This is a memoir that is unflinching and not for those gentle readers who avoid reading about pain, close-up and personal. It is also hilariously funnThis is a memoir that is unflinching and not for those gentle readers who avoid reading about pain, close-up and personal. It is also hilariously funny, often in the same gorgeously written sentence. I never understood PTSD as well as I do now after reading about a traumatized eleven year old boy in transition undergoing it, making him/her a very difficult person to live with, which the two staunchly determined foster parents, the author and her partner, try to do, try their very best, which is often not effective enough of course. This is a book, because of the quality of the writing and the humbleness and growing self-awareness of the writer, let's call it what it is, the hard-won wisdom of the writer, which offers readers generous access to the world of foster children, to LGBT communities, to the beautiful depictions of neighbourhood families who take everyone in and feed them and show them love, who care about the struggles their neighbours are going through. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who has worked in group homes or questioned their own sexuality(ies), to parents who want to keep a dialogue going with their own LGBT sons or daughters (and vice versa) and it would be a good read for those who grew up rough and tough and ornery, who skidded down a long bumpy road of drug and alcohol-fuelled escapism. It offers any thoughtful reader not prone to knee-jerk judgmental homophobic tendencies much to empathize with and much to reckon with. The writing is simply outstanding, a book without a dull sentence, not a single histrionic or purple prose dud in the entire memoir. Kudos to the author and the editor. If life were fair, and we all know it's not, this book would win about seventeen North American awards. It is not a spoiler to mention that the author of this first book is an established theatre artist, playwright and actor, with acclaimed works produced on several continents. ...more
Terrific read. Can hardly wait for the next one as we are left teetering between future and now. As a trapped but open-minded Nowbie, I want more. VerTerrific read. Can hardly wait for the next one as we are left teetering between future and now. As a trapped but open-minded Nowbie, I want more. Very good characters and excellent descriptions of the urban world and the bureaucrats who search out the Movers, a highly-suspect population who seem randomly affected-though there is a strong genetic component-by the ability to connect with a future self, a Shadow Self. For once, a mother and a father are depicted as fallible yet protective and smart adults not useless types incapable of thought, action or kindness, large lumpish beings easily out-scored on all fronts by nasty little nine year olds. Kudos to the author. Ditto for great plot twists which make this an unputdownable page-turner. One teensy editorial snark: it's a language quirk which should have been picked up by the substantive or the copy editor or even the proofreader, which is the over-use of "gaping" or "mouth hanging open" to express astonishment, especially frequently used for the Gabby character though it was also applied to others. Time to expand the physical repertoire for extreme surprise or else one is left with the impression that people are constantly turning into slack-jawed, bug-eyed zombies and we've had more than enough of that crowd. ...more
Classic slapstick, smart-ass, scary as hell Atwood. The one with a more dark and twisted sense of justice than she lets loose with in the MaddAdam triClassic slapstick, smart-ass, scary as hell Atwood. The one with a more dark and twisted sense of justice than she lets loose with in the MaddAdam trilogy or The Handmaid's Tale although she has a wonderful sense of humour lurking in every book to reward the careful reader. But here she is plainly having a great deal of fun skewering the greed-driven corporate prison system and whack jobs running bureaucracies to support such enterprises. An unsettling, all-too-near analysis of where we're headed if we don't smarten up and change things and keep media and speech free from governments and corporate entities who would suppress us for their own good as well. The zany humour, really, this should be a movie, just helps the brilliant analysis slide by. ...more
Brilliant book, especially rewarding for readers with a background in anthropology as it is a completely fictionalized account of Margaret Mead and twBrilliant book, especially rewarding for readers with a background in anthropology as it is a completely fictionalized account of Margaret Mead and two of her three husbands in the field, which is to say, early 20th century Papua/New Guinea. Beautifully written, deeply imagined, and a real page-turner as well because the suspense is so palpable. One of the very best novels I've ever read and I now intend to read everything Lily King has written or will write!...more
This is a brave and honest book of very well-written essays from a writer born in Saskatchewan, home of the first province-wide (or state-wide) arts
This is a brave and honest book of very well-written essays from a writer born in Saskatchewan, home of the first province-wide (or state-wide) arts council in all of North America. Yes, it could be the visionaries who determined that art was the distaff maiden to cereal grains more than forty years ago but whatever is in the alkaline water there, that flat landscape is remarkable for great writers, musicians, visual artists, scientists and Tommy Douglas, among others, you name it...this sparsely-populated province produces a disproportionate number of doers and dreamers. The hard-won wisdom contained in this book is proof of that.
