Monday, April 30, 2007

Reader's Diary #260- Dylan Thomas: Everyman's Poetry (up to "in the beginning"),Elder Olson: The Poetry of Dylan Thomas (up to "Character and Action")

It's not often I come across another poetry buff, yet when I do the conversation goes a little something like this:

Them: Do you read much?

Me: Yeah! I love reading! I'm a junkie! (Notice the exclamation marks and my tendency to get off topic.)

Them: What do you read, fiction?

Me: Some fiction yeah, a lot of poetry too.

Them: Poetry? Yeah? Me too! (Notice that the exclamation marks have now switched hands).

Me: So who are some of your favourites?

Them: Dylan Thomas, Yeats, you know, the classics.

Me: Oh.

Them: And you?

Me: Mostly contemporary Canadian stuff.

Them: Oh...

And so ends that. But I'm slowly working on it.

Dylan Thomas. Remember that scene from Dangerous Minds in which another teacher turns to Michelle Pfeifer's character and says something along the lines of, "Dylan? You're teaching these kids about Dylan Thomas?!" and she smugly says, "No, Bob Dylan." Because we all know how Bob is so relevant to inner-city gang kids. Anyway...

A while ago the local library had a used book sale and my wife brought me home a book entitled, The Poetry of Dylan Thomas thinking for some reason that it was poetry of Dylan Thomas (much like that Boston Pops covers the hits of Radiohead cd that you thought was such a great bargain). Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be criticism of his poetry written in 1954 by a man named Elder Olson. (Can you believe the library was getting rid of this?) Still I was curious to give it a whirl. I'm often shooting my mouth off about poetry, maybe it was time to see what a real critic does. But I wanted to actually read some of his work first. So I picked up a copy of selected Dylan Thomas poems the last time I was in Ottawa. Now I'm trying to manage a juggling act of reading them concurrently.

I'm not finding it as mesmerizing as one might think. Olson has given me some nice insights into Thomas's use of symbolism and it's been good to have actual poems to illustrate his points rather than the occasional line here or there. Plus, I'm enjoying the balance in Olson's work. He considers Thomas a genius at times, a lazy poet at others. Most importantly, he judges Thomas's work on pretty clear terms, which so far revolve around Thomas's imagination. However, I don't agree necessarily when he says "We measure performance as against what it seems impossible anyone should have done, against what only a fine artist could have done" and so forth. While I appreciate that this would make Olson's critique consistent, I do not appreciate the "we" suggesting that these values would be the same for everyone. It's like arguing that the artistic merit of figure skating can be judged fairly. It cannot. It's still subjective. What I think is impossible for anyone else to have achieved, might seem like child's play to you.

Also giving me insight into the Dylan Thomas poems are the notes in the back of the selected works. I especially liked the notes for "My hero bares his nerves". At first it reads as if someone is writing, it's the surface level of the poem. But as the notes suggest, there are a more than a few metaphors linking it to masturbation as well. Reading it a second time, I giggled like an adolescent boy. Read it here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Reader's Diary #259- Douglas Coupland: Generation X, Tales For An Accelerated Culture (FINISHED)

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, even if I found it slightly depressing at times. Not Blindness-level depressing, but it did make me look a little more deeply about our (yes, I've lumped myself in with the Gen Xers) tendency to whine. But as my fondness for Blindness should prove, I'm not turned off by depressing topics- major or minor.

Coupland's writing style very much mirrors the time and people whom he is writing about. As such, I think he could have an easy time defending himself against critics. Not much of a plot? Such is the life of a Gen Xer. Story unfolds too slowly? Ditto. Short on character development? You see where I'm going with this.

I don't know if this is all intentional or if it's simply a convenience. Nor do I care. I do know that I enjoyed the book. It's fun but smart satire, and unlike most satire that seems to be coming out today, it's not overly mean. Sarcasm is fine, but Coupland is able to take off much of the edge of his brand by directing much of it at his main characters. Through these protagonists, he is able to take a few swipes at society at large, but he doesn't spare those making the observations either. The effect is the presentation of a generally flawed populace, but at least it's a sympathetic presentation. The superiority I alluded to in my last post about this book, was fortunately missing (or at least well hidden).

