Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Massey Murder- One Book, One Community

 2014 One Book One Community

   Charlotte Gray is a wonderful author. I greatly appreciate her writing style.  She is very organized and her sentences are beautifully written.  She does amazing amounts of research for her books and you can learn a great deal.
  This book is physically beautiful: the design of the cover, the quality of the pages, as well as the maps and charts - everything you could desire.
  But this book is so much more than the Massey murder. In order to understand the trial, you need to recognize how the young Dominion of Canada was reacting to the war in 1915.  Charlotte braided into the courtroom speeches the ideals of the war and Canada's involvement.  Brilliant writing!  And those speeches affected the outcome of the trial.
  Beyond that, the novel explores every inch of early 20th century Toronto- the families, the clubs, the streets, the buildings, the businesses, etc.  She is very thorough in her description, which may be delightful to read for those with an interest in Toronto.  But it may be overdone for those readers who were just interested in the murder story.
  I find an interesting comparison to "In the Skin of A Lion" by Michael Ondaatje, who also wrote about Toronto - more into the 1930's.  Michael focussed on the immigrants whose labour built the city, while Charlotte paints a picture of the upper class who ran the city.  There is a great contrast in the structure of the two novels.  Michael's novel is described as 'post-modern' because he uses many voices and moves and changes focus throughout.  But the two stories both have much to say about the early days of Toronto.
Charlotte Gray will be appearing in Kitchener , Waterloo, Cambridge and Elmira
 September 16, 17, 18.

Tuesday, September 16 – 7:00pm – Central Library, 85 Queen Street North, Kitchener
Wednesday, September 17 – 1:30pm – Elmira District Secondary School, 4 University Avenue, Elmira (the general public is welcome to attend this event!)
Wednesday, September 17 – 7:00pm – Knox Church, 50 Erb Street West, Waterloo
Thursday, September 18 – 7:00pm – Cambridge City Hall (Bowman Room), 50 Dickson Street, Cambridge
   I love O.B.O.C. and have been very involved since it started.  I love the concept and I have enjoyed many of the books.  I appreciate the variety in the choices, but it means that not every book is going to appeal to every reader in the area. My least favourite was the "100 Mile Diet".  It was likely very interesting to some people, but a book about food (lots of obscure food) did not interest me.
  The initial launch of this program was exciting and I loved the first choice.  I have wonderful memories of both the author and the book that first year.
  I am grateful to have been introduced to both Robert Sawyer and Richard Wagamese- two authors that I did not know, but whose books I love.  "The Book of Negros" was also a fabulous choice and it remains a favourite.
  Every year I eagerly await the announcement.
 The book is always discussed in one or more of my book clubs.

One Book One Community
2002   No Great Mischief  (Alistair MacLeod)
2003   The Stone Carvers (Jane Urquhart)
2004   Lives of the Saints  (Nino Ricci)
2005   Hominids (Robert Sawyer)
2006   Three Day Road (Joseph Boyden)
2007   Smoke (Elizabeth Ruth)
2008   100 Mile Diet (Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon)
2009   The Book of Negros (Lawrence Hill)
2010   Best Laid Plans (Terri Fallis)
2011   Bury Your Dead (Louise Penney)
2012   Lakeland (Allan Casey)
2013   Ragged Company  (Richard Wagamese)
2014   The Massey Murder  (Charlotte Gray)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Robertson Davies

   The University of Waterloo was offering a free literature course at the Cambridge Library (now known as Ideas Unlimited).  The subject of the course was Robertson Davies.
   We began with a biography of Davies: "Robertson Davies: A Portrait in Mosaic" by Val Ross.  Mosaic is a term used in art when making a pattern or picture by putting small multi-coloured items together.  I can see how the term 'mosaic' is effective for this book.  There were small items from over one hundred contributors.  Each person added a tiny aspect of Davies' life in an effort to present a unique picture of the man and his work.  At first, I was frustrated by the jerky delivery.  But, like a mosaic, eventually, a picture began to form.  I wondered why the professor had not chosen the biography written by Davies' personal biographer, Judith Skelton Grant. Grant had interviewed him over seventy times.  But our professor felt that book was too long and dry.  I found Robertson Davies to be an interesting man of many talents.  He had a great fascination for the theatre, writing, directing and performing.  Did anyone really 'know' him?  Perhaps his whole life was a 'performance'.
  Most of the class did not like the man that was portrayed in this biography.

