Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Thanksgiving

Later, after dinner, we examine your uncle’s photos
of trees, flowers, waterfalls, birds
until I just can’t stand it another second.
I am not at one with nature.  Never was.
Some of the people can be fooled all of the time,
even when you yawn right in their faces.

Guests, or ghosts, have taken over the house,
lounging in the living room, watching t.v.
Ugly images of war and politics are all I see.
Cancel the rest of the holidays, please, until this
knot can be untied and our hearts released.

-- Terence Winch

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: The Dinner

I remember the initial clamor over The Dinner. Radio hosts were gasping, "It's an incredible book!" So I picked it up — and found it tedious.

Then I did the only thing I could do: I gave it to my friend Carole, my Other Reading Self, to help me see if it was me or the book. When she handed it back, she said, "You have to give it another try."

Then I mentioned on Twitter that I was giving The Dinner another shot, Random House Canada told me this.

Now I tell you:

Paul and Claire meet Serge and Babette for dinner. What happens next: well, the minion said it all.

Books in translation often display a clumsy gait to me, especially books originally written in German or Germanic languages. (The Reader failed this reader before I even got to the pedophilia.) However, This translation was very smooth, allowing the undercurrent of the narrator's apparent awkwardness to knock the reader off-kilter.

And don't get sidetracked by the narrator's tangents. Don't try to make these threads weave into a familiar pattern. My mistake was that I thought the narrator was drawing me a road map. What I needed, instead, was to sit back and let the story do the driving.

Let me know when you read it. You'll need to talk. I'll be here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: The German Ward

The German Ward

When the years of strife are over and my
recollection fades
Of the wards wherein I worked the weeks
I shall still see, as a visions rising 'mid the War-
time shades,
The ward in France where German wounded

I shall see the pallid faces and the half-sus-
picious eyes,
I shall hear the bitter groans and laboured
And recall the loud complaining and the weary
tedious cries,
And the sights and smells of blood and wounds
and death.

I shall see the convoy cases, blanket-covered
on the floor,
And watch the heavy stretcher-work begin,
And the gleam of knives and bottles through
the open theatre door,
And the operation patients carried in.

I shall see the Sister standing, with her form
of youthful grace,
And the humour and the wisdom of her
And the tale of three years' warfare on her thin
expressive face-
The weariness of many a toil-filled while.

I shall think of how I worked for her with
nerve and heart and mind,
And marvelled at her courage and her skill,
And how the dying enemy her tenderness
would find
Beneath her scornful energy of will.

And I learnt that human mercy turns alike to
friend or foe
When the darkest hour of all is creeping
And those who slew our dearest, when their
lamps were burning low,
Found help and pity ere they came to die.

So, though much will be forgotton when the
sound of War's alarms
And the days of death and strife have passed
I shall always see the vision of Love working
amidst arms
In the ward wherein the wounded prisoners

— Vera Brittain

courtesy First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Honor of Veterans Day Never Forget

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Te Deum

Te Deum

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

by Charles Reznikoff

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Bossypants

I wasn't sure what to expect from comedienne Tina Fey's memoir, Bossypants. She is so young, yet iconic and very successful. I wasn't completely disappointed with the memoir, but I also wasn't completely satisfied.
I thought she wrote some funny stuff in her book and I laughed out loud quite often. I like funny. But I've read consistently funnier memoirs by people who aren't "professionally" funny. (Caitlin Moran, anyone? Jenny Lawson?) I know, the curse of the comedienne is that she's always expected to be hilarious, which isn't fair — but only when you bump into her at the grocery store.

May I also ads: I have read more honest and revealing memoirs. At times she skated across the top, rather safely. That was disappointing.

I was a little surprised by what she chose to include in her memoir: some of it was a little out of left field (climbing a mountain at night) and some of it was unexpectedly personal and rather un-funny (wanting a second child). What she revealed about Saturday Night Live, one of her best-known gigs, was guarded. She definitely had a handle on what she wanted to reveal.

Having said that, there were some nice surprises. I liked meeting her father. (What a stylin' badass!) I liked the readers' guide at the end, which gently poked fun at readers' guides and social media. I liked the description of her "30 Rock" staff because she gives props to the people who help her be in the position to write a memoir people want to read. I liked the part about her Palin impersonation; it was kind to the people usually criticized or vilified by those on the "other side of the aisle." I kind of liked the whole Christmas trip chapter.

I liked her "girl power" moment, when she told us how Amy Pohler shut up Jimmy Fallon about what was funny. Personally, I have fond humor long controlled by men who write about what they think is funny and make women the butt of many jokes, or assign them certain roles to support their jokes. I also think women writing for current cinema too often have turned themselves into men to try to be funny to everyone. ("Bridesmaids," anyone?)  Tina didn't do that with her first feature film, "Mean Girls." She looked at how women act and found the humor in it, and it told a great story. I would have liked a little more insight into how she creates and judges "funny."
In the end, I didn't think there wasn't enough Tina in the memoir. I don't think I know her any better now than I did before reading the book. I didn't expect deep, dark secrets — which, don't get me wrong, I'm not sad she doesn't seem to have — but I expected more "her."

I liked her writing, though, and I will continue to watch and read her work.

Have you read Bossypants? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below, or drop me a line.