Monday, November 30, 2009

Reader's Diary #549- Emile Zola: The Fairy Amoureusse


Last week Eva over at A Striped Armchair reviewed a bunch of short stories including, my choice for this week, Emile Zola's "A Fairy Amoureuse." Eva had piqued my curiousity by her mention of the narrator, who remains unknown, but addresses the story to Nanon, a young girl, as the 2nd person. In effect, I, the reader, must become Nanon to hear the tale. Such reader participation is right up my alley.

However, the narrator becomes a little too interesting, for an altogether different reason. Eva had suggested that the narrator is probably an old nursemaid, but a clue at the end, suggests to me that this isn't the case.

The story begins,
Do you hear the rain, Nanon, beating against the windows? And the wind sighing through the long corridor? It’s a horrid night, a night when poor wretches shiver before the gates of the rich, who dance indoors in rooms bright with many gilded chandeliers. Take off those silk slippers of yours, and come sit on my knee before the blazing hearth. Lay aside your gorgeous finery: I’m going to tell you a pretty fairy tale this evening.

and follows with a fairy tale about a young couple whose loving embraces are kept secret and safe from the wrath of a cranky uncle thanks to the protection of the Fairy Amoureuse.

As the fairy tale comes to a close, readers are once again to assume the role of Nanon...
And now, Nanon, when we go to the country, we shall look for the two magic marjorams and ask them in which flower we may find the Fairy Amoureuse. Perhaps, my dear, there is a little moral hidden in this tale. However, I have told it to you here, as we sit stretched out before the hearth, just in order to make you forget the December rain beating against our windows, and in the hope that it will inspire you to love a little more the young man who told it to you.

I'm sorry? The "young man"? Um, what moral is that? That our love might remain a secret? Creepy!

With that new hindsight, go back and read the intro again and the part about laying aside my finery. No thanks, Humbert, my finery's staying put!

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday this week? If so, please head over to Sasha's to leave a link. She's hosting this week!)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Nothing In Common With Quebecois Authors

For this week's Saturday Word Play, we look at Quebecois authors. I've given you authors and one of their more popular titles, but removed any letters in common. How many can you still recognize?

As always, feel free to do all ten at home but only answer one in the comment section below-- that way 9 others will have a chance to play along.

1. nd Chn- Butifu ss
2. Mdc chl- Bny's Vsn
3. i- T ky Swt
4. Jcq Pi- Vkwg B
5. Hh- ubs fr cms
6. cl bly- F Won Nx Doo s Pgnn
7. uy- h Lil irl Wh W Fd f Mh
8. Z Wi- B Rck rs
9. Yvs Bumin- T lly t
10. rie-Clire Bli- d hdow

Enjoy this game? Did you try the Nothing in Common with Newfoundland Authors or Nothing in Common with Manitoban Authors yet?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Reader's Diary #548- Lawrence Hill: The Book of Negroes

In Canada you'd be hard-pressed to find a copy of Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes that isn't completely covered in its accolades: Winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, Longlisted for the Giller Prize, Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2008, CBC Canada Reads winner, #1 bestseller...

Yes, it's huge here in Canada. In the US it's called Someone Knows My Name.

I won my book from Joanna earlier this year and finally I had the chance to see what all the hype was about. Was it deserved?

Of course, I'm not egotistical enough to really decide that, but I did enjoy the book.

The Book of Negroes is a historical novel about Aminata Diallo, an eleven year old girl stolen from her West African village to work as a slave in South Carolina. From there she travels to New York, to Nova Scotia, Sierra Leone and eventually England.

I liked the epic feel, the easy but intelligent language, the settings (though I wanted more Nova Scotia), endearing protagonist, and as historical novels go, I thought Hill struck a good balance between entertaining and informational. I had beefs with a couple coincidences, or plot conveniences, that distracted from the plausibility of the story. The first comes when Aminata is about to set sail to Nova Scotia from New York. However, her original owner from South Carolina shows up and declares her to be still his property, meaning she is not free to leave. But! Her 2nd owner, also from South Carolina, just happens to be in New York as well, and he shows a bill of sale, and says that he is okay with her leaving. With freeways and jets and the like, all this back and forth across the Eastern seaboard-- and with perfect precision!-- might be more believable today, but I didn't buy it in Hill's book. And that was nothing compared to the ending, which, out of respect of those of you who still plan to read it, I'll not spoil. Suffice to say, there's far too much manipulation with probability at the end, all for the sake of a convenient ending. Was it not for how much I enjoyed the bulk of the novel, it just may have done me in.

