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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 6:16 pm 
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Went on a book buying spree lately. Bought "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time", bought Alice Munro's "The View from Castle Rock" (*bliss*), likewise Margaret Atwood's "Moral Disorder" (*lesser bliss*) and a copy of Catharine Parr Traill's "The Backwoods of Canada" (first published in 1836 *longed for, for years*), bought "Guns, Germs, and Steel" (kewl) and last but not least, "A Lynne Truss Treasury" (disappointing).

I am trying to "save" Alice Munro as a treat/reward for reading all the rest, but I'm not sure my moral fibre is up to the wait.

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time" was okay. It let me down, in the end, and I feel quite strongly that the book would have been a better book if it had been written by the Omniscient Author, rather than in the first person. A friend has been bugging me for a long time to read it. Barry (my friend) has an autistic grandson and Barry told me that the book was enormously helpful to him in understanding his grandson. Well, if it did, that's great. I just didn't find it that satisfactory.

"A Lynne Truss Treasury" could hardly measure up to "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves". But what could? A large part of the book is made up of columns Truss wrote about the state of being a single woman in this day and age and I found it mildly bitchily amusing, but for the luvva pete, how many of these books are we going to get? Every darned single woman who fancies herself to possess a wry sense of humour and an observant eye for foibles has written one, surely? It is moderately more interesting since Ms. Truss is English, which makes her adventures a tiny bit exotic, but not enough for me to say, "read this book!", which I did for "Eats, etc."
I have not read the 3 novels included, but will, I suppose. One day.

I have begun Catharine Parr Traill's "Backwoods of Canada". This was once (and still may be) required reading in CanLit, but I have only read excerpts before and am quite happy to be poring over the whole thing. Mrs. Traill was an astonishing woman from an astonishing family in an era of astonishing women from astonishing families. She and her sister both married men who emigrated to Upper Canada in the early 1800's and it is more than fascinating to read what they endured. How they could find the time and the energy to do what they did is utterly beyond me. They suffered horrible hardships and privations and yet wrote, and were botanists and linguists and economists and heaven knows what all. The whole "take" is very different from any such book that might have been written about "settling" in the USA of the time.

So far the wrapper on Alice Munro remains unbroken, as does Margaret Atwood's. Munro is my Literary God. I won't say Goddess, because right away it becomes "women's literature". She is the greatest writer alive, as far as I'm concerned. (Note the mild enthusiasm. :D ) Margaret Atwood is much admired, but I am not one of her most fervent admirers. I mean, I like her and all, but I could live without her. Whereas I could not live without Munro.

I see that someone is making a movie of Margaret Laurance's "The Stone Angel." That could be wonderful, or it could be crap. But then, that's true of most movies made from beloved books, isn't it?

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 7:15 pm 
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I've never even heard of Alice Munro. :shock:

What sort of books does she write?

"The Backwoods of Canada" sounds fascinating! :)

*goes to search Project Gutenberg*

Yeah! :D

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13559/13559.txt

(Well, it's not comfortable reading in that font, but I might have a look. :) )

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 7:22 pm 
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Who is Alice Munro? :(

I wouldn't know where to start answering that. The quick answer is that she is a Canadian and is largely viewed as the finest writer of short stories in the world. In any language.

She should get the Nobel Prize for Literature and she might yet, although politically she has no chance.

Read "The Lives of Girls and Women", that would be a good start.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2006 7:29 pm 
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Ah, ok, short stories. Thanks :)

Well, apparently, her fame hasn't crossed the pond, yet. :P ;)

(Although it probably is, only that short stories are rather a special interest, and doesn't get your name on the bestseller lists. :) )

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 3:45 am 
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So. Done with "The Backwoods of Canada" and loved it. It's hard to describe, but I guess the best way would be to say that it is Canadian, and leave it at that.

Margaret Atwood: Moral Disorder. Well, she seems to be in Munro country here. Quite good, but thin and basically unsatisfying. Witty bits. Just not deep enough. We wade through shallow waters with Atwood.

Tomorrow, I get to read Munro. And the waters won't be shallow, they might be too deep for me. I find her overwhelming at times, and think I might drown.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 6:46 pm 
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I was deeply moved by "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time", and thought the first person narrative was brilliant. I ached for the parents. Those moments when they touch hands with their son, the only physical contact that they can use to express their love for him......oh man. It's odd to come to the end of a book "feeling" for the main character while at the same time realizing that such an emotional response to him would be absolutely beyond his ken. There's a gulf between reader and narrator that can never be bridged.......and yet I closed the cover knowing that I would carry that boy in my mind and heart for a long, long time.