"None is Too Many" by Irving Abella and harold Trope.
It was suggested that we read this non-fiction book about Canada and the Jews of Europe in 1933-1948.  It documents Canada's response to Jewish refugees. Only 5000 refugees were allowed into Canada during this time period and the title is based on a quote from an immigration agent when asked how many Jews would be allowed into Canada after the first world war.
Vincent Massey was in full support of this plan.  Massey was very important in Davies' life and the issue of the Jews is a theme throughout the series of Davies' books that we studied.

 So, on to his novels.  Davies did not start writing novels until he was 37.  He had been very busy with the newspaper business and the theatre.
 The Cornish trilogy was chosen for the course- not his best known or best loved, but his last series.

"The Rebel Angels"
This novel was written when Davies was 68 and retired from Massey College in Toronto.  It has a university setting -  the College of St. John and Holy Ghost- nicknamed "Spook".
Francis Cornish, a patron of the arts, has died and his nephew Arthur is the executor of the will.  But there are three others involved in sorting out Cornish's huge collections: McVarnish, Hollier and Darcourt .  Add Parlabane, a defrocked monk and Maria Magdalena Theotoky, a graduate student, and you have an interesting cast of characters.
There are two narrators.  Many of the characters are based on real people and also you can see personal characteristics of Davies in some of the characters.
I found the novel dry, with words that are out of the modern vernacular and not listed in dictionaries.  I chose to use the 50-pages rule for the first time and gave myself permission to 'skim and drop'.

"What's Bred in the Bone"
The title refers to family inheritance.
After the lecture on "The Rebel Angels", I had more understanding and interest and decided to persevere with this second novel in the series.  After all, it is a university course, so I had better just buckle down and read.
And so I read!  And read, and read, and read!
A very long, scholarly book detailing the life of Francis Cornish. The structure of the novel is a 'frame narrative'- in other words, a story within a story.
Francis' destiny is clear throughout, but, as the professor said, "You may not fulfil your destiny in your lifetime".
The professor asked questions like: "Are the readers creating the narrative or passively receiving the text?" Thought-provoking questions and the lecture is more interesting when I have finished the book.

"The Lyre of Orpheus"
This is the third book in the trilogy.  And it is even longer than the second book.  Do I want to spend another week pushing through this novel?  Dilemma time!
My purpose in this course was to become familiar with Robertson Davies and his work.  I feel that I have accomplished that.  I certainly have learned a lot about the man.  And I know that he writes 'a nice turn of phrase'.  No doubt about that!
This book was not well-liked by the class.  The ending was too tidy and not satisfying- after the long read.
Questions were raised such as: How much control do you have over your life?  How much is "bred in the bone'?

Did anyone ever really know Robertson Davies?
How much biography is actually fiction?

Thursday, 21 August 2014


Stacks! Stacks!  The house is full of stacks!
Earth's Children Series by Jean Auel
I just picked up this whole series in trade paperback and I love it!  They are so much easier to read in this format.  We are working our way through the series.  Since there was such a long time between publication of books, we need to read the whole series in order to appreciate the ending of the series.

Here are three of the five books that I am reading for the literature course at the library.

These are three of the five books that I'm reading for my upcoming trip with Bookwomen.

This is a group of inspirational/ psychological/ philosophical books from Carl Sagan to Michael Neill, recommended by friends.

These are the piles of books on my bedside table. They are just waiting, waiting, waiting! I look at them every night and wonder when I will get to them.   But I have to finish the library books first- as well as the books for book clubs and courses.  I love the cover of Louise Erdrich's book "The Round House".  The book called "Mary Coin" was picked up at Chapters because the premise sounded really interesting and I read it all the way home (I wasn't driving).  But now it also has to wait.