Two of the highlights for me include the definitions in the margins. Some of these were spot-on observations of Gen X philosophy and practice. For example, "Bread and Circuits: The electronic era tendency to view party politics as corny- no longer relevant or meaningful or useful to modern societal issues, and in many cases dangerous."

I also enjoyed how much Canadiana he was able to slip in. For a book set in California, with 2/3 of the main characters being American, Coupland sure gave away his Canadian roots. Asides from name-dropping Canadian cities, he even managed to work in a reference to a Hudson's Bay blanket. But from the glowing reviews on the back of my book by such American papers as the Sante Fe Reporter and the Los Angeles Times, the backbacon and maple syrup didn't seem to be an issue.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Iqaluit Online Article

As I mentioned earlier, IqaluitOnline has done a story on my Canada Reads ambitions. I'm quite, quite happy with it. You can read it here. (And I just read that the White Stripes are in fact going to play here on June 27!!! It's a great day.)

Writer's Diary #25: Spider of the Jar (A Mashup)

My first mashup poem was well received, so I thought I'd give it another shot. Here's Wallace Stevens's "Anecdote of the Jar" versus Walt Whitman's "A Noiseless Patient Spider"...

Spider of the Jar

I placed a spider in Tennessee
upon a hill
in a jar.

Isolated, I made the slovenly wilderness
surround that hill- vacant, vast.

The noiseless, patient spider
sprawled around, no longer wild.
Ever, tirelessly speeding,
ceaselessly musing, venturing.

It launched forth filament, filament, filament.
The jar was gray.
Gossamer thread took dominion everywhere
in a jar in Tennessee.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Canada Reads 2008- A Geek's Mission, Part 4

I apologize to those who feel this mission is becoming tiresome. It's still a long ways off of course, but in keeping my name tied to Canada Reads 2008, I need to post a few of these mission statements from time to time.

Incidentally, if you Google "Canada Reads 2008" (leave on the quotation marks), you'll find that for the time being I am somewhat associating myself with the show. You'll also notice that I've been putting some small details about my quest in free classifieds around the country. If it gets me even a small bit of attention, it might help serve my purpose. At the very least, if I don't make it on the program, I'm sure there will be few people out there who remember me and wonder what happened.

On another hopeful note, IqaluitOnline has expressed an interest in doing an article on my Canada Reads aspirations. I'm hoping that if it pulls through, I'll get the local support.

A common question that has come up regarding my mission is what book would I defend. I don't have an answer to that yet, though if I did I'd probably keep it to myself for the time being- I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise. I'll admit though, there would be a lot of pressure. The second I'd choose a book, some of those that supported me would be upset. It's impossible to pick a book that everyone would like and since I've sort of milked the whole "average Canadian" angle, I'd have a lot of expectations to meet.

I've considered poetry and short stories. I know they haven't fared too well in the past and plenty of people would think I've just thrown my chance away. However, should I go that route, I'd try a slightly different approach. Instead of defending an entire book of short stories or poems, I'd just do one. I can't find anything in the rules that says it needs to be an entire book. I'm sure publishers wouldn't like it at first, but then they could just slap on a sticker that reads "Contains the short story 'The Loons' as defended on Canada Reads" or something to that effect. My logic is that the frequent complaints about both of these genres is that it there isn't a connection, a consistent flow, that can be compared to the development in novels. It's not an invalid point. This year for instance, Gabrielle Roy's Children of My Heart lost out even though most panelists seemed to agree that the last story in that book was great. I wonder what would have happened had Denise Bombardier decided only to bring that last story to the debates, instead of an entire book of short stories.

