Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Revival of Saramago

Imagine my joy to be walking through a bookstore in Oshawa one day while on vacation and discovering a stack of Jose Saramago books on a table. I was convinced I had read everything that the man ever wrote. But it seems that after his death on June 18th, 2010 [a day I will never forget] -- his publishers had been holding back on a few things, and he is now being posthumously published again!
The book I found that day was called Raised From The Ground, first published in Portuguese in 1980, now freshly translated into English. I had no idea the thing existed. I promptly bought two copies.
I read it, and it was fantastic.
A bit later on, after doing a bit of research I found one called The Lives of Things, a collection of six short stories. Again I got two copies, sending one to my best friend. But there was yet one more discovery to be made, a novel called Skylight, which was Saramago's first novel, written when he was a mere 31 years old. It was rejected at the time. Being ignored by that publisher plunged the writer into a painful, indelible silence that lasted decades. Even after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, Saramago continued to keep this book Skylight a secret, refusing to have it published during his earthly existence.
But we have it now.
I encourage you to read it. In fact, if you have never read Jose Saramago, Skylight may be a good place to start, because it is written in a straightforward, grammatically correct way. Later on he adopted a style so unique that some readers may find those books hard to follow -- although I myself found them irresistible. I love what his wife, Pilar del Rio, said in the Introduction to Skylight:
Skylight is the gift that Saramago readers deserved to receive. It is not the closing of a door; on the contrary, it flings the door wide open so that we can go back inside and read or reread his other novels in the light of what he was writing as a young man. Skylight is the gateway into Saramago's work and will be a real discovery for its readers. As if a perfect circle had closed. As if death did not exist.
As if death did not exist.
Jose Saramago died 1,850 days ago. 5 years and 24 days ago. 264 weeks and 2 days ago. 44,400 hours ago. 2,664,000 minutes ago. 159,840,000 seconds.
I'm so glad he left us this last gift to open, on our way to re-reading everything else.



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vacation Time...

What could be conceivably better than eating a massive hamburger and drinking a Guinness whille you are simultaneously scrounging a free Blue Jays game because your hotel is attached to the Skydome in Toronto? A game they won against the Baltimore Orioles.
Answer = Nothing.
*****

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Splash du Jour: Tuesday


Lovely, the way the sky works. The constellations and planets and moons. Enough recurrence to assure us of the probable continuation of the universe, but not so repetitive as to become boring during the limited span we have to watch it all spin around.
-- Charles Frazier, Thirteen Moons --


Have a great Tuesday!
*****

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Not Dead -- Just Reading A Lot

I'm sure that some of you who may have been following my blog in the past have concluded that I have died. But I am very much alive!
It's really strange, but somehow I have just not been blogging much this year. I'm not even sure why.
For a spell there I was saying to myself that I am just working too much. That I am too tired at the end of the day. And it's true, the past few months have been real busy at my work -- but it has subsided lately, and still -- I just do not seem to be blogging about the things I am reading, or even about my daily thoughts as I once did. It's probably just a bit of phase I am going through, almost like writer's block.
But I have been reading some really terrific books, that's for sure. In fact, the first three months of this year I have read 15 books, which is a real lot for me statistically speaking, and given the fact that I am slow reader.
Here is a list of what I have read thus far in 2015:

The Gods of Gotham by Lindsay Faye
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought by Susan Jacoby
Gold by Chris Cleave
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Under The Wide And Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
The Names by Don DeLillo
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle
Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle
Native Son by Richard Wright
A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozecki

Just this morning I started my 16th book, Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier and I am immediately immersed in it. Such terrific writing.
And in two more weeks I am on vacation! So… more reading. Uninhibited. 

And hopefully some blogging, too.
*****

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Favorite [Living] Author

T. Coraghessan Boyle, in repose.
I just finished such a great book, The Road To Wellville, by T.C. Boyle. And I loved it so much I had to immediately pick up another one by him and dig right into it. It's called Talk Talk, and deals with the phenomenon of identity theft. And the same thing is happening -- I CANNOT put the thing down!
I've read several others by this guy and seriously, he is just dynamite.
The Road To Wellville was about Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of corn flakes. Often Boyle will take a real historical person and create a barnburner of a novel about their life. God he is good.
He is everything I love about good writing. Clarity, substance, humor, suspense, pitch-perfect characters that you can believe in. Great dialogue. Witty, inventive.
I can't wait to get my hands on his newest novel, as yet unreleased. It's titled The Harder They Come. From what I understand, it deals with the current fad of amateur sniperism. Whatever topic Boyle handles, he always just nails it.
I mean… even with corn flakes. How can anyone make that interesting?
Boyle knows how.
Check out his awesome website -- HERE.

*****

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I do feel that literature should be demystified. What I object to is what is happening in our era: literature is only something you get at school as an assignment. No one reads for fun, or to be subversive or to get turned on to something. It's just like doing math at school. I mean, how often do we sit down and do trigonometry for fun, to relax. I've thought about this, the domination of the literary arts by theory over the past 25 years -- which I detest -- and it's as if you have to be a critic to mediate between the author and the reader and that's utter crap. Literature can be great in all ways, but it's just entertainment like rock'n'roll or a film. It is entertainment. If it doesn't capture you on that level, as entertainment, movement of plot, then it doesn't work. Nothing else will come out of it. The beauty of the language, the characterization, the structure, all that's irrelevant if you're not getting the reader on that level -- moving a story. If that's friendly to readers, I cop to it.
-- T.C. Boyle --