Blurb? Hmmm. How about "Time well spent"? That's fresh and original, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TheGreat Wednesday Compare #5- Miriam Toews VERSUS Wayne Johnston



The final winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Chuck Palahniuk Vs Miriam Toews, with a final score of 8-1 was Miriam Toews!

Looks like Canadian girl does good. Alas, not good for Palahniuk. I've not yet read Chuck, but I did like the movie of Fight Club, if that counts for anything. For those of you that have both read the book and watched the movie, how do they compare with one another?



This week's literary fight club takes a new contender from out East...

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Dec 1, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who is better?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reader's Diary #547- Don Delillo: The Border of Fallen Bodies



When I happened upon the Esquire website today, I was pleased to find clickable fiction from such writers as Stephen King, David Foster Wallace and more. I decided on Don Delillo, since he was recently featured in one of my Great Wednesday Compares. I'd not read Delillo before and was excited to get a free chance online.

Accompanying Delillo's "The Border of Fallen Bodies" is a very provocative photo by Spencer Tunick entitled "Barriers 3 (Delaney Street)." Reading the story, one can only assume the story was written around the photo, a la William Carlos Williams' "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus."

Unfortunately Delillo's story does little more than the obvious approach; gets into the mind of one of the naked models. It's interesting, but only for a short while, and certainly doesn't add to the photo which is stronger without the story.

Perhaps, however, I'm being somewhat unfair. While the online Esquire editors present it as a short story, they give very little other information. The date at the top of the article reads April 21, 2009. However, another source online suggests that it was originally found in their print edition in 2003 and wasn't presented as a short story, but as an excerpt from Delillo's novel Cosmopolis. "The Border of Fallen Bodies" holds up fine as an excerpt, but the online Esquire editors should realize it doesn't work as a stand alone short story. Did Delillo have a say in the decision to recategorize it for the web?

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Sentenced


Followers of my blog are probably sick of me raving about Sporcle by now. Well, tough. This week's Saturday Word Play comes inspired by two of their games: The 100 Most Commonly Used Words in the English Language and Movie Title Sentences. In my version, you have to name the books on my shelf that are complete sentences. I'll give you the author and part of the title, but I've only included the most commonly used words in the English language. For instance, if I gave you

Ken Kesey: One - Over the - -

You'd tell me the answer is One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

Got it?

As always feel free to answer all ten at home, but please only answer one in the comment section below. That way at least nine others can play along.

1. Maya Angelou: I Know - The - - -
2. Carson McCullers: The - - A - -
3. Roddy Doyle: -, - That -
4. Lionel Shriver: We - To - About -
5. Linwood Barclay: - The -
6. Mordecai Richler: - - Was -
7. Jessica Grant: Come, - -
8. Yann Martel: What - - - - ?
9. Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm: My - - A - -
10. Rene Fumoleau: - I -

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #5- Chuck Palahniuk VRESUS Miriam Toews



The final winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Chuck Palahniuk Vs Don Delillo), with a final score of 3-2, was Chuck Palahniuk!

Not an overwhelming response last week.

Perhaps you're like me and simply haven't read any Delillo yet. I've wanted to for some time, though. Over two years ago I posted 20 books I should have read but hadn't, and it included Delillo's White Noise. While I have managed to knock 5 off that list, White Noise isn't one of them. (Interestingly, I haven't read any Palahniuk either and if I was to update that list, I'd certainly add him.) For now, we move on...

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Nov. 24, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Who is better?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reader's Diary #546- The Good News Bible: Nehemiah

Keeping with the change to first person that was first introduced in the book of Ezra, Nehemiah is by and large the narrator of this book (though like the last book, it does change to the third on occasion, without warning.)

