Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

That he would die, and that his children would die, that everyone was subject to the laws of entropy, no longer bothered him. He had no desire to live forever. If life isn't meaningful now, in the present moment, it won't become meaningful by being prolonged indefinitely. Death, in fact, is a condition of meaning. …Most of the people that clamor for immortality don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
-- Robert Hellenga, The Fall of a Sparrow --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Hell(enga) of a Writer

Just pausing in my reading here to mention how much I am enjoying this book called The Fall of a Sparrow.
The author is Robert Hellenga, from the boonies of rural Illinois. You know, there are great writers hiding out all over the place, you've just got to ferret them out.
The Fall of a Sparrow is about an English professor who loses his college-age daughter in a terrorist attack in Bologna, Italy. Only a third of the way in -- but I am enthralled with the way Hellenga is painting such a realistic canvas, showing us how a deeply intellectual academic individual might go about re-ordering his life after such a horrific event.
In an interview, the author spoke of his admiration of Tolstoy.
When asked, "What works of art and what other writers have inspired you and shaped your journey as a novelist?" he answered:
My favorite novel is Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. I always have a copy nearby. I especially like the forward momentum of the novel. There's an urgency in the narrative voice, something that says this story is so important that I don't need to fool around with narrative tricks or verbal fireworks. Let me just set things down as clearly as possible.

This is what he is doing here in The Fall of a Sparrow.
Setting things down as clearly as possible.
It's the kind of writing I myself admire the most.
Check him out --

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.
-- W.H. Auden --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another Life Altogether

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. -- Anna Karenina --

I thought of that legendary opening sentence when Elaine Beale raised the curtain of Another Life Altogether with this inaugural humdinger:
The day after my mother was admitted to the mental hospital, I told everyone at school that she had entered a competition on the back of a Corn Flakes box and won a cruise around the world.
The narrator is Jesse Bennett, a thoughtful, intelligent, introspective thirteen year old girl struggling to find her identity, her place. It's the 1970's. Yorkshire, England. Bay City Rollers, etc.
Jesse's an only child, trying to fit in and be accepted amongst her peers, and it doesn't help matters that her mother has serious psychological problems that keep landing her in Delapole, the local loony bin! Her optimistic father deals with the debilitated home situation by pretending things are not as bad as they really are, but [as one might imagine] the toll on a daughter in such a scenario can be devastating. Jesse resents the fact that she must excuse her mother's actions, and continually protect her from herself.
The Bennetts move to the country, to a remote community in order to make a new start of things. Here Jesse encounters the same struggle for acceptance but eventually strikes a friendship with Tracey, a bit of a rotten-apple of a kid. Influenced by her allegiance to Tracey, Jesse struggles to be true to herself and her own capabilities and desires. Fitting in is everything -- and meanwhile, her mother gets loonier and loonier.
Jesse has a secret known only to herself, and expressed only in the unsent letters she has hidden away in a cookie-tin, kept in the closet. If her secret gets out, she feels it would spell the end of her life as she knows it. The shame would be too great. Life, this life, or any other worth living, would be over.
Little does she know that the very release of that secret may be the only way she can experience real freedom. Real life. Truly, another life altogether.

Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Indeed. And this is the story of a uniquely unhappy family that found a way to overcome tremendous obstacles to happiness. In many ways, this novel is a testament to the merits of staying together for the sake of love. There are dozens of memorable characters I have not mentioned. Themes and threads I have not remotely touched upon. Suffice it to say that this is a deeply resonant, often times hilarious, heart-rending story. An unflaky look at flakiness. A searing, worthwhile, five-star-of-five al dente feast of a meal.