Essays allow the reader to dip in and browse, waiting for something, a turn of phrase, a topic, a place name maybe, to catch and hold the eye. I took my time, savouring each one in the order it was presented (and knowing that author and editor would have spent a good while placing each essay just so, a logic which reveals itself to the careful reader). Essays can leapfrog entire decades, whole years, the pivotal labours to produce a child, then another, a book and then four others and then still more. (Leedahl is the author of many genres of published and broadcast work: poetry, young adult novellas, adult novels, collections of short stories, essays, radio ad jingles, magazine and newspaper articles, to name just a few.) The wild and fertile terrain of childhood is given short shrift and I am curious about this. I want to know why the child took the short-cut across the territory patrolled by the big boys, time after time. There is an undercurrent of menace and something else too, the something else that drew this particular child to take the short-cut again and again and not to avoid whatever happened to her there or whatever she initiated there. There is nothing to be gained or learned by taking the long and safe way to and from the school perhaps, a metaphor to set us up for the life she lived as an adult, an exciting life in many ways but also a life fraught with more than a few dodgy choices, fuelled by a predilection for romance or at least dressed-up lust, the compulsion to run many miles a day with surgically-reduced breasts to enhance her mileage and comfort versus static routine and family stability on a borderline budget.
Other essays are very forthcoming about the need for a writer to escape the hub-bub and relentless responsibilities of family life to the sanctity of a quiet room -or a small prairie house- wherein to sit and think and maybe get a page of writing accomplished every single day. Or craving the lively and stimulating community to be found with other writers and artists, in particular the exchanges between Saskatchewan and Mexico, where she obviously thrives and blossoms. But here is the rub, the hard and brave necessity of writing the truth, which gives us the kind of writing that other readers and especially other writers begin reading and then flinch, shrinking away, thinking, 'Oh, don't go there, don't, don't, oh, boy, now you've gone and done it.'
It is rare for writers (especially those with living relatives, old and young) to admit to feeling confined and constrained and Leedahl does it. She cops to the things about living one life and yearning for another that the rest of us can't or won't for fear of hurting feelings and blowing up fragile detentes and alliances with those who share our DNA or our bed. She puts herself out there, showing us her crappy taste in lovers who all seem to end up treating her rather poorly, and all the while her modest financial wherewithal is eroding as she chases the dream of writing, and making a living at it, which is increasingly difficult to do, especially in the Canadian market.
Which is why I was so heartened to see the tremendous exposure her title essay received in Medium, the online forum based in the US, spotted and gleaned from the newsletter produced quarterly by the Writers Union of Canada, earlier this year and where my heartfelt response (full disclosure) earned me a free copy of the book (I didn't remember until after it arrived in the mail unexpectedly that I must have checked a box saying 'Yes, I'd love a copy!', so unused am I to actually winning anything. This title essay is worth the reasonable price of the nicely-produced book on its own as the author fesses up to her Damn the Torpedoes, Life is Short approach to living and loving and creating art en route. Yes, sometimes it meant she was "selfish" and left her teenagers to forage in the fridge and her husband to maintain the home-front as well as his own work and hobbies (he's a fitness buff too). Question: would we think or even blink an eyelash if we read about a male author with nine or ten books to his credit was self-absorbed and a 'bad father' if he spent two weeks in a village or a monastery working on a new book? No, I'll supply the answer, but even those of us who have made those choices to get a book finished have to still our small-town tongues from going, "Tut, tut, tut, those poor children/teenagers, that poor helpless fellow, all alone in a warm and dry house for fourteen days or even fifteen..." Same thing for affairs which end badly, transpose the situation to a tragic male writer and see what happens to your head-set. Uh-huh. Highly recommended reading for those pursuing or helplessly ensnared in the writing life. I just hope this book or the next provides the author with more than a modicum of financial recompense for her hard-won wisdom and that she won't be foraging for blackberries in order to save lunch and breakfast money in earnest going forward. Foraging for the sheer pleasure of sun-ripened blackberries, sure, we all love that, but the hungry stomach roils with acids and undigested seeds after too many meals of them. This writer deserves a break and success for her unsparing, unflinching look at herself. Brava!