I like this difference in writing style. It personalizes the story a little, even if it doesn't exactly make me warm to the protagonist any more. Also like Ezra, Nehemiah comes across as xenophobic, and even worse, prays for the destruction of others. I'm all for praying for others, I can even tolerate praying for oneself, but praying against someone? That leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

On a lighter note, as is my usual way of getting through the lists and lists of names, I was scanning to see which names still exist today. You don't see many Helkais or Athaiahs anymore, but I was surprised to find a Perez amongst them. I wonder if he was the guy who used a white marker to draw crude scenes on Esther's face?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Reader's Diary #545- Jack London: To Build A Fire

Way back in '02 when I was teaching in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, I had a chance to attend a teachers' conference in Calgary. One of the speakers I had the pleasure I seeing was renown teacher and parenting expert, Barbara Coloroso. I really enjoyed her no-nonsense and honest approach to dealing with children. However, I took issue with one of her examples, and it's stuck with me to this day. "Children should be allowed to learn on their own, to learn from their own mistakes," she said-- so far, so good-- "if your kids, for example, are going outside, you don't have to insist they put on their mittens. Their hands will get cold, and they'll put them on."

People cheered (yes, teachers get excited for things like that). Except I didn't. I'd just come from Rankin where we had an entire month below -60° C (-76°F). If I'd let my students go outside without mittens in those temperatures, before they realized their hands were cold, they'd have severe frostbite. That's a bit of a harsh lesson, don't you think?

Well, it's no where near the harsh lesson learned by the protagonist in Jack London's "To Build A Fire." In this tale, an unnamed man sets out to walk towards a logging camp in the interior of the Yukon. It's the middle of winter and his only companion is a dog. It would seem that the story is preoccupied with the cold, cold temperatures, but it isn't about London boiling a survival tale down to its essence, it's simply a survival tale. A man is in danger of freezing to death, of course there is only one focus.

"To Build a Fire" is an insanely a well-written story. I love in the opening paragraph when London writes,
It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man.
So much is accomplished in these two lines. An intangible pall. Subtle gloom. Absence of sun... the man was not worried? Without having set foot in the north, a reader could easily ascertain that London is setting this guy up for a fall. Not, of course, that a reader would root for this man's demise, but it would certainly be nice if the man could learn a lesson and live to tell it.

One of the most compelling sentences of the story is when London writes, "The trouble with him was that he was without imagination." It's a stance that seems to contradict many other survival stories in which man must keep his wits about him and not to let his imagination get the better of him. London's logic seems to have been that an imaginative man might contemplate his insignificance in the greater scheme of things and use that fear wisely.

Getting back to the temperatures for a second, it gets cold here in Yellowknife to be sure, but nothing compared to Rankin Inlet. I mentioned the -60 temps there, but the coldest I experienced was -74 (-101 F). That, by the way, is colder than the day in London's story by about 25 degrees. Then, I spent most of that day in my cozy apartment.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Word Play- Author or Title?



Sometimes, when the title of a book is simply a full name, it could get pretty confusing figuring out who's the author and who's the title. Fortunately, most of these below probably wouldn't have that problem. In one column I give you the first names, in the other the surnames. Can you find the authors and their title characters?

As always, feel free to do all ten at home but only only answer one in the comment section, that way at least other nine others can play along.

First Names
Adam
Charles
Charlotte
Daisy
David
Dolores
Douglas
E.B.
Eleanor
Elizabeth
George
Henry
Herman
Jane
J.M.
Marjorie
Olive
Peter
Stephen
Stuart

Surnames
Barrie
Bede
Bronte
Claiborne
Copperfield
Coupland
Dickens
Eliot
Eyre
James
King
Kitteridge
Little
Miller
Morningstar
Pan
Rigby
Strout
White
Wouk

Friday, November 13, 2009

Reader's Diary #544- Moisés Kaufman: The Laramie Project

Recently I auditioned for a role in Moisés Kaufman's The Laramie Project. I did so hardly knowing anything about the play or the story behind it. The last, and only time, I acted was in Iqaluit a couple years back as a murderer in Macbeth. I was itching to act again and was excited to finally have a chance in something here that wasn't a musical.

