While sifting through the fiction shelves at the library, I noticed the headline on the back cover of Little Stranger, which state...moreA quick read at best
While sifting through the fiction shelves at the library, I noticed the headline on the back cover of Little Stranger, which stated that it was a must read for anyone considering having children. This compelled me to read the synopsis, since having children has been important to me for a long time. As was the case with my deciding to read We Need To Talk About Kevin, I was intrigued by a mother who loses her motherly instinct.
These two novels are nothing alike, and the latter is without a doubt the better read. Little Stranger is about a mother who feeling unfulfilled, and even trapped, finds herself in a daze at the airport trying to escape her life, baby included. We Need To Talk About Kevin shares a view into the mind of a mother who feels little love or emotion towards her child, and (debatably) how this eventually affects him.
Kate Pullinger has a lot of plot lines going on in Little Stranger, whose interconnectedness often felt under developed and mostly contrived. I didn't find myself carrying about any of the characters, and felt little sympathy for their plights. It's apparent to me that if Pullinger had of directed her focus to a few storylines, and put more emphasis on the character development of her main characters, this could have been a far better book. (less)
I’ve been watching Oprah ever since her show went into syndication over twenty years ago. I spent countless afternoons wi...moreOprah in one word? Gluttonous
I’ve been watching Oprah ever since her show went into syndication over twenty years ago. I spent countless afternoons with my grandmother, watching in amazement as the scandalous scenarios played out on Phil Donahue, Geraldo Rivera, and Oprah Winfrey. Talk TV was my lifeline to grownup happenings, and I felt like I was defying childhood by being able to watch it.
Oprah was always my favourite. There was something about seeing a fearless, heavyset, black woman on TV, when all I had been used to seeing were skinny, coquettish, white women, that empowered me and gave me a sense that not all was lost in the world. Even as a young, white tween I was proud of Oprah and what she stood for as a role model to females everywhere, regardless of their ethnicity. I saw her show as a place where all women could come together as sisters, and bridge the gap between the races. This was a feeling that I carried with me well into the new millennium when I became an occasional viewer but remained a devoted fan.
Over the last five or six years I have found myself pulling away from Oprah. There is something about her unabashed arrogance that has been grating on my nerves. I wonder who she thinks she is when she stops one of her ‘expert’ guests mid sentence to put in her all important two cents. Although it took me a long time to realize it, it would appear Oprah’s fame and power have gotten to her head. As Kelley mentions in the book, “Shakespeare says it best; ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’”
Even though I don’t read tabloids, I know that gossip often leaks out to the mainstream media surrounding highly influential people, but somehow Oprah seemed to stay off the radar for her first ten or so years. I figured this must have been a testament to her purity and philanthropic ways. If I am to believe Kitty Kelley, this had more to do with the omnipresent, controlling grasp of one of the most powerful women in the world, who held the media and entertainment industries in her clutches like a vulture on its prey.
Oprah is a private person who has fought tooth and nail to keep her secrets out of the limelight… at least those that she has not divulged to her audience at various key moments, like sweeps week. Kelley professes that working at Harpo Studios is akin to being part of a cult. Employees are made to sign confidentiality agreements that prohibit them from ever discussing Oprah or any facet of her company. The imperial restrictions she puts on her staff are proof of an extreme paranoia that has daunted her as rogue journalists have tried to break down her seemingly impenetrable walls of silence. I can only imagine the despair that she is feeling with the publishing of this book.
Kelley walks us through Oprah’s life step-by-step, from her humble beginnings, to her hard working and positive attitude that moved her swiftly up the ranks in the television world. We learn of the tragic sexual abuse that she suffered at the hands of family members, and her consequential promiscuity. We feel sympathetic for her bad choices surrounding men, drugs, and an unyielding food addiction, and sit like voyeurs through the details of her awkward relationships with Steadman and Gail.
None of these things had me disappointed by Oprah. What really crushed my opinion of her was more the prima donna-like behaviour that seemed to become more and more prevalent with each passing year, and every additional dollar. The book is full of her snooty antics. In one instance she showed up extremely late to an appointment at an art gallery, where she had her assistant phone ahead of time and make a big stink about them needing to be ready for her arrival, and that she mustn't be kept waiting. Upon her hours late arrival she then proceeded to tell the staff there that “Oprah does not do stairs,” when she was asked to look at things on another floor of the establishment. I’m flabbergasted by her temerity, especially when part of Oprah’s image over the years has shown her as ‘every woman.’
