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Monday, April 12, 2021

Reader's Diary #2185 - Willa Cather: Her Boss

 Willa Cather's short story "Her Boss" is a pretty interesting look at platonic friendships between men and women in the early 20th century. 

The titular boss, Paul Wanning, is the central character in the story and he is dying of a terminal illness. He tells his family and his co-workers and everyone brushes it aside. As a reader, their motives were a bit of a mystery at first. Were they in denial or just callous? As the story progresses though it starts to appear more and more that Paul has built up a rather shallow existence and it is only with death staring him in the face does he seem to grasp that. 

But when his secretary becomes emotional, the first person to do so, as he began to recite his memoirs, they strike up a friendship. 

Unfortunately, rumours start to spread. I'll admit, even I started to suspect the story would turn into a romance. 

Anyway, it's a slow but thoughtful piece of writing. 

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Reader's Diary #2184 - Kim Hyun Sook and Ryan Estrada (writers), Ko Hyung-Ju (artist): Banned Book Club

As with Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, I believed Kim Hyun Sook's Banned Book Club would take censored books as a backdrop to discuss the political upheaval in her county during a pivotal time in her life. Basically I foresaw Iran being swapped out for South Korea (early 1980s). I would quickly discover though that the name of the book is somewhat misleading and banned books really weren't much of a focal point. 

Hyun Sook has started university and vows to stay out of trouble (i.e., to stay out the many student protests at the time against the corrupt government). She does however wish to join some extra-curricular activities. But before long she discovers that most, including the Banned Book Club, are mostly just fronts to organize more protests. Seeming to get dragged along at first, eventually she makes friends and begins to believe in their cause. 

Not having much knowledge of upheavals in South Korea, I found this fascinating (especially to my own non-protesting student days). 

The artwork by Ryan Estrada is wonderful, especially in capturing Hyun Sook's initial naivete and the sinister nature of the police who were helping protect the regime. 

Monday, April 05, 2021

Reader's Diary #2183 - Elizabeth Bear: Dolly

 "Dolly" is a sex-maid-robot. She/it may have murdered her/its owner. There's a mystery here as it looks at first as if the robot has been programmed to murder, and therefore a programmer would be to blame. However, then it starts to appear that she may have actually been program to become sentient and decided to commit murder on her own. 

Interestingly, the story then turns to a question of whether or not she can prove self-defense but drops the responsibility of the programmer altogether, even though she wouldn't have gained such a thought process in the first place unless a programmer allowed her to do so.

Obviously a very provocative story!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Reader's Diary #2182 - Huda Fahmy: That Can Be Arranged

Not being Muslim, and not having had an arranged marriage, it feels like Huda Fahmy's That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story was aimed at readers like me. 

There's a glossary of terms throughout, explanations about wearing an hijab and so on. This is not a criticism of any shape or form, and in fact, probably helped me. I got what I wanted from the book in that regard. The fact that Fahmy shares her positivity and sense of humor just made it all the more enjoyable and I was especially intrigued by the parallels to Pride and Prejudice

I wouldn't say the art is great, but it's simple and has the look of a pamphlet which sort of fits its educational goal.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Reader's Diary #2181 - Anthony Trollope: George Walker at Suez

 The titular character in Anthony Trollope's short story "George Walker at Suez" is not a likable man. He's hung up on his status in society but most appalling, he's also a racist. This is especially egregious when you learn he's visiting Egypt from England. 

Written in the 1800s, I'm not George Walker is supposed to unlikable or if we're supposed to be empathetic. In any case, it matters as the story involves him being mistaken for someone else, initially to his benefit. When the plan goes askew though, it's hard not to be happy. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Reader's Diary #2180 - Jay Bulckaert and Erika Nyyssonen (writers), Lucas Green (artist): King Warrior

Connections between Yellowknife and Somalia may not be immediately obvious and there certainly hasn't been much written about it, so when Jay Bulckaert and Erika Nyyssonen come along with a graphic novel that explores just that it's exciting indeed. 

King Warrior isn't nonfiction, but the frame story is certainly plausible. It's about a Somalian immigrant to Yellowknife named Awale who has taken up the dangerous role as a cab driver in the city. His wife and son remain back in Somalia and Awale kills time by sending his son chapters in a fantastical story that incorporates many local legends and northern settings. His son, Afrah, back in Somalia is entranced.

Thankfully Bulckaert and Nyyssonen consulted with Halima Muhamud to make sure Somali culture was realistic and respectful. Also, Lucas Green's art wonderfully captures Afrah's imagination with a friendly, curious style, while realistically portraying Yellowknife in the frame story.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Reader's Diary #2179 - Sarah Orne Jewett: The Hiltons' Holiday

If you take an uneventful couple of pages from Lucy Maud Montgomery or Laura Ingalls Wilder you pretty much have Sarah Orne Jewett's short story "The Hiltons' Holiday." It involves a father taking a break from the work of farm life in the country to take his daughters to town. That's pretty much it in terms of a plot, unless you consider him forgetting to buy the hoe he'd intended on to be some major twist.

It's not entirely boring, I suppose. From a historical perspective, there's certain charm, even if it's a bit rose-coloured. It probably works best as a character study. The girls are young women and though different in personality, both get taken in by the "excitement" of town. I related to that somewhat as I recall being entranced by visiting St. John's, Newfoundland as a kid, thinking it was the biggest and most exciting city in the world. The dad is also interesting. He's lovable, though a bit sad in his obvious issues with his own parents, and a bit frustrating the way he puts town folk on a pedestal.