I have now have four roles. But, for those of you familiar with the play, most actors in it take multiple roles. I'm Father Roger Schmidt, Jon Peacock, Stephen Belber and Russell Henderson.

For those of you that don't know, The Laramie Project is based on the real life murder of Matthew Shepard. In 1998 Matthew, a gay university student from Laramie, Wyoming, was robbed, beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. I'm sad to say that though this made international headlines at the time, I remember nothing about it.

Five weeks after Matthew was discovered, Moisés Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project showed up in Laramie, where they spent the year conducting interviews with residents of Laramie. From these interviews, they wrote The Laramie Project.

It's obviously an emotional story. But that doesn't necessarily translate into a good play. The Laramie Project risked being too black and white, too artificially sentimental, too militant. It's none of the above.

While taking a definite stance that Matthew Sheppard's murder was 100% wrong, it really goes beyond the death; the soul searching, the debates, the legacy one life can leave. Besides the obvious discussions on homophobia, Kaufman and company also delve into other such weighty issues as hate crimes, capital punishment, religion, revenge, forgiveness and much, much more.

Yet for all this, the play doesn't feel overly preachy or convoluted. Through the residents of Laramie, it shows humanity from all angles, and there's a glimmer of hope.

There's not much action, it's mostly talking, but the conversations are believable, interesting and forceful nonetheless.

I'm absolutely honoured to be a part of it.

Matthew was born in 1976, just twelve days before me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guest Post- Debbie Mutford's Review of Runaway by Evelyn Lau

I have only one of two choices when reviewing Evelyn Lau’s Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid; I can either keep it quick and painless or vent for pages on end (don’t get me started...don’t even get me started).

I will make a few blanket statements, use quotes from the book to support my points, and gracefully back off.

Point 1: It’s hard to take the writing seriously when I believe (not fact, just my gut feeling) that Evelyn wrote the journals with the original intention of publishing it.
- Pg.53 “Maybe eventually I’ll make a living selling drugs, then write a bestseller about the whole thing and become rich and famous and live happily ever after
- Pg.212 “All I want to do is get my writing published
I just find it difficult to read a book of published journal entries with interest when I get the sense of there being an audience from the start rather than genuine self-expression.

Point 2: I don’t want to come across as unsympathetic but the yelling and, albeit extreme, approach to parenting didn’t come across as harsh as the homeless lifestyle of prostitution that Lau purposefully chose. She came across as ungrateful and melodramatic rather than abused (yes I recognize that those are the typical qualities accused of teenagers).
- Pg.221 (reference to a foster parent) “Now I’m left with the fear of coming home to Melanie’s each night, the fear that is no different from when I was living with my parents”.
This quote to me either implies that Melanie was abusive (which she never states) or that her parents were not (in which case I have no idea why she ran away to begin with).
Time and time again people tried to help her but she made erratic and selfish choices based on spontaneity rather than logic.

I could go on and on (and on and on) but I won’t. I will chalk it up to my own lack of understanding and inability to sympathize with the main character but for whatever reason, this book was just frustrating to read.

I am hoping others will read it. (Please?) I would like to hear some feedback if others found it equally as frustrating as I found it...or if I’m just an insensitive turd.

Sidenote: Lau has written and published several other books (poetry, short stories, and a novel). I will definitely look for some more of her writing in hopes that her writing is as talented as the journals describe. Maybe in another form, I will enjoy Lau’s work.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #5- Chuck Palahniuk VERSUS Don Delillo



The final winner of last week's Great Wednesday Compare (Chuck Palahniuk Vs Douglas Adams), with a final score of 4-3, was Chuck Palahniuk!

Given the difficulty most people seemed to have deciding between the two, I'm really not surprised to find the results so close. I've read neither, but I at least saw the movie Fight Club. My only knowledge of Douglas Adams is that my old university roommate used to be into his Hitchhiker books. Other than that, I get Douglas Adams mixed up with the guy who played Maxwell Smart.

This week's contenders...

