Saturday, August 13, 2011

Reader's Diary #747- Annelies Pool: Iceberg Tea

Recently I tried to convince a friend of mine that instead of keeping a gardening journal, that maybe she could do a gardening blog. Essentially the same as her hard copy journal, only online, I added that she could also benefit from the advice and support of other gardeners. Alas, I couldn't sell her on the idea. "Why would people care how my garden is growing?" she asked.

The question underscores the way I think a lot of people feel about blogs: that they're self-centred and narcissistic. Never mind that non-blogging Facebook users seem to think that a status update declaring how superb their lasagna turned out is somehow going to improve the quality of their 236 friends' lives.

But maybe blogs aren't for everyone. I think everyone is potentially interesting (still struggling with Paris Hilton) and so, I guess I'm a blog person. Just like how over the pass couple of months I've been really enjoying memoirs of people who aren't particularly famous. You couldn't get much more diverse than Mariatu Kamara, Ernie Lyall, Ivan Coyote, and John Gallant but I've found them to be equally fascinating individuals and they've proven to be great summer companions. The latest addition to the party is Annelies Pool.

However, the interesting thing about my reading Annelies' book (and let this serve as my official disclaimer) is that we were friends beforehand. I wouldn't say we are best friends, but I do work with her on the Northwords Writers Festival committee, and we've both visited each other's home for tea (not iceberg tea, incidentally). My point is, I knew Annelies a little before reading her memoirs and because of that I didn't actually want to read her book. I'd even told her once that I'd probably never read it. What if I didn't like it? I couldn't lie and say I did. I have my integrity to think of. I couldn't read it and not blog about it, I have my addiction to think of. But recently I was trying to do a top 10 list of books written by Northwest Territories authors and I realized that I'd been holding off from reading so many of our authors simply because I know them personally (Jamie Bastedo, Richard Van Camp, and of course, Annelies Pool). I decided then and there that if I was to become more knowledgeable about northern lit I'd have to read their books. Risk offending people? Why not?

Annelies, fortunately and hopefully, will not be one of those offended. I quite enjoyed her book. The writing was stellar (funny, insightful), and it was nice getting to know her better. At times there was a tendency to be somewhat self-absorbed, amused by her own eccentricities and follies, but remember, I'm a blog-person and I actually like that sort of thing. While it, for the most part, lacks the extrospective scope of say Ivan Coyote's writing, it's not an insular book at all. It's also not a self-aggrandizing book. Like Ivan, Annelies has a very reflective personality and there is a sense of ongoing personal growth that runs throughout her memories. And instead of pondering heavily on those around her, she more often focuses on her place in the universe. Fortunately, Annelies waxes philosophical while contemplating more down to Earth pursuits like lottery tickets and Facebook. She's a student of Tai Chi but she also admits to insecurities.

I also enjoyed how many stories involved her husband Bill. I said above that Annelies doesn't discuss other people a great deal, but Bill is the one consistent exception. There's a underlying tenderness to the way she describes their everyday life together and if we wanted to, we could read Iceberg Tea as a love story. A subtle one, but a love story nonetheless. I found it very endearing.

Be it blog or memoir, it seems everyone has a story tell. Annelies is one of the fortunate few that knows how to tell it.


Annelies Pool said...

Thank you, John, for seeing that "iceberg tea" is a love story. I've always thought of it as a love story.

Megan said...