Friday, January 06, 2006

Reader's Diary #3: Frances Itani's Deafening

I'm still not through Deafening yet, but I'd like to add a few comments and questions. First, the book has gotten far more into the war scenes and therefore, there's been a focus switch in characters. Grania is no longer the focus, Jim is. Reading the book description, I expected this to happen and I was a little nervous that the segue would be too abrupt. I've read novels before where the character focus switches and they seem almost like several novels in one (ex. Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark). Fortunately, I think Itani did this gracefully. The change of viewpoint is a welcome one and does keep it a little interesting. Grania isn't dropped altogether and I do look forward to Jim's homecoming to see them interact again.
The war scenes themselves are not all having all that of an impact on me. Gruesome yes, but I've become desensitized to violent war scenes through movies mostly. That's unfortunate because I'm not sure what an author would have to do to keep a reader interested in a topic I've been told we shouldn't forget. I'm being facetious of course, I don't really think we should forget what our ancestors went through in the World Wars. I remember coming home in highschool and being chastised by my father for remarking that we shouldn't have Remembrance Day assemblies in school anymore because they were so boring. I agree with my father now, but I'm not sure what the solution is. Fact of the matter is, we've been shown so much violence, and even movies specifically dealing with the World Wars that nothing is new or interesting anymore in our generation of the near-zero attention span. Surely the surving vets don't deserve that. Looking at the picks for Canada Reads I groaned when I learned that I would be reading not one, but two books dealing with war. Up until now the only book I read about Canadians at war was Timothy Findley's The Wars. I thought that was boring too. Again, maybe I was just an immature brat. I may be alone though in my feelings about war-themed novels. Critics seem to be all over them. Maybe it's time I suck it up. I'm choosing to read two war novels for Canada Reads. Pretty shameful for me to think this is some sort of sacrifice in comparison. Are we becoming too desensitized to violence, including atrocities of wars past and present, to appreciate war-themed movies and books? Is there anything left to be told? Does reading a war-themed book help you appreciate what the people involved went through? Can you recommend a good war read?
One detail I really enjoyed in Deafening was Grania's clipping of a newspaper article that mentions how 331 578 men left Canada to go overseas. She reflects on that, thinking if Jim didn't go there'd only be 331 577. This was one of the most poignant scenes for me in the book thus far. What a way to personify those numbers. What a commentary on fate. Of all the people in Canada, of all the men sent overseas she fell for for just one of those numbers. Plus the act of clipping the article was so honest somehow. Very nice.
I'd also like to throw out a question about the lead-ins to each chapter. What purpose do those clippings from the Canadian and other sources serve? For me, they're just quick bites and I'm not sure they're adding anything to the story.
On that note, I know this blog jumps from topic to topic rather haphazrdly, but to edit it would take away from reading time. (Cop out)

No comments: