Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hello again (or a shameless overuse of brackets because I feel like it)

Okay, it's finally time for me to stop procrastinating and to start blogging again. So with bagel and steel water bottle at my side (for the record, What A Bagel makes the best bagels this side of Montreal), it's time to play catch-up.

Though I guess I do have a good excuse for some of my absence. For a couple of days a few weeks ago, my parents thought they were going to be taking home a vegetable from the hospital. As the presumptive veggie, I'm only now getting all the details of how bad things were. The silver lining is that I have no recollection of the MRI (which normally freaks me out for a good week before I go into it) and the spinal tap (turns out it isn't just a comedy act, after all). Being a medical marvel isn't as much fun as it sounds. Thankfully, the aneurysm is still fine.

As for the Canuck book challenge, I have two books to offer - Ibi Kaslik's The Angel Riots and Alison Pick's The Sweet Edge.

I enjoyed both books but I much preferred The Sweet Edge. The Angel Riots, while cool, was a much more muddled effort. Both books work with a dual storyline, following the lives of two protagonists - one male and one female. The problem with Kaslik's book is that I really did not sense much of a difference between the two voices. The thoughts and emotions seemed to run together in a way that was more confusing than anything. True, the book was an interesting look at the rise of an indie band. I just wish it could have been something more.

Pick's book, on the other hand, has two really defined characters. Following the lives of two ex-lovers during one summer - the woman in Toronto, the man canoeing through the arctic - I came to like, occasionally dislike and appreciate both characters. That's what makes the tale work so well - there were two fully formed voices speaking instead of one. Besides, the Arctic canoe trip had me thinking of Elizabeth Hay's Late Nights On Air, a book I enjoyed immensely but read before I learned of the book challenge. Not that the stories are similar, just the setting.

I think my next Canuck book will be Ondaatje's Divisadero. It's a book I've been plodding through for a while. Not sure if I like the story itself, but the writing is sublime with far too many lines that are just stunning. It reminds me of what a woman said to me in a bookstore once about Bob Kaufman's poetry - "He writes poems so beautiful you read them aloud to yourself in bed just because you can." (I've held onto that line for the better part of a decade, how could I not?) That's what reading Divisadero has been like so far.

I like what Ian Tyson had to say about Divisadero - “I love that book. I don't understand it, but I love it.”

In other news, I now live at Yonge and Eglinton. It's nice to finally be in a neighbourhood where you actually want to get out and walk around. The twenty minute commute is a nice plus, as well (I'm saving myself about an hour and twenty minutes a day compared to the old trek). I used to spend way too much time on the bus and subway just travelling to a part of town I would want to walk around. Now, it's all just a minute or two away.

I am also way too excited about picking up Suze Rotolo's memoirs (A Freewheelin' Time). She was the Dylan muse/visual artist who is pictured with Dylan on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album. Something tells me Odaatje will be put on hold for a few days longer.

There is more, but I'll keep it short. I broke down and got cable tv again and, while it's been fun, it has left me puzzled. How can people honestly look at tv as a replacement for reading? I just don't get it. At the end of the day, it's all just so bland and undemanding. I don't mind it. At times, I even enjoy putting my brain on cruise control, but that's just what it is - cruise control.

This morning, I spent an hour in bed reading and it just felt so much more stimulating than any amount of time spent in front of the screen.

I remember arguing this with a friend at work once. He kept trying to tell me about what a great learning tool tv is. I disagreed then and I strongly disagree now. It's not that I think tv is all bad. It is entertaining and you can learn the occasional bit of info. I just don't think it can replace books. I was lucky enough to grow up when educational tv was in it's prime, when gifted entertainers and educators like Mr. Dressup and the folks at Sesame Street ruled the (morning) airwaves, and yet I never learned as much as I did from books. It's not that the people failed; it's just that the medium is faulty. You aren't forced to engage the mind in the same way you are with books.

I could go on and on but Friends is about to start. . .

Just kidding.

1 comment:

John Mutford said...

Welcome back!

What a scary time for you and your family. I hope everything is still working out.

I agree with you on the tv thing. I have learned quite a bit from the Simpsons, but it has mostly been of a trivial nature. The higher order thinking definitely comes from books.