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Nov. 17, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Which is better?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reader's Diary #543- Maya Angelou: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I had figured that I'd probably not like Maya Angelou's writing. In hindsight, I must have had some sort of snobbery against critics, since they all seem to like it. Like, "Oh yeah? Let's see if she's really all that great."

Turns out, she is. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is beautifully written-- even when she writes about things that aren't beautiful. She's also not as serious as you might think. Yes she deals with race, rape, and religion, but there are some genuinely funny moments as well. She doesn't present herself as perfect, but as a very genuine, down-to-Earth girl. Yet, I don't believe her.

I believe the big facts within the story for sure. But I question the little details and some of her thoughts. I have a difficult time with this and every memoir; believing, or trusting, anyone's childhood memories when they are overly specific. Who remembers their childhood this vividly? Surely much of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is adult Angelou surmising how she must have felt on any given day, surely some of this is a composite of scant memories, passed-down stories, and conjecture.

Whereas I'd normally I'd fault memoirs for that sort of thing, the writing is so wonderful I hardly care. It reads more like a novel, but-- and I know this phrase will probably make you gag- I trust its essence of truth.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Reader's Diary #542- Peter Behrens: Feel This


Since it's Remembrance Day this Wednesday, I purposely went looking for a Canadian short story that dealt with war. I needn't be surprised, nor should I complain, when the story I find is depressing.

Peter Behrens' story, "Feel This," is about a family dealing with the unexpected return of their son (and brother) from the second world war. He's also dying of cancer. Oh, and the father is an alcoholic.

I'm really not being fair. When I began the story last night, I thought it was very well written. But after I was halfway through, the power went out. I wasn't able to get to the rest until now, a day later, while I'm waiting for supper to cook.

I guess I'm not in the same head space. Last night I probably would have found the last scene, with two adult sisters cuddling, to be touching. Today I find the whole story morbid.

A better litblogger would at least pretend his review wasn't mood dependent.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, leave a link in the comments below.)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday Word Play- WWI Syllacrostics



With Remembrance Day around the corner, I thought I'd focus on books set in the days of World War One. I've given you ten books; choosing from the syllables given below, can you identify their authors?

As always, feel free to do all ten at home, but please answer only one in the comment section to allow nine others a chance to play along. (Hint: As answers from others come in, it will be easier when syllables get used up.)

A/ANNE/BO/BOY/CES/CY/DAL/DEN/ER/ER/ER/FAULK/FIND/FRAN/
GOM/HEM /I/I/I/IAM/ICH/IN/ING/JO/JOR/KEV/LEY/LU/MA/MAR/
MARQUE/MAUD/MONT /NER/NEST/O/PER/RE/RY/SEPH/TAN/TIM/
TON/THY/TRUM/WAY/WILL/Y


1. The Wars
2. Deafening
3. Soldier's Pay
4. Johnny Got His Gun
5. All Quiet on the Western Front
6. A Farewell to Arms
7. Three Day Road
8. No Man's Land
9. At Some Disputed Barricade
10. Rilla of Ingleside

Friday, November 06, 2009

Reader's Diary #541- J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

A few months ago I reread Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, stating at the time that while I wasn't a huge Potter fan, I enjoyed it much more reading it to my daughter.

Rereading the 2nd in the series, I'm even less of a Potter fan. Still, I continue to enjoy reading the books to my daughter.

Personally, I think Rowling tries to cram too much in. Did we need floo powder? Why are kids still traveling on Hogwarts Express, when there's floo powder?

And I know this is fantasy, so I accept witches and ghosts and the ability to talk to snakes. But I still find Harry and his friends' tendency to be in either the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time, to be stretched too far. I realize it's Harry's book and all, but are the rest of the Hogwarts students such dull little creatures that they never sneak out at night?

Fortunately my daughter seems to have gotten attached to the characters so her enthusiasm hasn't waned. It's enough to convince me to reread the third with her.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Great Wednesday Compare #5- Chuck Palahniuk VERSUS Douglas Adams



The final winner of the Great Wednesday Compare 4 is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein!!!

So it turns out that Frankenstein is better than The Handmaid's Tale. Here's the proof:
1. In the first three rounds of the the 4th GWC, The Handmaid gobbled down the Life of Pi in a single gulp, out-bleaked Oryx and Crake and took back The Giver.