A book on my summer reading list that just blew me away was Kurt Vonnegut's "Bluebeard".......an absolutely amazing read. It was the first Vonnegut book that I've ever read :oops: , but it definitely will not be the last.

Alice Munro? :love: But then, I love the genre of the short story. She is, most definitely, a master.

Margaret Atwood? :scratch: I've never been able to "get" that woman. I find her writing.......distant? Non-compelling? Definitely "meh".

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 8:34 pm 
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Athrabeth wrote:
A book on my summer reading list that just blew me away was Kurt Vonnegut's "Bluebeard".......an absolutely amazing read. It was the first Vonnegut book that I've ever read :oops: , but it definitely will not be the last.


Ath, Bluebeard is the only Vonnegut that is on my "repeat" read list. I've enjoyed all of his books that I have read, but that is the one that has touched me the deepest. I'm glad (but not at all surprised :love:) that you enjoyed it too.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 10:42 pm 
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I shall certainly give "Bluebeard" a try. I have not yet admired Vonnegut extravagantly, but I have admired him.

I guess my problem with the Curious Incident, etc., is that I found the boy's character, as revealed in the course of the story, to be inconsistent. Wrong word. Hm. I thought he was too expressive about his own "feelings" and "state of mind" and also that the author contradicted himself a number of times. Parts of the book were excellent. I read it on the plane coming home from PEI and re-read several chapters over Manitoba and Saskatchewan. But it remains unsatisfactory, on the whole. I regard it as a "good" book, a noble attempt, but for me it fails, ultimately. I had some emotional attachment to the father, but it was more difficult to care about the mother. And I did not at any time believe that the boy was ever really afraid of his father -- but I daresay others will disagree with me. The boy himself? I just could not accept him as he was supposed to be. I know several autistic children who are autistic to varying extents, and while the author succeeded well in describing what the boy DID, none of the autistic children I know is anything like that boy in any way except observed behavior. I have never understood much about their thought processes, have not been able to enter into that in my aquaintance with them.

A book by an autistic person that I did think was wonderful was by Dr. Temple Grandin, who is herself autistic. Can't recall the title. She let the reader see something of what she was like in her mind. But even there, the connection is hard to create and maintain, since ordinary English words are just not sufficient or obviously mean something different to her than to me. Like notations for dancing? Or musical notes to someone like me who can't read music.

I think I might read it again, though, and see how I feel on a second complete read. Sometimes one has to do that.

I think I expected too much, actually.

Margaret Atwood is too clever by half. Now and again she finds the right touch, but I, like Athrabeth, find her cold and non-compelling. The premise of this latest, Moral Disorder, was one that, in the right hands, could have been terrific. But hers are not the right hands. She removes herself too far, or alternatively, intrudes too closely.

I have gobbled up half of The View from Castle Rock already in one morning and to my dismay, it is not vintage Munro. It is something entirely new from her and only Alice Munro could get it published, I think. Yet, Munro at her worst is better than nearly anyone else at their best, so it's worth a read.

Fell into conversation with a woman at the bookstore yesterday who was telling me that many of Andre Norton's books are about to be reissued. I have nearly all her books in paperback (could never afford hardcover in those days) and they are all falling apart, held together by elastic bands. However, 3 of them (!!!!!) are autographed by Ms. Norton, so I'm not whining.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 11:28 pm 
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Perhaps the book ("Curious Incident") struck such a chord with me because I actually had a boy in my class a couple of years ago who was very similar to the boy in the book........brilliant, in many ways, most especially in maths and "logic, with a truly photographic memory. He read LOTR, but picked up none of the emotive themes. He told me that liked how he could "see" all the parallel plotlines at the same time after reading it....even drew me the most detailed "story map" I've ever seen, accurate down to the date each event was taking place. He was somewhat more "emotionally connected" than the boy in the book, but very definitely on a similar scale. I consider his mom a genuine friend of mine, after teaching three out of her four children (number four is coming up next year!). She was blown away by many similarities to her son, especially the boy's tendency to think in numbers when he was trying to calm himself down, and having to live with that unfathomable burden of seeing, registering, and categorizing absolutely EVERYTHING when looking at a scene.

vison, yes.....please give "Bluebeard" at go. I opened it with absolutely no preconceptions (my brother just shoved it into my hands at the beginning of the summer and said, "You've GOT to read this!"). It really was one of the most delightfully unexpected surprises I've had in reading for quite a while. :read: Like Voronwë, it is definitely on my "re-read" list!

