Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Potpourri of Titles

Yes, I'm still here.
Some of my recent reading has been alongside my students in a 1st-year Literature and Culture class -- with them, I've read Sheila Watson's The Double Hook, a Canadian classic, alongside Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, also a canonical Canadian text. I fit two very recent, possibly more accessible works into that mix: Natalee Caple's In Calamity's Wake and Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers. All of this, in case you can't spot what threads these together, under the rubric of Westerns or Frontier Mythology. We've been having fun, I think, with the reading. Perhaps not so much with the writing and the marking, but there have been some nice connections made, some satisfying readings produced. . . .

For respite when I've wrested me-time away from the course prep and marking, I've logged another few mystery novels, my primary escape genre. Patricia Cornwell's The Bone Bed -- I may really and truly be done with Kay Scarpetta, although I keep saying that and then still picking up each new entry in the series. Someday perhaps I'll go back to some of the early titles and see if the relationships I think I remember were ever really there. And the food -- I'm sure there used to be more extended, quite enticing descriptions of Scarpetta's favourite Italian recipes. . . .

More satisfying was Val McDermid's Cross and Burn, her latest Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. Hill is such an intriguing, likeable, oddly vulnerable character. And the loyalty Jordan manages to evoke in her team is equally engaging. I was much happier with this McDermid than with The Vanishing Point which skirted incredulity far too often. . . Incredulity is too distracting in a mystery novel. The whole point of my reading these is to get out of my world and when my Inner Editor is called out, I've been denied the escape.

Also recently read a Neil Gaiman book for the first time -- some of my students really like him, and I've been hearing the name for years. Not quite my usual genre, but oh, I really enjoyed The House at the End of the Lane. For me, it carried the same emotional timbre and occupied the same magical space between fantasy and realism as I experienced in Erin Morgensteen's The Night Circus. I'll definitely be looking for more Gaiman -- recommendations?

Right now I've got a lovely, lovely tempting stack on my desk (Joseph Boyden's The Orenda, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, and. . . . .wait for it! . . . Elizabeth George's Just One Evil Act), but first I'm reading Margaret Atwood's MaddAdam, the last in her apocalyptic trilogy (Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood). So dystopic that it's hardly escape reading -- but darkly funny if one can stay a step ahead of depression. . . .plot, characters, satire. . . . many rewards and far too much truth for an overly sombre day. . .

So there we go -- I feel like the brave little tailor, killing seven with one blow. . . . I managed more than seven, but only in error could anyone accuse me of dispatching anything more than the literary equivalent of flies here (my non-reviews, I mean, not the books themselves.. . . .)


  1. Oh, Mater, you tempted me! After reading your recent blog, I have forsaken my "reading the books of the desert" list to read Elizabeth George. I just downloaded it. I am still going to read The Border Reader when I go back to Bookman's. I read Coraline which is a children's book by Neil Gaiman and it was clever in the way that appeals to children and adults.
    I just got an e-mail from my discussion group and will be reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis but I haven't started yet.

  2. Ha! I just read Cross and Burn and really enjoyed it. And someone just gave me The House at the End of the Lane. But I'm in the middle of Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs, which I'm riveted by - have you read it? Next on my pile is Cloud Atlas - crazy, as I've read everything else by David Mitchell ...

  3. Madame, I'm envious! Did you sink sumptuously into George's novel? I've got my copy sitting here waiting for the first quiet day I have to myself in the upcoming holiday -- can't wait!
    Tiffany: The Woman Upstairs -- it's on my list, and now it's starred on my list thanks to you. I've never read Messud, and I know I'm going to love it and then have to read all of Messud, right?
    Read Cloud Atlas a few years ago, but nothing else by Mitchell. That one was a biggie in so many ways!
    I've just finished Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, speaking of BIG books. . .

  4. Ah, The Luminaries is on my Xmas wishlist - was it worth the time/number of pages?!

    I also fear that having read The Woman Upstairs I will have to consume Messud's entire back catalogue ... Mind you, it's fun to do that.

  5. Yes, it's worth the investment (The Luminaries), but it does take some settling into -- and I'm still mulling the effect of the ending. I'll be very curious to compare notes.
    And you're absolutely right! It's quite a delight to fall in love with a new writer who has a strong backlist ready to be read. I hadn't read much Julian Barnes until year before last and gradually I'm working at crossing titles off, so far with much pleasure. . .