I've also thought about bringing new genres to the table. Children's lit, plays, and flash fiction have all come to mind. At least one other person seems to think it's time for such books to be represented. Still, I have similar reservations as with poetry; they're not likely to win. Past panelists haven't seemed all that open to any genre outside the novel. But then I'd just have to decide whether the exposure was worth it or not, and is it more important than the win? And besides, who knows, if I can talk my way onto the show in the first place, anything's possible.

I've also thought about perceived political choices. If I were to defend a book from Newfoundland or Nunavut, would it be seen as obvious, as a bias or even propaganda? I don't think I'd care all that much. But I also wouldn't want anyone from those areas to be disappointed if I didn't bring along such books. There might be some people out there with that expectation.

And in the end, I could end up just defending a simple novel. Would it be my responsibility to push a different genre? To represent a certain people? I think I'd just pick what feels right at the time.

But I also wonder what a loss would mean. Really, should I make it on the show, my chances of winning at that point would still be no better than 1/5 (skill of debating aside). So if I lost, would anyone (especially the producers of the show) feel that the whole non-celebrity experiment was a bust? Would it quickly close the door for the non-famous future Canada Reads hopefuls? I hope not. I hope, even if I don't make it on the air, they consider the idea, maybe even reserve a nonfamous chair for all future episodes.

But for now, I've still got a lot of work to do to make it on the show myself. If you've been supporting me at all (writing to the CBC, blog posts, spreading the word) I appreciate the help. If you haven't been, what's it going to take to convince you?!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reader's Diary #258- Oni The Haitian Sensation: Ghettostocracy (FINISHED!)

Until recently, if anyone asked me my opinion on the female artist vagina fixation, I'd have said it's been a cliche since somewhere around the mid-90s. But I was stunned to find recently that there was still a controversy over the Vagina Monologues. Point taken. I accept that there is still a need.

But please, do something wittier than George Bush jokes. We get it. The current president shares his last name with female pubic hair. How obvious and overdone. It's less offensive than comparing Obama to Osama, but no more clever. Peaches did it with her album, Impeach My Bush, naked women protesters seem to constantly holding placards reading "Bush against Bush" or some variation on the theme, and Oni gets into the fun with "Push For Peace":
Make love, not war,
and shave your Bush!
I shaved my Bush like Ghandi,
Shame on Bush, and pray for Condi?

This is not clever, original or effective.

And there are plenty more almost as lame poems throughout. "Who Gives a Flux" could have retained an ounce of respect for the initial play on words had she not milked it in almost every line for a page and a half. Who gives a flux what I think? ...Flux with me and I'll flux you up...If I got any fluxing child support payments, I'd be so fluxing glad...and so on. The "less is more" idiom should have been applied for sure. (Especially when a couple of the only good poems in the entire book are only three lines long, "Black Women's History" and "Metaphors" specifically.)

Since my last post about this book, I obviously climbed down from the fence. And while I know I'm being harsh, it's necessary. Her bursts of arrogant hip-hop swagger demand it. In "I'm a Poetic Shit Disturber" she writes "I'm a black sheep: I don't bend!/ Status quo is for average Joes" yet she herself has sunk to the status quo with bad Bush puns. If you can't back up the boast, don't bother.

At the end of "Shit Disturber" she also declares "If you don't like it, I'll kick your ass." My ass has thankfully been hauled all the way up to Iqaluit, safely out of foot's reach.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reader's Diary #257- Douglas Coupland: Generation X, Tales For An Accelerated Culture (up to "Eat Your Parents")

Grey Badge: Pride (bordering on smugness) over one's extreme cynicism. I can tell you what's wrong, but I can't tell you what's right.

Coupland fans would likely tell me that this is not his best work. However, it is certainly one of his most recognized works, and according to Wikipedia, credited with popularizing the terms "McJobs" and "Generation X" itself. Obviously a very influential book, and Canadian at that, so I felt it was time to read it. My only exposure to him prior to this was his book and accompanying documentary, Souvenir of Canada. As much I enjoyed that (though I haven't gotten around to the sequel), it's probably not all that representative of his larger body of work.

