares.

And she's evaluating the whole time. There's a bitterness to her character, but I match it to hope for a turnaround. There's a plot to come, yes? Laurence could not have written a Governor General's Award for ability to depress? And surely Margaret Atwood would not have written the afterword if Rachel turns out to be little more than the put-upon Anne Elliott of Manitoba?

I'll keep you posted. And then, I will start reading new book club selection The Year of Magical Thinking.


romance breaker-builders

Ok, I know this is a trashy question (ba-dum-bum), but I love it: What is your favourite romance-cliche-keeping-the-protagonists-apart-but-somehow-they-overcome-for-the-sake-of-love plot line?

I would have to say it's the passage of time.

Think of Persuasion -- misunderstanding grounded in youth keeps Anne and Wentworth apart. They have to overcome the years together, somehow.

How about Where the Heart Is? (I know, lame, but it can't be all class all the time around Brilliant title to go here.) When Novalee first comes to town, she is absolutely far too young to get it on with Forney, the grounded librarian. They need time to stew and grow up and figure themselves out.

Yeah, I like "time" as a breaker. Which is funny, because in real life I hate waiting for anything. But perhaps patience can be found on a hope of happily ever after?

And now I sound like a moron.

So look, see what you can read for free online? An important book. About important things.



From Bookshelf, of course.

final thoughts on Oscar Wao

Some news.... I'm just back from a weekend in Montreal.

Where I bought these:

Not, mind, for their high literature-ness so much as their easy-to-read-ness and my own renewed sense that I'm not really being terribly true to my French Canadian heritage si que je ne peux pas parler francais. (Excuse the horrible, horrible French.)

I'll keep you posted on my progress....
Meanwhile, I finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I was recently asked why I would read something so very depressing, and I didn't quite have an answer.... For all its hip-hop new American prose (which, Erin, I thought was poetry, but more importantly I think it carried a level of reality that makes the story more accessible to an entire generation or two--this is how people talk, eh?), the story was almost like a Russian tragedy. One of those tales that wends in and out of history, putting forward the idea you are your past, and you are your parents, and you are your family's history, too....

Sort of a scary idea, really.

At the end of the day, though -- SPOILER ALERT -- the story is hopeful.
Yes, Oscar is a tragic figure. Yes, perhaps a great deal of the story is dedicated to the question of whether this tragic figure will ever lose his virginity.

But the image Yunior paints of Lola's daughter, of the little girl who he hopes to one day walk through her family history, as if he is some sort of keeper of all things de Leon, is enough to carry the tale into a sort of optimism. Will the little one avoid the fuku? No, that's not really the point. But will the narrator help her understand her past? Maybe, hopefully. And maybe it's understanding your past that can help you to a happy future? Maybe that's why Lola is so very much the survivor?

Sorry, this is very scattered. I'm playing off book club discussions I only half-understood a week ago, and I suppose just a little bit of jet lag.

Closing arguments, not really related to this argument at all, but to media and democracy:
"No matter what you believe: in February 1946, Abelard was officially convicted of all charges and sentenced to eighteen years. Eighteen years!.... Maybe you'll ask, Why was there no outcry in the papers, no actions among the civil rights groups, no opposition parties rallying to the cause? Nigger, please: there were no papers, no civil rights groups, no opposition parties; there was only Trujillo." (p. 247)


Poor Oscar

Ok, I'm racing -- RACING -- through The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, in time for tomorrow night's book club.

Yeah, baby, I'm going to get this thing read. And learn lots of Spanish. Like muchacho. And portato, which I think means "act like." Also, I am learning lots about science fiction geekiness.

An excerpt for your perusal this.... grey.... Saturday morning:

"Poor Oscar. Without even realizing it he'd fallen into one of those Let's-Be-Friends Vortexes, the bane of nerdboys everywhere. These relationships were love's version of a stay in the stocks, in you go, plenty of misery guaranteed and what you got out of it besides bitterness and heartbreak nobody knows. Perhaps some knowledge of self and of women.


(p. 41)



My loves keep colliding!

First hot dogs and books, now Bollywood and Austen. (Again, actually. And since Bride and Prejudice was not very good, I probably shouldn't be so excited. But it's Emma! What could go wrong with a Bollywood adaptation of Emma? And Abhay Deol, whom I've just discovered on YouTube, is adorable. Two thumbs up if he is to play Mr. Knightley.... although technically Knightley is one of my least favourite Austen men.... Right. I'm happy. I'll stop criticizing now.) I hope there will be dancing.

If things continue going my way, there will soon be a vending machine in the legislature. It will carry Skittles.



When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.
-- p. 359,
Alias Grace

Women are taught from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, everything else is needless, for at least twenty years of their lives.
-- p. 9,
Mary Wollstonecraft