Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Falstaff and his descendants

I probably should have provided this link when discussing Rushdie on Desani in my last post, but it was already quite long.  There is quite a lot of good material there, but I am still wrapping my head around Rushdie passing on some thoughts of Milan Kundera that all English literature "descends from either Richardson's Clarissa or Sterne's Tristram Shandy."  In this case, Desani (and Joyce and even Anthony Burgess) are clearly on Team Tristram.  And I can buy that an awful lot of literature really is about a damsel in distress, even if the novels are not epistolary in nature.  However, like all militant binaries, it tends to fall apart when pressed too hard.  Are all bildungsroman (scrambled or not) to be classified as Shandean, even if they are primarily moral in nature?  Anything with a anti-hero is also put into the Sterne column?  I would have preferred it if Kundera had gone back to the classics and said that literature tended to be Apollonian (Clarissa) or Dionysian (Tristram Shandy), as I think that formulation makes more sense.

However, even there things break down when you consider Shakespeare, who really did blend the two approaches, typically in the same play.  Often I consider Shakespeare to be a Dionysian at heart but one who felt obligated to wrap up his plays in a moral fashion, appealing to the intellect and reason, i.e. an Apollonian ending.  And sometimes this just doesn't go over that convincingly.  (As You Like It must have the worst cop-out ending of any Shakespeare comedy.  It's on my mind as they are doing it in Toronto's High Park this summer.  I plan to go but need to remind myself to basically disregard the last five minutes.)  And really both Richardson and Sterne descend from different aspects of Shakespeare.

The influence of Shakespeare on English literature is truly immense, and Falstaff (or Falstaff analogs) being a character that emerges periodically in comedies.  I thought I had already touched on this in this blog, but apparently not.  Most people are well aware of Ignatius J. Reilly from Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces.  However, a more obscure novel by a Canadian author (My Present Age by Guy Vandergaeghe) features Ed, who is also an overweight, over-educated and totally exasperating character.  The two are quite similar, but seem to have been derived independently from each other, but from the same root source.  If anything, Vandergeaghe came first, since the Ed character is also in the last two stories of his collection, Man Descending.  I'm not sure if I will reread these "Ed stories" and/or My Present Age, but if I do, I'll post a review.

So why this long digression on Falstaff?  I've finally reached the point in The Tin Drum where Oskar gives us a long description of the jazz musician Klepp.  He is corpulent and basically living in his own filth when Oskar enters his room at the boarding house they share (Oskar apparently sleeps in the tub of a decommissioned bathroom).  The description of the spaghetti dinner Klepp cooks actually made me retch.  Eventually, Oskar gets him out of bed by playing his drum, and soon they are busking in Dusseldorf (at least I think that's where the story is taking place at this point).  Slightly after this, they find a guitarist and are hired on as a jazz trio at The Onion Cellar (in one of the better set pieces of the novel).  Klepp is probably the most disgusting Falstaff yet, with sloth and gluttony overwhelming his lust (though he does get married later to a cigarette girl -- to Oskar's disgust).  It's not a perfect analogy, mostly because characters are supposed to outgrow their Falstaffs; Oskar encounters his quite late in the game and doesn't appear to demonstrate any moral growth at all that would allow him to move out of the orbit of Klepp.  Maybe this is one reason why the novel in general is so unsatisfying: late growth spurt aside, Oskar is essentially unchanging and thus not terribly compelling as a character.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Literary connections

Well, there are an almost endless number of literary connections, depending on whether one is looking at self-professed connections between authors or only ones that the reader draws from personal (and sometimes very idiosyncratic) experience(s).  I'm generally more interested in the latter than the former, and I'll sketch out a few that have been on my mind lately.  However, one of the more intriguing formal connections is that Joseph Conrad apparently wrote Under Western Eyes under the influence and as a partial response to Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.  Anyway, I picked up a Dover edition of Under Western Eyes super cheap at a bookstore on Bloor (not the one I used to haunt, I think that one is gone, but it is a reasonable substitute -- I'll definitely have to watch it as the used bookstore scene is just so much better in Toronto than in Vancouver, and possibly better than NYC simply because so many have closed over the years due to high rent).  While I am planning on getting around to Conrad's The Secret Agent (which I've somewhat shamefully never tackled) before Under Western Eyes, when I do get to that one, I'll go ahead and read Crime and Punishment in the newish Pevear & Volokhonsky translation, which I've also wanted to read for quite some time.  So many books, not enough time.  After having tackled quite a few longish books, I think I'll take up some shorter books for the next month or so, even if it means distorting the TBR pile a bit.

While both Two Solitudes and The Tin Flute have WWII in the background, and both have conflicts that are essentially resolved by men going off to war, Grass's The Tin Drum is a lot more drenched in WWII and its suffering, as well as the medium-term impacts of the war.  That isn't terribly surprising: Canada's suffering was an order of magnitude less than that faced by Germany or Russia for that matter.