For more about Another Life Altogether, click -- HERE.
To get a copy, click on the image, above!
Happy reading!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Splash du Jour: Friday

In children's literature the grown-up wants a comforting image of childhood, or just a familiar name or story; the child wants a boat, a way out, an example of the life beyond. The parent wants to get back, the child wants to get out.
-- Adam Gopnik --

Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

The Dance / Henri Matisse / 1910

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term art, I should call it "the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature through the veil of the soul." The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of "artist."
-- Edgar Allen Poe, 1849 --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Revising My... Portfolio

So I'm sitting at the Starbucks in a Chapters store and The Old Guy starts talking to me.
Who is The Old Guy?
Well, The Old Guy is….. this old guy that always talks to me.
I say "old" [he told me once that he had just turned 70], but:
a) I myself will very soon be that "old" and,
The Old Guy is in better physical shape than I am.
He is always dressed quite sharp, and he is a very clear thinker. I recall reading a biography of Einstein and when he saw the book, he began going on and on about salient facts regarding Einstein…. things that I had just read in the book.
Which is to say that The Old Guy has been around the block a few times. He's sharp. Intelligent. He's got his wits about him and he is a pleasure to talk with. He speaks several languages. We've conversed about Flaubert.
Basically, he's smarter than me.

In his retirement years he's found that his real passion is business. Investing. Stock market. Things like that.
So, as I sat down at a table with my coffee he looked over at me and picked up the book you see above, and asked me if I had ever read it.
"No," I replied. "I have no MONEY to invest in anything."
I went on to say a few more things about how financial success does not seem to be my….. genre!
He laughed and suggested that maybe if I read some books like this, I would HAVE some money. Point well taken!
He said he picked up the book at a Barnes & Noble in Florida and is meeting his friend today to tell him to buy the book.
Minutes later, his friend arrived and without even prefacing with a Hello, I heard The Old Guy say to him, "I am never telling you one more thing about investing until you go right now and buy this book!"
The friend laughed and protested a bit, but The Old Guy dragged him away to the financial section of the store, asking me to watch his stuff while he was gone.
Soon they returned, with a freshly purchased Investor's Manifesto.
As I sort of eavesdropped on some of the ensuing convo, I must confess, a lot of what I overheard sounded sensible. Pretending to read my own book, I found myself seriously re-evaluating my own brilliantly-conceived retirement financial stratagem -- WINNING THE LOTTERY!


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

I never know quite when I'm not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, Dammit, Thurber, stop writing. She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph. Or my daughter will look up from the dinner table and ask, Is he sick? No, my wife says, he's writing something.
-- James Thurber, 1955 --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

I loved the library. I loved it for its spacious quiet, the way it was possible to discern each step and shuffle and sigh against that soothing backdrop of calm. No one would yell or scream or cry there, and if they ever dared I knew that the tight-lipped wrath of the librarian would come crashing down on them, as heavy and as crushing as the weight of all those books. I loved it because it was a refuge from school, a place where I had only to navigate my way around the ingenious precision of the Dewey decimal system rather than complex and cruel social hierarchies. But most of all I loved the library because that vigorously imposed silence implied an awe of something far bigger than me, than all of us. It showed the deepest regard not for our need to talk or belch or scream -- not for the silly clatter of little children, the gossip of older women, or anyone's gasping for a cigarette -- but for those stacks and stacks of books and the words and worlds that lay inside them.
-- Elaine Beale, in Another Life Altogether --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Indeed, this is such a brilliant writer that her readers would believe anything she told them.
-- Daily Mail --

"Indeed", indeed!
A very pithy summation of my own thorough duping!
Gripped by the veritable knickers, I was!
I believed it all!
And to say more is to spoil too much, for a new reader.
I find it very difficult to say almost anything at all about this book without letting too much well-woven information slip.
But if you want to grab onto a book that does not at all disappoint the attention-span of even a half-awake reader -- pick this one.
Affinity, by Sarah Waters.
It is the third of her books I have read and it is my favorite, having loved the others.
Brilliantly crafted. Affinity is a book I unreservedly recommend to all readers yonder -- wandering in the Victorian London fog.
Trust me.
In the end, a lantern shall be brought near. Very near.

