The Giller Prize Book Club: Book Three and the Shortlist.

imgresWell, I had the strange fortune to have chosen mostly books that didn’t get to the Giller Prize shortlist. I don’t mind, of course, but I had hoped to read all of the books on the short list and it might be kind of a tall order now.

Caught by Lisa Moore was my latest read and it was sort of a job. I liked it and I am tempted to only tell you about the thing that I liked about it because I am feeling a bit peer-pressured. There aren’t many reviews (I did find one, however) of Caught that aren’t a excited gushes of adoration and support.
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The Giller Prize Book Club: Book 2

imgres-1Now that was a story. I have just discovered that the best possible compliment for a novel is not to call it a book, but to call it a story. This occurred to me because the entire time that I was reading David Gilmour‘s Extraordinary, I kept referring to it as my story. 

-What are you doing? Reading my story.

-Darling, what’s for breakfast? Coffee. Can you pass me my story?

The structure of Extraordinary was obvious and simple. We know what’s going to happen from the get-go. The reader is simply present for the journey. Even that isn’t all that outrageous. It’s plain, warm and tangible, extremely insightful – but not extraordinary.

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The Giller Prize Book Club: Book One

womenOne down and twelve to go… I’m off to an unimpressive start to my task of reading all thirteen longlisted novels by November 5th, but nonetheless, I am pressing on.

My first choice, Elisabeth De Maraffi’s book of short stories, How to Get Along with Women, was a page turner. I probably would have gotten through it a lot faster if I hadn’t just begun a new job at a cool place and if I didn’t care about keeping the job.

Despite the press in my time, what little I had to spare, was not wasted with Elisabeth’s book (I feel like I can call her by her first name because we have that in common and so when we meet some day, we will almost surely have the kinship that all Gemini and people named Elizabeth do).

The subject of women has been on my mind lately and not just because I am one. However, to my great irritation, my thoughts on the subject are not at all original. I’ve been thinking about the way that women are portrayed in media and how stupid that reality is. I’ve been thinking that there are not enough women teaching in universities, in politics, and business. I’ve been thinking about my experience with women and how shocking, terrifying and intense some of the stories I could tell are. I have known some real characters in my modest amount of time on the planet and have been witness to a lot of very powerful women.
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Un-Friend All of Your Writers

Don’t make friends with writers. I am a writer and I have a bunch of friends. I’m not bragging, I’m just telling it like it is. The fact is, I think I should have fewer friends.

My friends are nice friends. They love me and tell me that I am talented and they go to my readings and proofread my atrocious grammar and spelling. They are there for me when I need to quit my job, again and again. They validate my unjustifiable laziness and unsuccessfulness. They do this for me because I encourage it and I am entertainingly embarrassing at parties.

Little do they know that I’m a whining, way less than prolific, self-righteous, know-it-all with a Goddess-complex (maybe they do know this and wonder why I keep coming around).

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The Day Job vs. Bliss

It happens from time to time that a tortured artist toils and bleeds for her craft, only to die before it means anything to anyone. It also happens that an artist toils and bleeds for her craft and no one reads or cares about her work, dead or alive. But hopefully, the artist is dead by then and, presumably, doesn’t care.

No one likes to think about these things, but it’s true. Sometimes, the thing you love doesn’t love you back. Just like a girlfriend who doesn’t love you back, it so happens that, a person can follow his “bliss” (just as Joseph Campbell tells him to), and nothing comes of it. Sometimes people get hit by Mack trucks. It’s not personal, it’s physics.

So, in the mean time (the space between being a raging success and the Mack truck), you’ll probably need to get a job. You’ll want a job for the moneys that keep writers in mac laptops, gluten-free muffins and five-dollar lattes. But, what should a writer do? Isn’t a job selling out?

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Thank you, Science Fiction

Today I caught a Sunday matinée of Prometheus — a heavily criticized film that is meant to be something of a pre-Alien movie. I’m just going to come right out and say that I thought it was fine. I don’t know if I thought that because so many big block busting sci-fi films have let me down so spectacularly or because it actually was fine (please direct all of your well-composed thoughts to the contrary to someone who hasn’t thought of them already). It made me think about my beloved science fiction genre (or Speculative fiction, if you please) and I realized that I haven’t yet posted about my heart, my genre, my raison d’écrire.

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Things You should know about Stephen King and 11/22/63

I have planned on writing a review of Stephen King’s new book, 11/22/63, for a while now but I just haven’t been able to get around to it. I think what has been holding me back is the fact that I haven’t been in the mood to entertain snotty comments and harsh judgments about Stephen King. I didn’t want to hear about how people “don’t read horror”, “have books they have to get to before King” or whatever boring argument that people who have never read anything by King come up with. But, today, an article crossed my path (which you can find here) that put a fire under my tush and now I’m going to let you all have it

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COLLINS: The Hunger Games Trilogy

I got to The Hunger Games — the YA book phenomenon by Suzanne Collins, way late. In fact, I didn’t expect to read these books at all. If it hadn’t been for my YA writer friend Alison Mills, they may never have crossed my path.

Upon her suggestion, I downloaded a book (not this one) that came in a package with The Hunger Games for a few more dollars. I had heard of the trilogy and that it was going to be made into a movie.

Since I love a good pop-book event, I decided to read them before that happened. Because, as we all know, seeing the movie before reading the book, makes the possibility of creating your own imaginationscape pretty difficult.

So I queued it up on my KOBO and strapped it to the display of the elliptical machine at the gym. I’m all about atmosphere. Continue reading

Murakami: 1Q84

I made the hideous mistake of unabashedly disliking Haruki Muarakami’s novel 1Q84 in front of someone who had just started reading it and I may never forgive myself for it. So, allow me this moment to redeem myself and explain my position on subject.

You see, I LOVED The Wind Up Bird Chronicles so much. That book did so much for me. It reminded me that there was still a lot that a novel could do. It was the first unapologetic piece of surrealist literary fiction that I had read in a modern context. I needed that book to exist if I was ever going to hope to write the kind of fiction that I like to write.

I could hardly wait to read 1Q84 and as soon as it became available on KOBO, I was on it. I started reading right away, expecting to be otherwise unavailable for the entire 1031 page duration.

Very quickly, I felt obviously manipulated by the author. I could sense that this book was written to be a “great work”. I didn’t believe in the characters or their motivations and I could barely slog through the clunking, repetitive prose. There was nothing of the subtle, brave Murakami who wrote The Wind Up Bird Chronicles. This was in your face, heavy-handed, bludgeoning the reader to death with over sentimentalized symbolism.

I thought to myself that, surely, this is a translation issue. Or, 1Q84 had suffered the same fate that most serialized novels do with its redundancy, over explanation, and over exposure. And I might have been able to excuse him from it if it hadn’t been so consistently boring as a result. Continue reading