However, this constellation isn't really the one I want to focus on.  Instead, I am really amazed at how much Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children draws on The Tin Drum.  (I am hardly the first to point this out.  Actually, in a few essays, Rushdie mentions Grass as a major influence on his work.)  The narrator is incarcerated or at least incapacitated, and is looking back over their lives.  For about 1/3 of the book, Oskar has a male nurse that has a complicated relationship with him, not so different from the one that Saleem has with Padma (aside from the occasional sex).  They both have truly prodigious memories (something that bugs me in general in retrospective fiction) and tell family stories/legends from before their births.  They both have odd powers.  They both witness momentous events in their countries, both touched by war.  They even are both unlikely leaders of gangs, and Rushdie's account is a bit more realistic in that Saleem is not able to keep the in-fighting under control.  They are both epic in scope,* and at this point in my life, both exhausted me (I fairly recently reread Midnight's Children and definitely enjoyed it less on the second go-around).  Both novels would have been far better served by being cut down by at least 100 pages.  The Tin Drum is more generally chronological, aside from the switching back and forth to Oskar in the hospital, whereas Midnight's Children jumps around a bit, at least at first.  On the other hand, both feature lots of foreshadowing and the characters sometimes circle back around to key events in their lives, allowing them to be reinterpreted as the reader has more information (honestly, a little of this goes a long way, and both authors are too self-indulgent in this respect).  As far as the really unreliable narrator (in the hospital or madhouse) goes, I would also mention The Studhorse Man as another prime example.

That is the main example I wanted to cover, but I may come back around with another before the week is out.  While I would love to keep going, I have a fair bit of work to do before I can crash tonight.

Edit: Now that I have caught up ever so slightly on my sleep, I have come up with two other linkages.  The first falls in the more formal category, and the second is more of a personal linkage.  I've been somewhat interested in the NYRB reprint series, going a bit out of my way to pick them up if cheap enough, though I've already decided I cannot possibly acquire the whole set.  Anyway, one that came to my attention recently was completely new to me --  G. V. Desani's All About H. Hatterr, which is a bit of a wild ride, somewhat Joycean in its playfulness around language.  Not surprisingly Anthony Burgess was a huge fan, as was Rushdie, though Rushdie seems to imply that he was more influenced by Western literature.  Anyway, on the back cover, it turns out that T.S. Eliot was fairly blown away by the book, and Saul Bellow chimes in that this is one of the few times he agreed with Eliot on anything.  Then the quote continues that Hatterr was one of the few books that Bellow allowed himself to read while working on The Adventures of Augie March.  I wonder if I did read them back to back would I see any meaningful connections.  It's not a bad idea, but it is one that I don't think I can take on until roughly 2016!

The other that is more personal is that it is odd just how many novels have been reminding me of Fuentes' Christopher Unborn.  No question the situation of a child just waiting, waiting to be born reminded me most closely of Tremblay's The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant (the parallels gain prominence when the reader realizes that the unborn baby will essentially become Michel Tremblay -- chronicler of the neighbourhood).  Well, it also reminds me of my real estate agent whose baby was roughly a week late.  I mentioned briefly that the street gang that is a bit of a Greek chorus reminded me of the Vancouver gang in Doretta Lau's title story from How Does A Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun.  And how could I have forgotten the huge debt that Christopher Unborn owes to Tristram Shandy?  There are other minor flashes here and there, and no question I would like to reread Christopher Unborn some day, but I don't know where I will find the time.


* Actually both are epic in length but The Tin Drum seems to be intentionally anti-epic in scope.  Oskar's story is cramped and not really that interesting.  It's bare outlines could be told in about 10 pages. I still have 100 more to go and can't say I am too excited about reading more about Oskar, though I'll be glad to be moving on to something else (some shorter novels for a while perhaps).

Progress, three weeks in

Unless I am totally off, today is the last day of our third week in Toronto, about to roll over to week number 4.  We've had the boxes from the movers for about 1.5 weeks.  We've had internet and TV for the same amount of time (in fact the movers and the cable guy were here at the exact same time, but managed to co-exist fortunately).  It's worth noting that on top of all this physical work (and real work-related work), I was very occupied in dealing with paperwork and then updating addresses and my email accounts.  That is itself a full-time job.

The kitchen is more or less unpacked, though there are huge piles of empty boxes (here and throughout the house) and a big mound of plastic wrap.  We can get more of the plastic out on Thurs.  But it is usable, though I think we'll end up looking for sturdier kitchen chairs, particularly as the kids grow bigger and are a bit rougher than they should be.  In that, they are pretty typical kids...

The living room is fairly close to being ready, though today I will try to unroll the carpet and see if I can get it situated under the couch and love seat.  There is a kind of neat reading area with an overstuffed chair by the window in the front.  On the front porch itself, I just picked up two cheap chairs from Home Depot, and those have already come in handy.  The main thing left for the living room, aside from getting rid of the spare boxes is to bring up the last of the art books, since two bookcases dedicated to art books are in that area.  Partly because I want to occasionally share them with the kids, and partly because if there is ever a flood, these are the ones that I will be the most devastated if they are water-damaged.  Pretty much all the fiction and non-fiction downstairs could be replaced, though I will make an effort not to put any valuable first editions on the bottom shelves!

The kids' rooms are fairly close to being done, though there will need to be some sorting out of books and games and such.  There are probably two or three more boxes of kids' books to come upstairs.

The top floor (master bedroom) is getting fairly close.  I am nearly done putting together the wardrobe.  We may even need a second one.  The biggest problem with this place is not having enough closets in the right places.  One of the screws is missing, so I do hope to find an adequate replacement and finish the wardrobe.  For the time being, I'll probably have to move my work shirts to my son's closet.  Fortunately, he is an early riser, so it won't be too awkward grabbing things from there in the morning.  But that doesn't sound like a great long-term solution.  Of course, since at the moment I am still living out of a suitcase, anything will be a step up.