I remembered that comment of Arthur’s, that women’s books could only ever be journals of the heart. I think I thought that, in making my trips to Millbank, in writing of them here, I would somehow disprove or spite him. I thought that I could make my life into a book that had no life or love in it—a book that was only a catalogue, a kind of list. Now I can see that my heart has crept across these pages, after all. I can see the crooked passage of it, it grows firmer as the paper turns. It grows so firm at last, it spells a name—
-- from Affinity, by Sarah Waters --


Friday, March 19, 2010

Guess Those Gams

I will provide only three hints:
1) Not me.
2) Has nice legs.
3) A fan of Eckhart Tolle's book The Power of Now.

Splash du Jour: Friday

A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.
-- Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple --
And wow! He was right. The very next day, after I spilled a coffee into my Mac laptop, I DID open my wallet!

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alice in [Wonder]Chains!

Maybe it's all the hype about Alice in Wonderland as of late?
I don't know.
All I do know is that I just cannot get this one song out of my head.
It is in there and IT WON'T COME OUT!
The song is called Your Decision and it's by American rockers Alice in Chains.
Besides being just a terrific and well produced song [in my opinion] somehow the lyrics are just lodged in my brain like a terrific Billy Collins poem, but on acid.
I don't even know what this song means, but I just like it.

Your Decision

Time to change has come and gone.

Watched your fears become your God.
It's your decision. It's your decision.

Overwhelmed, you chose to run.
Apathetic to the stunned.

It's your decision
. It's your decision.
You feed the fire that burned us all when you lied.
To feel the pain that spurs you on
black inside.

No one plans to take the path that brings you lower.

And here you stand before us all and say it's over.

It's over.

It might seem an afterthought.
Yes, it hurts to know you're bought.

It's your decision.

Splash du Jour: Thursday

His longtime editor at Scribner, Nan Graham, says that Mr. DeLillo used to carry a business card that said "I don't want to talk about it."
Has anyone out there read Don DeLillo's newest novel, Point Omega?
If so, what is your opinion? Good? Bad? Excellent?

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

And I just want to say to the kids out there watching - you can do anything you want in life, unless Jay Leno wants to do it too.
-- Conan O'Brien --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

One of my most favorite passages in all of literature:
"I like to chew candles," she said finally.
"Who doesn't?" said the young man, getting his feet wet.
-- A Perfect Day for Bananafish, by J.D. Salinger --

Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tragedy / Recovery

Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days in Bookpuddle-land.

Right after work on Friday I went to my favorite Starbucks at the Southkeys Chapters [you know the place]. Sat down and read some latter portions of Salinger’s Seymour: An Introduction while waiting for the lineup at the coffee counter to diminish. I hate standing in lineups for anything.

Ahhh… finally got my steaming hot coffee and sat down to resume my reading. But first I thought I’d boot up my computer and let it idle on the table in case I got inspired at any moment to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning blog.

Reached for the coffee -- SPLOOSH – the cup tipped over, drenching my beloved Mac’s innocent keyboard. I instantly said several curse words and tipped the choking laptop upside down, coffee spilling all over the place. In those moments there is no care for public decorum – I just kept swearing and stuff.

But, well, needless to say, it did permanent damage. I won’t go on about it.

Hence, the very next day [yesterday] I was in the Apple store, purchasing this new laptop that you see in the photo – spent all of last night transferring data from the old soggy Mac onto this new one, via the use of an external keyboard and mouse and the technical wizardry of my friend. On my own I could never accomplish this computer transition. I would have just gone and jumped off a bridge somewhere.

But I am slowly getting used to the newness of this wonderful machine – so stay tuned!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Splash du Jour: Friday

A young ventriloquist is touring the clubs and one night he's doing a show in a small town in Arkansas. With his dummy on his knee, he starts going through his usual dumb blonde jokes when a blonde woman in the 4th row stands on her chair and starts shouting: "I've heard enough of your stupid blonde jokes. What makes you think you can stereotype women that way? What does the color of a person's hair have to do with her worth as a human being? It's guys like you who keep women like me from being respected at work and in the community, because you and your kind continue to perpetuate discrimination against not only blondes, but women in general and all in the name of humor!"
The embarrassed ventriloquist begins to apologize, and the blonde yells, "You stay out of this, mister! I'm talking to that little fucker on your knee."