At least as Oprah got richer, her donations to charity got larger. That doesn’t take away from the fact that she is in my opinion the queen of wastefulness. To hear of the millions of dollars spent on lavish parties and gifts for her wealthy friends is enough to make you dizzy. She just doesn’t seem to recognize the value of money and what it can do when used thoughtfully. It is certainly admirable that she has built a school for girls in South Africa, but with the money that she spent on this one facility, she could have built twenty more frugal educational centres. This would have been a lot less insulting to the many disenfranchised observers who stood to benefit nothing from this grand castle, that was erected for a few hundred overly-spoiled girls.
Oprah: A Biography is a large and long book, and I’m glad I didn’t have to lug it around, as I listened to it in audio book format. Kelley is the reader, so we are able to get the properly intended emphasis on her words. If I had been reading it from the book, I’m sure I would have gotten bored at times, as she tends to jump back and forth in her laying out of the story. (The beauty of listening to a book while cooking dinner or washing dishes is you can tune out the slow parts.) Kelley offers her disapproving opinions of Oprah’s actions on more than one occasion, but she more or less sticks to ‘the facts’ as she has compiled them, and appears to be fairly unbiased in her delivery.
This is a very informative book for those that want the scoop on Oprah, but for those who consider themselves devout followers of this blinding star, be forewarned: you may end up angry, hurt and even disappointed. Although I am proud of her self-made success, and the message that regardless of where you come from you can rise to the top, I’m not ashamed to say that Oprah is no longer one of my heroes.
Up in the Air is not a novel that I would have picked up, had it not been for my desire to see the movie. I seem to cling to an OCDish need to read th...moreUp in the Air is not a novel that I would have picked up, had it not been for my desire to see the movie. I seem to cling to an OCDish need to read the book that the movie is based upon before I will allow myself to see it. I can only assume that this is a story preservation tactic, as I trust my imagination and interpretation over some Hollywood producer, and have witnessed the butchering of one too many great books. That being said, I have heard from countless people that in this case, the movie has very little to do with Walter Kirn’s book. Be that as it may, I held steadfast to my regular routine.
In the novel we are met with Ryan Bingham, a career transition counselor/business consultant, who sidelines as a motivational speaker. Seeing him walk through the doors of your firm is not a welcome sight, as this usually means that people will be losing their jobs. After you’ve been fired, he is the hired muscle that will teach you the skills needed to move on, as he walks you out the door to new opportunities, instead of blatantly throwing you and your box filled with 25 years worth of personal effects, through a plate-glass window. Due to a mounting dissatisfaction with his career, and an assumption that he is being scouted-out for a coveted position in a stealth marketing firm, MythTech, he has left a letter of resignation waiting for his vacationing boss.
Ryan has spent the majority of his time traveling on airplanes back and forth between failing companies, and as a consequence has racked up nearly one million frequent flyer miles. In fact, he is excitedly preparing to ascend into the ‘million dollar club’ before his job ends, and throughout the novel we observe this obsessive need consume his thoughts and even dictate changes to his erratic itinerary. He whittles away his time focusing on his ‘Airworld’ status instead of looking at what is really important in his life, things that will give him the self-satisfaction that he so desperately craves.
While at one moment it would appear that Ryan is enjoying his busy life on the road, staying in hotels all over the country, meeting all sorts of interesting people, in the next moment it becomes apparent that he has been kidding himself, and is not healthy, nor of sound mind. Outside of his family that he rarely sees, his relationships consist of acquaintances and random travelers. He is increasingly paranoid and distrustful of his employer as well as the airline that he flies with. We watch him unravel and mentally deteriorate as he fixates on those that he perceives are out to get him, coping by gambling and abusing alcohol and drugs. Things just start to catch up with him.
The ending sheds a lot of light into the lives of some of the mentor-like, omnipotent and successful people that Ryan looks up to throughout the novel. He learns that his illusions are grand and misplaced, as their truths become clear. Everything he believed in appears to be turning into an extravagant myth. These realizations offer him the honesty to look at himself, and his truths, with acceptance.