There are days that I think that I will quit all the book clubs and just work on these stacks.  But I would desperately miss the mental stimulation of discussing books.

This is a bin that I hide with all the books that I have picked up in my travels, intending to read on return.  But that never happens, and they collect.  The "Alcatraz" book was bought at Alcatraz from the author who had been a prisoner there.  "Where White Horses Gallop" was also bought from the author at a signing in Sydney, Nova Scotia.  I love bringing books home from my travels but I immediately get caught up with book clubs and can't find time for my 'traveling treasures'.

I never put a book on my actual book shelves until I have read it and decide that I will want to read it again.
So- no pictures of my book shelves. They are full of wonderful reading memories.
But the T.B.R. stacks continue to accumulate!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

from the grandchildren

from Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn is my oldest grandchild.  She loves to scuba dive.
I sometimes recommend books to her, so when she recommends a book to me, I read it!
She recommended "Touch and Go" by Lisa Gardner.
Lisa Gardner
  I was unfamiliar with this author, perhaps because she writes crime thrillers!  In fact, she writes a lot!  She has 22 million books in print.
  The title fascinated me.  It is used often - from the Ninja Turtles to Broadway musicals.  There are many songs and films with that title.  It's also used in aviation and on highway toll booths.
  What does it mean here? 
"This is the truth: Love, safety, family . . . it’s all touch and go.'' 
This book is about a family that appears to have a perfect life, but suddenly, the family is missing.   Things are not as they appear.  But the introductory sentence foreshadows that: "Pain has a flavour". 

Lisa Gardner has an interesting web site where she connects with her readers:
Readers are invited to get in on the fun by entering the annual “Kill a Friend, Maim a Buddy” Sweepstakes at, where they can nominate the person of their choice to die in Lisa’s latest novel. Every year, one Lucky Stiff is selected for Literary Immortality. It’s cheaper than therapy, and you get a great book besides.
  So this book was not what I usually read, but I am delighted to read books recommended by the grandchildren.  And even happier  that they are reading!  And discussing their books with me!
from Matthew
Matthew is my youngest grandchild.  He loves gymnastics.
He has always been a great reader.  He often reads advanced books.  He read the Harry Potter series when he was very young.  So I was pleased when he recommended "When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead.  It is a book more suited to his age.
   This novel has a female protagonist who is in grade six and she is getting mysterious notes.  It is a mystery involving time travel.  
   The book won the Newbery medal in 2010, for 'the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children'.
   The author had been captivated with books by Madeleine L'Engle when she was young.  I think I will read "A Wrinkle in time" next.  I remember that L'Engle won the Newberry Medal for that book in 1963, when I was raising my children. 

Every year, we have a family camping experience.  Most often the grandchildren are playing table games, soccer, or swimming.  This year the weather wasn't conducive to water activities and some of the grandchildren were reading.
Erika  (heading for Oakland University) was reading "The Joy of Mathematics" by Theoni Pappa.   David (finished first year at Guelph University) was reading "Billions and Billions: thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millenium" by Carl Sagan.  He likes philosophy.
And Andrew arrived reading "Lord of the Rings".

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Read It Again

Is a book the same the second time you read it?  Probably it is, but you may be different.
This is my experience with "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry".

Here is the review that I wrote last year:
  The protagonist, Harold Fry, irritated me greatly.  "He had passed through life and made no impression".  His mother had left, his father drank and his wife, Maureen, did everything for him- even signing his name on the cards: "If she's Harold, who am I?"
  He had never connected with his son.  When there was a problem he left the house.  When his son, David, hung himself, Harold found him and took him down.
  At 65, newly retired, he got a letter from Queenie, who had worked with him 20 years previously and had taken the blame for his actions, getting fired in the process.
  Queenie was dying of cancer and Harold told her to hold on- he would walk to her.  He is unprepared- no proper shoes or any supplies.  He even sent home his wallet and credit card.  His story hits the news and he is joined by other strange characters.  Queenie did hang on and died shortly after he arrived.
  This book had great potential- a coming-of-age story of a 65 year old.  The time and distance did improve his relationship with his wife, Maureen, but that seems to be all he learned.  He finally remembered what she had said to him when they met at a dance, and the novel ends with them laughing on the beach.
  But he never realized that he had kept Queenie alive for his benefit- so that he could assuage his conscience.
  Great disappointment.

