Audrey 'Oddly' Flowers is not your typical young woman. When she's not driving through the western states searching for her rock climbing ex-boyfriend...moreAudrey 'Oddly' Flowers is not your typical young woman. When she's not driving through the western states searching for her rock climbing ex-boyfriend, with her adopted tortoise basking on the dashboard, she is literally climbing the walls of her apartment waiting for him to return. By day she mows lawns, while by night she's been known to fashion a castle for Winnifred, her lettuce-munching, slow-moving, shell-covered companion. Until she receives word that her father has fallen into a 'comma' - a brief pause - (Oddly's preferred term for 'coma'), which forces her to leave her dear pet at a friend's house, and make her way back to Newfoundland to be by his side.
Jessica Grant will surely have you laughing out loud as you read whole chapters narrated by the immortal tortoise, and observe the absurd, quirky, and borderline autistic behaviours of Oddly, all along admiring her loving relationship with her father and Uncle. Come, Thou Tortoise deals with heavy issues in a light manner, as we see things through the lens of Oddly, who doesn't always seem to notice the gravity or even the reality of everything that is put before her. With this in mind the reader will have to pay attention to some of the finer details of the story in order to end with a complete understanding of all that takes place.(less)
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)
Tobacco Road is set in the southern US after the Great Depression, and as such we are met with some very deplorable characters living in utter destitu...moreTobacco Road is set in the southern US after the Great Depression, and as such we are met with some very deplorable characters living in utter destitution, that can barely seem to scrape by. There is no doubt that Caldwell was intending to be satirical when shaping these wretched misfits, as the humour and ridiculous exaggeration is not subtle, and if you can wrap your mind around this fact you may find yourself laughing out loud throughout. Every single character will no doubt make your skin crawl, and you may be tempted to bang your head against a brick wall with their unbelievable actions and asinine commentary. In order to elicit such disgust and revolt from an audience, there is no disputing that Caldwell was adept at his craft. This book is probably not for everyone, but if you are going to give it a shot, don't take it too seriously. I was able to find some clips on YouTube from the black and white movie of the same name, directed by John Ford, and had a real laugh.(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)
Highly disturbing yet realistic account of a young girls struggle for survival throughout her loss of innocence, abandonment and the resulting confusi...moreHighly disturbing yet realistic account of a young girls struggle for survival throughout her loss of innocence, abandonment and the resulting confusion and discord these events provided. Racism, war and paedophilia are but a few of the hard hitting topics that emanate from Erian's bold tale written through the eyes of thirteen year old Jazeera. Hard to read, but important none the less.(less)
Toews' style, caustic and dry wit had me laughing out loud when describing mental illness and abandonment, two things that I would say are the least f...moreToews' style, caustic and dry wit had me laughing out loud when describing mental illness and abandonment, two things that I would say are the least funny on my hilarity scale. Her quirky characters and their haphazard road trip often reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine, although the story lines were quite different in content. I'm not too convinced on the ending, as it seemed a bit offensive to my sensibilities, but the book was otherwise enjoyable enough for me to rate it fairly well, and look for more of Toews' work.(less)
Viewer discretion is advised for both this review and this novel!
The first time I’d heard of Henry Miller was while watching Robert De...moreViewer discretion is advised for both this review and this novel!
The first time I’d heard of Henry Miller was while watching Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, as he tempted the teenage daughter into reading The Rosy Crucifixion: Sexus, Plexus and Nexus. I assumed by the books’ titles that Miller was probably a sexually explicit author. Well, I was right. What I didn’t realize was when these books were written, and how revolutionary that made him.
Tropic of Cancer in fact - one of Miller’s first books - was published in 1934, and due to its graphic content was banned in the United States until its publication there in 1961. This historical piece of fiction actually led to a trial in 1964, looking into findings of obscenity, whereby the ruling of this trial paved the way for other authors and their adherence to changing censorship laws in the United States. This in and of itself makes Tropic of Cancer an important read. Enjoying what is read however, is entirely up to the reader.
Tropic of Cancer is a memoir and sometimes fictional account of Henry Miller’s vagabond years as a starving artist, in search of himself and his artistic freedom, in Paris during the 1930’s. The story follows the lives of Miller and his crass, whoring and boozing ex-pat, artist friends as they try to live life to the fullest on the streets of this ever exciting and romantic (and I use this term loosely) old city. In a sentence, it appears to be a coming of age story for and of the immature man. When we’re not following the wild lives of these childish men and their sleazy antics, we are left to wallow in Miller’s incessant and self-indulgent ramblings.
It may very well be that there aren’t enough brain cells in my head to comprehend what is said to be Henry Miller’s genius, but I found his stream-of-conscious musings to be everything from ridiculously outlandish, to a complete and utter bore. However, once in a while, I will admit, I found him to make sense and say something profound. I appreciated his rants about the stifling and constricting life of America and its fast-paced, rat race, where art is dead and money reigns supreme. He relays his observations that in America there is immense pressure to be something, while in Paris you can just be, and if you end up as something, it was because you got lucky. I think it is important that people take away his message about living life for you and what makes you happy, as opposed to living your life in the brown box that society in America wants to put you in, where happiness is often an illusion. That being said, nearing the end of the book he also comes to terms with his delusions of grandeur which kept him and his friends seeking happiness at the bottom of a bottle, or by staring into the gaping hole of a Parisian prostitute. (This really takes place in the book, with a flashlight, if I remember correctly.) Hence it is through his meanderings that we observe his slow, yet eventual growth as an artist and a man.
