When Canadian poet and broadcaster Mona Gould passed away in 1999 she left behind 38 boxes of unsorted documents, letters, notebooks and personal minu...moreWhen Canadian poet and broadcaster Mona Gould passed away in 1999 she left behind 38 boxes of unsorted documents, letters, notebooks and personal minutia detailing nearly every facet of her long, tumultuous life. The task of organizing this vast and intimidating jumble into a researchable collection fell into the hands of the only person who could really make sense of it all - her somewhat reluctant granddaughter and author of this work, Maria Meindl.
"Outside the Box" is the author's own journey through this Borgesian labyrinth of personal details, and the six year struggle to piece it together into a coherent and functional archive for the University of Toronto's research library. Part biography and part personal revelation, the book offers a wonderful depiction of Mona Gould's career during an eventful period, starting in depression era Canada and continuing on for the better part of half a century. We're given remarkably vivid and evocative portrayals of Southern Ontario life during this turbulent era, and a rich portrait of the enigmatic, fiercely independent, larger than life figure that struggled and (largely) succeeded in the midst of it all. Many of the poems are reprinted in their full text (some with annotations) - including her most famous wartime work, "This Was my Brother," a poem familiar to many Canadians during and after World War 2.
For the historical elements alone this book is a unique and worthy addition to Canadian literary culture. But the additional depth and intrigue is the author's own ambivalence at both the burden of having to sort the massive archives and her own changing impressions of the grandiose, perpetually yarn-spinning matriarch who had essentially groomed the author for the onerous task of preserving her proud but diminishing legacy.
Of course, many secrets were contained in those boxes and their unveiling brought about some offputting disparities for the author between the storytelling persona who was always "on" for her public and audience - even if her "audience" was a rapt youngster hanging on on every word - and the more complex, contradictory person kept largely hidden from view. The myriad juxtapositions between secrets and omissions, the real and the remembered, the acted and the actual and what it all meant for the author's evolving understanding of this beguiling and elusive character, are as deftly balanced as a Calder mobile.
There is much to praise and reflect on in these pages, not the least of which is the role of forgiveness in our regard for the departed and the author's own admiration for a life fully seized with nothing held back. (less)
If I had to choose one book to have with me on a desert island it would be this one. It is so elegant, dense, brilliant and thought provoking and endl...moreIf I had to choose one book to have with me on a desert island it would be this one. It is so elegant, dense, brilliant and thought provoking and endlessly perplexing that I would never tire of re-reading it. Having to start a fire with just one page of this volume would be heartbreaking as entire worlds would extinguish in a column of flame.
Well, I've bailed after just 50 pages. Life's too short for something that's giving me constant eye strain and isn't enga...moreWhy is the print so small?...
Well, I've bailed after just 50 pages. Life's too short for something that's giving me constant eye strain and isn't engaging or even terribly interesting. As for the information, of which there is lots, it's all on wiki in one form or another. Maybe I'll try the book on an e-reader someday, or have it directly implanted into my brain when the technology becomes available. (less)
A fascinating if somewhat mind bending overview of the truly bizarre and non-intuitive nature of cosmic space-time and general relativity. This came o...moreA fascinating if somewhat mind bending overview of the truly bizarre and non-intuitive nature of cosmic space-time and general relativity. This came out a few years after Hawking's notoriously dense Brief History of Time, and Kip Thorne--a colleague of Hawking--may have intended this to be the slightly warmer and fuzzier version that a lay-person could get through without going into mental spasms.
It is, in fact, surprisingly readable,and is stocked with helpful diagrams and illustrations to guide the reader through material that can seem incomprehensible at times. After a catchy opening on board a space ship that "time-travels" to the largest black hole in the universe, we learn about Newton, Einstein, Oppenheimer, quantum gravity, weak and strong forces, space-time, wormholes and various other juicy concepts that unite and divide Star Trek fans the world over.
There's even some small solace for those who fear the inevitable end of our atomic matter one day getting sucked into the inescapable maw of a singularity. You see, black holes also die--albiet slowly. Yay. (less)