  A year later, I re-read the book for a book club and realized that my life circumstances had coloured my view of the book.  When I first read the book, my son was dying of cancer and I was appalled that anyone would want to extend the life (actually the death) of a cancer patient.  That was the only thing that I focussed on and it made the book distasteful.
  Now I am able to see other aspects of the book.  I still wish that the author had addressed the issue of expecting to cure cancer by willpower.  Actually, Maureen's doctor did set that record straight when Maureen visited him.  But Harold never realized the 'error of his ways'.
  On this reading, I was more able to understand Harold and was more sympathetic to his inadequacies. He also had experienced the death of a son and I realized that he felt helpless.  The 'pilgrimage' gave him a new look at life.  The connection with nature gave him a new perspective.  He needed to be forced out into the world, and Queenie's approaching death gave him that impetus.
  And, actually, the change in Maureen was fascinating also.  The neighbour added another lighter dimension.  I really enjoyed the book on the second reading.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

   On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins.  His son, born first, is perfectly healthy.  Yet when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down's syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split second decision that will alter all of their lives forever.  He asks his nurse to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret.  But Caroline, the nurse, cannot leave the infant in an institution.  Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself.
  Caroline meets a truck driver, Al, and together they provide a stable home for Phoebe.  But David is tortured by his decision and it causes a wall between him and his wife.  Norah becomes very involved in business and has a few affairs.  They finally separate.  The perfect son has grown to be an angry young man who only wants music in his life.
  On David's death, Norah finds out about Phoebe.
I first read this book in 2006 and was fascinated by the dilemma.  In 1964, it was not expected for Down's Syndrome babies to live long.  David had had a sister who died young, and he was greatly affected by the devastation to his mother.  Was he trying to save his wife from that type of devastation?
The beginning of this novel is spell-binding but drags a little later on.  However, it is a book that I couldn't get out of my mind and I read it again three years later, and enjoyed it even more.

the movie version

  I have been taking this book to the retirement home where we distribute public library books and I have convinced some of the residents to read it.  Last week, one of the ladies brought me her video of the story so that I could take it home and watch it. It really emphasized the dilemma and you could clearly see the turmoil that this secret caused.
  I was reminded of the dilemma in "The Light Between Oceans". In both books, the husbands made serious decisions based on what they believe their wives can or cannot handle.  Both situations were disastrous.

The book is by Kim Edwards.  The actors in the movie were Emily Watson and Dermot Mulroney.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Woman Who Can't Forget

What a fascinating biography!
Jill Price
   "My memories are like scenes from home movies of every day of my life, constantly playing in my head, flashing forward and backward through the years relentlessly, taking me to any given moment, entirely of their own volition."
   Jill Price has 'hyperthymestic syndrome'- the continuous, automatic, autobiographical recall of every day of her life since she was fourteen.  She is basically a prisoner to her memory, with a condition that had never been diagnosed.  The emotion that comes with the memories is constantly overwhelming.  She often feels like she is going crazy.  Finding a scientist to work with her greatly helped to stabilize her life.
  Although Jill has this unique type of memory, the other aspects of her memory are not great. That really seems impossible.   But she can't memorize poetry or remember numbers. She had trouble in school memorizing history, math, foreign language, and science.  In fact, she needed math tutors from grade two.   Also, the constant rush of personal memories running through her head, made it difficult to concentrate.  So no one understood how distracting this type of memory could be, until she met Dr. McGaugh, a memory expert.
  Although her memories seem random, they are triggered by 'cues', such as a song, a smell, a name or date.  The smell of baked potato, always takes her back to when she was two years old and she can reacall everything about that day.
  The biggest problem with her recall is that it comes with intense emotion.  The rest of us remember events with the emotions dulled by time and perspective.  In fact, the book talks about the importance of memory in developing identity.  "We remember, revise and add to these stories constantly".
  And so, a number of scientists are studying Jill's brain to add to their understand of the function of memory. I enjoyed this book because I am always fascinated with the brain.
 There is a great YouTube video of Jill.  Just google: "The Woman Who Could Not Forget" and you can watch Jill being interviewed by Diane Sawyer.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Catcher and the Rye