2. However, The Handmaid was soon caught up by Joseph Heller Catch-22.

3. Heller's win soon flew away with Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest taking the lead. Kesey also proved Coelho to be fool's gold, downing the Alchemist.

4. Finally, Kesey was stranded, and lost to Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

5. Next Defoe was blue, losing to Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins. And Katherine Paterson also couldn't cross over to a victory, with Island of the Blue Dolphins beating Bridge to Terabithia next.

6. However, O'Dell's 2 time victory soon blew away, losing to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind. Next Mitchell refused to operate on Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, killed the cat's curiousity or dog's as it was (Mark Haddon's Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime).

7. If she she only had another win. Instead, Mitchell's GWTW lost to L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, which in turn easily gave the cold shoulder to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

8. But I created a monster with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the last competitor, which sent The Wizard of Oz back to Kansas, revealed the losing side of Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, took the gleam from Stephen King's The Shining, proved that Bram Stoker's Dracula sucked, and just this last week, with a final score of 6-1, promptly drilled home a win against Henry James' The Turn of the Screw.

So, logically assuming that Frankenstein is better than all the books that came before it, it is also better than The Handmaid's Tale. Would you agree?

And as always, a 5 wins a row marks the end of that Great Wednesday Compare and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein walks away undeafeted.

But, because I just love these asinine little challenges, I can't stop there. I bring you the 5th Great Wednesday Compare; this time returning to the old format, author vs author.

This week's contenders...

Remember, vote simply by adding your comment below, base it on whatever merit you choose, voting does not end until Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. (Nov. 10, 2009), and if you want your book to get more votes, feel free to promote them here or on your blog!

Which is better?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Reader's Diary #540- Hergé: Tintin (3 Complete Adventures in One Volume)


As I explored the world of graphic novels this year, I was quite interested in the blurbs about the cartoonists-- how they got started, their early influences, and so on. Among the alternative comics crowd, Hergé's Tintin comics seemed to pop up more than any other.

So, when I went to a used book sale recently and came across a three story volume of Tintin comics, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I could easily see why his ligne claire style, as it is called, is appreciated. His writing on the other hand...

I'm not sure if you've read a Tintin comic, but they're quite frenetic, almost ludicrously so. In a span of five pages Tintin can go from facing a firing squad, being rescued by the Thompson twins (yes, that's where the band got its name), stealing an airplane, being shot out of the sky, crashing into a jungle and befriending an elephant.

I have to admit that while I spent the first little while laughing at all the trap doors, narrow escapes and unbelievable plots, it grew on me. I read recently that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are to be in a new Tintin movie, possibly next year. I'm not surpised. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fans would likely enjoy Tintin as well. (But while Pegg does resemble Tintin somewhat, he's too old to play that part. Instead, he and Frost are to play the aforementioned Thompson twins.)

What didn't grow on me was the way Tintin narrated all the action: "I fell into space, like you. It was fantastic: there was this bush and I fell right into it. It bent and dropped me on this ledge. So here I am, safe and sound, instead of smashed to bits in the canyon."

The comics are also very dated, most notably with their depiction of other races. Some might argue that like the action, it's supposed to be over the top, but others would no doubt find it offensive (every Japanese character, for instance, is shown with horribly bucked teeth). Not that it forgives it much, but I think a lot of that stemmed from a naivete on Hergé's part. In one scene, Tintin ironically explains to his new Chinese friend, Chang Chong-chen, about the misconceptions Europeans have about Chinese people: "The same stupid Europeans are quite convinced that all Chinese have tiny feet, and even now little Chinese girls suffer agonies with bandages designed to prevent their feet developing normally." If only Hergé was as enlightened about other peoples.

But taken with a grain of salt, I still enjoyed the Tintin comics.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Reader's Diary #539- Sophie King: Who's Speaking Please?



According to her website "Sophie King's books are aimed at teenagers, mums and grans or anyone else who can identify with a chaotic family life."

Okay so I'm not a teen, a mum, or a gran, but I can identify with a chaotic family life. In fact, so chaotic were things today that I stumbled upon an audio version of Sophie King's "Who's Speaking Please?" that I thought would be perfect to listen to while I cleaned the kitchen.