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Old news, but still worth repeating......

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's largest airline has learned it sometimes has to take a back seat to the country's biggest sporting passion, ice hockey, the head of Air Canada said on Tuesday.
The airline was forced to delay a flight from Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games because passengers watching the end of gold medal final on airport televisions ignored repeated calls to board.
"We incurred a flight delay for a reason Air Canada had not yet encountered in over 72 years of existence," chief executive Calin Rovinescu told a business gathering.
The Canadian fans were rewarded for their delay, as the nail-biting end to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics saw Canada beat arch-rival United States 3-2 in overtime.

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's About Time!

Man, I've been waiting for this new innovation for years!
And finally I have found it at the supermarket.
<-- Bacon, sold in a re-sealable plastic tray container!
My God! It's about time!
For most of my adult life I've been wondering why bacon is packaged in those unmanageable contraptions that, once you've opened them, are virtually impossible to properly close again no matter how many miles of plastic wrap you devote to the mummification of the unused portion.
But it looks like the folks over at Maple Leaf have finally done it.

This, to me, is a landmark moment in pork product packaging! Now when you throw a few strips into the frying pan for your morning breakfast, hell, all you do is snap the tray lid back on and there's no more worrying about raw exposed pig slabs fermenting on a shelf in your fridge.
Bacon. A key part of one of my main food groupings [Grease] can now be safely stored in it's very own pre-fab transparent bacon-condo.
I just love it when technology gets it right!
Will wonders never cease?

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

I always ask two questions: How many countries have military bases in the United States? And in how many countries does the United States not have military bases?
-- Jose Saramago --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Unsettling Thoughts About Settling

Today at work I had the radio at full blast, as usual.
Talk radio.
At one point, an interesting segment was airing [on CBC]... about dating, getting engaged to be married, and the marital relationship in general.
When this one statistic was mentioned I quickly grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the findings. Of course, I cannot cite sources -- but this one Ph.D author of such things, she said that a survey was taken, asking people the following:
Would you enter into a marriage relationship knowing [and feeling] ahead of time that the other person possessed 80% of what you consider essential requirements in an ideal partner?
I was surprised at the results that came blaring through the way-too-loud radio.
93% of women said that they would not do so.
[The cynic in me felt that the number would be lower.]
And here is the shocking thing -- 80% of men said that they would marry someone that was 80% of what they always wanted!
To a man, finding someone that was 80% of everything would be like snagging a real catch!
But women tend to think quite differently about this, regarding their men. I find that profoundly revelatory. Interesting.
Are there lower expectations among men?
Later, someone phoning in to the program [a man] said, "Settling inevitably leads to resentment, and resentment leads to relationship cancer."
I tended to agree.
After hearing these results I concluded that I am not a "typical" man, I guess. Because I am among that rare-ish 1/5th.
That 20 percentile grouping that would not settle for less than 100% [of whatever].

I just told this all to my cat. And the look he gave me [he was sleeping before I roused him] sort of reminded me of the price one pays for such.... such selectiveness in mates!
His look seemed to say -- "Umm. Do you even realize that I am a frigging CAT?"


Splash du Jour: Tuesday

The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever. The true life takes place when we're alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamingly self-aware, the submicroscopic moments. He said this more than once, Elster did, in more than one way. His life happened, he said, when he sat staring at a blank wall, thinking about dinner.
-- Don DeLillo, in Point Omega --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

Arthur hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction there and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife.
-- Douglas Adams --

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Covet...

........ and yet I do. Oh, I do.
Not the neighbor's wife.
Not the neighbor's ass.
[Not that I've even seen either thing....]
I covet BOOKS!
And 2010 promises to be a year full of great new books. I could talk for three years about books I have on the back burner, waiting to be read by me. There seem to be more of these, than those that I have already read. Which is saying a mouthful, considering I have basically lived half a normal lifetime reading books on a near-constant basis.
If I lived three normal lifetimes I would not tire of books -- nor ever deplete a To-Be-Read pile over there, cobwebs from stack to wall.