Still, his humour seems to be consistent. There's a slight self-mocking tone to the overall book. It's not always blatant satire, but there are enough subtle jabs made at society and those that think they're above it, to label it as such. Also like Souvenir, Generation X is comprised of tales. The tales in this case are told by three characters within the context of a larger story, a story that is slow to develop but nonetheless remains amusing. But at the same time, it's also a little depressing. While I agree with a lot of what they are saying, the problems that they have with society and the like, the whole "everything is phoney/corrupt" bit gets tiresome. And it bothers me that I can relate, that I've had these very same conversations. Especially since I'm not even supposed to be Gen X. I thought I was part of the MTV generation! Oh well, the labels are a bunch of malarkey anyway. It's really more about a mindset than when you were actually born. And I don't think the defined mindset of the Gen Xers was really the mindset of the majority born in the (rough) time frame which supposedly created them. Was there really as much pessimism and cynicism amongst the general population following the baby boomers? Or were those bleak views held by an intelligence-claiming sub-group (albeit an influential one in terms of pop-culture)? Tobias, though in the same age group as the main characters, could more accurately be described as a "yuppie"- surely such people were just as prevalent, if not more so, than the Gen-X minded lot, and surely there were other middle class Joes and Joe-Annes, that just didn't give two thoughts to what was wrong with eating at McDonald's and to whom the status quo was just a-okay.

The bothersome part as I have said, was that I relate to these characters. I'm not sure if I'm bothered that Gen-X conversations go nowhere and solve nothing or that I still have such conversations. Still I thank Coupland for poking fun and bringing it to my attention. Maybe it's just what I need.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Reader's Diary #256- Oni The Haitian Sensation: Ghettostocracy (up to "Love Letter To My Boo")

Oni, a spoken word poet currently living in Ottawa, seems to have a lot of fans; George Elliott Clarke, the Ottawa Express, the CBC and others. Reading the reviews, there seems to be some sort of consensus that Oni is some sort of super woman with the personality of a hurricane. Reading her work- which is heavily infused with ego- I'm not sure if Oni herself didn't start that rumour. Tell people you're great and they'll believe it. But is she?

It's hard to say of course, I'm not sure if spoken word translates well to paper. Funny really, since plenty of people would argue (I'm not one of them) that poetry should be an oral tradition anyway. Still, I think the book does give me a sense of what she would be like to hear in person. Attempts are made to show the style she'd inject. For instance, in the title poem, descriptors like "tyrannical voice" and "jazzy voice" lead into specific stanzas. But without listening to it out loud, it's only as good as your imagination. And since mine is in good working order, if I do say so myself, I'm enjoying it.

I love the energy. Lines typically are filled with bursts of alliteration and the rhymes practically fall over one another. Obviously, they're also fun. Despite having "ghetto" themes; racist cops, teenage pregnancies, poverty, drugs, violence and so forth, Oni takes a hard-edged, above-all-that sort of attitude and tries very hard to be uber-hip, cracking flippant jokes and pop-culture references into the mix like a music channel commercial. I'm a little afraid that it will wear thin before too long, but for now it feels like a beat poetry revival and I'm enjoying it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Reader's Diary #255- The Holy Bible (Good News version): Deuteronomy (FINISHED)

(I read the books of the Bible on occasion, primarily out of a literary interest. Those who are looking for discussions of a religious or Christian nature, I refer you here.)

I'm one of those people that got sucked into the Stephen King marketing machine and its foray into the serial novel with The Green Mile. Since then, all 6 pieces have been compiled into a single volume (far cheaper than buying them separately like a certain chump) and I've wondered how it is pulled off. I remember the recaps that were not so casually worked into the beginning of each, just in case the reader forgot from one month to the next, as they awaited the next installment. As a single piece, wouldn't all that repetition get annoying? But apparently hardly anything has been changed from the original work.