I'm not sure if this is what they mean by chick-lit, but it's what I imagine it to be. The protagonist tries to get over a man, thinks about shopping, and comforts herself with chocolate. And please don't let me be misunderstood, I'm sure plenty of women have nursed a broken heart, eaten chocolate and gone shopping, but-- and I'm trying to tread carefully here-- if that's all there is, aren't they reduced to cliché? Everybody has at least something, some little idiosyncrasy to set them apart and keep them interesting, don't they?

At first I enjoyed the mundanity: a woman listening to a silly radio contest in the morning, interrupted by a moody shower head. But I kept waiting for the hook, the break in the woman's character that set her apart. It never came.

I can't help but feel that King was simultaneously pandering and condescending to an audience that I don't belong.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Canadian Book Challenge #3- 4th Roundup


Welcome to the 4th Roundup for the Canadian Book Challenge #3.

Four months in... anyone finished yet?

As the dark cold winter comes upon us, I imagine we'll soon see a spike in the number of books read.

In the meantime, a few items to address:

1. The Canadian Blog Awards are coming up again:

You can nominate blogs up until Nov. 21. I mention this not to be nominated, but because I'm happy they've included LitBlogs this year. Last year some of you may remember that I had contacted the hosts and asked them to include a LitBlog category and then a bunch of us sent them a huge list of Canadian lit-bloggers to show that we did, in fact, exist. Looks like we made it happen, so now let's follow through with as many great nominations as we can!

2. Want to play some Canadian book trivia games? I've added a few to Sporcle that might interest you...
- Name the Margaret Atwood Novels
- Name the Robert Munsch books
- Name the Canada Reads contenders

If you feel like creating one of your own while you're there, feel free to leave a link in the comments below.

3. The Governor General Literary Awards nominations came out in October. For fiction: Deborah Willis ( Vanishing and Other Short Stories), Alice Munro (Too Much Happiness), Michael Crummey (Galore), Annabel Lyon (The Golden Mean), and Kate Pullinger (The Mistress of Nothing). Besides Munro and Crummey, the others are new to me, so I'm looking forward to checking them out.

As well, the other biggie, the Giller Prize, also announced the finalists this month: Kim Echlin (The Disappeared), Annabel Lyon (The Golden Mean), Linden MacIntyre (The Bishop's Man), Colin McAdam (Fall), and Anne Michaels (Winter Vault). Again, with the exception of MacIntyre, I'm not familiar with these authors.

What do you feel about these two awards? Do you prefer one over the other? Much has been said about the fact that Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood didn't get this far. Not having read it, I can't say one way or the other if it's being overlooked unfairly. I do think that sometimes we're so eager to give new writers a chance that we don't look at which books are actually the better books. Still, as I said above, I am looking forward to reading some of the unfamiliar authors. So it works for that, but is that really what the awards are about? And how about the judges for the Giller? There are more non-Canadian judges on the panel than Canadians (American Russell Banks, Brit Victoria Glendinning, and Canadian Alistair Macleod.) I'm not opposed to having one non-Canadian in the bunch, nor would I be opposed to judges who have immigrated from the US or the UK, but a part of me feels insulted that the organizers went this route. Anyway, enough negativity, what are your predictions?

4. Finally, the results from last month's poll indicated that more people have visited Ontario than any other province, and fewer people have visited Newfoundland and Labrador out of all the provinces, and Nunavut was the least visited of all. No real surprises, I suppose. I mean Ontario is a nice place, it's almost in the middle, it's the biggest by population, and a hell of a lot cheaper for most people to visit than Newfoundland and especially Nunavut. But trust me, they're worth the effort and money!

Finally, since this is the round-up, don't forget to add any reviews of Canadian books you read in October in the comments below. Don't forget to:

1. Leave a link to the review posts themselves (not just to your blogs or wherever)- Remember you can drop the link code in if you know how, and if not just copy and paste the url address

2. Give me your Challenge grand total so far

On that note, good luck in November and I look forward to reading your reviews!!!