Have a great Wednesday!
*****

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Word About Expiry Dates

Tonight for supper I ate half a roasted chicken. Yes, with baked potato slathered with half a tub of sour cream…. and watched one of my favourite shows on TV, Dateline.
I think I ate too fast, though.
Because when I sat down afterwards to begin reading The Road To Wellville by T.C. Boyle -- whoa, I was struck with Level 5 heartburn. And most people usually die at just Level 4. Oh, it was bad. And so unexpected. I quickly scanned my options, in ascending order of how much I did not want to do any one of them. They were: a) getting in my car and driving to the drugstore for a remedy, b) calling 911 for an ambulance, and c) just dying.
But then a fourth option presented itself. Several years ago I would get heartburn on a regular basis, and Gaviscon© was always the thing that knocked it right out of the park. I wondered if there was any of that stuff still in my fridge. I hobbled over and amazingly, way at the back, there it was. A lone, glorious bottle. I grabbed it and checked the expiry date. It said, "November, 2012."
2012?
This tells you a few things about me, I guess. One of which is that I do not clean out my fridge very often. For instance, the current discovery was nestled behind a jar of hot-dog relish, circa late 1990's. Anyhoo, I twisted off the crusted over lid of the out-dated Gaviscon and emptied it into my human volcano. And amazingly, five minutes later I felt like a million bucks. I almost wanted to instantly eat more chicken! Or have a beer!
So I just wanted to let you know -- at least when it comes to antacids, expiry dates are not to be taken too seriously. This ancient Gaviscon put me right back onto The Road to Wellville. 

*****

Monday, February 09, 2015

Splash du Jour: Monday


We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.
-- Chris Cleave, Little Bee --

Have a great Tuesday!
*****

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Going For Gold

I really liked the last book I read and wanted to recommend it to my readers, even though I may be one of the last people on earth to have discovered Chris Cleave's work. Which is to say, you've maybe already read Gold. Or Little Bee. Or Incendiary. His books sell like hotcakes, and he is the kind of author who enjoys a word-of-mouth cult following. There's a light, humorous way he gets his serious message across that tends to lend itself to the idea that all your friends should read the book, too. 
That is at least how I felt, and feel, about Gold.
It's about Olympic-level cycling.
No it isn't.
He just uses the phenomenon of Olympic competition to tell the deeper story of how love is really the prize in life everyone strives hardest to achieve and maintain.
It just runs deeper, love does.
It's a brilliant book that makes one realize that a medal, even a gold one, is in the end, well… metal. The true desire to care for other human beings is the lifeblood that makes us who we are.
Rather than go on about it, I will include here a clip of the author himself, explaining the gist of his book. If you haven't read it yet keep your eye open for it in your travels. The book accelerates, the last half better than the first -- like a good race. And the final 75 pages will have your heart pumping as if you yourself were pushing past the wall of physical and emotional endurance in the bright lights of the velodrome.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Splash du Jour: Thursday

I say that humans are the only ones in this world that need everything within it...But there is nothing in the world that needs us for its survival. We aren't the masters of the earth. We're the servants.
-- Joseh Boyden, The Orenda --

Have a great Thursday!
*****

Monday, January 19, 2015

Splash du Jour: Monday

Other writers are like a garden diligently planted and watered, but Shakespeare a forest where the oaks and elms toss their branches to the storm, where the pine towers, where the vine bursts into blossoms at its foot. Whenever I read Shakespeare -- if it ever happens that I fail to find some new beauty, some new presentation of some wonderful truth, or another word that bursts into blossom, I shall make up my mind that my mental faculties are failing, that it is not the fault of the book.
-- Robert G. Ingersoll --


Have a great Monday!
*****

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Remaindered Books

I'm quite a fan of "remaindered books". I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that I am also a fan of "not spending money". But seriously, I do love to browse those "Bargain" sections of large bookstores and see if anything new has found its way to that level of price reduction since the last time I checked… which means usually like, the day before today! Remaindered books are printed books that are no longer selling well and whose remaining unsold copies are being liquidated by the publisher at greatly reduced prices. "Sometimes at upwards of 80% off," he said while salivating. Often they appear shortly after the initial hardcover sales of a new release have given way to the newly minted trade paperback version. While the publisher takes a loss on the sales of these books, they are able to make some money off the sale and clear out space in the warehouses. So if you are able to nab a good one, it's a win-win situation! Most will have that slash of felt-tip marker ink across the top or bottom of the book's pages, near the spine, and this is done to prevent the book from being returned and mistakingly redeemed at full value.
Anyhoo -- I just wanted to say that over the years I have found terrific books -- tons of them, really, as remainders. I once thought that their banishment to the Bargain section was synonymous with the fact that they were not a good book. And while this is sometimes the case, it is not necessarily so. Some of the best books I have ever read have been rescued by me [from a certain death by shredding, no less] and thoroughly enjoyed even though their saleability did not meet the publisher's expectations. But then again, my criteria for book buying has never been in step with what most of the world is reading. I'm an odd fish, in that respect. 

So, remaindered books. Trust yourself to buy them. The fact that they're there doesn't ipso facto mean they're bad.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

While I am opposed to all orthodox creeds, I have a creed myself; and my creed is this. Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so. The creed is somewhat short, but it is long enough for this life, strong enough for this world. If there is another world, when we get there we can make another creed.
-- Robert Green Ingersoll, spoken in 1894 --



Have a great Wednesday!
*****

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

I've developed a great reputation for wisdom by ordering more books than I ever had time to read, and reading more books, by far, than I learned anything useful from, except, of course, that some very tedious gentlemen have written books.
-- Marilynne Robinson, Gilead --


Have a great Tuesday!
*****

Friday, January 09, 2015

Splash du Jour: Friday

Umm... is it just me? Or does Ellen DeGeneres look a lot like Henry David Thoreau?

Have a great Friday!
*****