The area that needs the most work is the basement obviously, though a fair bit of progress has been made over the past few days.  All the bookcases are in place.  I am trying to get books in the right general place and will worry about a proper sorting later.  Once the file cabinet is in place, I should be able to get six or seven more boxes unpacked.  At that point, I may be able to build the desk and start using the storage space as intended.  And that will mean that the small storage room on the 2nd floor (currently used to hold the computers) can be used for boxes and extraneous stuff.  It's sort of like a real-life sliding puzzle, though also in 3-D.



There are a few important things I am trying to track down.  I know that the movers lost my wife's bookcase-thing, which will have to be replaced.  If I can track down this large box, then I will be a bit more at ease, while I wait for the other things to turn up. (I just found it -- ironically in the box that was being used to hold up the monitor until the desk is assembled downstairs, so literally in front of my nose.  I'm too relieved to feel abashed.)

The backyard will take a bit longer.  We are being visited by three neighbourhood cats, and we need to make this a bit less cat-friendly before we will feel comfortable about putting up the patio furniture.  Sadly our backyard is just filled with gravel and it is a bit too inviting at the moment.  I'm also debating getting a small storage unit for the bikes, which I definitely need if I am to start riding my bike.  But that is something to work on in week four.

I think, on the whole, we have made good progress in these three weeks.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Toronto v. Vancouver

I am really struggling to find any time to update my blog.  As much as I would like to, setting up the house and unpacking boxes (and heck, even work) are the higher priorities right now.

Anyway, a few initial impressions after making the switch.  The art scene is definitely better here, though it doesn't really kick in until the fall.  But no matter what, it will be easier to get to arts events in Toronto.

Garbage/recycling.  I didn't think I would ever think the Vancouver garbage cans were roomy, but the standard size ones in Toronto are just absurdly small.  I may have to work out a deal with the landlord to pay more to upgrade one size.  I like how recycling is slightly less onerous than in Vancouver (and more items are eligible for recycling), but I don't like how it is only collected every two weeks, as opposed to every week in Vancouver.

Traffic is pretty bad in Toronto, particularly in the downtown.  Cycling could be so much better here (at least in non-winter months) but the paths are not continuous.  Bike parking is incredibly scarce in Toronto (wait lists of over a year for bike lockers in the downtown) and building managers are pretty resistant to doing anything about it (in contrast to both Chicago and Vancouver where a strong nudge from City Hall has made building managers rethink their position).  Nonetheless, a big cycle centre is supposed to open up (this fall?) at City Hall, despite Mayor Ford's opposition.  That will help me out a fair bit.  I'm actually not able to ride at least for another week, since I need a shed or something put up in my back yard.  I have nowhere at all to store the bike, aside from my basement, and I can definitely see breaking my neck trying to get the bike up and down those stairs on a routine basis.  So one more thing to deal with.

I would say libraries and community centres seem relatively underfunded in Toronto (again, a victim of the right-wing ideology that tends to dominate city council), and that is unfortunate.

For me personally, transit is way better in Toronto than in Vancouver, but part of that is where we chose to live relative to work.  I do think the subway is appallingly over-crowded during rush hour and strive to avoid it.  I also think the TTC transfer policy is stupid and unfair compared to Chicago or Vancouver.  And the monthly and annual passes are overpriced.  I'm not going to buy a pass, particularly once I do start biking.  But on the whole, the transit experience works for me.

That's it for now.  Hopefully I can get around to some reviews this weekend.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

So tired, so far behind

Well, things didn't exactly go according to plan.  First off, we are in Toronto, but it has taken over a week to get home internet (and while it is probably for the best, I cannot blog at all from work, so I have made no updates in over a week).  If I had been a bit more organized and nearly done with packing, I probably could have made Gruesome Playground Injuries, but I just couldn't justify it.  Then I thought, well Sat. will be a tough day, but after the movers are gone, I can go to the theatre.  Astonishingly, the movers did not appear at all on Sat. (despite having been booked six weeks in advance) and on Sunday, not until 11:45 am!  Truly incredible, and so unprofessional.  This really made it a very close call to almost miss our evening flight to Toronto.  I will go into the details of the move and then the great unloading, which was in fact yesterday afternoon into the early evening.  It looks like nearly everything made it, aside from one small bookcase unit.

I finished Two Solitudes in Vancouver and The Tin Flute in Toronto.  Those reviews will be forthcoming soon, along with some other tardy reviews.  While waiting on the box with the books off the TBR pile, I signed up for a library card in Toronto and checked out Gunther Grass's The Tin Drum.  I'm about 1/3 through this.  I don't actively dislike it, though the central character, Oskar, is super annoying.  I certainly don't see Grass moving onto my list of favorite authors...

I'm slowly working through all the things that have to be done to re-establish oneself in a new place, and am getting fairly close on that front.  Registering for health care this weekend is the next big step.

I've even been fairly active on the cultural front, which was the main reason for the move out here.  I've been to the AGO twice, and saw two shows at the Toronto Fringe, with one more coming this week.  In a few weeks after that, I am booked to see King Lear at Stratford.  So far, so good.  Pretty soon I will be able to put together a proper post about my Toronto experiences, but I really have to sign off now and get through at least a few more boxes tonight.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Books to Read - in Toronto

With the move -- and new start -- it is time to restock the To-Be-Read Pile and clean it up. It's also the start of a new Canadian challenge, so I shall try to front-load this list with some Can. lit.

