One Day?

Has anyone heard anything about this book?

Aside, of course, from the fact Anne Hathaway has been cast to play the lead in the film, drawing random British ire?

One Day, written by David Nicholls, just kind of sounds like a book I'd love to read -- all drawn-out love story, years of banter and worrying and wondering?

To be continued, at some point....



I'll admit, when I read the jacket on a copy of Room, by Emma Donoghue, I had that pit-of-the-stomach, I-don't-feel-up-to-reading-this-at-the-moment feeling. (Especially since the UK hardback looks like this, which is far more haunting than the North American cover.)

So, coming to Jennifer Weiner's interview with Donoghue on the same note, I'm moving towards picking this one up.... Who's read it? Thoughts? Did the Giller folks overlook it?


changed my mind

I've decided I don't want to be Edith Wharton when I grow up.

I know. Big announcement. Ms. Wharton would probably be very disappointed.

But as I was sitting in a coffee shop today, literally drinking a cup of coffee, I started to fall asleep while reading In Morocco.

I do realize this makes me sound like an absolute moron -- what kind of person lays out "I started to fall asleep" as part of a critical review? Not a person who should be taken at all seriously in the world of criticism. Especially since I also haven't read Wharton's fictional work.

Nonetheless, I think I'm going to part ways with this book, and its colourful descriptions of landscapes and rooftops.

Going into this work, I was aware Wharton's observations would run to the kind of colonial stuff of early-20th century missionary/Christian women. But where Karen Blixen shared snippets of conversation and told stories of people's lives and adventures, Wharton's book only lays the groundwork for what Morocco is or was.

That said, that is quite an accomplishment. As Wharton points out from the start, at the time she was writing this book, Morocco was relatively unknown beyond its coastline to "western" readers. She is more or less writing the blueprint for future travel guides, albeit with a great deal more talent and poetry.

Examples of what is lovely about this book:

"It is a good thing to begin with... a mishap, not only because it develops the fatalism necessary to the enjoyment of Africa, but because it lets one at once into the mysterious heart of the country: a country so deeply conditioned by its miles and miles of uncitied wilderness that until one has known the wilderness one cannot begin to understand the cities." (p. 14)


"Buildings, people, customs, seem all about to crumble and fall of their own weight: the present is a perpetually prolonged past. To touch the past with one's hands is realized only in dreams; and in Morocco the dream-feeling envelopes one at every step." (p. 85)


small confession

As I read In Morocco, I think I want to be Edith Wharton when I grow up?


Juliet, Naked

I think I was too invested in the outcome of Juliet, Naked.

Yes, friends, consider this a short note of caution after two previous blog posts urging you to read Nick Hornby's latest novel.

The thing is, the rock star at the centre of the novel -- Tucker Crowe -- is irredeemable. His really, really bad qualities are what make him, his story, his interactions with his children, and his correspondence with the novel's heroine, hilarious.

About 60 pages from the end of the book, though, I wanted something to change. And, again and again, I thought Hornby was throwing me a bone. I can't really expand on this because, honestly, I really really think you should read the book. It made me laugh out loud an embarrassing number of times.... Perhaps I was actually too much of a fan of the book, and just didn't want it to end.


quick round-up of reads....

Well, even away from Edmonton I find this profile of the University of Alberta's president fascinating -- particularly the question raised about selling out.

In lighter fare, I can't put down Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked. I literally started laughing out loud on a train the other day. Man, I love Hornby.

Finally, saw this in a bookstore the other day -- haven't picked it up, but it looks fascinating, yes?


in Paris

"Thou art alive still while thy booke doth live and we have wits to read and praise to give."


updates from the road, and you must read Larry's Party

Aw, have you read the end of Larry's Party? The party part?

I promise I won't ruin it here -- like real life, it's best not to know how things find their conclusion. But if you haven't read this Carol Shields tale, you have to. Yes, Larry is selfish. And sometimes not a great person. And a little too warmed by his own charm and his own place in life. But maybe we all are from time to time.

In other news, I finally found a paperback version of Juliet, Naked and so I have train reading for this weekend.


where are you reading Larry's Party?

(In my mom's backyard, Friday afternoon.)

I heart several things about Larry's Party, including the cover art, which was provided by Carol Shields and perfectly illustrates the main character's endless self-study and perpetual, selfish childishness.

