1982 is the book equivalent of a "renter". You know, the movie you want to see, but not enough to pay to see it first run at the theatre? I enjoyed 19...more1982 is the book equivalent of a "renter". You know, the movie you want to see, but not enough to pay to see it first run at the theatre? I enjoyed 1982, but I kinda wished I had waited for the library copy.
I was pretty excited to read this title by Jian Ghomeshi. Mostly because I've been a fan of his since his days back in Moxy Fruvous and followed him off and on through his years on Q. He is one of far too many "celebrities" I follow on Twitter. And he's been incredibly talented at everything. Until now.
1982 is an enjoyable fluff piece. It is a quick read, with very minimal substance. I'm sure Ghomeshi would find that a harsh thing to say, given it portrays his difficult 14th year, but the fact remains. While he gives us some surface insight into the things he was feeling at the time as one of the few 'ethnic' kids in Grade 9 in Thornhill, he always retains that comedic distance.
As a writer he relies on too many repetitive gimmicks. One is the List. He's not kidding when he says he's a fan of lists. Perhaps too much of one. When you start including lists such as "The best moments in the Queen/Bowie Duet 'Under Pressure'" by track time, I think it's time to have another editor take a look.
The biggest problem with 1982, however, is that it has no idea who its audience is. Is it Generation X/early 80s teenagers? You would think so, given that this group is Ghomeshi's peers. But given that he has a tendency to describe the minutia of life in the 1980s with the detail of an anthropologist, amazed and excited to point out such processes of recording songs off the radio, you might think he was speaking to the teenagers of today. Both are easy interpretations to make. Sadly, I fall almost directly in the middle of these groups and I can neither look at the year 1982 with fond nostalgia nor find it shockingly archaic.
And so 1982 the book gets a similar result - 3 stars. It wasn't awful, it wasn't great. It was. Read it, if you want something quick and light or if you're obsessed with 80s new wave. But when you do, get your copy from the library.(less)
While an incredibly quick read (I finished it in 3.5 hours) "Petty Details..." is also incredibly rich. Gibb introduces us to Emma and Blue while they...moreWhile an incredibly quick read (I finished it in 3.5 hours) "Petty Details..." is also incredibly rich. Gibb introduces us to Emma and Blue while they are small children hiding in their basement, speaking to each other in a language only they understand. They are blocking out the world around them, a world that is angry, bitter, and dysfunctional.
When their father leaves and their mother descends into numb alcoholism, Blue and Emma must learn to cope and each does so in their own distinct way. As they navigate the world and its highs and lows, these different coping mechanisms drawn the once close siblings apart while at the same time still binding them together as two halves of a whole. Blue does this while Emma does that but maybe combined their best and worst traits would balance each other out.
I loved the characters and Gibb's voice in writing them. She easily slips from point of view to point of view without the reader really noticing. We learn these characters, ironically, not through the petty details but through the major moments of their lives. I wanted more by the time the book ended. Much more. I believe I actually said out loud "That's it?!" when I turned the last page.
For all that I loved the book, I will say that towards the end Gibb tends to muddy the plot a bit by relying too much on inference and things left unsaid. Blue reiterates the motivation for his actions several times at the end, internally and to Emma and I didn't quite get it. I wasn't sure what he was trying to say, or if the implication that I read between the lines was meant to be there or something I made up. That's slightly frustrating.
Besides that one flaw, I really enjoyed the book greatly, and related to the characters a lot. It may be one of my new favourites.(less)
So I just finished reading The Continuity Girl by Leah McLaren (yes, the Globe & Mail columnist for those of you following along at home). This on...moreSo I just finished reading The Continuity Girl by Leah McLaren (yes, the Globe & Mail columnist for those of you following along at home). This one came to me via my bookclub, and I have to say, it’s the first time in a while that I have actually finished a bookclub book. The Continuity Girl could be viewed as chicklit, if you squint. It certainly has your standard quirky (female) protagonist, with her also-quirky friends and family, who is on a (yes, quirky) mission. But inspite of myself, I really enjoyed reading about Meredith Moore and her sudden and strange quest to spawn. Meredith becomes a self-proclaimed “sperm bandit” in an effort to have a baby without the entanglements of an actual relationship. The book follows her along the quest and you see her meet and interact with several characters (in the truest sense of the word). Some rather important bits of the plot were almost as predictable as The DaVinci Code (this is not a compliment), which loses some points in my eyes. I really didn’t want to enjoy this book as much as I did; infact, when I discovered the glowing review from the author of The Fabulous Girl’s Guide To Decorum (my definitive example of the truly bad and horrible aspects of “chicklit”) on the back of the book I almost stopped reading on principle. But Continuity Girl in the end was a fun, quick read. It won’t cause you to ponder the meaning of life, but you will want to know how it turns out.(less)
I finished reading this book several weeks ago just before an interview at the National Arts Centre with Michael Ondaatje. In face, I believe I finish...moreI finished reading this book several weeks ago just before an interview at the National Arts Centre with Michael Ondaatje. In face, I believe I finished it mere hours before seeing him speak.