Hugh MacLennan Two Solitudes
Gabrielle Roy The Tin Flute
Gunther Grass The Tin Drum
Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
John A. Williams The Man Who Cried I Am
Gregor Von Rezzori An Ermine in Czernopol
Dostovesky Demons
Molly Keane Devoted Ladies
Machado De Assis The Alienist
Elizabeth Taylor A Game of Hide and Seek
Elizabeth Bowen The House in Paris
Munro Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You 
Faulkner As I Lay Dying
Elizabeth Berg Open House (gave up after a few pages)
Michael Chabon A Model World
Patrick Somerville The Universe in Miniature in Miniature
Julian Barnes A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
Djuna Barnes Nightwood
Richardson The End of the Alphabet
Dinesen Winter's Tales
Roth Weights and Measures
Dos Passos U.S.A. Trilogy:
             The 42nd Parallel
             1919   
             The Big Money
Pullman His Dark Materials Trilogy? (I'll just start with The Golden Compass)
Grossmith Diary of a Nobody
John A. Williams !Click Song
Vassily Aksyonov The Burn
Geoff Nicholson Bleeding London
Maugham Of Human Bondage
Ivan Vladislavic The Restless Supermarket
Tom McCarthy Satin Island
Gabrielle Roy The Cashier
Heather O'Neill The Girl Who Was Saturday Night
Albert Cossery Proud Beggars
Molly Keane Good Behaviour
Shyam Selvadurai Funny Boy
Lethem Lucky Alan
Tomaso Matricide
Bove My Friends
Ivan Vladislavic The Exploded View
Bruno Schulz The Street of Crocodiles
Gabrielle Roy Street of Riches
Bruno Schulz Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass
Joseph Roth Rebellion
Elizabeth Taylor -A View from the Harbour - UT
Jerome K. Jerome Three Men in a Boat
Ben Lerner 10:04
Machado De Assis Epitaph of a Small Winner
Barbara Comyns The Juniper Tree - TPL
Machado De Assis Philosopher or Dog?
Munro Who Do You Think You Are?
Michael Ondaatje The Cat's Table
Narayan Mr Sampath
Joyce Johnson In the Night Cafe
Gloria Naylor Bailey's Cafe
Elizabeth Bowen The Hotel
Joseph Roth -Legend of the Holy Drinker
Kafka The Trial
Molly Keane Time After Time
Nabokov The Gift
P. Marshall Praisesong for the Widow
Mahfouz Thief and the Dogs
Nancy Lee The Age - TPL
Narayan The Financial Expert
Munro The Moons of Jupiter 
Nabokov Invitation to a Beheading
Faulkner Go Down, Moses
Zachary Mason Lost Books of the Odyssey
Narayan Waiting for Mahatma
Murakami After the Quake
Wideman Philadelphia Fire
Mahfouz Autumn Quail
Nabokov The Enchanter
B. Mukherjee Miss New India
Lem Solaris
Ama Ata Aidoo Our Sister Killjoy
Charles Johnson Oxherding Tale
Abdourahman Waberi In the United States of Africa
Brian Moore The Luck of Ginger Coffey
Alain Mabanckou Broken Glass
Smollett Roderick Random
Albert Cossery The Jokers
Machado De Assis Dom Casmurro 
Dany Laferrière How to Make Love to A Negro (without Getting Tired)
Achebe No Longer at Ease 
Molly Keane Queen Lear
George Eliot Middlemarch
Naipaul The Enigma of Arrival
Dany Laferrière Heading South
Smollett Peregrine Pickle 
Stoppard Travesties
Adiga Last Man in Tower
Bowering Burning Water
Eileen Chang Love in a Fallen City
Lethem Chronic City
Bell Waiting for the End of the World
Butler The Way of All Flesh
Smollett Humprey Clinker
Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird
Faulkner Intruder in the Dust
Fontane On Tangled Paths
Gregor von Rezzori Memoirs of An Anti-Semite
David Foster Wallace The Pale King
Kafka The Castle
Yamashita I Hotel
Murakami 1Q84 (should I really jump so far out of sequence?)
Lahiri The Unaccustomed Earth
Mavis Gallant The Moslem Wife
Thackeray Vanity Fair
Fontane No Way Back/Irretrievable (pick one translation!)
Kingley Amis Lucky Jim
Nosaka The Pornographers
Shashi Tharoor The Great Indian Novel
Trollope The Way We Live Now
Malcolm Bradbury The History Man
Gaskell North and South
Elizabeth Bowen To the North
Fanny Howe The Deep North
Steve Zipp Yellowknife (can be read on-line here)
Nina Berberova The Tattered Cloak - TPL
Bennett The Old Wives' Tale
Nancy Mitford Love in a Cold Climate
Elizabeth Taylor Palladian
Munro The Progress of Love
Faulkner The Unvanquished
P. Roth  - The Breast, The Professor of Desire, The Dying Animal
Hogg Memoirs of a Justified Sinner
Gaskell Wives and Daughters
Walser Jakob Von Gunten
Melville The Confidence Man
Kafka Amerika (the new translation)
Max Apple The Propheteers
Pablo Vierci The Imposters
Katherine Porter Ship of Fools
Khushwant Singh Train To Pakistan