What does that have to do with Deuteronomy? Essentially it's a recap book, recalling almost all of the ordeals faced by the Israelites up to that point, even reiterating the laws that had been specified before. Asides from the death of Moses at the end, there's very little new action. For someone like me, who only picks up the Bible to read every couple of months or so, it's not entirely unwelcome. I had forgotten some of the story, and some of the more peculiar laws still cracked me up the second time around (did you know it's a sin to wear cotton/polyester blends?). I imagine Deuteronomy was conceived with more of a purpose in mind than keeping the story together (maybe a point about learning from history?) but for sometimes readers such as myself, it works as a recap/summary as well.

Moses stands out again as a leader and this was accomplished in large part due to his dominance in the chapter. Most of it is being dictated by Moses to his people and in fact, there is no word uttered by another character. His importance is also stressed by his handing out of laws, laws he claims to have gotten directly from God. Unlike some of the earlier books, his flaws are hardly touched upon. There is one part in which he shares his doubts about his people's ability to function without him, but it is hard to decide whether that is pessimism or just reality. He dies at the end and his send off is worthy of any Hollywood movie- they should make one about him- perhaps get some NRA wingnut to play the lead. The result of having Moses cast in a somewhat more favorable light than in earlier books, plus the stressing of his leadership role and importance, all building up to a glorious death scene, marks Moses's place as one of the pivotal characters in the drama. Let's see if Joshua can measure up...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Writer's Diary #24: This Is Just Christmas Day, Jack (A Mashup)

If you've never clicked on the Fearless link on the sidebar, I suggest you do so. One of the highlights of his blog is "Mashup Monday". He scours the web for some of the best (and often zaniest) mashups around. Those unfamiliar with mashups, I refer you to Wikipedia. It refers of course to music, but I thought I'd try it out with poetry. Here's my mashup of Gordon Downie's "Christmas Day", William Carlos Williams's "This Is Just To Say", and the traditional "Little Jack Horner":

This Is Just Christmas Day, Jack

Little Jack Horner
sits in Economy.
The stewardess cracks the
public address system,
“There’s no music
for you today-
forgive me.
I have eaten
the plums-
forgive me.”

Monday, April 16, 2007

Reader's Diary #254- John B. Lee: These Are The Days Of Dogs and Horses (FINISHED)

Towards the end of this book I had a nasty little thought that I couldn't shake; John B. Lee is like Al Purdy without the wit.

It's a nasty thought, not because it isn't true to some extent, but because it sounds like an insult. It is not. Anyone following my blog on a regular basis could tell you, I'm a big fan of Al Purdy, so to draw any comparison to him is a complement.

Lee's poetry, like Purdy's, is rich in vivid imagery and often could be described as narrative poetry, almost flash fiction at times. I did find myself questioning the number of similes he used, not because they weren't beautiful, creative or apt comparisons, but because sometimes I thought a metaphor would have been at least as effective. Usually I concluded that his choice was random.

There were a few poems, for instance"The Doorbell is Connected To The Dog", in which Lee did demonstrate his wit, and at these times I was almost convinced Purdy had left some unpublished poems behind on bench in a park near Lee's house. Unfortunately, Lee seemed to reserve most of his wit for the more trivial of his poems, yet those which dealt (more obviously) with humanity were more sombre and humourless (but at least still acute and well written). Purdy I think, was more of a risk taker who understood that profound observations could still lie beneath a wry joke.

The title of the collection I also thought was a great choice. Not only is it the title of one of the poems within, and not only do many of the poems deal with dogs and horses, I also think they are good symbols for humanity as Lee seems to express us. Often he explores our good and bad side, the sometimes dangerous, rough around the edges side (dogs) and the more refined, powerful side (horses), but never lets us forget that for better or worse, we have been domesticated by time, and in some form or another, we are at our master's mercy (be it God, fate, genes, or circumstance).