My grandchildren know that I am interested in what they are reading.  I got this e-mail from Ellen, 15, living in Michigan.

Hey Nana,
   I was wondering if you had a copy of The Catcher and Rye and if you do, if I could borrow it. We are reading it for our summer reading project and using it throughout the first half of the school year.
Ellen B.

I did not have the book, but I quickly bought it and read it before sending it to her.
I have read many classics and can think of dozens of great choices for grade twelve students to read.  But this????

"The Catcher In the Rye" by J.D. Salinger

This novel was published in 1951- before I was a teenager!
It is popular with adolescents because of the themes of teenage angst and rebellion.  It has been translated into almost every language in the world and has sold more than 65 million books.  it is considered one of the best novels of the 20th century.
But...this book is also one of the most frequently challenged books.  In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.  Now isn't that interesting?
It is challenged because of the vulgar language, sexual references, blasphemy, undermining of family values, encouragement of rebellion, promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, promiscuity, etc.  Wow!  sounds like the ideal book for grade eleven.
In addition, several shootings have been associated with the novel -notably the killing of John Lennon.  Mark Chapman was arrested with a copy of the book that he had purchased that day, inside which he had written, "To Holden Caulfield, From Holden Caulfield, this is my statement". (wikipedia)

In 2009, Salinger successfully sued to stop the publication of a novel that shows Holden Caulfield as an old man.  However, this book eventually was published.  It is called "60 Years later; Coming through the Rye" by Fredrik Colting.
Amazon gives this plot line:
"A 76-year-old man wakes up in a nursing home in upstate New York. This seemingly normal day brings with it an unnerving compulsion to flee his present situation and embark on a curious journey through the streets of New York City. Powerless to resist these strange new urges, Holden Caulfield, like a decrepit marionette, finds himself in the midst of bizarre and occasionally depraved escapades. Is senility finally closing in or is some higher power controlling the chaos? 60 years after his debut as the great American anti-hero, Holden Caulfield is yanked back onto the page without a goddamn clue why."

And I don't have a g.d. clue as to why "Catcher in the Rye" was chosen for my granddaughter's class to study.  I can't wait to hear her reaction. 

Here's my objection:  Football coaches don't show their players videos of the worst plays in football.  Music teachers do not play the worst music.  Art teachers do not focus on terrible art.
So why would we want teenagers to read about the worst teenage experiences?  Why not aim for something good?  Why not a book that shows the protagonist working through his teenage angst and becoming a valuable member of society?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Good books/ Bad books- part 9

What do other readers think about 'bad books'?
  I sent out an appeal for suggestions from other readers, but they are even more hesitant than I am to suggest a title for the 'bad books' list.

Danielle Steele

  Shannon suggests anything by Danielle Steele could be on the 'bad books' list.
She also thought that "Angels and Demons" was not well written even though it had a good premise.  She feels that Dan Brown's writing is lazy.

   Many readers don't have any 'bad books' because they follow the Nancy Pearl rule- don't read beyond 50 pages if you are not enjoying the book.  In fact, Nancy even suggests that the '50 page rule' be changed if you are over 50 years of age.   You should subtract your age from 100 and only read that far before deciding whether to continue.
  That seems like a good rule for those who are reading exclusively for pleasure.