Tayeb Salih Season of Migration to the North
Faulkner Flags in the Dust
Paul Auster Moon Palace    
Gregor von Rezzori Death of My Brother Abel
DeLillo White Noise (I shouldn't jump so far out of order, but I think I shall anyway)
Krzhizhanovsky The Letter Killers Club
Bissoondath The Soul of All Great Desire
Kafka Metamorphosis and Other Stories
Ovid Metamorphoses
Virgil The Aeneid
Montaigne (Shakespeare's Montaigne - NYRB)
Achebe Arrow of God 
Powers Morte d'Urban
Green Blindness
William Maxwell LOA novels
Elizabeth Smart By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
Thisby The Good People of New York
DeLillo Cosmopolis (also out of order)
Elizabeth Bowen The Death of the Heart
Dawn Powell LOA novels
T.C. Boyle Drop City
Sinclair Lewis (Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry and perhaps Dodsworth) 
Maritta Wolff -- Whistle Stop, Night Shift and Sudden Rain (and perhaps Buttonwood)
(intersperse Lewis with Wolff)
Tom Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities
George Eliot Daniel Deronda
Aeschylus The Oresteia
Faulkner The Snopes Family (Hamlet, Town, Mansion)
Powers Wheat That Springeth Green
Walser A Schoolboy's Diary
Mistry Family Matters
Mavis Gallant Home Truths
Melville Pierre (and some Kierkegaard)
Dick The Man in the High Tower
P. Roth - Zuckerman Bound, Exit Ghost
Fontane Effi Briest
Beckett Krapp's Last Tape & Three Novels
Victor Serge Conquered City
Fuentes Where the Air is Clear
Vargas Llosa The Time of the Hero
Elizabeth Bowen The Heat of the Day
Fontane Before the Storm
Tolstoy War and Peace
Vasily Grossman Life and Fate
Victor Serge  Midnight in the Century
Don DeLillo End Zone
Pym Some Tame Gazelle
Bissoondath Digging Up the Mountain
Herzen My Life and Thoughts
Berlin Russian Thinkers
Stoppard The Coast of Utopia
Skvorecky Miss Silver's Past
Modiano Honeymoon
A. Barrett Ship Fever
Lowry Under the Volcano
Dickens Pictures from Italy & American Notes
Herzen Letters from France and Italy
Gogol Dead Souls
Conrad The Secret Agent
Bley Petersburg
Victor Serge Unforgiving Years
Pynchon The Crying of Lot 49 (and V???)
Stone A Hall of Mirrors
Meera Syal Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee
Murakami The Strange Library 
Manu Joseph The Illicit Happiness of Other People
Hemingway The Sun Also Rises
Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise
Hemingway A Farewell to Arms
Fitzgerald The Beautiful and Damned
Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls
Dos Passos Adventures of a Young Man
Fitzgerald Tender Is the Night 
Hemingway A Moveable Feast
Fitzgerald The Last Tycoon
Willa Cather My Antonia
Gloria Naylor Mama Day
Fuentes A Change of Skin
Naipaul Miguel Street
Bissoondath A Casual Brutality
Modiano Suspended Sentences
Bove Quicksand
(after this more Pym and Doris Lessing* and a return to Mahfouz and Narayan)
Desani All About H. Hatterr
Bellow Adventures of Augie March ?
Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment
Conrad Under Western Eyes
Chekhov 7 Short Novels
Turgenev Smoke
Platonov The Foundation Pit
Turgenev Virgin Soil
Neruda Isla Negra
Fuentes Terra Nostra
Steinbeck To a God Unknown
Cesare Pavese Selected Works
P. Roth Sabbath's Theatre
I.B. Singer Enemies
J. Roth Radetzky March
Walser The Tanners 
Pym Excellent Women 
Elizabeth Bowen Eva Trout
McKay Home to Harlem
Don DeLillo Great Jones Street
Fisher The Conjure Man Dies
Fante The Bandini Quartet
Jacobson The Finkler Question
Koestler Darkness at Noon 
Danilo Kis A Tomb for Boris Davidovitch 
Victor Serge The Case of Comrade Tulayev
DeLillo Ratner's Star
P. Roth Nemeses (Everyman, Indignation, The Humbling, Nemesis)
M. Thomas Man Gone Down
Green Living
Pynchon Gravity's Rainbow
Pym Jane and Prudence
Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer
Tess Slesinger The Unpossessed (probably for the second time)
Oria New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 (TPL)
Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America - indefinitely suspended for cowardice
de Tocqueville Democracy in America 
Achebe  A Man of the People
Musil The Man Without Qualities
Cela The Hive 
Achebe Anthills of the Savannah
Steinbeck Tortilla Flat
Álvaro Mutis Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll 
Pynchon Against the Day 
DeLillo Players/Running Dog
Murakami Norwegian Wood
Jane Urquhart The Stone Carvers
Findley Dinner Along the Amazon
DeLillo Amazons