Walter Kirn has an engaging, clever and subtle writing style that requires you to think, so don’t attempt this one unless you’re in the mood. As with any great writer he doesn’t tell the reader, he shows them. Throughout the novel I felt like a fellow passenger on one of Ryan’s flights, as he intimately shared his goals, his fears and his eventual realizations.
Now, I look forward to seeing what the movie has to offer!
The Saskiad is an extraordinary tale of fantasy and reality melded by a young girl’s awakening into adulthood. Saskia - said young girl - is a lonely...more The Saskiad is an extraordinary tale of fantasy and reality melded by a young girl’s awakening into adulthood. Saskia - said young girl - is a lonely outcast at her school, as she lives on a commune and uses any free time that is not spent rearing the wild bunch of children that live there with her, idolising and reading about epic adventurers. In fact, after I’ve read Homer and Melville I will have to reread the novel just so that I can understand the countless references made to such classic writers and their genius works. I won’t deny that I felt very poorly-read as compared to this girl of fourteen who had such illustrious novels under her belt. At any rate, Saskia’s reality gets turned upside down as she befriends the new girl, Jane, and suddenly experiences every young girl’s dream... to have a best friend.
The book is a delicious exploration of their obsessive friendship, and how they relate with others around their unwavering love. They laugh, cry and grow together, and it is with this growth that eventually their relationship takes new forms, and veers off in countless directions. I often had to remind myself that the novel was written by a male, as Brian Hall’s depictions of teenage girls and the intricacies of their relationships was often eerily accurate and familiar. I’m left wondering if he had any help with character development through either his wife or a sister or something.
The Saskiad is also a story about the relationships (or a lack there of) between children and their parents. Thomas, Saskia’s father is deplorable, as are his inappropriate relationships with the ladies in his life, and you may have to restrain yourself from throwing the book at the wall when faced with some of his antics throughout.
I have heard some other readers complain that the last quarter of the novel is not as beautifully written as the first three parts, that there is a shift, in that Saskia’s fantasies are no longer intertwined in her realities. For me this merely showcases that she has matured into adulthood, lost her innocence and sees the world through newly jaded eyes; often a sad but true consequence of growing up.
This glorious story seems to go on forever, until it finally ends and you are left wondering what to do with yourself now that the eccentric and lovable Saskia is no longer there to watch over. Sadly, I was tortured with melancholy over the last lines of this great book. (less)
With Linden MacIntyre being one of my favourite journalists, I was thrilled to hear of his novel being honoured as the winner of the Scotiabank Giller...moreWith Linden MacIntyre being one of my favourite journalists, I was thrilled to hear of his novel being honoured as the winner of the Scotiabank Giller prize for 2009. After reading the synopsis of the story, I knew it would be an uncomfortable read, but trusted in MacIntyre’s reverence and honesty to make it through. I was not disappointed.
The Bishop’s man is a story told in spirals, as we twist and turn through past and present fluidly, giving us a clearer picture of the events that can become cloudy through space and time. It is by way of these happenings that we are presented with brutally honest characters living lives of deceit and despair. These tragically flawed people are human in their beastliness, conflicted, damaged, and eternally struggling to break the vicious cycle of pain and suffering.
At times my anger was palpable as the Bishop insisted on covering up the harsh realities of the evil-doings administered by the hands of his precious and misunderstood brotherhood, where ‘victims’ were only the creations of over-active imaginations and troubled youth.
On more than one occasion I wrestled with my understanding of good and evil, and what faith means in today’s modern world. I am of the mind that Catholicism and its primitive structures are in need of a revamp in respect to how the world has changed, and what we’ve learned about humanity along the way. For the sake of the Catholics out there, I pray that they will make the changes that are needed to gain back so many members that they have lost due to their closed-mindedness and denial. As naïve as some may consider it, I will always believe that faith is an important and necessary part of a happy, moral and fulfilling life.
Amidst the madness and injustice, we pause to take in the haunting and beautiful descriptions of small towns, where you can hear the fiddle and smell the sea salt lifting off the page. Linden MacIntyre has proven to be an adoring poet in his love of the East coast and of the Gaelic and English languages. His words are profound and emotive, and I look forward to picking up his other novels in the hopes of more of the same.
Just a couple of his affecting offerings…
“The future has no substance until it turns the corner into history.”
“The bay is flat, endless pewter beneath the rising moon.”
