Sunday, July 31, 2011

Late Nights and Mystery

Because I've been so far behind in recording my reading for so long, I haven't been grabbing impressions of what I'm reading at the moment -- Twitter is giving me a venue for doing so, in those 140-character bursts, and that's a start, but I'd love to do more weaving together of new and old reading, and of reading-as-it's-happening mucked in with my daily life.

Right now, for example, I'm about 100 pages into Elizabeth Hay's Giller Prize-winning Late Nights on Air, and while the novel is delighting me with its sketch of Yellowknife in the 1970s, while it's assembling a panoply of fascinating characters and setting up credible, seductive tensions between them, it's also reminding me how much this country has been a country of radio. Peter Gzowski's voice fills my memory, and before his, Don Harron's. Those were morning programs, of course, and it's been many years since my schedule has accommodated listening to radio, but oh, the interviews I got to listen to, the authors I heard read from their works. Hay scrolls us back even further on the calendar, taking us to those isolated, northern nights with families gathered 'round the radio in the livingroom or convalescent teen girls listening alone in their bedrooms. She makes me wish for another small lifetime, one with enough hours to explore the vast CBC archive, listening to the wondrous collection of radio plays with their rich mimetic soundscapes.

And she recalls the significance in Canadian environmental history of the Berger commission which I'll admit to having experienced as rather peripheral at the time. I was sympathetic to the resistance against the pipelines, but like most of us, I think, if I thought much about it I saw it as doomed and somewhat naive. Revisiting it through Hay's fictional lens, I'm tending to appreciate more how significant it was that a commission was set, and that such a respected, thoughtful, conscientious, and fair man was charged with listening to all the voices of those concerned, so many of them First Nations peoples who had rarely been listened to so carefully before.

So I'll dive back into the novel and see what else impresses me. Before I do, though, let me catch up my booklog by quickly recording that I read Chevy Stevens Still Missing. A gripping mystery set right in my own backyard of Vancouver Island, this debut novel by a young writer justifies the hype if you're looking for a fast-paced novel with strong, interesting characters and some psychological drama. Great beach book!

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