Too Much What?

I love reading not only for pleasure, but for symbolism and metaphors. I know I should not admit these kind of things publicly, but it’s true! Underneath it all, I am the ultimate geek that jumps for joy when I see beyond the written word and just for a moment, find myself looking through the author’s eyes, and understand them and their purpose. However, there are days when the author just shuts me out and says “ha ha, you ain’t getting this one!”. Unfortunately I have had one of those experiences, and it kind of sucks. As a passionate supporter of Canadian authors, I try to read as much Canadian literature as I can, not only because I enjoy it but also because I want to create more awareness of it and its complexity and beauty. Canadian literature explores many new realms that I feel American audiences would appreciate, and in the future I will be sure to share many wonderful titles here.

Recently I decided to reach back into the archives of Canadian authors and pull out one of the pilgrims of Canadian writing, Alice Munro. I have enjoyed many of Munro’s works during my years as an undergraduate, and have always found her writing complex and real. This time around, I found that same complexity, but could not achieve a level of complete comprehension that would have allowed me to enjoy her writing with the same pleasure that I have previously experienced.

“Too Much Happiness”, is a series of short stories primarily focusing on many female protagonists. The stories all have an element of darkness in them, and a base sense of death and sexuality. It’s hard to describe, but in my opinion its this kind of writing ability that separates good writers from great writers. Even though I had difficulty deciphering the deeper meaning behind Alice Munro’s characters  experiences, I was still intrigued and very aware that there was something more, I just couldn’t see it yet. Perhaps it is a matter of viewing the characters objectively instead of subjectively. As a Canadian, I felt that my personal opinions and knowledge of certain areas referenced in the short stories perhaps led me to make assumptions about the characters that created limitations on my understanding of the deeper meaning. In this case, familiarity worked against me, and left me asking questions that I don’t know are meant to be answered. Perhaps in this case, my readers can lend their views and tell me what they think!

Excess Baggage

Time for a book review!!!

Now I’m not sure about all of you, but one of my favourite moments while travelling is that 30 minutes or so after you pass security when you are free to browse the stores near your gate. More specifically, the store with the table of books out front calling my name! It’s a really a horrible habit of mine to be honest. Even when I already have a book or two in my carry-on luggage, I can’t seem to help myself! Anyways the point is, the following book  was my latest unnecessary purchase.

Now being ethnic myself, I am a huge fan of ethnic literary fiction. Shobhhan Bantwal’s novel, “The Full Moon Bride” is a very common piece that addresses the struggle of dual identity and finding a balance between cultures. The novel’s heroine, Soorya Giri, is a 30 year old, single, Indian-American woman that lives a cushy, and sheltered life with her parents in a wealthy suburban neighbour-hood of New Jersey.  Being the daughter of a respected plastic surgeon, Soorya’s life is filled with the best schools and opportunities that led to her job as a successful environmental lawyer at a top law firm in Manhattan. She had it all, except of course the primary requirement of any respectable South Asian woman past the age of 25; a husband. Soorya’s life suddenly becomes interesting when she becomes the pursuit of not just one, but two very different men. In her journey of romance, Soorya not only discovers love, but also the value of knowing who you are and understanding what that means.

I know this story sounds predictable, but it’s actually got some refreshing moments in here. Now I will admit that I did not love this book, but it was interesting enough to keep me reading. I guess my main issue was the author’s delivery of a cultural experience. I do understand that the author is writing for a North American audience, and is essentially trying to teach someone about a culture that is foreign to them. However, in doing so, Bantwal’s voice no longer sounds authentic. It becomes too textbook, to the point that anyone who simply knows a few facts about a culture could create Soorya’s character. As a reader, I like when an ethnic author doesn’t spell out everything for me in such an elementary manner, but rather the natural flow of their culture and their experience is illuminated in their writing and I am able to capture all the important details simply through their delivery, and not necessarily through their explanations.

Nevertheless, I did relate to Soorya’s character from a female prespective, and you can’t go wrong with a few cheesy feel good moments. All in all, it was a nice mellow read.

Reader’s Bliss!

I love the freedom of shamelessly reading several books a week! The freedom to read any genre or author I choose! Being able to enjoy the book, the story, the characters, from cover to cover without having to map out an analysis for another essay……ahhhh bliss!

Well with such bliss comes great rewards….another book review!!!! I was travelling recently, and with no classes, upcoming papers or reading requirements to complete, I strolled into the airport bookstore with my eyes wide open and my wallet in hand. I was ready to spend! Now I must admit, usually the bestsellers do make for good plane reading but sometimes, the titles just do not appeal to me at all. So during this delightful venture, I came across an interesting book. For some reason the name clicked in my mind and I remembered a conversation I had at a wedding just two days ago, when someone pulled out their e-reader to ask me about a book they were reading. Now if you bring your e-reader or any book to a wedding, then it must be a pretty good read. I decided to trust their opinion and picked up a copy for myself. Lets just say I got the book 3 days ago and I finished it yesterday.

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett was the perfect start to my reading binge that will be spanning the next few weeks. I picked up the book simply 3 times and it kept me reading for hours. For those of you, who like me, enjoy books that take you to another time and place (and read with a southern accent in your head), would surely enjoy this one. I don’t want to give away too much, but its a touching story about a group of women in a  small town in 1960s Mississippi, struggling to understand and change the world they live in. I love a book that can take a tough issue like racism and write a story that says what needs to be said without passing judgement or demeaning either side. It’s a skill that many writers do not possess, but Kathryn Stockett has done an exceptional job with it. It may not be in the New Hot Fiction section of your local bookstore yet, but its worth looking for!

Wizards get the Nod

Well, I think I have made it very clearly on more than one occasion that vampires are a no-go in my book. But wizards on the other hand have me screaming for more!

I just entered the quarter century club last week (ugh) and received a gift I never imagined being so excited about. My super cool sister-friend got me the entire collection of Harry Potter! Yes, I know…where have I been right?!?! But any how it was a wonderful surprise. I had been wanting to take the plunge into the world of Hogwarts and Quidditch but just did not have the time and didn’t know where to begin. When I received a large parcel at my apartment and saw a box that read Harry Potter I was overjoyed. With just two weeks of grad classes left I had decided to treat myself during the holidays, but I only lasted a day and just could not wait to start!

I mentioned in previous posts that I took a Children’s literature class this semester and was learning what ‘sells’. And essentially Harry Potter is a middle-grade children’s book even though it has appealed to a much larger audience. After reading just the first book and and itching to start the next, all I can say is that J.K. Rowling delivered. As I read the book I was mentally checking off all the requirements she had satisfied that makes a book sell, and I did not find one thing unchecked…..and if anything she got double checkmarks!

So this post is for all of those who like me have circled the idea of Harry Potter and have yet to get off the fence. JUST DO IT!!! I do not regret it and am sooooooo happy I have six more books to go because I do not want this journey to end!

Thanks UB – I owe you!

The inevitable “burnout”

So since my last post my optimism has dwindled. I love grad school and I love literature, but sometimes you just wish that after hammering out a brilliant essay or chapter you could clear your desk and say, “I have nothing else to work on”. That has not been the case at all this quarter. Its like a tag team, even though one assignment reaches the end, it just hands me off to the next item on another syllabus to do another run again and then again….and again.

And let’s be honest – this weather is not helping. It seems as if spring came and skipped over summer and went straight into late fall. Turning on the heat on May 12 was a sad sad day.

That’s all for today – another book review coming up soon!