Monday, March 8, 2010

Book love.

Hero. Not a word to be used lightly. For me, it can apply to people who do things that I would do if I had the guts. Inspiring people. Like my Dad. How can someone with such a tough upbringing still be so thankful, forgiving and optimistic? Really, I hate the world if I burn my toast or get my heel stuck in a sidewalk crack. I don't know suffering, though. I really don't. Maybe that's why I could never be a hero.

Another of my heroes, of sorts, is author Margaret Atwood. Creative people who can actually focus and be great at one thing? Heroic? To me, yes. Only because I'm too afraid to commit. Creative meandering is safe. Oh, and she's not just a gal with a knack for words, she's also an outspoken environmental activist. 

Margaret (can I call you that? Oh, how I wish we were on first name familiarity) - a woman who does not shy away from awkward. She has the incredible ability to candidly and vividly speak through the mouth of her childhood self (because where else would she draw inspiration?). Cringe-worthy things you may only have penned in a diary (later to be burned). She remembers her youth the way I do: in technicolour nauseated nostalgia. Beautiful, saturated memories that also make your stomach churn. Just a little. I so immediately connect with her characters. I'd like to think we'd understand each other, Margaret and I. Crazy? Maybe. 

It's a sickness, really: I have been on a Margaret Atwood kick for the better part of 10 years. Maybe more. I have read all of her novels once, most of them twice. I've dived into several of her short story compilations and even some poetry, which is really quite fantastic. For poetry. During that time, I attempted to broaden my literary horizons, only to end up with authors of the same ilk: contemporary Canadian/American female fiction writers. I read two Margaret Laurence novels, Jane Urquhart's The Underpainter, Gail Anderson-Dargatz's The Cure for Death by Lightning, an E. Annie Proulx novel... you get the drift. I immensely enjoyed each of these, and realized that I really could be polygamous (book-wise, of course).

I still have reading dry spells. I don't make time for it, unless I have forced free time (airports, beach vacations) or until Margaret pens a new novel. I devoured her latest (The Year of the Flood) while we were in the Dominican. Maybe when I'm a kept woman, I'll make the time (imminent husband stardom, hurry up!).

One day, I realized I was in a rut when I found myself contemplating a third read of Cat's Eye, possibly one of her best. I then knew I needed a change. 

In the past few years I have made a conscious effort to read outside of my comfort zone, starting with classics. I spent a little time with George Orwell and finally read 1984 and Animal Farm, got cozy with Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude (love!), and fell in lust with a few protagonists: Duddy Kravitz and Holden Caulfield. Not a classic, but A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) was one of my favourite reads of late. So, see, not so much of a rut anymore, right?

I attempted The Grapes of Wrath, but couldn't get through it. I found it agonizing. I need to connect emotionally, or I lose interest. And the dialog! "Before I knowed it, I was sayin' out loud, 'The hell with it! There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do...'" Gah! I felt ashamed giving up on a classic, but reading is supposed to be enjoyable, right?

Currently, I am struggling through a Tori Amos biography, and am finding it a tad pretentious and meandering. Alex bought it as a gift, so I feel obliged. I also love her, so I want to love this book. She could spit on paper and I would frame it; she's just so incredible. But with limited free time earmarked for reading, I need a little bang-for-buck when it comes to books.

What's next? We have an embarrassing number of novels on our shelf that I haven't even opened. I'm considering another Mordecai Richler; St.Urbain's Horseman is one such books yet untouched on the mantle. Courtney also recommended something she's reading, although I can't remember it. Hedgehogs something something...? I do owe Alex, too. There's that. I urged him to read Margaret's Oryx and Crake, and he agreed. But there was a catch: I had to read a novel by his favourite author, Kurt Vonnegaut.

Yes, I'm out of work but I'm surprisingly busy. Mr.Vonnegaut may need to wait for the next beach. 


p.s. A timely post, considering I had an interview with Indigo today. Fingers crossed!


  1. p.p.s. It's National Reading Month is the US. A perfectly timed post!

  2. The Diviners is my favourite novel. I'm on kind of a laurence kick right now (2 years). And I really like Atwood and, yeah, women authors.. specifically Canadian women authors. I wish I could afford to pay off my library fines and then I would keep up with my YA lit the way I used to