  I read from curiosity.  I want to know about books and authors, so I have to finish a book to really know what it is about.  I like to know what my family and friends are reading.  I like to know what is popular in the world.
  When I published a series of blogs on "Why I Love to Read", I mentioned the importance of connecting with the reading community.  So I read book club choices whether I like the book or not.  As you will see in a future post, I even reread books that I didn't like the first time.
  I read all Canada Reads choices as well as One Book One Community.  I go to book retreats and read whatever is suggested there.  My goal goes beyond enjoying and entertaining myself.  I want to be 'well-read'.
  And, in the process, I encounter "bad books".
The end

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Good books/ Bad books- part 8

  My friend Terri and I have been to a number of Bookwomen events and we are trying to get started on our reading for Martha's Vineyard in September.  Bookwomen was begun in Indianapolis to encourage women writers.  Many women that we meet at these events only read female authors.  That would have saved me from reading the last three classics and also these five books.
The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke

   This book won the Giller in 2002.
   Mary (Tilda) Bellfeels, Barbados, has killed Mr. Bellfeels, the plantation manager, with her hoe.
"I knew from the very beginning that there was an act ordained for me to perform".
   Percy, a police sergeant comes to take her statement.  For 480 pages, she chatters about the island's history, music, art, etc., etc.  The only worthwhile chatter was disclosing her life story: "I wanted you to know what life was like for a woman growing up in the islands in the nineteens and early twenties."
She was taken advantage of by everyone. "The only body who didn't stir his spoon in the pot was the Revern". "Her life is paid for by her body."
   From the internet: "No matter how sweet Mary's memories are, the urge to flip pages becomes even sweeter."
   And I cared less and less as the novel dragged on and on.
I thought it was worthwhile to hear Mary's story but I began to hate it.
When she killed Bellfeels, she cut off his penis.  Revenge!  Obviously written by a man.

Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler

   Barney Panofsky lived in the Jewish quarters in Montreal.
   His first wife Clara was eccentric- a feminist/ artist/ poet.  His second wife was called "the second Mrs. Panofsky".  There were three children Mike, Kate, and Saul.
   The writing was confusing- full of "I digress", "I'm jumping all over the place".  It was a kaleidoscope of history, sports, literature.
   Barney was "rewinding the spool of my wasted life, wondering how I got from there to here". "I tour the labyrinth of my past", "shuffle the deck of my memories".
   The themes were guilt and anxiety and cynicism.
   There was one idea that interested me- when Barney's children turned 16, he gave them a library of 100 books that had given him pleasure.
Unfortunately, this book gave me no pleasure.

"Cocksure"by Mordecai Richler

   I was disappointed that this book was chosen for Canada Reads.  It is an absurd satirical fantasy. Just check out the cast of characters:
Mortimer Griffin - senior editor at Oriole Press (London)- becomes impotent, is taken for a Jew, is being groomed to take over- is followed and discovers he is the target for murder.
Hyman Rosen- senior editor at Oriole Press
Miss. Agnes Laura Ryerson- 4th grade teacher from Canada- teaches at the permissive school in London - gives oral sex to boys
Star Maker- Hollywood tycoon living in Las Vegas- uses body parts from others- tries to reproduce himself- creates movie stars (zombies) who live in a box or cupboard.
Ziggy Spicehandler- "had the face of man who has visited the darker regions of hell and come back again."- had an affair with Mortimer's wife.
Polly Morgan- a beautiful woman who lives as though in film.
   There is a great deal about prejudice and being different- whether Jew or German or gay.  One satirical bit involved a secretary whose mother was the millionth Jew put in the furnace.  The furnace was decorated for the occasion with flowers and Chinese lanterns.  Some jewelry of this woman showed up on a German secretary who walked into the office of the daughter.
Richler used the term "a sentimental barbeque".
   The book is filled with gross sexuality.  I realize it is a satire on morals but I don't think most people would get it.  I didn't!