I had never read an Ondaatje book, and felt that I should, given the fact that I was about to see an hour long interview with the man. I chose In the Skin of A Lion based on this thread on Ask Metafilter. Lion came up several times as the Quintessential Canadian Novel (something I find interesting, given the fact that it’s written by a man who moved here from the UK at 18 or so).
While I would see it more as the Quintessential Toronto Novel, there’s something about the way Ondaatje writes these characters, especially Patrick, that make them as recognizable as the landscape. While you recognize the Bloor St. aqua ducts, Kingston Pen, and small town northern ontario, you also recognize Patrick and all the characters that thread in and out of his life.
Ondaatje doesn’t write this story in a truly linear fashion, so if you don’t like a little guess work this probably isn’t for you. But I highly recommend it.(less)
I picked up Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald from a friend. I have tickets to go see the author give an informal interview at the NAC at the...moreI picked up Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald from a friend. I have tickets to go see the author give an informal interview at the NAC at the end of the month and thought that I should at least read her most popular book.
Turns out I’ve already read it. I read it again anyway, because I only remembered two parts of the book, and by the time I did I was at least a third of the way through.
I have no idea how I forgot reading this book, because it’s certainly a story that sticks with you. The Pipers are one tragic family. Tragedy seems to flow through the very blood that connects them to each other. Every character is flawed, but mostly sympathetic (although I can’t seem to drag up any sympathy for James. By the end of the book I think he’s revolting), but they certainly makes some very bad choices.
It makes me sad that most of them never had a better end for themselves. Except for Lily and Anthony. But I suppose they deserve the ending since the way they came into the world was terrible. (less)
Quite possibly the strangest book I have ever read. I picked it up because it was by Cohen and seemed to focus quite a bit on my namesake. It was a bi...moreQuite possibly the strangest book I have ever read. I picked it up because it was by Cohen and seemed to focus quite a bit on my namesake. It was a bit like being trapped in a windowless room with someone who is really, really high and you are most certainly not. They are rambling on forever about mostly nonsense, with an occasional bit of coherence thrown in, which keeps you half-listening despite knowing you should probably just tune them out completely.(less)
I seem to be on a kick these days for semi-autobiographical books about difficult childhoods. Like The Glass Castle, Lullabies is the story of a young...moreI seem to be on a kick these days for semi-autobiographical books about difficult childhoods. Like The Glass Castle, Lullabies is the story of a young girl growing up in less than ideal conditions. The main character “Baby” (her name screams something indefinable about her parents right off the bat) is growing up with her father in Montreal. They live a life of constant moves, illness, hunger, and drugs. Eventually Baby garners the interest of the neighbourhood pimp, Alphonse. Heather O’Neill does a remarkable job of giving Baby a voice. She is easy to believe, and you follow her through the ages of 11-13, as she undergoes many changes with no one there to guide her. Her mother is dead and her father Jules, who is 27 at the beginning of the book, is a heroin user who tries to raise his daughter but doesn’t quite get there. The character of Baby is one of the best I’ve seen in this genre, and she walks the line between vulnerable and tough with little trouble. She is particularly believable in her view of things that happen to her as “no big deal”. A good example is when for the first and only time at age 13 her father hits her and leaves her with a black eye. Baby, rather than feeling sorry for herself, or scared, thinks about how cool she’ll look at school on Monday. They black eye gives her “street cred”. One more experience to add to her list. Unfortunately, like many children of bad situations, she doesn’t realize that certain things are supposed to make her scared or uncomfortable. That line has long been erased. I really enjoyed this book, and finished it in about 3 hours. It helped to have a sense of Montreal. It always helps to be able to visualize your environment. I could totally picture Baby wandering St. Catherine street. (less)