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Reader's Diary #253- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: The Communist Manifesto (FINISHED)

Nothing says fun-filled family vacation quite like The Communist Manifesto, eh?

Actually, in hindsight, reading the Manifesto during a trip to the good ol' U.S. of A. seems to have been a good idea. Despite being plagued by fears that McCarthy's ghost was after me, my surroundings probably added to the arguments of the book. (Don't get me wrong, I had a blast in San Diego!)

I admit that I have no background in political or economical theory. My decision to read this book was purely out of literary interests. Like Darwin's Origin of Species, it's one of those 19th century books that have had an undeniable impact on our modern world.

Disappointingly, I don't think I gained a whole lot of new insight or altered my views much after reading it. Surprisingly, the book was easy to understand. I had thought it would be dated, complicated, or both. Marx's style (Engels, despite being credited, apparently had little to do with the writing) was simple and direct. The problem I had came from the introduction. My version (not the one shown above), written in the 60s, had an introduction by A.J.P. Taylor which despite trying to provide balance, just clouded matters for me. Wading through his thinly disguised cheap shots of Marx and his theories, there were some good illustrations of how Marx's theories were not perfect, and how many of his "predictions" did not come true (though I found the Free Trade piece interesting- A.J.P. Taylor said Marx was off base in saying that Capitalism would lead to Free Trade and a global economy- flash forward to NAFTA and the EU).

Of course balance is usually a good thing. The problem with me was having it provided in the same text. In the end, I felt that both sides had tried to pull a number on me. When it comes to politics, everyone has an agenda and facts are as malleable as fiction. But perhaps due to a naive mind, I still think there are merits with Socialism and problems with Capitalism. I just can't see why Democracy usually gets paralleled with Capitalism, Socialism with Communism. I blame Marx.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Reader's Diary #252- Jose Saramago: Blindness (FINISHED)

So it's official- I have a new favourite book. Whenever anyone had asked me that over the past couple of years, I've been flipping back and forth between Mordecai Richler's Barney's Version and Wayne Johnston's Colony of Unrequited Dreams. Nice to have a definite answer, even if it's not Canadian.

Strange reading experience though. I'm not sure who's familiar with the old Sesame Street Golden Book called, The Monster At The End Of This Book, but I felt Grover's pain while reading Blindness. Grover, after reading the book's title, feared the worse and begged the reader not to keep turning the pages. The monster in my case was disappointment.

Never have I built up a book as much as this one. I hardly wanted to turn the page, for fear that I was going to be, had to be, let down eventually. There was no way Saramago could possibly live on the pedestal on which I had him placed. I was wrong. Like Grover my fear was never realized. Unlike Grover, whose monster had been there all along, disappointment never did show up.

Writer's Diary #23- No Talent, Another Cathartic Poem (First draft)

It was the voice of hockey to speak
whispers, threats of winter wind.
In summers I had wind slapped cheeks.
“The sun,” I said. My pride, my sin.

In summers I had faked my skill
at sonnets and impressionist
paintings. Life was no big deal
but there was plenty I had missed.

When I was filled with arrogance
convinced that I was not a puck
I asked a lady for a dance,
demurely she said, “fly to fuck.”

I tried for a part in Pinter’s The Room
and didn’t get it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Reader's Diary #251- John B. Lee: These Are The Days Of Dogs and Horses (up to "Forgive Me")

(I'm trying to keep this short. Internet access or not, blogging is not for vacation!)

An image in the very first poem, "Two Ways of Visiting The Beach", really stuck out to me:
Setting a book down, open, half read,
spine up, sheltering its print.
I really love this book as a tent image. Obvious physical similarities between a book in this position and a pup tent are easy. The idea of words camping out, or even hiding in there- sometimes with us readers as company- safe from the outside world and its distractions is powerful. The "spine up" choice reiterates the vulnerability of the words, as the book lies in a prone position, doing what it can to shelter us all underneath.