Throughout Tropic of Cancer Miller is always ravenously hungry and is looking to be satiated, be it with food, creativity, excitement, sex or companionship. Although he may have depended on his empty pocket to keep him artistically focused, it was simply detestable how he would mooch off of others, even steal from a lowly prostitute, all puffed up and possible based on his beastly sense of entitlement. As soon as someone he was staying with (for free, I might add) would ask or expect something from Miller, he would feel trapped and need to move on immediately.
I’ve heard multiple readers refer to Miller as highly misogynistic, since every woman in Tropic of Cancer is a “whore” or a needy “c@#%” (a nasty four letter word that most women find highly offensive), who is trying to rope a man into marriage. Except of course for the one woman that Miller seems to love - in whatever capacity he is able – Mona. It would appear that the love is unrequited, and maybe that is the reason he puts down women as much as he does; he has been deeply hurt.
In my opinion, Miller is an equal opportunity hater. Most of the people in the world he presents us are deplorable, not just the women. And although he doesn’t run around calling every man he sees a “dickwad” (or whatever the male equivalent to “c@#%” would be), he doesn’t really have to. Their actions speak louder than any label. At any rate, living in a world of cheap sex, where the women are using him as much as he uses them, and where infidelity is the running standard with both men and women, I can kind of see why his views are as such.
Throughout most of the book it would seem Miller’s main point would be that the past is gone and the future may never come. All we have is the present, so enjoy it. Even if it has to be with a case of gonorrhea, while sleeping on a park bench, under a newspaper! Tropic of Cancer will give you food for thought regarding the comparison between old-world, artistic Paris and the new and artistically-benign America. You might scowl or laugh as he bluntly wrestles with the various themes of sex, poverty, writing and friendship, but either way, you will be affected.
Rob Sheffield has written the ultimate love letter to his late wife, Rene, as well as paying homage to their favourite music, by sharing with us the v...moreRob Sheffield has written the ultimate love letter to his late wife, Rene, as well as paying homage to their favourite music, by sharing with us the various mixed tapes that he listened to before, during and after their relationship had come to pass.
It was heartwarming to hear of his pure and irreplaceable love for Rene, and as such I really enjoyed the story, up until she died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism, at which point it became a tad self-indulgent and even boring at times. I suppose this provided a good way to actually feel what Sheffield was feeling at that point in his life, but I'm not sure that was the intention.
Because of a terrible obsession I have for playing any songs mentioned in a book while I'm reading it, it took me hours to get through the first chapter. I soon forced myself to carry on without following this tradition, with the promise that upon completion of it I would go back through and listen to the music. I look forward to doing that know, and who knows, I might end up with a few mixed tapes (CDs) of my own by the end of it.(less)
David Sedaris doesn’t pull any punches while introducing us to his eclectic family, and observing the entertaining and often ridiculous idiosyncrasies...moreDavid Sedaris doesn’t pull any punches while introducing us to his eclectic family, and observing the entertaining and often ridiculous idiosyncrasies of common Americans, as well as the French. Me Talk Pretty One Day is laugh-out-loud funny as Sedaris has the ability to expose and turn any seemingly ordinary situation into hilarity, by picking it apart and applying a healthy dose of sarcasm and a honed wit. To think that the foundation of his extended vocabulary in elementary school was due to using a thesaurus to find s-free alternatives in order to escape his pronounced lisp and keep the loathsome school appointed speech therapist, or as he referred to her, ‘articulation coach,’ off his back. Although it is hard to pick a favourite from these 27 insightful and animated recollections, I find myself partial to the stories detailing his family and their quirky personalities. I think it would be quite the event to be a fly on the wall at one of their traditional Greek Orthodox Easter dinners. I look forward to reading more of Sedaris’ comedic moxie.
**spoiler alert** For Milo, life was void of excitement, mystery and fun. As he plodded on through the motions of school and everyday life, he found h...more**spoiler alert** For Milo, life was void of excitement, mystery and fun. As he plodded on through the motions of school and everyday life, he found himself always in a hurry to be someplace else, unfortunately to no avail, as he could not find interest in anywhere he ended up. That all changed when he happened upon a tollbooth in his bedroom upon returning from school one day. And so began his wild adventure to the Lands Beyond. With the help of a ticking watchdog named Tock and a clumsy Humbug, Milo commences a journey to return the sorely missed princesses Rhyme and Reason to the City of Wisdom. Although it first appears that Milo is there to help the characters in this faraway land, it is soon apparent that he will also be the recipient of much guidance and important knowledge that he has been lacking in his own life. Milo is reminded of the importance of slowing down to appreciate the beauty that life has to offer, the necessity of unpleasant experiences in order to properly appreciate the good times, and that everything we learn is necessary and has a reason or a purpose, even if we’re not aware of it at the time. He encounters such demons as Procrastination, Habit, Insincerity and Fear in The Mountains of Ignorance, and must draw on his newly acquired knowledge in his efforts to prevail. Not only has Norton Juster created a timeless adventure, he has creatively infused all the necessary elements of life’s important lessons, making The Phantom Tollbooth beloved by both children and parents alike.