(I'll have to intersperse a bit more Canadian fiction (I've already added a bit more Alice Munro), and probably some of the early DeLillo novels, a few more from Narayan and Mahfouz and perhaps Nabokov from their respective lists, maybe tackle Austen, maybe work in a bit more Doris Lessing, reread Barbara Pym and then perhaps tackle Dickens and Trollope.  Still, this is a decent 2-3 year plan (or 4-5 if I throw in a lot of Trollope and Musil's The Man Without Qualities and maybe cycle back through Garcia Marquez and Vargas Llosa), so we'll just see how it goes.  I'm sure unpacking and rearranging the books will cause me to promote others on the list higher.  I think after I make it through this extended list, I will more or less work my way through the rest of the books on the shelves to make sure I have had a chance to read them all.  I believe I have read roughly 35% of the fiction & poetry books on the shelves, which is actually not that shabby.  That will obviously change radically if I add another bookcase of fiction, but I think I probably will have to break down and get more shelves.)

* If I really do start in on Lessing's Children of Violence series, I will probably follow it up with Eric Kraft's tres amusant books about Peter Leroy.  I got through 6 or so of the early short novellas but not the later, longer novels.

I think I will get to these relatively soon after I get through Musil, but this is probably 3 years out.  While this is a pretty tremendous list (in my view), it is also more than a little odd to have committed myself to reading specific books that far in advance.  Anyway, I think before the Lessing/Kraft combo, I should revisit Jose Saramago, even though some of this will be rereading.  I'm thinking something sort of like this:

Saramago Skylight
R. Mistry Tales from Firozsha Baag
Adiga Between the Assassinations
Saramago Blindness
DeLillo The Names
Saramago All the Names
Cunningham The Hours
Saramago The Cave
Muriel Spark Symposium
Saramago Seeing
Norfolk The Pope's Rhinoceros
Saramago The Elephant's Journey
Murakami The Elephant Vanishes
Pynchon Inherent Vice

If I really do make it through this and have not gotten completely sick of this list, it will be time to really tackle Dickens and Trollope -- and for some variety the longer novels of Murakami -- and probably the Edmund White trilogy and Joyce Cary's First Trilogy.


Undetermined position
(books that I purged (unread) but available in Toronto libraries)
Terry Darlington Narrow Dog to Carcassonne
Mulisch The Discovery of Heaven
Samuel Delany Dhalgren   (I even bought a new edition of this, but think I purged it in a move)

Transferred from VPL lists

Husain Basti
Albert Cossery A Splendid Conspiracy (UT)
Albert Cossery The Colors of Infamy
Albert Cossery Laziness in the Fertile Valley (UT)
Laura Lush Fault Line
Andrew Crumey Sputnik Caledonia
Amy Waldman The Submission
4 poets : Daniela Elza, Peter Morin, Al Rempel, Onjana Yawnghwe
Tash Aw Five Star Billionaire
NoViolet Bulawayo We Need New Names
Machado de Assis Quincas Borba
Machado de Assis A Chapter of Hats: Stories
Machado de Assis The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas
Machado de Assis The Devil's Church and Other Stories (UT)
Machado de Assis Esau and Jacob (UT)
Joseph Roth Right and Left  (UT)
Gregor von Rezzori Memoirs of An Anti-Semite
Fernando Pessoa The book of disquiet (look for Zenith translation from 2002/3)
Cesare Pavese The Political Prisoner (UT)
Trichter Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Stewart O'Nan Last Night at the Lobster
Ben Winters The Last Policeman
Dangerous Calm: Selected Stories of Elizabeth Taylor (UT)
Terry Fallis The Best Laid Plans
Terry Fallis The High Road
Frederick Busch The Mutual Friend (UT)
Frederick Busch Closing Arguments
Ken Kalfus The Commissariat of Enlightenment
Ken Kalfus A Disorder Peculiar to the Country
Teju Cole Open City
Chloe Aridjis Book of Clouds
Téa Obreht The Tiger's Wife
Sunjeev Sahota Ours Are the Streets (UT)
Lawrence Hill The Book of Negroes
Rebecca Lee City Is A Rising Tide
Jane Urquhart The Stone Carvers
Alex Shakar The Savage Girl
David Bezmozgis Natasha and Other Stories
Jansson The True Deceiver
Guillermo Arriaga
Jordan The Night Buffalo
M. John Harrison Nova Swing
Richard Ford The Sportswriter
Orwell in Tribune "As I Please"; and Other Writings, 1943-7 (UT) - maybe I should order this
John Connolly The Book of Lost Things
Rowan Somerville The End of Sleep
Kenny Fries The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory (UT)
Hisham Matar Anatomy of A Disappearance
Sergio de la Pava A Naked Singularity
Samuel Delany Babel-17
Samuel Delany Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand
Samuel Delany Nova ?
David Deutsch The Fabric of Reality
David Deutsch The Beginning of Infinity Explanations That Transform the World
Stephen Graham Cities Under Siege The New Military Urbanism
Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot
Michael J. Meyer The Last Days of Old Beijing
Jennifer Egan The Invisible Circus
Joe LeSueur Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara
Will Clarke Lord Vishnu's Love Handles A Spy Novel
Clark Blaise The Meagre Tarmac Stories
Marie-Claire Blais Mad Shadows
Oria New York 1, Tel Aviv 0
Jorie Graham Swarm
Lionel Trilling The Liberal Imagination Essays on Literature and Society (NYRB edition)
Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1920s & 30s By Wilson, Edmund (UT)
Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1930s & 40s By Wilson, Edmund (UT)
Edmund Wilson Memoirs of Hecate County
The Devil's Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs By Bierce, Ambrose (UT)
Roald Nasgaard The Mystic North
Michael North Art and Commerce in the Dutch Golden Age (UT)