But yeah, 2010 looks good.
I will place here just a mere listing of three real beauties.

First, a new one by Ian McEwan. Solar.
And if you don't like McEwan, just keep that information to yourself.
I want to remain friends
with you. I just truly cherish his writing. I'm well on my way to reading everything he has written, past, present and future. Admittedly, I have not really enjoyed his short stories. I believe his real knack is in the realm of the novel. Solar [and all of these release dates are Canadian] is due to be in stores ON TUESDAY.
March 9th, 2010.
Then there is Yann Martel.
His new novel Beatrice and Virgil, with a release date of April 6th, 2010. His novel Life of Pi is a story that has indelibly left a mark upon me.
Meeting the author and having a fifteen second chat with him was enough to show me that he is the real deal.

Then...... I may even anticipate this one the most of all...... Philip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials was something that completely took me by surprise. ACCOSTED me.
I cannot wait to get my hands on this new novel of his, entitled The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.
Well, all that is within me covets this book! Relase date: April 2oth, 2010. I am insanely curious as to how I will like it, as compared to the WONDERFUL Saramago novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ.
Anyhoo -- just dropping in here to say "Hi" to all my Booklover friends.
And say, "Welcome to the spring of 2010".
A year in which much literary-coveting shall be richly rewarded.
Click on the book images to learn more about each book.
Meanwhile, happy reading to one and all!


Friday, March 05, 2010

Depressing, Yet Beautiful

Just thought I would share with you one of the most absolutely depressing songs in the history of the universe.
I have always loved the music of Alison Krauss, and I have several of her CD's.
This evening as I sat reading a book in Starbucks, I was surprised to heart this song entitled Ghost In This House, playing softly, overhead. I was familiar with the song, but surprised to hear it played because this is not exactly top-40 stuff!
But it is just so beautifully done by Alison and her band, Union Station.
So when I got home I tried to find a LIVE version of it. And I did. [Isn't YouTube amazing?]
I believe there is no voice as clear and true as that of Alison Krauss. There. I said it.
OK, maybe Eva Cassidy. And then Alison.
If I believed in angels, I would say Alison had the voice of one.
She may not be your "style" necessarily, and like I mentioned, the lyrics are depressing as all hell, but for clarity and just gorgeous harmony -- well, GIVE IT A LISTEN.
Tell me what you think.


Splash du Jour: Friday

Peace rules the day, where reason rules the mind.
-- Wilkie Collins --

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Hitch24 [minutes].

In a recent blog-posting I alluded to the infamous Christopher Hitchens, and only afterward did I say to myself... "Hmmm, perhaps some of my readers are not familiar with this anti-theist curmudgeon!"
His [2007] book entitled "god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" remains one of the best books I have ever read when it comes to effectively delineating and explicating some of the absurdities of religion.
I've been informed in a secret emailing from Random House that there will soon be a sort of memoir-type autobiography entitled "Hitch22: Some Confessions and Contradictions", due to be released in Canada on June 1st, 2010.
I've already asked for a pre-release review copy!
Anyhoo, for a sampling of what Hitchens is like, here is a 24-minute interview with CBC's Jian Ghomeshi on the radio program "Q".

Splash du Jour: Thursday

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Splash du Jour: Wednesday

"I will have no man in my boat," said Starbuck, "that is not afraid of a whale." By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.
-- Herman Melville, in Moby Dick --

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Splash du Jour: Tuesday

"You have plenty of courage, I am sure," answered Oz. "All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty."
-- The Wizard of Oz, to The Cowardly Lion --

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Splash du Jour: Monday

Fear of Danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than Danger itself, when apparent to the Eyes; and we find the Burden of Anxiety greater, by much, than the Evil which we are anxious about.
-- Daniel Defoe, in Robinson Crusoe --

Have a great Monday!