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 3:09 am 
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I gobbled down Alice Munro's latest, The View from Castle Rock. At first, I was a bit disappointed. But by the end, I was not. There are parts of this book that will stay with me forever. It's very hard to explain Munro to those who have not had the pleasure of reading her work. She brings a lost world to life, a world I lived in, and that is, in part, what enchants me. Only, enchants is the wrong word if you think "enchant" means being caught up in pleasure.

It is pleasure, but it is the pleasure of admiring a writer at the height of her powers, admiring the skill, the delicate touch, the sureness with which she creates people who live, breathe, and sometimes die in the space of a short story.

One thing many of her characters share: the quintessentially Canadian (or so I think of it) reluctance to expose oneself, to stand out from the crowd, to be talented, curious, adventurous, romantic - or strange. Being any of those things makes you the last: strange. In this book she lets us see deeper into her self, the farm girl afraid that she would always be a farm girl in the poor hard farms of Huron county, the clever girl who read books for fun, who stood out, who was different. In this book she comes full circle, home to the country she left, to the family roots she had once fled. A wonderful book by a wonderful, wonderful writer. I wish I could read it again for the first time.


Got another book on the go: Paddle to the Amazon by Don Starkell. "From Winnipeg to the mouth of the Amazon by canoe!"

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 3:40 am 
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<adds "The View from Castle Rock" to her list of books to bring to Mexico>

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Got another book on the go: Paddle to the Amazon by Don Starkell. "From Winnipeg to the mouth of the Amazon by canoe!"


I remember listening to this guy on "As It Happens".

BTW........as one CBC'er to another......hearing about Lister Sinclair's death today settled a quiet sadness upon me. "Ideas" was one of those wonderfully unique shows that always seemed to hook me while I was driving home at night, or working into the later hours at school. I rarely heard an entire programme from beginning to end, but it never seemed to matter - there was always something to take away and think about.

And he sounded like SUCH a gentleman!

On the subject of books....are you a regular listener to Eleanor Wachtel's show, "Writers and Company"? I always try to tune in on Sundays. I don't think there's anyone who can hold a candle to Ms. Wachtel when it comes to interviewing writers about their works........I always feel so darn intelligent and well-informed after listening in! :D

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 17, 2006 3:57 am 
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I heard him on AIH, too!!!!

Yes, I sometimes listen to Eleanor Wachtel and always enjoy it. One interview I loved was with Frank McCourt, last year I think.

Last Friday Sheila Rogers interviewed Alice Munro, and I forgot to listen. :( What a sap. :(

I often listen to "Ideas" whilst driving home from a meeting at night. Where else but on CBC would you get such a show? (I also enjoy Paul Kennedy as host.) It seems to me I have been listening to Lister Sinclair all my life -- well, I guess in one way that's absolutely true. A wonderful man. Well, maybe he's chatting with Peter Gzowski and Barbara Frum, right now. ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 4:36 am 
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Well, maybe he's chatting with Peter Gzowski and Barbara Frum, right now.


I hope Bill Cameron's there, too. :)

You know, I'm not actually that well-versed in "CanLit", but when I do read a good book by one of my countryfolk, I'm often struck by how nice it feels to be in "familiar territory". To recognize distinctly unique (yet often subtley so) characters, settings, and themes that have grown from this soil, helps me understand that we have a foundation of shared experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else.

The city of Vancouver was as much a character as.....well, the characters in "Stanley Park". I really loved that about the book, along with pretty much everything else.

I was drawn to "Elle" by Douglas Glover when I came across this line while I was considering whether or not to purchase it: This is the story of a girl who went to Canada, gave birth to a fish, turned into a bear, and fell in love with a famous author . Beauty, eh? ;)

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 4:39 am 
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Good one, eh?

Since much of being Canadian seems defined by the ways we aren't Americans, it's wonderful to read a book that talks about Home.

Just knowing that the characters can buy Smarties is a good thing.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 4:45 am 
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:D

Mmmmm.......Smarties. :love:

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