Sunday, October 31, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Lady Chatterley trial in which Penguin Books was aquitted of obsencity charges for publishing the unexpurgated text of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. There are a number of film adapations of the book, but I quite like The Chatterley Affair, a 2006 BBC production on the actual trial itself, which is available on DVD. The story follows two jurors who start an affair of their own during the trial, but while their story is fictional, the scenes set in the courtroom use the actual case transcripts. It's a fascinating look at the power of literature, the debates over sexuality and morality in the early 1960s and it has quite a few things to say about male perceptions of female readers and what they should and should not be reading. And yes, there's strong language and sexual content.
The Guardian has a piece on the censorship of this novel here.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
This week's movie pick is a tribute to my recent hiking holiday in the Scottish Highlands. If you found the book or movie of Eat, Pray, Love a bit saccharine, then Powell and Pressburger's charming 1945 movie I Know Where I'm Going is the perfect antidote. Unlike Elizabeth Gilbert, Joan Webster, played by the indomitable Wendy Hiller, has her whole life mapped out and she knows exactly where she's going - up to Scotland by train and then by boat to a remote island where she plans to marry one of the richest men in England. Except bad weather keeps her on the mainland, and in the company of a naval officer who is determined to thwart her plans and change the course of her life. But what these two works do share - and why travelling is such great fun - is the important lesson that one should always be completely open to chance and change, in whatever guise it appears. The movie, though in black and white, has spectacular shots of the Scottish landscape; much of it was shot on the Isle of Mull and among the Hebrides.
Having spent a week bagging Munros and Corbetts in unseasonably sunny weather, I can attest to the utter beauty of this area from all heights. And yes, I ate (and ate and ate - salmon, lamb, venison, Scottish flapjack and lots of chocolate) and while I'm not particularly religious, how could you not climb up through the clouds to a view like this and not feel spiritual?
|Not even a third of the way up Ben Nevis yet, but how beautiful is this?|
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Of course another wonderful way to engage with words and language is to take in some live theatre which London always has in abundance. I love this city's theatre scene - without fail, I know at least some of my favourite British actors are always guaranteed to be somewhere on stage in the West End, and it's very easy to get tickets outside of peak tourist season. So I saw a very sexy and superbly acted production of Noel Coward's Design For Living at the Old Vic, and then a hilarious Yes, Prime Minister at the Gielgud starring the wonderful David Haig (Bernard from Four Weddings and a Funeral) who I've seen several times on stage and always love. Simon Russell Beale is another favourite actor of mine (so terrific as Widmerpool in the 1997 mini-series of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time); I'll go to see him in anything, no questions asked. He was starring in Ira Levin's Death Trap at the Noel Coward Theatre, a fun comic thriller spoofing country house murder mysteries, involving an egotistical and desperate playwright and plagiarist.
Wanderlust which contrasted the challenges that couples face in their sex lives at different ages. What I love about this theatre is that when you buy the program you are actually getting the full text of the play and at a much reduced cost than buying the book later in a bookshop.
Menier Chocolate Factory which has been converted into a theatre and restaurant. If you enjoyed reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, or like dystopian fiction, this is a very good companion piece. Salter is confronted by his grown-up son who has just discovered that not only has he been cloned, but that he might not even be the original. Then two other unexpected encounters occur. Samuel West (you'll know him best as Leonard Bast - he who dies from a falling bookcase - in Merchant and Ivory's 1992 movie Howard's End; he also gave a wonderful performance as Anthony Blunt in the mini-series Cambridge Spies) plays all three of the sons and to see an actual father and son tackle these roles was truly marvellous.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
|Foyles on Charing Cross Road - one can get deliciously lost in here for hours.|
|Slightly Foxed on Gloucester Road - they publish a book journal devoted to lost classics. The shop sells a lovely selection of new and used books. Great for browsing.|
|G. Heywood Hill Ltd on Curzon St - the blue plaque indicates that Nancy Mitford once worked here. Sells new and used books.|
|Libraire La Page - a lovely French bookstore not too far from Slightly Foxed|
|The London Review Bookshop - a terrific selection of poetry and interesting non-fiction in particular, just around the corner from the British Museum. They have a cafe now too.|
|The British Film Institute on the South Bank has a great selection of books on film (and DVDs too, but they don't work in North America). Just next door is the National Theatre which also has a great store for theatre books and plays. |
Monday, October 18, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The finalists for English Language Fiction are:
- Waiting for Joe by Sandra Birdsell,(Random House Canada)
- Room by Emma Donoghue (HarperCollins Canada)
- Motorcycles & Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor (Alfred A. Knopf Canada)
- Cool Water by Dianne Warren (HarperCollins Canada)
- Annabel by Kathleen Winter (House of Anansi Press)
The finalists for English Language Nonfiction are:
- A History of Marriage by Elizabeth Abbott (Penguin)
- The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for His Disabled Son by Ian Brown (Random House Canada)
- Lakeland: Journeys into the Soul of Canada by Allan Casey (Greystone Books, an imprint of D&M Publishers)
- Burmese Lessons: A Love Story by Karen Connelly (Random House Canada)
- Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968-2000 by John English (Alfred A. Knopf Canada)
The finalists for Children's Literature-Text are:
- Me, Myself and Ike by K.L. Denman (Orca Book Publishers)
- Tyranny by Lesley Fairfield (Tundra Books)
- Free as a Bird by Gina McMurchy-Barber (Dundurn Press)
- Fishtailing by Wendy Phillips (Coteau Books)
- Scars by Cheryl Rainfield (WestSide Books; distributed by Chapters / Indigo)
The finalists in the Children's Literature-Illustration category are:
- Kristi Bridgeman for Uirapurú: Based on a Brazilian Legend, text by P. K. Page (Oolichan Books)
- Julie Flett for Owls See Clearly at Night: a Michif alphabet / Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer: l’alfabet di Michif, text by Julie Flett (Simply Read Books)
- Matt James for I Know Here, text by Laurel Croza (Groundwood Books)
- Jon Klassen for Cat’s Night Out, text by Caroline Stutson (Simon & Schuster / A Paula Wiseman Book)
- Renata Liwska for The Quiet Book, text by Deborah Underwood(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; distributed by Thomas Allen & Son)
For the full list of finalists, check out the Canada Council for the Arts website.
· Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey (Alfred A. Knopf)
· Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (McPherson & Co.)
· Great House by Nicole Krauss (W.W. Norton & Co.)
· So Much for That by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins)
· I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita (Coffee House Press)
· Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (Spiegel & Grau)
· Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq by John W. Dower (W.W. Norton)
· Just Kids by Patti Smith (Ecco)
· Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward by Justin Spring (FSG)
· Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War by Megan K. Stack (Doubleday)
· The Eternal City by Kathleen Graber (Princeton University Press)
· Lighthead by Terrance Hayes (Viking Penguin)
· By the Numbers by James Richardson (Copper Canyon Press)
· One with Others by C.D. Wright, (Copper Canyon Press)
· Ignatz by Monica Youn (Four Way Books)
Young People’s Literature
· Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown & Co.)
· Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group)
· Dark Water Laura McNeal (Alfred A. Knopf)
· Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers (Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
· One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
Friday, October 8, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
I'm fascinated by the art of book covers and how the styles have changed over the years, reflecting our cultural preoccupations and societal attitudes. So I love this new book out from Rizzoli, as much for the title as the subject matter. Breathless Homicidal Slime Mutants by Steven Brower is a celebratory look at the art of the mass market paperback, letting the covers definitely speak for themselves. It's a hoot! There's crime noir, trashy romance, adventure, sci-fi and lots of classics too, from Shakespeare to Mary Shelley. Edward Gorey even contributes a cover to the Aeneid. But it's the pulp that is the most fun, especially reading the selling blurbs such as One Tropical Night (The Ship and the Shore) by Vicki Baum which promises that "A girl can grow up in a few hours ashore in the tropics . . . " What I find amusing is how many of these books felt the need to let the reader know they were "Complete and Unabridged" or "Not One Word Cut" right on the front cover. Bios of the designers are included in the back. A great gift idea for a bibliophile or designer.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The "winners" of this novel are a motley group of people who have all won a cruise as part of the state lottery. The novel opens in a Buenos Aires cafe where they've been asked to meet prior to embarking on their trip. No one knows where they are bound and things don't get much clearer once they are actually on board the ship. Despite the luxury accomodations and an attentive bartender, the captain of the ship is mysteriously absent as are most of the crew. The passengers find themselves confined to one end of the ship; when they try to explore they keep encountering locked doors. As they set out to sea amidst rumours of a typhus epidemic that has broken out among the sailors, the group starts to divide between those who accept what they've been told and just want to enjoy their vacation, and those who gradually move from skepticism towards anger and then sudden and rash action. There's also plenty of drama on deck; conflicts and jealousies swirl among both existing couples and newly bonded strangers. And commenting on it all in a somewhat beautiful hallucinatory haze is Persio, the ship's visionary philosopher who sees and hears the music of the endless space above and surrounding the ship as though plucked on a giant guitar. It is he who very early on foreshadows not only the plot and one of the key themes of the novel, but perhaps articulates Cortazar's own personal fictional challenge, when he questions whether individual acts aren't just part of one big, unknown machine where people end up as one of the many feet of a centipede:
It's well known that the whole is more, and at the same time, less, than the sum of all its parts. What I'd like to find out, if I could place myself inside and outside the whole - and I think it can be done - is if the human centipede responds, in its constitution and its dissolution, to something more than chance events; if it is a figure, in the magical sense of the word, and if that figure is capable of moving, under certain circumstances, on more essential planes than those of its isolated members.
Hopscotch has long been on my radar just waiting for a good, uninterrupted block of time when I can do justice to it. Reading this earlier novel feels like good preparation.