Recent movies that I will try to check out or rent from remaining video stores (sadly Film Buff East just closed down) -- oddly Toronto Library takes forever to let you put new movies on hold
x The Great Beauty
x American Hustle
The Grand Budapest Hotel
x Il Sorpasso
x Like Someone in Love
x Nebraska (on hold - #570 in queue!)
x Dallas Buyers Club (on hold - #900 in queue!)
Ministry of Fear
x Love Streams (on hold)
Maps of the Stars
Boyhood
Birdman
x The Skeleton Twins
x The Double
Inherent Vice

Mom's trip - part 3 (Grand Canyon)

Aside from a long post on my updated BTR pile to follow (which incidentally has been ready to go for a few days now), this will probably be the last post for a while, as it is unclear when we will have internet access in Toronto.  (And it is very prohibited from working on blogs at work...)  It's been a very stressful few days, but it will be over, one way or another, today.  I would guess the movers will be here in about 3 hours.  Things are almost under control, except for the basement where I just have unbelievable piles of stuff.  We will have less storage space in Toronto, and I will have to downsize some of this.  Of course, a lot of this is data CDs and DVDs, and there is not that much more I can do with them, unless I just get a terrabyte external hard drive, transfer the stuff over and hope for the best.  I did uncover a few things I have been missing for 2.5 years, including a PS2 that my son would have loved to play with.  Oddly, I still can't find one CD box set, so I think it must have just vanished into the ether.

I actually feel a bit sick, partly from stress and partly from being judged about not being ready.  (Though I am sure they have seen worse.  We really are mostly done except for the basement, and I am ready to just start shoveling stuff into boxes and taping them up, which I will resort to after this post.)

Anyway, I was happy to find a couple of perfect boxes.  One for some oversize art books and one for the record player.  This second box is also the one I will use for the scanner, so I have two or three things left to scan, and then it gets packed up.

Fortunately, I have scanned the bulk of the photos from my mom's visit to the Grand Canyon.  (Now there are some b&w photos (inspired by Ansel Adams I am sure) which I have misplaced.  If those happen to turn up in the months ahead while we are unpacking, I will make sure to post them.  However, I think these are from a different trip anyway.)

So here we go (from sunrise to afternoon at the Grand Canyon):









Friday, July 4, 2014

Mom's trip - part 2

In general, the last dregs of the packing have gotten away from me a bit, and I'll probably have to work just half a day today (and obviously no Stanley Park or theatre tonight).  Before I get back to the packing, I have a few more of the photos scanned from the big trip from 1988.  (First photo from the trip is here.)

A few more photos of the St. Louis Arch.


 
I'm skipping over the Texas prairie and moving right along to Santa Fe, which was one of Mom's favored locations.  I believe she went back a few times, but I'd have to try to check somehow.



I assume this church is somewhat on the outskirts of the city proper, though I am not sure.  It may be a famous church painted by Georgia O'Keeffe and thus protected in the heart of the arts gallery complex, though it does look a bit remote.  This next photo is of the New Mexico Museum of Art.  
 

Mom would have definitely wanted to visit the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, but it only opened in 1997.  I am pretty sure that a fair number of O'Keeffe's painting would have been on display in Santa Fe at that time in various museums and galleries, but it is still a shame that she didn't live to see the opening of the dedicated museum.  Still, she did make it to the big O'Keeffe exhibit in Chicago in 1988.  (This was the first blockbuster art show that I ever attended.  We were just a bit too young to make the trip to see the King Tut blockbuster show in 1977.  Too bad.)

The last batch of photos will be from the Grand Canyon.  Another of her favorite places.  I've actually never made it there, though I will try one of these days.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Last days

It is definitely getting down to the wire.  I did not get enough done last night, so I am not going to be able to go to Gruesome Playground Injuries, at least not tonight.  I need to have the random junk thrown into boxes.  Friday is still an outside possibility, but I wouldn't say it is that likely.  Sat. is more likely, though of course that means that that other play will be skipped.  (And maybe that is just as well.  I really hate having to travel to Coal Harbour.)

Part of my exhaustion was going swimming at Killarney Pool.  I actually tried a couple of weeks ago, but there had been a fouling and the pool was closed.  Incidentally this happened the last time I planned to take the kids to the pool.  I was really rushing, as I needed to get back to sell my son's bike, though in the end I would have had at least another 15 minutes.  I often have a fairly bad time at Killarney (too crowded and they do a piss-poor job of keeping slow swimmers in the slow lane and out of the fast lane), and this was no exception.  I do hope the pool at the community centre near where we will be living in Toronto will be a bit better, though I shouldn't get my hopes up too much.

Anyway, I was pretty exhausted and got a bit done, then crashed.  So as I said, I am behind and need to catch up tonight.

Rather than grouse about it too much, I will use this post to start uploading some photos of one of my mother's trip to the Southwest in late 1988.  She really loved it there and was making plans to move to New Mexico when she passed away (in 1996).  While she didn't get to do everything she wanted, she did manage to get a few good trips in, including a trip to see me in New York (and then Toronto), trips to DC for the display of the AIDS quilt on the Great Lawn, back to the Southwest.  And lots of little trips to rural parts of Michigan with her friends.  This particular trip seems pretty epic, flying into St. Louis, traveling through the scrublands of Texas, then Santa Fe and ending at the Grand Canyon.  I'll just post one "artsy" photo of the St. Louis Arch, and then a few more from the rest of her trip over the next couple of days as I finish scanning the rest of the photos.




Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Canada Day plus One

I meant to write this yesterday, just as I meant to get a few reviews done the day before for the 7th Canadian Challenge, but things have been extremely busy.  The reviews will keep.  What I do plan on doing tonight is getting around to reviewing two art exhibits, one in Vancouver and one in Seattle, as they will be going through the summer, and others might benefit from my promoting them a bit.

To start off with, I looked up my status on the Immigration website, and it said a decision had been made.  Since I had another week before things got dicey (if my criminal record check hadn't arrived for instance), I assume that the paperwork showed up and they made a decision.  I am assuming it is a positive one, but of course one doesn't know until one opens the letter.  (As as aside, I did update my address, and this might be one of the first pieces of mail I will get in Toronto.  I do hope it is good news.)


I was pretty good about using the majority of the time on cleaning up the basement and getting a lot of things into boxes.  I am now at the point of just shoveling stuff away into boxes (and a few more lids have turned up, which is particularly welcome).  I think I will have a pretty good idea by Thurs. of how many wardrobe boxes the movers should bring by.  Hopefully only a couple more.  After this post, I have to get back to the packing.

However, I did want to see if I could take the kids biking one last time (we aren't even bringing my son's bike as he has definitely outgrown it).  It didn't go all that well, as my daughter was in a particularly fussy mood for some reason.  We then went to the park for a bit of exercise, but it was so hot and they had no fountains at all at this park.  In general, I got too much sun yesterday and actually still feel that I may have gotten a bit of heat exhaustion.

I took down all the painting and posters and did the spackling.  I have been given some paint by the landlord for the touch-ups, but it really doesn't quite match, so I am asking them what they want me to do next.  The ball is in their court now.

I went to Granville Island one last time to see a jazz pianist I know just a bit through an on-line jazz forum.  Getting to Granville Island remains just as much of a pain in the ass as ever.  What was distressing is the huge line-up at the bus stop.  I've never seen the lines that long, and I think TransLink was actually running fewer buses because of the holiday, not more.  (I think I'll actually drop them a line so that they can try to do a better job next year.)  Anyway, I disliked the performance, mostly because of the histrionics of the clarinet player.  I saw him two years ago at the jazz fest and wasn't that impressed, but I had basically said that I would stop by after the show and talk to the pianist.  Well, in the end I decided I wasn't enjoying myself and my time (particularly in Vancouver) is incredibly short.  The show annoyed me, and in this particular context the pianist was playing like Cecil Taylor (a pianist I have taken a real dislike to).  Given there wasn't anything positive I could say about the show, I didn't want to try to make small talk, and I left about a half hour into the show (they were still on the first number!).  There were quite a few others leaving, though to be fair some people did seem to be enjoying the set.

There was actually one Car2Go available, and I snagged it.  And then I learned that driving around the perimeter of Granville Island is almost as painful as catching the bus there.  To top it off, by the time I finally left the island, a 50 bus pulled up, going the way I wanted.  It was crowded, but I should have been able to squeeze on.  Grrr.  I will not miss Granville Island at all.  What a crap place to put nearly all your art galleries and close to half the theatre in the city (with the almost as bad Cultch getting another 25%).  Of all the places I have lived, I think Vancouver takes the cake in terms of being badly laid out with the attractions in difficult to reach locations.  I am so glad to be leaving.

I decided that I was interested in checking out the new exhibit that had opened at the Vancouver Art Gallery, so I dropped off the car at Olympic Village and took the train in to City Centre.  I could see the remnants of the parade and people hunkering down to watch the fireworks.  (Actually I should have been wearing my new Canada Day t-shirt, but the size was too small.  I'm moving in the right direction, but the shirt was still too uncomfortable.  Frustrating.)  I keep forgetting that they take Canada Day to celebrate Cannabis Day as well.  To get to the Art Gallery, I had to weave through tents of all kinds of marijuana edibles and people sitting on the steps toking away.  Frankly, if the police are just going to turn a blind eye, I think it would be better to complete legalize it, so that people wouldn't congregate and make such a big production out of this.  They can just partake at home, on the couch, the way it is supposed to be...


I'll review the show on a different post, but it was a nice visit.  Certainly, a positive experience compared to Granville Island.  I hadn't eaten and was pretty hungry.  The line at Subway was a bit long, and I went to Taco Del Mar instead, which was a bit of a mistake, but getting the quesadilla instead of their veggie burrito was an even bigger mistake.  Definitely a disappointment.  (In general, eating in downtown Vancouver is a let down.  Another thing I won't miss.)  Anyway, a few more "lasts" that got crossed off my list.

(Note: I did not stick around for the fireworks.)

I got home and read the last 10 pages of MacLennan's Two Solitudes.  While dated in many ways, it is still a quintessential Canadian novel, so it was appropriate to wrap it up on Canada Day.  I'll probably start The Tin Flute on the plane to Toronto.  (Yes, I realize it would be more appropriate if I was making a trip to Montreal, but I have several other books by Roy, and I'll pick another one on my next visit to Montreal.)  As it was still hot and difficult to sleep, I did a bit more packing.  Now it is time to get a bit more accomplished before I head off to work.