During a holiday to Isla Mujeres, Mexico in February, 2015, a jewellery shop manager and I started chatting about books while my husband browsed for During a holiday to Isla Mujeres, Mexico in February, 2015, a jewellery shop manager and I started chatting about books while my husband browsed for a present for his sister. Henry recommended Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a Spanish writer, in particular his trilogy called 'The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.' I loved that title. I'm also pushover for books in which bookstores play a major role, well beyond the 'backdrop denoting some nerdy intelligence' role allotted to bookstores by most of the movie industry.
My non-pushy, book-loving, jewellery store friend Henry had not read any Canadian writers because not many of us are translated into Spanish and he prefers 'epics', plural, which I took to mean a series of books which are connected, going by his description of Zafon's work. Henry's English was ten times better than my Spanish. I think I recommended Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Lawrence Hill and I hope I remembered to write down Fred Stenson and Miriam Toews as well. Honestly, I could easily have recommended about fifty Canadian authors if I'd had the time and a large enough notepad. But back to the point, which is the discovery of a wonderful new-to-me writer, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, who divides his time between Barcelona and Los Angeles.
As it happened, the remote library service which we lightkeepers use sent me Book #3 first, but somewhere on the book jacket maybe?, I read that the books can be read in any order. Certainly I felt that there was a Book #4 waiting when I finished this one. It is set in fascist Spain in the 30's and 40's, mostly, with well-paced fast-forwards to the 70's I think (the book has been returned so I'm going from memory here) and much of the action which isn't in and around the bookstore takes place in a hideous prison where unspeakable things are done by the sadist in charge to the usual threats to fascism: artists, novelists, union organizers, doctors, in short, the suspiciously literate and skilled who are possibly left-leaning socialists or rabid Communists to boot. No character is a stock 2-D persona, not even the sadist in charge who longs to be adored for his deathless prose and poetry and whose ability to social climb and to seek ways and means to self-aggrandizement sets a new high (or low) for bureaucrats with literary pretensions world-wide. Truly, a priceless character if he weren't so devoid of soul, heart, brain or basic humanity, of course.
A very famous novelist is in this medieval fortress of a prison and at first, the narrator (one of the bookstore employees) thinks he has gone barking mad but after prolonged study from a neighbouring cell, he arrives at the conclusion that this could be a most effective smoke-screen on the part of the novelist. The writing/translation is impeccable, the plot moves the reader along like a raft on a beautiful, treacherous river (this book kept me up until two a.m. several nights) and the characters are simply unforgettable. I now await the arrival of Book #1, The Shadow of the Wind and #2, The Rose of Fire and hope for a Book #4.
This is a painstakingly researched biography of an Italian immigrant to Canada, one of many from the small northern Italian village of Falmenta, and tThis is a painstakingly researched biography of an Italian immigrant to Canada, one of many from the small northern Italian village of Falmenta, and the lasting contribution Lawrence (Lorenzo) Grassi made to the mountain climbing community and the trails of the Canadian Rockies.
Lawrence Grassi: From Piedmont to the Rocky Mountains[authors:Elio Costa & Gabriele Scardellato] This book may interest historians, professionals and readers of the genre, climbers, hikers, readers interested in working class history and those of us who are descendents of European immigrants who came to the New World with their hands, strong backs and Old World skills. The authors did a remarkable job of historical detective work because their subject, to put it mildly, was not a writer. Thus we see how a reticent kind of life's record is pieced together, through infrequent and perfunctory letters home, the letters-often desperate for money- from his family at home, the minutes of an Alpine Club in Calgary, and the plaques permanently installed to honour the builder.
It is ultimately a very moving story of a man who did not seek the limelight in any way, a proud yet humble man who just wanted to belong and to contribute his climbing skills and his skillfully-made stone walls, which still stand today in his adopted terrain. Lawrence Grassi was truly a legendary figure in the climbing community and once packed an injured colleague down a two mile descent on his back. The number of new ascents and repeat ascents he made in the Rockies and the accounts of the people whom he guided, never for money, up and down the peaks without using modern gear or methods is astounding.
There are questions lingering too...why did he stop writing his family in Italy? We can guess but it would only be speculation. Why did he never marry in Canada? He came to work on the railway, like so many immigrants did, and then ended up working in the dangerous and unhealthy coal mines of Alberta, mines which were often closed due to strikes. The historians who are the authors do not speculate, however, but they have written a book which may inspire novelists and that is already a great contribution in and of itself.