"Everyman" by Philip Roth

   'Everyman' is the name of an English morality play.  'Everyman' means an ordinary man.
Philip Roth was 73 when he wrote this novel.  He has won many, many awards for his writing and is considered one of the best authors of his generation.  He is also known to write about himself.  It appears that this novel reflects his views on aging- very dark and depressing!
   The novel begins with his burial, then goes back over his relationships with three wives and three children - only one daughter is connected to him at the end of his life. He also tells how his life has been influenced by his desire for new, young lovers.
   The main theme is 'bodily decreptitude tumbling headlong into death'.
"Old age isn't a battle: old age is a massacre".
Terribly depressing!
I read this for a course that John and I took at Laurier University.  We were both 73at the time!

"The Parabolist" by Nicholas Ruddock

A parabolist is one who speaks in parables.
I did not like this book- no chapters, too disorganized and violent.
From a review:
"The Parabolist is a novel about murder, sex, the medical establishment, poetry and vigilante justice on the streets of Toronto in 1975.  Told through interlacing narratives, the story funnels towards the eye of an unsolved crime: on a rainy summer night, a woman is raped and very nearly murdered, but for the intervention of two drunken vigilantes who kill the attacker before fleeing the scene.  The only clue the police have about their identities is a slab of Crisco shortening found on the victim."
This book is written by a doctor in Guelph.  The main characters are medical students.  Explicit sex and dissection of bodies.
Book club was very divided- some people thought it humorous and reminiscent of the 70's.  I hated it!

Deadly- every one!  Violent, depressing books are a waste of good trees!  Give me the forests!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Good books/ Bad books- part 7

Let's tackle the classics.

"As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner
This is a bizarre book.  It is an existential struggle for identity and purpose ( so says the internet).
The style of writing is stream-of-consciousness with 15 different narrators.  Each chapter contains the thoughts of a different person.
It is very difficult to understand.
It is the story of the death of Addie Bundren.  Her family is taking her to be buried as she requested. 
These quotes give you a taste:
"When He (the Lord) aims for something to be always a-moving, he makes it longways, like a road or a horse or a wagon. But when He aims for something to stay put, he makes it up-and-down ways, like a tree or a man...Because if He'd a aimed for man to be always a-moving and going somewheres else, wouldn't He a put him longways on his belly, like a snake?"
Moseley ( the druggist): "Life wasn't meant to be easy on folks: they wouldn't ever have any reason to be good and die."
Addis' father: "The reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time."
Vardaman" "My mother is a fish".
Darl: "Jewel's mother is a horse".
Vardaman asks Darl. "What is yer ma?"
Darl: "I haven't got ere one.  Because if I had one it is was.  And if it is was, it can't be is.  Can it?"
Yes, a confusing book!  But a classic!

"Beowulf" by Seamus Heaney
Originating around 680 A.D., this poem was probably composed orally and memorized, then passed on by traveling poetic entertainers before being written down.
The first two major episodes (Grendel and Grendel's mother) take place in and around Heorot, the Danish King's great hall.  The surrounding countryside is marshy, wild and desolate.  Grendel's mother is killed in a cave at the bottom of a monster-infested lake.  The poem's final episode occurs on a seaside cliff in the land of the Geats (southern Sweden).
Beowulf crossed to Denmark when he heard about Grendel- fought him, tore off his arm.  Grendel's mother returned to revenge the death.  Beowulf beheaded her.
Beowulf was king for 50 years.  A dragon is disturbed and Beowulf died trying to kill it.  Wiglaf stayed with Beowulf and finished off the dragon.
"It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.  For everyone of us, living in this world means waiting for our end.  Let whoever can, win glory before death".
This poem, written in England, is the foundation of English poetry.
Way too violent for me!

"The Iliad" by Homer
This story is about the war between the Greeks and the Trojans.  There is a quarrel between Agamemnon (leader of the Greeks) and Achilles.
The story takes place during the last year of the Trojan war during the 12th century B.C.
Agamemnon's sister-in-law (Helen) had been abducted by Paris.
Fire is the dominant image- a symbol of war.
I found this book completely out of my realm of understanding.  I tried Coles Notes but could not relate to the subject matter.

Perhaps I should admit that much of my dislike of these books is based in ignorance.  But thankfully, there are many other classics that I love.