In this particular poem of course, with the act of putting the book aside, the implication is made that the reader himself was not safe from distractions. Still, there is a comfort in knowing that after beach has lost its allure, its novelty, the book is still open to him. They're such unassuming sorts, aren't they?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Canada Reads 2008- A Geek's Mission, Part 3

I love this. At the Canada Reads website, Kate Veinotte writes, "let's all admit that we've heard enough from this John Mutford, will we?" Sweet. Negative attention is still attention. Don't they teach that in first-year marketing? Should I be concerned that they're only posting this sort of comment? Nah.

(Okay, maybe just a little.)

Reader's Diary #250- Jose Saramago: Blindness (up to

(One last post before my flight!)

One of the blurbs on the back of the book, from The Washington Post, says it is "one that is unafraid to face all of the horrors of the century." For a while I was thinking that I wasn't the only one given to hyperbole when it comes to Blindness. But now I think perhaps they weren't far off the mark.

I've mentioned that parallels to concentration camps could be made, and while that still holds, I think Saramago had more in mind. Instead of focusing heavily on the outside/inside or seeing/blind divisions, he instead focused almost entirely on the dynamics of the blind inmate population. Separated by the wings of the mental hospital, each wing seems to become its own little community, but with no real difference than the others. Except that one wing has a gun.

The threat of that single weapon, wielded by a group of blind men, is enough to create a brand new dynamic. The men with the gun soon use it to their advantage and pleasure. First they take over the food and demand that everyone else sacrifice their valuables if they want food. Needless to say, the valuables are few and soon run out. But then they think of a resource that can be exploited indefinitely: women. It gets pretty graphic and ugly from here on in.

Despite the interesting aspect of the blindness, that its victims see all white instead of black, I don't think Saramago was painting a black and white picture of evil. I do think he was making a great point about how easily evil acts are committed when the victims cannot be seen. While he has the two groups (those with the weapon and those without it) living in close proximity, it's not a far stretch to see how it can be applied to the Earth at large. We know kids are making our shoes, we know migrant workers are losing limbs to make our hamburgers, we know coffee growers are being exploited to the point of poverty, etc. Still, we hold the power and cannot see them, so we continue. I was shocked by the behaviour of the men in this book and initially wanted to write them off as monsters, monsters who are in the minority in the real world. But I'm starting to fear that all Saramago did was give us a condensed version of the real world. Bleak yes, but I think there are aspects of hope. I'll get into that later.

Saramago is however, careful not to preach. Still, the questions about humanity that can arise from this book, make it invaluable. If I could afford it, I'd buy you all a copy.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Life Of Life Of Pi

Partly inspired by and partly inspired by a Litminds discussion, I've decided to do a little experiment to see how far a book can travel. Tomorrow I am traveling to Ottawa for a few days, then the family and I are off to San Diego. Somewhere along this path, I will be leaving a copy of Yann Martel's Life Of Pi. On the inside cover I will be adding the following note:

The Life Of Life Of Pi
Congratulations! This book is yours to keep...for now. As part of an experiment to see how far and how long this book travels, please follow these instructions:

1. Read it (and hopefully enjoy it).
2. Visit to tell me where you found it.
3. Sorry, now it's time to give it up. Choose an interesting locale to leave the book and then say goodbye. Email me at jmutford @ and tell me where you left it. Thanks for helping!

Then as people (hopefully) participate and tell me they found it, I'll be assigning them a number of pi. I'll start the process at 3. (See sidebar)

Please leave comments, questions, or the location you found the book below.

Update from the future (Dec. 4, 2012): After a 5 year hiatus, The Life of Pi trudges on.  A few changes to note:

1. There is nothing in the sidebar indicating the progress, but it looks like we're at 3.141
- Me, Iqauit (3)
- Justin, San Diego (1)
- Alexandria, Utah (4)
- Judy, Cambodia (1)

2. Judy tells me that she had problems leaving a comment on this post. If this happens to you, simply email me using the address above.