A bewitching fusion of Maori ancient traditions and humanities timeless imperfections
I am emotionally exhausted after spending the last two weeks read...moreA bewitching fusion of Maori ancient traditions and humanities timeless imperfections
I am emotionally exhausted after spending the last two weeks reading The Bone People. As hard as I tried, I was never able to sit for more than an hour with these tragic and severely flawed characters. Hulme's portrayal of the complex and layered relationship between a perpetrator of abuse and his battered victim is so accurate that I can only assume that she has been through a similar trauma in her own life.
Our protagonist - or antihero, in my opinion- is a troglodyte drunkard who is forced out of her self-imposed exile by a visit from a neighbouring impish boy, who happens to be mute. Against all odds an endearing relationship is forged between these two misfits, as Kerewin finds herself protecting Simon from the harsh hand of his overwhelmed and iron-fisted father.
It wasn't just disturbing content that had me straining to get through this finely printed, 450-page novel, as some of the book was written in the Maori language, and as a result we are forced to use an index of translations found at the back of the book in order to comprehend the contrasting cultural references. I am just thankful that I discovered the index by accident before I started, or else it would have been even more confusing and frustrating to wade through. Not only was it easily missed, it was annoying to have to flip to the back of the book, and as such I feel it would have been much more efficient to have just footnoted the translations at the bottom of each page respectively.
Ultimately Hulme's novel is poetic, inspiring of vivid imagery, and definitely worthy of more than one read in order to grasp all that it has to offer. Through unique customs and folklore we learn about the extraordinary ways of New Zealand's indigenous people, while we relate to their commonality through situations that are shared by emotionally damaged and flawed people from anywhere around the world.(less)
It was mildly entertaining at the best of times and a struggle to make it through at the worst of times, when reading Scattershot. This is the true st...moreIt was mildly entertaining at the best of times and a struggle to make it through at the worst of times, when reading Scattershot. This is the true story of a family severely affected by bipolarity, to the tune of four out of five members being afflicted. I did learn a bit more about the illness through the episodic writing, but felt the lack of flow made it a less than enjoyable read when waiting for a real story to emerge. However, life stories don’t always have a proper flow, and certainly not if you’re manic depressive, so I can’t fault it too much in that regard.
Considering that statistics show that 1 in 5 sufferers of bipolar disorder will commit suicide, a point that David Lovelace brings up a couple of times throughout his book, it is evident how strong the Lovelace family was (at least by the printing of this memoir) to have not have taken any of their own lives. Unfortunately I was so bored in some parts of the book that I contemplated taking mine...(less)
Odd snapshots into the lives of unknown characters from unknown parts of the world, often dealing with war or post-war time issues. Sometimes overlapp...moreOdd snapshots into the lives of unknown characters from unknown parts of the world, often dealing with war or post-war time issues. Sometimes overlapping, many stories share similar imagery and/or characters, as obviously evidenced by the 'seven tree lined ridges' mentioned in multiple vignettes.
I will not pretend to have understood most of what I was reading, but will admit that it all might have just been over my feeble-minded head. This would not be the first book of short stories that left me perplexed and feeling inept. In any case, I think that another reading would be in order to piece together this puzzle and possibly have a better understanding for what it is Michael Turner has done.(less)
Chamdi’s name means “a boy of thick skin,” as appropriately given to him by Mrs. Sadiq, his caretaker at the orphanage where he has spent his short li...moreChamdi’s name means “a boy of thick skin,” as appropriately given to him by Mrs. Sadiq, his caretaker at the orphanage where he has spent his short life sheltered from the evils that lurk behind the towering and concrete walls, in the streets of Bombay. His upbringing has been humble, with the same meals of rice and vegetables provided three times a day, a cot with a white sheet to sleep on, and a basic education affording him the knowledge to read and write. You can’t help but feel sad for Chamdi and his situation, until the closing of the orphanage sends him to the streets of Bombay where we quickly learn things can be much worse than he had ever experienced.
Chamdi’s road becomes increasingly harder, as he struggles to stay alive with no food in his tummy, money in his hand or a roof over his head. His saving grace and the true inspiration of this story is Chamdi’s ability to dream in colours. No matter how dark, dismal and desolate his circumstances appear to be, Chamdi need only close his eyes and dream of Kahunsha, his make believe recreation of Bombay, where there is no sadness, criminals, or starvation. This is a truly inspirational story that will not only make you thankful for all that you have, but hopeful for all that you have the power to imagine.