One of the things I like very much is how Larry as a character is something of a roving target, a person whose likes and dislikes and bits and pieces move with time. So the decision to lock into his life about once a year, and tell a story about where he's at at any given time seems to reflect the fluidity of living.

Take, for example, Larry on his 30th birthday:

"....he's supposed to be sunk in gloom at the thought of turning thirty, but he isn't. He's unique and mortal, he knows that...." (p. 42)

Versus, his 40th birthday:

"Beth believes that 'it' is like a novel with its ups and downs of plot.... What Larry's going through is a natural phase. A chapter. A passing condition, this inflation of sadness....

"He doesn't want 'it' to blow away, that's the catch.

"When he wakes in the middle of the night, three o'clock, four o'clock, he is immediately alert to the presence of 'it' in the room, so close he could reach out and take it in his hand and marvel at the faithfulness and constancy of an 'it' that has chosen him and now resolutely hangs on...." (p. 168)
Perhaps my take on Larry's uneasy selfishness will change as I finish this novel, but at the moment, I have to admit it's sort of a treat to climb inside this ridiculous man's head. He is so unlike Daisy Goodwill, the main character in The Stone Diaries. While her voice often seems overwritten by the thoughts, feelings and interpretations of all those around her, Larry is light and easy. He is a man who accidentally steals a jacket, then justifies it, then tosses the coat altogether -- effectively losing two coats in one day -- and just moves on. At the same time, he constantly allows himself to sink into the teeniest crevices of the smallest problems. Ultimately, I suppose the very first tale, of Larry's stealing the jacket, is the perfect template for how he handles life in general.... But maybe I'll find myself wrong once I actually get to Larry's Party, the final chapter of the book.


on The Edible Woman and other bits....

Given the mountain of scholarly work out there discussing Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman, I'd have to be ... well, ridiculous to believe "Marian McAlpin reminds me of Peggy Olson" and "I feel like baking a cake now" are serious reflections on this lovely novel.

So, in fear of sounding pretentious or silly, I'm going to keep this pretty light.

Written in 1969, The Edible Woman may well be a blueprint for all the fantastic Atwood symbolism and feminism one expects from her work; she has a way of belittling and magnifying a woman's worries and workings. This work falls in with Cat's Eye or Lady Oracle versus the dystopic Oryx and Crake or The Handmaid's Tale. And so, the "climax" of the novel isn't necessarily anything out of the ordinary -- it just is the point where Marian's so far outside herself, so unable to control herself, that her story becomes both comical and fearsomely edgy.

I have a hard time imagining how this story must have been received in the late 1960s, but that's just because I was born well after its publication, and we all like to think our own times are the most innovative and accepting and modern-thinking.

I also won't presume to isolate what makes The Edible Woman different from Atwood's later works.... but I would argue the use of characters other than Marian to explain what is happening to Marian is very interesting.

For example, one man in her life tells her, "'you're probably representative of modern youth, rebelling against the system; though it isn't considered orthodox to begin with the digestive system.'" (p. 212)

Meanwhile another man, later in the novel, says this about his own wife: "'I think it's harder for any woman who's been to university. She gets the idea she has a mind, her professors pay attention to what she has to say, they treat her like a thinking human being; when she gets married, her core gets invaded.... The centre of her personality, the thing she's built up; her image of herself, if you like....

"'Her feminine role and her core are really in opposition, her feminine role demands passivity from her...'" (p. 261)

In other readings:

There's a fun little brief in this month's issue of The Walrus about a law firm in the States trying to sex up divorce. You'll find it here, if you scroll down to the boxed-in brief called "Splitsville." I haven't a clue why it stood out at me as I was reading, but thought I might share :)

It's finally occurred to me only a truly ridiculous person would pack 22 books -- mostly novels -- along with her to Europe for just one year. Especially when the same person is trying to decide what clothes and shoes and jackets to bring. So, I'm rushing through Beyond the Echo Chamber, highlighting the interesting bits. (For the journos in the crowd, it's a little disappointing so far -- a little more about being "progressive" than embracing social media. But maybe I've not fully grasped the thesis yet. Unsurprisingly, a "working definition" of what it means to be progressive takes about five and a half pages. Academia!)

Not academia!

(h/t Laura and this site)


a Bookshelf moment

Either I miss my own furniture -- now locked away in storage -- or this is awesome.